Monday 8/15 Talkeetna (65 deg): Off to the train via bus (our new home..yikes!) at 7:30 AM. The view from the dome cars was nice, but on this leg of the tour (to Talkeetna) the view doesn’t change much. Better things to come.
We arrive in Talkeetna. Small and quaint, some character but all 3 blocks are pretty boring. We don’t care, we’re on vacation! Off to the Talkeetna Lodge after 2 hard travel days and a 4 hour time change. What a little piece of heaven the Talkeetna Lodge is. The staff was kind, fun, and caring. Everyone went out of their way to make us feel like family. The building itself and the rooms were very comfortable. It is still cloudy outside, but a nice view from the lodge deck. A nice dinner and after dinner drinks in the lounge for the group of 10.
Tuesday 8/16 Denali: Bags out at 9:00. Finally get some shut-eye. Off to Denali via bus and train. The train ride had much better scenery, and dining in the dining car was great fun. As we enter Denali National Park, the sky opens and we have blue skies and sunshine. We stayed at the Grand Denali Lodge and had excellent views from our room. Excellent staff and rooms. We had dinner at The Salmon Bake at the bottom of the hill; it was a little rowdy, but fun and good food in a relaxed atmosphere.
Wednesday 8/17 Denali (Hot and Sunny!): Off at 8:15 for the Tundra Wilderness Tour. Our guide’s name was Tom and he was very knowledgeable. We were scheduled to go to mile 53, but went to 62 to try and see Mount McKinley but there was too much smoke from the Fairbanks fires. We were lucky with the sun and blue skies, and saw moose, caribou, wolves, grizzly bears, dhal sheep, and the ptarmigan (state bird). It was a long 9 hours on that bus, but worth every minute it took. What a wonderful experience it was!!!!!! We had dinner at the lodge that night and enjoyed both the restaurant and the lounge.
Thursday 8/18 Fairbanks (55deg. And cloudy): A little drizzle, and what we thought was fog was actually smoke from the Fairbanks fires some 150 miles away. We are leaving Denali just in time. Off on a 2 ½ hour bus trip to Fairbanks. The sun came back out and all was well. We stopped at the Alaska pipeline which was quite interesting, then dropped off downtown for lunch. Not very interesting downtown area, looks like home.
On the way to our hotel, as included in the cruise tour, we stopped at the Riverboat Discovery Tour. Some of us were not excited about this, but we were quite wrong. Not only was the river beautiful, but the various stops the boat made were amazing! It was a great old sternwheeler which was large and not crowded. We saw a bush pilot demonstration, stopped at the Kennels of 4 time Iditarod winner Susan Bucher, and stopped at the Chena Indian Village which was very interesting. Susan Bucher was on shore and wearing a microphone and did some sled dock mushing demos. The Chena Village was extremely interesting and involved a lot of young Alaskan people trying to keep their heritage alive. It was very informative and they didn’t try to sell us anything. One of the few stops without a gift shop! The boat trip was a big hit with everyone.
Off to Pike’s Waterfront Lodge. Another great balcony room with a view of the river. Dinner for the 10 of us at the lodge casual restaurant. Our last dinner for the group of 10. We will be joined by 12 others on board ship.
Friday 8/19 Fairbanks/Anchorage/Seward: Off by bus to the Fairbanks airport, by plane to Anchorage, by bus to Seward and the Summit. We cannot wait
Cruise Tour 12 Conclusions: It was excellent, though quite tiring with all of the packing and unpacking. All of the hotels and rooms were very nice. Anchorage was dull. Talkeetna was quaint, but a great lodge. Denali was WOW!!!!!! Fairbanks was okay, but the riverboat trip was a blast!!! We are glad we did it at the start of the trip rather than the end.
Friday 8/19 Seward (60 deg): We finally arrive by bus in Seward at 5:30 P.M., another long travel day. Embarkation was a breeze since we had already received our Sea Pass from the land tour. Ushered to our room with bubbly in hand. We had a category 2B, with a balcony on the aft port side. No bags due until 8 PM so off to explore the ship.
Before I go any further, I would appreciate not getting flamed by some of you board regulars. The bottom line is: We had a wonderful time on the Summit while at times it did not meet our expectations.
We saw quite a bit of the ship and stopped in Michaels’ Club for refreshments with Jeremiah, a fine young man from South Africa. Then off to our balcony for sail away at 9 PM or so.
Saturday 8/20 Sea Day/Hubbard Glacier (Sunny, then cold): Had an excellent breakfast then off for more exploring. The daily said 4 hours at Hubbard, but we got there 1 ½ hours late so our visit was cut short due to another ship arriving. Everyone was bothered by this since we missed some prime viewing time and we were not forewarned.
It was formal night and we had elected not to participate since we did not want to pack the additional garments and accompaniments. We did the alternative casual dining on both formal nights and it was fine in both food and service. Then off to the rendezvous lounge for cocktails, dancing, and a great band (The Party Band Headlines)!
I must add we discovered the Martini bar and it became a meeting place for our group each evening. Oh boy, were they great!!!
Sunday 8/21 Juneau (Drizzly, cool): Off to town for a quick walking tour and some shopping, then to Orca Enterprises for our trip with Capt. Larry on the Odysea. What a character Capt. Larry is. Additionally, we had Darick who speaks on the ship about whales along for the trip. The new boat has three 540 horsepower Cummins Diesel engines equipped for jet mode to avoid possible propeller damage to the whales. This boat flew and with the choppy seas, it was quite a ride. We onlh had 23 aboard, so there was plenty of room. We saw no less than 12 humpback whales and about 10 Orcas. We saw some breaching by both and they were quite close by. Wow, what a great excursion it was. Kudos to Capt.Larry!!!
A casual night at dinner. To be honest the food on the Summit was not great. And in some cases quite pedestrian, particularly the salads and hot soups (the cold soups were yummy). The salads were made up of mainly iceberg lettuce and the dressings were very watery with no body to them. The hot soups were insipid and if they were cream soups, much too watery for our tastes. But we did eat them…after all we’re on vacation!!! And most of the entrees were average fare. The service level was also mediocre at best. We had much better on RCL.
The interactive TV system they want you to use for room service orders and to check you on board account (my how it grows!) was down for 2 days and everyone we contacted kept denying it was true. This happened quite often with the telephone “gatekeeper” who answered all calls from any phone speed button they had programmed, and at the customer relations desk. Very strange.
8/22 Skagway (Gloomy, late sun): We took the White Pass Railway Excursion. Fantastic views and scenery. The small gauge train was quite charming. Beware that ifd you are in the first 2 cars near the engines in either direction, the fumes are overwhelming. We left the train in town. What a fun little place. We had lunch at the Red Onion Saloon and Brothel where the food was good and the women were bad..lol. A great little stop. Did some shopping and back to the ship.
We saw 3 shows while on the ship. The Gleason Magic Show, aa dance review, and Michael the Ladder guy. All 3 were quite enjoyable. Once again at dinner the food was fair and the service lacking. What’s going on with Celebrity???
8/23 Icy Strait Point ( Cold, breezy, then hot later): Since this was a short and tendered day, we stayed aboard and enjoyed the ship and the rest. DW and I had a great lunch in the dining room. Tonight X is throwing a cocktail party for our group of 22 in Michael’s Club, plus a group of 12 are going to the Normandie for dinner afterwards. The first time all 22 have been together. A great time was had by all and X outdid themselves with drinks and hours douvres (sp?).
Returned to the room and noticed a triple charge for $40.25 on our bill. Had to deal with Customer Relations on this the next day and wasted 45 minutes resolving it. It was hard to be nice Iwhen no one could answer my questions, but I survived….after all I’m on vacation!!!!!!!!!
8/24 Ketchikan (Pleasant 68 deg): The final shopping stop and boy. Everyone on all 4 docked ships knew it. We did our part to support the local economy!! It’s lobster night tonight!!! This was actually the only “fine” dinner we had on the ship. From the appetizers to the desserts, everything was delightful. And of course the baked Alaska.
8/25 Sea Day-Packing (sunny and blue skies): We started packing the extra suitcase we purchased since we were over weight on the way from Anchorage to Seward..oh,those souvenirs!! A beautiful day with on and off fog and sunshine. We had late seating throughout the trip, but today is our host’s birthday so we ate with the rest of the group, as prearranged with the servers, at early seating. A grand time was had by all.
8/26 Vancouver (Sunny and cool): A sad, sad day, but all good things must come to an end. The bright side is that we used U. S Direct to disembark and we arrived ata the Celebrity Theatre at 7:50 A.M. and were in the Vancouver terminal at 8:45 P.M.. We never saw our bags until we arrived in Cleveland, and they were there. What an excellent service!!!
Cruise Conclusions: Overall we all had a great time despite a few snafus. The ship was in great shape although I never saw anyone doing any extra cleaning. Our room attendant Sandy Prise was a prince among men and did an excellent job. We loved the Martini Bar, the band, and the Lounge and theatre. The weather co-operated most of the time and all in all after the land tour it was a very relaxing experience. But after all, we were on vacation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
1991 Carnival-Jubilee (Mexican Riviera-Eclipse Cruise)
2003 RCCL-Adventure of the Seas (Carib.)
2005 Celebrity-Summit (Alaska-August)
2007 Norwegian Dream (Houston to Belize-Feb.)
2008 Norwegian Jewel (South Carib-Feb.)
2009 Norwegian Dawn (Bahamas-Feb.)
2010 Norwegian Pearl (Carib-Feb.)
2011 Norwegian Sun (Eastern Caribbean-Feb.)