Day 1: Arrived in Fairbanks. Celebrity representatives met us in the baggage claim area of the airport. Transferred to Sophie Station Hotel via Motorcoach. Greeted by Tour Director Jennifer for a brief overview of land tour and when to meet the next morning. Very well organized. Tiring day from air travel and 4 hours time difference.
Day 2: Fairbanks. Breakfast buffet on our own at Zack's in Sophie Station Hotel. I would not recommend this buffet as it's very expensive at $13.95 and not worth it. If you arrive in time, you could walk to Fred Meyer store on Day 1 and get something to eat for breakfast. Met at 7:45am to board bus. Met our driver Ewing. Stopped by Alaska Pipeline en route to El Dorado Gold Mine. The Gold Mine tour was about 3 hours. This is a working mine. We learned about Alaska's Gold Rush history and saw a gold panning demo. We panned for gold which was fun. I found $10 worth of gold flecks. We stopped for lunch on our own in downtown Fairbanks. Jennifer made several recommendations. We ate at the Cafe Promenade. Had time to walk to the Visitors Center. After about 1.5 hours in downtown Fairbanks, we set out for the Riverboat Discovery tour. This was an excellent 3 hour tour aboard a sternwheeler riverboat. We saw a bush plane taking off, saw kennels of Iditarod winner, learned about the ancient Athabascan Indian culture. Got off riverboat for a personalized tour of the Chena Indian Village. Got back on riverboat for return trip. Returned to Sophie Station Hotel. Dinner on our own. We walked to Bruster's Pub which was very good.
Day 3: Fairbanks/Denali Departed at 7:40am for the Wilderness Express, luxury domed railcar. Traveled to Denali. Fantastic breakfast onboard the train. Arrived in Denali National Park about 12:00. Explored Visitor Center. Had about an hour before boarding bus on the Tundra Wilderness Tour. This is about an 8 hour trip but it's well worth it. We were fortunate to be in the 30% that actually see Mt. McKinley. We saw lots of wildlife including moose, Dall sheep, a grizzy with 2 cubs, and golden eagle. They serve a snack box that included canned chicken salad with crackers, cookie, roll, carrots and water. It was actually pretty tasty. Stayed overnight at the Grande Denali Lodge. A previous reviewer called this place a dump but I do not agree. Perhaps they have renovated since his trip in Aug. 2009. The lobby was very nice and the restaurant very good.
Day 4: Denali/Talkeetna Check out time was 10:00. We departed lodge for the Wilderness Express at 11:30AM. There was time to go to Denali Village or take an optional land excursion but it was so windy that we opted to stay at the lodge. Today we had a great lunch on the train during our 4 hour trip to Talkeetna. We arrived in Talkeetna and had the rest of the day on our own. Stayed at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge which was beautiful with a cozy lobby with large stone fireplace. If it had been clear, we may have been able to see Mt. McKinley from the hotel deck. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy. Jennifer recommended Twisted Creek for dinner but it was packed so we went to the Roadhouse. It was good too. I had quiche and the guys had pasties (like a pot pie). The lodge provides shuttle service to town.
Day 5: Talkeetna/Anchorage Check out time was 11:00 so we had the morning free for excursions. We walked on the trail behind the lodge. Apparently we came very close to a moose as others from our group saw us from the lobby. We did not see the moose but just the droppings! We also took a River Float Tour down the Talkeetna River. Had time afterwards to get a famous cinnamon roll at the Roadhouse. It was HUGE and sinfully delicious! At 12:00, we departed for Anchorage on the motorcoach. We made a stop at a small general store for ice cream. We arrived in Anchorage about 3:00 for a couple of hours of shopping/leisure time in downtown Anchorage. We checked in the Downtown Anchorage Marriott, a very nice hotel. Dinner on our own at Glacier Brewhouse which was within walking distance. Had King Salmon which was outstanding!
Day 6: Anchorage/Alyeska Had breakfast at Snow City Cafe per Jennifer's recommendation. Very Good! Departed Marriot around 10:00 for the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Here we learned about Alaska's first people and the many native cultures. We were there about 2 hours which was sufficient time for me but some would like to have had more time there. It depends on what your interests are. You cannot see all of the presentations, films, dance performances, storytelling and tour the museum in 2 hours. This was also our lunch stop but we skipped lunch as we had a good breakfast. At 12:30 we departed for the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where we saw some grizzly bears, moose, caribou, musk ox, porcupine, eagle and great horned owl up close. These animals cannot survive in the wild due to injuries or some other reason. We were there about an hour. We arrived at The Hotel Alyeska about 3:15. This was definitely the best place we stayed....a 4 Star Resort. We took the shuttle to Girdwood where we ate dinner at the Double Musky. This was another excellent suggestion by Jennifer.
Day 7: Alyeska/Seward Check out was at 10:00 but we did not leave for Seward until 2:00. We enjoyed the Alyeska Tram Ride where we soared 2300 feet above the valley. The views were breathtaking. Afterwards, we walked about 2 miles round trip on the Winners Creek Trail behind the resort. This is a rainforest with beautiful trees and waterfalls. Said goodbye to our Tour Director Jennifer. Ewing drove us to the pier in Seward. This took about 3 hours. We had our first view of the Millennium. We were off the bus and through security and on the ship in less than 30 minutes! Celebrity did a GREAT JOB! This was our first cruise. The food on the ship was not as outstanding as we had hoped. People always talk about the great food on cruises. It was good but certainly not lke a 4 or 5 star restaurant. Also, they had a Dessert Extravaganza one night but this, for us, was a disaster. The cruise director said to be sure to bring your camera. It was total chaos. Very dark, noisy and crowded in the Cosmos Lounge. This was one BIG PARTY geared more toward a younger crowd in my opinion. We could hardly walk through there. We stayed about 5 minutes and left.