2012 Alaskan Vacation and Cruise Review
June 27 -- We arrived in Anchorage, Alaska at 1:45pm Alaska time, which felt like 4:45pm Texas time and were starving. After getting our rent car and checking in at the Holiday Inn Express, we went to Sourdough Mining Company for dinner. We wanted some of their famous Corn Fritters and honey butter, and they were delicious. DH had a double, open face chili burger.....he loved it, while I had a burger with swiss and mushrooms. It too was delicious. We drove around Anchorage a bit, and visited the Ship Creek area, but were tired and stuffed so we headed back to the hotel to hit the hot tub and then to bed.
June 28 -- After breakfast, we headed out to Knight's Taxidermy Shop. We had watched their tv show Mounted in Alaska on the History Channel and wanted to pay them a visit. The shop manager, Doug gave us the grand tour of the shop, we my DH really enjoyed. We also purchased a bear skin from them and they shipped it to Texas for us. We then went downtown to the Anchorage Museum. It really is a world class museum. We took the guided tour of the Alaskan History exhibit and thought it was well done. We had lunch at The Muse (cafe in the Museum) then finished the exhibit of photography of Bradford Washburn. He photographed Mt. McKInley and also led expeditions to its summit. The photos were excellent. We visited the Denali Winery which turned out to be more fun than expected. We visited with the owners for a couple of ours, tasting their wines, and purchasing some to take onboard. We will most definitely visit them again. We paid a visit to Carr's to purchase some snacks for the trip to Denali.
June 29- We checked out and loaded up for Denali. We loved our drive up and did not have any trouble with traffic or road construction. We went into the park and picked up some info at the Visitor Center. We checked into our cabin at Carlo Creek and made ourselves at home in the sod roofed cabin. We really liked Carlo Creek. Our cabin had a queen bed, mini fridge, microwave, 2 chairs and small table. They provided towels and we shared a bath house. Their bath areas were exceptionally clean, as were the laundry facilities. We also had Wi-Fi and could check in with our family in Texas. We went back into Glitter Gulch to meet our Rafting guides at Denali Raft Adventures. Denali Dan, our raft guide was fun and quite good at guiding us through the rapids. The river was up and running faster and we had a blast. This was the 2nd time we have rafted with this outfit and always have fun. After getting out of our drysuits, we had dinner at the Salmon Bake. I enjoyed my Halibut sandwich and fries. Since I was cold from rafting, partially in the rain, I ordered hot chocolate. I got a large cup with lots of whip cream...and the waiter didn't charge me for my refill. It was right on time. We both took hot showers and slept well.
June 30- up early for a 6am shuttle to Eielson Visitor Center in Denali National Park. We found our sits on the bus, and visited with the troop of Boy Scouts from Long Island, NY were sitting behind us. We enjoyed the shuttle. Our driver was very competent. He stopped for wildlife, turning the bus off as to not disturb the wildlife. We were the first bus out for the day, and that had its advantages. ...no one in front of us. We traveled to the visitors center, making scheduled stops along the way. We spent 45 minutes at the center, and got to see just a few minutes of the North Summit peeking out of the clouds. Everyone was clicking cameras ...it was a beautiful sight. In all, both going out and coming back, we saw 10 different Grizzly Bears (including cubs), 2 Caribou, a mama moose and her calf, and 3 groups of Dall Sheep...one group of ewes and lambs, and 2 different groups of Rams, plus a Golden Eagle. All in All, we got our money's worth. It was exciting! We made our way back to our cabin to rest a bit, then ventured across the Parks Hwy to Panarama Pizza. We loved the Denali Pizza....delicious. I did a load of laundry and we repacked to head back to Anchorage the next day.
July 1 -- We headed back to Anchorage, stopping off at Talkeetna on the way. We absolutely loved the Sourdough Hot Cakes at The Roadhouse for breakfast. It was our first time to visit, but won't be our last. My DH made a deal on a Moose shed, and they shipped it to Texas along with a Caribou shed that the Carlo Creek Owner game him. (just so you understand, DH is a Hunter Education Instructor for the State of Texas, as well as a Hunting Skills Instructor for Texas 4H...all of these specimens will be used to teach Texas youth) We had a trip with Talkeetna Air Taxi and got to go thru the clouds to see Mt McKinley. Our pilot, John was very good to inform us about Alaska history of the area throughout the flight and explain how we were approaching the mountain. It was a highlight of our trip. Sidebar-we used a Groupon 2 for 1 deal....made it even better. We headed back to Anchorage after our flight, turned in our Rent Car and caught the hotel shuttle to the Clarion Suites Downtown. We liked our room, very spacious and clean. Their hot tub spa needs some work...didn't jet correctly, but we enjoyed it anyway. We just finished eating all of our snack food for dinner and crashed after such a great day.
July 2- had a great waffle at the Clarion before shuttling to the Alaska RR Depot to get aboard the Glacier Discovery Train headed to Whittier. We booked this trip independently, but since our Princess tags were on, the baggage porter told us our bags would meet us on board the ship. Joy!! We enjoyed our train ride and arrived right on schedule. We walked right through security and boarded the Coral Princess. It was fantastic. This is our 4th cruise and was the fastest and easiest we've ever boarded. We dropped off our backpacks, grabbed our camera and went to have lunch in the Horizon buffet. All is good. Our luggage had been delivered when we returned. We roamed the ship a bit, the DH went to watch Wrath of the Titans in the Universe Lounge. I ventured around and back to the room to stretch out for awhile. Our TA had ordered chocolate covered strawberries, and they were delivered while I was there. Delicious! We enjoyed dinner in the Provence Dining room with 2 couples from Colorado and 1 from Pennsylvania. We missed the Welcome show in the theater, since we ate so late. We had a nightcap in the Explorers Lounge and listened to the music of Epiphany. We slept well and woke up rested.
July 3 -- enjoyed breakfast in the dining room with a couple from Northern California. I then completed the Treasure Hunt getting stamps from various venues on ship, although I didn't win a prize. I did play some Bingo, again didn't win, but it was fun. DH checked out a book from the Library and also attended the Naturalist lecture North to Alaska by Kathy Slump. We had lunch in the dining room and ate with a couple that used to work on cruise ships. They shared some from their experiences onboard. I met with a few Cruise Critic/Facebook Roll Call members in the Crooners Lounge. It was fun putting a name with a face. I enjoyed meeting them all and comparing our trips thus far. The weather was not helpful in viewing Hubbard Glacier. The visibility was not good, and the current was strong, icebergs were large, evident of lots of movement by Hubbard, so the Captain thought best to not go any further. Tonight is our 1st formal night, so we got dressed up and had our pictures made. We had a lovely dinner with our tablemates in the Provence Dining Room, Sandy and Paula were teachers from Delaware-leaving husbands at home and traveling together, David and Carolina were retirees that moved to Florida from Washington DC...we will enjoy dining with them each evening.
July 4 -- Cruising Glacier Bay! Weather was cloudy or foggy, until we reached the Glaciers. I watched the NP Rangers board the ship Port Side just below our balcony ...fun! We attended the NPS presentation in the Princess Theater, grabbed lunch, then enjoyed the Glaciers from our own balcony. We turned the volume up on the TV to hear the narration from the Park Ranger. It was wonderful. We enjoyed good views, of Margerie, Grand Pacific, and Lamplugh Glaciers. Dinner again with our new friends was lovely. Our server, Rocio, from Mexico was great. She was friendly and fun to visit with each evening. The ship decorated for July 4th as well.
July 5 -- Skagway - The day began cloudy but the sun broke out to be beautiful. We headed into town, purchased a few postcards and got them in the mail. Then we met our Hike and Float tour and ventured out to the Chilkoot Trail for our adventure. Keenan, our guide from Skagway Hike and Float Tours, led us through 1 mile up the mountain on the Chilkoot Trail, then 1 mile fairly level ground, ending at the Taiya River and floating down rather gently back to our van. It was a moderately strenuous hike, but we did it. My DH loves to be outdoors, so he really enjoyed it, plus it was great exercise. Once back in town, Keenan dropped us off at the Skagway Brewery, where DH enjoyed the sampler, plus a pint of the Porter and we shared a Halibut Sandwich. Then we headed back to the ship. We enjoyed a warm shower and got ready for dinner. We attended the comedy show, featuring Sarge. He was funny and we enjoyed the show.
July 6 -- Juneau -- We took the Blue Bus shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier. We got our tickets near the Tramway building. Our driver was a funny gentleman and pointed our various points of interest along the way, including Eagle Island...where the American Eagles was resting on trees and fallen logs. We counted about 7 as we passed. We went through the Visitors Center and watched the informative, brief movie about the Glacier before hiking out to Nugget Falls (45 min round trip) We enjoyed the walk and the view when we arrived. After taking more photos, we caught our shuttle back into town, picked up a couple of gifts and went back on board the Coral. We grabbed lunch at the Horizon Court, and then attended the presentation by Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1985. We both enjoyed her presentation and my DH, who follows the race online each year, purchased a book about the race. Ms. Riddles autographed it for us. After 2 days of hiking, I was rewarded with a session at the Lotus Spa....Hot Stones Massage, Feet and Ankle Massage and Neck and Shoulder Massage...all in all, an hour and worth every penny. We enjoyed dining with friends again. We did attend the Motor City Show tonight. The dancing was very well done, high energy. The singing was okay...lady vocals were stronger than the men, but still enjoyable.
July 7 -- Ketchikan -- typical day in Ketchikan...rainy! DH and I put on the rain coats and went into town to Tall Tale Taxidermy. DH is building his Wildlife ID specimens along the way on this trip. Today, he purchased some Porcupine Quills and River Otter hide. We headed back to the ship to find our fishing charter guide. Ken, with Northern Lights Charters picked us up at 12 noon. We climbed aboard his boat and headed out into the choppy waters in search of King Salmon. After finishing the licensing paper work and getting our King Salmon Stamp, we both put on our rainsuit pants. Ken got us into a little cove and within just a few minutes, we got our first bite. DH reeled it in, while I helped bring in the other line, so his fish wouldn't get tangled in an empty. This first fish put up a fight, I was glad I wasn't on the pole. It was our largest fish of the day weighing between 25-28 lbs. We got 6 King Salmon total and yes...I reeled in 2 on my own...and my shoulders are sore today to prove it. They do put up quite a struggle, but it was exciting for this Texas girl to experience it. We filled out our processing paperwork and Ken took care of the rest. We will have lots of Salmon for our freezer in Texas. We boarded the Coral and took off our wet stuff, grabbed a bite to eat in the Horizon. At 5:00pm, we both said we'd catch a quick nap and then shower before dinner. At 7:15pm....we jumped up and quickly got ready for 7:45pm dinner time. We realized we were more tired than we thought. We enjoyed visiting with our Floridian friends through dinner, and were saddened to hear that one of our Delaware teachers had been ill, so they weren't joining us. We went back to our room, read the Patter for our day at sea, and fell fast asleep.
July 8 -- DH birthday! Princess had posted a Happy Birthday poster on the door, along with balloons. I took his picture by the doorway and posted it on Facebook for our family to see. We enjoyed breakfast in the dining room with 2 couples from different areas of Canada. We always enjoy meeting new folks at our meals in the dining room. We headed up to the Lido deck to read and got a surprise performance from a large group of porpoises off the Port side. I visited the Outlet Sale, but didn't see anything I really needed. We went up to the room, opened the curtains back to view the ocean, did some re-packing, and reading. We just relaxed this last day at sea...did nothing special. We sat our luggage out before we headed to dinner. Our tablemate caught some Silver Salmon on his excursion and got the Princess Chefs to prepare them for our dinner. They brought it to our table and served it to us. It was delicious. The head waiter and our service staff brought my DH a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday...fun fun fun! We said good bye to our new friends and headed back to our cabin. Today was absolutely the most beautiful day of our cruise....sunshine and smooth seas. We enjoyed our balcony before retiring for the evening.
July 9 - We woke early to watch as we sailed under the Lion's Gate Bridge in Vancouver, then ran up to the Horizon Court for coffee and a bite to eat. We were on the 8:55am meeting time in Princess Theater so we had time for breakfast. After eating, we went back to the cabin, brushed teeth and watched the happenings on the dock, before heading to the Princess Theater. We finally were called for disembarkation around 9:20am. It went smoothly. We took the Princess transfer to SeaTac, so they sealed our bus at the dock. When we got to the border, the Border agents came on the bus and checked our passports and we were on our way.
We found that we liked the Coral Princess better than the Diamond. Maybe because it is smaller, it seemed easier to get around. We enjoyed the friendliness of the entire staff. We bumped into to Stu, the cruise director in the hallway and stopped and visited awhile...just a neat guy. All of the servers, even those not serving us at the time, would stop and visit with you or joke with you. We just enjoyed all aspects of our cruise vacation.