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Home > Member Reviews > grandmaR's Port Reviews of Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Strait, Anchorage, Sitka

grandmaR's Port Reviews of Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Strait, Anchorage, Sitka
Amsterdam cruise in May 2011
Member Name: grandmaR
Cruise Date: May 2011
Embarkation: Seattle
Destination: Alaska
Member Review: grandmaR's Amsterdam Review
Ketchikan
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
None of the tours is Ketchikan appealed to me so I picked the Duck and since we booked so late, it was the first Duck. This was a really good thing as there weren't many people on this tour so we could shift seats and move around. The later Ducks looked crowded Our guide Lily was excellent.

When it got to 0800, I told Bob that I was going to take the scooter down to the embarkation deck and leave it and walk off the ship and to find the Duck tour because I knew I couldn't take the scooter up the ladder to the Duck. He was doubtful, but that's what I did - I parked it next to where the ramp was, and then walked off.

We found our duck on the dock, and climbed in. There was a plastic overlay with round portholes in it that we could open or close. But it was still very hard to take pictures as the holes were up above head level so I either had to hold the camera over my head, or stand up. It was a bright sunny day and was soon quite warm in the Duck. We could take off our coats that we had put on in anticipation of it being cold. First we had a tour through town, looked at the salmon ladder, went by Dolly's House (whorehouse).

Then we went into the water, and motored out of the marina. We saw some bald eagles on the breakwater, but I didn't get a photo. When we got back to land, they had to clean the Duck off and they got some bull kelp out from the wheels and showed it to us.

When we got finished it was only 10 am so we asked in the information deck where we could get a thumb drive (so as to transfer photos and Favorites to the ship computer). They said the business center was open and it was a short walk so Bob said he would walk and get the thumb drives for me and that I should NOT try to get the scooter off the ship as the ramp was too steep.

Of course I wasn't going to get back on the ship, so I went to the ship and watched people with walkers and scooters and wheelchairs getting off and they had a LOT of trouble because the ramp was so steep. So when one of the helpers got down to the dock, I asked him if he would bring my scooter down for me and gave him the key. Pretty soon, my scooter got down to me.

I scootered around town a bit (they had traffic wardens who would stop traffic if you wanted to cross the street just like school crossing guards). Bob came up behind me outside the candy shop where he had bought some fudge - he had watched them making it there but did not, of course, take any photos. We walked out to the Whale Park and took some pictures of the totem there. It was a pleasant day.

I think we could have booked the trolley around town right on the pier but we were happy with what we did.



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Juneau
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
I was told that the one thing I must see was Mendenhall Glacier so I booked the Grand Tour of Juneau with the Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau Gardens and the salmon hatchery. It was a good tour, but we probably would have been better to do the City, Glacier and Salmon Hatchery which was half the price and leave out the Gardens.

The bus driver was a cute little girl named Camile and she was a good guide and good bus driver. The weather was really good and the she pointed out a range of mountains that she said they couldn't usually see. We got to the Mendenhall Glacier, and had some time to go to the museum and walk around and take photos. They had an elevator and I took that and Bob walked up the steps. We could have walked out to the waterfall if we did it quickly, but neither of us tried it. At the visitor's center, we saw the film, and it explained that the glacier ice is blue because it is so dense that it absorbs all but the blue light spectrum.

After the glacier we went to Juneau Gardens, which had upside down trees - due to a landslide that blocked the road, all the debris and logs were pushed onto this property and the man (Steve) who owned the property conceived the idea of sticking the top down in the ground and putting plants on the roots that were in the air. They took us on a tram ride up the hill and then we walked up to a platform to see out over the Juneau. I could have done without the walk - the view wasn't that great.

Then we went back to the garden center. There I saw that I could have had a wheelchair. They had a little cafe there and since we would be back to the ship after lunch, Bob and I got some chili (came out of a can and was heated up in the microwave).

Next we went to the salmon hatchery and they explained how they raised salmon. They collect the eggs and milt and then raise the small salmon to a certain size and let them go out to the ocean and swim around for a couple of years and then they come back to the hatchery to spawn. They had a little aquarium there.

Then I thought I would send my children some salmon. But I didn't have my wallet or my address book with me.

Camille dropped us off at the Mt. Roberts Tramway. It was nice weather and we had a good view. But now I had to walk back to the ship. I had to stop and rest a couple of times. The tramway was in front of Celebrity Millenium (from the top of the tramway you could see how much smaller the Amsterdam was) and the Milenium was parked by the tramway so I had to walk the length of both ships. When we got back to the ship I called the children, who all thought there must have been some emergency because I never call. I ordered the salmon and then we took naps after which we went out to get the bus to the salmon bake. This bus was a school bus and it took us out to the salmon bake.

I was a little disappointed in this as it was not as good as I remembered it being in Seattle. But the cornbread was excellent and I had four pieces. They also had a good potato/clam chowder. We got the bus back to the ship and the ship left port about 10 pm


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Icy Strait
Port Rating: 3.0 out of 5+
We took the Whale watching, but we saw whales everywhere and closer, so I might have opted for the Forest and Nature Tram at about 1/3rd the price. We were to allow half an hour for the tender trip, and we were to be on the dock by 10:05. But they said we might have a delay getting a tender if we waited until 9 am, so we went as soon as we finished breakfast.

The very hardest part of this excursion was going down the steps to the tender and climbing the ramp to the dock. After the excursion we walked out to the little cemetery.



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Anchorage
Port Rating: 3.0 out of 5+
We did the Grandview Train which wasn't to Grandview anymore because of possible avalanches and I enjoyed it but Bob didn't care for it. He also thought the Panama Canal transit was dull. He doesn't look at scenery that much. He would probably have liked the Anchorage highlights and Aviation Heritage Museum better. The dock is a commercial area and we are not allowed to walk around on it, but there is a shuttle into town and back.

Our seats were on the left side and I felt that most wildlife sightings were on the right side. They saw moose and Beluga whales. We saw Dall sheep up high on a craig, and a bald eagle on a nest. But we stopped for the eagle, and all the people on the right got a chance to take photos, which we didn't get for the moose. It was difficult to take photos anyway because of the reflections in the windows, although the windows were clean. We could go into the bumper section between the trains to take a picture if we wanted it to be without glass, and there was a food car which had a double decker area, but I didn't go up there.

They announced that they would sell a book for $5.00 which had a mile by mile list of what there was to see, but they didn't get to car C to sell it to us before we left at 10:00 am. They did give us a free brochure.

The weather was nice and sunny when we started out. As we left the city was passed (on the right side) and air strip which went between houses in a community. People had their planes parked by their houses.

We passed Potter Marsh which is officially called the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. Apparently the city wanted to make it a dump, but the school kids saved it. We saw lots of ducks and geese. We went past Beluga Point (where the whales were sighted in the river) and then arrived at Girdwood. I didn't see anything there so it must have been on the other side of the train.

We entered the Chugach National Forest which was where we saw the Dall sheep, and the track ran along Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet which has 40 foot tides. There is a bore tide every day. After that was Portage. I didn't see anything there either. The guides told us that during the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, this area registered 9.2 on the Richter scale - it shook for 12 minutes and dropped 12 feet.

We went through two fairly substantial tunnels and got to Whittier where it was cold and rainy. The guide said they got an average of 1.25 inches per day of rain and 20 feet of snow. They have tunnels between buildings.

We started eating lunch before we got there - it was a good lunch with a turkey sub, chips, and apple and a cookie. We did not get off in Whittier although we could have done.

We left Whittier going backwards (and the seats did not switch) and went back to Portage at which point we switched ends again and went forwards to Spencer to see the glacier there. The only way to get to this glacier is on this train. I did get some pictures. Then we went back to Portage (backwards), and got on buses to take us back to Anchorage.



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Sitka
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Sitka is a tender port. We had beautiful weather today. Our tour today (Raptor center and Sea Otter) isn't until 12:15. They charged us an additional $25.00 to go to the Raptor Center, but I was glad I went as I missed all the other rehab centers on the tours. We had to wait for tender tickets for about half an hour. We just made it to the dock in time for the tour. We went to the Raptor Center first - the bus driver did provide some narrative, but if we hadn't been sitting right behind him, we could not have heard what he said.

At the Raptor Center, we saw the flight cage where the birds that they are preparing to release are housed. We were not to use cell phones or flash because we were behind one way glass. It was hard to take photos because of the reflections on the glass from the sunlight in the flight cage.

Then we went into a demonstration room and saw a short video, and then they brought in an immature eagle to show us. This eagle was dropped off when she was about 2 months old. She was starving because she had a malformed beak and couldn't tear her food into small enough bites to eat. So she can never be released.

Then we went into the shop, and I used the bathroom. It was so warm that I had taken off my coat (!!!) and when I came out of the bathroom stall I realized that I did not have my cane anymore. So I went back and found it. Bob meanwhile was walking around the outside cages where the birds that can't be released are kept. I went out and sat on a bench in the sun to wait for the bus to come back. I saw a truck come with a travel container (like a big cat carrier) and one of the workers said that they had gotten an eagle from Juneau.

The bus came back and delivered us to the docks where we boarded a catamaran with about 80 other people who had just signed up for the Sea Otter part of the tour. They would have had a chance to eat lunch before they came, which we did not. Bob had a couple of chocolate chip cookies that he saved from his box lunch in Anchorage so we each ate one of them.

The catamaran had a naturalist on board and he kept us entertained with narrative between sightings. It was cooler, so I put my coat back on. We saw humpback whales really really close, and I actually got some pictures of them. We also saw some sea otters, a bald eagle nest with two chicks in it, and even some starfish (which I didn't get any pictures of as my camera was too slow to focus). They served us a sample of smoked salmon, a scone and hot chocolate.

He brought us right back to the tender dock on the ship, which was good as we didn't have to go up the ramp from the excursion dock and down the ramp to the tender dock and then ride the last tender back to the ship. Also one tender wouldn't have held all of us. The last tender was waitig for us to leave the tender dock so it could unload the last group of people.



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Victoria
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
I decided that since I had seen Butchart Gardens that I would rather have a tour of Victoria itself because before all I saw was the harbor area and the Royal Museum. I had tried to have tea at the Empress, but it was the wrong time for it or something. So this time I took the City Tour with the Tea at the Empress Hotel.

The city tour was a pretty extensive tour but mostly of residential areas which somehow I didn't expect. We went to the top of Mt. Tolmie which according to the driver was not really on the tour. We stopped there, and then she drove really slowly over the top. She showed us some churches and a cathedral, and spent a lot of time describing the neighborhoods and how much homes there would cost.

We paused by the golf course and there was an eagles nest in the top of a tree with a young eagle in it and a parent nearby and we stopped there for photos.

But when we came to the lighthouse that she told me about she drove by too fast to get a good photo. We passed Beacon Hill Park several times. There

were peacocks and ducks in the park and also a giant watering can which she said was in place of a wading pool for the kids which the powers that be were afraid would harbor bacteria.

We got to the harbor area (which I remembered). Since we started the tour at about noon, we didn't get lunch. We made up for it at the Empress tea. They seated us at a table with four others. On the table were strawberries and whipped cream and cups for tea which the lady kept filled up. They put two big stands with three tiers at each end of the table. The bottom had sandwiches (and the lady told us which were which - I only remember that there was an egg

salad croissant. There were no cucumber sandwiches though. The second tier was scones with jam and clotted cream, and the top layer had little cheesecakes and tarts and petit fours. Afterwards they gave us a box with tea.

After the tea, we toured the downtown area with shops and went

across a bridge to the other side of the harbor. We went through Chinatown,with the Guinness Book narrow street, and then she dropped off those who wanted to stay in the downtown area and shop (the boat docked about 5 minutes drive from town) and went back to the ship.

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