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  1. @perfect match you're welcome! I'm glad it helped! I'm sensitive to cold too but it was worth it 🙂 my two biggest takeaways were to spend time on land if possible and pick an itinerary with multiple glacier days. Have a great trip!
  2. we debated r/t vs. one way and the airfare ended up being only slightly more to anchorage, the flight was longer/less convenient though. we looked at NCL which goes into glacier bay also, HAL, and Princess. i think Royal Caribbean goes there also but not as often, and some other lines that were out of our price range. The port times helped us narrow it down but choosing was overwhelming. the 1 / Pacific Coast Highway is gorgeous! wishing you a great trip!
  3. I can't speak to the Grand but we had a similar dilemma of Coral vs Royal earlier this year, we went with the Coral which was ~20% more. We had a really nice time and enjoyed the ship's unique features but if it had been any other ship that sailed east of Vancouver Island, I would have gone with the savings. If you do the Coral, they didn't announce it but the hour or so before approaching College Fjord was gorgeous sightseeing from the front decks. 🙂
  4. we did a denali leg in 4 days but from whittier: Day 1 - disembark ship, shuttle to anchorage, pick up rental car, drive to denali Day 2 - hiking on our own on frontcountry trails Day 3 - bus trip deeper into the park (we did the shuttle to Eilson but there are also guided tours and guided hikes) Day 4 - back to anchorage, brief stop in Talkeetna, drop off car, fly out that night or next day lodging was scarce and expensive when we booked but ended up finding something on airbnb. i think seward is a bit longer of a drive, you could do a 4 day itinerary on the Kenai peninsula instead, i wish we'd had time to spend there. have a great trip!
  5. i priced out something similar for our anchorage car rental and the upcharge for a one way rental was something astronomical like $700 more. maybe there is a way to get the upcharge waived or maybe more searching could have yielded a better result, but we ended up booking a shuttle and not investigating further (~$40pp). a lot of people seem to really love the train ride though, the scenery on that drive is gorgeous.
  6. we recently took a northbound inside passage cruise and i found it *slightly* more scenic on the starboard side. there were times we could see land/trees on the starboard side vs. water on the port side. not enough of a difference to warrant paying extra or taking a less desirable room imho.
  7. My husband is still talking about this dessert 🤣 it was his standout food moment of the cruise
  8. On our trip the Casino wasn't smoky, probably b/c there never seemed to be anyone in there. I was surprised it was not an enclosed room. From the cafe you see a bunch of slot machines and everytime I passed it I thought it looked like an arcade for grown ups. 🤣 I smelled some smoke in the designated area on the promenade (7) occasionally and a sewage type smell consistently in one specific bend of the promenade when walking laps on different days. The indoor pool area had a chlorine smell. Didn't notice any weird smells elsewhere.
  9. I was just on this ship and they had an omelette station in the buffet a little past the port side entrance. I had one every other day and they ranged from pretty good to excellent. Sabatini's wasn't open for breakfast for everyone. It was open one day for lunch ("Alfredo's), that same day the Bayou restaurant was open for lunch as the British Pub lunch so you had to choose one.
  10. Oh, awesome! We wished we'd had time to spend in the Kenai peninsula, the glimpse we got driving up to Anchorage was beautiful. RV sounds like a great way to go, our cabin rental in Healy was overpriced for what it was imho.
  11. Good point. We were on the first flight out with another following an hour later but had a tight connection in Seattle which was stressing me out! Glad your flight went smoothly!
  12. yeah, learned my lesson. we had a few hours of flex time but even so it was too nerve-wracking.
  13. Other random thoughts: - FOOD: We were prepared for something like cafeteria food on the shop but were pleasantly surprised. The food in the dining room was typically good, a few times very good, and a couple of times not great. Some of our favorite items: chocolate journeys desserts, mussels, halibut, seafood soups, banana walnut bread, king crab legs, the ernesto burger. The lobster was sadly a miss, it had a cream sauce which didn't do it any favors and the ravioli that day was oddly gritty. It was the one meal I wished I'd ordered something else. There was a locally inspired seafood dish available at least once a day. The buffet was good if you stuck to the made to order omelettes, carving station, or pastries. I didn't try the other stuff but my husband thought it was meh. We tried room service breakfast once and it was also meh. - DRINKS: Most of the people I know would lose money on a drink package. We brought a bottle of wine, a half bottle of bubbly, and purchased one additional drink on board plus a beer tasting. That plus the beer tastings we did in port worked out to be plenty for us. I would have liked to do one of the wine tastings but got caught up in other stuff. The mixed / specialty drinks looked skewed to syrupy sweet recipes so I didn't try them but the prices seemed ok. - HISTORY: With Princess being in Alaska 50 years, it would have been great if there was some kind of documentary footage about their time in Alaska, even if it was the typical corporate promotional stuff. Would have loved to see historic photos of the ships and the landscape over the years, or heard from their former captains and employees. We did see some older photos at the parks which showed how much the glaciers have receded. - TV/MOVIE PROGRAMMING: I didn't discover it until late into the cruise, but there was some locally-focused programming on the Princess channels on TV. Some travel-style shows about the various port cities and mini documentaries about Glacier Bay, Denali, etc. There was a nice one of a photographer going into to parks to capture wildlife and glaciers. Would have liked even more of this kind of stuff, or shows about the history of Alaska, its people, etc. Would also have been nice if they showed movies relevant to Alaska in the rooms or MUTS -SALES PUSHING: We did get one kind of aggressive pitch on the first day but other than that, no one tried to push anything on us and it was really easy to tune out the merchandise related events, flyers, and even the stores. I did buy some souvenir items on the last day, they were marked down in the morning ahead of the announced sales so it was not too busy in the shops. -CROWDS: Maybe we were lucky due to the time of year but it never seemed too crowded on or off the ship or even at the airports. I can't speak to the layout of other ships but the abundant outdoor space on this one was a benefit especially on glacier viewing days. We waited 20 minutes for dinner on one night, 5 minutes to board at one port, and a couple of times for elevators but generally everything was super smooth. - DIY DENALI: We saw Princess / Holland America / NCL busses EVERYWHERE near Denali National Park. It was nice to get away from the feeling of being escorted everywhere and it did end up saving us some money. If the convenience isn't a necessity, I would totally DIY this part.
  14. Well we are back...here's what we did and how it went.... great time overall and one of our most memorable vacations. 😃 Day 1 Embarkation Flew into Vancouver morning of - everything went fine but would not do that again, too stressful. Easy trip from the airport to the pier on Skytrain. Walked to see the steam clock go off at noon and picked up wine & bubbly for the trip. Enjoyed watching the ship sail away from the aft balcony, we sat on our own balcony for a while watching the scenery. This was one of my husband's favorite parts of the trip, he really liked the Inside Passage views. Day 2 At Sea Sea day, not as much of the epic scenery we saw on Day 1 but still some nice views of tree topped islands and the like. The naturalist came on the loudspeakers when we passed an area known for whales, spotted a humpback, orca, and sea otters. 1st formal night, forgot about the option to make a dinner reservation and we waited at the bar about 20 min for a table. We either had a reservation or there was a minimal line every other night. Day 3 Ketchikan Did the Rainbird Trail hike (moderate). The rainforest was beautiful, it was a soggy hike but we were prepared to get wet. Saw lots of salmon doing their run. Walked around town after ("Married Man's Trail" boardwalk / waterfront promenade / Creek Street / salmon ladder). Married Man's Trail goes up a hill to a cute hotel/lodge that has a good view of the harbor and a mini tram. Day 4 Juneau Took the city bus to Mendenhall Glacier, did Nugget Falls (easy) and the East Glacier Trail (moderate). Took the city bus back downtown, stopped at Devils Club Brewing Co. for lunch (great beer! food was meh, there is a food truck park across the street that looked like a better option). Walked around and picked up some gifts to take home. Juneau seemed to have the "weird" city vibe like Portland, Austin, etc., - cute little town. Saw a bald eagle chilling in a tree on the way back to the ship. Day 5 Skagway Hiked to Upper Dewey Lake (strenuous). Our most difficult hike and the most beautiful, the lake at the top was ethereal. When we first reached it there was a dense fog but luckily it shifted around and cleared up while we were there. Stopped in at Skagway Brewing Co., the spruce tip ale was interesting and worth a try. Day 6 Glacier Bay Got up early to see the rangers board the ship but missed them, saw them leave later that day. Went to the rangers' intro talk then spent time on the various outdoor decks (mostly forward and promenade) enjoying the scenery as we sailed into Glacier Bay. It was sunny but cold outside, I bundled up with about 5 layers on top and 2 on the bottom. The rangers came on the loudspeakers when we got close to the glaciers and pointed out wildlife as well as geological features. I was surprised at how close the ship was able to get to Margerie Glacier. One of the rangers gave a talk about her personal experiences traveling in Glacier Bay, it was really great. Did an Alaskan Brewing Co. beer tasting on board which was fun, each beer was paired with nice little bites from the kitchen. 2nd formal night. Day 7 College Fjord The morning was a sea day. Did our packing and laundry (self-serve). There were a ton of ship activities scheduled in the am to keep you busy. My husband did the cooking demo/galley tour, I did the harmonica class and screening of the glacier bay video footage. While we weren't going to buy the video, I have to say the videographers do a great job. I loved the time lapse footage they took from the front of the ship coming in and out of the various ports. The approach to College Fjord (about an hour ahead of stated arrival time) was stunning and not to be missed. We found the glaciers here to be equally if not more impressive than those in Glacier Bay. Again we were able to get closer than I'd expected. Another cold day, multiple layers top and bottom! Day 8 Disembarkation/Drive to Denali area We self-disembarked and were off the ship immediately. Took Anchorage Tours shuttle to the airport where we picked up a rental car. Stopped to stock up on supplies and drove north. Luckily the roads were clear with little traffic. We stopped at Denali Brewing Co. (great beer! also don't have to detour all the way into Talkeetna to visit) and at the South Denali Viewpoint (got a good view with some clouds). Made it to Denali National Park late afternoon, tried to sign up for the ranger hike (full), did Horseshoe Loop which was a nice intro to Denali. Saw lots of signs of beaver activity (a lodge, a dam, chewed up trees) and one beaver swimming in the lake). We had an AirBnB cabin north of Healy which was ok, not a lot of options left by the time we were ready to book. Was nice to be staying somewhere off away from the tourist center. Day 9 Denali Did Mt. Healy (moderate) and the sled dog demo. Mt. Healy was a great hike, clear but hazy day with lovely mountain views from the top. Saw a marmot and some nice birds. Had dinner at 229 Parks (great meal!), had a nice beer from 49th State Brewing Co which we'd been too tired to visit the day before, we shared oysters, octopus, and steak which were all really good. The dessert looked very pretty but was just ok, I could have done without. Day 10 Denali We'd hoped to do the ranger-led hike but that was sold out. Took the shuttle bus to Eilson instead. I'd worried that the bus ride or a tour would be tedious but the drivers and other passengers made it fun. Saw bears, caribou, moose, etc. Even if you are not on a wilderness tour, the drivers will stop whenever there is wildlife and they are really good at spotting things. We had wanted to hike at Eilson but the trails were closed due to bear activity so we stayed 30 min to enjoy the views (clear day! beautiful!) and rode back, stopping at Toklat river for an hour (offtrail, easy) and Savage River Loop trail for an hour (easy) where we saw some sheep in the mountains. Day 10 Anchorage/fly out Left Denali mid-morning, drove to Talkeetna. Lunch at Flying Squirrel (located a bit before the town) and walked around the downtown/river view area. Drove on to Anchorage, caught the tail end of the weekly market (farmer's/craft market), went to Midnight Sun Brewing Co (great beer!) and a walk on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail before returning the car and flying out.
  15. @rkacruiser your good wishes worked...the weather improved every day as we traveled north. thanks again for your advice 😃
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