We flew to Vancouver a day ahead and got some time to explore that wonderful city. We stayed at Cascadia in the middle of downtown. After the tasty buffet breakfast, we walked down to grab a water taxi over to Granville Island. We had coffee, ice cream, did a little window shopping, bought wine to bring onto the cruise and enjoyed the live music. Then we walked back up to the hotel, fetched our luggage and continued the walk across town to the cruise terminal. We barely scratched the surface in this town and could easily have used two more days.
We wanted to take a flightseeing tour on one of our excursions but didn't book anything ahead of time. My preference was to check the weather and my own health & well-being before deciding to go up in a little itty-bitty plane. We stepped off the ship in the first port and at the very first booth that offered flightseeing tours, we were offered $30 off the ship's price. We had to wait for our friends to get off the ship, so we wandered down a few yards and got an even better price, a full $80 each off if three of us would go. We signed up and enjoyed a great sightseeing trip. Afterwards, there was time to wander the town and grab a Halibut sandwich and beer in the Fish Pirate, where live music was being played and a friendly owner was strolling thru the tables chatting with all the guests. Great town, great time, but with a 2PM departure time, there was a good sized line to get back on the ship.
Juneau may be the capital, but it is all about whales and glaciers for me. The weather great and my flightseeing appetite had only grown since the day before. Once again, we decided to book independently. For flightseeing, this worked out well, as we found a place that did NOT charge a premium for weight. We took a helicopter ride, landed on a glacier and went dogsledding. I'd done a little research and intended to use Captain Larry for whale-watching, but ended up letting the same person book us for whale-wathcing who found us the helicopter ride. We saw humpbacks, sea lions and a seal, as well as dozens of eagles, so I'm not complaining. Our friends who went on the cruise-affiliated tour saw all that AND a pod of Orcas. Next time, I'll go with Captain Larry. We popped into the Red Dog Saloon for a beer and to see the sights. Also, several locals recommended the Twisted Fish, so we ducked in there for a Halibut Sandwich and another Alaskan Summer ale. The salmon was also fine.
Skagway looked as thought it just got a fresh paint job. It is a cute little walkable town. We did a little shopping, snagging a dress from a stylish botique, bought cupcakes and pop-corn at a little bakery called "Sugar Mamas" to take on the Yukon/White Pass train ride. The bookstore in town had the NYTIMES available, so I quickly bought one and snuck it into my bag before my friends could see and comment on my homesickness. The scenery was breathtaking and the weather, once again was perfect. We walked back to the ship early and jumped into the pool & hot tub.
We disembarked in Whittier. This was a simple process. Since we made our own arrangements for post-cruise travel, we did NOT need to be off the ship in time to catch the Princess train. We had a leisurely breakfast and strolled off the ship at almost 9AM with plenty of time to reach the Park Connection bus that would take us to Anchorage. By this time, the luggage was mostly cleared out and our bags were plainly visible.