Holland Statendam 7 day Cruise to Alaska with 5 days Independent Land Tour Review
Some background information first, we are a family of 3 with an 8yr old child. It is my 4th cruise and I've tried Carnival, Royal Carribbean, and Norwegian in the past. My goal is to try all the different cruiselines. I've been thinking about a cruise to alaska since the beginning of this year but due to the nature of my work, I could not book the trip until a month beforehand. I bought the Great Alaskan Toursaver book which saved me alot of money and read reviews on tripadvisor, cruisecritic, and forums to plan my trip. My heart was set on the diamond princess because I loved the itinerary but it was all booked up. The only option left was holland inside cabin or celebrity balcony. I wound up picking Holland because Celebrity was double the price.
My main goal for vacations is to capture beautiful pictures. I have a canon 50d dslr and my favorite walkaround lense is the tamron 17-50mm f2.8. I did make advances in my photography skills for this trip. I brought along 3 lenses, tamron 17-50mm f2.8, tokina 11-16mm f2.8, and tamron 28-300mm f3.5-6.3 and actually used all of them! I also played more with the av and tv settings instead of using av f2.8 all the time.
7/11: Vancouver We had a 8+ hr flight from NYC to Vancouver at 6:30a. We tried Air Canada for the first time and was surprised that everybody has their own personal tv. We had a 2hr stopover at Toronto and had to pick up our luggage and go through customs which was really stupid. Ate breakfast at one of the airport's restaurants. Bad food and bad slow service. I felt really cheated that I bought expensive bus transfers($72) from holland because I was told the US Direct Program will save us 2 hrs in customs. We never even had to go through customs...went directly to the baggage area, got our luggage and gave it to the holland desk. Waited 30min for their bus and spent another 15 driving around the airport picking up more passengers. The bus was old and smelly. I really wished we had taken a taxi instead which would have been maybe $30.
It was 2p by the time we got to Canada Place Pier. Checking in was very simple and no lines. Our room was 527. It was surprisingly not claustrophobic due to the curtains. There were plenty of closet and drawer space. They even had a dvd player for Ryan to watch his pokemon dvds! They have a library of dvds that you can rent but we didnt use it. We ate lunch at the lido buffet on deck 11. Elevators are so slow. The buffet is full service because it is Holland's policy to be on modified code red status the first 4 days to prevent notavirus. The food really sucks...maybe because it has been sitting out all day.
We explored the ship after lunch. It is the smallest cruise ship I've ever been on at 5.5 ton and 1300 passengers. The atrium has a fountain that spans the 6, 7, and 8th floors. There is only 1 main dining room and it is on the 7th and 8th deck. The theater is really tiny and has 2 floors too. The 2 pools are sooo tiny. Only the one on the lido deck is usable because it has a retractable roof. We went pack to our room to unpack and rest until dinner. We checked out the kid's club which is called Club Hal. There were only 2 supervisors, one for the 8-12yr old category and one for the 3-7yr olds. The teen's club is not supervised. They have wii, xbox, board games, outdoor sports court. We waited 40min for dinner because we chose anytime dining. The food was standard cruise fare, not as good as other cruise lines.
There was no towel animal the first night. We were really surprised to see that the room steward had made up the sofa into a bed for ryan when we went back to our cabin before dinner. We asked them to make the twin beds into a queen and he was reluctant and said he has no more mattress cover. Michael was insistent and he finally said he would borrow from other stewards.
7/12: Inside Passage We got up at 7a due to the 4hr time difference between alaska and ny. We ate breakfast at the lido. It is really annoying not to be able to serve yourself. The ship was so rocky that we had to take motion sickness pills every day. Ryan went to Club Hal which will turn out to be his favorite place to go. They open at 9a, close for lunch at 11:30a, open 1-4p, close for dinner, and open again from 7-10p. We went on the kitchen galley tour and a cooking demonstation at the "state of the art show kitchen" culinary theater. We ate lunch at lido. Ryan loved to play with the life sized chess pieces by the lido pool. We went for a swim but the pool was too deep at 5ft. The water was very rough due to the ship rocking back and forth. We wound up hanging out in 1 of the 2 hot tubs instead. Even though the ship is so tiny, we never see much people around in the public areas. It is like a ghost ship at times. We were the youngest family aboard. It seems like 90% of the passengers are 50+.
It was formal night today so we dressed up and got our pictures taken after dinner. We were smart this time and made dinner reservations for the whole week this morning. You have to share tables if you want a window seat. We hate small talk with strangers so we asked for private tables the last 2 days. They had crab legs today. They had 4 photo spots set up around the atrium. We went to the evening show but the singers sucked so bad that we left halfway through. They have 5 singers and 2 dancers. It was the captain's welcome toast tonight so we got a free drink.
7/13: Ketchikan 7a-3p We got off the ship at 7a to make the most of our time in port. We went to the visitor center and got a walking tour map as suggested by all of you and walked around town. The whole trip took us less than 2 hrs. We did not go inside the totem center and salmon hatchery even though we passed by them. We were lucky it was a hot and sunny day since I've heard so much about ketchikan being the rainiest city in Alaska. It has like 30 sunny days a year. In fact, it turned out to be the only hot and sunny day during our 12 day stay in Alaska, hehe. I was quite disappointed not to see any salmon jumpig up the famous salmon ladder. Ironically, we saw a few salmon jumping out of the water back at our cruise ship dock.
We booked a 10a 2hr Misty Fjords floatplace tour with Island Wings and they picked us up in front of the ketchikan's rain gauge and drove us to their store by the harbor. The driver told us a bit about ketchikan along the way and we watched michelle, the owner and pilot, land with her previous passengers. We were not allowed to bring any bags onboard. It is a 6 passenger plane. When we were all aboard, Michelle asked us if we brought our wideangle lenses and I told her I left mine in my camera bag and she was nice enough to bring me my bag. I sat in the back seat which is the best place for taking pictures since you can look out both windows. We took some dranamine beforehand after our bad experience in hawaii and had no trouble with motion sickness at all. Misty Fjords was beautiful. We had a 20min stopover at a secluded beach and Michelle took pics of us. It was beautiful but we could not wait to leave because there were hundred of bugs all over us. Really wish we were told to bring mosquito netting or something. We brought a few bugs into the plane with us and michelle yelled at us to not slap the windows because "they are so expensive to replace". After docking, michelle picked up her next batch of customers and the driver gave us a free dvd of the ride and drove us back to our cruise ship.
We ate lunch at lido again. Ryan went to Club Hal. Nothing much to do until dinner. We watched the evening show called Street Singin which was better than the show yesterday.
7/14: Juneau: 8a-10:30p We booked the 2p 5hr photo safari by land and sea and wound up really regretting it and wishing we had taken a separate whale watching tour with orca enterprises and went to mendenhall glacier by ourselves. We got off the ship at 10a and went up the mount roberts tramway(bogof coupon). It was rainy but didnt start getting really foggy until we left. The 6min ride to the top was quite fast for an ascent so steep. The tram ride was packed with people so we didnt get as good of a view. I wanted to hike but it was raining too hard. We left by 11:30a and the tram was packed again on the way down.
We ate lunch at Tracy's Crab Shack right across from our cruise ship. It cost $44 for 1 king crab leg, 3 bite sized crab cakes, 1 cup of crab chowder, and 1 giant king crab leg. They have a tent with picnic tables for you to eat in. The giant crab leg wasnt much bigger than the regular crab leg, not worth $22 compared to $14. The crab and crab chowder was good but not amazing. We were not that full after so we went back on our cruise ship for dessert and coffee. Then we decided to see if we can surf the internet at the library across from our ship. The library was beautiful with a harbor view. The lines for the computers were too long so we just hanged out until our tour.
Brandon was our photography quide. There were a total of 18 passengers and most had dslrs with them. Ryan received a free 1.3mpg digital camera as promised but he wound up using his dsi to take pics. It was really stupid because the camera was in those impossible to open plastic packaging anyway. He gave a very basic slideshow on using the av setting until the van dropped us off at a parking lot and we went on a 1hr?? hike to mendenhall glacier. He gave us towels to cover our cameras. There were basically no photography tips being given during the hike. He told us a bit about the history and how the forest sprung up after the glacier retreated. There were signs showing the ice limit. I believe the trail we went on is called the trail of time hike.
He gave us like 15 min when we finally arrived at mendenhall glacier to go down to the sandy beach to take pics. He did not give us enough time to go to the photo point which is only a quarter mile from the glacier. I was very jealous seeing all the other visitors getting so much closer to the glacier and waterfall than us. We got a light snack in the van on the way to the harbor for our boat tour of Stephens Passage and Brandon gave a slideshow on using the tv setting and burst mode for capturing wildlife. They said it is a state of the art boat built for photography because the windows open up and the seat folds over the windowsill to make padded armrests. Brandon went around the boat making sure we had the correct setting on our cameras. We saw alot of humpback whales breaching, sea lions on a buoy, a sitka deer, and bald eagles. We were back at our ship before 7p so it was actually only like 4hrs. It was not worth the $198 I paid per person.
We were so wet and tired. Wished that we had worn our rain pants. Ryan begged to skip dinner and go to club hal 7p on the dot because they have a different theme every night and this time was carnival games. We ate dinner by ourselves. Lido was closed by the time we picked ryan up at 9p. We tried to get room service for ryan but ryan was asleep by the time they showed up 40min later(room service close at 10p).
7/15: Skagway: 7a-9p We booked a chilkoot charters 7.5 hr yukon bus and train ride with 15 min dogsled ride. We were the first ones off the ship at 7a and the van picked us up and drove us around picking up other passengers for 1 hr! It was really stupid. The White Pass and Yukon train is a historic railroad built during the klondike gold rush and is rated one of the top 10 train rides in the world. The tour guide reminded us to sit on the left hand side which is more scenic. It crosses into British Columbia so we needed to show our passports. We got off at Frasier(1 3/4 hr train ride) and continued by motocoach to Carcross with photo stops along the way. The guide was good about helping us take pics. Emerald Lake was absolutely beautiful! We stopped for lunch at Caribou Crossing Trading Post at 12p. The tour includes a bbq chicken lunch with baked potato and coleslaw and cinnamon donuts for dessert. The donuts were cold so they werent very good. We saw 2 dall sheeps on a mountain which were kool.
Our dogsled ride was scheduled for 12:30p and our bus leaves at 1p so it didnt give us alot of time to explore. We were the only 3 doing the ride on our bus. There were like 30 huskies lying around on the dirt at the dogsled area. Everything seemed so dirty, from the mushers to the sleds to the dogs. The 6 dogs that pulled our cart was so happy to run. I think the musher said the lead dog was a past champion of the idatarod race but he is too old to keep up now. They have a trail that leads through a forest and rest stops with kiddie pools for the dogs along the way. You can tell the dogs live to run. The musher helped us take pics at one point.
We quickly explored the creepy taxidermy museum they have there before our bus left. It was scary how real the animals look. We made a few photo stops on the way back to the cruiseship. He dropped us off at the Red Dog Saloon at 3:30p and we took a few pics before heading back to the ship. We decided to take a quick nap because the dessert extravaganza was at 10:30p. We went to the evening comedy show without ryan. Comedian Barnaby was pretty funny and his jokles were rated pg13 unlike other cruise lines. We were too sleepy to wait for the dessert extravaganza to begin so we just took a few pics and left.
7/16: Glacier Bay Scenic Cruising from 7a-4p I was prepared to wake up early and stay outside the whole day for wildlife watching. It is the world's largest marine santuary and has 16 major tidewater glaciers and 30 alpine glaciers. A park ranger comes aboard each cruise ship that enters the park to give commentary and talks. I know most whale sightings are right outside the entrance to Glacier Bay in the Icy Strait area so I got up at 6a. We didnt make it out of our cabin until 6:30a though. Saw whales right by the side of our cruise ship on the way to breakfast. I would have stayed outside longer but Ryan was whining for breakfast so we went to lido. We didnt see any more whales after breakfast. =0( We got cozy on a loungechair with fleece blankets on the 6th outdoor wraparound deck and waited for the park ranger to start her commentary over the loudspeaker at 8:30a. There was a whale carcass on a beach which attracted 4 bears and eagles. Ryan left for club hal at 9a. We went up to the bow(only open during scenic cruising days) of the ship to get a better view via a secret staircase. There was a naturalist guide there to help spot wildlife. It has better views but it was colder since it was uncovered. Saw many glaciers, sea lions, sea otters, kittiwakes, puffins, harborseal. We went inside for a quick cup of coffee to warm up before arriving at Marjorie Glacier at 10a. One huge chunk of ice fell off and made a trememdous sound and everybody cheered. Too bad I was walking across to the other side of the bow to get some dutch pea soup and missed capturing the calving with my camera. We went to lunch and a park ranger talk which was kinda boring. I went back outside to the bow alone to watch for wildlife after lunch and saw more humpack whales, orcas, and loads of sea otters. One sea otter swam right pass the side of our ship and waved hello! It was formal night so we dressed up and took pics before dinner. Went to the evening show which sucked.
7/17: At Sea Day with College Fjord Scenic Cruising from 6p-8p Ryan went to club hal all day. We went to the debarking talk in the theater which was standing room only. I've never seen so much people in one place on the ship the whole week! I was really pissed they didnt heat the lido pool today when they must know we want to swim. We went to the dining room for lunch for the first time. The food was a little better than lido. We watched the ice carving demonstration and used the hot tub. We went to the Indonesian High Tea where they served individual french press coffee and pastries. They have a different themed afternoon tea every day. Too bad I missed the earlier ones. We went to the towel animal folding demonstration which ryan loved. Then we took Ryan to an early lunch at terrace grill because I wanted to stay outside from 5:45p to 8p to not miss out on College Fjord. There were alot of sea otters. We took ryan to club hal and went to dinner at 8p. It is the master chef dinner tonight with the waiters putting on a little show between meals which means service is slower than usual. It is not as good as other cruise lines. We went to buy our pictures at the photo gallery. There is no last minute special. It is $40 for a large sheet which includes a 8x10, 3x5, and 2 wallets and they have an ongoing buy 3 get one free deal so we bought 3 pics. I must admit our skin tone turned out the best of all the cruise lines even though they didnt have any fancy backgrounds. They charge $11 per person per night for tips. I packed our luggage until past midnight. I chose express debarkment by walking off the ship with our luggage because we had a 7a Kenai Fjords National Park tour tomorrow. Rather disappointed we didnt get a different towel animal tonight. I wouldnt cruise with holland again. Their ships are too tiny and too old with nothing to do onboard. It caters to the elderly and you see the same people day in and day out. The crew is made up of Filipinos and Indonesians who is very polite and will greet you in the hallway in passing but I think they are much too obvious. I do not want to see my room steward in the hallway 3 times a day. I prefer the more anonymous atmosphere of a larger ship.
7/18: Debarking in Seward It was so easy to walk off the ship with our luggage that I wonder why we've never done it before. We've always waited around for hours until our color tag is called. We have a 6hr National Park Tour with Kenai Fjords Tour(bogof coupon). We called them for a shuttle to the small boat harbor where our tour departs. The driver was very rude and gruff and he dropped off our luggage at Marina Motel, the place where we told him we're staying today, and then drove us to the store to check in. My coupon was in my luggage(I thought we would be going directly to the store with our luggage) and the clerk was nice about letting us bring it in later. The boat was fully booked today so all the available seats are full. We had window seats in a booth so it was rather awkward asking the others to let us in and out. We wound up staying outside on the balcony even though it was very cold and rainy. Even so, it was the best tour of our whole trip. We saw loads of humpback whales up close...much much closer than before. Lots of dives but no breaching. This crazy whale swam right up to this other boat and put on a show for us! He did the backstroke for like 20 min! You can see his fin going up and down, up and down. The captain was so good about turning the boat around so everybody could see. We saw alot of sea lions, puffins, harbor seal, and murres too. They provide a chicken wrap lunch and free coffee the whole day. They also gave out delicious freshly baked chocolate chip cookies toward the end. The driver dropped us off at our motel. We asked him if he is going back to the store because we forgot our coupon but he ignored us. When we checked into the motel, the owner said she doesnt know who those 3 pieces of luggage in front of the front desk belonged to. He never said anything to her! Thank god they're still there. I've never stayed at a motel before and it was pretty creepy with the door in the bathroom that the maid uses to come in to clean the rooms. It can be barred from the inside but still... We walked over to the small boat harbor to hand in our coupon. It turned out to be only like 3 blocks from our motel but it was raining hard. We took the free seward trolly downtown which is around 1 mile. We went to the Sealife Center(bogof coupon) which is Alaska's only aquarium and it is an ocean wildlife rescue and rehab center too. It is small but worth the visit. They have a sea lion, harbor seal, and 2 baby sea otters and a great touch tank. We even attended the talk about the center which was very informative. It costs alot of money to rescue and rehab these animals. Apparently baby sea otters are very expensive to rehabilitate because they need 24 hr hands on care just like a newborn human...they need cuddling all the time. The two they have just graduated to the "graduation pool". We decided to try the famous Smoke Shack for dinner. It was a block away from our motel. We took the last shuttle at 5:45p to the train station which is the stop closest. There was surprisingly no line for dinner at 6p. We tried the texas style ribs and pulled pork sandwich which was pretty good. Coffee came in a huge mug. Walked back to our motel and slept early.
7/19: 4 hr train to Anchorage We decided to eat breakfast at the Smoke Shack at 9:30a....45min wait! The buttermilk pancakes were pretty good but we didnt like the 4inch high baked omelet(frittata). We checked our luggage at the train station and took a taxi($7) downtown to Kayak Adventures Worldwide for our kayaking trip. It is $70 per person for a private 3.5hr family kayaking tour of Resurrection bay. They saved a triple kayak for us like we requested. We wore rain jackets and rain pants which they required and they provided life jackets. Russell was our guide and he was great about showing us exactly what to do because we've never gone kayaking before. He kinda scared us with all the safety talk and what you have to do to avoid flipping over in the ocean though. The rockiest part was getting into the kayak. It was very calm and peaceful in the water as we paddle out. The scenery was very beautiful but the highlight of our trip was the sea otter who kept swimming around our kayaks. He would dive to get some shellfish and then chomp on them while checking us out. The sound of his teeth crunching was amazing! He kept swimming closer and closer until he passed right by our kayak! Salmon also kept jumping out of the water around us which was very kool. We stopped at a secluded beach and went for a little hike. Michael had to help him carry the canoe which was very heavy. I really wished I had my dslr with me but I couldnt chance getting it wet. I kept my canon g10 tucked inside my life jacket when not using it. We saw more salmons in a creek. When we came back to the beach, 2 juvenile eagles were circling this suspicious lump in the creek. They left and these kittiwakes started pecking at it. I think it was a salmon stuck in shallow water. We had a snack of chips and juice on the rocks and then started paddling again. Spotted the elusive harbor seal twice. Russell took some pics of us with my camera. We took the trolly back to the small boat harbor to eat lunch before our train ride. We want to eat at the famous Ray's Waterfront but didnt have enough time. We got the fried seafood combo at Terry's Fish Chowder which was ok. There is only 1 train from 6p-10:15p from Seward to Anchorage daily. We chose adventure class which turned out to be a wise choice because we stayed at the upper level dome car the whole ride. There is a 20min limit but there was nobody in line at all. We saw moose, bald eagles, and lots of glaciers. I think the more scenic side is the right side. We booked the Dimond Center Hotel in midtown because of the toursaver bogof coupon. We were the last ones left at the train station because it took 25min for the hotel shuttle to come. He said it was because the shuttle is picking up a passenger at the airport which is on the other side of town. The hotel is located next to the dimond center mall. The room itself was pretty nice though with a huge bathroom with separate shower and a oversized soaking bathtub with shutters that opens up to the bedroom. They provides aveda toiletries, a keurig cup coffeemaker, and bathrobes.
7/20: Alaska Native Cultural Center and Anchorage Museum We ate free breakfast at the hotel. They had 2 wafflemakers. Then we took a $20 taxi ride downtown to the Anchorage Museum to take a free shuttle to the Alaska Native Cultural Center($27pp but we had a bogof coupon). In retrospect, I wish I had booked a hotel downtown because taxi rides are so expensive here. We missed the 9a shuttle so we had to wait for the 10a one. It filled up immediately but still went around town for 15min noting how many passengers are at each stops waiting for the shuttle so that the 2nd spare shuttle can pick them up. Isnt that really stupid? The ride to the center only took like 15min. It is kind of like Hawaii's Polynesian Cultural Center but on a much smaller scale. You need 2 days to expore the PCC but we were done with this place in 1.5 hrs. They have replicas of 6 different native villages around a small lake. They have "villagers" inside each dwelling showing you the different traditions, tools, and history of the tribe. We didnt want to wait 45 min for the next free shuttle so we took a $20 taxi back to the Anchorage Museum. The Anchorage Museum is huge and you can probably spend the whole day there. It is well worth the $10pp(bogof coupon) admission fee compared to the cultural center. We spent alot of time in the Imagarium and Discovery Center. It was alot better than NY Hall of Science. We spent an hour there and then realized that we were hungry so we went out looking for food. We passed by the Alaska Salmon Chowder House which advertised 1lb of king crab legs for $25 but the place looked too crappy. We wound up eating lunch at the famous Glacier Brewhouse which was packed. They are famous for brewing their own beers and also for their wood fired pizzas. I tried the rasberry wheat beer which was pretty refreshing. The wood fired pepperoni pizza was ok but the calamari and hot wings were not that good. They also brew their own root beers and cream sodas which were very flat. We went back to the museum after and spent more time there. We didnt see the shows at the planetarium because you need to pay extra for that. We didnt have enough time for the 3rd and 4th floors because I wanted to check out the famous 4th Avenue Market with the Great Alaskan Experience Theater. All the stores there were closed and there was nobody else there to watch the 3d movies so we left. We went souvenir shopping because there are alot of giftshops along 4th avenue. Ate dessert at a coffeeshop which was expensive and bad. We walked to the main bus depot and took a bus back to our hotel, $4.50 for the 3 of us.
7/21: 8hr train to Denali We ate free breakfast at the hotel and took their free shuttle to the train station at 7a. I booked the Grayline Mckinley Explorer(bogof coupon) which is owned by Holland and pulled by the Alaska Railroad. They have a separate check-in desk and your luggage is tagged directly with your hotel name. The guy didn't tell us to put our names on the luggage tags which resulted in our luggage being lost for a few hrs. They have upper level dome seatings with restrooms and dining downstairs. They have a bar at the front of the car and provide free coffee and tea. There is also a tour guide aboard who narrates the trip. Our assigned seats were on the right side but the left side is more scenic. I wish I had booked Gold Star instead which has an upper level outdoor viewing platform. The 8hr train ride was pretty boring. It was a long wait for lunch. I had the seafood salad sandwich for lunch which was pretty bad. Michael had the cheeseburger which was ok but the fries were saggy. Ryan had the kid's pizza which looked like the microwaveable kind. We were given our seat assignments and luggage tags for the return trip to anchorage before we got off the train which was nice. When we got to Denali, the Grayline bus was there to take us to Mckinley Chalet Resort. We were told we didn't have to pick up our luggage at the baggage claim and that they would be brought to our room automatically. I was confused because we didn't even have our names on them...maybe they could check by the id number on the tags??? We checked in and it was a 10min walk to our cabin. They have shuttles every 15min to take you around the property but we didn't want to wait. The cabin was nicer than I thought it would be, not just a rustic log cabin in the woods like I had thought. There is a separate sitting area and bedroom with 1 full and 1 twin sized beds. They were really uncomfortable though. The shower was the largest I've seen in days. We went out to the boardwalk(a strip of restaurants, gift shops, tour operators) across from our hotel for shopping. I also booked a last minute river rafting trip because I enjoyed our kayaking trip so much. When we got back to our room, our luggage still haven't arrived so we kept calling front desk and finally they found them and brought them to our room. We decided to go to Cabin Nite which was a family style dinner and musical show(bogof coupon). It was located right across from our cabin so we just walked across. The food really sucked and the show was pretty bad too. The only good singer was Fanny. We did not enjoy family style dining with strangers at all. The sun did not start setting until midnight which was really weird.
7/22/10: 8hr tundra wildness tour Your pickup time for the tundra wildness tour is not assigned until you check in. We were lucky to get 8a and not 5a which was the earliest. We ordered $15 boxed lunches from the Courtyard Cafe the night before because we heard the tour only provide snacks. We ate breakfast at the Grizzly Bear coffee shop and waited in the lobby until our bus came. The right side of the bus is more scenic. The snack box includes carrots, bun, chicken salad and crackers, trail mix, chips, and a chocolate chip cookie. The driver is a naturalist who narrates the entire tour. We were really amazed by her knowledge of the park's history and wildlife. We were told to tell her to stop whenever we saw wildlife though she will stop too whenever she saw the tour bus in front of us stops to look at something. There were restrooms every 1.5hrs(no sinks). We saw glaciers, arctic grey squirrels, a marmot, dall sheeps, 4 bears from far away, caribou, moose from far away, golden eagles, and 2 red foxes. The longest stop was at Polychrome Mountain where we could hike on one of the many trails for 20min. Too bad Mount Mckinley was not visible. The bus turned around at mile 63. The dall sheeps that we had seen on the mountain far away had wandered up to the side of the road! Our bus passed a foot away from them. We were very glad to have our boxed lunch on the way back. We were back at our hotel at 3:30p. We went back to our room to rest a little and then headed to the boardwalk for lunch at Fish 'n Chips. The food was ok. We walked to Denali Outdoors Adventure a few stores down to check in for our river rafting trip after lunch. We were fitted with drysuits and rubber shoes and lifevests which we looked quite ridiculous in. They should have told us to bring socks and neoprene gloves. We were on the "scenic float" trip because ryan was under 10yrs old. It is mostly class II with 1 class III section. They drove us to the drop off point. They brought 2 rafts because they "never go out alone" even though there were only 7 of us. We wound up with a private tour with the 3 of us in one raft. The tour guide did all the paddling and all we did was hang on to the rope. The Nenana River is a glacially fed river which freezes over in the winter for travel by dogsledding. It was pretty boring because there is no wildlife and the scenery was ugly. The sky was the only pretty part. We all wished it was over halfway through the 2hr ride. The only exciting part was when we got to the rough water and we got splashed by huge waves. It got pretty miserable and cold after we got wet though. Our hands were frozen.
7/23: 8hr train ride to anchorage and flight home We decided to make the most of our time in Denali so we got up early to go hiking. We ate breakfast at the Grizzly Bear and then took a free shuttle to the Denali Visitor Center. We explored the little museum they had there but didn't have time to watch their award winning film about denali national park. We decided to go on the Horseshoe Lake trail. You have to take the Taiga trail to connect to it which makes a total of 5 miles roundtrip. We were told it would take 2-2.5hrs at a strolling pace. We walked really fast because we didn't want to miss our train at 12:25p. It was steep going down to Horseshoe Lake. It was not that scenic. There were a lot of beaver dams down at the lake but that's it. The trip back up was a lot harder. We made it back in 2 hrs. We decided to eat lunch at Morino Grill at Denali Park because we knew the train food was bad. The waffle fries were amazing. The train station was right across from it. We got there at 11:30a and there was a sign at the grayline desk that we didn't have to check in because we already got our seat assignments on the train ride in. I wish they had told us that before so we didn't have to rush this morning. We waited an hour at the train station for nothing. Weirdly, the ride back to Anchorage was a lot more scenic than the ride in. You should stay outside for pictures on the part before talkeetna. We saw a lot of moose by the side of the train tracks. There were also trumpet swans. We arrived in Anchorage by 8p and took a taxi to the airport. We had 3hrs to kill until our flight at 11:52p. We slept though our 10hr redeye flight back to nyc. Ryan even slept through the 1hr stopever at denver, hehe. I took a total of 5000 pics which I edit down to 1300. Hope you enjoyed my review. Here are links to the pics.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...1&l=0b0ae25814 http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...1&l=04dd9e919e http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...1&l=883ed83600