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Alaska CruiseTour 3B (Mountain Valley Explorer) recommendations

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My family (2 adults, 2 teens) are scheduled on RCCL pre-cruise tour #3B this summer, then heading southbound on Radiance of the Seas, disembarking in Vancouver. Land stops during the pre-cruise tour include: Anchorage, Denali, Talkeetna and Alyeska. Looking for recommendations or info from people who have taken this cruise tour/cruise in the past. We have been given very little information on the land/pre-cruise tour part of the trip. We all are very seasoned cruise go-ers, but this is our first time doing a pre-cruise tour and first time on an Alaskan cruise. Some questions: (Keep in mind we have teenagers going and looking for things they would enjoy as well)

1) Do they give your pre-cruise land itinerary prior to arriving in AK or info on how to hook up with your cruise tour? We only have very general info, but not specifics about times etc. I am a planner and it's driving me crazy!

2) During the land/pre-cruise tour portion, what "extra" excursions are available/have you done or recommend ? Again, little to nothing has been given to us about what options for additional excursions are available in these towns.

3) Any must do places to see/eat while on the land cruise portion in any of the 4 cities?

4) while on the cruise (ports: Seward, hubbard glacier, juneau, skagway, icy point strait, ketchikan, vancouver) any must see sights or excursions? We prefer to book through RCCL because we have had some very close calls on past trips where we would have missed the ship had we not been booked thru RCCL.

5) We are staying on in Vancouver for 2 days post cruise---any suggestions on things to do or restaurants?

 

Thanks in advance for any/all info.

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I have never cruised to Alaska BUT i have lived there!

Denali- eat at a place called Salmon Bake. Amazing food and fun atmosphere. The floors are all slopped bc it’s built on a mountain

Anchorage- Moose’s Tooth Pizza. The BEST pizza you will ever have! 100% worth the wait. Or Snow City Cafe. Great breakfast! Or Glacier Brewhouse. Eat all the fresh salmon you can!

 

 

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We are also doing the Southbound Radiance Cruise. However we are doing pre-cruise tour #2B from Fairbanks. I agree, Royal is not very good about giving pre-cruise tour information. I also have all the same questions you do. Hope someone can help us both out.

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Check the boards for the ports you are going to for lots of ideas. We prefer whale watching in Juneau (Dolphin Tours has much smaller quieter boats than having 60 people on a ship excursion). Good place for helicopter glacier trips as well.

 

If you like old trains and Alaska history the train in Skagway is good. We have been rafting in the Eagle Preserve last couple of trips instead. That one is likely available through the ship. Dyea Dave runs a great tour into Canada and can tie the tour to a one-way train trip.

 

Ketchikan is mainly about flightseeing and bears, although if you want a cheap adventure the lumberjack show can be fun (more expensive through ship and you can walk there). Snorkeling if you want to try it.

 

None of these places have a problem with excursion providers not getting you back to the ship but in Ketchikan you can get a lot of fog that grounds flights. Then they have to bring you back by boat, so book earlier in the day.

 

 

Hubbard Glacier is seven miles wide and pretty impressive, although you won't get that close to it.

 

Vancouver has the swinging bridge and high tree platforms, Stanley Park, an excellent aquarium in the park. HOHO bus isn't a bad way to get around and will take you to the park and south to the Granville Island shops and restaurants.

 

In Denali you will want a longer trip into the park than the Natural History Tour that cruise lines tend to book. Only goes around 18 miles and doesn't even get to the bear area or where you can see the mountain. There are a ton of excursions like jet boats there as well.

 

Talkeetna has a few stores and restaurants and is the starting point for a lot of river and flight tours.

 

 

Princess publishes a guide that gives lots of details on how the land portion works but looks like RCI just gives a general description. Typically you are not in a particular location long enough to book much on your own, but all the locations do have outfitters that have all kinds of activities. We knew times and hotels long before the trip.

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Hi,

 

We have done a number of cruise tours, been to Anchorage, Denal and Talkeetna a number of times, but never to Aleyska.

 

When you arrive in the airport in Alaska, there is a Royal desk which will check your name off, direct you to show them where your luggage is, and they will direct you to the transportation to your hotel. At your hotel you will meet your tour guide, be given the keys to your room, and he/she will provide you with a packet of information on extra excursions you can take, all the times you need to meet your transportation and all other pertinent info to your tour. Your luggage will be delivered to your room, and each day will be picked up and delivered to your room at your next location. If you can pack things for the land portion in one suitcase, it makes it easier for you not to have to go looking thru a couple of pieces of luggage for something.

 

Your final documents will have the names of the hotels you will be staying in. We were told that the excursions can change from tour to tour for many reasons, so a lot of tour info is not available until you arrive at your first hotel. That same tour director will be with you on your transports, be they train or bus. Don't stress, they have been doing this for quite a while and our tour guides have been very knowledgeable.

 

As far as extra excursions go, some of our group did the white water rafting in Talkeetna and loved it. They were in a raft that had sides and a cover, so they didn't get very wet. We have also done the Cabin nite show in Denali, and while it was a little corny, it was fun. The visit to the kennels where they have the sled dogs is also fun, and the longer tour into Denali is a must if you want to see bears and wolves. The shorter tour doesn't go in very far, and although the longer tour is quite a bit longer, you do get to see more wildlife and experience some scenery (and some scary roads) you don't get on the Natural History Tour. Also, if your tour guide offer you a train ride from Anchorage to Seward instead of the bus, grab it. The ride is about 5 hours long by train, but it is more than worth what they charge for it. The bus ride is OK, but having done both, I would opt for the train every time. We tried to book it before we left, were told it was not offered, but our guide offered it to us for $25 per person, and it was placed on our SeaPass card.

 

As far as places to eat, the hotels will all have restaurants, and your other options in Denali are a bit limited Talkeetna has some restaurants downtown, but that is about a 2 miles walk or a ride on the shuttle, but that shuttle stopped early, if I remember correctly. There is a great breakfast place in downtown Talkeetna, but I am sorry I can't remember the name. The restaurants another poster mentioned in Anchorage are great. Be aware that food in Alaska is pricey, but the fresh fish was wonderful, and I am from New England and used to very good seafood.

 

As far as the ports go, I liked the White Pass Railroad in Skagway. Make sure you walk downtown, short 10 minute walk (they did have a shuttle also) and check out the Red Dog Saloon. (I hope that is the right name).

Years ago it used to be a brothel and they still do tours of the upstairs!

Also, there is a crab shack on the pier in Ketchikan, but we ate at a restaurant right across from the pier and a big gift ship.......which will ship any souveirs home for you for free. Sure beats carrying them.

 

All the ports till have Diamonds International, Columbian Emeralds, Cariloha, along with the shops selling Alaskan merchandise.

 

Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The Hop on Hop off bus is a great way to get an overall view of Vancouver, and the harbor area has lovely scenery and great restaurants. Stanley Park, Gastown District and Granville Island are highlights and are visited by the HOHO bus. If you have time you could visit Whistler and the Capilano Suspension Bridge (but that is a whole day tour) and the ride to and from there is spectacular. Sorry, it's late and my mind is getting fuzzy about the names of other places in Vancouver, but I am sure you will love the city,

Edited by billsgal

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Greeting fellow cruisers! Although the 3B land tour is new for me, this will be my 7th year cruising Alaska with the last 5 years cruising solo (my land tour starts 7/30/18 from ANC). I agree that not much info has been provided ahead of time for the land tour, which can be frustrating for someone who is an avid planner! From a friend who did the land tour a few years ago, packing your clothes for the cruise in a separate suitcase (which will be stored on the bus) is a big time saver. Also the "dress code" for all dining venues is casual on the land tour.

 

My list of favorite experiences" is as follows:

Anchorage: Try to get to downtown (depending on your arrival time) to see the Federal Building @ 4th & F Sts (the Log Cabin Visitor's Center is right there too); good & cheap Alaskan souvenirs at the Polar Bear Gift Shop (across the street) - found some cute Alaskan-theme lanyards for your SeaPasses on-board; Snow City Cafe (gotta try the reindeer sausage); The Anchorage Trolley Tour is very interesting & gives you a nice view of the area (including Earthquake Park): The Ulu Factory (have your ulu purchases shipped home to avoid problems with transporting knives); for dinner I like Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse or the Glacier Brewhouse - All these places are a few blocks from the Marriott : )

 

Juneau: Normally Radiance is docked right in town (Mt Roberts Tramway (pass/ticket is good all day & you can take multiple rides - "Lady Liberty" is at the top (injured bald eagle now cared for by the staff) & you can see all the ships in port that day); Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center (try to do this as part of a tour so you don't have to wait in line to purchase tickets to the center - lots of things to see there); Macaulay Salmon Hatchery (learn about the salmon industry); any of the helicopter/plane tours at any of the ports are good but expensive & can be cancelled due to weather/fog (I have found tours in the afternoon are not cancelled as often); Tracey's King Crab Shack for crab legs (kinda pricey - $24/leg but the combo deals are a better bang for your buck); Red Dog Saloon (good chowder & the adults have to have a "Duck Fart" - the favorite drink/shot of Captain Phil Harris from Deadliest Catch); Alaskan T-Shirt Company for souvenirs (they have a smaller version in Skagway too).

 

Skagway: Hands down you have to do the White Pass Scenic Railway (either round trip or one-way combined w/something else - you board the train right on the dock); Red Onion Saloon (was once a brothel); Skagway Fish Company (for lunch/snack); Klondike Doughboys (Fry Bread); Alaskan T-Shirt Company for souvenirs.

 

Icy Strait/Hoonah: This has to be one of favorite ports because there are NO commercial retail stores (at least as of 3 yrs ago) - everything sold at this port is made by the natives & locals themselves (I order my salmon from here & have it shipped home - you can order online too); the Ziprider is a must especially if you have teenagers (I do this every time I visit Hoonah); Alaska's Wildest Kitchen is fun (good recipes & you get to cook your own salmon & halibut over an open fire) - I mostly enjoy grabbing a beer, eating a "grab bag" crab leg special, & taking in the surroundings (sometimes a whale breaches along the shoreline).

 

Ketchikan: The BEST bear watching excursion involved Neets Bay (salmon hatchery there & we must have seen 13+ bears in an hour); the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is fun (if you yell loud enough they may give you "a cookie"); the Saxman Totem Pole Park is interesting; the Creek Street area is within walking distance from the ship; Ketchikan Mining Co., Sockeye Sam's & Tongrass Trading Co. are good shopping places.

 

Hope this helps : )

 

Karla ~

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If you did not book your flights with RCCL, make sure you put in your flight times when you do your online checking. By doing this you will make sure that some one is at the airport to meet you.

 

Have a great cruise.

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If you did not book your flights with RCCL, make sure you put in your flight times when you do your online checking. By doing this you will make sure that some one is at the airport to meet you.

 

Have a great cruise.

 

Thanks for that tip! My check-in won't be available until next week : )

 

Karla ~

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