CALGARY, ROCKY MOUNTAINEER RAIL TOUR, VANCOUVER AND ALASKAN INNER PASSAGE CRUISE
Arriving in Calgary on July 6, we realized we were there at the time of the Calgary Stampede so we planned this event for the next day. The night of arrival we ate at a place called Earl’s on Stephen St, the pedestrian mall, and though we just happened upon it, we ended up returning because it was so good.
The morning of the 7th we had breakfast in Calgary Tower and there is no charge to go up the elevator prior to 8:30 AM. We walked around some visiting the 20-foot tall statues referred to as the “Family of Man”. The statues had the hands in the open position signifying peace to all people.
We went to the Calgary Stampede and picked up our previously ordered tickets for the night show including the Chuck wagon races. It is best to purchase the daily train ticket in Calgary so you can get on and off as you wish. No one checked the tickets, but I understand that they have spot checks and the fine is steep if you are caught without a ticket. The tickets are so reasonable, that they should be purchased. After walking around the Midway and visiting the Indian Village we returned to the Fairmont Palliser to rest.
We returned to the Stampede grounds for the show and dinner. We had very nice table service delivery of drinks. We thoroughly enjoyed it and had very good seats. The seats are inline, facing the racetrack but have a table to place food and drinks on. Very comfortable after seeing that other people without reservations were eating in the back with limited visibility of the racetrack.
We were so tired that we could not stay until 11:30 PM for the entire show and returned to the hotel to rest before the entire show was completed. It did seem to be a very good show put on after the chuck wagon races.
On the 8th we were up early to catch the Rocky Mountaineer Rail train that left at 6:30 AM. This is promoted as the most spectacular train trip in the world. I haven’t been on the Orient Express yet. Breakfast was on the train and we were on the first seating. Those on second breakfast seating were served coffee and rolls etc. until they got to eat breakfast. The next day the seating preferences would be reversed. The trip to Kamloops was filled with wonderful scenery and Vance and I took advantage of the opportunity to take many pictures. Spirits on the train were complimentary and we had a very nice breakfast and dinner in the dining car. Rocky Mountain Railtours offers two types of service, The Gold Leaf and the Red Leaf. The Gold is more expensive but well worth the difference in service.
When we got on the train in Calgary we were given a paper which shows how the trip is divided into sections from 1-7. Each section had mile markers, which corresponded to the mile markers on the side of the track form 0-100+ from East to West. The section numbers decreased from 7 to 1 going east to West. When a new section was entered the numbers returned to “0”. This allowed one to figure out when various different sites were being approached. The Continental Divide was the highest elevation on the trip at mile 122.2 of section 7 the first section out of Calgary. I think the elevation was 5280 feet. We passed through Banff at mile 81.9.
We traveled 391 miles to Kamloops at an average speed of 35 mph, and then left the train to spend the night in the Comfort Inn. Kamloops is in section 2. Section 3 & 4 go towards Jasper, which we did not do on this trip. On this trip we traveled sections 7,6,5,2 & 1.
Our keys were given to us on the bus from the train to the hotel making it very convenient. Our luggage actually arrived before we did since it traveled by truck rather than by train. This was another wonderful service. We attended a $25/person dinner show at Two Rivers Junction Theater, but I would not recommend it. The meal was a buffet and the show was only so-so. Apparently Jennifer Lopez was in Kamloops making a movie. Our train attendant asked if we had seen her. My wife promptly responded that she did not think that Ms Lopez would be at the Comfort Inn.
The next morning we were off bright and early departing at 6:30 AM to make the second leg of this Mountain Journey from Kamloops to Vancouver (276 miles).
We arrived in Vancouver on Wednesday July 9th at the Fairmont Waterfront hotel to find our bags in our room.
On the trip we passed places with names like Jackass Mountain, Jaws of Death Gorge, Hells Gate, Black Canyon tunnel, Batchelor, Bow River, Nicola River, Frasor River, Thompson Canyon and Revelstoke.
This was a most enjoyable trip and I would definitely recommend it.
In Vancouver on Wednesday we walked into Gastown and looked around doing some shopping. We decided that the steam clock was off by a few seconds. The next morning we asked the doorman for a recommendation on a place to eat breakfast. He directed us to Scoozies, which turned out to be a most wonderful place to eat in Vancouver.
Thursday we bought a two day pass on the double deck red busses to tour Vancouver getting off and on at the designated stops. This is a wonderful way to tour Vancouver. We, however, only used the pass for one day. We stopped for some time at Granville Island before returning to the Fairmont Waterfront.
The Island Princess cruise ship came in to the Canada Place dock and Gavin Macleod (played the part of the Captain on the Love Boat TV series) was on the sidewalk. He was very nice and we took a picture with the Island Princess in the background. He now works for Princess Cruise lines in Public relations. The Island Princess is the first cruise ship to be Christened in Vancouver. When Gavin asked if I was sailing on the Island Princess, I had to be truthful and mention I was on the Infinity. He took it in stride as the true professional that he is.
About 4:00 PM we took a 20 min sightseeing seaplane trip around Vancouver since it was such a pretty day. There is nothing like an airview to see a city. Later that evening we went back to Granville Island to have dinner at the Bridges Restaurant, which was very good but overpriced. We spent some time in beautiful Stanley Park with a wonderful view of the Lion’s Gate Bridge.
Friday Morning we again went to Scoozies for breakfast before getting packed and having our luggage taken from the room and brought to the pier to be loaded on the ship. Our luggage did arrive, but mine was a little late. Since I had previously had lost luggage, I was a little concerned, but all was OK once it arrived. It had simply been taken up the wrong elevator and finally found.
Friday evening we sailed out of Vancouver on the GTS Infinity starting the completion of our sailings on all four of the Millennium Class ships by Celebrity Cruises. We ate the first night in the United States (Infinity’s specialty restaurant) at $25/person charge which covers tips. The service is impeccable and the food is excellent. The specialty restaurants have their own special kitchen and chefs and you can see the kitchen through a glass.
The next day Saturday was a day at sea on the way to Juneau. The heated pool spa was enjoyable for this day.
Sunday July 13th we arrived in Juneau and strolled the city. It was overcast so we did not go up the Mount Roberts Tram. We noticed signs stating “Welcome Summit.” We did not see the GTS Summit in Juneau and later found out that she tore a 10 foot hole in her hull coming out of Yakutat bay hitting an underwater rock attached to ice. She apparently went to Seward for repairs, then continued her cruise. Apparently the repairs will carry her until her scheduled dry dock.
We did take a Helicopter tour to a glacier and rode dogsleds on top of the glacier. The weather was clear on top of the Glacier and the scenery was spectacular. The mushers sleep on the glacier and spend about one or two weeks up on the glacier before coming down. They had to move the camp once when the snow froze and the dogs could not run. It was not very cold, until the dogsleds started to move and the wind showed you some of Alaska coldness. This tour is expensive, but worth it.
Monday July 14th we arrived in Skagway and walked around the town shopping before our 11:30 AM departure on the White Pass narrow gauge railway.
The left side of the train has the best view on the way up and we switch places on the way back so the other people would have the best view coming down. Complimentary water is furnished. Photography was best done from the open parts of the train to eliminate the glare and reflections in the windows. This is a recommended trip and last about 3 hours. We had lunch before departure and no need to bring food. There is no food available on the train.
Tuesday July 15th we arrived at Yakutat Bay to view the Hubbard Glacier. We were able to get close and had a most magnificent view of the beautiful blue color. We had lunch on the verandah with the glacier close by. We could hear the cracking and saw some mild calving. This night we had dinner at the Captain’s table with some wonderful wine being served. The lamb was so good I accused the waiter of having it done in the “United States” kitchen. He said “Of course”. Someone else, however stated it was done in the regular kitchen.
Wednesday July 16th, Ketchikan was rainy and misty. We went up the funicular to the Cape Fox lodge restaurant and had very nice chowder soup. We did some shopping as expected. When we arrived in Ketchikan, we disembarked by tender, but when another ship left the Infinity had a dock spot. We met at the pier for our Misty Fjords tour by seaplane. Misty Fjords is another recommended tour. The views of the Tongass National Forest and the Fjords is magnificent. We landed on a pristine lake, which was beautiful except for the large biting Alaskan Mosquitoes. The pilot backed the seaplane up to the bank and we were able to get out of the airplane and walk around on shore. I didn’t know you could back up a seaplane. We saw several sheep, a bear and some mountain lakes spilling over as waterfalls.
Thursday July 17th we had a sea day and had to pack for disembarkation on Friday. We had no trouble with disembarkation and took a taxi to the Hampton Inn near the airport in Richmond and stored luggage until check in. We took the complimentary shuttle to the Richmond mall shopped around then saw a terrible movie. We later checked into the hotel and went to an Asian night market that was interesting. I sampled some of the food but the wife would have nothing of this food so we went to Dem Bones for some very good ribs.
It took us five minutes to get to the airport and 1 ½ hours to get to our flight gate at the Vancouver airport departure time 12:55 PM. We had gotten to the airport in plenty enough time. You just never know how things are going to go. I had spent plenty time in preparing for this trip, and yet at time of check in, my electronic ticket had not been issued. The agent had to issue the ticket at time of check in.
We arrive home safe and sound Saturday July 19th around 11:30 PM CST.