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savannah2117

4 day DIY- land and SB Whittier to Vancouver- 7/24-8/4

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We are just getting back from an amazing time to Alaska. I’ll put more details about the StarPrincess under Princess reviews. I usedTrip Advisor to plan almost everything on our trip so I also left detailed reviewsabout specific tours and places we visited. (I will identify them with TA onthis review if there is additional details you are interested in reading.)

This trip was a celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary(age 51 and 55) and our first trip to Alaska. We enjoy trying new things andtry to be with small tours as much as possible. We knew we wanted a personal, intimate experience and to try to meet“real” Alaskans as much as possible by staying in bed andbreakfast inn and doing small group tours.

 

 

We flew from Omaha to Anchorage with Alaska Air. We were able to use their “buy one-Get onefree” vouchers through signing up for their credit card. Total RT cost for two Omaha-Anchorage andthen Seattle-Omaha. $640.

 

 

We arrived in Anchorage on Tuesday at 1010pm. We had bookeda car through TURO. I wasn’t familiarwith TURO prior to this trip but it is basically like an Air B&B forcars. People list their cars forwhatever price they want to. This wasMUCH cheaper than going through a regular rental car place. We chose a Lexis hybrid small SUV for $65 pernight. It was an older model, (maybe2006?) with higher millage but it ran perfect and the transaction was flawless. I communicated multiple times with the ownerprior to trip. We walked out of baggageclaim and to the curb, within 90 seconds we had the keys and were off! (you prepay much like AirB&B) We also declined their insurance because ourregular car insurance covered us. Heprovided extras like a dual car phone charger, GPS, and a few other things. (hehad car seat available, though we didn’t need one.)

We stayed at Alaska Frontier Gardens B and B, arriving a little before 11pm. Our room key wastaped on the front door. It was lightlyraining when we arrived but I immediately noticed her AMAZING flowers everywhere. The room and bathroom were adequate, (a bitdated décor) and we awoke to a feast of a breakfast. This B&B wouldn’t have been my firstchoice but we were able to pay with it with our credit card points and it wasin south Anchorage— a ideal location since we were driving to Girdwood.

 

Wednesday- day 1: We drive to Girdwood was pretty but a bit foggy and overcast. We had a fat bicycletour scheduled with Girdwood Bicycle Adventures. (See TA) We had so much fun, my face hurt from smilingso much. What an amazing way to see thisarea—we were the only 2 guests with Nicole, the owner. She enriched a fun adventure with a wealth of information. We rode alongthe Turn Again Arm as well as back trails behind Girdwood through the rainforest and down by the river as well as stopping by Girdwood Brewery for somebeer samples and a fun social gathering by the outdoor fit pit. So cool!!

After finishing the bicycle tour, we decided to try out goldpanning at Crow mine. It was very pretty but a bit overpriced, (in my opinion)and the only thing I would not do again and probably wouldn’t recommend. (I happened to observe a family with 3 school aged kidsnear us and the one of the boys was whining he didn’t want to do it and whencould they go back to the hotel. Yes… wehave been there, done that with our kids!)

We headed towards Palmer about3pm. Surprise!!... we got a text fromsome friends who were RVing and in Anchorage so we decided to meet up with themand get an early dinner. We ate at theMoose Tooth. Oh my, possibly our bestmeal of the trip. Very good pizza. (This was recommended to us by the guy who rented us the car.)

 

 

On to Palmer for our 3 nights at Snowgoose Pond Bed andBreakfast. (see TA) This placecompletely exceeded every expectation and will probably be the first memorythat comes up when we think of going to Alaska. It was the perfect place for us to stay as we decided to concentrate onmaximizing our time and do glaciers without the expense of a helicopter ride. I had researched going to Denali but decidedthat the travel involved to get there (as well as the cost) wouldn’t be worthit. We really wanted to see and do as much as possible without spending lots oftime on the road. We absolutely lovedstaying in Palmer and would likely plan another trip to Alaska with Palmer as abase. (and the Snowgoose B&B)

 

 

Thursday, day 2- After sleeping in the most comfortable bedand eating a HUGE breakfast, we were off to Matanuska Glacier. We hadoriginally planned to do this on our own and do a river rafting trip withNOVA. We were advised on CC to get do itwith a guide. Best Advice! Wetransferred our deposit to the guided hike and omitted the river rafttour. (I had seen some You Tube videosof rafts overturning in the river and that didn’t appeal to us!) Our guided hike to the Matanuska glacier waspossibly the most amazing “WOW” thing we had ever done. Our guide helped us to see, hear, smell,taste, and feel the glacier. She gave usgeology and history behind the glacier. She kept us safe and made us laugh. She also asked if we wanted to go longer…YES!! 😊 Our short tour turned into almost 4 hoursand it was warm!! I had on a long tshirt with lined hiking pants, a light jacket, headband and gloves. They put crampons on your shoes or you canwear their hiking boots. Again, soawesome!! I was glad we didn’t end up doing the river float because we weretired and ready to head back to Palmer. We stopped and got coffee at the Purple Moose (TA)—more friendly Alaskans working there anda great latte.

Next, we did a $5 brewery tour in Palmer at 6pm, Veryinteresting, I had no idea there was so much involved with making beer. We then went to the Palmer Ale House fordinner, we shared a calzone and had very hot hot wings.

Friday, day 3- Moregreat conversation and the most amazing scones I’ve ever ate in my life at theB&B. Today’s plans were to see theKnik Glacier, about 30-40 away. (see TA) This tour starts out in the back ofan army truck with monster tires on it. Wethen got on an airboat to get to the glacier. Spectacular weather and glaciers. We thought the Knik glacier was more beautiful than the Matanuska butthe Matanuska was more “adventure” with the actual hiking on the ice. I completelyrecommend this tour. So awesome.

Afterfinishing up with the airboat tour, we stopped off at Pioneer Falls see (TA),(recommended on CC) this was such a nice,FREE activity. We explored this beautifulwaterfall for about 20 minutes and saw NO ONE. Our next stop was the ReindeerFarm (see TA). This was a surprise too, it was $11 a person and we completelyenjoyed our time with the reindeers and other animals. We then went to the Friday Fling in downtownPalmer for their farmer’s market. I purchasedsome homemade blueberry jam from the area as well as a handmade sweater that Iwore on the cruise. We enjoyed visitingwith several of the vendors—one of which was originally from Nebraska. Small world!! We also happened to be there whenthey were having a free city picnic withlocal food. (very yummy veggies!) A local town band completed the festive atmosphere.

 

Saturday morning, day 4: We sadly said goodbye to our beautiful B&B and new friends. As we were leaving, we realized we had a deadcar battery ( I accidentlyleft a door open) No worries, the ownerand another guest were able to give us a jump start and we were on our way toAnchorage.

Ourshuttle was scheduled to leave at 3pm and so we decided to rent bicycles indowntown Anchorage at Pablos Bicycle Rentals. Once again, more AWESOME people, ( what is it about these personable Alaskans,everyone is so nice!!) I believe thebicycles were about $25 a person for a couple of hours and we were able to ridethe entire Tony Knowles trail. It wassunny and warm and we loved spending a couple of hours seeing thecoastline.

We stoppedoff to fill the Lexus with gas, met up with the owner and got to the airportabout 230pm, just in time for our shuttle with A.C.T. bus transportation. The direct shuttle was $40 per person toWhittier. I had extensively researchedthe best way to get to Whittier and decided this option made the most sensesince we didn’t want to leave Anchorage too early and really just needed a ride to Whittier. The bus driver was very informativeand we actually learned interesting information from the “no-frills” rideoption. I'll try and write up the 4 ports on my next post.

.

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So informative! I've never heard of TURO. I'll have to look that up.

 

When I planned our DIY land tour, we also decided to not do Denali for the same reason...we want more time DOING and less time traveling. We figured Denali was a destination in and of itself and not an "add on". Our land tour was post cruise and we stayed on the Kenai Peninsula...so I didn't research as much on the other side of Anchorage. This is all very helpful...sounds like you had a great trip...your touring style is similar to ours...we like to meet people! Everyone we met and toured with was the same...so friendly, so personable, so welcoming. There's a community feel to Alaska.

 

Thank you so much for sharing. Looking forward to reading more.

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Gosh, I want to apologize that there are multiple spacing issues in my post. I'm not sure what happened. I proofed it prior to posting and when I looked at it this morning, the entire post was filled with run-together words. Sorry, that is annoying!!! It doesn't look like I can edit it, so I guess it will have to stay that way.

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I just remembered 2 additional things I wanted to share before I move on to the cruise portion of the review. Palmer has a really nice visitor center that is free. They have a pretty impressive outside garden that you can wander through, (Idoubt it has hours since it is basically their side lawn.) Anyways, what really stuck out at the visitor center was the film that they were playing about the colonists who settled the area during the depression in 1935. It was so interesting and I was captivated by the tenacity of the settlers. I didn't see the entire film because they were closing but I'm going to try and find it on Netflix or You Tube. I believe there are still a few of the original colonists left and of course their children and grandchildren. I'm sure they feel a sense of pride to see the town today after starting with so little.

 

The other historical fact that impressed me was hearing about the Good Friday earthquake of 1964 that damaged much of Alaska, including parts of Anchorage and I believe Seward. This earthquake destroyed so many buildings, roads and railroads that took years to rebuild. We visited the earthquake park, (I think that is what is was called) while we were bike riding the Tony Knowles Trail. I'm pretty sure the park (and trail for that matter) can be accessed by car and foot and I would encourage anyone who has some downtime in Anchorage to check it out. This was a terrible earthquake and I'm so glad we stopped "entertaining" ourselves for a moment to read and understand a bit of what happened to Alaska.

Edited by savannah2117

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We arrived in Whittier via the A.C.T. bus shuttle at about 4:45pm. It was raining and we quickly got our luggage handed over and made our way onto the ship. We were told that Whittier only has about 7 days of sunshine a year, I'm not sure if this is true, but I was glad we decided to spend Saturday in Anchorage instead of arriving early--we like being outdoors and we were prepared for rain, but still would prefer to avoid it!

 

Sunday and Monday were glacier viewing days on the ship. We had warm sunny weather. The morning of Glacier Bay, we started out in hats, gloves, t shirt, flannel shirt and a down vest. It was super foggy, like we couldn't see 3 feet in front of us ( we were on deck 7). I decided to go up to 14 to check out some shopping and ... what??? It was warm and sunny on deck 14!!!! I just couldn't get over it. Within the hour, I took off my hat, gloves, then the down vest, then the flannel shirt, then by afternoon , I told my husband, "let's go get our swimsuits on and use the hot tub." We did and then got hot in the hot tub and moved to the pool. It was actually a very comfortable temperature and we swam and messed around by the pool for at least an hour.

 

Tuesday-- SKAGWAY! I had been obsessing about watching the weather in Skagway because we had a motorcyle reserved through Inspired Rides. (TA) They assured us that we could cancel if the weather was not good. YES!!! It was warm and sunny, like we declined their offer of leather motorcyle jackets. LOL. This ride up to Emerald Lake was spectacular, I think we stopped every couple of miles to take pictures. So amazing. We stopped at Michelle Phillips dog training camp, (about 45 miles outside of Skagway) and got to see 5 week old puppies. So cute!!! We had planned on doing a cart ride but because of the heat, she was only honoring rides to the previously scheduled tours. (by then it was about 84 degrees) We were disappointed but I respect her caring more about the dogs than making tourists happy and some extra money. I would highly recommend doing the Klondike highway on your own, I realize most people wouldn't want to ride a motorcycle but there are rental cars available that you would get a similar experience. And... if you are a motorcycle person, SPLURGE and get the Harley!!!! What a amazing, unforgettable day. Absolutely thrilled that we did this in Skagway.

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I accidently duplicated my post and couldn't figure out how to delete it? Is that possible to do? I also couldn't figure out how to add pictures, I read Anita's post but still couldn't get it. I guess I'm a better nurse than computer blogger!!

 

Wednesday: Juneau-- I had read many posts about whale watching and decided it would be worth the money to do this excursion. There aren't any whales (except a few little guys at the Henry Doorly Zoo) in Nebraska. Anyways, I was searching on Trip Advisor and ran across Alaska Humpback Adventures. Steve, the owner/ captain previously worked for Harv and Marv and when the family sold the business, he decided to go out on his own. I believe he is in his second year. Oh my goodness!!!! --what an amazing captain with a passion for Alaska and sealife. He has room on his boat for 6 but no one else booked that day so it was just my husband and I. He is so incredibly knowledgeable and experienced. BEST DECISION TO DO THIS TOUR. We saw 16 whales in our 3 hours on the water, this included 2 sets of three. He also knew the names of 2 of the whales we saw, Flame and Sasha and showed us their profiles in his binder. How cool is that?? We just loved this day. I was a bit worried about getting sea sick and so I wore sea bands and took Bonine that morning, no problems what so ever. I saw most of the trip out on the front bow so I could completely absorb the magic of the experience. Check out his website and his photography, that is what sold me on booking through him. ( I also left a detailed review on trip advisor if you want to take a peak.) After seeing the whales, Steve dropped us off at the Fish Hatchery. We paid $5 and stayed about 45 minutes. It was okay, nothing super amazing. We took a taxi back to the ship and this cost $15. We ate a late lunch on the ship and took a nap. Hey we are on vacation, right?

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You can’t delete a post, only edit it for a limited time right after you post. Are you posting from an app or from an internet browser?

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Thursday- Ketchikan: We again decided to splurge and do a float plane to Misty Fjords and had a 3pm flight scheduled with Island Wings. (see TA) We attempted to sleep in, (a fail) and ate breakfast and decided to try and rent some bicycles from Ketchikan Bike Rentals, a place I saw on trip advisor. (I love that site, can you tell?? :):)) We walked from the ship, it was about 10 minutes and found the place that was actually a self service type of deal. We paid the $20 per bike and went to creek street and then rode out to Saxman Totem pole park. The admission fee was $5 and we stay about 20 minutes of so before making our way back to the bike shop. The ride was 3 miles one way, ( I think) and very doable on a bike. The trail follows the coastline. We thought this was a great way to inexpensively see Ketchikan.

 

Our float plane with Michelle at Island Wings was awesome. And, guess what?...She is from Nebraska too. (this is starting to get weird, or maybe great, I guess!!) Great flight, see her reviews on Trip Advisor. Upon returning, we had a bit of a close call as I realized I left my bag in their office and we had to go back and get it. (it had my cell phone and money in it.) This made us a bit late for the "last call" and we boarded about 10 minutes past time. There were still a few people behind us but we didn't get left. Whew, I'd rather not repeat that part of the excursion. :o

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You can’t delete a post, only edit it for a limited time right after you post. Are you posting from an app or from an internet browser?

 

I think internet, my laptop.

 

By the way, I loved your review of your trip, I thought of you frequently when I was packing!!;)

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I think internet, my laptop.

 

By the way, I loved your review of your trip, I thought of you frequently when I was packing!!;)

 

Aw...thank you. I’m nearing the end of my report...it’s fun to write them. I’m kind of sad to be nearing the end. LOL

 

So...you need to use another web site to store your photos online. Your photos won’t be stored here on cruise critic. That other photo storage web site is where your photos live.

 

I use this site:

 

https://imgbb.com/

 

Each photo gets a unique http address. If you just copy and paste the http address into your post, there will be a link that readers will have to click on to see your photo in a separate tab. To have your photos show up in your post, you need img tags around the http address. Surrounded by [ ], img before the http address and then /img at the end. So without spaces [ img ] http [ /img ]

 

The website I use has an embed code that already has those img tags so I just copy and paste that full code. Alternatively, you can manually add that code or click on the icon with the mountain and moon in the reply to thread area. That icon makes a pop up box that asks for the http address. Paste the http address there and click ok and the img tags will be added for you.

 

To make sure that everything looks the way you want it to, select preview post instead of submit reply. This will show you what your post will look like and still have the box where you type in your reply open and active. You can make edits and previews until it looks the way you want and then hit submit reply for your post to go live.

 

I hope that makes sense. I’d love to see your photos!

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I'm a computer mess!!! I was able to get the photos off my phone with the Cruise Critic app, but I couldn't figure out how to label them. DH is the computer person and he came down with a terrible virus the day after we got home. He hasn't been to work all week and to the doctor twice. The doctor thought it might be a mosquito bite but when I looked it up it said that Alaska mosquitos rarely carry disease. I think the likely cause it the plane ride home. Anyways, all that to say he is too sick to help me with my cruise critic pictures. I'll keep Anita's directions and see if he can figure this out.

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Great trip report! Thanks for taking the time to post. This will be very helpful to future travelers who are considering land travel pre or post cruise.

Your photos are great. Post more. Don't worry about labeling ..... we can figure out the locations.

And don't forget to add your trip report to the 2018 Trip Report List above. Thx again.

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Gosh, I want to apologize that there are multiple spacing issues in my post. I'm not sure what happened. I proofed it prior to posting and when I looked at it this morning, the entire post was filled with run-together words. Sorry, that is annoying!!! It doesn't look like I can edit it, so I guess it will have to stay that way.

 

Same thing with my Norway review!

 

Enjoying your review (coming from another Nebraskan).

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Vancouver: Our last day. We had an absolutely FABULOUS day with City Cycle Tours of Vancouver. (see TA for my detailed review) I just can't imagine a better way to experience this beautiful city. The bicycling piece of it was super easy because you stop every couple of minutes to observe and see so many things. Although we do ride bicycles at home, you absolutely do NOT need to be a regular rider, the people on our tour had kids and a few older folks that didn't have much riding experience. Again, what a day. Check out their website!

 

We caught the 5:45pm Amtrak train to Seattle. Another bargain, I believe our tickets for one way were under $35. We ate and had a drink on the train and played a couple of games of rummy. Very enjoyable transportation. We then caught a ride to our hotel near the airport and flew out the next morning--nonstop to Omaha. This was a huge perk because it is unusual to find nonstop flights to Omaha. Yea! We finally were home, we missed our little pup!

 

I think that about sums up the trip report. I'll try and post a review about the ship on Princess, but basically we enjoyed the cruise. We didn't feel the food was as good as previous cruises and the entertainment was okay. Neither of these were deal breakers. We will always look back on this trip as a wonderful, WONDERFUL experience --. I'm so glad we researched the ports on Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor, I think one of the reasons we had such a great trip was because we planned and did what WE loved and wanted to do.

 

Final advice: Plan a trip doing your favorite things, check out other people's opinions, but know what you like. Yes!!!...take the trip!

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