August 11, 2011 (Day 0) -- Toronto to Anchorage(Air)
Our flight from Toronto delayed for over an hour and it was a tight connection from Vancouver to Anchorage, transit time was only 2 hours. I really didn't know what to do if we missed the direct flight from Vancouver as my daughter's family were on Cruisetour #11, waiting for us at Marriott Anchorage. Luckily, we just made it on the plane with the help of our wheelchair assistants. Missing the flight connection is a senior's nightmare when my wife and I were just travelling on our own. We arrived at the Marriott shortly after 2 p.m. and rested for a bit before my daughter's arrival at 4:45 p.m..
My daughter made dinner reservation for the 6 of us at Simon and Seafort's on L Street at 5 p.m. It took us just 10 minutes to walk there from the hotel. The panoramic views of Mt. Susitna and the Alaska range was beautiful and the Alaska weather was warm and sunny...I was told it was unusual in August. The best part was that they had a $25 three-course meal if ordered between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. daily, though the food was not very good, below average I would say.
August 12, 2011 (Day 1) -- Day of Embarkation, Anchorage to Seward (Train)
We're boarding the Radiance today. We put all our luggage outside our room the night before and only carried with us our carry-on. At 8 a.m. we went to the 2nd floor of Marriott where RCI had a big conference room set up for check-in. We got our train tickets and bus # with departure time from hotel to the train station. The bus that we would go on was the 11:50 one.
At around 12:30 p.m. we were on board the train. The scenery of this train ride from Anchorage to Seward was stunning. The beauty of the glaciers and canyons was unbelievable. After a 4 hours' journey (1:00 -- 5:00 p.m.), we arrived at Seward's cruise terminal. As Diamond members we did not have to wait in line and were instructed to proceed to a check-in counter right away using the Priority Check-in line for elite members. We boarded the Radiance at around 5:30 p.m., went straight to our spacious and comfy Family Oceanview stateroom (FO 8002), then made our way to Cascades Dining Room on Deck 4 to enjoy our 1st dinner on board, right at 6 p.m. (main seating).
Our 390 sq-ft stateroom had a sitting area with a double sofabed, a bedroom area that had 2 twin beds (convert to a Queen), and a tiny separate bedroom for a twin bed and a pull-down bunk bed. The whole room can accommodate 6 people and you normally need to have at least 5 pp to book that type of room. However, just 1 month before our sail date, that room became available as an ordinary oceanview room that allowed double occupancy. As seniors we happily gave away our E2 mid-ship balcony room (on the Starboard side which should have been great while watching Hubbard Glacier) for a more spacious room. We LOVED our huge room and really enjoyed the separate sleeping areas. My daughter's family had 2 Aft rooms with huge balconies so we could still enjoy the Alaskan views in our own private world. Follow my daughter's thread to view the pictures of the suite:
August 13, 2011 (Day 2) -- Hubbard Glacier
Day 2 of the cruise was one of the highlights as we saw Hubbard Glacier. IT'S VERY IMPORTANT TO BOOK A BALCONY ROOM ON THE STARBOARD (RIGHT) SIDE OF THE SHIP. Unfortunately I gave up our Starboard balcony room for the FO, so I had to go to my daughter's D2 Aft balcony room to watch the glacier. We were really lucky that lots of calvings happened when the glacier was facing us while the ship made its 360 degrees turn. The sound and the sight were both incredible!
August 14, 2011 (Day 3) -- Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska
We rented a minivan from Alamo to tour around Juneau by ourselves. Alamo gave us a map of Juneau and recommended some points of interest for us to go and visit. There's only one main road along the coast of Juneau so it's hard to get lost! We had a great time at Mendenhall Glacier (#1 must-see in Juneau)and Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. We had lunch back on the ship and went off the ship to walk around but it started to rain very hard so we had to go back. This marked the beginning of the next few rainy days.
August 15, 2011 (Day 4) -- White Pass Summit and Yukon Rail, Skagway
We woke up to a dull and gloomy day. The excursion lasted for over 8 hours. We took the coach on Klondike Highway to White Pass Summit, had lunch at Caribou Crossing Trading Post, then took the train from Fraser, B.C., Canada, back to Skagway. The Klondike Highway was very scenic, though we could only see everything in basically 3 colours: gray, brown and white!
August 16, 2011 (Day 5) -- Whale watching, Icy Strait Point
We booked the 11 a.m. whale watching tour through RCI as all other private vendors were sold out! It turned out to be wonderful as there were just over 50 passengers on the boat. Binoculars were placed on the seats and the marine guide provided us with lots of info regarding marine life. We were very lucky as we saw whale breaching many times. Their tails were beautiful too! It was unfortunate that we could only take pictures from inside the boat as it was raining very hard...non-stop rain for the whole day!
Since it was still raining hard when we got back to Icy Strait Point, we went back to the ship without walking around. We had Samba Grill that night. Food was delicious there but the location of Samba was not desirable...a cold and windy walk with no interior corridors from the main part of the ship. There is NO WASHROOM inside the restaurant so I had to walk back to the main ship & back to the restaurant...journeys not quite pleasant!!
August 17, 2011 (Day 6) -- Misty Fjords Flightseeing Floatplane Tour, Ketchikan
We got beautiful weather again! After an early lunch, we got off the boat and waited for our private floatplane tour with Seawind Aviation. As there were 6 of us on the 6-seater floatplane, we got $10 family discount per person, over $100 cheaper than booking through RCI. The view was beautiful and we even landed on water!!
August 19, 2011 (Day 8) - Debarkation
Vancouver is a lovely port! We left the ship at 9 a.m. and got to the airport before 10 a.m. Getting a taxi minivan at the Vancouver cruise port was really easy. Although the van could only seat 4 people the most, it could accommodate 6 people's luggage. The taxi cost less than $25 but we gave the driver a big tip as we had so much luggage.
It was definitely a trip of a lifetime! Thanks to RCI and the trains, the glaciers, the whales and the floatplanes!