After the Denali land tour portion ended I spent my final day in Anchorage. I thoroughly enjoyed the Alaska Native Heritage Center (accessible via a free shuttle at the tourist office and various city hotels). I learned so much about the indigenous culture of Alaska and enjoyed meeting some of the native population there. I especially enjoyed my tour of the various edifices where the Indians dwelled and the host presenters. After my return to Anchorage proper, I attempted to walk the Tony Knowles Coastal trail, but much of it was closed due to construction.
A week before departing for the cruise, I purchased a helicopter icefield excursion from Coastal Helicopter. A company representative very conveniently picked me up where the ship docked. The glacial views from the helicopter were breathtaking. That particular day the helicopter landed on Herbert glacier and we then walked as far as the terrain permitted with the pilot accompanying us. The glacier was exceptionally slippery since it had rained the previous day. The glacier looked just like advertisement, emanating the azure blue light. The $275 price was a bargain compared to the Norwegian excursion price. On the return I asked a coastal representative to recommend a whale excursion tour. They dropped me off in town rather than the ship where I could purchase a whale watching excursion. Because of time factors I ended up purchasing a Dolphin boat excursion. Based on cruise critic comments, I felt it was a reputable company although I preferred a smaller boat. The whale boat ended being fabulous with seeing approximately 14 different whales up close with many basically engaging in a feeding frenzy. (I had an hour before the Dolphin boat left and I spent most of the time at the Red Dog Saloon. I only purchased a hot chocolate for $4.00 with tip. I sat next to a lady from France sipping a class of hot tea. She was very friendly and a good conversationalist.) My only regret is that I did not have enough time to see Mendenhall glacier other than via the helicopter.
Near the Ketchikan Visitor Center, a short walk from where the ship docks, I boarded a local bus to Totem Bight State Park to see the Totem Poles. The bus fare was only $2.00 for an all day pass (exact change required). The totem poles are very colorful with explanations provided in a guidebook. Be sure to see the adjacent Potlatch Park with even more vivid Totem Poles. There is no need to pay for an excursion to travel to the park. I also secured a walking tour map of Ketchikan at the Visitors Center. The map was very easy to follow, even for someone like me who is directionally challenged.
I had previously purchased a White Pass Scenic Railway excursion, but due to a train derailment a couple of days earlier the trains were not operational. Instead I changed my excursion to a bus tour traveling up the Klondike Highway through some of the Canadian Yukon territory. The views from the bus were spectacular and the bus driver very informative relaying all the hardships endured by those seeking gold in Alaska during the late 1890s. We stopped at a few spots for picture taking plus two tourist places, Caribou Crossing for an included lunch and the other Carcross for a rest and shopping. The lunch spot also housed a museum, more of a taxidermist dream, and a place where dogs are trained for the Iditarod dog sled racing. I succumbed and took a dog sled ride for about $30, supposed to be about 15 minutes but was actually about 1/2 that duration. In Anchorage at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, I later learned you can get a similar dog sled ride for $10 The highlight of the trip was Emerald Lake; visually it is more beautiful than an emerald.
I stayed at Sandman Suites on Davie and highly recommend the hotel. The room suite was spotless, the staff extremely attentive, and the location very convenient. I spent two nights there, but had only one full day to tour Vancouver. Unfortunately the weather was dismal, but I still managed to see most of the major Vancouver sights (Stanley Park, Gastown, Granville island, Chinese Garden and Chinatown) via the Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus. I was told by the cab driver to choose the Big Bus rather than the trolley to tour Vancouver. I regretted not staying an additional day to see Victoria.