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Nosleepatall

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  1. This small tour operator is owned by a lovely husband and wife team. Michelle (we decided she was actually Lesley Knope) picked up our group of ten right on time at 7:15am in an immaculate private van with comfy seats and panoramic windows and actually room for I think 14 people, stocked with water and granola bars. She drove us through town so we could stop and get coffee (at our request), providing some great insight into what it was like to live in Skagway and some additional background on the town, then drove us up to the Yukon, parallel to the train on the opposite side of the valley but stopping for glorious overlooks, bears feeding by the side of the road, to watch mountain goats with the aid of her spotting scope, waterfalls, you name it. If we wanted to stop, we would; if not, she would drive on by. We saw bears on three different occasions, including VERY close up when a mom and cub were feeding on dandelions (a “favorite snack food” according to Michelle) as Michelle was very adept at spotting them by the side of the road and pulling gently in so not to disturb them. Our first stop was the Tutshi sled dog kennel ($25 extra for the whole group, not per person) where everyone played with the dogs, cuddled all the pups, and watched the sled dogs take off pulling an ATV (we opted not to do that - it’s an extra $35 per person and honestly just being with the dogs was plenty - might be fun if you had kids in your group). Then she continued up the highway to the Yukon, taking us up to Carcross, where we had lunch and a flight of beer at the Bistro (and some got ice cream), and wandered through the shops, watched the train come in, headed down to the gorgeous lake; then a few miles to the small desert where we hiked to the top of the dune for another amazing view and some great photos; then to Emerald Lake; then back towards Skagway with a stop at the suspension bridge. Altogether we spent about eight hours and the time flew yet we never felt rushed. Michelle was an excellent driver (something I appreciate, as I’m not fond of heights), and provided interesting commentary through her headset without being obtrusive (and she put on music for the last of the drive back when we were all just relaxing and enjoying the gorgeous, never-ending mountain vistas). The kicker is that the price for ten of us was a fraction of what we would have paid per-person x 10 for the standard round-trip train ride or the train up, bus back. I cannot recommend this tour enough. We ended up having magnificent weather but I imagine this would be perfect on a rainy day too. It was so convenient to be able to lock our personal items in the van and have complete autonomy over where we stopped and when. Also, Michelle knew the schedule of the big buses and somehow managed to time our stops to avoid the crowds, even at the border crossing. She dropped us in town (at our request) so we had some time to explore a bit afterwards, although she would have also taken us back to the ship or made two stops - town and ship - if we had wanted. Perfect day!
  2. How did you manage to buy a wine package for seven days? Thanks.
  3. Yes and that's why we paid the extra money to fly into Vancouver. As I said, we'll still enjoy but would have been much cheaper to sail out of Seattle if we knew it would be the same experience.
  4. Was there any sort of announcement? Sounds as if not...but this is a major departure for a Vancouver to Whittier ship, correct? I'm wondering if there was any "reason" given for such a major change. I'm sure you weren't the only disappointed passenger. We are also scheduled to take the northbound trip on the Royal and were very much looking forward to that first sea day - I guess we will have to manage our expectations accordingly. At least you had no issue docking in Ketchikan! Enjoy and thanks for reporting.
  5. Very disappointing to read that this is in fact what is happening right now on the first Royal cruise north of the season - they went west around Vancouver Island (reported in a different thread). We planned our trip to leave out of Vancouver precisely to be able to sail through the Inside Passage vs. out to sea. Perhaps I missed it but I don't recall seeing that disclaimer in the itinerary description when we booked in November. I do believe it was marketed as an "inside passage" cruise. Do any other ships that originate in Vancouver head west of Vancouver Island? Is anyone currently on board Royal able to comment on this change in itinerary? Was there any sort of announcement? We are still excited about our upcoming trip and certainly won't let this spoil it but had really hoped to enjoy some beautiful scenery on that first full sea day instead of looking out at Pacific ocean from our portside balconies. Many people have said that the Royal is just too big for Alaska - could this be the reason for the change in itinerary or was there any other specific reason given? I'm just wondering if this is going to be the norm for the Royal.
  6. I agree! Thanks very much for taking the time to write such a thorough reply. Really helpful. Also, glad to hear you say you couldn’t find T&C on the princess website. I have tried and thought maybe it was just me missing something.
  7. This will be our first cruise and we are a family in multiple cabins on the Royal. I am thinking we will buy one photo package and see how that works for our group (I have read all the recent threads about obtaining photos as long as one person with the package is in the photo and odds seem favorable). I have a couple questions though about the photography experience in general: 1) If we do not buy a package, what do individual photos cost? And does that include the digital copy so we could use on a holiday card etc? 2) If we buy the package, I would be looking for more candid shots. From what I have read here, that is not the case and there are overwhelming reports of stilted portraits with characters, backdrops etc. I have also read a couple reports where candid shots were NOT included in the package price. My main reason for getting the photo package would be to have a few relaxed table shots at dinner and some candid group shots from around the ship. Do the photographers roam during the day? Or is it mostly going into dinner, leaving/boarding the ship, formal night? For $200, I’m pretty sure we’ll buy a package and see how it goes. But very curious what to expect. Thanks.
  8. Thanks - really helpful and maybe the way to go. We are definitely more on the relaxed and don't mind waiting side of the equation (as long as I don't have to stand in line:). Also, was this on a Princess ship? We are not stressed about the actual time we eat (could be 6pm or 9pm, we'd be fine) but my husband and I would like to use dinner time as a "touchpoint" with the rest of the family daily, so that even if everyone is off doing their own thing, we can gather each evening to share our adventures. Also, I can see AD being an advantage in that I won't feel guilty when we don't show up for our reserved table...which probably would happen! Thanks to everyone who has replied - it's all very good information.
  9. Thanks. Sounds like maybe we just keep our (later) reservation!
  10. We are traveling with a family group of ten on the Royal. We currently have reserved dining but wondering whether we might do better with anytime dining because it sounds as if we may want flexibility to catch some shows or events or to handle a late day on shore. However, we DO want to sit together and I'm concerned there will be a nightmare wait time for a party of ten. Also, how does the wait time work? Presume they don't make you stand in line the entire wait? If we can get drinks at the bar and wait with a pager, then not such a big deal. Is it possible for one person to go by the anytime dining room early and make a reservation for a large party later on, depending on availability? For instance, could I stop there around 5 and put in our name for 6:30? We eat around 7-8 at home but some nights on board we might want to eat around 6 or 6:30 - I don't see us managing to get there any earlier than that! This is our first cruise so any opinion or experience from larger family/groups much appreciated! Thanks.
  11. Thanks to both of you. Just to be clear, I would be able to order two or three bottles at same time? Say, two reds and a white and share with the table? I’m surprised they don’t limit it (but happy if they don’t).
  12. Good morning. If I purchase the PBP and am at dinner with my family, am I limited to buying one bottle of wine at the 25% discount or can I order more and share it? Or order sequentially (but quickly)? We could easily go through three bottles at dinner between us (family of 8). Thanks.
  13. Thanks to everyone who has replied! I definitely suffer from over-planning syndrome and my family at this point knows that plans are always subject to tweaking up until the deposit goes hard. Sounds like I should just relax and focus on scheduling the rest of the trip and if we miss having a promenade deck or feel a bit crowded, then lesson learned, but the rest of the ship will be enjoyable (and I did not mention it in original post, but food and drink is somewhat important to us and from most accounts the dining on Royal is reliably decent and varied options). I'm sure the big issue will be the wine/bar bill at the end of the week:) Alaska definitely has a steep learning curve. I wish I had started researching this trip more than 10 months in advance (and that we had about three weeks more to explore).
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