Land Tour and Cruise Review
Here are some notes ffrom a 3-day land tour and then the 7-day southbound cruise on the Sun Princess (9/10-9/17).
Friday - Fairbanks - arrived mid afternoon, stayed at Pike's Waterfront Lodge. It took three tries to get a non-smoking clean room. Rented a car just down the street from Artic for $25 for the rest of the day - and the car could be left at Pike's. Drove to the U of A Museum - great exhibits. Drove to the Pipeline overlook. Had dinner at the Oasis (DON'T!).
Saturday - Alaska Railroad to Denali in the a.m. There was plenty of space in the non-cruise cars and people shared the domes well. We saw a few moose. One great deal is the refillable souvenir mug for $5 - we alternated between coffee and tea. Five Fairbanks ladies had "napped" a friend for her 50th birthday and shared their potluck with us. Arrived at station, shuttled to Denali Princess, checked in, jumped back on the shuttle to the park and arrived in time for the 1:30 shuttle to the ranger led Dog Sled Show. For dinner, we had the dinner theater at the Denali Princess - lots of food - not great but plentiful salmon & ribs and a fun show.
Sunday - Took the a.m. Tundra Tour. We got lucky. The day was clear as a bell and we saw "the one". Just two days prior the bus had turned back because of snow. The bus went beyond Toklat to the Stony Hill overlook. Saw caribou, Dall's sheep, a moose, and three grizzly - a solo and then a mama with a spring cub. Mama and cub walked right beside the bus. The tundra colors were wonderful. In the afternoon, we hiked the trails around the visitor center including Horseshoe Lake. We went to a light show movie&music (I've forgotten the name) - interesting - especially if you are exhausted. For dinner we ate at the Denali Princess - if I could do that over I'd eat in the bar rather than the restaurant.
Monday - With Alaska Tour and Travel took a motor coach to Seward. It says it stops in Talkeetna and Anchorage - which it does but not any place really interesting. We did stop at author Mary Carey's roadhouse and met her. We also stopped at a hotel near Talkeetna with a FAB view and drove through the historic part of town (but no stop at the Roadhouse :-( ). We changed drivers in Anchorage and saw Beluga in the Turnagain Arm. We arrived at the Princess Dock at 5:30 and Express Check in was a breeze. Due to depart at 10pm.
Tuesday morning - the Princess was delayed in leaving due to a lifeboat problem. The captain woke us to tell us that we would soon be underway, and about the awful attacks in the USA. Because of our delay, we skipped College Fjord *#@&^$ and Princess gave each passenger a $75 credit - I'd have rather had the glaciers! It rained most of the day and lots of people felt a bit ill. Apparently a few weeks before it had been 18-25 ft waves and everybody was sick.
Tuesday - at sea
Wednesday - Glacier Bay and lots of rain. Went to the Sterling Steak House for dinner - this was nice - it has an added surcharge. It is actually a section of the buffet - not as "private" as I'd understood.
Thursday - Skagway - took a ranger tour and then a self led walking tour in the morning and the White Pass & Yukon RR in the afternoon. I tried to pre-book and was told by the company to book directly with Princess.
Friday - Juneau - we did self-led walking plus a tour with Coastal Helicopters. Bea of Coastal was wonderful enough to bring her dachshund to the airport so I could get a snuggle in (doxie owners stick together). The landing was on Taku glacier and the guide was great. Hey Gene - I have a photo of you - send me your snail mail address. It was quite rainy in town - we took refuge in St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church and learned quite a bit from the priest about the beliefs and the icons - tourist talk with a bit of religion thrown in.
Saturday - Ketchikan - self led walking tour and Flight seeing to Misty Fjords with Taquan Air (booked through Princess - but you could go direct) - we actually landed on a small island in a lake - it was wonderful. The day was unusually clear. When we got back to Ketchikan, there were no available tours to Saxman so we booked a cab for $28 for 1/2 hour and got a WONDERFUL private tour. We got to see the carvers at work and he also gave us a bit of a historical tour of the town including going down the road in new-town that is totally built on pilings - this road is too narrow for tour buses.
Sunday - Cruising the Inside Passage. It was cloudy until mid-day and then beautiful. We saw Orcas and also Totem poles. I realized just how much more I would have absorbed if I'd ACTUALLY FOLLOWED the map and book I bought when I got on board.
Monday - Princess handled the disembarking well - we docked early and were at the airport in plenty of time for the new restrictions. We had planned to take a cab but we bought transfers on board to get an earlier disembarkation time.
Notes for cruisers: I thought the personal choice dining worked well - but then I've never tried the assigned dining - Princess does give you a choice. Lots of stuff was on sale - on board ship as well as in ports because of the end of the season. I think the rain was hard on many of the older passengers. Layers and wind-pants, as suggested in this forum, were great. Formal night went from blue jeans to suits - with some tuxes. The demographics of this cruise was mostly Caucasian with an average age of 65+.
Re: Land Tour and Cruise Review
I want to note that the cruise was very somber as I know it was around the world. This was a very difficult time - passengers and crew were very caring for one another and CNN was on quite a bit in the lounge. We were able to get cell phone coverage at the mouth of Glacier Bay, in Ketchikan, in Juneau and in parts of the Inside Passage.
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