Our second port of call: Sitka.
Which, I thought was a good idea – as an emergency preparedness buff, it seemed to me to be a good way to ensure proper functioning of the lifeboats and associated equipment – I don’t know why, but it’s called “tendering”.
What to do in Sitka?
In all the American ports, we disembarked to tour operators hawking tours or sales pitches. It was a bit jarring – on one hand, this was a vacation to relax and be pampered – but even on board ship, there was a constant sense of being hustled – automatic service charges on everything ordered through the crew and on board merchants and service providers that were extra – and it started right at boarding with the posing of a photo you could later buy packages of. The photographers roamed the ship offering to take your picture – and this made sense back in the day when cruising was more of an occasion and before digital cameras.
When we landed in Victoria, the primary greeters were elderly volunteers in 1800’s costumes providing free walking maps of the city, tour operators picking up the people who had already booked tours and free shuttle buses to downtown. Victoria, being a major city and our province’s capitol, was not reliant on the cruise ships for revenue, it is a working city with commerce and industry that’s augmented by the cruise ships, not dependent on their season to carry them through the year.
Which perhaps, explains the more relaxed welcome, a smoke ’em if you got them laid back-ness that was lacking in other stops. Or perhaps, just a difference between Americans and Canadians or maybe just rural vs urban.
We decided to take a tour and decided a driving rather than a water tour.
A drive around Stika provided local history and town highlights, but it was the Park reserve and the two animal sanctuaries that we preferred – wildlife, even being care-taken, was more interesting than people to us.
From the park to the bear sanctuary – the Fortress of the Bears assumes the care for bear cubs who’s mother had to be shot or who died. The sanctuary has two sets of bear cubs currently – a pair at 900 pounds each and another with three cubs at around 450 each.
Aside: The only thing worse than getting between a mother bear and her cubs is getting between a civil service employee and free food in the break room.
I couldn’t help but be surprised how playful and powerful the bears are.