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  1. On the bus tours in Denali National Park, every passenger is ecncouraged to be a wildlife spotter and to shout out what they see. The tour bus will definitely stop to allow photos (nobody allowed off the bus) and there will be several camera lens protruding from every window as passengers on the other side of the bus surge to wildlife side. A zoom with a teleconvertor and burst mode makes the best of all worlds BUT the grizzly bears have no fear of you. They will stroll right up to the bus and not even look at you. Having a second camera (P@S) nearby will permit that once-in-a-lifetime of a bear just a few feet from the bus if you don't bring a shorter lens. Caribou are not so brave so a telephoto lens is a necessity. My experience on the Holland America Denali land tour had lots of seat time. 9 hours on a bus from Seward to Denali, 7 hours on the Denali Wilderness Tour, and 9 more hours on the train to Anchorage.
  2. The train and bus crews don''t worry about size of small backpacks but if they don't fit, you may spend many hours with them on your lap. The train has no overhead storage since it is glass-domed, so the issue is how high the seat in front of you is from the floor. My Think Tank cannot be compressed to fit but my Lowepro sling bag is soft and can be. Not having all of the safety restrictions of a plane, your bag can fit on the floor at your feet if you don't mind putting your feet on it. Train seats are assigned so you and your wife will sit together and perhaps squeeze one bag between you on the floor without having to put your feet on it. Buses have overhead storage that might accept your Think Tank bag but there is no space under your feet for it.. As I stated, I have a separate excursion sling bag. My Think Tank Essentials bag is only for aircraft transport and from that bag, I select what items I need for a particular excursion. I treat buses and trains with their limited storage as just another excursion, excep, I bring all of my lenses. My Think Tank bag, almost empty rides in the one piece of luggage allowed for passengers on buses and trains (those bags do not accompany you on either but will meet you at each destination. It is a bit difficult since I travel solo but your wife could carry a few lenses in her "carry-on" to help out.
  3. I take my Think Tank Essentials to Alaska every year for my flight portions. I bring a Lowepro 100AW sling bag for excursions and being collapsible, I pack it in one of my suitcases for the flying portion. With restictions on carry-on bags for Alaska land tour buses and trains limited tote bags or backpacks no larger than 17”x14”x4”, I move all of my expensive photo items (lenses and cameras) to my smaller excursion bag and pack my Think Tank Essentials backpack (11.5'"x 18" x 7") in my one allowed suitcase for the land portion. Of course a Scott-E-Vest can hold a lot of smalle photo items, Ipad, chargers, etc will riding buses/trains. Note that roller bags are not permitted as carry-on luggage for Alaska cruiseline buses and trains unless they contain pre-approved medical items. They may be counted as your one piece of luggage that will go ahead of you via truck. Tip: When riding the train, photographing through the extra-thick windows will produce lots of rainbow effect that are quite a challenge for Photoshop. There is plenty of room on the platforms between cars where you can capture some amazing scenery photos.
  4. Definitely dog sledding in the snow in Skagway, Alaska.
  5. Here is a link to more of what you will see on the crab fishing excursion: http://www.rogerjett-photography.com/place/alaska-2/ketchikan-2/ketchikan-crab-fishing The running commentary lasts for the duration of the tour and demonstrates how different species of crab are fished. There are always surprises when they bring up the crab pots. Listening to how miserable the tv camera crews were when the waves were severe and how they devised a method to mount the cameras so that the cameramen could spend their time groaning in their below deck bunks was enjoyable. Dave, the boat owner during the Deadliest Catch series filmng, is usually the one conducting the tour and aided by other experienced crab fishermen. Suggest you watch a few episodes of the TV series before taking this tour to get a feeling of how dangerous crab fishing can be.
  6. I have visited the George Inlet crab feast 8 times and gorged myself with all-you-can-eat crab each time. Hints: Skip breakfast. Don't fill up on the appetizers. Pay attention to the short training talk to learn the best crab cracking techniques. Skip the potatoes on your plate to save room for crab. Don't worry about being messy. There is usually a 50-minute time limit, so don't dawdle. The record is 12 half crabs but my best is 6. Most diners aren't able to eat more than one bite of the huge piece of cheesecake served for dessert. Before: After: The Deadliest Catch tour is a photographer's dream as they stop at an island and feed lots of eagles that swoop down from the tree into the water to grab the small fish. The stories of making the tv series are very interesting and funny. For the best photo-taking spot, go upstairs and sit just above the life preserver (see below photo). Choose a fast camera shutter speed and shoot in burst mode (if available). This tour is consistently voted the top tour in Ketchikan.
  7. The Tundra Wilderness Tour bus queues start about 15 minutes before departure. It is important to not be one of the final passengers to board or you will be stuck with a seat over the wheel wells which means your knees in your chest for many hours. There are only a few stops so sitting in the back of the bus is not a big deal and there will be fewer passengers trying to take pictures over your shoulders. As soon as the bus turns off the highway to enter the park, keep your eyes open for moose that like to stroll through the parking lot.
  8. I have flown Taquan Air a number of times for flightseeing and flights to the crab feast at the George Inlet Lodge. It is a first-class operation and a very nice storefront. They have lots of aircraft.
  9. If you purchase any level of internet service for all of your days in a single purchase while on board, there is an spproximate 40% discount off the daily rate. You do not need to make this bulk purchase on Embarkation Day to get the discount for the remaining days.
  10. Received full refunds on three credit cards used for May 4 Alaska cruise cancelled by HAL on Mar 13th. Refunds dated 6/12 but appeared on my cards 6/17. I am now a happy cruiser but will never use monthly payments again for a cruise, just one payment on day before "final payment due" date.
  11. The Westerdam aft Neptune Suite staterooms on Deck 5 are fully covered which means weather will have little impact on using your balcony. The overhead cover of Deck 5 is ideal for beating the intense sun and normal rain that is not accompanied by strong winds.
  12. I had purchased the Club Orange package but everyone on the tour paid the same price. I was surprised, too. The Behind the Scenes tour, unlike my previous ones on other HAL ships, did not include the Engine Room, backstage of the theater, fire suppression room, not as much time on the bridge, and only saw one level of the culinary operations so figured it should be cheaper. The Club Orange culinary tour covered so much more than the culinary portion of the Behind the Scenes Tour.
  13. HAL cancelled my May 4 Alaska cruise on March 13th. Today received the $500 credit charged to my American Express card to get the $100 OBC. No other refunds to the other two credit cards I used to make monthly payments (will never do that again). I have not challenged any of the charges.
  14. My Behind the Scenes tour on the Nieuw Statendam was only $99. The Club Orange culinary tour lasted almost the same amount of time which meant a lot of time to spend in the culinary facilities. If I remember correctly, the Stores Manager said they received more than 100 pallets of supplies for each 7-day cruise with all supplies, inventoried, inspected, and stored before the ship departs the port.
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