Sail away on a short Northwest cruise

The Star Princess of Princess Cruises, shown in 2009, makes the one-night cruise between Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Alan Berner/Seattle Times/MCT)

SEATTLE — Big or small? Luxury cruise ship or plucky coastal freight boat?

The choice is yours for cruising around the Pacific Northwest.

Sail away for a night this fall or next spring between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., on a world-class cruise ship. Or clamber onto a little coastal freighter, with just a few dozen passengers, to cruise the wild west side of Vancouver Island. A roundup:

—Seattle-Vancouver cruises

If you're tight on time or money, or a first-timer wanting to check out cruising, take a one-night cruise between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. Such sailings are offered in fall and spring before or after the Alaska cruise season.

Think of a one-night cruise as a floating hotel — or a very pleasant, slow-going way between Seattle and Vancouver. You're only aboard from midafternoon until early the next morning. But you can belly up to the buffet and bars; stroll the deck to enjoy the scenery; watch big-screen movies or other entertainment; or loll in the hot tub and pool.

Seattle-based Holland America offers a Seattle-Vancouver cruise Sept. 24 aboard the 1,916-passenger Westerdam. Get a stateroom with your own private veranda starting at $99 per person, based on double occupancy, including meals (taxes and fees raise the price to about $131 per person). Or sleep for less in an inside stateroom or splurge on a fancier suite (prices can change depending on availability).

"It's mostly locals on these one-night cruises. And it can be turned into a getaway with an extra day in a city," said Erik Elvejord, a spokesman for Holland America. (The cruise line also has three one-night sailings next spring from Vancouver to Seattle on May 5, 11 and 17.)

Princess Cruises also offers Seattle-Vancouver one-night cruises this fall. Frolic aboard the Sapphire Princess, departing Sept. 18 for a budget-friendly $69 per person (based on double occupancy for an inside stateroom; $101.75 per person with taxes and fees). Or sail away for a stylish night on the 2,600-passenger Golden Princess from Seattle to Vancouver on Sept. 24.

—Vancouver Island coastal cruises

For something completely different, take a trip aboard the MV Uchuck III on the wild west side of 280-mile-long Vancouver Island.

Only a few roads punch through mountains and tangled forests to the island's wave-pounded Pacific coast. But the Uchuck, a 136-foot coastal freighter/passenger boat, sails year-round from the little town of Gold River to isolated logging camps, fish farms and fishing villages.

Delivering freight and ferrying locals, the Uchuck also carries sightseers along the fjordlike Nootka Sound on day trips (roughly $75 per person) and out into the open Pacific on overnight adventure tours (about $465 for one person, $695 for two).

The Uchuck, a converted World War II minesweeper, sails weekly in summer to Yuquot, or Friendly Cove, a remote First Nations site where Captain James Cook landed in 1778.

Once a bustling Indian fishing village, it now has just a few caretakers, a historic church, lighthouse and lovely, lonely beaches.

Visitors could stay in basic cabins (propane lamps, no plumbing) at Friendly Cove ( or backpack for days on the coastal Nootka Trail.

An easier way to get a taste of Vancouver Island's wild side is to sign up for the Uchuck's "Kyuquot Adventure."

On the two-day trip, the Uchuck chugs out of the protected inlets and heads north along the open, rugged coast to the fishing village of Kyuquot. Passengers stay the night ashore in B&Bs.

Home to about 400 people and tucked into the forest around a protected cove, Kyuquot is reached only by boat or floatplane.