This trip was to celebrate my 50th birthday, I traveled with my husband, 11 year old son, mother & uncle. We did the 7 day cruise/4 day land tour, left from Vancouver on the Coral Princess. We enjoyed the time on the ship and enjoyed Alaska, we did not enjoy the Cruise version of Alaska, if I see one more jewelry store!!! If you want to experience Alaska you really need to do the excursions, or plan things to get out past the towns!
Cruise boat thoughts:
Dining - We ended up doing any time dining & had no issues, usually ate around 8PM because we were just so busy, we always got seated by a window, a few times we sat with other people & enjoyed it each time. Had no issues with the staff in the dining room, they were all very friendly & helpful. We enjoyed the food in the dining rooms vs the buffet, all the different types of food on the buffet with the smells going on just got to me, but each night I had to check what they had & try the different cheeses they sat out! As an option, you could get your food & sit by the pool vs in the buffet room. For breakfast we tried the dining room but ended up at the buffet most mornings because it was fast & easy. Lunch was usually in port so wed stop somewhere in town. On ship we tried the English Pub lunch one day, enjoyed the Shepards pie but the fish & chips were tough, otherwise we did the buffet or pizza.
Our best buy was the Drink sticker for my son! We did the $8 a day, so he got almost any drink he liked, he enjoyed ordering 'mixed drinks' wherever we went. My son wasn't interested in the Kids activities, they seem to young for him. We enjoyed the sandwich/coffee stop by the casino, it was a nice spot to stop & get a sweet or sandwich.
Room - I know there is a lot of discussion of balcony or no balcony, we ended up getting a mini suite with balcony & were glad we got it. It gave us a little more room, with 3 to the room, nice to open for the breeze. The first Sea day we spent a lot of time on it, the other sea days not as much but that might be because our room was at the other end of the ship. Wish our room had been more in the middle of the ship because we were in the rear & EVERYthing was at the other end, otherwise it was quite & we had no issues, close to elevators & the laundry.
Ketchican We had little time here & had already planned a seaplane tour. I knew my mother would be rushed getting into town & back for the seaplane tour, so she & I went on the Saxman Village tour while my husband & son went into town. I do wish we'd had time to see Creek Street, but I also really enjoyed the excursions we did. True to expectations it rained on us here, the umbrellas came in handy! The rain cleared up a little while we were on the seaplane, so our views were great!
Saxman village I did this with my mother, we did the tour because we were under a time crunch to get back to the ship in time for our float plane. Tour guide lived in the area & was very informative. Loved how the community is working with the kids to keep their customs alive, it was easy to forgive the no polish feel of things after I understood the concept. They take you into the community center where they teach you some of their words & you watch a video, the tour guide then walks you to the meeting house. Our guide was able to tell us about the different vegetation. In the meeting house they did about 4 dances for us, I was surprised when I noticed most of the dancers were children, they were very professional. After the dances we walked down to the totems where the tour guide talked about each totem, then we went into the totem carving house.
Misty Fjords Seaplane very enjoyable. We had 12, including the pilot, on our plane. We each had a window & earphones, room in the back to throw our backpacks. I do wish the pilot had talking more vs. letting the taped music/talk run. Seeing the fjords from the sky was beautiful!! Our tour landed on a true lake, I saw other planes landing in inlets on the ocean. I'm very glad I did this tour.
Juneau We had no planned excursions here. As soon as you get off the ship & on the dock there are multiple companies offering shuttles & excursions.
Mendenhall Glacier - We paid $16 roundtrip, on the dock. This was one of the better tour guides we had, very informative, I thought he lived there but it was just a summer job for him. The shuttle really drops you at the corner of the welcome center culdy sack parking area, very near the bear viewing area, we saw no bears but others did, we did see spawning fish, ducks, & 2 baby porcupines. My mother went directly to the welcome center note, they do have a elevator up to the welcome center, she didn't know that & ended up walking up the ramp. Rest of the group walked around the lake area, saw icebergs & was able to pick a few little pieces up out of the water! We did the hike to the waterfall, I'm not in great shape & was able to do it (slowly), started raining a bit the umbrella came in handy again. Rest of the time we walked around Juneau shopping, there is more to do in town but after the hike I was fine with just shopping.
Tram We dropped into this as we walked back to the boat, late in the day. I thought it was expensive. If I was going to hike around & use the trials, I might not have a issue on the price. It was rainy, but the views were still nice, it was also nice to see the bald eagle they have.
Whale Watching - Since we're from Southern California I didn't even look into Whale watching, but some people on the ship did go & saw a TON of whales, I do wish we'd done it.
Skagway: Train ride we did the 4 hour round trip, bought the book! I enjoyed this, I thought it was short enough so we didn't get bored & scenery was wonderful! After the train ride we walk around town same old stores as the other 2 towns! Enjoyed the Alaska owned stores. Some people said they stopped at the parks building & took the town tour, then rented some bikes & rode up to the cemetery, sounded fun!
Glacier bay - WONDERFUL! We didn't see any sealife, but did see pieces of the glacier coming off!!
Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge - If I'd known... The train drops you off right across the street from the Park buildings, I would have gone over there then & checked it out. The lodge has a shuttle that comes by ever hour. We went to the lodge, got settled & went across the street to the stores, had dinner at a Pizza place that was recommended & it was VERY good. The restaurant had a shuttle that my mother took back to the lodge. Next day we went on the history tour, I enjoyed hearing about the trappers, naturalists, & native Alaskas but we saw no animals or THE mountain, people that took the longer tour saw a lot of animals. We went back to the park & did their dog sled show, later in the day we did the Husky Homestead Show - I enjoyed both. It was nice to see working dogs vs the sports dogs. Huskey homestead also let you play with the puppies which was a hit with my son!
Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge (Talkeetna) - this lodge sits by its self, nothing around it, but the deck has a wonderful view of THE mountain, if it comes out. The shuttle to Talkeetna is $10. The first day we didn't see Danali but took the shuttle into Talkeetna & walked around town, had lunch (many good places to eat here). When we got back to the lodge, we were finally lucky & Danali decided to peek out!!! We ate dinner at the lodge bar & had a nice hamburger. Next day the clouds moved away & we had a GREAT view of Danali! WE went back into town & setup for the 3 rivers boat tour, this was the BEST tour! The country was beautiful, the guides were natives & very informative, we saw a TON of bald eagles! WE ate in town again & caught the last shuttle back to the lodge. It was so clear, we put in a request with the lodge & they called us when the Northern Lights came you - Wonderful!!
Back to Anchorage - we didn't have a lot of time here, so walked the town & had a few meals. The land portion of this trip was wonderful! We had no issues with transfers, knowing where we were going, getting our luggage...