Clipper Vacations: The Pacific Northwest by Water

Clipper Vacations: The Pacific Northwest by Water

From the Olympic Sculpture Park and Pike Place Market to the Space Needle and Seattle Underground, Seattle and the surrounding area offer a wealth of opportunities for sightseeing and relaxation whether you have a weekend or more to explore.

But what if you want more? Perhaps you want to get a closer look at the area’s marine wildlife. Or maybe you’d like to spend a few days in British Columbia for a more extensive Pacific Northwest experience. Clipper Vacations can make it happen—and a whole lot more.

RewardExpert spoke with Scott Meis, Clipper Vacations’ vice president of marketing, to learn more about the company’s history, vacation package options, and his thoughts on the Pacific Northwest destinations and experiences you shouldn’t miss this summer.

Learn more about company's vacation package options
Vacation package options include whale watching

From a Single Vessel to a Fleet—and Growing

Founded by Seattle native Merideth Tall in 1986, Clipper Vacations began with the inspiration to ferry sightseers between Seattle and Victoria—in Canada’s British Columbia—on a high-speed catamaran. Though many questioned the demand for such a service, passengers kept the vessel booked year-round. The company soon added a second ship to the fleet for the busy mid-summer season and opened a route from Seattle to the nearby San Juan Islands in 1996.

According to Meis, the current fleet transports about 230,000 passengers between Seattle and Victoria each year, ferrying another 35,000 between Seattle and the San Juan Islands. Fast Reliable Seaways(FRS), a German-based transportation company, acquired Clipper Vacations and Clipper Navigation Inc. last year. With their assistance, Clipper Vacations will be opening a new route between Vancouver and Victoria in March 2018.

Victoria Clipper IV
The Victoria Clipper IV

Ferry Service and Much More

In addition to daily passenger-only ferry service from Seattle to Victoria or the San Juan Islands and back, Clipper Vacations offers a large number of comprehensive, competitively priced vacation packages.

“The Pacific Northwest is a fairly complicated place when you look at it on the map,” Meis explained when asked why travelers need more than just ferry service when exploring the area. “There are a bunch of islands and a couple big cities, and most people aren’t really clear on how they can get between them.”

Instead of relying on Internet research to figure out how to add a Victoria day trip to their Seattle stay, or where to spend the night if they want to stretch that excursion into a multi-day experience, travelers can choose a customizable package and benefit from the expertise of Clipper Vacations’ travel agents.

“During peak season—between May and October—we have up to 30 travel agents within our Seattle and Victoria offices,” Meis said. “While 60 percent of our business is booked online, about 40 percent comes through our call center. Our highly knowledgeable Pacific Northwest travel experts will help you determine which of our vetted hotel partners will be best for you as well as the best mode of transportation to help you get around once you’ve reached your destination.”

“We’re still at the size where we’re able to give 100 percent of our attention to every customer who comes through the door,” Meis added. “And because we’ve been in the market for more than 30 years now, we have very vetted hotel, tour and activity partners that we’ve worked with on a yearly basis. There’s a lot of trust and credibility in what we’re bringing to our customers.”

Fairmont Empress
Tea at the Fairmont Empress is popular with tourists in Victoria

Don’t Miss These Experiences

Meis described any trip on one of Clipper Vacations’ vessels as “pinnacle Pacific Northwest” and recommends every visitor to Seattle make time to explore the San Juan Islands or Victoria as well. “They are beautiful, scenic getaways right in Seattle’s backyard,” he said.

Whale watching is a definite customer favorite and an affordable experience as well. A variety of packages are available, from a Seattle to San Juan Islands whale watching and sea life search day trip (from $99 per adult) to a multi-day Seattle to Vancouver and Victoria whale watching cruise (from $478 per adult).

“On the 12-hour day trip, we take you up through Deception Pass and you arrive in Friday Harbor,” Meis said. “It includes a two-hour whale and sea life searching trip to catch some of the transient and resident whales plus time to grab lunch in town before we bring you back to Seattle. For people who have never seen orcas, humpbacks or bald eagles flying by, it’s a pretty epic trip.”

Though day trips to Victoria are available (from $149 per adult), Meis urges travelers to consider at least a two-night getaway so they’ll have plenty of time to enjoy popular add-on activities such as tea at the Fairmont Empress, an afternoon or evening in The Butchart Gardens, the Royal BC Museum, or a tour of Vancouver Island’s world-renowned wine region.

“Every time I’m in Victoria, it leaves me wanting to go back,” he said.

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