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Alaska Trip Review - Pre-Cruise Land plus Ports (Part 2)


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After arriving in Seward we took the Kenai Fjords 6 hour boat ride. This was great! The boat was MUCH more comfortable than Phillips and we really got an eyeful of wildlife everywhere we went. At one point, the captain cut the engines for about 20 minutes by one of the large glaciers, asking anyone who wanted to keep talking to move inside, and the rest of us enjoyed just bobbing around and taking in the gorgeous sights, sounds and calving. Most of this ride could be enjoyed comfortably outside the boat with the weather the way it was. I'm not sure I would really enjoy being cooped up in the boat for 6 hours in bad weather though, and I hear that these waters can get quite rough also.

 

We then went on to the Hotel Edgewater, which was fine for one night just to sleep, but would consider other options in the future. Friday morning we went to Seavey's which was fun and informative. Lots of dogs, yelping and anxious to go! The kids got to play with 3-6 week old pups and it was fun getting pulled on a sled by dogs that were on the winning Iditarod team. Afterwards we went to the Alaska SeaLife Center which was quite informative for a "small" aquarium. The hotel then shuttled us and our luggage to check into our ship. After some lunch onboard we took a taxi up to Exit Glacier. Great hiking and views (again, remember the weather...).

 

Then finally back to the ship to "relax" a bit.

 

Hubbard Glacier, while not really a port was an amazing sight. Since we had seen so many glaciers already I did not mind missing out on Glacier Bay this trip and found the sight of one HUGE glacier somewhat more interesting.

 

Sunday morning in Juneau, first thing, we headed to Orca Enterprises for an independently booked whale watching trip with Capt. Larry. Again we were made to wait an inordinate amount of time in their office - more than half an hour and all the passengers were there! This was a great outing. Lots of whales breaching and doing whatever you'd want a whale to do on such a trip. Once again the weather was great and the whales were in a good mood, so don't think it really matters who you do this excursion with since all the boats were in the same place. They seem to follow and radio each other. In spite of what I'd read on some boards earlier, the boat we were on was in very good shape and had a very nice naturalist (Nancy) on board. Afterwards, despite having made advance arrangements and paid for a ride to Mendenhall Glacier we (along with another family) were all crammed into a minivan without enough seats, and this was not too nice. If you've seen lots of glaciers by this point and want more time in Juneau I didn't feel like we would have missed much by not seeing this. Pleasant enough, but would have rather had time for the Hatchery since the one we went to in Ketchikan was disappointing and I heard (after the fact) that MacCauley's in Juneau was the better one. After lunch we did the walking tour of Juneau. Very hilly and hot! The couple of blocks around the docks were extremely crowded and touristy. My daughter and husband did the Mt. Roberts tram. Maybe we were too jaded by all the magnificent sights we'd seen up till then, but they said it was "okay."

 

Monday was Skagway, starting off with an absolutely amazing helicopter ride booked through Temsco up to a dog sled camp. Being such a clear day (blue, blue skies with not a cloud), pilot was able to fly higher than usual and the ride up was spectacularly beautiful. The folks up at the camp (Matt and Sarah) were great. It was just 4 of us and one other man up there when we went and it was great fun. In the afternoon we did the White Pass Railroad up and back. I was a little concerned from what I'd read here if we'd be bored but it was great. We had narration both ways, and on such a pretty day what's not to enjoy about standing outside (there are little platforms at the end of each car) taking in the scenery. This we booked through the cruise ship to be sure there was space. Later we walked around a bit. Of all the port towns (not counting Icy Straight Point, which really isn't a town) this was our favorite - some nice shops and galleries.

 

Tuesday was Icy Straight Point, pretty and interesting with no excursions planned. We saw one of their shows (Dance and Story). Nice enough, but way overpriced for what it was. Probably the best part of this stop was that it's still quite undeveloped and you could meet and talk to the locals.

 

Wednesday we started off in Ketchikan by going to the Lumberjack show. I could have done without, but the kids enjoyed. Only problem is they were taping some competition for the Outdoor Life Network so we had to watch a lot of the same thing. After that we walked around town following their walking tour map. Not a very nice town in our opinion (kind of the Newark of Alaska). Nothing happening at salmon ladder. Deer Mtn. Hatchery was fairly sad looking. At least kids got a sense of what goes on but really wish we had done the Hatchery in Juneau. My cousins went to both and said Juneau's was much better. Lots of totem poles around town. The one redeeming part of Ketchikan was Creek Street, which was attractive enough with some nice shops. Oh yes, and we had some of the best popcorn we've ever had at Orca Corn. The sweet and salty was great and kept my son happy until we got back on the ship.

 

After a beautiful day of Inside Passage Cruising we arrived in Vancouver on Friday morning. We were so tired that I kind of wished we were flying straight home that day, but after seeing how beautiful Vancouver was glad we had decided to spend a few days. We stayed at the Four Seasons. They had a great family package and it was extremely comfortable. Also very well located. Vancouver is a great city with wonderful people - so clean and polite. Friday afternoon we did our city tour, then had dinner at CinCin - great! Saturday we tooled around town and went to their Aquarium which was probably the nicest I've been to (and we've been to a lot!) The kids did a behind the scenes sea otter tour. Got to feed them and all, which was very appropriate after all the sea otters we saw on this trip. My mother enjoyed the Art Gallery that afternoon, and that night we ate at Diva which was also great. Sunday we went to Victoria by floatplane. My mother opted for the bus and ferry (3+ hours each way). Although Butchart Gardens was beautiful and nice to see, can't say that we really liked Victoria all that much and would have much preferred the extra day in Vancouver. Oh well, there's always next time...

 

And Monday it was back home. And yes, the Vancouver airport is kind of a pain having to lug your luggage around and through Customs, although I will say that they were very organized. But it still took us over an hour from the time we got to the airport to get through security, and it was hot!

 

This is one place that if you are flying home the day of your cruise it is well worth getting the transfers through the ship, letting them handle the luggage and check in. I know that with Celebrity you can check in and even go through the US Customs process on board the ship and not have to deal with your luggage again till you get home.

 

All in all a great trip and ready to start planning the next one!

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Once again, a great trip report!

 

Can you tell me about times as far as your two Skagway excursions? I would like to do both of those tours also, but we may sail Princess and I'm not sure of the time frame.

 

Thanks!

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CRB - These boards were so helpful to me in planning our trip, so I thought I'd try to give back a little. In any case, it seemed like most ships followed similar schedules. I scheduled the helicopter first figuring that if the weather was bad we'd have a little more room to play. Since we were booking on our own there were only a couple of times they would offer anyway - 9 and some time in the afternoon. Also, being a bit nervous about flying in a helicopter I didn't want to be anticipating it all day. But ended up being a great way to start the day. And at 9, it was nice and quiet both in their offices - we were the only ones there and up at the camp. There were three trains offered, and it seemed like all the cruise ships, including Princess had their own cars designated for the same time train. Planning the helicopter for 9am (it was about a 90 minute outing), we bought tickets for the 12:40 train. After the helicopter we had a little time in town with the kids and time to go back to our ship for lunch and to change before the train. There was also a 4:20 train, but later than we wanted.

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I didn't save our receipt - if you saw how much stuff we took along for this trip, you'd understand why I was eager to get rid of things once I didn't need them anymore. But, I seem to remember that the total for 4 was $1099. I believe the adults were $379, leaving the kids at about $170? Sounds about right, and not sure what age they consider kids, but you can call them direct and find out. Also, check cancellation policies and book early when you can. Many tours we did were booked way ahead, and some gave us last year's prices for calling so early. As long as you're careful about the cancellation policy and can afford to be out the deposit for a while, it's worthwhile considering - plus at least you have a space reserved until you fine tune your plans.

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