A Pacific Parade cruise is the perfect getaway for someone not wanting to travel too far, but still enjoy exciting cities and wonderful adventures they may never have otherwise. After a plane ride to Vancouver, we boarded the Celebrity Century to embark on an 11-day journey down the west coast of Canada and the United States.

At the start of our vacation, we stayed at the Listel, a boutique hotel on Robson Street in the heart of Vancouver’s shopping and restaurant district. We then hopped on a ferry to Granville Island, where we visited several artists’ studios and craft shops. An oasis in the middle of the city, Granville Island breeds culture and art with its numerous festivals, theater, exhibitions and street performers.

Next up on our trip was the harbor city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. Once a whaling port, Nanaimo was founded by the First Nations, a native Indian tribe who inhabited the area some 3,000 years ago. Today, the city is home to a magnificent golf course where Bob Hope and Bing Crosby played. One of the city’s most interesting attractions is the Northern Bathtub Race, which occurs every year in July. The ‘World’s Cleanest Sport,’ the annual race provides a peculiar view of motorized bathtubs floating on the water next to their powerboat escorts.

Back on the bus and a short ride away, we were greeted by the smell of hot cheese bread. At Coombs’ Old Country Market, we shopped for international foods, while enjoying delicious ice cream. The Market is most famous for its ‘goats on a roof’ that entertain visitors from all over the world. The Norwegian family that founded Coombs 30 years ago decided to borrow neighboring goats to ‘mow’ the sod roof of their building. Today, goats still keep the grass in check.

After docking in Victoria Island, the capital of British Columbia, we walked down Government Street, with its old-town shops and the world-famous Empress Hotel. One of the premiere attractions of the island is Butchart Gardens, named one of the ‘Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Traveling For.’ We took in the fresh smells and vibrant colors that greeted us. Bloom-laden arches marked the entrance to the Rose Garden, where more than 3,000 rose bushes displayed 250-plus different varieties.

Next up was Seattle, where we enjoyed hot clam chowder at Pike Place Chowder, located next to the fish-throwers in Pike’s Market. This touristy gem lived up to its reputation as having the ‘best chowder in America,’ with its seven different savory soups. We visited the 520-foot-high Space Needle, and took in the comprehensive collection of Northwest artist Dale Chihuly’s stunning glass sculptures.

Perched above the mouth of the Columbia River and framed by the Cascade Mountains is the picturesque and historic town of Astoria, Oregon, named after financier John Jacob Astor. The oldest American settlement west of the Rockies, it is home of The Astoria Column, a concrete tower 125 feet high featuring 14 murals that celebrate the earliest moments of Northwest history. We hopped on a trolley, and as it clickety-clicked along the Astoria riverfront, we witnessed the pure charm of the town.

San Francisco, home of the majestic Golden Gate Bridge and the city where Tony Bennett left his heart, was our next port of call. Traveling on the top deck of the ‘Hop On Hop Off’ Bus, we visited the laid-back, Bohemian district of Haight-Ashbury; the Castro, home of the largest gay community in the U.S.; Nob Hill, where many of the city’s upper-class families reside; the Presidio; and Chinatown, the largest of its kind outside of Asia. Across the bay, we had lunch in the tiny bayside community of Sausalito, where we enjoyed bites of the freshest crab salad imaginable.

We traveled by wine trolley from Monterey to the Carmel Valley Wine Country to taste exceptional limited-edition wines from nine vineyards. Spectacular views and charming tasting rooms at the Carmel Valley Village made this a highlight of our trip.

A few hours north of our final destination of San Diego, we visited Catalina Island, a beautiful spot where tourists can enjoy kayaking, ocean-rafting, parasailing, zip-lining, miniature golf or a glass bottom boat tour on a semi-submersible submarine. Because automobiles are scarce, we toured the island on one of the ubiquitous Catalina golf carts, taking in the stunning views of the deep canyons, quiet ocean coves and the sailboat-filled harbor. The ‘Island of Romance’ did not disappoint with the many delightful cafes, bars and shops in Avalon, the island’s only city and bustling port of entry.

Our final port of call was San Diego, where we stopped by one of the city’s must-see attractions: the Spanish Village Art Centers in Balboa Park. Built in 1935 for the California Pacific International Exposition, the courtyards and quaint buildings depict a charming, old Spanish barrio. There, you can visit 37 working artists’ studios, galleries and art guilds hosting local artisans.

Two days at The Pantai Inn, an intimate boutique hotel, reminiscent of the tranquil retreats of the Indonesian island of Bali, was the end to a perfect vacation. Set in a gorgeous seaside location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the hotel was just steps away from the charming village of La Jolla, known for its fabulous shopping and world-class dining. To satisfy our appetites, we dined at The Hake, an outstanding kitchen and wine bar on Prospect Street. 

The Pacific Parade Cruise is the perfect way to visit North America’s beautiful West Coast without experiencing any language difficulties. After 11 days, as our Celebrity Cruise came to an end, we were armed with bottles of wine and Jan De Luz extra virgin olive oil from the Carmel Valley, and tasty gifts from Coombs’ in British Columbia. We look forward to savoring our special treats with friends and sharing our exciting experiences of our most recent voyage, not too far from home.

An innate storyteller and award-winning photographer and writer, Alice Handelman provides Ladue News readers with a glimpse into lives that enrich St. Louis.