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boston1733

Summit Review Land/Cruise Tour #15 Part 1

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Wow what a trip! Our first time to Alaska (and I hope not our last). We had the best time!

 

Day One

Our trip began at 7:50 am in Orlando FL. We had a long flight to Seattle with a 1.5 hour lay over. When we finally arrived in Fairbanks it was 8:00 pm (12 midnight our time). It was 89 degrees, something we were not expecting. We were met at the airport by Celebrity’s reps (very organized) and taken to the hotel, Sophie’s Station. There we met our tour guide, Bryn, she went over everything that was planned for the week and gave us our room keys. We had a great room, “The Jacuzzi Suite”. It was the best room we had all trip. By the time we went to bed we had been up 21 hrs. But wait it’s still daylight out . . .

 

Day Two

We met our tour guide by 7:50 am and off we went to the El Dorado Gold Mine. On the way we made a quick stop at the Alaskan Pipe Line. Very cool. Along the way she pointed out points of interest and Alaskan history, she did this throughout the trip. El Dorado Gold Mine was lots of fun, we had heard that it was a bit too touristy but what the heck we were tourists. Between my husband and I we panned $10 worth of gold which I had made into a pendant. Back to downtown Fairbanks for lunch and to tour the town on our own. In the afternoon we did the River Boat Discovery. It was a 3 hour narrated trip down the Chena and Tannana rivers. We stopped along the way at different spots, like Susan Butchers Iditorod dog camp. Very interesting. Also at an Athabascan Indian Village. Also, very cool. Back to Sophie’s Station where the evening was free to do excursions on our own if we chose. A very long but good day.

 

Day Three

On our way to Denali! We boarded the Wilderness Express at 8:00 am. What a beautiful train. The glass dome train cars gave us great views. We chose to have breakfast in the dinning car, very reasonable. The next 4 hours we rode through some great landscape, we saw lots of birds and a moose, but too fast for a photo op. We arrived at Denali at 12 noon. We had two hours for lunch and to tour the town which wasn’t very big by the way. At 2:00 pm we boarded a school bus, (no other vehicles are allowed in certain parts of the park) to tour Denali National Park. It was an 8 hour ride. 4 hours in and 4 hours back. WOW! What a beautiful place, the landscape and the weather kept changing the further we went it to the park. We saw lots of Dali Sheep, Caribou, but the highlight of the t rip was a Grizzly Bear and her three cubs. Beautiful mountain ranges, but no Mt. McKinley, the weather was bad. We learned that only 25 % of the people that visit Alaska get to see the mountain. We got out of the park by 10:00 pm (still very light out). We stayed at the McKinley Village Lodge, it was beautifully set on the Nenna River, best night sleep up to this point.

 

Day Four

We had the morning to do any number of excursions of our choice, we chose to take it easy and enjoy the ground and walk by the river. One thing Celebrity does is keep you going. Some of the people on our tour went rafting and they loved it. Back on the Wilderness Express by 12 noon. Had a great lunch in the dinning car. Again the scenery to Talkeetna was beautiful. We arrived at the Talkeetna Alaskan lodge around 4:00 pm. One of my favorite places. The flowers on the lodges grounds were amazing. We were scheduled to do a helicopter ride and glacier landing around Mount McKinley, but the weather was bad so it was canceled. We took a hike around the lodge and then walked into town. The town is not very big but very quaint. The TV show Northern Exposure was set on this town. The lodge has this beautiful 45 foot stone fireplace which is where we ended another great day.

 

Day Five

On the coach (don’t ever call it a bus, it’s not a bus it’s a coach) by 11:00 am. We headed for Anchorage. Again the scenery is too beautiful to waste on a nap, and I did not want to miss anything. We made a quick stop at the Iditorod headquarters. We saw some puppies there which we got to pet, also for $5 you could take a very, very short ride on a dog sled (not really it was a ATV being pulled by the dogs) but it looked fun. Arrived in Anchorage around 2:00 pm. Again, we had time to explore the town before we got picked-up at 4:00 pm, to be dropped of at the Marriott. Very nice hotel in the middle of downtown overlooking Cook Inlet. Great view. We took a long walk (about 6 miles) on the Costal Trail, saw a fox, came real close to him to take a picture, and he just sat there, I was a bit shocked. Some other people told us they saw a moose on the trail but we never did see it. Anchorage is a very nice city but everything shuts down at 10:00 pm, coming from Orlando its way too early for us.

 

Day Six

We were back on the coach by 8:00 am. We did a tour of Anchorage for about 45 minutes. Then we visited the Alaskan Native Heritage Center. We learned about many native cultures that are around Alaska. I was not much into it but most people enjoyed it. Then came the drive to Gridwood to the Alyeska Prince Hotel. What a beautiful scenic ride along the inlet, down the Turnagain arm and the Chugach Mountains. We arrived at the Prince Hotel around 3:30 pm, at 4:00 pm, we were scheduled to do an excursion, kayaking in Prince William Sound. Sadly the weather at Whittier was bad so we had to cancel, luckily for us we were able to do it the next day. The hotel is a beautiful resort set at the bottom of the mountain with spectacular views. There is also a tram that went up the mountain, which we took up a couple of times. The views from up there were breathtaking. There was also a very nice restaurant up there, we didn’t get to eat there but some of our tour companions did and loved it. We ended the evening at the one of the two fireplaces the resort had.

 

Day Seven

We started the day in a rush, since we missed our kayaking trip the day before, we were able to do it this morning. A van from the tour company picked us up at the hotel and rushed us to Whittier. There is only one way in and out of Whittier and that’s through the tunnel. Cars and the train share this tunnel, and if we had missed a certain time we would have missed the kayaking. But we made it. The kayaking was ok. We were expecting to see wild life, but we didn’t see anything but birds, plus it rained almost the whole time, but we had the experience. We would have liked to see more of Whittier, and we had the time, but since it was raining we decided to get back to the hotel. Back on the coach and on our way to Seward we stopped at Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center to get close up pictures of the wildlife we did not see in the wild. The drive from Gridwood to Seward was the most beautiful drive we had taken so far, we rode along the Six Mile River ( I think). We saw some bears on the side of the road. Very exciting! You could start to see changes in the landscape the further south we went. We stopped at a scenic spot so we could take pictures of the whole group, which by the way there were only 28 of us, very good number, everyone in the group was very nice. We made some good friends. We found a lady at the scenic spot to take our pictures, she took pictures with everyone’s camera, her dog is in all the pictures. We also took pictures of our tour guide, Bryn and coach driver, Billy. Finally we were getting on the ship!

 

Recaps on the Land Tour

Coming from the East Coast not only was the time change was a bit rough on us, but the constant daylight was hard to adjust too also. The first couple of nights it was hard to stay up so late, but we were told it is better to do that so you can readjust your body to the time change.

 

Tour guide--Bryn, (for those of you getting ready to take this tour) is the guide to get. She is young, fun and very knowledgeable about her homeland. She made the trip interesting and humorous. Billy, our coach driver, had great timing, he also had great tunes on the coach. He and Bryn work well together.

 

Food--We were on our own for food for the first seven days of the tour. Be ready to spend a lot of money. Food is very expensive, and we new that going in, so we took lots of trail mix and protein bars so we could snack on. The best thing was the water. Coming from Florida where we have to buy water, it was the best tap water we’ve ever had.

 

Celebrity--The whole trip was very organized and very well planned. We were as busy or as laid back as we wanted to be. Lots of options for tour excursions on the land tour, more than I expected. The hotels that were chosen were great, we never had a bad experience with any of the rooms that we stayed in. One thing I loved about the hotels we stayed at was the they are very much into the environment, if you wanted to reuse your towel, all you had to do was hang it up. It saves water. The only thing we did not enjoy about the land tour was packing and unpacking every day. Every morning our bags had to be out either by 6:00 am or 9:00 am depending on what time we left that town. But it was unavoidable. I would do this tour again if Celebrity had someone packing and unpacking my bags everyday (LOL).

 

Alaska Interior--It was the most beautiful and spectacular place that I have ever seen. The flora is incredible, I must have taken a picture of every flower I saw between Fairbanks and Seward, but what the heck it’s only film (no digital pictures for me). After all we packed 56 rolls of film. I hope we get to go back soon, there is lots of things and places we didn’t get to do and see due to the time schedule, but we will return, (when we get the kid of to college) maybe in an RV. We went to Alaska with an opened mind, spent a lot of time reading this board, and everybody had only good things to say about it. We also knew that due to the weather we might not get to do and see certain things, so when we didn’t, we weren’t be too disappointed, and going in with that attitude helped us have a great time. Now onto the cruise.

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Thanks for the great review...We leave for this same Cruisetour next week and this was the best description I have seen...

 

One question, in Denali, it sounds like that Wilderness tour on the tour bus stretches from 2 pm to 10 pm...It doesn't bother me much, but my wife is one of those who likes to eat her meals like clockwork...Did you eat lunch just before and wait until 10 pm for dinner? Or are there opportunities to eat while on the tour? Or should I pack Power Bars, Beef Jerky and drinks or something of the sort? Thanks...

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Steve, We eat lunch just before we go on the bus, but you also get a box lunch on the bus, a crossant (I cant spell that) cheese, raindear sausage,a nutragrain bar, pretzels and some water. When you get to the end of the park before turning around they also give you hot chocolate, the day we were there was a little cold so it was real nice. We also took our own snacks, not knowing what we were going to get. Have a great time, Any more questions you might have feel free to ask.

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Guest Cookiegirl

Nice review... really enjoyed reading it as we just decided to cruise Alaska in June 2005. Would you tell me the cabin # you stayed in on the Summit? And, also, during your land tour, was your luggage transferred from your hotel to the bus or train for you or did you have to do it yourself? Thank you again for a wonderful review.

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Cookiegirl, Every morning we we put our luggage out (in front of our room) they would pick it up, and by the time we got to our next hotel, it would be in our room. We had a Deluxe Veranda room (7707 port side), on the Vista Deck, very nice room. Half the fun for me was the planning, enjoy

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This is a great review. I'm on the same trip as Bruin. Thanks for the wonderful pre-live trip (for us). I have to ask .. 8 hours on a school bus? I hope the seats are well padded. Or should we bring pillows?

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Poohb, The bus is a regular school bus, the seats weren't bad, the pillow is not a bad Idea. It sounds like a long trip, but believe it or not it goes by quickly, it did for me.

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Like you, I have nothing but great things to say about Celebrity. The Summit was excellent in all areas.

The service was superb and the food was great:p !

Enjoy!

Kel

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Well boston, I needed to ask becuz in our 'neck of the woods' school bus seats are not always padded. thanks for the info. We're really looking forward to everything.

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Great review - we are doing the same tour in a couple of weeks and you have me more anxious to go than ever. Good to hear that the accomadations are so nice.

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