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ace1zoe2

OCD Planner's Live ALASKA Photo Trip Report 16 day Cruise Tour aboard Radiance

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Glad to see y'all finally made it. Paul fed the dogs and brushed the pool. Let Dad know that his 4th child, Ace, slept inside last night and I'm sure he'll do the same tonight. Have fun and be safe. I've enjoyed the updates...keep 'em comin'.

 

Love ya,

Taryn

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Because of your posts encouraging me with my OCD, after obsessing with should I wait booking my flight seeing glacier landing until on board or go with private operator, last night I booked!!!!! It is exactly the tour we wanted .. So our trip is fully booked now. And yes with some time to hear the sounds of the wild. I can truly relax and enjoy your trip and pictures.

Again thank you for what you are doing!!:)

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It's a bright sun-shiney day in Fairbanks today. 75 degrees & HOT. Everyone is in short sleeves, jeans, shorts & capris. So far we've done the 3 hour Discovery Riverboat tour which I highly recommend if you are interested in learning about the native Athabaskan Indians way of life. Very affordable using the Alaska Toursavers BOGO coupon! Now it's time for lunch then off to the UAF Large Animal Research Station followed by lots more site-seeing. So far I've only taken around 200 pictures ;)

 

More to come later. Have a great day everyone!

 

Oh, one more surprising fact I didn't know & don't recall seeing in my research... Alaska has NO SALES TAX!

Edited by ace1zoe2

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Cindy: if you get the chance please ask about the temps in September, our cruise is Sept. 7th. So I'll know how to pack please,,,,thanks ! BTW, I know it's pretty unpredictable! But see what the locals say.:D

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Have a wonderful trip!

 

I can't imagine what a pre-planner trip report you would have with a med cruise! It's even more complex than Alaska.

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Have a wonderful trip!

 

I can't imagine what a pre-planner trip report you would have with a med cruise! It's even more complex than Alaska.

 

I've already started pre planning for our 10 night cruise / 14 nights total trip in 10/2014. Have the trip booked & apartments rented for both ends of the trip :D

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I've already started pre planning for our 10 night cruise / 14 nights total trip in 10/2014. Have the trip booked & apartments rented for both ends of the trip :D

 

Think of all the fun you will have planning that one! It will help to have that trip to look forward to. Enjoy Alaska!

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Thank you - I am so enjoying this - we are on a cruise tour out of Fairbanks on July 15th - and staying at the same hotel. I am looking forward to more info.

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Cindy,

I'm joining you on Radiance for this trip. Enjoying reading so far, now I'm REALLY exited! We leave tomorrow for Anchorage and look forward to reading more and meeting you at the M&M!!

See you Saturday :)

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It's been really busy day. Its 10:20 pm and we are back in the hotel. I have been trying to upload photos now for about an hour. The internet here is so SLOW!

 

I wanted to at least post the pictures of the cruise tour itinerary for those who have been asking for the timing of things.

 

Something that I hadn't really thought about until I read thru this brochure was tips for the land portion... Luckily I brought a few hundred in small bills (ones, fives, tens) for tips and unexpected cash expenses so we were prepared.

 

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image_zpsbc23e2fb.jpg

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Cindy,

I'm joining you on Radiance for this trip. Enjoying reading so far, now I'm REALLY exited! We leave tomorrow for Anchorage and look forward to reading more and meeting you at the M&M!!

See you Saturday :)

 

Thanks for following along... we're having a great time. We will be in Denali tomorrow. Hope to meet you onboard next week!

 

 

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I am so loving your review. Great pics.

 

Thanks so much for the compliment. Hope you enjoy the rest!

 

 

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Because of your posts encouraging me with my OCD, after obsessing with should I wait booking my flight seeing glacier landing until on board or go with private operator, last night I booked!!!!! It is exactly the tour we wanted .. So our trip is fully booked now. And yes with some time to hear the sounds of the wild. I can truly relax and enjoy your trip and pictures.

Again thank you for what you are doing!!:)

 

Awesome! Glad you're all set & can sit back & relax now! We're having a great time but still trying to adjust to the time change :)

 

 

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Thank you - I am so enjoying this - we are on a cruise tour out of Fairbanks on July 15th - and staying at the same hotel. I am looking forward to more info.

 

Posted a little more info about the transfer times of the cruise tour. Hope this information helps you plan. Would love to post more pictures but its taking forever to upload them :(

 

 

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Hi,

 

Looking forward to the rest of your review.

 

We will be doing cruise tour#12 in late August. (Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, Aleyska, Seward)

 

We are Australian & not used to tipping for everything so if you could give details on how much you tip & when you are expected to tip for things in Alaska (apart from the cruise tour staff) that would be helpful.

We don't want to offend anyone, but don't want to pay too much either.

 

Also interested to know prices for meals available on the Wilderness Express train if possible.

 

From my understanding no meals are included on the tour parts of the RCCL cruise tours, you have to buy them. Is that correct?

 

Thanks. :)

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Hi,

 

Looking forward to the rest of your review.

 

We will be doing cruise tour#12 in late August. (Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, Aleyska, Seward)

 

We are Australian & not used to tipping for everything so if you could give details on how much you tip & when you are expected to tip for things in Alaska (apart from the cruise tour staff) that would be helpful.

We don't want to offend anyone, but don't want to pay too much either.

 

Also interested to know prices for meals available on the Wilderness Express train if possible.

 

From my understanding no meals are included on the tour parts of the RCCL cruise tours, you have to buy them. Is that correct?

 

Thanks. :)

 

 

Good Morning! Thanks for taking time to follow along and to ask questions. I will try to answer your questions to the best of my knowledge.

 

First of all, you will get all kinds to responses to your tipping question. In the US, it is customary to tip at all dining venues (except fast food where you order at the counter then go back to pick up your food). The minimum amount that is considered for good service is 15% of the cost of the meal before taxes are added. For great service you would tip 20%.

 

I posted the picture of the suggested amounts to tip the RCI tour guides, drivers, etc. in my last post.

 

The hotels normally leave an envelope for the person who takes care of your room... that is something new to us and I wasn't sure how much to tip but did $5 for the night.

 

If you go on small group tour they usually have a tip jar at the front of the bus or van. If they continually harp on giving them tips - for me, their tip goes down. We usually tip $5 per person for a longer tour and $5 a couple for something short. I've read on CC in Alaska to tip 10% of the tour cost, however some of the tours are $250-$500 per person... that is not normal for me & I don't plan to tip an extra $50 on top of a huge amount I've already paid for their services.

 

You are correct, in that no meals are included in the RCI land portion. We will be on the train this morning and I will try my best to get picture of the menu and post it later tonight. I did see one yesterday when we met with our tour guide, Cam. He said since they serve food on board the train you are asked not to bring food onboard from elsewhere. I saw that the cheapest breakfast item was oatmeal for $6 and I think the most expensive was a skillet breakfast for around $14-15.

 

Maybe this will get you started. I'll try to find more answers as we go along.

 

 

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The alarm was set for 5:30 this morning but I was up & dressed before 5:15. Hubby had a hard time sleeping last night for fear of oversleeping this morning. Finally after he looked at the clock for the third or fourth time and announced it's 5 o'clock, I just got up and got ready.

 

The bags still close and zip :) We put the tags on them that indicate they will be delivered each day to our hotel room. There is a different color tag if you would like to have second bag stored until the night before boarding the ship. So far all of you fashionistas and overpackers, make your first bag things that you will need every day during the land portion. Then your second bag will be stuff you don't need until you get on the ship, that way you and the tour workers don't have to handle that extra bag twice a day.

 

Hubby placed our bags outside the room around 5:45 and they were already picking up bags. We are about to go check out the buffet here at Pike's Waterfront Hotel and decide if we want to eat here for $15 per person or wait to get on the Wilderness Express.

 

All aboard for Denali is 7:15am for transfer by motorcoach to the train station. I'm not sure of the number of people on the cruise tour yet but there are enough to have 2 tour directors and 2 charters.

 

I'll try my best to post more later this evening.

 

 

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We did the Alaska cruise tour in 09 and found the food on the train to be very good and reasonably priced. Good size portions too. There is something romantic and nostalgic about eating a nice meal on a train as the beautiful Alaskan scenery passes by.

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Hoping to meet with our tour director this morning before we set off for our day in Fairbanks. I would like to get our package to look at in the car as we are driving (the OCD personality comes out yet again). I'd like to get my RCI land excursion booked before it fills up and I want to discuss leaving the tour chosen Natural History Tour in Denali for the Eielson Shuttle that we have booked. Just need to make sure that our luggage gets to our room at the lodge so we're not looking for it at 10:30pm when we finally get there!

 

 

Saturday, June 1 - Fairbanks

 

Our morning starts at 6:45am alarm. We left the hotel around 7:30am looking for breakfast for less than $15pp the hotel was charging ;) We ended up at McDonald's . I am posting prices just so you have an idea of the differences in prices between the mainland and Alaska. I had a egg mcmuffin that cost $3.79 and hubby had pancakes and sausage for $3.90. Apparently in Fairbanks there is no sales tax.

 

We arrived at RIVERBOAT DISCOVERY around 8:30 where we picked up our pre-purchased tickets using our Alaska Toursavers BOGO coupon. Instead of $59.95 per person to get in, we had paid a total of $59.95 for both of us :) This is a 3 hour tour aboard the Sternwheeler Riverboat Discovery. We learned that there are only 18 weeks per year that they can use the river because of the ice. The river freezes 3 foot deep and they drive on it like a highway.

 

I will also mention that the mosquitos were out in force!

 

Riverboat Discovery:

 

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It includes a guided walking tour at the Chena Indian Village where you learn about the Athabascan Indians lives. At the end of the tour there is free time to wonder, ask questions of the guides and even meet a few dogs from the kennels of Susan Butcher.

 

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Next there is a Bush Pilot Demonstration where you see a pilot take off and land right next to the boat. The pilot also explains the role that the bush pilot plays in the remote areas of Alaska.

 

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There is a stop near the Susan Butcher Kennels where from the boat you view the home and kennels of the late Susan Butcher, 4 time Iditarod champion. There is a dog mushing demonstration at the end of the story telling.

 

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There is a Trading Post which offers gifts and products unique to Alaska and the Native Culture. They are supposed to have the largest selection of Alaskan souvenirs in Fairbanks.

 

There is also a dining hall that you can eat at afterwards but we have lots to do today so we'll be eating on the go.

 

For more information you can visit the Riverboat Discovery website:

 

http://riverboatdiscovery.com/

Edited by ace1zoe2

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Our next stop was lunch! We choose to get something quick and cheapish... we at the Dan's Sourdough Cafe. The food was good but a little pricey (think grill cheese $8, plate lunches $15, breakfast served all day $10-$15. We shared a salad for $6 and a 4 piece fish and chips for $13. The food was very good and the portions were large. I would recommend this place. I would consider it a mom & pop type diner or cafe.

 

After lunch we continued on our day of fun by going to the LARS (Large Animal Research Center) on the University of Alaska Campus. You can find information about the facility here:

 

http://www.lars.uaf.edu/tours

 

Admission was $10.00 / adult, $9.00 / senior and $6.00 / student. The LARS offers tours Tues-Sat at 10:00am, 2:00pm & 4:00pm which last about 45min to an hour. Muskoxen, Caribou & Reindeer are all studied at the LARS. When we arrived there was NO available parking and we had to circle several times. Come to find out, it was their Annual Spring Open House and there were families everywhere. The bonus here was that it was FREE today. We didn't stay too long as there were not that many animals out. I didn't even take a single picture here expect of some flowers :) After leaving, we decided that we were sure happy that it was free. Neither of us thought that it would have been worth $20 it should have cost to get in. The monies are used for ongoing research and to take care of the animals.

 

Next up we visited the Fountainhead Museum. This was very cool museum that my husband enjoyed very much. Admission was $10 per person but we had a BOGO coupon from the Alaska Toursaver book and it was well worth the admission price to see these fabulous automobiles. Now this place was definitely worth the price of admission if you have any interest in antique automobiles or preserved apparel. They have lots of clothing on display on mannequins near the cars showing how the people would hve dressed at the time. We both thought that is was pretty neat. Hours of operation are Sun-Thurs 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-6pm. I purchased my first ornament here today! It's an antique car made of metal.

 

Here's a little info from their website: Our collection features over 80 vehicles, including horseless carriages, steamers, electric cars, speedsters, cyclecars, midget racers and 30s classics. These include such rarities as an 1898 Hay Motor Vehicle, 1906 Compound, 1920 Argonne and 1921 Heine-Velox Victoria. Remarkably, all but a few of the automobiles are driven, making this a true "living museum." Be sure to bring your camera - there's even an automobile you can climb into for photos!

 

You can visit their website which offers lots of information at this address: http://www.fountainheadmuseum.com/

 

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On the way to our next stop we drove thru a Wendy's for a frosty waffle cone. They were $2.05 here, $1.50ish back home. I am only mentioning prices so that those who have ask can get an idea of the price differences between at home and Alaskaa.

 

Something that I may or may not have mentioned, I am an ornament collector, as in Christmas ornaments... and where better to shop for an ornament than at the Santa House in North Pole, Alaska?. Sure it's cheesy and touristy but I just couldn't resist! For all you parents and grandparents out there, you can send a letter to your little ones from Santa at the North Pole... So of course I did this for my grand babies back home, granddaughters Jordyn & Kynlee and grandsons Caden & Kellen. Jordyn, the 4 year old, is probably the only one that will be excited as all the others are probably too young but I just had to do it. The store also features a 900 pound Santa statue outside which makes a fun picture opportunity. There are reindeer on site and even Santa is in residence! I even sat on his knee and had my picture made for the first time in 40+ years.

 

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The same family has owned and operated this store for more than 50 years. To read more about it, or to order your Santa letter without actually visiting North Pole, check out this website: http://www.santaclaushouse.com/

 

While checking out their website i learned that in Ketchikan, which we will be visiting as a port stop on day 6 of our cruise, they have opened another store called "Christmas in Alaska" featuring made in Alaska ornamets and more.

 

We checked out the Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge for the views and picture opportunities. The farmhouse, barn and 12 acres are listed in the National Register of Historic Places of the National Park Service. Guided nature walks are offered Monday thru Saturday at 10am from June 1 to August 31 leaving from the farmhouse. For more information about the organization look here: http://www.creamersfield.org/Visit_Us.html

 

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Our final tourist stop was at the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center (open 8am-9pm Summer) for a quick picture under the Antler Arch... it just screams Alasksa! More info can be found on their website: http://www.morristhompsoncenter.org/

 

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We had dinner at the PUMPHOUSE. I wanted to like this place. I mean I really, REALLY wanted to like this place... but it just didn't live up to my expectations. We had a reservation and they got us seated quickly but it was downhill from there. The service was really slow, it took forever (like 20 minutes) to get drinks, then another 10 or so for the soup & salad (the seafood chowder was great) and probably another 20 minutes for the entrees to arrive. For what it cost to have dinner here, we were disappointed. I had a cup of soup, then we split the salad. Hubby ordered a 10 oz filet mignon with winter veggies and we ordered an extra baked potato to share. We ended up leaving probably a third of the food because it just wasn't that good. Cup of soup $4.95, salad $5.95, Filet $35, potato $4.50, glass of red wine $6, with tip dinner was $70. Wish we had just gone to Subway instead :(

 

We made a quick stop at Fred Meyer for snacks and to refuel the rental car. It took around 3.5 galllons @ $3.95 per gallon & cost $14.00 total.

 

Last but not least we dropped our rental car back at the airport and took the shuttle back to the hotel. It's another early day tomorrow, we have to be up and have our luggage outside the door by 6am. Train leaves for Denali at 8am!

 

 

 

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I was hoping I could read your review without asking any questions because I am sure you would cover everything. But, after reading the tour schedule, I think I may have booked a few activities that might be cutting the times close.

#1. My party of 8 wants to upgrage to Tundra Wilderness tour. How hard is it to upgrade, are the upgrades limited?

#2. I have reserved Glacier Brew House in Anchorage for dinner at 8:30PM but train doesn't get in until 8. I'm thinking we will eat dinner on train and cancel reservation and go to brewery for beers only when we get there.

#3. I have tickets for the Anchorage Museum and Planaterium for the next morning. We will set out our luggage and leave about 7:00AM and walk to Dark Horse Coffee Company, enjoy breakfast then get to museum at 9AM and leave at 11:30AM to walk back to Marriot to board bus. I really thought we would have more time in Anchorage.

#4 Last morning at Seward Windsong, we have 8:15 AM exit glacier hike lasts for 2 hours, we should be back by 11:15 for bus, but if not I thought we could take shuttle. We will be in Seward July 4 and 5 and I am not sure how crowded it will be with the annual race up the mountain. Does this sound doable?

#5. Are there laundry facilities at any of the lodges and hotels?

#6. Can you check to see if Radiance has new dining menus? I read that it was suppose to be implemented on May 24.

Thank you for your wonderful review. You are putting my planning uncertainties at ease.

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