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cabland

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  1. I like Northstarr Trekking out of Juneau as they offer three different Helicopter tours with progressively more time on the glacier. I think Temsco offers one with two separate stops as well. Honestly though, ANY glacier helicopter tour is likely better than none!
  2. I mentioned we just used a pocket camera (in addition to our phones) with a decent zoom (Sony DSC-HX80), but it helps to show what that delta looks like: Here are some shots from a trip we took to Seattle: Downtown Seattle w/ Space needle from Columbia Center twoer: Baseball anyone: Cruise Ship:
  3. Gotta admit, even though I am "guilty" of taking the scenery shots "sans family" LB_NJ is right on all of this. Heck, just watch Planet Earth. Are any of us ever going to get anything resembling that series? Unlikely. So then, if not "into photography" it becomes all about the memories with family. Admittedly, I do appreciate having shots of the EXACT stuff I saw on the day I saw it, but when we all look back at those old albums its "us" 20 years ago (or our parents, etc.) we want to see in the context of their vacations. Alternatively, everyone just take pictures of every meal you eat and post online for everyone to see...and while you are out it, if you could post every picture of your child or cat doing, well, everyday things that'd be great too...nah, that'll never catch on. ;>
  4. You can take train from Seattle to Vancouver (but it looks like it is a 3 1/2 to 4 hour ride and would burn a day). Agree that Glacier Bay would win out in these itineraries.
  5. I used a combination of my Samsung S9 and a Sony long zoom point and shoot (DSC-HX80). We have a DSLR, but it is several years old and I didn't want to lug it around. 90% of the shots I took were with the S9 (and were better than the Sony). I brought the Sony strictly for the longest zoom shots. Even though it shoots up to 30X, the pics get soft and noisy at that zoom level so I tried to keep it to 20X or so....oh and the Sony does much better in brighter light. A selection of pics are here for you to decide for yourself: https://photos.app.goo.gl/x81ZXjb7yqFuP26y7 If you click the little info icon on any given picture you can see whether it was taken with the S9 or the Sony.
  6. Understood about work. I ran this question by my wife (i.e. Newer Koningsdam w/o Tracy Arm vs. Older Volendam with it) and she leaned more toward the Koningsdam. She felt Tracy Arm might be a bit cold. So take it for what it is worth. 🙂 I think either one will be a great time!
  7. The early May " too much ice" theory does make sense (heck there were ice bergs there in July). It is important to note that the "Tracy Arm" in the Volendam itinerary is the EXCURSION to Tracy Arm (where they let folks off the ship onto a smaller boat) - that is, IMO, much better than cruises where they try to take the entire cruise ship into Tracy Arm (and end up far away from Sawyer Glacier and are at risk for having to turnaround sooner due to ice). Pay attention to the time in ports which you can see for these two boats by going to the Holland America web page by finding the cruise, choosing it, selecting the Itinerary and then "list view" in the upper left of the itinerary. Volendam - Volendam Of course, I do see the Koningsdam DOES offer this same itinerary just a few days later: Koningsdam Between those two boats on the same itinerary, I would go with the Koningsdam hands-down. It is just so much newer, and we didn't find the Nieuw Amsterdam (which splits the difference in size between the Voledndam and Koningsdam) to be too large at all (and it is still smaller than a lot of boats). If you forced me to pick between the two itineraries...well that gets tougher. The Tracy Arm excursion is nice and I would hate to miss it...tough call (how's that for a "non-call"?).
  8. I would strongly consider a helicopter ride to a glacier in either Juneau or Skagway. Another great excursion is the Tracy Arm Fjord from Juneau - great but will burn a lot of time there if your ship doesn't offer the opportunity to hop onto the excursion "on the way" to Juneau (or HAL excursion did). I was nervous I would be motion sick on the helicopter, but it was a short flight and very, very smooth.
  9. We did that HAL route last Summer on the Nieuw Amsterdam. I zeroed in on that route specifically for the combo of Tracy Arm AND Glacier Bay. Heck, that day we did the Tracy Arm excursion, met up with the ship in Juneau, grabbed a quick bite at Tracy's Crab Shack and then took a helicopter excursion to Mendenhal glacier! That was one heckuva first port and made the entire trip for us! Pay attention to the times in port. on our cruise the ship didn't arrive in Juneau until 1:00 PM I think. That's another benefit of the Tracy Arm excursion - on the "way" to Juneau they basically stop the ship and folks disembark onto the smaller excursion boat (holds about 150 I believe). The excursion boat heads into Tracy Arm while the cruise ship is heading to Juneau...essentially you are on your first excursion while everyone else on the boat is still headed to Juneau. In many ways, I enjoyed Tracy Arm more than Glacier Bay since the Fjord is beautiful, and you get closer to Sawyer glacier and the various ice bergs.
  10. We booked most of our excursions through the ship (Holland America) well ahead of time. It was definitely more expensive across the board, but not horrible. As to Ketchikan, it was a mix for our group as follows: 1. 2 people did the Wilderness Exploration & Crab Feast - Booked through HAL 2. 4 people did just the crab feast - Booked directly with St. George's Inlet 3. 2 people did the Bering Sea Crab Tour - Booked through HAL Comparing our experiences afterward, I would say the Bering Sea Crab Tour came out on top. The stories the crew told weren't quite as riveting as I hoped, but getting to see all of the Eagles (dozens of them) swoop down and pick up fish was awesome, and as a bonus, we got to see a whale and they stopped the boat for us to observe that (probably my best whale sighting of the trip).
  11. While I am a fan of Tracy Arm (when paired with Glacier Bay), I also like the idea of a nice boat. The Volendam and Koningsdam are sort of at opposite ends of the Holland America spectrum in terms of size and age. More specifically: Koningsdam - Launched in 2016, 13 decks, 2650 passengers Volendam - Launched in 1999 (note: last refurb in 2017), 10 decks, 1432 passengers I'd have to see the specific routes to really nail down the preference here.
  12. I think you got some pretty good answers on the dress. Business casual is a good way to describe it. Heck we came back from our helicopter excursion in jeans and grabbed dinner in the main dining room (somewhat late) w/o objection or feeling out of place. Actually, now that I think of it, we were in nice jeans on all but the 2 gala nights (and did business casual on the gala nights). Never felt out of place. While on the subject of dining on HAL, a few items: 1. Food Quality - The food was generally pretty good in the main dining room (MDR). The Lido deck was "fine", but I often found myself doing the "Dive-In" burger place at lunch as their burgers are pretty good. 2. Don't be afraid to get something else - So we have all heard how you can get fat on a cruise, etc., but I found the real benefit here wasn't "quantity" but "selection". We would sometimes find we had picked something (in the MDR particularly) that we didn't care for (sometimes we just didn't care for it, and others it just wasn't that great). In those cases, don't suffer through it - just ask for something else. Indeed, the waiters are more appreciative of you doing this as soon as you order so they don't have to make a second run through the line at the kitchen. As to the round trip, I think I touched on that a bit in one of my earlier posts, but in general I think one of the big benefits of the "one way" trips is they offer the opportunity to add a "land portion" (i.e. see Denali). That meant a longer trip over all and since we were traveling with my parents, siblings and their spouses (9 in total) we weren't sure a.) everyone could get that much time off, b.) my 90 year old Dad could go that long, and c.) everyone could afford it. It did help somewhat that we (my parents, me and 2 of my 3 siblings) lived in Anchorage for 3 years in the late 70s and we had taken a trip to Denali back then (of course I was likely the only child really old enough to remember it). In short, if the trip to Denali is important to you, then that will be a key decider for you. I mentioned that my brochure was the "end result" of a bunch of decisions. I just dug up one of the very first e-mails I wrote to my family on all this. It is excerpted below and includes a few of the early decisions (note: we had a couple of school teachers in the group and were limited to late June or July): E-mail to my family (note: I am "Chris"): Read the stuff below and let me know the following: Your availability - What dates are you available between June 20th and July 30th (we already know those are the only dates that work for xxx)? Your route preference - Which of the cruise route recommendations below (see item 6) you would prefer (or if you disagree with my assessment your options)? Once we pick a date and route, I can quickly zero in on a specific cruise and we can book. FLIGHTS will and are filling up fast! The details: Cruise Months – Alaskan cruises basically run from May through September. May and September are the “edge” season where prices are lower, but temperatures are also often lower (as in there can be snow “lower”). June is a bit dryer than July or August. Chris’ Recommendation – July or August. Cruise Lines – There are any number of cruise lines serving Alaska. Princess and Holland America appear to have been there longer and have the biggest presence in the market. Both offer the “big” and “really big” ships. Holland America’s ships can be a bit smaller and cater to a bit older crowd. One advantage Princess and Holland offer involves “docking”. These two lines may get preferential treatment when it comes to actually getting a dock vs. having to take shuttle boats from the ship to the dock. Other lines include the usual suspects: Celebrity, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, etc. There are more “luxury” oriented cruise lines too like SilverSea and Oceania, but those are very pricey. Chris’ Recommendation – Still working on this, but likely Princess. I am researching which actual SHIPS and ITINERARIES are likely best. Cruise Duration – There are 7, 10, and 14 day cruises. Chris’ Recommendation – 7 days. The longer cruises are mostly from further South or go to additional places that aren’t worth it) Cruise Routes – (See maps below so you have a visual of what I am talking about here). One thing that may surprise you is that “Alaskan” cruises generally only touch on the lower coastal area that is right next to British Columbia (and up to Anchorage). In some ways, it looks like a “Canadian” cruise in that regard. Anyway, there are basically two paths and you have to answer the “Denali” question: Inside Passage – The inside passage is a “round trip” cruise that typically starts and ends in either Seattle, WA or Vancouver, BC. Since it is a round trip, you don’t cover as much ground as a the “Gulf” cruise. It is, however, a super scenic route and is much less likely to encounter rough seas as most of the trip is in between little islands and the shore…the islands effectively block the sea. There are two derivatives of this cruise as follows (both involve glaciers): Glacier Bay – Glacier Bay is, as the name sounds, a bay and park. There are multiple glaciers although not all are “close”. It is big, so cruise ships can “get in there”. Tracy Arm Fjord – This is, as the name indicates, a Fjord (i.e. a narrow passage). It is supposedly very cool, but can be blocked with ice and in some cases the cruise ships (especially the BIGGER ships) cannot make it and you “miss” the glacier…folks report that is a bummer. Gulf of Alaska – This is a “one way” cruise that can either start North at Seward/Anchorage and go South to Seattle or Vancouver or start in the South at Seattle or Vancouver and head North to Anchorage Seward. You will obviously fly to/from different cities. You typically get to see Hubbard glacier (which is huge) on this route too. You may encounter rougher seas in the gulf since you will be in open water for a longer period of time. Having said all that, the Gulf of Alaska also opens the door to “Denali”... The Denali Question – If you take the Gulf of Alaska cruise then the question is “Do you go to Denali National park before or after the cruise…or at all?”. Denali is either a 5 hour drive or an 8 hour train ride from Anchorage. It is HUGE (as in 6 million acres). Dallas is not like Texas. It is full-on wilderness everywhere (and 2.5 times the size of Texas…when you overlay the U.S. with Alaska it covers almost athird of the U.S. as a pint of comparison). Chris’ Recommendation Preface - This is a tough one and will likely come down to “time”. If you add Denali, which would be seriously cool, then the Gulf of Alaska cruise is really the only option, BUT it adds at least 2 days to the time AND you have to remember that a 7-day cruise and 2 day Denali adventure really has some flight/lodging time on either or both ends and may look more like 10 days (maybe 11). I’m not sure everyone can afford that kind of time. Oh, and that is with your flying into or out of Fairbanks (unless you drive back to Anchorage). I would have a hard time doing the Gulf cruise and NOT doing Denali. Recommendation – Two options: Gulf of Alaska cruise PLUS Denali if folks can afford the time (seems unlikely) OR keep it simpler and do the Inside passage cruise with Glacier Bay (note: I see a couple options with both Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm Fjord).
  13. Glad to hear the "brochure" helped! Most of it was rooted here in info found on Cruise Critic of course. One of the challenging items was coordinating all of the Excursions - especially across members of the group with different abilities, budgets, etc. I fully admit that I "pushed" my own agenda a bit (heck, I was planning it all!), but much of that was based on reading so many reviews here on CC. On the surface, lots of excursion sound similar, but I started to get the impression that some things were just going to be better than others. If I had to pick one somewhat surprising disappointment, it was the train ride in Skagway. We just did the short up to the Summit and back half day journey, but compared to Tracy Arm, and the helicopter ride to the glacier it just didn't cut the mustard. Another couple in our church community group had done Alaska the month before (longer, one way, land tour, etc.) and said the same of the train ride. I do wonder how the longer ride (perhaps to the lake and combined with some kayaking) would have been. Happy to answer any specific questions (although I won't be much help on the one way cruises or Denali tours...note: we called it Mt. Mckinley back when I saw it as a child...:))
  14. We did Nortstarr Trekking in Juneau last July. Ours was the Walkabout (note: we booked through the cruise line). We didn't really have a choice as we did another excursion that same day and this was the only option we had with Northstarr. I highly recommend them as all of their options seem to give more time on the glacier. Having done the Walkabout, I wouldn't hesitate to do the next level up or even their "toughest level". It takes a while to get your crampons, etc. on and so the extra time would be worth it. Regardless, it is an awesome experience!
  15. We didn't use them on our cruise last Summer, but for me Juneau has a lot more to offer beyond ziplining and so I would reserve it for those activities (i.e. we did Tracy Arm Fjord/Sawyer Glacier and a Helicopter ride to Mendenhall glacier out of Juneau). We actually did our ziplining in Skagway. In your case, I would do ziplining in Ketchikan.
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