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ErLee

Trip Report June 12th - 25th, 2019 Princess Connoiseur Cruisetour

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The pictures and report are great!  We are on Coral Southbound next June so this is a preview of what we will be doing, and I love it!  On the whale watch in Juneau, how much motion was there on the boat?  I would love to do a whale watch trip, but I am VERY prone to seasickness - I have to wear my sea bands on the cruise ships when they are moving - so I am afraid I wouldn't be able to do it... Thanks!

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One more question... how long did you spend at Mendenhall Glacier?  You said the trail to Nugget Falls wasn't too bad... so we might try to do that one... We are planning on renting a car from Avis also, so I'm trying to figure out if we would have enough time to do the whale watch trip since it takes 3 hours.. The ship leaves at 5:00 pm... so if we picked up the rental car at 8:30 am, would we have enough time to drive to Mendenhall, do the Nugget Falls trail, get over to the whale watch, return the car and get back to the ship in time?  I don't want to be cutting it too close... LOL.   Thanks!

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On 7/28/2019 at 9:31 PM, cruises42 said:

Wow, they are great! You zoomed in for some, right? My phone has awful zoom.

 

Thank you! Yes I did zoom in for some and that works better on some pictures than others. I read on another thread someone saying that taking pictures with the phone is fine if you’re just using them for viewing on social media, but the quality is not good enough for some other uses. That’s probably true, but for the most part I’m just looking at my pictures on my iPad and used them for posting on Facebook or on here, so it worked for me!

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On 8/2/2019 at 8:54 AM, puppymama1 said:

The pictures and report are great!  We are on Coral Southbound next June so this is a preview of what we will be doing, and I love it!  On the whale watch in Juneau, how much motion was there on the boat?  I would love to do a whale watch trip, but I am VERY prone to seasickness - I have to wear my sea bands on the cruise ships when they are moving - so I am afraid I wouldn't be able to do it... Thanks!

 

 There was definitely some motion on the boat, particularly because it was a small craft,  I was so enthralled with what I was watching that I didn’t find it to be overwhelming. Although I do sometimes suffer from motion sickness, when I’m cruising or flying, I now start taking meclizine the day before I leave and I just take one every day the whole time I’m traveling to avoid any problems. It doesn’t make me sleepy, has no side effects for me which is surprising since I’m very sensitive to medication, and it has taken care of that issue for me altogether. My husband used to always get seasick on the first day of a cruise before he would take anything or do anything about it; this trip for the first time I convinced him to start taking it before our trip started and take it the whole way through. He never got sick either.

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On 8/2/2019 at 9:41 AM, puppymama1 said:

One more question... how long did you spend at Mendenhall Glacier?  You said the trail to Nugget Falls wasn't too bad... so we might try to do that one... We are planning on renting a car from Avis also, so I'm trying to figure out if we would have enough time to do the whale watch trip since it takes 3 hours.. The ship leaves at 5:00 pm... so if we picked up the rental car at 8:30 am, would we have enough time to drive to Mendenhall, do the Nugget Falls trail, get over to the whale watch, return the car and get back to the ship in time?  I don't want to be cutting it too close... LOL.   Thanks!

 

I would say all together we were over there at Mendenhall for maybe two hours. So it all depends on what time your whale watch is. Since our ship was there late that day, I had plenty of time to do what we wanted to do  which is why I rented the car. But it also depends on which dock your ship will be at, because the walk to Avis can be far from some of them and you have to factor in time to walk back after you return the car. I do think they have Uber there, but I didn’t try using it since it was only about a half a mile from our ship, and I walk every day at home so I knew it wouldn’t be an issue. 

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Posted (edited)

June 17th - Glacier Bay

 

In looking back through my pictures, I don’t have amazing pictures from Glacier Bay day, but it was a fantastic day!  

 

I woke up early, excited to see the scenery! Going out on my balcony I found out it was an overcast, cloudy morning,  and  I couldn’t see much. I was a little disappointed, but undeterred, and assumed that our luck would hold and the view would improve.  While it stayed mostly a cloudy day, the clouds did lift so we were able to enjoy our glacier viewing.

 

Bruce was sleeping in a bit, so I met up with our traveling companions and went to their cabin to view the early part of Glacier  Bay from their balcony. Above all else, I recommend that you do not sleep in on this day! We saw a lot of great wildlife that morning as we were coming in to the bay.  There were a lot of otters and seals easily visible from the ship, and perfect with a good pair of binoculars. I even got my one and only sighting on the trip of a puffin! It was brief, but I had my binoculars trained on him and got a good look which made me very happy. We saw some whales in the distance, but mostly just the spray from their blowholes. I think during that viewing period If you were someone that had a high-powered camera and knew how to use it, that would be the only way to get really good pictures of the wildlife out there in the water. There was no way for things like that to show up on a phone so I didn’t bother to try to get pictures.

 

Being able to listen to the naturalist over the TV in the cabin while we were out on the balcony made it very easy to tell what we were looking at and help us find things to train our binoculars on. The glaciers were magnificent, and all the scenery that day surrounding us was just beautiful despite the cloudy weather! I was so glad we picked an itinerary that included it.

 

We spent most of that day either in our cabin out on the balcony or on that front viewing deck on Caribe that I had chosen my cabin specifically to be near. There were probably only ever about 20 or 30 people out there at the most at one time throughout the day, so it was very uncrowded and a friendly group. I cannot say enough about how great it was to know about that little area! It was a perfect location to get great views of the glaciers as we approached.  When the ship was turned so the glaciers were on the starboard side, we went to our cabin, when the glaciers were on the port side we went back out on the front and had a great view still.  We did see some seals and otters down there as well around the floating ice, but not as many as we had seen coming into the bay. 

 

The main thing you have to know about that day is that it is very cold and windy in Glacier Bay!  Both on our balcony and out there on that front deck, the wind was biting , but I would not have wanted to be inside. In order to be able to stand outside I had on every layer of clothing that I had brought with me, including gloves and a winter scarf over my head. If I had not brought the one pair of fleece leggings to wear under my pants and the multiple layers of shirts and jackets with the rain jacket/windbreaker for the top layer, I would not of been able to stand out there all day.  I did not end up bringing my puffer jacket, but I had a bunch of layers that I was able to pile on that day. The rest of the trip most of that was unnecessary, but that day if you don’t  have warm layers, it will certainly impact your experience!  

 

Though not not the typical Glacier pics, here are a couple I like from that day...

 

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Edited by ErLee

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On ‎8‎/‎10‎/‎2019 at 10:43 AM, ErLee said:

 

I would say all together we were over there at Mendenhall for maybe two hours. So it all depends on what time your whale watch is. Since our ship was there late that day, I had plenty of time to do what we wanted to do  which is why I rented the car. But it also depends on which dock your ship will be at, because the walk to Avis can be far from some of them and you have to factor in time to walk back after you return the car. I do think they have Uber there, but I didn’t try using it since it was only about a half a mile from our ship, and I walk every day at home so I knew it wouldn’t be an issue. 

We are going on the same cruise next week on the Nieuw Amsterdam (HAL) and I am enjoying reading your review.   You make it sound so personal and I like your style of writing.   Thanks for taking the time to do this.

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Great job on your review. Looking forward to reading about the land portion as well. 

 

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We were also on the ship through Glacier Bay and like ErLee we found it very cold and windy.   We were on the outside deck to get the best views.   The scenery was nice but we were disappointed.   We expected more whales and wildlife and better scenery.   I don't understand people taking multiple trips to Alaska.   We saw it once and don't have the urge to return. 

 

The whole week we were disappointed at every port and especially the lack of Glaciers = especially at Mendenhall.   The shopping at every port seemed to consist of all the same items and none of it interested us at all.   No need to buy any diamonds from the multiple shops at every port.

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Thank you so much for your trip report!  We are going on a cruisetour in May 2020 and your advice has been great.  In fact, I just booked the Bennet Scenic Journey with Chilkoot Charters because of your review!  Now I'm wondering how the land portion of your cruisetour was.  I don't see any posts on that and I'm just curious of your thoughts.  What did you do while there?  Thanks again!

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On 11/13/2019 at 11:33 AM, Moonstruck1115 said:

Thank you so much for your trip report!  We are going on a cruisetour in May 2020 and your advice has been great.  In fact, I just booked the Bennet Scenic Journey with Chilkoot Charters because of your review!  Now I'm wondering how the land portion of your cruisetour was.  I don't see any posts on that and I'm just curious of your thoughts.  What did you do while there?  Thanks again!

 

So sorry, I've been distracted by life and haven't finished my review.  Thanks for the reminder!  I'll get on it.

 

I'm so glad you booked the Bennet trip, I loved every single minute of that day and hope you do too!

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June 18th - Sea day and College Fjord

 

This was our last day on the ship.  I started the day in the laundry room washing clothes for the land portion.  If you want to do that, I recommend you go there early, it was really hopping by the time I was finished with our 2 loads.  

 

After that we relaxed most of the day on our balcony or in various seating areas out and around the ship.  We made early dinner reservations, because I wanted to be done eating before we arrived in College Fjord.  That strategy worked out perfectly.  

 

We returned to the viewing deck on 10 forward for College Fjord.  I had heard from some other reviewers that many found it to be more beautiful than Glacier Bay, so I was excited!  I was not disappointed - it was really pretty.  We even got to see some blue skies which enhanced the white of the snow and ice.  

 

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That night we got packed up and ready to leave the ship.  Usually the last night of a cruise is so sad....but not this time because we were so excited about the land tour we were about to begin!  This is just one of the reasons I'm still going counter popular opinion and saying cruise first and do your land tour second!

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On 10/7/2019 at 5:37 PM, mexico8 said:

We were also on the ship through Glacier Bay and like ErLee we found it very cold and windy.   We were on the outside deck to get the best views.   The scenery was nice but we were disappointed.   We expected more whales and wildlife and better scenery.   I don't understand people taking multiple trips to Alaska.   We saw it once and don't have the urge to return. 

 

The whole week we were disappointed at every port and especially the lack of Glaciers = especially at Mendenhall.   The shopping at every port seemed to consist of all the same items and none of it interested us at all.   No need to buy any diamonds from the multiple shops at every port.

 

Wow, I am so sorry you didn't enjoy your trip!  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

 

We may not return to Alaska, but it won't be because we don't think it's worth a return visit, it will be because there are so many other places we've yet to discover.

 

 

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June 19th - First day of our Land Tour

 

Because we were on a cruisetour, we were in the first group of the day to leave the ship - this meant a VERY early morning, but there's no way around that.  We got off the ship and walked through a series of covered walkways directly to the train that would take us to Talkeetna.  Our group for the rest of the trip was in a train car together with the other group going on the same tour.  We were seated in one half of the car and they were in the other half.  The guides for both groups met us as we boarded the train and along the way gave us a lot of info we would need about the days ahead.  The main piece of advice I have for you about the train is that the seating is booth style like in a restaurant.  You definitely want to try and get on the side of the booth that is facing forward for the best views during your trip.  To me it's just easier if you can see where you're going instead of where you've been.  We were sitting at a booth with our friends and we were in the rear facing seats, so it wasn't ideal.  Despite that, it was a comfortable and enjoyable half day trip through some beautiful scenery.  On the Connoisseur tour, lunch is included on the train that day, and it was brought to our table sometime late morning.  There were also cocktails and other drinks available for purchase.   We got a view of one part of Anchorage as we traveled past, but did not make a stop until we reached Talkeetna.   

 

Our tour guide handed out folders that had our room keys and meal vouchers for the McKinley Lodge where we would be spending our first two nights.  He got information from us about our dining preferences so he could make dinner reservations for us at the lodge.  Each morning of the trip he would leave a letter taped to our door that told us anything we needed to know for that day - dining reservations, bag pull times if we were leaving, meeting place and time if we were going on a group tour, etc.  It was so handy to have someone else deal with all the details and schlep our bags from place to place!  It left us free to just relax and enjoy ourselves.

 

Once we got to Talkeetna there were two choices - get on a motorcoach and complete the trip to the lodge or stay in town to do whatever you felt like doing.  We had booked a 2:30pm flightseeing tour of Denali through K2 Aviation and were practically holding our breath in anticipation and hope that we would be able to see the mountain.  This excursion was a fairly last minute decision compared to all the plans I made months in advance.  I think I booked this one in May just a few weeks before we left on our trip.  It was expensive, but when all was said and done, we decided that this was one thing we would look back and regret not doing!  And boy oh boy, did we make the right decision!

 

At K2 we found out that we had to switch to a different flight because the wind on one side of the mountain was not going to allow us to fly all the way around and see all sides.  We were disappointed, but they promised we'd still have an amazing flight, and we got a $100 refund for the change to a less expensive option.  It did not turn out to matter one little bit; we had an incredible experience that day. 

 

We went up in a de Havilland Otter, a 10 seater that was a larger version of the Beaver we flew over the Misty Fjords out of Ketchikan. 

 

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As we headed out over the Alaskan Range the view was incredible.  One beautiful sight after another....

 

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But then as we ascended up through the clouds our pilot told us to get ready because we were going to join the lucky ones that get to see Denali in all her glory....and suddenly there she was!!  

 

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There is no way to describe it....all those months of hoping, and she was RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF US!!  I would not trade that moment for anything.  We were truly blessed, and I will never forget that sight.  If you are going to be in Talkeetna, I can't urge you enough - do not miss the chance to experience this!!!  

 

After our flight, we retrieved our back packs from the store there by the place where the motor coaches park.  I can't think of the name of it, but they will hold your bags for $1 each.  You are not allowed to take the bags on the plane so it's a great way to keep your things safe until you get back.  I think there may have been a place to store them at K2 as well, but we didn't feel like carrying them over there.  We found the Princess motor coach and took the one hour ride out to the lodge.  

 

Once at the lodge we went to our assigned rooms to find our luggage waiting for us.  I had heard that the groups on the Connoisseur tours are always given rooms with the best views, and I don't have anything to compare it to, but every room we had on the trip was nice, and they all had great views.  We thought the whole lodge property was beautiful, and we were extra happy because Denali remained in full view the entire time we stayed there.  The main building has a huge deck off the back with a spectacular view of the mountain.  It would have been unbelievable to have a clear view of Denali if we hadn't seen her up close just a few hours earlier, but it was still a huge bonus!

 

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Our tour guide held a cocktail party for our group by a fire pit they have at the lodge before dinner, so we stopped there on our way to dinner and enjoyed a couple of drinks. Afterwards, we ate in the North Fork Restaurant with a view of Denali right out the window by our table. It was amazing!  The food was very good, and because our meals were almost all included with our tour, we didn't need to worry about prices.  All we had to take care of was a glass of wine with our dinner.  

 

After dinner we hiked up to the treehouse on the property for another incredible view.  It took some effort to get up there, but it was really interesting to see!  We were glad we went.  I didn't get a picture of the treehouse but I did take one of the view from up there.

 

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By then I was exhausted so we headed back to our room for bed.  Once we got there we realized there was no AC - that may sound trivial in Alaska, but it was very warm when we were there, and we are from the south.  We are used to sleeping with AC in summer temps.  We called the front desk and they happily brought us a fan.  Once we had that set up and the window open, it was okay and we slept fine.  As it turned out, that was the only lodge without AC.  

 

One last tip.....I took clothes pins with me from advice I got from other reviewers.  If you are there like we were when there are 22 hours of daylight, unless you want to only sleep a couple hours a night, I highly recommend bringing some along.  The lodges have blackout curtains, but the clothespins sealed out the light from the cracks and allowed us to get some sleep when our brains were telling us it was the middle of the day.  If you look at that picture I took from the treehouse, that was taken after dinner so I think you get the idea!  

 

It was a full and fantastic first day of our land tour.  We went to bed very happy!

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