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Melinda Brasher

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Everything posted by Melinda Brasher

  1. Skagway is very walkable...and very cute. Also consider the free historical tours from the national park service (sign up at the Klondike Gold Rush NP visitor center right downtown). There are also great hikes from Skagway. Some of the best--and easiest to get to: Easy: Yakutania Point or Lower Reid Falls (especially if you take the bus halfway to the cemetery) Moderate: Lower Dewey Lake Hard: Upper Dewey Lake (one of my favorite hikes ever...if you catch Skagway on a blue-sky day) Pics of Yakutania Point: https://cruisingalaskaonabudget.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/yakutania-point-skagway/ Pics of Upper Dewey Lake: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2014/09/skagway-alaska-upper-dewey-lake.html
  2. I agree with others about layers. Here's my advice: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/03/packing-for-alaska-cruise.html
  3. Most of the ports are quite accessible on foot. I'm mostly a DIY person, and Alaska is a great place to do it. You can also find some very inexpensive but amazing options. Here are some of my favorite DIY activities: https://cruisingalaskaonabudget.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/10-inexpensive-things-to-do-in-port/
  4. I get inside rooms and then spend a lot of time on deck watching the water. You have just as good a view from public spaces. Plus you save a lot of money. And I know you're not looking for budget advice, but consider taking a hike in one port. You get into Alaska's beautiful nature at your own pace without the crowds. It's free. And some trails are GORGEOUS. Just one example: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2014/09/skagway-alaska-upper-dewey-lake.html
  5. I get inside rooms and then spend a lot of time on deck watching the water. You have just as good a view from public spaces. Plus you save a lot of money.
  6. In Sitka you also might want to consider the Russian Cemetery. It's green and historic and creepy/beautiful. Pic: https://cruisingalaskaonabudget.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/russian-cemetery-sitka/
  7. From the decks of cruise ships I've seen lots of whales spouts and flukes from a distance. If you spend time watching, you'll likely see some. I've seen a fair number of whale backs and flukes and spouts from a moderate distance. I've seen a few backs just cresting the water quite close to the ship. And on one amazing day I saw a humpback breach three times all down the length of the ship, right off the side. It was amazing. But that sort of display is very unusual. Just spend a lot of time watching...and hope.
  8. Yay for hiking!!! Alaska's a great place for it. All of the ports you mentioned are great for hiking, but one of the best hikes I've ever been on was to Upper Dewey Lake in Skagway (of course, it was a perfect, blue-sky day, so that helped). It might be too much for the kids, as it gains about 3000 feet, but since your kids are seasoned...maybe they'd love it as much as I did. There are also easier options in Skagway: Yakutania Point and Smugglers Cove, Lower Dewey Lake, Lower Reid Falls, etc. All beautiful. Upper Dewey Lake pics and details here: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2014/09/skagway-alaska-upper-dewey-lake.html Ketchikan has the Deer Mountain Trail--also very steep but pretty awesome--and the Rainbird Trail, plus some trails you can get to on the bus. Deer Mountain pics: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2017/02/deer-mountain-trail-ketchikan-alaska.html Juneau has great trails too, but not quite as accessible. I loved the Perseverance Trail, but it's a bit of a walk to the trailhead. And of course there are great trails at Mendenhall Glacier (pricey to get to, but very cool). A little video of Ebner Falls on the Perseverance Trail: https://cruisingalaskaonabudget.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/ebner-falls/
  9. Depends on how much you want to do later in the day. I would play it by ear. It's not very big, but we took it easy, read some about totem poles, and sat a bit and watched the water. I think we spent more than an hour. And taking the bus there is easy and worry-free (and economical).
  10. HAL tends to have smaller ships, so there's less walking. I think that might be the most important factor--I know it is for my mom. Norwegian and Carnival also go to Glacier Bay.
  11. Melinda Brasher

    Haines

    I took a nice easy hike in Haines (to Battery Point). Also visited Fort Seward, took the little bus around town, and talked to a couple of friendly locals about what life was like there. It was a very nice day, though admittedly not as spectacular as a flight over Glacier Bay. Pics of my time in Haines: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/01/haines-alaska.html
  12. National Park Rangers in Seward told me that bear bells aren't very effective in Alaska because the bears are more wild and haven't learned to associate the noise with people. It might even make them curious. As for bear spray, I know people who would say, "Absolutely you should carry it." Others say, "I never carry bear spray and have never had trouble." But if you do carry it, I agree that you'd better get really comfortable with using it and wear it in a holster. Otherwise, it's worthless (or dangerous). But definitely hike loudly, especially in areas where you don't have good visibility. Other bear safety tips: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/04/bear-safety-in-alaska.html
  13. Yeah, I don't think you need to invest a lot of money. But DO try it out several times to make sure it's comfortable enough.
  14. That's weird. I've done back to back cruises once with Princess and once with Holland America. On one of those I booked them together, as if they were one cruise. On the other I booked them separately. No problems either time. I generally find Vacations To Go people quite knowledgeable, but I don't think they were this time. B2B are great--you get a chance to do more than one thing in the ports you visit twice. You get to see more glaciers. And you can have a whole day in Seward without having to worry about anything!!! I recommend Exit Glacier in Seward: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/02/exit-glacier-and-harding-icefield-in.html
  15. You CAN pay for laundry to be done on the ship, but it's very, very expensive (for the average person). A few ships have laundromats at reasonable rates, but only a very few. If you take lightweight clothes, you can always wash them out in your room if you need to.
  16. You'll love it! I went four years in a row when I first discovered cruising Alaska. I've see quite a lot of wildlife from the deck, but yes, the whales are usually spouts and flukes from a distance. Usually. One time, however, a humpback breached three times, down the length of the ship, not far away at all. Better than anything I saw on my whale-watching trip. It's all up to luck...and spending lots of time watching. Yes, it may be quite cool, even cold if you're spending a lot of time on deck on glacier day, for example. It will probably be rainy at least part of the time. Take layers, including something waterproof. I love the sailing part, watching the scenery and wildlife. I also love the ports. They're pretty easy to explore and have some awesome attractions and opportunities to get close to nature. Telephoto lenses are important if you're looking to capture good photos. I have a Canon Powershot non DSLR bridge camera with 50x telephoto that I bought for my last trip to Alaska. I love it. On HAL, they did open and close the pool cover so you could swim most days. Have fun. More detail on what to pack: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/03/packing-for-alaska-cruise.html I don't know which glaciers you'll be seeing, but HAL often goes to Glacier Bay. Here are some tempting pics: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2014/09/glacier-bay-alaska.html
  17. I agree that you should splurge on one thing. Maybe whale watching in Juneau? Or something glacier-related. Then do budget in the other ports: Ketchikan: Walk around Creek Street and up to the salmon ladder, especially if the salmon are running. Go to the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center right in town--which has a kids' scavenger hunt and lots of cool displays regarding wildlife and native culture. Take the local bus to Totem Bight and walk around the lovely park and learn about Totem poles. Hike Deer Mountain (if the kids are good hikers) or Rainbird trail. Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier is really cool, but the shuttles are getting more and more expensive. I'd consider a taxi or ride share. Whale watching is good here. If you book independently, you'll probably get a slightly better price or a smaller boat. On the free side, use the binoculars in Marine Park to look for mountain goats on Mt. Juneau. Don't forget to look for the statue of Patsy Ann, Juneau's most famous dog, and read about her. Duck in to Tatu smokeries to hopefully see some salmon processing in action. Skagway: Historical walking tours (really interesting, even if you're not a history buff) and free museum at Klondike National Historic Park visitor center. Stroll down the cute streets and duck into interesting shops or replicas of gold rush saloons and such. And...hiking! Skagway's got so many fantastic hiking opportunities. One of the best hikes of my entire life (and I hike a lot) was to Upper Dewey Lake (quite strenuous because of the elevation gain). But there are easier alternatives: Yakutania Point and Smuggler's Cove, Lower Reid Falls and the gold rush cemetery, or Lower Dewey Lake. Victoria: Watch the boats perform in the harbor, take a free tour of the parliament building. And of course, Buchart Gardens are gorgeous but not terribly cheap. Doing it yourself is more economical but takes more time, so factor that in. For more details and pictures or some of these things: https://cruisingalaskaonabudget.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/10-inexpensive-things-to-do-in-alaskan-ports/
  18. I've done Holland America Alaska cruises several times and love it. We did one cruise tour. The tour part felt a bit rushed and herded, with lots and lots of sitting on buses and trains, but the scenery was all fantastic, and the caribou...amazing. Plus, we saw a mama bear and her cubs. I loved it. I just would have loved it more if the pace were a little more relaxed. Keep in mind that I'm generally an independent traveler who takes things slowly and doesn't do many organized tours, so maybe the cruise tour just wasn't the best fit for me. I loved what I saw and plan to go back with a car and maybe a tent. That said, a cruise tour is a worry-free and convenient way to see Denali, and if you get a good deal, it can be more economical than many other options. If you're spending the money to do a cruise tour, however, I recommend getting one that spends two nights (or more) in Denali. Otherwise, I think it's too much distance for the time you spend there. The cruising part is all fantastic...no matter your itinerary, and even if you have bad weather. I like Holland America in Alaska. One reason is that they tend to have educational programs about the things you're seeing--the culture, wildlife, history, or science. I really loved that. Since it's your first time, here are some of my favorite things to do in port: https://cruisingalaskaonabudget.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/10-inexpensive-things-to-do-in-alaskan-ports/
  19. I would suggest taking pants that aren't jeans, since jeans take so long to dry. You may very well get caught out in the rain. Jeans will take longer to dry on your legs while you're still out and about. They'll also take longer to dry in your cabin. No need to buy fancy backpacker pants or anything. Just take at least one pair that's not denim. Other packing considerations: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2019/03/packing-for-alaska-cruise.html
  20. The Nugget Falls trail is easy. No need for hiking boots or expensive shoes. Sneakers are fine, especially if they still have a bit of tread.
  21. Plenty of time--even including the time you'll spend oohing and ahhing. But I would still advise going early, just in case you want to sit at the top and contemplate existence for a while. 🙂
  22. Upper Dewey Lake is spectacular on a blue-sky day. If you like hiking, and don't mind a strenuous hike, DO THIS!!! Pictures: https://www.melindabrasher.com/2014/09/skagway-alaska-upper-dewey-lake.html
  23. Someone mentioned that the shuttle is $30 per person. At last report, it's risen to $45. I think the current prices are highway robbery, especially considering that it was $16 in 2011, it's 10 times the price of the city bus, and it's like 12 miles. The city of Juneau should start running an express bus that goes closer to the entrance than the current bus line goes. They could charge something reasonable like $4-5 per ride and make themselves a little profit while making the tourists happy.
  24. I went on one solo cruise and really enjoyed it, but I enjoy other types of solo travel too. You'll meet people to talk to and hang out with if you want to.
  25. We went in August once, about the same time you're thinking. I would definitely take insect repellent if you're going inland, but the mosquitoes weren't as bad as I was expecting.
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