Island Princess: Voyage of the Glaciers. Northbound. May 23-30, 2012.
Our trip began with a cousin's reunion and two very rainy days in Vancouver. We stayed with my cousin who lives near Science World and Chinatown. From there we walked to Granville Island then returned by Sea Bus. The Japanese Udon bowl from the food court area on Granville was very welcome on such a wet day! The next day we explored the Anthropology Museum at the University of British Columbia, the nearby and exquisite Nitobe Memorial Garden, and the Van Dusen Gardens. Evening was dinner at Carderos in Coal Harbor followed by a drive along the Stanley Park sea wall.
On the advice of cousin we arrived at Canada Place for embarkation at 11:30 am. The luggage was quickly taken from us and we proceeded very efficiently through security, cruise card issuing, and onto the Island Princess (During this process water and orange juice were provided by Princess.) Our cabin was ready and after dumping hand baggage, calling the Dine Line for a 5:30 Anytime Dining table for two, we explored the ship. The smell of pizza on the lido deck quickly decided us that it was time for lunch. At the bar next to the pizza grill we purchased a coffee card and an insulated Princess mug. Massages were booked and we returned to our cabin for a snooze. Robert, our steward, welcomed us and made sure everything was to our liking.
Sail-away was delayed by two hours due to a late flight with many Island Princess passengers. I thought this was highly considerate but it threw off our roll call plans of celebrating a 4:30 sail-away on the secret forward balcony on Baja deck. Some of us did meet and chatted until the drizzle forced us indoors.
We arrived early at Muster Call, cruise cards were scanned, rules gone over, and life jackets were put on. Very smoothly done!
The Dine Line reservation got us quickly into the Bordeaux dining room to an ocean view table and we had our first delicious meal of the cruise. Portions were just right for us to have an appetizer, main course, and dessert. The bread rolls were among the best I have ever had...
Sail-away occurred while we were eating but we managed to get in some great shots of the sun on Vancouver while rain showers were all around. On returning to our cabin (D709) we felt lots of vibration from the engines and wondered if it would be like that throughout the trip so we took Bonine (just in case), put out the doorknob hanger order for room service breakfast and immediately went to sleep.
The next morning the vibrations had calmed down and we spent a leisurely day exploring the ship, watching the coast, and reading. I even got to see a whale breach as I was scanning the sea with binocs. This was the first formal night. I did not pay much attention to who was specifically wearing what except that a comment from someone on CC popped into my head about the mode of dress being more "church or business than formal". I wore black Travellers pants and jacket with a sparkly top--DH had a black jacket, slacks, shirt and tie. DH would have been fine with just a shirt and tie.
I knew before we began that Ketchikan was the place that I would want to spend more time. We had a fabulous excursion with Lois Munch (Classic Tours) in her '55 powder blue and white Chevy. It was a glorious sunny day that allowed us to explore stair streets, totems, eagle nests, and plants. Lois directed us to Howling Wolf art gallery where we met a local artist who signed his prints for us. I learned so much with he and Lois about native culture and art. On the way back to the ship I had my first Alaska Amber beer--what a treat!
We awoke to pouring rain so out came the raincoats and we headed off to sign in with Orca whale watching before going to the Alaska State Museum in time for opening at 8:30 am. It was a Saturday so my plan of stopping for coffee did not work out as none of the coffee shops en-route opened until 9. The museum folks directed us to the grocery store behind the museum that had a great coffee bar and donut place. Orca picked us up at the museum at 10 and we went whale watching with Captain Larry. We saw several whales and finally one dove deep and showed his flukes?
We continued on to Mendenhall in the Orca shuttle and went to some of the photo points--some of the group walked out to Nugget Falls but we were content investigating the visitor's center. As it was still raining Orca dropped us near Taku Smokeries store to pick up vacuum-packed salmon and jerky --delicious; Next-Door was the Twisted Fish restaurant where we had a small Twisted Fish pie pizza and another Alaskan Amber ale.
Train Day!!!! More drizzle than rain. We had arranged our day with Chilkoot Charters who picked us up after the security point on the dock for the short ride to the train. There were 9 of us in the front coach of the train. It was spectacular! The open-air parts at each end of the coach made for great photos. We were met in Fraser and went by small coach (seated about 24) to the Yukon. After stops for black bears, Dall Sheep, Mountain Goats, and Lake Bennett, lunch was at Caribou Crossing--very tender BBQ chicken, roast potato, coleslaw, rolls, and homemade donuts--yum... On the way back to town we stopped for lake views, a desert, waterfalls, and Ptarmigan (the Alaska state bird). Our guide was excellent and ensured we had a personalized memorable day. We chose to be dropped off near the center of Skagway and wandered through the town before heading back to the ship.
Glacier Bay and College Fjord:
The scenery was stunning! We spent most of our time watching from our balcony or the aft balcony in awe. We saw brown bears on the way into College Fjord as well as sea otters and sea lions. The only critter left on my must-see list was Moose!
Disembarkation was very smooth and efficient. You are assigned a group based on what you are doing post cruise. We were in the Red group that was going to Anchorage airport for early flights or car rental pick up. The rain was blowing sideways when we got off the ship but Princess had mostly covered walkways. Our driver gave us lots of info about the area as we drove into the city including the "hooligan" run that was occurring (it's a smelt like fish caught in hand nets) with the Bald Eagles lined up on the edge of the bay.
Rental car was picked up, ULU Factory visited, and the next phase of our adventure started.
We chose to stay at the Alyeska Hotel that is between Anchorage and Whittier; it has a beautiful setting. On the way there we stopped at the Wildlife Conservation Center and had fun seeing a training session with a Kodiak bear playing with antlers and Brown Bears eating fresh salmon. They had a large gift shop with good prices on t-shirts. Our big treat that evening was to eat at the Seven Glaciers restaurant at the top of the Tramway. The next day we went to Seward and visited the Sea Life Center--still rain showers. I had arranged for the Puffin Encounter where to we had a behind the scenes tour and went into the Avian exhibit to feed the sea birds--oh my! Sea lion "teenagers" were playing in the bay as we left and on our way back we saw my last critter in the wild--Moose in a meadow!
The next morning we awoke to sparkling snow and brilliant sunshine and headed off to Palmer where we would meet my second cousin and her family. On the way we stopped along Turnagain Arm and at Elkutna to see the spirit houses. Glenn Highway was magnificent in the sunshine and the drive to our final overnight location at Sheep Mountain Lodge was amazing. Our last night was spent over a delicious meal of fresh halibut at the lodge restaurant celebrating with the Alaska cousins.
After a full breakfast we slowly drove back to Anchorage stopping for a hike by the Matanuska Glacier and a tour of the Musk Ox farm. After an early meal at the Alaska Brew House we headed to the airport and the overnight flight home.
It was a great trip!