The boat trip was AMAZING and so much more than a boat trip
By Hilary Mackintosh, United Kingdom
The travel arrangements all worked brilliantly. We had a great day in Vancouver on the Trolley bus ride, and Hotel Sylvia was very nice - good situation.
As I said, the lady at C-Shasta was great - she (or someone) had booked a minibus to pick up us and some others who were also going on the boat trip, so we were unexpectedly met at the airport - and then saw our first bear on the ride to Port McNeill! And then the next morning she took us down to the marina when our booked taxi failed to show up due to the Orca parade.
The boat trip was AMAZING and so much more than a boat trip... The crew - Neil (Captain), Kate (cook), Dustin (mate) and Krista (zoologist) were not only very expert, but also lovely people. Neil listened to what we all wanted to see and tailored the trip accordingly - so, for example, because we were going to Alert Bay and the others weren't that interested in it, he cut out that visit so we spent more time looking for wildlife, which was everyone's main interest. And, pretty much on a whim, we sailed all the way up Knight Inlet which was really beautiful and felt like a real adventure, as none of the crew had ever been up there. We saw plenty of Orcas, a couple of humpbacks, lots of dolphins riding on our bow wave (which was Emily's highlight), and 4 really good bear sightings. The sea kayaking was my highlight, including going in silently and close to shore to watch a black bear who seemed very unbothered by us. We also got close to seals, and saw the most incredible huge brightly coloured starfish.
Although the literature said how good the food would be, it really was even better than I'd expected, and very plentiful.
We formed such good relationships with the other guests that I, for one, (and I wasn't the only one) was a complete emotional wreck when we had to say goodbye to them all!
We loved the complete laid-back-ness of Alert Bay, and were fascinated by the First Nation culture and their story. The good thing about being there for a week was that we were able to book workshops run by the Culture Shock gallery - these only happen on Thurs, Fri and Sat so if you are only there for a few days you'll likely miss them. We saw dancing, listened to their history in a storytelling session, and learned how to weave Cedar wood bracelets. We hired bikes and tried to follow the cycle track around the island, but a lot of it is too overgrown, which is a real shame - they were given funds to create the tracks a few years ago but obviously not enough to maintain them. The whole island is a bit like that - a lot of tourist-related businesses have shut down, yet they are obviously trying to build up their tourism with, for example, the Umista Cultural Centre, which is really good. It's a picturesque place, and deserves to be visited more - but you kind of hope not too much!
The Lodge, as I said, wasn't really how it was advertised on its website, so that was the main disappointment. The new owners really see it as just a B & B, so it isn't really a good place for family accommodation for more than a night or two. Whereas we were expecting delicious meals and a lounge to sit in and talk to other guests, they only do a meal on one night, and have the lounge as their sitting room, so you feel like you are intruding if you spend too much time in there, and they lock it if they go out. So we didn't really get to meet other people like we'd hoped. Fortunately, the restaurant in the town was very good, and very friendly, but, going there every night, we found ourselves eating the same meals more than once!
But, overall it was an excellent holiday and we might well go on another trip, perhaps to Alaska, in a few years. It's certainly spoiled me for cruises - John has always wanted to go on one of these huge cruise ships round the Caribbean or somewhere, but having got so close to the wildlife, and the other guests, on a small boat, I'm afraid I wouldn't now want to do anything else!
Thank you again for all your help with the travel arrangements and accommodation - it all seemed very complicated but in fact went very smoothly and mostly without stress!
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