American Queen Steamboat Company today finalized its purchase of the American Empress. The 223-passenger riverboat, formerly known as Empress of the North, will begin operating Columbia and Snake river cruises between Portland, Oregon and Clarkston, Washington on April 5, 2014. View itinerary details.
Antarctica is one of the last wild places on earth. And this past week, it’s really lived up to its name.
The ice-strengthened, Russian-flagged MV Akademik Shokalskiy set sail in early December on a expedition to Antarctica. Carrying tourists and research scientists on their way to study the effects of global warming, the ship became stuck in the ice flow on Christmas morning. The passengers are in no danger, and in fact are seemingly enjoying the unique event. Passengers said it wasn’t a bad place to be stuck; the scenery is beautiful and penguins have been walking up to the ship and sniffing around, checking out their new neighbors.
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A perspective of living in Alaska….
I was born in raised in Los Angeles, and just spent the last three years living in Anchorage. I loved it very, very much – and indeed I only left because I could not afford to travel often back to CA to see my family, to whom I am very close.
You’re asking two very different questions – what it’s like to live there, and what it’s like to live there as a Californian.
What it’s like to live there:
•Incredible outdoor recreation, wildlife and parks within Anchorage. People, generally, are extremely outdoorsy in one way or another.
•Anchorage is very diverse. There are large military populations, large oil-company populations, large Alaska Native populations, large ethnic minority populations (mainly from Asia & Pacific Island nations) and lots of other people just seeking an adventurous life.
•Very tight-knit community. Anchorage is around 200,000 people – more, if you count the suburbs. It’s shockingly tight-knit in terms of the neighborhoods and communities of practice that develop within it. I always saw people I knew at restaurants, concerts, special events, etc.
•It’s the last frontier. People come to Alaska because it’s huge and sparsely populated – and there is not a whole lot of government-per-square mile to enforce laws and so forth. So people come there to be left alone. There are also a lot of creative “counter culture” people living truly adventurous lives, doing unusual stuff.
•The wilderness is right there, on your doorstep. Alaska is wild and almost inconceivably huge – and it’s just on the edge of Anchorage. People die in avalanches, get mauled by bears and suffer hypothermia, all within or just outside of city limits. You have unmatched access to public lands, wildlife, wilderness and freedom. The Chugach Range, Alaska Range and Cook Inlet surround Anchorage. You can fish for wild salmon in Ship Creek, see bears in Far North Bicentennial Park (or on your lawn) and see moose almost every day. Just wandering around.
What it’s like to live there as a Californian:
Cold and dark in the winter, rainy, light and less cold in the summer. Paradoxically, perhaps, Anchorage is sunny in the winter, when it’s cold and the days are short. It’s considerably less sunny in the summer. And still not warm – in the three years I lived there, I think it only got over 70 degrees 6 or 7 days. I missed warmth a lot, but it wasn’t something that I worried about a lot. I adjusted to the winters by staying very active and getting out in the sun whenever possible.
•Frankly, it’s kind of hard being a Californian specifically. Old-timer Alaskans have a very parochial view of people moving up from the lower 48, and you earn credibility by the length of time you spend there. I think a lot of people think we all move up there to bring our hippie culture and California tax laws while taking advantage of the Permanent Fund Dividend. Truthfully, I resented being dismissed as “just a Californian” when participating in conversations about the future of Alaska.
•It’s expensive to get out of AK (again, the reason I left). Plane tickets to and from the lower 48 are very expensive. If my family were there, I wouldn’t have left.
•You won’t have nearly as much access to diverse food, music and entertainment activities. In its place, you’ll have the wilderness and outdoor culture, an opportunity to learn about how communities wrestle with diverse cultures and differing views of the ownership of land.
Need another reason to visit Alaska by small ship? Here’s a single day report from a naturalist aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion in Thomas Bay, Spurt Lake, Petersburg.
From midnight to sunset on this day, glorious light enchanted us. After a night of bubble-net-feeding humpback whales and a spectacular display of the northern lights we were greeted with another day of sunshine! Yes… this is only day two of our trip! Today’s hike to Spurt Lake took place in Thomas Bay, just north of Petersburg, our afternoon destination. Our two options were a hike in the forest or to go on a scenic small boat cruise around Thomas Bay. The small boat cruisers headed up the bay towards the Baird Glacier. On the way, three animals were abundant—seals, marbled murrelets and Arctic terns, all looking for some kind of lunch. Before the water got too shallow we got close enough to see some spectacular terminal and recessional moraines formed as the glacier recently retreated.
While you may have been spending the July 4th holiday grilling with friends, a few handful of others were exploring the Galapagos Islands with Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic aboard the National Geographic Islander.
Guests aboard the National Geographic Islander visited Santiago Island, following Darwin’s footsteps, hiking and kayaking even before breakfast. After breakfast, guests snorkeled at Buccaneers Cove, encountering some white-tipped reef sharks, and many species of fish and sea lions frolicked in the water.
Back in 2008, we posted on on a new small ship cruise line, Pearl Seas Cruises, and their new ship, Pearl Mist, nearing completion. Since that time, we haven’t heard much from the cruise line or about their ship.
Fast forward almost five years, and the 335-foot cruise ship recently sailed to Maryland to be readied for her maiden cruise from Baltimore June 2014.
The former Empress of the North, built for and operated by the now defunct American West Steamboat Company / Majestic America Line, will be renamed American Empress, and begin sailing the Columbia River and Snake River starting April 2014, offering seven-day trips between Portland and Clarkston, Wash. Ports of call include Astoria, Wash.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; Umatilla, Ore.; and Richland, Wash.
Lindblad Expeditions flagship, the National Geographic Explorer, has just started a stint in dry dock. The ship is presently at the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany, where she will undergo comprehensive technical work and class renewal for Det Norske Veritas, a classification society organized as a foundation, with the objective of “Safeguarding life, property, and the environment.”
Work to be completed on the ship in the yard’s Kaiserdock 1 by May 15 includes a long list of basic technical work, mainly extensive repairs to the thruster, rudder and shaft plant.
The National Geographic Explorer will then continue on with itineraries that take her north, exploring coastal Europe on its way to its Arctic adventures this summer.
The La Estrella Amazonica offers a range of amenities new to the region, including private balconies for every cabin, a multimedia lecture room, fitness center, kayaks, a nightly reception with complimentary Peruvian cocktails, wine and beer, and the Amazon’s largest observation deck.