Arrived in Anchorage and stayed at Captain Cook (lovely hotel) transfer from Airport all went well. Two days in Anchorage pre cruise, as we had already been travelling through Canada for 2 weeks (independently) before this section of our trip, we took advantage of the "forward to the ship" luggage and "take with you" Did not know about this until we got to Anchorage which was a shame as if I did I probably would of bought a few more things during the two weeks prior as I was trying to be good and keep the amount of luggage down to a minimal. All I can say is that the shopping in Anchorage was excellent picked up some good bargains.
First stop was Copper River - beautiful/relaxing probably our most favourable. Did the Day trip to Valdez/Columbia Glacier which we thoroughly enjoyed the Glacier was magnificent, better than Glacier Bay.
Fairbanks, caught a taxi to the Pump House Restaurant for Dinner rather than the Pub next door to our Accommodation, this Pub was still very nice and we had pre-dinner drinks there before catching the Taxi. Did the organised River Tour and Gold Rush - Which we enjoyed not sure what else there is to do in Fairbanks so glad that these had been organised. Coming from Australia we don't see Military Bases to the extent that they are in the USA so found this about the city very interesting., We caught the train from Fairbanks to Denali it was absolutely fantastic we had done the Rocky Mountaineer earlier but we found the Princess service and the trains to be just as good if not better. This trip arrived in Denali at around lunchtime we could see a Moose bathing in the lake/pond at the foot of the hill. We were booked to go on the Natural History Tour because we arrived at 12pm and we were only in town for 1 day we could not change the Tour to the Tundra I was told before we left Australia so was a little disappointed when Tundra tours were leaving as late as 2pm. Would recommend a two night stay here for anyone thinking of doing the land tour, this would of been the poorest of all accommodation not bad just small & 3 star it was still very clean, it rained non stop while we were here as well.
Mt McKinley - Caught bus from Denali to here, we were one of the lucky 30% that get to see the tip of the Mountain, absolutely astonishing, highlight of the 14 days we did not do a tour from here, caught the bus into Talkeetna and had breakfast at a little café then walked to the end of street where you crossed a small river, if tide is up you won't get across, there are few rocks strategically placed that you can step on or when we were coming back there were two young girls not more than 10yrs old who would hold your hand and guide you across for a small fee, very cute. The view of Mt McKinley on the other side of the creek is fabulous but would only be worth going if the Mountain is in view the day you are there.
A small bus ride took us to a makeshift station where we met the train for our ride to Whittier to board the Diamond Princess, again the train ride was fantastic, the scenery to Whittier is beautiful we had a beautiful sunny day. Whilst the Boarding process was easily done and the line moved quickly we did not get on the ship until about 6 pm, like most people we went to the Movies under the Stars deck to watch the ship leave port, this was truly magnificent with the mountains and glaciers in the background. We had a very pleasant cruise for the next 7 days no hiccups everything went really well. The food was fantastic and we had organised most of our shore excursions before we left home with independent tours. James in the Wheelhouse Bar offered the very best service to us for the whole cruise nothing was too much trouble.
In Junea the tour we did was Harv & Marv Whale Watching - Seen about 15 Whales and two very very close to our small little boat. The driver dropped us off at Mendelhall glacier on the way back we had the choice of staying for as long as we liked or half an hour and returning to the ship with them. We opted to make our own way back to the ship and it cost us $8 for the bus so glad we stayed, we seen two cubs and their mother who was racing down the creek to catch salmon for her two babies from the nature walk which was just fantastic to watch.
In Ketchikan we did the Island Wings tour with Michelle to Traitors Cove, lovely trip out there and we were on a suspended walkway in the bush for two hours waiting for bears to come out, we seen two in this time. After the trip they drove us back into Creek Street and we had time to have a walk around town before going back to the ship.
In Skagway we did the Dyea Daves trip up and back by Coach, we chose this rather than the train as we wanted extra time in skagway to walk the shops and visit the Red Onion Saloon.
The early morning arrival at Vancouver was just beautiful watching the sun rise as you are going under the Lions Gate Bridge. The disembarkation process was handled extremely well and we were at our Hotel by 9am, they held our bags for us and we caught a bus to Capilano then Grouse Mountain for the day.
We are very happy that we did the 7 day land tour first, there were 30 people on our bus, not too crowded you could change seats each day and at the back of the bus there was always a free seat on each side for taking photos which everyone took turns using. We got to know these 30 people fairly well after 7 days and it broke the ice on the cruise ship we had people we could invite to have dinner with us and vice versa, if was nice to bump into a familiar face after a day out on the cruise and talk about what each had done.
These 14 days are something that I will treasure for a very long time, the rest of our trip was fantastic as well and it was good to have a mix of Independent Travel and Organised Travel we will definitely travel with Princess again.