We arrived in Vancouver about 7PM Sunday evening, the night before departure. While the 4 of us were waiting for our luggage I went outside (about a 50 ft walk) to check out transportation options. We planned to take a cab but Aeroshuttle services had a stretch limo right there and empty. The 4 of us and our combined 13 bags were transported to the Pan Pacific for $50. We thought that was a great deal and made the transport so much less stressful after a frustrating Air Canada experience. When we checked into Pan Pacific we were told that we were lucky that Air Canada didn't lose our luggage. Evidently they have a reputation for this.
We spent the night at the Pan Pacific hotel. This was the best decision we could have made. We asked to borrow a stapler from the desk to attach our princess luggage tags. The room was fine, very clean; internet access is available on a pay basis. The bed was very comfortable. The bathroom is good size with a lighted make up mirror. We had a complimentary breakfast buffet. This morning I woke at my usual 4 AM. Funny how that works when you travel west into an earlier 3 hour time zone. Planned a lively jaunt through the Canadian trail a few times but we were stopped by the sight of the Coral Princess coming into the harbor from the SB cruise.
We watched the ship dock and then got ready for breakfast. Breakfast at the Pan Pacific's Cafe Pacifico was very good. Lots of choices, many different types of fresh cut fruit, more than the usual on a restaurant buffet. There were eggs Benedict and scrambled eggs as well as potatoes, bacon, etc. After breakfast, we took the obligatory 2 ish block walk to BC Liquors at Harbor Centre on West Hastings St to buy a couple of bottles of wine for our room. We found the type of wine we prefer(Rosemont) the cost, $14.99, was the same as the regular cost at home but it is often on sale at home, so we generally pay less than $10. I expected it to be much more expensive. We returned the hotel and called for the bellman to take our bags downstairs to the Coral Princess when we were ready. We had a 2PM checke out which made us feel so un-rushed, it was great. He was very good and made sure that we had not put our passports or boarding passes into the checked luggage. He told us that customs has opened and that we were welcome to proceed to check into the ship. We then checked out and proceeded in the elevator to the cruise ship level and went through customs, security and then get processed with princess. They took us right up front since we stayed at the Pan Pacific and sat us in a corralled area.They told us we would be the first on board. They had water for refreshments while we waited for the ship to be ready to be boarded. I can't say enough good things about Pan Pacific. To boot, we had a great AAA B&B rate that was better than some hotels offering cruise transfer packages from other parts of the city.
Princess is extremely organized in the check in process. Embarkation was flawless. We were boarded very quickly, with the exception of the ship photographer taking the welcome aboard photo. That always slows the process up, of course.
Once on board we went directly to our cabin on the Baja deck. The cabin was located in the midship bump out and was right at the elevator. Surprisingly, we heard no noise from the elevator. In fact, we heard no noise at all, not even from our friends next door when they had the TV on. Speaking of TV is sure to turn the TV to the ship channel, to see the progression and location of the cruise in real time. There are maps that show where we are located which is very helpful. The room was quite roomy, in comparison to inside cabins that we have had on previous cruises, comparing to RCCL, as that is the only other cruise line we have been on. The egg crate I ordered was not on the bed. When we met Alvin, our very friendly cabin steward, he told me that instead of the egg crate he substituted it with a pillow top pad. I would not call this a pillow top pad. It was more like a thick-ish mattress pad. Because DH has a history of back surgery, we requested the egg crate in addition and Alvin was pleased to comply with our request. They egg crate is no more than in inch thick. It helped a little, but when you are used to memory foam on top of a tempurpedic mattress, there is nothing that will compare. You can easily fit several suitcases under the bed. The closet was very spacious and they supply a plentiful number of wood hangers and lots of shelving. Each night stand has 2 drawers we had brought an extension cord to use in the event that the plug was too far away for a CPAP to reach we were pleased that the machine cord did reach the plug and thus only needed the extra cord to charge the iPad,computer,phones or camera batteries. We requested a top sheet (I really don't understand why they don't automatically place a top sheet on the bed to begin with) and a second bathrobe.. We requested that the balcony partition be removed between our cabin and our traveling companion's room, which made for a nice room deck.
Lunch on embarkation day was in the Horizon Court for the Buffett. The Main dining rooms were not open for lunch, as far as we could tell. The climate control in Horizon Court is not good. It was quite warm and there were so many people and very low ceilings on one end. Great ocean view, only so-so food. Plenty of choices but much of it was very cafeteria-like. We hoped that the dinner in the main dining room would be better, and it certainly turned out to be the case. Interestingly, the food did seem to improve in the Horizon court each day that we partook. Maybe we had the leftovers from the SB cruise.
Turns out we ate only a few meals in Horizon Court because the Main Dining Room (Provence) served breakfast and lunch to anyone every day. We preferred the dining room food to the Horizon Court.
We easily found the "secret" Baja deck on the bow. It was perfect to watch the sunset that evening. A crew member did come out at one time and we asked him if it was, indeed okay to be out there. He assured us that this was a public viewing area. Each night we toasted on the secret deck as our ship left port.
There was a little too much marketing on board. Many "talks" were followed by book/cd sales.
Laundromat is on the aft end of the ship. On the Baja deck there were 6 washers and dryers.College Fjord day was the busiest day in the Laundry room. There were 2 large ironing boards, an iron and a TV in the room.
We were on the starboard side of the boat. We had sunrises about 4AM. The port side had sunsets about midnight. Of course, depending on our position at sea we caught a few sunsets!
We brought eye masks to help with sleep. The cabin had room darkening shades, so we did not need them, but did need them on our DIY land tour.
Ports of call
Ketchikan: Sunny! Very rare to have sun in Kathcikan. We were in port about 6 hours. We were bombarded at debarkation with vendors selling their tours. We were approached by a rep from Tanguay air services, selling flight-seeing tours. When we asked the simple question of what the cost would be the man would not say right away, we kept asking us irrelevant questions and refused to tell the cost until we finally ended it and walked away. He was very rude. We then decided to hire a local cab driver, Renee, to give us a personalized tour of the area that would be away from the crowds. She was a wealth of local knowledge and took us about 6-8 miles outside of town, showing us different spots where the locals fish and where we could see lots of eagles as well as salmon jumping. It was great. She charged us an hourly rate but when we hit it off so well, she ended up charging us for only the initial hour.
Juneau: whale watch at 8:30with Harv and Marv. Tim, who met us was great, as well as RoseMarie, our shuttle driver. Had Captain Liz on our small boat , just 6 of us. We saw about 8 or 9 whales. Lots of blows. We understand that in the afternoon of that same day, the whales were much more active. They stop at Mendenhall Glacier for about 30 minutes. You can stay there if you chose and take the blue shuttle bus back to port. Watch the times of the last shuttle. it seems to vary day by day. That particular day, the last shuttle was at 4:30 PM.
Skagway: rented a car from Avis ( short walk from the docks) and drove to Emerald Lake. White Pass was totally socked in with fog and clouds, as well as some rain. Once we got into British Columbia, the weather and visibility improved and we could see more of the scenery. We felt badly for anyone taking the railroad, as we thought there may be no scenic views to be had. On the way through the Yukon, we came across a black bear mama and her 3 cubs, meandering along the edge of the road. The cubs were cinnamon colored. We stopped in the tiny town of Carcross and chatted at length with a nice lady at the visitor's center and took a walking tour of the town and shops and then headed to Emerald Lake. We were picturing a different setting for Emerald Lake. It was bigger than I expected and the color of the water was spectacular. I can only imagine how colorful it must look if the sun were out and it was a different time of the day. We returned back to Skagway about 4:30, did some shopping and headed to the ship for a light snack before our dinner reservation.
Glacier Bay..Sunshine and bright skies, Glacier Bay is beyond gorgeous. The ship spent a lot of time at Margerie Glacier and repositioned the boat so that those on either side of the ship, on their balconies, could have equal time. While our side was positioned for the Port side, we were entertained by a grizzly bear on the beach in front of us. We did spend some time on the secret forward deck and the aft deck. The forward deck can be very windy so bundle up! Listen for white thunder..incredible.
Naturalist: The Naturalist on board was Kathy. She was really good with the history of the area but we would have liked more info on glaciers, how they form, move, etc, as well as whales and wildlife. Kathy is a good historian but not exactly what I would can a naturalist. She did a good job peddling her books after presentation.In Glacier Bay,National Park Rangers were picked up an aboard for commentary on the PA for the entire day.
Dining : We had Anytime Dining in the Bordeaux dining room. We requested a specific dinner time almost each night, and ended up lucky enough to get the same window , ocean view table each night. We were told that we could reserve a table as long as it was up until 5:45 or after 7:15. Staff: Alvin , Dalibor , Carlos and Marius. We befriended the 2 head waiters, Carlos and Marius. Carlos send us a special "extra" appetizer each night and the requested escargot was presented to us on Saturday night.They chose Saturday night so as to not bring it to the attention of other cruisers, or at least that is what they told us. Wow..Great service, friendly faces, very attentive.
We brought wine from our room to dinner almost every night, no questions asked. We had fresh wine glasses in our room daily. At times, they would take the wind from my hand and carried to the table for me. We did attend a wine tasting event and bought a nice bottle of wine for dinner one evening.
Seafood buffet lunch was held on the Lido deck towards the end of the week. The food was excellent
Champagne Balcony Breakfast was awesome and could be designed with whatever you want in addition to or in place of a specific menu. This is definitely worth the money ($32)!
Afternoon tea is a fun thing to do. We met a lot of nice people.
Grill & Pizza: I personally did not use either of these venues. One of our parties did use the grill and he felt that the hamburgers were cafeteria like and tough.
Specialty dining: did not use any of these. I don't believe in the extra charges..It was the principal.
There were 2 wine tasting events. The first one was offered at $25pp. We did not attend that. Towards the end of the week, they offered another wine tasting event, this one more reasonably priced at $9.95 pp. We did partake in this one, ended up buying a wine for the table that was excellent.
Ice cream was available daily, and this was high quality soft serve. I know this because we used to own a soft serve ice cream shop and it was considered the best soft serve in our area. The Princess soft serve was very much like it.
Sanctuary: walked through to see what it was like. Very rarely saw anyone using it. I don't agree with a fee for this.
Temps were in the 50's and low 60's. Needed gloves when walking the promenade deck for exercie
Jean Mac- terrific jazz singer in the Bayou bar, who took a liking to us and chatted with us every time we were there. I was sad for her that more people did not come to listen. It was here I was introduced to the Monte-Chocsco . Hot chocolate, Grand Marnier and Kahlua...so good on a cold Alaskan night!
Epiphany- musical group that was very versatile and fun to listen to. We were dismayed at how poorly attended the lounges were with these singers.
Welcome aboard show: very boring. The cruise director tried to entertain. Kudos for trying.
Comedy of Sarge: this fellow was hilarious, our jaws were aching from so much laughter. We was definitely a bit politically incorrect, but hilarious. We attended 3 different shows and each one was new material. The man is gifted . Our jaws were aching from laughing. He got a standing ovation.
On the Bayou:Very entertaining musical, set on a rotating stage.
Magician: we skipped this one but our traveling buddy couple attended and found it boring.
Hypnotist: This was interesting, several audience members volunteered. Some could obviously not be hypnotized. Some seem to be very well hypnotized. Walked away wondering if she can really do that or were these people planted.
Best entertainment was a humpback calf breaching outside of our dining window at dinner one evening.
Fitness: I was already to join in Zumba, but there were no Zumba classes offered. I had every good intention of using the fitness Center but ended up walking loops around the Promenade deck early each morning. We would walk for about an hour. Each 2.5 loops equaled a mile, according to the signage.
Staff: Alvin - room steward. Very nice, attentive and prompt to our needs and request. At the end of the cruise, we had to have our bags out the night before. This included DH's sleep pad. Alvin was able to accommodate by replacing his bed pad with a double egg crate which worked out well.
DIY Land tour report to follow
Whittier: Disembarkation was efficient and very organized. We had purchased the Princess transfer to Whittier for $52pp. Our luggage was delivered to The Egan Hospitality Center by truck, prior to our arrival at the center. Our bus driver gave us a narrated tour of Portage valley while we drove, and made one stop for a scenic view at Portage Lake.The trip was about 2.5 hours. We found out that our ticket allowed us the opportunity to return to the Egan Center at the end of our road trip, and have complimentary shuttle service to the airport, provided that this was a day that a ship was arriving to Whittier. As it turned out, we chose to not take advantage of this, for various reasons, even though it would have been a ship day. The luggage was organized very well inside the Egan center and we had to show ID to pick up ours. Again, Princess is extremely organized and efficient with this process.
We called Enterprise upon arrival at the Egan Center and a representative picked us up in the SUV that had been reserved for us. We got an amazing rate of $365 for 10 day rental of a full sized SUV. When we arrived at the office to complete the paperwork, the rep suggested, that due to the amount of luggage that we were carrying, that he change us to a minivan that seated 7 passengers and had lots more luggage storage space, at no additional cost. This worked out great for us as we were meeting up with our 4 other traveling companions in Denali (they were on different Princess Cruise tours) and we all had reservations for a 6:15 AM Denali shuttle bus to Wonder Lake. Our friends were staying at Princess Denali Lodge and the Princess' shuttle bus begins their runs at 7AM. We were able to comfortably pick them all up with the minivan with a seat for everyone. The minivan was also much better on the wallet as far as mileage. This model automatically switched from 6 to 4 cylinders on the highway. After the first fill up we noted 40mpg's! Gas prices ran from $3.43-4.25 per gallon the entire trip, lower than we expected!
First stop was Wasilla for supplies. We could not find Fred Meyers, even with the GPS. Wal-Mart was what we came across initially, so we stopped, bought a cooler, ice, paper plates and towels, zip lock bags, toilet paper, snacks..trail mix ingredients (we like to make our own), peanut butter, deli, cheese, bread, breakfast foods, yogurt, cereal, etc. Our intent was to have prepared breakfast and lunches ourselves and go out to dinner. We chose facilities with kitchens except for one B&B, so that we could cook dinner if we chose to do so. In actuality we cooked dinner only once, but were glad we had the option available to us.
Off to Talkeetna.Sunshine continues! We stayed at Talkeetna-Denali View Lodge. Our room was the Denali View room, where, indeed, we had our first glimpse of the mountain above the clouds, that evening. The room with the best view in the house. Lodging review to be submitted, but in a nut shell, we LOVED this lodge. Great views and the owners, Renae and Tom fed us very well for breakfast. We will definitely be back there again someday to stay. They are located off MM3 on the Talkeetna Spur road and it was a quick ride into town. The sun shone brightly for the next 2 days in Talkeetna. We had a McKinley Summit flight pre-scheduled with Talkeetna Aero Services using our 2-1 coupon from the Northern Lights coupon book. We were so lucky with the weather. Our pilot, Andre, was awesome. He took us within 1/3 mile of the summit and we saw the remnants of the last camps, as climbing season was coming to an end. We had to use oxygen once we hit about 14k feet. DH and I had the best seats as we were positioned by the company in the last 2 rows, giving us unobstructed views. The others had to look over the wings of the airplane. We ate 2 meals, both at the West Rib Pub. The food was plentiful and very tasty and they served Moose Drool, my favorite ale!
Be sure to visit the river's edge, beautiful scenery and just a serene place to enjoy the quiet and scenery. We met the town mayor, Stubbs the cat. He hangs out at Nagley's store and yes, has a stub for a tail. They call him the mayor because one year, as the story goes, 15 years ago several of the town residents didn't like the candidates who were running for mayor of Talkeetna, and so as a joke, they encouraged enough people to elect Stubbs the cat as a write-in candidate. Stubbs the cat was a write-in and actually one the election. He is famous now and the week we were there, he was on CNN, believe it or not.
After shopping, we were off to Healy, where we would stay for 3 nights, giving us 2 full days in Denali. It was a clear day and "the" mountain was out in full view. We stopped by the Wilderness Access Center and picked up our set of 6 pre-reserved Wonder Lake tickets. We also bought tickets into Eielson for the next day, the day before meeting up with our friends on the cruise land tour. We stayed at Alaskan Spruce Cabins, and were pleased with this peaceful setting in a cabin that had everything we needed, including a full kitchen. The next morning we headed to Eielson on the 7:15 green shuttle bus. Our bus driver was very good and gave us a lot of great info. If you spot wildlife you are instructed to call out "stop" and she does, readjusting the bus as necessary. That day we saw several grizzlies, the closest being about 300 yds away. We got off at Eielson and remained off the bus, with the intent of doing some hiking around the visitor center. We headed for the Alpine Ridge trail, which turned out to be a bit too steep for me, but DH went along to the top at my insistence. I headed back down to the visitors center and found plenty to see and do, including the lower trails around the visitor center. DH loved the trail and came back down when he was ready, and then we told the dispatcher we were ready for a bus and he assigned us to a bus back to the WAC. We ended up sitting in the back of the bus which ended up uncomfortable once we hit the paved road (go figure). Turns out they are replacing culverts and made for a bouncy ride, especially in the back, where the suspension on a school bus is not so good.
We met up with our friends and had dinner at the 49th State Brewery. Meals were very good, with the exception of one of our party's steak Caesar salad. We found out later, from a local resident, that because lettuce is not grown in the region, it can be hit or miss, and slightly wilty.
The next morning we were off to Wonder Lake for the day. Our friends had purchased sandwiches for lunch at Subway the night before and we stored them overnight in our refrigerator at the cabin. We boarded the 6:15 bus and were able to get the front seats (watch for wheel wells). Our driver was Beth and she was very knowledgeable, albeit slightly arrogant attitude. I say this because if someone had a question, she sometimes made them feel stupid for asking..not all the time but enough for us to be wary of what questions we posed to her. There was plenty of overhead storage for back packs, as long as they were not too huge. Ours was huge because DH, being a hiker, brings everything we might need for survival with him in his backpack wherever we hike. Today was a great wildlife day. We came across a mother grizzly and her 2 cubs walking along the road in the Sable Pass area. Great photo opportunity. Evidently they could care less about the busses as they are accustomed to them. We also saw moose,caribou and dall sheep.
We had the usual bathroom stops and Polychrome Pass stops. Even though it was cloudy and the likelihood of seeing Denali was minimal, we chose to continue onto Wonder Lake. The scenery between Eielson is different and we saw several moose and bears in the distance. The mosquito issue was a non issue but they were out somewhat so we donned out mosquito nets ($2 from Wal-Mart). We never needed our bug spray. That day we saw caribou as well. Later in the day, a pack of wolves crossed the road in front of the bus. Unfortunately, 3 of our party (including myself and DH missed this as we had just gotten off the bus at Savage River checkpoint to hike the trail. The Savage River trail is a very easy 2 mile RT hike. It reminded me of a miniature Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National park.
Dinner that night was at the Salmon Bake in Glitter Gulch. That was a great meal..plenty of food.
I chuckled (to myself) at some of the cruise tour people all dressed up for dinner in a place where most are dressed in hiking clothes.
We drove from Denali to Seward. We left Healy at 8:30. After 2 brief stops for gas (4.25 mpg), etc, we arrived in Anchorage at 1 PM. It was an easy drive with very light traffic. We used our I-phone Alaska App to find our nearest rest stops ahead of time. This app works great and has all sorts of local information including self guided audio tours. Once we got through Anchorage, everything was going great till we hit mile marker 76, and found the Seward highway closed due to a manhunt for an armed kidnapper. We sat for 2 hours. If you watch Alaska State Troopers, you know that Howie Peterson is the Girdwood based trooper. Well, most people here probably could care less about this but it was Howie that drove up the road announcing over his loud speaker that the road would be opening up. Love Howie, he is a very personable trooper. Anyhoo, the good of it was that the scenery was gorgeous and we met several nice people while waiting. The road finally opened up and the traffic was very heavy, lightening up after the turn off toward Seward at the Kenai cut off. The remainder of the road was slow, but moving steadily during construction. Looked like they were preparing the road for resurfacing. We finally made it to Seward at 5:30.
A long day that started out with great potential!
Turnagain arm is prettier going southbound rather than northbound on day of cruise arrival.
We checked into Havenwood Guest House about 5:30. Havenwood review to follow but suffice it to say that this is one of the finest retreats we have ever been in. You do need a car, as it is about a 5 minute drive to downtown Seward, but so worth it. We had a great rate. $135 per night, booked in 2011 . Suffice it to say that at all of our lodgings we were able to secure 2011 rates for 2012. I booked everything in September 2011.Yes, we had trip insurance!
We checked out the town and found dinner at the Smoke Shack, a recommended quirky little restaurant on the waterfront. Report to follow. Good ribs, no liquor license.
Saturday we were exhausted from 2 weeks of non-stop fun and activities. We found ourselves being grateful for the first real rainy day of our vacation in 2 weeks as we decided that we would just enjoy our little haven in the woods, do some laundry ( in our apartment) and just rest. It is really important that you schedule a day of "down time" just to recoup your energy stores. Drinking lots of water is imperative to keeping up your energy level. Later that afternoon we headed over to Exit Glacier and hiked up the 1.5 mile round trip to the Glacier in the rain. We had picked up some groceries at Safeway...not the most pleasant store, and a very sparse meat department. Cooked dinner in house (the first home cooked meal of the trip) and relaxed with Alaskan DVD s. We needed this day of rest and such a nice place to rest in!
We were booked for the 9 hour Kenai Fjords Northwestern tour on Sunday morning. I was really looking forward to this. The company has a shuttle bus system down the road at a private parking lot, this eliminates any parking charge for the day in downtown Seward. Unfortunately, when we checked in, the weather was very rainy and turned out that the seas were too high ..7 ft. Although they were going to "give it a shot" they offered to refund our money or rebook us. We decided that we would get a refund and try again for tomorrow since, we still had another full day before heading to Girdwood for the last leg of our trip. Since it was 8 am and we were out and about, ready to face the day, we headed over to Kenai to catch a glimpse of the fishermen and perhaps some wildlife and jumping salmon. We were underwhelmed with the towns of Soldonta and Kenai. Very commercial. We did stop in Coopers Landing and had a tasty egg and cheese muffin sandwich at a Wildman's general store. Life is slow, evidently, on the Kenai, and it took a long time to get the sandwiches made but that was okay as we were in no hurry.
We drove as far as the mouth of the Kenai on Cook Inlet. It was fun to watch the thrones of campers and fishermen lined up along the banks of the mouth of the Kenai. We headed back to Seward, taking the Skilak Lake Loop Rd through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. This is a 19 mile loop of a gravel road, plenty wide enough for 2 vehicles, with some pot holes but enough good gravel to drive on with our minivan. There are no services, and several scenic turn-outs and lakes and campgrounds. We were wondering where all the wildlife was in this wildlife refuge, when a black bear sauntered out of the woods to cross the street in front of us. That was the extend of any wildlife seen on that road. That night we ate at the highly acclaimed Exit Glacier Salmon Bake. Review to follow. In a nut shell, the food was delicious and fresh, the problem was very small servings. If there was 3 oz of halibut or salmon on our prospective sandwiches, that was big. We drove to Lowell Point and were again, underwhelmed. The campground there is next to Millers Landing and was a real dumpy - run down area. I was very disappointed with what we saw. We did drive into Caines Head recreational area, which looked beautiful even in the rain but it was late and still raining so we did not hang out there.
Monday was raining again and we headed to Kenai Fjords office to see the status of our Northwestern trip. Although the seas we're better, visibility was not going to be good. I was impressed that they would honor our original Northern Lights coupon discounted trip again if we wanted to go. Because of the rain and low visibility potential we opted out and will just have to return to Seward again another time.
We headed towards are next destination, which was Girdwood, for 2 nights. It was rainy again. We talked to someone who said that it rains all the time, so the locals are just accustomed to doing things in the rain. The quote was "if you wait for the rain to stop, you will end up never doing anything". With this in mind, we decided to explore Portage Valley. We took the MV Ptarmigan out to see Portage Glacier. This boat runs about 6, one hour long trips out to Portage Glacier, which is only visible from air or boat. There is a very knowledgeable US Forest ranger who goes on every tour and narrates the history of the glacier as well as many facts of glacier activity, formation, etc. The lake is scattered with what looks like mini ice bergs. We learned that ice bergs can only be classified as a true ice berg if it is more than 15 feet in height, making what we saw, ice cubes, I guess :) We had a 2-1 coupon for the boat ride, which cost a total of $34 with the discount.
The trip was worth it, as was the Boggs visitor center.
Next we checked out the road with the trailheads and found Byron Glacier, which we planned to hike the next day. We stopped at the Willowaw Salmon viewing decks and saw no salmon. Used the outhouse in the adjacent campground and do bring the Purell, as there was none, and the outhouse had not been cleaned in a long time..it was like sitting on a tin can, and actually, it was sitting on a big tin can, but when you gotta go, you gotta go.
Headed into Girdwood and checked into Bud and Carol's B and B. This facility is set at the bottom of Mt Alyeska. Nice place and we were the only guests so we had the place to ourselves. We had a full kitchen to use if we wished as well as breakfast served each morning.
Took a walk of about 2 miles over to the Mt Alyeska hotel and back, and then went to dinner at Coast Pizza. Excellent pesto, eggplant and artichoke pizza.
Ice cream at the Ice Cream shop next door, which is also owned by our B&B hostess, then drove over about 1/2 mile to a turnout on Turnagain arm to eat our treat. I have to say that New England makes much creamier ice cream than many parts of the country, including Alaska.
On tap for today is hiking Byron Glacier and part of the Trail of Blue ice in Portage Valley, and a visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, followed by dinner at Double Musky. The weather was great at Byron Glacier. This is an easy 1.5 or so miles with a very serene place to rest, play and say you crossed a glacial river and frolicking in the snow below the glacier. Fun.
We arrived at the famous Double Musky Inn at 4:50, as we had heard that the earlier the better your chance of getting in. When we arrived there already about 50people waiting for them to open. The decor is funky and it is a fun place. Portions were ridiculously huge. I had the pepper steak, this is what they are famous for, about 20 oz ( no, I did not eat the whole thing, but I was glad we had access to a refrigerator) and DH had the special salmon dish of the night. Wine was pricey at $9 for about a 3 oz glass, beer was $6.
The next day was our last day, sadly. The sun came out and the skies were beautiful along Turnagain arm. After leisurely taking our time with repacking for the flight home that evening, we checked out of the B&B. We stopped at all the turnouts along Turnagain Arm and the traffic was very light, making these turns easily. We stopped at Potter Marsh and did some bird watching, seeing bald eagles and yellowlegs, as well as salmon, congregating at and beyond the culverts into Turnagain Arm After a picnic lunch (leftovers from Double Musky) we headed to the Tony Knowles trail to walk some. We ended up at the end of the runway of the airport, watching the huge planes take off, many cargo planes headed for Korea. It is such a scenic spot, too bad the city has not put benches and restrooms along the portion of the trail we walked.
Finally it was time to say good bye to Alaska and return our rental car. At Enterprise's suggestion, and no additional drop off fee, we drove to their International Rd office to drop the car. This would provide for a shorter and less expensive cab drive to the airport. We donated our cooler, left over supplies and our Northern Lights book to the rep in the office.
We fell in love with Alaska. We learned many things, among them, that most of population between Seward and Fairbanks are originally from the lower 48 originally; I thought there would be more Inuits.
Prepare yourselves for very high cost restaurant meals and groceries. I honestly do not know how the lowest economically strapped family survives. Every Alaskan does get a yearly subsidy check which comes from the Alaska's gas and oil reserves. Maybe that helps.
Keep Purell with you everywhere you go.
Schedule a down day to recoup your energy.
If you can, schedule your big excursions with one toward the end of your stay, this gives you a major "highlight" in your itinerary as you near the end of your journey.
Don't feel that you need to pack every excursion into a small frame of time. Take time to smell the roses and just take in the magnificance of this beautiful state.
Look seriously at doing your own land based tour. I feel that we came home with a great appreciation for the Alaskan Culture, and the satisfaction of planning and meeting so many locals that others do not get to meet. Not to mention the flexibility allowed to you. We will definitely be back to Alaska again.
great experience on a small boat tour, followed by a stop at Mendenhall
Rented a vehicle with Avis , drove to Emerald Lake