Alaska - Northbound with Land Tour
We left Vancouver on Aug. 20 on the Coral Princess along with 8 days on the land tour. My husband is 62 and I am 59, and we were on the younger side. We decided on anytime dining and that worked out well for us. I would say the only downside of anytime dining is that if you eat dinner every night with different people, your conversations are basically the same every night.
My husband and I enjoyed the cruise very much. The entertainment was very good every night. Sarge was the comedian and he put on 3 different shows, all different, and all funny. He was not only a comedian, but he was also a talented musician and singer. The hypnosis that also put on a good show, but the audience played a big part, so that show depends on the audience. We lucked out on a great audience. Sami Baker was the cruise director and she did a great job of keeping things going. The singer and dancers were good and all shows were different also.
A balcony was not important to us, so we stayed in an obstructed window view in the middle of the ship. The location was great and the room was larger than some ships I have been on. We found it easy to get around the ship.
The buffet food was OK, but I am not a big fan of buffet food. My husband thought it was very good. The scallops at anytime dining was wonderful, along with the prime rib and the Alfredo. The desserts were good and they also had sugar free desserts if you required sugar free.
We both thought the excursions were great. We enjoyed all of them. We did the Lumber Jack and Totem Pole in Ketchikan, the Whale Quest and Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, the 4x4 in Skagway and still had plenty of time to see each town. Your best shopping opportunity is at Ketchikan (use the coupon book they give you or great prices for Tongress). Also, if you go late in August on the land tour, you can catch some good prices at Denali Princess Lodge because they are closing for the season. Scenic cruising of the glaciers was very nice and we lucked out getting very closer to the glaciers. The ship turns, so you can get good views from both sides.
Getting off the ship was easy, you basically walk off the ship and onto the motor coach for your land tour. We were part of Off the Beaten Path and we spent 3 nights at Kenai Princess Lodge (my favorite), 1 night at McKinley Princess Lodge, 2 nights at Denali Princess Lodge and 2 nights at Fairbanks Lodge. We left Wittier and we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Refuge outside of Anchorage. That is where you see the wildlife. By the time we got to Kenai Lodge, the weather cleared up and we had 3 beautiful days. We boarded a ship in Seward for the Kenai National Park cruise. It was beautiful. The scenery is very good and we did see a few whales and seals, birds and were able to take lots of beautiful pictures on this cruise. The next day we did the 1/2 fishing trip on the Kenai River and this was the highlight of our trip. We were 2 of 4 people on the boat with a tour guide and we fished and he released and we had a bonus of a float trip down 9 miles of the river. Breath taking views are along the way and it was really a lot of fun. The next day we headed to McKinley, but we were not fortunate enough to see the mountain. In fact, you couldn't even see that a mountain was there. We went to Talkeetna about 45 minutes from McKinley lodge and had a great breakfast at the Roadhouse. The pancakes were larger than the plate and were wonderful. There are a lot of unique shops and a shuttle takes you there for a small fee.
Next we headed for Denali Princess Lodge and were welcomed with more dreary weather. Denali had a lot of shops across the street and the lodge itself had a lot of shops to visit. There was a pizza place that was very good, in fact, we ate there twice. We also enjoyed the Alaska Amber beer that was served in many of the lodges. In Denali we did the ATV at Diamond Mountain where the views were beautiful. The Denali National Park history tour was nice also, but we didn't see many animals. The Tundra tour had more animals, we heard from others. We did luck out getting to see the colors change in Alaska, and it was beautiful.
After Denali we boarded a 4 hour train to Fairbanks Lodge. The train ride is very nice and you get some great views of Alaska. I don't recommend the steak on the train. I asked for medium and I got well done. Fairbanks is just like a city, but the lodge was nice. We both enjoyed the Discovery Riverboat and the Mine Dredging experience. My best breakfast was at the Fairbanks lodge, so don't miss the stuffed raspberry french toast.
We met some wonderful people on the cruise and land tour and had some wonderful experiences. I would not change anything about this trip, except maybe a little less rain. We went prepared for rain, so it didn't stop us. The only excursion the rain affected was the helicopter over Denali. My husband liked the cruise better than the land tour and I liked the land tour better than the cruise, but both were wonderful. I like more adventure, so the land tour provided me more adventure.
I read a lot of cruise critic and reviews before I left. The one thing that I took, as seen on cruise critic, was the over-the-door shoe rack. It allowed me to put different things in the slots for more organization (umbrella, makeup, curling iron, medicine, etc.)
By combining the cruise and land tour, we really experienced Alaska. I feel had I only done the cruise, we would have missed out on the wonderful things that Alaska offers. It was a trip of a life time. I have traveled all my life, and I think Alaska was my favorite trip. Thank you Princess for a great vacation!