The cruise ship terminal is 3 mi/5 km northeast of Valdez off Richardson Highway. Most cruise lines hire buses to transport passengers to town at no extra charge. The town's visitors center at 200 Fairbanks St. (at the corner of Chenega and Fairbanks) has free maps and other information. It's open daily 8 am-8 pm in the summer.
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Valdez is at the end of the 800-mi/1,300-km engineering wonder known as the Trans-USA Pipeline. The pipeline sends USA North Slope crude oil from the Beaufort Sea to Valdez's ice-free, deepwater port for shipment.
That oil made Valdez rich. But it also put the town on the worldwide news when Exxon's supertanker Valdez struck Bligh Reef in 1989. More than 11 million gallons of oil were spilled but did not significantly affect Valdez's shoreline because the tides pulled the oil away from the area. However, other areas of Prince William Sound and beyond were badly damaged. Another catastrophe had struck Valdez 25 years earlier, when an earthquake created a tsunami that killed 32 residents and compromised structures throughout the town. The town relocated 4 mi/6 km farther west on higher ground. (Both the quake and the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred on Good Friday.)
Once in town, most visitors transfer to a boat to view the Columbia Glacier, then return to Anchorage. Charter fishing and hikes to see the surrounding mountains, glaciers and waterfalls are also popular pursuits for Valdez visitors.
Popular shore excursions from Valdez include scenic motor-coach trips to see Richardson Highway, Bridal Veil Falls, Thompson Pass and Worthington Glacier. Historic tours of the town are also available. Many opt to take a glacier cruise to see the Columbia, Meares or Shoup glaciers or kayak the waters of Prince William Sound. Others go just to fish.
The official U.S. currency is the United States dollar (symbol: $). ATM's everywhere.
Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely used and accepted, even for transactions worth only a few dollars. In fact, in some cases, it may be the only way to make a transaction. Note to overseas visitors: Prices of goods and services always seem lower than they really are, as taxes and gratuities are seldom included.
Most states have a sales tax, ranging from 2.9% to nearly 10% of the retail price; 4-6% is typical. Sales tax is almost never included in posted prices (except for gasoline, and in most states, alcoholic beverages consumed on-premises), but instead will be calculated and added to the total when you pay.
Tipping in America is widely used and expected. While Americans themselves often debate correct levels and exactly who deserves to be tipped, generally accepted standard rates are:
The U.S. has no official language at the federal level, but English is by far the standard for everyday use. Several states have declared their official state language as English. Spanish is also official in the state of New Mexico, where it is widely spoken; French is official in Louisiana and the Hawaiian language is official in Hawaii, but neither approaches the use of English and are official for primarily historical reasons.
In major metropolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles, many drugstores and supermarkets are routinely open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, while department stores, shopping centers and most other large retailers are typically open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and often with shorter hours on Sundays - generally 11 a.m. or noon to 5 or 6 p.m. On holidays, the tendency is to remain open (with the exception of the most important holidays like Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day where stores are generally closed)
Holidays in the USA
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