Our last stop on the Alaskan cruise was at the Canadian port of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, located on Vancouver Island. It is a medium sized city – a gentle combination of colonial England and contemporary Western Canada.
Because we only had half a day in this beautiful city, we had to carefully choose what we wanted to do. Since it was my parents’ wedding anniversary, we urged them to go to the world-famous Butchart botanical gardens, and also particularly because my mom has a green thumb. Meanwhile the rest of us decided to go on a city tour in order to soak in as much of the city we could before heading back to the open waters.
DID YOU KNOW?
Our Alaskan cruise had to dock at a non-American port, Victoria, because all cruises that depart from the USA are required by law to dock at a non-American port under the Jones act. This law was supposed to protect the American ship industry from unfair foreign competition; the reality today of course is that virtually all US-based cruise ships are foreign flagged in order to avoid US taxes and occupational laws. This was the reason our cruise stopped in Victoria for a short period of time – only half a day.
Once we got off the cruise at Ogden Point, we reached Downtown Victoria after a short coach ride that was perfectly wheelchair friendly. First things first – we realized that there was free Wi-Fi within the city which helped us stay in touch with my parents, in case of any emergencies. And it also meant we could get back on the social media train, after several days out at sea far from our phones!
We got down next to the renowned and quaint Fairmont Express Hotel that overlooked the Inner Harbor.
After snapping a few shots of this magnificent, foliage-covered hotel, we booked a city bus tour and because we still had some time, we ventured into Miniature World. It was an attraction that housed miniature models of the world’s major historical moments such as the World War II and the evolution of London since the 1600s. It was quite informative while capturing our attention with the special effects. I particular enjoyed the tiny details that each model displayed, especially one model of an English Victorian house – where everything from the furniture to the newspaper were elaborately designed.
Miniature World has easy wheelchair access. In some spots, the turning space appeared to be narrow, but it was just the dark lighting that made it look complicated and I managed to access the entire display. It’s a definite must for history and art buffs!
Thereafter we went back out and joined the bus tour. The tour guide first pointed out the Legislature Building – including the Parliamentary Buildings. It was unquestionably picturesque with its stunning architecture. Then we went to Downtown Victoria, where we passed through Chinatown – which, while small, is the oldest in Canada and worthy of a visit. Here the traditional Asian markets share space with contemporary Canadian boutiques.
After exploring Inner Victoria and the nearby parks, we ventured into the Victorian countryside. We reached the posh Oak Bay area, driving through residential living areas, admiring their green lawns. I was reminded of the ever-beautiful British countryside.
(Sorry! My photographer, Diva, didn’t manage to take many pictures on the moving bus.)
The tour ended outside the Empress Hotel, where we waited for my parents. Once we all regrouped, we headed to the nearby streets, in search of food. My parents told me that they thoroughly enjoyed the world-famous 50-acre Butchart Gardens; and the pictures below prove that the gardens are truly spectacular.
Since we only had half a day in Victoria, we only had enough time to grab some burgers and fries from the nearby Burger Hut and then we bought a few souvenirs, including some Canadian maple candy. After a quick ice cream, we took the coach back to Ogden point and boarded the Star Princess.
It was undeniably a fun-filled half-day in Victoria. But I shall be back one day, oh Victoria, you stupendous host of natural, historic, culinary and cultural delights!
The pictures for this blog post are provided by Diva Shah and Hitesh Shah.