on June 8, 2009
By Day 5, our ship had reach Victoria, Canada. Victoria is situated on the southern tip of Vancouver Island across the bay from the U.S. state of Washington. My wife and I had signed up for the 3-hour Victoria Highlights and Craigdarroch Castle excursion offered by Royal Caribbean via Gray Line Tours. The tour took us through the residential neighborhoods, to a scenic overlook, to Craigdarroch Castle, and through downtown Victoria.The residential areas of Victoria are very tidy. The homes contain perfectly manicured lawns with colorful flower beds and neatly trimmed shrubbery. People were out golfing and playing tennis. Seniors dressed in white were lawn bowling. We rode through a park where ducks, geese, and peacocks grazed as children played. A bald eagle was perched in a tree proudly watching over her gigantic nest. The communities of Victoria appear to be among the happiest places on earth.We were eventually driven to the top of a mountain that seemed more like a hill when compared to the snow-capped Olympic Mountains across the water. From here we were able to get off the bus and take in an elevated view of Victoria and the cruise ships in port that day. It was not the most impressive overlook I've seen but it felt good to walk around in the fresh air. From the mountain, we were driven to Craigdarroch Castle whose construction was completed in 1890. It is located in a residential neighborhood. We were given an hour to walk through the castle. There is a lot of intricate woodwork and stained glass as well as some books and letters of the Dunsmuir family that lived there. Not paying close enough attention to the time, my wife and I had to quickly leave the castle and chase our tour bus that was pulling off one minute after we were supposed to be back onboard. How embarrassing. When we reached downtown Victoria, our tour guide pointed out a few landmarks and then gave the option of getting off the bus to explore on our own or staying on the bus for a ride back to the ship. My wife and I chose to get off the bus to explore the downtown area.Downtown Victoria has shops, restaurants, hotels, museums, Chinatown and the Inner Harbour. The merchants in the area will accept U.S. currency but will give you change in Canadian. After having toured the tidy residential areas of the island, it came as no surprise that downtown Victoria is very clean and upscale. Even McDonald's has an elegant chandelier hanging in its lobby.There were several ways to get back to the ship: pay $10 for a taxi, pay $6 for the CVS Cruise Victoria shuttle, or walk. It was a bright sunny day with near perfect temperatures. Therefore, my wife and I ask for directions from the Visitor Center and made the easy 20-minute walk back to the ship. Victoria was a pleasant port.
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