May 25th Radiance Alaska cruisetour#3 review

#1
1,886 Posts
Joined Apr 2002
Radiance of the seas 7 night northbound Hubbard Glacier cruise followed by a 5 night land tour


A trip of a lifetime

We have been lucky enough to cruise many times but this was our first visit to Alaska and what a wonderful trip it was!

When we arrived at Canada Place in Vancouver to board the ship we cleared US immigration which was much better than having to waste precious time on our cruise with all the formalities.

Ship:
The Radiance was updated last year with new dining venues and refurbished cabins.
We chose an aft balcony cabin on deck 8 which was great for viewing the wonderful scenery to come. The balcony had new furniture: 2 loungers and 2 chairs and a small table.


After being spoilt by Aquaclass dining in Blu on Celebrity and the wonderful food on Azamara we decided to opt for the Chefs table dining package on this cruise. At $120 per person for 5 meals in different speciality restaurants including the Chefs Table wine Pairing dinner which is $95 if booked on its own we thought the package was excellent value.
Our favourite dining venue was Giovanni’s table which was definitely worth a 2nd visit.


We also loved the new addition of the Park café in the Solarium. There is no fee to eat there and they do great Panini’s, wraps, made to order salads and the famous hot roast beef sandwich which was my husbands favourite. It was open all day from 6.30am and was an ideal spot for a nice warming cup of homemade soup after our Alaska adventures or a late afternoon coffee and cake.

All in all we really enjoyed our dining experience on the Radiance and would certainly take the same option next time we cruise on Royal Caribbean if it is offered.

The Radiance is an ideal ship for the scenic cruising of Alaska , plenty of viewing areas both inside and out, most of the dining venues and public lounges had wonderful views from large floor to ceiling windows.


We usually like to arrange our tours independently preferring a more personal tour than the cruise ships larger excursions. For this trip I purchased the Alaska toursaver book and saved over $470 using the 2 for 1 coupons for our tours and that’s AFTER paying $99 for the book so it was well worth it.
Ports:
Our first port of call was Ketchikan where we had pre booked a Kayak tour with Southeast sea Kayaks with our toursaver book of course!
It was a very enjoyable couple of hours of gentle paddling around Ketchikan Creek and the Tongass narrows where we saw an eagles nest and just enjoyed the peaceful scenery.


Our next port was Icy Strait point where we took a whale watching tour with Captain Paul of Hoonah Travel adventures. There were just 6 of us on the boat including the captain so we were able to get very close to the whales. We saw a number of humpbacks feeding and breaching the water. A truly amazing day.



3rd port was Juneau where we took a helicopter tour with Era Helicopters.
This was one of the many highlights of our trip. We flew over spectacular ice formations and landed on the Taku glacier where we are able to walk on the glacier itself.
After this wonderful experience we enjoyed lunch at Tracy ’s crab shack in Juneau and visited the Red Dog Saloon for a taste of the wild west. A fantastic day.



The next port was Skagway where we took a hike and float tour on the Chilkoot trail with Skagway float tours.
Our guide Bob was a highly experienced bush man, very knowledgeable about the Alaskan wilderness. We felt we were in very safe hands should we meet any bears along the way!!
After a 2 mile hike through the rainforest we got suited up for a float on a raft down the Taiya River . Bob did all the hard work; we just sat and marvelled at the scenery.

Hubbard Glacier scenic cruising:
Just when we didn’t think it could get any better our ship sailed towards the awesome Hubbard Glacier. We were very fortunate to get very close to the glacier and witnessed huge chunks of ice crashing into the sea below with thunderous cracks. The Captain turned the ship 360 degrees so everyone gets a good view. We went back to our aft balcony and enjoyed amazing views as we sailed away from the glacier. What a memorable experience.



The cruise ended in Seward where our 5 night land tour adventure began.
We literally stepped off the ship and onto our waiting coach where our friendly tour manager Lindsay and driver Steve introduced themselves to us. They would accompany us for the duration of the tour. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruises have their own land based tour department with their own coaches and railcars. We were extremely impressed by the seamless organisation of the land tour.

As there were only 18 of us in our group it wasn’t long before we were on our way to our first stop, the SeaLife centre just up the road in Seward, then it was onto a tour boat for a wildlife cruise with lunch included on a wonderful island.
If that wasn’t enough excitement for one day we then boarded the fabulous Wilderness Express glass domed railcar for a spectacular ride to Aleyeska. We were lucky to see black bears from the window of our railcar. We also dined on the train (extra fee).



As if by magic our wonderful driver Steve was at the station to meet us and whisk us off to our hotel in Aleyeka where our luggage was waiting for us in our room.

We didn’t even have to check in at any of the hotels on the tour. Our room keys were handed to us on the bus and our luggage was always in our room. Any luggage you didn’t need on your tour was tagged and stored for you and returned on the last night.
After a comfortable nights sleep we took a ride on the Aleyeska tram and marvelled at the views of the snow covered mountains. Then it was back on the coach for a short drive to Anchorage stopping at the Wildlife conservation centre on the way where we saw grizzly bears, lynx and moose.

We visited the Anchorage museum and learnt a lot about Alaskan life, past and present.
Following a pleasant stay at the Anchorage Marriott, we then headed for a 2 night stay in Denali National Park .
On arrival we had a short guided walk on one of the trails followed by hot dogs by the river back at our hotel, the Mckinley Village Lodge.

The next day was free to explore the park. We opted for a tour on one of the Park shuttle busses.
We went 66 miles into the park on the Eielson shuttle and had very good sightings of grizzly bears, wolves, moose, dall sheep and even a lynx which is an extremely rare sight in the wild. The driver called us the “lucky bus” because we had such good wildlife sightings!


This grizzly walked right by our bus!!

When we reached the Eielson Visitor Centre two thirds of Mt Mckinley was visible. We ate our packed lunch there and enjoyed the views.

I must admit I was concerned about spending 8 hours on a bus but we were so engrossed in the scenery and the wildlife it just flew by. Plus there were rest stops every 90 mins or you had the option to get off one bus and join another later on if you wanted to hike.


Our final destination on our Alaskan adventure was Fairbanks where we went panning for gold at the El Dorado gold mine. We also saw the Alaska oil pipeline.

Ironically the weather in Fairbanks was the warmest of the entire trip. It was 75 degrees and warm enough to dine outside at our Hotel Pikes Lodge which had a lovely deck overlooking the Chena River , a perfect spot to end our tour on a high note.
The following morning we were transferred to the nearby airport and our luggage returned to us.

This really has been the trip of a lifetime and we were very glad we did the land tour after the cruise. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Royal Caribbean or Celebrity (the land tour is exactly the same on either cruise line.) They are the only company to include a tour director on every tour, other companies charge extra for the service or just have a driver/guide. Having a dedicated tour director who is on hand to help with any questions and also share stories about Alaskan life was priceless.
The whole organisation was seamless from start to finish.
We will look back on this trip with fond memories for many years to come.


For more pictures click on this link:

https://picasaweb.google.com/1056210...N2lz5SP-_6gVg#
#3
Kissimmee, Florida
195 Posts
Joined Jun 2012
Thanks so much for the very nice review. Loved the pictures! We will be on a cruisetour next summer and get very excited everytime we see others' reviews and pictures. Wish it was this summer!
#4
St. Charles Missouri
7,008 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
nice photos
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#5
Arlington, VA
533 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
Looks awesome and has me more convinced to do a cruise to Alaska. My only concern is not having enough vacation to do a cruise tour. It also seems like the Radiance is always just a one way cruise and I don't know how you'd easily get home from Seward. I'd definitely prefer to be on Radiance over Rhapsody if doing the Alaska cruise!

Also were there a decent number of families or people under 35 onboard? Thanks!
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#6
Chicago
175 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
I was never interested in an Alaskan cruise. But after reading your review and seeing your pictures. I am seriously considering doing one! Looks like an amazing trip! So close to nature!
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#8
Connecticut
4,985 Posts
Joined Mar 2006
Hubby and I have talked about taking an Alaskan cruise/tour - this review makes us want to do it sooner rather than later... Your pictures were amazing! Thanks so much for sharing!
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Completed 13 cruises so far...
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#9
113,034 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
Enjoyed your review and your pcitures.
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Cruising is a wonderful way to enjoy retirement!
Stopped counting a few years ago -- have done over 140 cruises.
#10
1,886 Posts
Joined Apr 2002
Thank you everyone for your nice comments, I guess I should be on a commission from the Alaska Tourist Board!!

Terpfan101 in answer to your question, I would say there was a cross section of all ages on board the ship, the land tour was mainly couples in the 50+ age group.
#11
Crystal River, FL
3,493 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
That looked like an awesome trip!

Great pictures
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Curtis

"Wisdom is conspicuous through modesty & silence" - but it makes for a boring message board.


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#12
Massachusetts
16 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
Thanks for the cruisetour review, glad that you had a great experience and wonderful time. Just curious on the El Dorado Gold Mine, their web site indicates that they are not doing tours at the mine for the 2012 season while they transfer operations to Gold Dredge 8, but it looks like they are doing tours of the dredge instead. Did you go to the mine or the dredge? I suspect that it was still interesting? I am on a RCCL cruisetour in a few weeks that does not include El Dorado but was thinking about doing it on my own as we arrive in Fairbanks a few days early before the cruisetour starts. Thanks for the great review, it is nice to know that you were happy with RCCL's offering.
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Rob
#13
1,886 Posts
Joined Apr 2002
Hi Rob
It was Gold dredge 8 that we went to not the El Dorado Gold mine. My mistake!! Now I come to think of it, on the original itinerary it was El dorado but they have changed it to Gold dredge 8. Our tour director said it was new for this year.
It was still an interesting visit, we took a little train ride where they told us about the history of gold mining in the area, we rode past the gold dredge then got off the train and had a chance to try our hand at panning for gold, then you could actually have a look round the gold dredge as well as the gift shop and visitor center where they provided free coffee and cookies.Also the Alaska oil pipeline is visible there.
Enjoy your cruise tour, you are in for a treat!!
#14
26,284 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by terpfan101
Looks awesome and has me more convinced to do a cruise to Alaska. My only concern is not having enough vacation to do a cruise tour. It also seems like the Radiance is always just a one way cruise and I don't know how you'd easily get home from Seward. I'd definitely prefer to be on Radiance over Rhapsody if doing the Alaska cruise!

Also were there a decent number of families or people under 35 onboard? Thanks!
It is pretty easy to get home from Anchorage airport which is where your northbound Radiance cruise will take you at the end of your cruise. The railroad transfer from Seward to the airport is a highlight of the land portion of the trip (we did it from Anchorage to Seward as we did the land portion first followed by a southbound cruise on Radiance). One reason that we chose to do the southbound cruise was the fact that we got the longest leg of our trip over at the start of our trip and consequently had a shorter flight home when we ended our trip in Vancouver.
#15
Novato, ca
2,014 Posts
Joined Mar 2003
Lisa just stumbled across this. I am not sure if you remember me or not. I met you and Andy on the transatlantic on the solstice in may 2011. H20cruzer, I usually saw you at the elite happy hour.
Great pics, Alaska is actually my favorite cruise. I just came back from the silhouette transatlantic. Hope all is well with the 2 of you.
Doing the reflection 11/18/12 from
Barcelona back to Miami.
Nice to see you traveling
Norma
#16
Carolina
8,713 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Loved your review and photos too! Thanks for sharing your travels with us!
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#18
South Florida
1,215 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
My DW and I did the 11 day crusie/Tour last year. It was also fantastic andd saw many of the same places. RCI was fantastic. Everything seems to be new (i.e. trains buses etc.) The only thing I would do different would be to do the tour first. After being treated like a king and queen on the ship and go on to a crowded bus was a little depressing. I would rather do that first and then relax on the ship next.
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#19
1,886 Posts
Joined Apr 2002
Norma
Glad you liked our pictures, thanks for your comments, we are on the Silhouette Adriatic in October!

Piper934
Yes we did see whales on the Resurrection bay cruise from Seward. The crew were very good when any whales were spotted, they would slow down so we could get a chance to see them. Of course it wasn't as up close and personal as the trip we did with Hoonah travel adventures but very enjoyable and the included lunch on Fox island was pretty good too.

believer33323
Yes we were lucky to have only 18 on our tour bus, I expect its quite a different experience when the bus is full.
#20
Cincinnati. OH-Go Reds
6,184 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
very nice reveiw. Your pics on picasa were wonderful. I noticed everyone was bundled up for your cruise. What was the average temp during your cruise? It looks like it never got above 50F.
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