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Melinda Brasher

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Everything posted by Melinda Brasher

  1. That's really weird. HAL's southbound cruises generally stop at Haines, not Skagway, as your itinerary says. That the cruise schedule says differently is a big mystery. But you notice the Westerdam in Haines on other weeks. I agree that I would contact the cruise line to get the final word. And yes, Haines and Skagway are completely separate towns. If you wanted to get to Skagway from Haines, you'd have to take the ferry, which is a big chunk of time (though gorgeous sailing time) and money. And it might not work for your port schedule. Or you have to take a guided tour to Skagway, with prices and length adjusted to compensate for the boat ride If you indeed stop in Haines, I would recommend staying in Haines (which I quite liked, being that it's not inundated with thousands of tourists every day). Otherwise, I would consider changing your itinerary so that it goes to Skagway. But that's just me. A few pics from Haines: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/01/haines-alaska.html
  2. I admit I'm slightly anti cell phone, so I just have a little tracphone, which did work in Alaska a few years ago but didn't work this time. However, it's not just me. On the cruise I talked to at least two other sets of people (who probably had fancier phones and carriers) who had to arrange beforehand to have their carrier add Alaska for their trip, since their plan only had lower 48 coverage. I'd reserved a kayak trip with a non-cruise company, and when I showed up, they said, "We tried to text you, but we figured your phone wasn't working here," so apparently it's come up a lot with them too. I'm sure many people won't have any problem, but I think it's better not to assume you'll automatically be covered.
  3. I've taken several Alaska cruises, mostly in July and August. Until this last cruise, I'd never had any problems with seasickness except for a few mild headaches (that's how my motion sickness manifests in cars, buses, etc). I love it when it gets a little rocky: the walking around like you're light, light, light then heavy, heavy, heavy. I love swimming in the pool when it's sloshing around. However, this last August we had one night (between Hubbard Glacier and Sitka) that was really rocky. There were winds over 60 kt and a "corkscrew" motion that was making people stumble, doors swing open, empty hangers knock against the inside of the closet door, waves crash past our fore porthole window, etc. I did get moderately nauseated, and decided I'd better bunker down in bed--where it felt like I was flying, then weightless, then pressed hard into the mattress, then flying, over and over again until I finally fell asleep. When the captain announced--the next afternoon--that we were going to have a second night of similar conditions, that's when everyone's stories came out: lots of people experiencing seasickness for the fist time, people getting violently sick for the first time, CREW members accidentally overheard as they talked to each other about never having been that sick. I questioned one of the cruise director's people about how often it got that bad, and after about 6 politician-style answers that said nothing, I finally asked, "On THIS ship, THIS summer, how many nights were this bad?" She sighed. "This was the worst." So...most cruises (especially inside passage ones) won't provide much--or any--trouble. But there's always the chance. And yes, it's more likely to happen somewhere like the Gulf of Alaska than on the Inside Passage If you're sensitive, take medicine or other solutions. Many lines will also give out tablets at the front desk, along with standard sea-sickness remedies like green apples and saltine crackers.
  4. Or, if you're fit and energetic and don't have serious mobility issues, you can do what I do, and schlep your bags to the light link and use public transportation. It does require about a bit of walk in the airport and a 0.8-mile walk at the end, down steep terrain (or elevators in crowded Pike Place Market). It's not for everyone. But it's an adventure...and environmentally responsible...and only about $3 for adults, $1 for seniors. Sound Transit trip planner route: https://www.soundtransit.org/tripplanner/to/location:landmark_3705/from/location:landmark_5648/after/1569618298924/travel-by/bus,train/route-option/fastest trip/max-walk/1609
  5. I agree that as long as you're looking for US stamps, it's no problem buying them in the tourist shops. They'll also usually take the postcard for you if you don't want to look for a mailbox. I'm not sure about international stamps.
  6. Don't count on automatically having coverage in Alaska if you have a plan in the US. It really depends on your network and/or plan. On my last trip, my phone didn't have any service in Alaska. I had to wait until I got back to Seattle to use it. Apparently, this is not unusual, so check with your provider first. Or just unplug. 🙂
  7. I'm also a fan of DIY cruise stops. Most ports have nice things you can see just strolling from the ship. There are also a ton of free or inexpensive activities you can do on your own. And the hiking is fantastic. All you need are your own two feet (and sometimes a public bus ticket). Some ideas in Ketchikan: wander Creek Street and the fish ladder, hike Deer Mountain or the Rainbird Trail, take a city bus out to Totem Bight for some totem poles in a beautiful location Juneau: see the new whale project sculpture, wander around downtown and take in a museum or an art gallery, walk the flume trail, visit the salmon hatchery, take the tram up Mt. Roberts and then hike to Gastineau Peak or farther, get to Mendenhall Glacier on your own (though public transportation is inconvenient and shuttles are ridiculously expensive), etc. Skagway: take a fascinating free walking tour through the park service, learn about the Klondike Gold Rush at the small but excellent (and free) museum, wander the streets, walk to Yakutania Point, visit the Gold Rush Cemetery. Or...if it's sunny and you're in shape, take the rigorous but absolutely gorgeous hike to Upper Dewey Lake. Here are some of my cruise highlights (in port and on the ship) that you don't need to go on an expensive excursion to see: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/05/alaska-cruise-highlights.html And some of my favorite inexpensive activities in port: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2017/05/if-youre-looking-for-inexpensive-things.html
  8. I think Tracy Arm is beautiful. It's very different from Glacier Bay, but I love it. It's more about the scenic sailing up the fjord, where Glacier Bay is more about the glaciers. I went to Tracy Arm for the second time in August, and worried I might not like it as much as the first time (the first time was on my very first Alaskan cruise, and it was my first scenic cruising day, my first glacier, my first everything. LOVED it.) Anyway, this time I thought it might not live up to my memory. It absolutely did. It was funny, though. After we turned around at Sawyer Glacier, everyone was like, "Well, that's done" and went inside, leaving literally 5 of us alone on the bow to enjoy the whole beautiful scenic cruise OUT of the fjord. Fantastic day. Some pics: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/09/tracy-arm-fjord-alaska.html
  9. I really enjoyed walking around Totem Park on my own, so I could spend as much time as I wanted, and it's an easy walk from where you get dropped off. I've heard mixed reviews on the raptor center.
  10. I haven't actually been to Endicott Arm, but I've been to similar Tracy Arm twice, and loved it (the two are next to each other and though I believe Tracy Arm is a little steeper and narrower, I've heard Endicott Arm is just as pretty). I love Glacier Bay too. To me, Glacier Bay is more about the glaciers, and Endicott Arm/Tracy Arm are more about the sailing in through the fjord. If you've never been to Alaska and don't plan to go back, Glacier Bay is probably better. But if you're like most people, you WILL be back. And one of your trips should certainly contain Endicott Arm or Tracy Arm. Pics from my recent trip to Tracy Arm: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/09/tracy-arm-fjord-alaska.html
  11. I love the Skagway unit, but I just went to the Seattle unit, and it might be even better Excellent museums all.
  12. And the official Ketchikan transit link: https://www.kgbak.us/DocumentCenter/View/6314/Bus-Schedule-MAY-2019-Final
  13. Just take the free downtown shuttle to get back to the pier. Here's the route: https://www.kgbak.us/DocumentCenter/View/6314/Bus-Schedule-MAY-2019-Final Look at the bottom half of the first page for the free shuttle route. Your closest stop would probably be the "Museum" stop at the historical museum, which is by the pedestrian bridge that crosses Ketchikan Creek in the middle of Creek Street. It goes to all the cruise ship berths, and it leaves about every 20 minutes. I believe there are benches there at the bus stop so your mom can get off her feet while waiting. For more details on other stops: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/08/free-town-shuttle-in-ketchikan.html
  14. I always take hiking boots, but I do a lot of hiking. Good sneakers with good tread would usually be okay if you don't want to take hiking boots, but they won't be quite as good in rain/mud/sketchy trails. I don't take waterproof pants, but I definitely wear my quick-drying hiking pants. I would never, ever recommend jeans (not that you suggested it--just backing up another poster).
  15. I always take my swimsuit too. I went on a Canada / New England fall foliage cruise in October during a cold snap and the pool was hardly even open. But I've swum every time I've been to Alaska.
  16. I think the whole thing verges on price gouging. In 2011 when I first went, the shuttles were $18 RT, which gave them a healthy profit, I'm sure, without taking advantage of the tourists. Now it's $45. Yes, there's a new smallish fee levied by Mendenhall Glacier itself, but if you subtract that, it's still like 220% or more inflation. Have wages risen that much in the last 8 years? Have prices of other things? Taxi gouging doesn't surprise me either. I think if I were in a group of 4, I might rent a car and explore elsewhere too. And if I were alone, I'd take the city bus (of course, I like walking and I've been to Juneau multiple times, so the slowness of the city bus wouldn't bother me). 🙂
  17. They used to have a guide you can download to do a DIY tour. When we were there, we strolled and relaxed and had a nice time. The groups all seemed to rush through...but maybe they were on their way somewhere else.
  18. Thanks for your input, everyone!
  19. Has anyone taken a kayaking tour in Ketchikan which you particularly enjoyed (or didn't?) How much time did you actually have on the water, and what kind of stuff did you see? Any details would be helpful. Thanks.
  20. It is indeed Monsoon Season, but the storms usually start earlier in July, and this summer we still haven't had any measurable rain in my part of the Phoenix area. Other areas of the city had downpours last night, but only about 12 tiny drops fell on me. I don't think it's hit the rest of the state as much this year as usual either. We really need some rain (and not just for my selfish rain jacket testing purposes).
  21. If you like hiking, Exit Glacier is great. The Harding Ice Field trail is spectacular. The other trails are interesting too. Some pics: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/02/exit-glacier-and-harding-icefield-in.html You can get a shuttle for pretty cheap, and the park is free.
  22. I finally bought my first real waterproof rain jacket several weeks ago, and this silly Arizona weather won't let me test it out. But I bet I'll get to try it out in Alaska in a few weeks!
  23. I haven't rented a bike in Ketchikan, but I'm guessing the one by Totem Bight might be more relaxing--there are various trailheads out that way. Most might be good for bikes. Ask the people at the bike shop.
  24. I agree that tendering may be something that happens on your cruise, but even Sitka and Icy Strait now have deep-water docks, so it's not something you'll run into a lot--mostly if there are too many ships in port one day. In my Alaska cruises, I think Princess was the best at warning you about good wildlife viewing spots and even occasionally announcing things like "whales sighted starboard." Of course, this depends on your particular captain and crew. Princess has lots of activities for all ages. Princess and Holland America have more sailings and thus more flexibility (and often better prices and last-minute deals). As someone else states, they're your best bet for seeing Glacier Bay. The Holland America cruises I went on had nice educational lectures about the destination, geology, wildlife, native culture, history, etc.
  25. If you plan on doing a lot of hiking, I recommend 2 walking shoes (though ankle-cut hiking shoes or even good sneakers will work, especially if one can double as a wear-to-dinner shoe). Unless you have top-of-the-line totally waterproof Goretex shoes, they will likely get wet even if they're "waterproof." My "waterproof" boots stopped being waterproof one year about a mile up Deer Mountain trail on a very wet day. It made it easier not to care about the river rushing down the trail. 🙂 But putting on wet shoes the next morning isn't fun. However, if you're not planning on doing a ton of hiking, one good pair of walking shoes will be good. I do a lot of hiking and will probably take my hiking boots plus maybe my black sneakers that I can hike in or wear with slacks for dinner (though the fashion police might not like it). 🙂 More packing advice: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/03/packing-for-alaska-cruise.html
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