We flew into Achorage a couple days early before Landtour #12 started (Anchorage - Talkeetna-Denali (2 nights)-Aleyska). We visited the Anchorage Museum, Cultural Center, Earthquake Park, Weekend Market, and 3 breweries (Glacier, Firetap, Humpys). Anchorage is a nice city with easy to navigate streets. We were able to go to the grocery store and buy snacks and water for the land tour. We took our rental car back and caught the Celebrity transfer to the Anchorage Marriott our starting point for the land trip. The hotel overlooks the bay and has mountain views though we had to crane our neck to see them from our room. You can walk easily around Anchorage to food, shopping center, souvenier shops, museums.
The next day we took the Wilderness Express to Talkeetna. The domed train cars are comfortable and Royal Celebrity cars are nicely detailed. Breakfast on the train was reasonable for Alaska prices and good. We saw a couple of moose from the train. We arrived into Talkeetna and did shopping in the tiny town that was modeled in Northern Exposure. The Talkeetna Lodge was fantastic although we didn't luck out with a view room. 50% get views, 50% don't. We couldn't take our Mt. McKinely flyer on the day we booked but lucked out and got to fly before we left for Denali at 8 am. Alaska is very cloudy and prone to rain, the Celebrity tour doesn't have instrument rating, there is another tour company that does in Talkeetna that was able to fly. The McKinley flyer is worth the money, the views are amazing.
Denali National Park was our next stop, this time lunch on the train. We had our 8 hour tundra tour and saw a wolf pack take down a caribou, bear, moose, dall sheep right next to the bus, magpie, ptarmigan, artic fox, snowshoe hares. A long trip but the views are amazing especially if Denali is out which we were lucky and saw at our first chance but clouds prevented us from the other two opportunities. We whitewater rafted the Neenana River, that was fun, we did the one you just hold on for, perfect for first timers and we visited the Husky Homestead. The Grande Denali Lodge was under new management and we did not have any bad experiences here as others have posted about.
Aleyska (Girdwood) we did our laundry at the Laundromall so we had clean clothes for the cruise portion. The skiing had just stopped at the Aleyska Lodge the weekend before, the hotel is a 5 star for sure. Amazing views from the top of the tram ride included in the package.
Busride to Seward was about 3 hours long and lots of views to see. Embarkation on the ship was quick and painless as we are Select Captains Club members. The only problem we had was our cards did not open our cabin door, thankfully our cabin steward was there to let us in our room. Luggage showed up really quick. We went to Guest Relations to get new cards and guess what, they still didn't work! Second trip to Guest Relations resulted in them calling an electrician to reset our door, which finally worked for my husband but I had continuing problems throughout the cruise with my card but Guest Relations was always helpful. I had expected to see lots of "newness" with the solsticing of the stateroom but other than new mattress (very comfortable) and new veranda furniture our stateroom was still showing its age. We had 7177 which has a large veranda for a 2A cabin, even though it was cold we used our veranda quite a bit. The ride was very smooth.
The muster drill was strange. We were in the Rendevous and supposedly they were taking attendance however they weren't doing so when we walked in. They announced after all the people were accounted for they would proceed with the drill. The crew just looked around for a few minutes and accounted for the people without really doing so. The attendance thing was new from last year on the Millie and I think they need to skip it since it obviously doesn't work.
We did Select dining again this cruise which worked well for us although I do miss developing a relationship with the wait staff. Food menu was very similar to last year. We didn't eat in the specialty restaurants. Breakfast was in the Ocean Cafe, lunch at poolside grill, pizza, or off ship.
We only went to one show - IBroadway which we enjoyed. This was the first cruise we took by ourselves and we were low key and did not participate in either the Captains Club events or the daily schedule of the plenty of things to do except the one armed bandits in Fortunes.
The Hubbard Glacier we couldn't get very close due to the amount of ice still present. The naturalist discussed the glacier on the intercom and TV which was interesting. The helipad was opened for viewing although we viewed from our veranda.
Juneau we took the seaplane to view 5 glaciers and a salmon bake at the Taku Lodge which was very close to a glacier. Brown bears were a stone throw away from us. The food was homemade and delicious. This was our favorite excursion. I was disappointed at the cruise store shopping like Diamonds International, Del Sol (seriously in Alaska), etc... we just quickly walked by these. The Red Dog Saloon was very crowded so we ended up walking in and out.
Skagway we took the White Pass railroad up and then back down. It was scenic and interesting to hear the gold rush story which I further filled in post cruise with a National Geographic channel documentary to complete the picture. We also did a brewery tour which was disappointing, they only had a couple of beers, the food was mass produced and just OK. We got dropped off in the town and walked around to do some shopping.
Icy Point Straight, we did not plan anything but I wish I had done the Zipline, it was kind of amusement parkish in that there we no platforms to land on but would have been a good start for a novice like me.
Ketchikan is an island. We did a canoe/jeep off roading tour which was a lot of fun. Again alot of cruise ship stores. We did book all of our tours through the ship which I typically don't do when in the Caribbean but I did for Alaska since I wasn't sure about availability of public transportation and of other companies.
Inside passage the naturalist gave another narration. Pretty scenery. They bring in a pilot to navigate through this section.
Vancouver, they cancelled our shore excursion so we had to change to a different one. This is the only one I wish I would have done on my own pending the ability to store luggage. The Capliano Suspension bridge was amazing and we didn't have enough time to late passengers joining our tour - we waited 45 minutes on the bus before leaving for the tour. Stanley Park would have liked to have stopped there. Other than that Vancouver is very urban and I didn't like that part. We were dropped off at the airport and caught a shuttle to the Hilton Richmond for an overnight. Leave plenty of time for getting through the airport it took about an hour to get through all the screening and customs.
We did sign up for our next cruise on board for the shipboard credit and we are trying a sky suite on the Equinox for the next cruise.
This was the most expensive and best vacation we have taken however less than a week in it, we knew we have to come back to Alaska. Even though weather was a lot of cloudy and rain most days for a little while (Alaska has a large rainforest - who knew?) the views, the pace, the people are great!