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Everything posted by Gardyloo

  1. There's an old saying about Anchorage that I found quite accurate when I lived there: "The best thing about Anchorage is that it's 20 minutes from Alaska." More like 30 or 40 now, and while I still have a lot of friends there, and love having a burger at the Arctic Roadrunner or a steak and a flashlight at Club Paris, I honestly can't say that Anchorage is all that compelling as a tourist destination in of itself. As a hub for excursions - down Turnagain Arm to Portage, or north up to Hatcher Pass - terrific; and some of the in-town attractions like the Native Heritage Center or the museum are good... well, they're still 30 minutes from... well... Here's an off-the-wall idea. You say you don't like flying much, and this would involve some flying, but what if you flew from Anchorage up to Kotzebue for a "night?" Round trip on an Alaska Airlines jet costs around $350 (but see the * below) but for that you'd cross the arctic circle, you could stick a toe in the Arctic Ocean, visit a thriving and fascinating Inupiat ("Eskimo") community, see the midnight sun, and stay at a comfortable hotel directly across from the sea. It's an excursion to a part of Alaska overlooked by the vast majority of visitors, and it really couldn't be easier for a short trip. Maybe worth a thought? * Don't know where you're flying from, but you might think about applying for an Alaska Airlines-branded Visa card - Credit Card Offer | Alaska Airlines - which would give you quite a few benefits, including 50,000 frequent flyer miles up front and an annual "companion" certificate good on Alaska Airlines, where one passenger pays the going price and a "companion" pays $99 plus some taxes for the same trip - could be from the east coast to Alaska, or to Hawaii, or California... wherever Alaska flies. In the case of intra-Alaska travel, such as Anchorage to Kotzebue, you'd redeem 7500 miles one-way, so 15,000 round trip, or if you wanted to use miles to return home from Kotzebue via Anchorage, the "cost" would be 12,500 miles one way or 30,000 miles in first class. This could reduce your overall cost pretty significantly. Just sayin'.
  2. I thought it might be of interest to readers of this board that the Bering Sea crab fisheries (both red king crab and snow crab species - bairdi and opilio) are being canceled outright or reduced hugely due to warming ocean temperatures, leading to a population crash. Alaska snow crab harvest slashed by nearly 90% after population crash in a warming Bering Sea Deadliest Catch fans take note, and anybody wanting to buy king crab at Costco better get your wallets out, preferably full of rubles (unless the Russians also agree to a halt in the harvest.)
  3. AFAIK Hertz is still the only national rental car company with a Seward office, so no. By next year, who knows?
  4. I would also bear in mind that the resident orca pods in the Salish Sea (the inland waters of Puget Sound and the southern BC Gulf) are endangered and restrictions on whale watching are likely to be increased as time goes by. I honestly think that if you're cruising to Alaska both you and conceivably the whales might be better off if you do your whale watching tour during a cruise stop.
  5. I've been using Luminar 4 for awhile, and it can be a lot of fun, but I'd require some serious convincing before I'd buy this product, given that much of what it does can be done with other products. But the sky replacement thing can be a blast. Here are a couple of examples, if interested. Mont Saint-Michel before and after - Jeff Bezos' next spacecraft
  6. Here's the part of the Space Needle camera that shows Pier 91.
  7. In Skagway I'd contact the local Avis office - Car Rental Skagway | Avis Rent a Car - and see if they have any minivans for your day. If they do, then I'd consider booking one and driving up into Canada. It's a very scenic drive, you can stop in Carcross (see the Carcross Desert) then again at Emerald Lake, then consider making the Robinson Roadhouse your turnaround point. It's a small ghost town out in the middle of nowhere (territorial historical site) with some interesting old buildings and a lot of marmots who will protest your intrusion quite noisily. The scenery in both directions is terrific. Map - https://goo.gl/maps/FBdkgwfHexrhEmrj6
  8. In that case I'd suggest Place Pigalle in the market. If you go early (they open for dinner at 5) you ought to be able to score a window table (or book to reserve one.) The restaurant has a terrific view and the food is generally excellent. Place Pigalle (placepigalle-seattle.com)
  9. Ask on the Alaska board - https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/33-alaska/
  10. The Brooklyn shut its doors for good late last year or early 2021; don't recall. If you're really after oysters, then Elliott's Oyster House on the central waterfront is one possible destination. or you might enjoy the White Swan Public House at the south end of Lake Union (with outdoor patio) or one of Taylor Shellfish's locations - Pioneer Square or Capitol Hill.
  11. AAdvantage allows you to upgrade from one class of service to the next on British Airways using AAdvantage miles provided the underlying fare (the one you paid) is a full fare category, i.e. Y (economy) or J (business.) Just for reference, a round trip ticket in J class on British Airways between DFW and Amsterdam has a base price - before taxes and fees - of US$12,800. In Y class (economy) it's $5716.
  12. What do you plan to do with your pictures? Enlargements for the wall, posting on social media, photo album...? Assuming your camera offers a few million pixels (say 6m or more) you can probably crop most wide-angle shots to concentrate on some feature in the picture, without losing very much detail, at least to the naked eye. Remember too that flights can be choppy, so a telephoto image runs the risk of being blurred by movement, while the wide angle shot will be less so.
  13. First, it's the Pike Place market, not "Pike's." Second, no, 5 AM is too early. I believe Lowell's - Lowell's Restaurant Seattle | Almost Classy Since 1957 (eatatlowells.com) - is the earliest restaurant to open at 8 AM, although the "original" Starbucks (it isn't really) opens for carryout at 6:30. La Panier, a very good bakery, opens at 7, but I'm not sure if their indoor seating is available (it's very limited anyway) but that might be a good option. And there might be some other places open before 8 that I can't think of, but those would be the leaders. Note it's still pretty dark at 5 AM hereabouts. Where are you staying? If it was me I'd head to Lowell's when it opens, get a table with a water view, and have breakfast, then walk around the market afterward.
  14. It should be but the hotel's website says they have a free shuttle, too. Hotel at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport - Crowne Plaza (ihg.com) Scroll down to the FAQs.
  15. A couple of years ago the Silver Cloud Stadium hotel (across the street from the ballpark) offered complementary shuttles to both cruise terminals, but there's no mention of it any more on their website. Other Silver Cloud branches also used to offer shuttles (not to the cruise terminals but to other places like Seattle Center) but none of them mention it on their websites either, so I assume it's a company-wide policy. It seems reasonable that they'd discontinue such perks given the health requirements they'd have to comply with (masking, distancing etc.) as well as being the only ones.
  16. The choices you're facing are not uncommon, and I'd emphasize the points you make in your post: 1. You can't see everything in one trip unless you can stay for a few weeks. 2. Prioritize what you want to see. I'd amend point no. 1 by simply removing the bold/italic words. You can't see everything in one trip - period. First, organized cruises, even the "small boat" (big price) ones only touch upon some of the sights in the Inside Passage and southeast Alaska region. It's too big and generally sailing schedules only allow a few port calls, often in towns where multiple ships will tie up on the same day, with passenger and crew totals that can even exceed the towns' populations (most common in Skagway.) Second, even the road system in southcentral and interior Alaska is very limited compared to the size of the state. While road-tripping in Alaska is terrific, getting off the road system - in the air or on a ship - will reveal the vastness in ways you can't see from a car or a bus or a train's windows. Which brings us back to point no. 2. Only through considerable research and evaluation of your priorities can you come up with an "ideal" plan, but you still need to refer back to point no. 1. What takes your fancy? Mountains? Glaciers? Marine mammals? Birds? Bears? Russian-American or Native Alaskan culture and history? Gold rush towns? Fishing? Archeology? Midnight sun or Northern Lights? Are you foodies, hikers, geocaching addicts? Photographers? I'm not trying to confuse the subject or overwhelm you with choices, only to suggest that for a first trip you might want to get a snapshot of various aspects of Alaska that you could use - if inclined - to hone your plans for your second (or third, or tenth...) visit. If it was me (and it most certainly is NOT) I'd maybe look at some combination of activities. For example, a one-way cruise to Alaska from Vancouver to either Seward or Whittier (not possible this year, hopefully easy by next) would show you a snapshot view of SE Alaska including some of the main towns. Then spend a week or two with a car touring various parts of the road system - the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage, Denali, etc., seeing sights like Denali and the Kenai Fjords, maybe a Prince William Sound glacier cruise, some hikes or historic sites visits. Then maybe get on a plane and visit some bush community, maybe one like Kotzebue above the arctic circle or historic Nome with its gold mining heritage (as well as some roads out into the Seward Peninsula bush) or maybe Kodiak with its Russian and Native heritage as well as its vibrant fishing community and, oh yeah, some big beasts out there. You could do a three-day (or so) visit so someplace that would reveal a part of Alaska not seen by all that many visitors. But that's just me. Refer back to point no. 2.
  17. Maybe use Amazon Prime or Instacart to order some to be delivered to your hotel in advance of your arriving.
  18. Although predicting the weather is a fool's game (more so now than ever) it's certain that on May 22 there's going to be a LOT of snow on the ground at the Paradise visitor center on Mount Rainier - probably six to ten feet - and a better-then-even chance that the mountain will be socked in. I'd seriously rethink your plans for that day, and instead consider using the car to explore things around the city and/or the Puget Sound area. For example, here's an imaginary tour route - https://goo.gl/maps/1AeJUyS2YKk2hJv47 - which would make for a terrific day, even if the weather is not perfect. You'd start with breakfast at the Bay Café overlooking the boats at Fishermen's Terminal, home port for much of the Puget Sound (and a big part of the Alaska) fishing fleet. Fishermen's Terminal is off the beaten tourist path, but it's a terrific destination; walk off the carbs by strolling along the piers. You might well see some of the big crab boats made famous on a certain TV show. From there, head north to the pleasant suburban town of Edmonds, and catch the state ferry over to Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula. Drive up to the extremely picturesque old village of Port Gamble, then down to the waterfront town of Poulsbo, which is fiercely proud of its Norwegian heritage. Then swing over to the Native American village of Suquamish and visit the evocative grave of Chief Seattle, the city's namesake, then cross over Agate Pass to Bainbridge Island and a visit to the remarkable Bloedel Reserve. This is one of the country's best botanical garden, and in late May the rhododendrons and other spring flowers will knock your socks off. Head into Winslow, the pleasant main town on the island, and have a late lunch/early dinner/whatever at Doc's or the Harbour Pub overlooking Eagle Harbor on the island. From there it's a couple of minutes to the Bainbridge ferry terminal for your (spectacular) ride back to Seattle. This would give you a terrific (and car-friendly) day with a lot of variety. Then, when you return from the cruise, use the day to see some of the sights in downtown Seattle. Have breakfast at the Pike Place market (be gone by 10 or 10:30 to avoid the crowds) and explore other areas. Note that the Memorial Day weekend is when the (free) Northwest Folklife Festival takes place on the Seattle Center grounds, so while the Space Needle and Chihuly exhibits will be operating normally, there will be a lot of people around. Again, with a morning visit you might be able to avoid the worst of the crowds, and note you'll need to be at the airport in plenty of time for the (probably) long lines for security. This driving tour is one of many possible options you could take for a day with a car. Remember that you're going to be seeing plenty of snowy mountains during your cruise, so maybe trying something different might be rewarding.
  19. I'd personally choose one of the limos that are waiting in the area next to the taxis. It will be about the same price as a cab but way more comfortable. Right now Ubers are expensive due to a shortage of drivers.
  20. Taxi, Uber/Lyft or towncar/limo. All are served from the third floor of the airport parking garage, accessed by skybridge from the bag claim area.
  21. There haver been and will be, once the US-Canada Covid restrictions are lifted.
  22. It's 45 years old now, but John McPhee's Coming into the Country is, in my opinion, still the gold standard for books about Alaska. Or for a terrific, off-beat fiction novel, try The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. This imagines an alternate history in which the State of Israel failed in 1948, resulting in a new Jewish homeland being established in SE Alaska, centered on Sitka. It's a murder mystery that combines a cynical cop, organized crime, culture clashes between a huge incoming population and native Tlingit Indians, and many more fabulous elements, all set in the SE Alaska archipelago. Highly recommended.
  23. The fish ladder is still closed for renovations and it sounds like it will remain so throughout the summer.
  24. Responding as a local, so my views are possibly at odds with others'. There are two cruise terminals, one close to downtown (Pier 66, served mainly by Norwegian) and Pier 91, located a couple of miles north of downtown, which is served by the other major lines. There are no hotels close to Pier 91, so a taxi/Uber or limo service is the best way to get to and from. Transportation from the airport to either cruise terminal and/or to most downtown hotels will cost in the $50 - $60 range for a cab or limo; possibly a bit less (or more, depending on "surge pricing") in Uber/Lyft. You can take the light rail from the airport to various stops in downtown Seattle, close to various hotels, but the light rail doesn't go to the cruise terminals, and in the case of Pier 66 (downtown) there's a very steep hill/bluff between the hotel zone and the waterfront. Taxis from most downtown hotels to Pier 66 will be $10 or less; probably double that for Pier 91. There are two high-quality hotels very close to Pier 66; the Marriott which is right across the street, and the Edgewater which sits on piers over the water, a block or two north of the terminal. In the case of the Marriott, it's fairly convenient to an elevator that will take you up the bluff to close to the Pike Place market. There are also numerous restaurants and tourist attractions, like the aquarium and the big Ferris wheel, right on the central waterfront a short walk from PIer 66. In terms of sightseeing, I'm frankly not much of a fan of the Space Needle, which IMO is overpriced, particularly in a hilly city where there are numerous "free" viewpoints easily accessible. For example, just down the street from Pier 66 is the Washington State Ferry terminal, from which you can ride on a ferry over to picturesque Bainbridge Island, or else on a "water taxi" over to West Seattle on the opposite side of Elliott Bay. From both ferries the views of the downtown skyline (including the Space Needle) and both the Olympic and Cascade mountains, including Mount Rainier if it's visible, are stupendous. Here's the water taxi arriving in West Seattle: The Chihuly exhibit (at Seattle Center, more or less at the foot of the Space Needle) is a big draw. If you must visit the Space Needle, there's usually a combo ticket available that includes the Chihuly exhibit. Two in-city destinations that I would mention specifically are The Museum of Flight (at Boeing Field a couple of miles south of downtown) and Fishermen's Terminal, located around 3 miles north of downtown. An Uber ride to either will probably cost $10 - $20 depending on demand. The Museum of Flight is (in my view) the second-best air and space museum in the country (after the Smithsonian in Washington DC) and Fishermen's Terminal, which is the home port for much of the Puget Sound and Alaska commercial fishing fleet, is a terrific place to walk around the piers and all the fishing boats, including some of the big Bering Sea crabbers, while enjoying a meal at one of a couple of excellent restaurants/cafes overlooking the boats. Museum of Flight Fishermen's Terminal The Pike Place market is rightly famous, but I would recommend visiting as early in the morning as possible, as crowds can build up to enormous size by lunch time. I'd go there for breakfast at one of the old-time cafes overlooking the harbor, the Athenian or Lowell's, and watch the merchants set up for the day, and plan to be gone by 10 or 11 at the latest. As for how much time to spend here, well, do you have a lifetime? 😉 If you had a spare day and can locate a rental car (a dicey and very expensive proposition this year) I'd suggest a day trip (on a weekday, NOT on the weekend) up to the Paradise visitor center on Mount Rainier. In early August the odds are good that the (amazing) wildflowers will be around, and the views of the mountain are terrific. I'd spend an hour driving east (and back) from Paradise on the Stevens Canyon Road out to the Reflection Lakes, for even more awesome views. There are many more things to see and do, again depending on your time, budget and energy levels. Happy travels!
  25. A few years ago I swapped my Nikon DSLR (which I used with a 28-270mm Tamron zoom) for a Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 fixed lens, "super zoom" bridge camera. I had used previous versions of the Lumix on numerous trips including some round-the-world trips that included African safaris, where the combination of the long zoom and not having to switch lenses in a hurry was a big advantage. Aside from not having to scramble for lenses, the real beneficiary of this switch was my neck. While the FZ1000 is no lightweight among bridge cameras, my guess is that it weighs roughly half as much as the Nikon + lens (maybe less) and takes up much less room in any carry-on bags. In terms of results, I can honestly say that at comparable focal lengths, the Lumix's Leica lens gives superior performance to the Tamron's, and the other features of the camera, especially the excellent autofocus and image stabilization, are really valuable, particularly in low-light situations. If you're cruising in Alaska, it's probable that your wildlife viewing while on the cruise will tend to be weighted heavily toward birds and marine mammals (whales, seals etc.) In that case, one of the features of the Lumix is that it takes 4K videos, so you could shoot, say, whale encounters in video, then use individual frames for still pictures. This will really help if the animals are swimming around or flying - you can easily follow them without having to stop and refocus or recompose all the time. The FZ1000 is an older model now but its successor, the FZ1000ii, is available from several suppliers for around $850 - $900. (A couple of suppliers also have new FZ1000s available for around $100 less.) You can also find used FZ1000s for around $300 - $400, which might be a decent option if you want to stick with your DSLR for everything else. Of course there are other comparable bridge or P&S cameras available with the same basic capabilities as the Lumix, but generally above (sometimes well above) the Lumix's price point. Many of these are also not currently available, probably due to the ongoing problem of low/no chip availability. It might make a used model more interesting. I'll post a couple of images taken with my FZ1000 just to show what it looks like. YMMV of course. Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal Elliott Bay, Seattle One room schoolhouse, Amish country Pennsylvania
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