VICTORIA, British Columbia The view as we cruised into Victoria’s
inner harbor was striking. The passing scene encompassed expansive
lush green lawns and parks, commanding and regal hotels, the
stately Parliament complex and scores of thriving businesses. On
the water, large and little craft hustled and bustled around us.
The journey had begun at Seattle’s Pier 69 at 8:30 a.m. Our
vessel, the Victoria Clipper, had made the 71-mile trip in 2½
hours. Most passengers aboard would return to Seattle in late
afternoon after a day of sightseeing, museum visits, garden tours,
pub-hopping and shopping in a city many consider “like a little bit
For travel agents, the trip is a tried-and-true client-pleaser,
ideal for travelers seeking something special for a full day’s
Surprisingly, except for safety and service announcements, there
was no narration en route identifying cities and passing landmarks.
Our ride proved smooth and pleasant. We experienced only brief
gentle swells when we left Puget Sound and entered the Strait of
Juan de Fuca. Victoria, as travel agents know, offers a variety of
tours and attractions. Probably the easiest for an agent to
recommend and book in advance would be one of four commissionable
favorites the cruise company offers on board.
n The Grand City Tour ($15): A citywide excursion via English
double-decker bus. The drive, ideal for first-time visitors, takes
1½ hours and covers the harbor, city center, Chinatown, “Antique
Row,” exclusive residential areas and parks. My wife and I chose
this as our tour du jour. We found our driver-guide, Gordon, both
knowledgeable and amusing. (Passing the Beacon Hill Children’s Zoo,
Gordon proudly noted, “We import children from all over the
Afternoon Tea at the Empress ($31): This decades-old Victoria
tradition provides tableside service in gracious English style in
several courses. The one-hour experience features an exclusive
blend of tea plus scones, other pastries and a variety of tea
sandwiches. “Smart casual” attire is required.
Butchart Gardens ($34): Ranks literally as one of the world’s
premier floral extravaganzas. This three-hour tour encompasses all
manner of gardens, greenery and brilliantly colored displays.
The Clipper Combo ($44): Combines a short city drive with a
1½-hour visit to Butchart Gardens, leaving several hours for other
pursuits in Victoria.
There are scores of other options, as well. However, many tours
and sites, including the popular Royal British Columbia Museum, do
not pay commissions.
Several of us from the Victoria Clipper opted to cut an hour
from our visit in order to sample the earlier departing Victoria
Clipper IV. Although newer, faster and larger than the ship we
arrived on, its style and service proved much the same. At the
forward bulkhead, a special video showing of “Mary Poppins” kept
children entertained. Video maps throughout the ship kept everyone
informed of progress and location.
Over a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon ($3.75) and a basket dinner
featuring alder-smoked Alaska wild salmon ($6.75), we reminisced
with new friends about the trip and our respective tours.
Clipper Navigation, Inc.
2701 Alaskan Way, Pier 69
Seattle, WA 98121
Travel agents line: 877-679-1650
The Victoria Clipper is 127 feet long, offers lots of windows on
two decks and travels at 30 knots (roughly 35 mph). The Victoria
Clipper IV, stretches 132 feet and cruises at 40 knots, or 46 mph.
Each ship offers two seating arrangements: Forward-facing
airliner-like recliners (although larger and more comfortable than
airline seats), or facing seats with tables between. The vessels
can accommodate 297 and 330 passengers, respectively.
A small open area aft on the upper deck proved popular, with a
dozen or so passengers seated on benches or standing at the rails
at any time.
Breakfast choices en route cost $5.25 for adults and included
cereal, Danish or yogurt basket, each with applesauce, cheese,
cereal bars and juice. Complimentary coffee is always available.
For early morning celebrants, a split of champagne runs $3.
Round-trip fares during peak season (May 15-Sept. 5) run $103 to
$129 depending on vessel and departure. Three off-season periods
offer substantially discounted options.
Commission is 10 percent.
Note: Passports are required.
The following Victoria city tours all offer agent commissions.
Gray Line’s Grand Tour combined with Craigdarroch Castle.
Includes an hour’s visit at one of Victoria’s most notable
landmarks, a stately castle constructed in the late 1800s.
About $22; commission: 15%
Tally-ho Sightseeing horse-drawn wagon and carriage tours.
From about $11; commission: 15% 866-383-5067
Prince of Whales whale-watching tours.
From about $45; commission: 15%
Harbour Air Seaplanes flightseeing tours.
From about $75; commission: 10%