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Posts posted by Haysiedaze

  1. Our next port was Skagway. Here we took Chilkoot Charters Yukon Adventure by 25 passenger van. Brian was our guide. We enjoyed the tour of Skagway and up to Carcross. We were the only 4 on the van from Skagway to the White Pass Train Station at the Canadian Border Station. Here 9 passengers joined us from their train ride. With just 13 of us we all had plenty of room.


    Brian was interesting and stopped at several places on our way to Carcross. Carcross Desert was interesting and was worth seeing. We went as far as Emerald Lake. It was another cloudy day and while the lake was beautiful I’d love to see it in sunlight.


    Emerald Lake




    The Jewel and Radiance in Skagway




    We next stopped at the section of Carcross that has a Taxidermy Museum, Sled Dogs, Alpaccas, Mountie Museum, gift shop, ice cream stand and we had our barbeque lunch there (inclded with the tour). The chicken, coleslaw and rolls were quite good. It was all you could eat. I loved the work of the taxidermist. The highlight is his rendition of a Wooly Mammoth made from Musk Ox hides. My son fell in love with the sled dog pupplies and we had to make sure one didn’t make its way back onto the van with him.


    After that we had a bried stop in Carcross itself complete with the anitomically correct Caribou Statue! Here I stamped the passports at a little table outside the general store showing we made it to Canada.




    On our way back we stopped for the customary Welcome to Alaska sign. I only mention it because at this stop we ran into the infamous Alaska State Bird, the mosquito. There will be no blueberry shortage in this area of Alaska! The worse part was as we were waiting on the bus for others, Brian left the door open. My daughter proceeded to “hunt” them in her seat for the rest of the ride back to Skagway and there are several of them squished on the windows of her seat. Other than here we did not have any issues with mosquitos on the trip.


    That night Judy and Emily went to see the Illusionist Show. I chose to go to the helicopter pad for sail away. While they enjoyed the show, I loved the fjord as we left. Jewell, Radiance’s sister ship, left the port just before us. I loved seeing her with the mountains in the background. Again there were beautiful water falls to gaze at and again I was treated to a rainbow. This time I think the pots of gold were at one end, Ketchikan and at the other end, Icy Straight. Then a real treat a spectacular sunset. What a beautiful sail away.






    More pictures to follow and then Icy Straight Point

  2. On Sunday we docked in Juneau. We had scheduled a float plane trip to Taku Lodge through the ship (the only excursion we booked through RCCL) that was scheduled for 12:30. We got up, had breakfast and went shopping along the street in front of the port. By 11:00 am it was raining. We headed back to the ship for a snack. When we got to the meeting place for our excursion we were told it was cancelled. I was bummed out but I am glad they were being careful after the recent float plane mishap. The good news is we got $1280 placed onto our sea pass account (immediately) and along with the $400 on board credit we got from our travel agent we didn’t worry about drink prices or gratuities for the rest of the cruise :D !


    So we went back onto the ship. The kids met up with their friends. Judy and I had lunch. I got ansy and at 2:40 I went out to the bus kiosk to ask about going to Mendenhall Glacier. The busses leave on the hour and on the half hour. I texted everyone and said I was going rain or no rain. Well Judy surprised me (she is a city girl and on this trip she was out of her element) and said she’d go. The kids stayed on the ship.


    We put on a sweatshirt and rain jacket. Judy had an umbrella and off we went on the 3:00 PM bus ($20 round trip per person). By 3:30 we were hiking out to the glacier. We took our time and took some pictures (it was cold, foggy and rainy) along the way. We enjoyed the smell of the fir trees and the beautiful fresh air. Once we saw the falls and glacier we were so glad we took the chance.


    At the falls we were getting hit from above by the rain and hit sideways from the spray from rush of the water from the falls, yet we didn’t care. After Hubbard, Mendenhall in the rain was not as impressive but imoressive in it's own right. It has receded so much over the years it was aways off and the weather hindered the view too. On the other hand we loved the awesomeness of Nugget Falls. Being right next to the roaring water, feeling the spray and just enjoying being together, was a real special time for us. We took pictures of another couple and they returned the favor. After a while we headed directly back to the bus. We did not go into the visitor center. We were back just in time for the 4:30 pm bus and made it to the ship by 5. A quick shower and we were ready for our dinner.


    So while on a nice day you would want to stay longer and go into the visitor center you can do this trip in 2 hours. It was just enough time based on the weather. It is worth the effort especially if your other excursions are cancelled.











  3. We booked a float plane excursion for 6 directly with the company and not through the ship in Ketchikan. The excursion is from 8am- noon and our ship is departing at 1:30pm. Company claims they will have us back by 12:15. Are we cutting this to close and risking missing the ship which will not wait for us since it is not one of their excursions?

    Anyone have any experience with this close timeline?


    A group on our recent cruise was booked on a 3:00 to 5:00 Misty Fjord Float Plane trip. The Radiance was to depart at 6:00 pm. All aboard was scheduled for 5:30. Island Wings guaranteed they would be fine.


    We saw the group on the ship the next day so I believe it worked. The vendors know the ship timetables well and I am sure you have plenty of time.




    Were you the people in torn shorts and stained white t-shirts drinking shots of Jack Daniels sitting next to us in the main dining room? :D Oh wait that wasn't on this cruise........






    That was not us. We were one of the many couples that got a rendition of "happy versary" though. :)


    Happy anniversary from us.


    I heard we missed a birthday cake for our son on the last night of the cruise in the main dining room. We took him to the Samba Grill. Our table mates said that the other teen at the table got to enjoy the cake though.

  5. Passing by an ice flow:






    We were treated to calving. The thunderous noise, followed by cascading waterfalls of ice crashing into the sea, was breath taking. We did hear that a cloudy day brings out the best color of a glacier. The shades blue were beautiful. I’ll stop here to post pictures (continued pics in next post)as I cannot adequately describe the place.


    A picture to understand the sheer size of Hubabrd. Judy is on deck 11, the ships boat out gathering ice for sculpturing is between the ship and the glacier




    The Glacier








    In the center here you can see the splash of one of the calvings




    Oh and my kids spent the time watching the glacier with friends in a hot tub. How cool is that. They had such a great day with their new friends on board. They are still in touch through Skype with many of them. We never witnessed any issues with the kids on board (I hope no one else did either :rolleyes: ).

  6. The first night of our cruise sailing from Seward to Hubbard Glacier was the only time we felt any rocking motion on the ship and then to me it was minimal. For the rest of the cruise it was smooth sailing as far as I remember.


    On Saturday I got up early and went out to the back of the ship with my coffee. It was a cool, cloudy and hazy day but very calm.




    Sailing towards the glacier you are treated to beautiful waterfalls cascading down lush green mountains. From my favorite place in the back of the ship you could easily go from side to side to see whatever beauty you were being treated to and believe me there is a lot of it! The only issue from back there on deck 11 is you cannot here the information being broadcast over the speaker system. I actually prefer the sound of the ship passing through the water and am not sure I missed much (then again if you can’t hear it how do you know what you missed).







    While we were already bordering on spectacular views, the first sight of Hubbard Glacier was SPECTACULAR. My wife and I spent all the time there in the back of deck 11. I am estimating there were no more than 20 people back there. The captain positioned the Radiance very close to the Glacier and then just slowly rotated it back and forth for 3-4 hours. We could easily move from side to side to be in constant view of this wonder of nature. My understanding from a couple that joined us during the afternoon was that on the helicopter pad there were so many people some had to hold their cameras over the heads to get pictures of Hubbard. What a shame, we had plenty of room and the people we met there made the afternoon so enjoyable. What an incredible day we had.


    First Views:






    To be continued...........

  7. I've been reading along also. My wife and I were on the Radiance at the same time as the original poster (I think we were even at the table next to you at dinner!), so I thought I would add my 2 cents. We didn't do the cruise tour, but did a semi-DIY trip to Denali from Anchorage. I say semi-DIY because it was a package from Alaska Denali travel, but I believe you could book the individual pieces on your own if you wanted to.


    In Denali, we did the Denali Backcountry Adventure tour and it was definitely one of the highlights of our Alaska trip. Its a 12-13 hour trip on the park road all the way to Kantishna, so it does make for a long day. Its probably not for everyone. The weather and wildlife cooperated with us, and I can see how if it didn't the tour would not be a highlight of the trip. We went on the Wednesday of that week and it was one of the 2 or 3 best weather days we had in Alaska.


    I look forward to reading the rest of the review of the cruise. I know for us it was incredible.


    Welcome, thanks for adding to this report.


    Were you the people in torn shorts and stained white t-shirts drinking shots of Jack Daniels sitting next to us in the main dining room? :D Oh wait that wasn't on this cruise........


    Thanks for adding your experiences to this review. It's nice that Wishuponasea and you are taking the time to add your inputs from the same cruise. As I have tried to point out, people doing the same excursions can have such a varied experience based on all the variables in Alaska (although if I had tried to take my teens on a 12-13 hour tour of Denali I would have been fed to the first Grizzly Bear they saw :eek: ). It's nice they can see multiple reports in one place.

  8. We arrived 4:45 pm (our tour director said that is the scheduled time of arrival) and as I said check in was a breeze. We went to our rooms 8623 and 8625 (2 adjoining inside cabins) to drop off our carry on bags. Our main time dining was scheduled for 5:30 so that is where we headed to next.


    We had requested a table next to a window based on the information we were given by one of our roll call members. We were at table 473 and indeed it was a window view table. We were seated with 7 others including one other teen. We enjoyed the people we sat with but our teens were older than the other teen and by the end of the week they had found a group of older teens that they ate with in Windjammer most nights. On formal nights our family of 4 ate there too as we did not bring formal wear. We could have worn the business casual clothes we had, but preferred to eat informally. People were dressed in all kinds of attire, we wouldn’t have been out of place. Our favorite person in formal attire that we saw was this retired Canadian Mountie who dressed early and was out on deck watching the glacier on day 2 before the formal dinner. All the women were having their picture taken with him. My wife was no exception.



    For requesting a table I am including the message from Ed and Barb out of our Roll Call:


    BTW, if anyone wants a certain table location in the MDR, now is the time (50 days out) to request it. I sent in the e-mail a few days ago. We got a return e-mail the next day from the Restaurant Operations Coordinator (Malachy Fernandes) on the Radiance that we have been assigned a window table we wanted.


    If you are interested in this, send an e-mail to "rcldining@rccl.com". Include in note, the Names, Reservation #, Cabin # for all the people you want at the table, along with the type of table you are requesting (for example: table for 6 by window).


    Muster was at 7:00. No life jackets were required. They did check your sea pass card and check you off their list. It was over fairly quickly (it would have been quicker if people showed up on time). Then we wandered the ship and went to what was my favorite location for the rest of the week, the rear Windjammer seating that you get to by walking through Rita’s Cantina or Azumi. Here my wife and I had our first "drinks of the day" and relaxed!




    Leaving Seward



  9. I've been reading along with interest - and although our cruise tour next May is with Celebrity - I'm assuming that the cruise lines use the same company to out source the cruise tours. This will be our first cruise tour - 7A Grand Heartland Tour from Seward, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali (2 nights), and Fairbanks. I've land traveled Alaska once before - DH has never been. I figured I would rather we not be out there driving alone as parts of the trip are remote and cell phone coverage spotty - chose to leave the details to the tour company.


    After reading this I am concerned about my choice. :eek: So now I am convinced that I do NOT want to do the Denali excursion - riding for that long in a dusty school bus isn't my idea of a fun time. So - can I ditch the Cruise Tour for the day and go off and find something to do on our own? Is that allowed? Are their better private companies that we can book independently? Any and all advice on this would be appreciated. Thank you.


    I hope that the cruise portion of your trip was fabulous! We sail Celebrity and I have no doubts about our cruise portion of our trip - Vancouver to Seward. :D


    While our experience in Denali was not good, many say it is the highlight of their trip. The bus driver/tour commentator can probably make or break it. The lottery known as wildlife sightings could also change things. That said we would definitely opt out of the TWT if we did it again.


    I believe that you can opt out and get a refund for the TWT if it is included in your tour. You would have to check with the cruise company. There are other activities in Denali like the white water rafting my teens did available at companies in "Glitter Gulch". Maybe some of the veterans here could best answer that. People doing the DIY method book their own tours so they are available.


    While the land portion was tiring for us we did enjoy much of it but the cruise portion and excursions were spectacular!



  10. The Cabin Dinner Night Theater was right next to our room at Denali Park Village. There was no commute to get to it! It is touristy but all four of us had a very nice time at it. The entertainers were good. They had excellent voices. The food (ribs and salmon) were excellent. What really made it were the people we were sitting with. It was a lively group. We made new friends and I kept running into our new “Uncle Phil” on the ship.




    Now a quick segway into one of the highlights of Alaska for us. At almost every function or excursion we attended in Alaska people made a point of honoring our veterans. They were asked to stand and be recongnized on the train to Gold Dredge #8, Discovery III Riverboat, the theater most everywhere. We even sang God Bless America at the theater. That is a very nice touch Alaska. One nice shout out to the people flying to Boston from Chicago too. A soldier in uniform was allowed to board our flight first. People clapped for him. Thanks to all veterans of our armed forces and those of our allies.


    So on to Friday and the next taxing ride. Bags again had to be out by 6:00 am. Breakfast again at the little store next to our room (loved the little freshly made cinnamon doughnuts). As we were headed over to the coach, Emily and I were treated to a beautiful rainbow. Our thoughts were that at the end of the rainbow we would find the Radiance!


    Your pot of Gold is a ship.......




    Anchorage is around a 5 hour or so bus ride. We stopped at a rest stop were you can get coffee for a donation to veterans. There is also a very well done memorial to the 4 Medal of Honor Winners from Alaska and to each branch of the armed forces. It was raining so many did not go to the memorial. I did and it is very well done.


    We passed through Willow were you could see the burned areas on both sides of the highway from one of the many fires Alaska is fighting this summer. There were no delays due to the fires.


    Once in Anchorage we were left on our own for 1.5 hours to grab lunch and to stretch our legs. We tried to eat at the Glacier Brewhouse but it was packed and we would not have had time to eat. We found a little sandwich shop, grabbed lunch and then walked around. We were entertained by the 6th Army band at the visitor center. Then it was back onto the coach.


    Eric and friend




    I think this is the seagull that posed for the statue




    The ride to Seward got better and better. We saw snow capped peaks, the petrified forests and glaciers. We saw the ocean! We arrived at the ship around 4:45 pm. At that time check in was a breeze. Unfortunately we had no time to explore Seward. I would change that if we go back.


    Glacier shot out of the front window of our coach on the way to Seward




    Another shot out the window between Anchorage and Seward





    My summary for our land tour is that, Alaska is a BIG, BIG state. I would not do the cruise tour or DIY time starting in Fairbanks. We enjoyed the tours and the museums of Fairbanks. We did get to see Denali National Park and enjoyed the white water rafting and theater. There is just way too much time spent in transit. If we go back I would fly into Anchorage and DIY from there. I would not drive north of there but rather do a flight seeing excursion over Denali. Rent a car and travel to Homer. Spend a couple days there then go directly to Seward. There seems to be so many options for excursions in Seward. I should have listened more closely to some of the experienced Alaskan travelers on Cruise Critic.


    Next up the cruise.

  11. We (wife and husband) were pretty much on the same cruisetour you were. We were among those that got reassigned to another hotel (Sophie Station). It has been interesting reading your account up to now and comparing it to our experience and impressions. I thought I could piggy back on your review if you thought that was OK. If not, no problem, I'll just read along.


    Sorry we did not meet you at the meet and mingle. Wife half had come down with a cold, was miserable, and we didn't want to pass it on. Husband half got the cold during the last few days of the cruise too, and we tried to do what we could to not spread it (lots of hand sanitizer).


    I was disappointed we weren't in the same group in Fairbanks. Thanks for not passing on the cold!


    You can certainly add your comments. Getting two views for the same itinerary would be interesting.



  12. We are up at 6:30 am on Thursday of week 1 of our vacation. Our bus is due to leave at 7:30. For breakfast we grabbed some freshly made doughnuts, packaged danish and coffee at the little store in Denali Park Village. It was right outside of our room in the 800 block building. We also packed snacks for the excursion into Denali as well as having the snack box provided on the tour. The bus doesn’t arrive until 7:45 due to the road construction. Due to a mix up with our kids we end up in the back of the bus. Not a good sign. Once through the construction again we head into the park.


    Here is a brief overview of the bus. It is indeed a converted school bus. There are small monitors above some of the seats. The monitors are connected to a 100X optical zoom camera the bus driver utilizes to zoom in on the wildlife. I would guess they are 11-14 inch monitors. The top half of the windows can be opened. This becomes critical as you get into the tour. If the people across from you don’t open their window you will either not see something or not be able to take a picture of it. Most of your pictures are taken through the open windows. People were very considerate about opening them but when opened you are also subject to the dust blowing in. In my opinion it is hard to get good pictures through the opening. The seats are not comfortable (again my opinion) when you consider you are on the bus for 8 hours. I strongly suggest you sit on the driver’s side of the bus on the way into the park. A very high percentage of the sights are on that side. On the way you will be on the “wrong” side but it won’t matter, you may be like those of us on our bus and just want to get back to the hotel…………….


    We had Dana as our bus driver/tour guide. The tour driver can make or break this tour. Ours broke it big time. She repeated herself over and over again. It became annoying. If I hear one more time that mosquito’s pollenate the blueberries in Denali I’ll scream! She had lost 80% of the people on our bus before we got halfway into the park. If you have ever been in a comedy club where everyone is uncomfortable because the commedian is just not funny, you’ll get the picture. Of course once the commedian realize it they start laughing at their own sad jokes. That is what happened to Dana. Oh please, please get us back to our hotel…………………….


    As for the wildlife (we realize no sightings are guaranteed, this is not Disney) we were in the vicinity of one grizzly bear (who was sound asleep), several white dots on the mountain (dall Sheep), a few ptarmigan, a Northen Goshawk, a golden eagle eating something in the brush, ground squirrels and the ever present caribou off in the distance. Dana used her camera to project the wildlife on the monitors but to me this was like watching videos of them on an old tube TV. We were not witness to many if any animals close enough enjoy with the naked eye. Again this is a lottery and we lost. The rule on the bus is you yell STOP when you spot something. On our return trip I feel you would have been left on the side of the road if you yelled it for white dots or caribou. Every one had had enough. You could feel the tension in the bus.

    Here are the “better” pictures we got using a 35X optical zoom through the open windows. Later in the review you can compare them to the whales, eagles and bears we saw on our excursions (none requiring 8 hours in a school bus to see).






    Our bear (saw it both going into and out of the park, it must have been tired)












    As for Mount McKinley itself we saw most of it and the 2 peaks did appear through the top of the partially cloudy sky. It is so far away though you cannot really grasp the sheer size of it. I wish I had booked a flight seeing tour and forgone the bus trip (TWT or shuttle neither would have been fun). The rest of the park is scenic but not a WOW to us. I enjoyed Yosemite and the Rockies in Colorado more. To each his own, but I wish we had not booked this tour. We got back to our hotel at 5:00 pm after a long taxing (repeating myself I know) day.


    Here are some photos:


    A scene from somewhere in the park




    Mt McKinley (as best as we could get it)




    Next up Denali Cabin Dinner Night Theater and the conclusion of our Cruise Tour land portion and then on to the SHIP YEA!

  13. I can't comment on the similarity of the tours but I can highly recommend Glacier Wind. Teresa and Shawn are absolutely fantastic and the tour I had with them in May was outstanding. Pre-cruise communication with Teresa meant that by the time I got there, I felt like they were old friends.


    The boat they use is fantastic and plenty of room for everyone - maximum 6 people, 7 if you include Shawn. Shawn's knowledge is outstanding and he knows the whales well and can point them out from a long distance. We also saw seals, otters and a lot of eagles.


    I will be returning to Alaska and will definitely be doing another trip with Glacier Wind.


    Have fun planning your trip!


    I second this. We were with Glacier Wind on the 21st of July, it was outstanding.

  14. So we get off the train. Vicki has navigated the highway from Fairbanks to Denali and meets us at the train station with our coach containing our bags. It is around noon time. We have been told we cannot check into our hotel until 3:30 pm. We are given an hour or so to wander the Denali Visitor Center. It is an interesting place but we were up before 6:00, traveled for the past 4 hours in a train and just want to go shower and freshen up. Then we board our coach and stop at the entrance to Denali for a group photo. Next we are dropped off in “Glitter Gultch” so we can grab lunch and wander the shops. We just want to go to our hotel!


    Finally around 3:15 we reboard our traveling home, the coach. Come to find out our driver does not like to back the coach up. She proceeds to try to turn the coach around without backing up. Yep, you guessed it she nails a parked car. More delay as she swaps paperwork (did I mention we just want to get to our hotel?). Finally our RCCL tour guide gets out of the bus and guides Vicki as she backs up. That done we head out for the 12 mile drive to Denali Park Village. Smooth sailing, right? Uh no there is road construction half way there. Another 15 minute delay. We arrive at our hotel around 4:15. It had become a very, very long, taxing day :( .


    Things did improve from there. The kids were booked for a 7:00 pm white water rafting trip. Where I had to sign waivers for them (they were both 16) the rafting company allowed my wife and I to ride back into town on their bus with them. They also agreed to pick us up after the trip and take us back to the hotel. We left the kids after seeing them suit up. We walked across the street to the resteraunt at McKinnly Chalet. We had an excellent meal with a couple of fruity drinks mixed in. The kid’s bus returned at 10:00 pm and we arrived back at the hotel around 10:30 pm for a long deserved rest, oops wait had to be at the main entrance at 7:15 am to catch our bus for our Tundra Wilderness Tour (TWT). Scratch the rest part. As for the white water rafting both our kids loved it. They were on the water for over 2 hours. It was great to see the smiles on their faces as they told the story of their adventure. It took some of the sting out of the day :) .


    Getting ready:




    Thumbs up:




    The river they were on:




    Next it will be on to the TWT, (Tortured While Touring) Denali trip.

  15. The 3rd day of our cruise tour started with the task of getting our bags out in the hallway by 6 am. We were to meet the group at 7:15 for our ride to the train depot. We grabbed a coffee in the lobby and planned on eating breakfast on the train. As I said before there were 3 - 4B cruise tour groups in Fairbanks. RCCL has 2 cars on the Wilderness Express each one holding 80 guests. Our group was split between the 2 cars, 28 on one and the other 21 on the other. This caused quite a bit of stress for our cruise director. She had assigned us seats. When my kids went to sit in theirs someone was in one of them. I asked the RCCL tour director to help out. She mumbled why should I, no one is listening to me, fix it yourself! Wow her tip got cut in half right there. She stormed off leaving many on the train feeling uncomfortable. All she had to do was come up to our row, check her seating assignment and that would have fixed it. One to two minutes top. I spoke to her about it as I gave her the tip when we left to board the ship at the end of the tour. It was very unprofessional and left a bad taste in my mouth for cruise tours (yes I should have listened to the DIY crowd). That may have set my mood for the next 2 days……


    Now back to the train ride from Fairbanks to Denali. The domed rail cars RCCL uses all have the seats facing forward on the top deck. They are quite comfortable. Our train coordinator (Not sure what to call her) and the bartender were outstanding. They provided some commentary on the history of the places we traveled through. The drinks were resonabley priced and quite good. We did eat breakfast on the train. I had eggs with reindeer sausage. The rest of my family the blueberry pancakes. Both were very good although give us NH maple syrup over birch syrup any day! Our server was excellent.


    Note: The back of the cars get seated first in the dining area. The front seats get the first service from the bartender. So hungry sit in back, thirsty sit in the front.


    The inside of the top deck of the rail car as we were leaving it:




    Yes we are hungry:




    We were on the last car of the train. We spent time on the viewing platform but this was the main view:




    The trees lining the tracks block your view. Viewing is much better from the seats in the top deck. We missed a moose sighting because we were on the platform. Our one decent shot came right at the tail end of the 4 hour journey. While comfortable and relaxing the train ride is nothing spectacular. We are in Alaska we want spectacular!




    Next the afternoon of our arrival in Denali.

  16. We met our tour director, Shauna, at Pike’s Landing. At this point we were given a list of the optional excursions available during the land portion of the cruise tour. We chose to let the kids do white water rafting in Denali and for all four of us to attend the Denali Cabin Dinner Night Theater. With that taken care of we were told of the next day’s schedule.


    We met our group at 7:30 in the hotel lobby. By the way there were 3 different 4B cruise tour groups in Fairbanks. 2 at Pikes Landing and one stayed somewhere else. Each group was around 48 in size. Our group boarded our coach (we used this for the next 4 days) for the ride to Gold Dredge #8. Our driver Vicki, stayed with us throughout the next 4 days.


    The tour at Gold Drege #8 starts at the Alaska Pipeline. We were given an informative and well done narration of the pipeline. Then we were off to the dredge via train. The train was a short ride with some stops for demonstrations on the way. Again this was very well done. At the dredge we were given a gold panning demo. Then we got off the train and were handed our poke of dirt. We had fun panning our dirt and while we did find some gold others did far better than the 4 of us. Guess we won’t be staking a claim anytime soon. We combined our findings into a lockette for my daughter. It’s a nice momento containing our “family gold”. We wandered the shops, bought some soveniers and I toured the inside of the dredge. I was impressed with the sheer size of it. All in all we enjoyed this tour very much.


    We got back on the coach for a short tour of downtown Fairbanks. We were dropped off for 1.25 hours for lunch on our own. We then reboarded the coach and headed to our Riverboat Discovery Cruise down the Chena River. The trip includes a stop at Susan Butcher’s Homestead and kennel. It was informative and the dogs seemed so excited when being hooked up to the ATV for their run. They seem very well cared for but for us seeing dogs attached to a 6-8 foot chain is not enjoyable. Yes we respect the rights of the people that do this but it is not our cup of tea.


    I also forgot that at the start of the cruise there is a float plane demonstration. The pilot takes off and lands. After landed he is patched into the ships intercom and answers questions from the crew about flying in Alaska. We were scheduled for 2 float plane trips on the cruise. I think this demo helped ease some of my wife and daughter’s fears (Especially after the horrible accident in Ketchikan a couple weeks before).


    Further down the river the boat stops at a recreated Athabascan Indian Village. There are 3 different locations where Athabascan natives give talks of the life of their people. The guides were well spoken and very informative. After you have been at each of the 3 stations you can wander the grounds, touch the furs that are on display, see sled dogs or visit the reindeer (domesticated Caribou). Back on board you are treated to salmon dip and crackers. It was quite good and I am not overly fond of salmon. At the end of the tour it was back on the coach for a very short ride back to the hotel. Dinner was on our own. We just ate at the resteraunt at the hotel. It was good. Our family all enjoyed the day on the water.


    Next stop Denali.


    Trying to hit it big:




    Reality hits, no hitting it big (this is one of 4 containers:





    Susan Butcher's Homestead:




    The fur station:






  17. We flew into Fairbanks from Boston through Chicago. The second flight was 6.5 hours long. Going to Fairbanks is taxing, a theme we grew to understand by the end of week 1. We rented a car from AVIS. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites. It was clean, the beds comfortable and the staff friendly. The continental breakfast was the typical Hampton Inn fare of waffles, cheese omelets, cereal, sausage and small pastries. It was fine.


    On Sunday we drove to Chena Hot Springs. The drive is easy. The scenery reminded us of Northern New Hampshire. We saw a ptarmigan but no moose. The grounds of the Hot Springs are pretty with the flowers and antique machinary. The highlight though was the ice museum. There are beautiful ice sculptures troughout. We ate lunch there at the recommendation of a fellow cruise critic member. It was excellent.


    After lunch we drove to the North Pole. Yes Santa’s House is a gift shop but we always buy Christmas Ornaments from where ever we travel and this was the place! We also mailed postcards to friends and our neighbor’s young son, Logan (written by Santa of course). For the post card and stamp it was less than a dollar. It made quite and impression on Logan receiving a picture of Santa’s House and telling him Santa knew he was being good.

    On our second full day we went to the Museum of the North and then the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. Both of these museums are well done. They have a ton of info on the history of Alaska. While we did watch the Aurora Borealis film at the Museum of the North, it was a little too educational for us. We expected more pictures of it. The kids thought they were back in science class (not a bad thing but it was their vacation from school). The Auto Museum has a beautiful collection of not only antique cars but of attire from the early 1900s. Each car has a plaque explaining its history and any ties to Alaska. We very much enjoyed it.


    We had made Open Table reservations at the Pump House Restaurant for dinner. Nice atmosphere but we were not happy with the service, the food was okay. I did have a “Rudolph” Tenderloin (reindeer) and it was nice to try something Alaskan. It wasn’t bad and everyone tried it. I would not go back there.


    At the end of the day we checked into Pikes Landing with the RCCL Cruise Tour. I bought pizza and then returned the car to the airport, a short 5 minute drive away. I returned via Pikes Landing’s shuttle. This ended our DIY tour. Next up will be the 4 night cruise tour review.


    We made it to Alaska!




    Chena Hot Springs Pics:








    Finally our Appletini in a glass made of ice (you can keep the glass :) )



  18. This trip report covers Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Tour 4B which started on July 13th and our 2 days of DIY in Fairbanks prior to it. Our family of 4 (my wife, 16 year old son, 16 year old daughter and myself) planned this trip beginning in March of 2014. I posted my itinerary and the planning process involved here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=44742273#post44742273


    My quick summary (notice the MY in it, I know others traveling to the same places will often have vastly different experiences) was that yes the expense for this trip was worth every penny. Alaska is amazing, the people we met on the cruise were by far the friendliest, engaging and enjoyable cruisers we have met (although the people on Carnival Victory on our first cruise were right up there too). We enjoyed listening to their experiences on the other excursions they had taken, as there are so many options that you can’t do them all in one trip to Alaska.


    - The Radiance. Only one issue, the cruise was about Alaska not the ship, but the last day, sailing the Inside Passage was not enjoyable, as the smoke from the casino permeated the Centrum from deck 4 up to deck 11. Otherwise the ship was fine, the crew excellent and we could always find something good to eat. We did the Samba Grill for my son’s birthday and it was excellent.


    Our ratings of what we did:

    1. Ketchikan - Anan Creek Bear Viewing with Island Wings

    2. Icy Straight - Whale Watching with Glacier Wind

    3. Hubbard Glacier

    4. Juneau - Menenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls on our own

    5. Fairbanks – Gold Dredge Number 8 and the River Boat Cruise

    6. Fairbanks on our own – Chena Hot Springs Ice Museum (and lunch there), Museum of the North, Fountainhead Auto Museum and The North Pole

    7. Denali White Water Rafting for the kids and the Cabin Night Theater Dinner

    8. Denali National Park Tundra Wilderness Tour (Our TWT stands for Tortured While Touring)

    9. Getting off the ship


    - If you are cruising to Alaska join your Cruise Critic Roll Call and the Meet and Mingle. While we had a very small number of people on ours, we learned so much from the experienced members and while on the ship got to visit with most of them.


    I’ll start a more detailed report with pictures tomorrow. I think the commentary and pictures will support our ratings. Here is a hint at why Anan Creek was our top excursion.



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