REVIEW START: I just got back from my AMAZING trip to Alaska. First, I'd like to thank everyone on this board for all the help and advice. I've been posting on Alaska for a year & ½ now, reading up on it for more than 2 years, and I can't believe my trip's over now. I'm going to start with the land tour, my camera / binocular purchase, the ship / celebrity, the ports of call / excursions, and I'll end with packing & some other general items. Mostly, I'm going to do my review in order of the days of my trip. I will also try and include food as I come to days as well. Since I see this turning into a lot of time, I'm going to post in sections. I'll start with my itinerary so you can see where I'm going with the review. Also, I'm going to try & highlight as I go down, this way you can skip some areas that you don't have interest in.
My itinerary: June 22nd: Leave my house in New York, get to Newark Airport (NJ) and fly to Anchorage connecting in Seattle June 23rd: Day in Anchorage: Saturday Market, Visit to Salmon Place. Dinner at Simon & Seaforts. June 24th: DM & I left early to go Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park DH & DF left early to go fishing and then had some other activities in Anchorage June 25th: DM & I got back from Brooks falls late & then slept. DH & DF: activities in Anchorage June 26th: Day in Anchorage: Zoo, Lunch at Jenns. Dinner at Marx Cafe. June 27th: Early morning train to Seward, Puffin Encounter, Exit Glacier, Salmon Bake, Godwin Glacier Dog Sled Tour & Helicopter Ride June 28th: Kenai Fjords Boat Trip; Dinner @ the Crab Pot June 29th: Hang Around at Saltwater & Board the Ship June 30th: Hubbard Glacier (Cruising) July 1st: Juneau from 10-8: Mendenhall Glacier July 2nd: Skagway 7-8:30: Train Ride to Carcross & Bus Back July 3rd: Icy Strait Point 7-4: Whale Watching w/Keith @ teck outfitters July 4th: Ketchikan 9-7: Fishing w/Ken @ Northern Lights July 5th: Inside Passage Cruising July 6th: Dock @ Vancouver, Stanley Park July 7th: Fly home non-stop to Newark
We stayed at horsetrekkin in Anchorage (http://www.horsetrekkinalaska.com/WebPageArt/Page04.html) and Saltwater Lodge (http://www.alaskasaltwaterlodge.com/seward_lodging.htm) in Seward.
Camera / Binoculars: Before I start on the review, just one additional thing on the camera / binoculars I bought specifically for the trip. About a year ago I purchased a Canon S3 IS digital camera after much research on dpforums & other sites. Since I'll be referring to my camera a lot in the review, I thought it'd be good to let you know what equipment I'm talking about. I spent a long time learning how to work it, but I still don't think it was enough. There's so much more to learn. Before I left, I also bought a telephoto lens and a wide angle lens to bring with me.
I also bought 10 x 42 Bushnell H2O binoculars at the suggestion of someone on the board to have. They were great and we used them, but not as much as I had thought originally.
June 22nd: We left out of Newark Airport (NJ) and flew to Anchorage connecting in Seattle. First, let me talk a little bit about our tickets. I booked using Frequent Flyer Miles: I called the exact number of days ahead I was allowed and got all the seats. What you have to do is call the exact days ahead for the 1st flight and then put everything on hold until you can book the second flight as well. I used 'sister' airlines and was able to get a non-stop back on Cathay Pacific. Now I know people on this board have been lucky and have gotten tickets at the last minute, but I find the seats book up so quickly and didn't want to change my timing or be worried, so that's what I did.
Lesson Here: Check your reservations often b/c they change planes and drop seats at the drop of a hat. They did it to me a month out and we got seats, but not the ones we wanted (window / aisle)
Also, I heard we could reserve a digEplayer (movie screen to watch movies / whatever) from Alaska airlines. I did so (there aren't many, so do so ahead) for $10 a set. This was a godsend. For a flight that long, I thank god I had it, otherwise DH would have been unbearable. (He is not a great flyer.)
For the flight, in retrospect, I also learned you can do a 'stop-over' when using your miles (but, I found out after I made the booking). So, I might have done that and visited barrow (then buying a 1-way back to Anchorage.
The flight was fine; everything was pretty much on time. I have no real additions there...
So, after we landed in Anchorage, we checked in @ horsetrekkin (http://www.horsetrekkinalaska.com/WebPageArt/Page04.html). Yes, it's a little off the beaten path of most travelers, but worth it. The rate is amazing compared to what you would spend for something even close to comparable. Also, it's a short walk to the zoo.
I think the place was very nice and the people were amazing, but it wasn't exactly what I expected. This was the description I was given when I booked: 2 bedroom suite which had private bedrooms, kitchenette, indoor steam room, outdoor hot tub, full breakfast etc. One room has a fireplace with queen bed and futon. The other room has a queen bed. What it was is 2 bedrooms at the bottom floor of their house. You go to the right on the floor you walk in on and there are doors closing in a small hallway with a bathroom and 2 bedrooms, which isn't really what I was thinking of a suite. There is a small fridge and a steam shower there. Everything was clean, but the 2nd bedroom is pretty small. There were no drawers in it at all. The part that really irked me was that there are no locks on those doors. They assured me they were there all the time, but I would have liked some kind of lock and would have felt more comfortable that way. (You could lock it from the inside, but when we were gone the doors were just unlocked.) Since it was on a pretty busy road it just nerve-racked me a little... Moving on—breakfast was wonderful, the people were really great and friendly, and the place was clean. I LOVED the steam shower. Also, it's much quieter out there than in the city. Be aware—if you stay there, you NEED a car. It was $27 just to get into town 1 way.
Glacier Brewhouse: We also got in early enough to go to the Brewhouse for dinner. It was very good and we all enjoyed it, but it was more expensive than I thought it would be. If you get there after 6, expect a wait.
June 23rd: Day in Anchorage: Saturday Market, Stopped at a Fish Place to see Salmon Jump, Picked up an Enterprise Car, & Dinner at Simon & Seaforts.
The first full day I woke up in Anchorage it still didn't hit me that I was in Alaska. Although, once I stepped outside and saw how cold it was, my mind wrapped around the idea that I might be there. I decided to make the first full day we were there a little relaxing and free-flowing since a lot more of our itinerary is pretty intense. So, onto the day...
Breakfast was great—eggs, ham, pancakes, home fries....YUM! Great coffee & OJ too.
DF got our rental car at Enterprise—we got a great deal for booking early. It's just too bad we didn't get the car earlier because we spent a TON on taxi rides so far. Also, the cab that brought us into town offered to show us a place where the Salmon jumped all the time, so we went. Kind of a mistake because it was $100 and we saw nothing... Beautiful though. If anyone's interested, I can try to give you directions if you want to go yourself.
Market: We wanted to go to the Saturday market because I heard on the board it was a great place to go....it was a great stop. We spent about 4 hours walking around finding nice homemade soaps, different booths with everything Alaska, and great food. The people there were SUPER nice to us and spoke with us at length about the state, what they made, and various other topics. We got a cute painting, some nice soap bars, and had some great lunch! Try the seafood soup in a bread bowl because it was fabulous! Make sure you have some time to stop there. Also, I did get some Alaskan ULUs there. I did also stop in the ULU factory (pretty close to the market) and found much cheaper prices at the market. There are several ULU booths there, so just do a lap of the market first and see which one you would prefer.
Simon & Seafords: We were celebrating DF's birthday and there was confetti on the table (done tastefully) was a small card. It was pretty cool. Also, this was the best meal. Given, we had amazing food elsewhere, but this was fabulous. DM & I shared an appetizer with Filet and shrimp and something else on it and it was amazing—melted in my mouth! Also, DH had the Salmon & loved it and we had Halibut. DF had the pork ribs and it was his favorite as well. YUMMY!!!!!
After dinner, I packed up some things for the next day....BROOKS FALLS. I couldn't wait to see what this great highlight of my trip would be. I was pretty nervous, but excited with anticipation at the same time!
June 24th: DM & I left early to go Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park DH & DF left early to go fishing
Before I start on Brooks, I forgot to mention something about the 23rd. When we were at S&S all of us dressed for dinner. (no suits, but skirts, nice outfits). I feel like we were the ONLY people there not in jeans. That was something I didn't expect....so, don't feel like you need to dress to go there.
Okay, onto the topic at hand:
I booked our trip to Brooks Falls with Katmailand. Website: http://www.katmailand.com/bear-viewing/packages.html#brooks more than a year & ½ in advance. That was necessary for me because I wanted to be in a cabin. Since there are only 10 cabins at the place, I know it's hard to get these accommodations, but I was excited about it. I know there has been a lot of bear talk on the boards about where to go and what to do. Also, I wanted a trip that could take me directly from Anchorage because DH & DF would be staying there and it was very convenient. I know this trip is expensive and I knew I wasn't going in 'prime' season, but I crossed my fingers before we left that the bears would be trying to fish anyway. Onto what happened...
The horsetrekkin folks were nice enough to give us some bananas, yogurt, muffins, and OJ. They left it the night before so we'd have something in the morning. DH & DF drove us to the airport and dropped us off. Katmailand arranged for a flight to King Salmon and then from there we had another flight to Brooks. The first flight to King Salmon wasn't too bad. We were on a 30 passenger plane (the smallest I'd ever been on) and all-in-all it was an okay hour & 1/2 flight. We landed and were taken by bus (there was a sign directing us where to go) to another plane where they weighed our carry-ons as well as us before deciding which plane to put us on. There were 3 planes -- 1 was a 12 passenger (rough guess) and the 2 others were smaller. I got put in the 12 passenger with DM, she took a tranquilizer, and I got to sit in the cockpit with the pilot. I actually asked where I should sit and he told me anywhere, so I made a joke about the cockpit and he said sure........so, ask and you shall received. It wouldn't have hurt if he said no. So, I was a little nervous about flying on a smaller plans, but the view was amazing. It was just gorgeous. Also, the takeoff and landing was much smoother on the water than with wheels on land. So, with my anticipation at a HIGH, we landed at Brooks. The first thing they have you do is go to the ranger station and attend a bear-training 30-minute presentation with a video. It tells you what to do if you encounter any bears. Then you get a pin saying you completed it to wear around so the rangers know you went to "school." During the class people asked the rangers if they saw bears and one said they hadn't seen anything in 2 days and no sightings were reported. So, at this point I was getting pretty worried--it's a lot of money to see no bears........ The ranger also said they expected the bears to come out any time now and that usually they were out a few weeks before, but the long winter caused the delay. I said a little prayer to myself hoping they would come out--we then decided to check in at the lodge which entails registering a credit card so you can use your "Katmai Charge Card" (a piece of paper that lets you charge things to your room during your stay) and get the keys to our cabin. Since the cabin wasn't ready yet, we decided to have lunch first. Just as I was finishing my salad one of the guys at my table spotted a bear with cubs on the beach. I've never seen a place clear out so quickly in my life. Don't get me wrong, I was at the front of that line, but DM took a little longer. I was awe-struck seeing the gorgeous bears. They were just hanging out on the bear--a mamma and 3 cubs (these cubs were 1 year old). Then, all of a sudden another mamma came into view a little further down the beach with brand new spring cubs--they were so adorable. I got a bunch of shots with 8 bears in the photos--the 4 in the distance and 4 up-close. I was in awe of some of the lenses people had brought with them, but my telephoto lens worked GREAT, so I was happy. I'll try and post some pictures soon. They're too big to upload to the site, but I'll post them somewhere else with a link. It was amazing to watch them. After watching them for about an hour, we hustled back to the cabin, changed clothes to get to the falls, and started out.
I won't give you a play-by-play of the rest of the visit because I would pretty much bore all of you to death. It was amazing to experience though. Just amazing. I'm still in awe just thinking about it. It is just unbelievable when you walk outside your cabin in the morning to see how hot / cold it is and there's a bear standing about 50 yards from you! *sigh*
Okay, just one more fun story...I was at the lower platform resting a bit and watching a mamma with her 3 cubs before heading to the falls. She was quite a bit off by the beach area, but started to walk down towards the lower platform. About 5 guys were fishing, but only one was on the close side of the bridge to the mamma. She didn't really look like she was going anywhere, but that fisherman caught a fish and the SECOND that happened, the mamma charged. It was a great show—her charging in. *sigh* Anyway, the fisherman cut his line immediately and got up to the platform to safety—mamma didn't get the fish. We then headed to the falls and were lucky enough to catch up with the mamma fishing for the cubs as they were playing. Such an amazing time!
Anyway, some other facts--it is a mile & 1/2 from the lodge (where you have lunch & where most of the cabins are) to the falls platform. The lower platform (good viewing, but most everyone goes to see the falls) is quite a bit closer. For some reason, that's not how I was picturing it, so I thought I'd share. You have to walk past the lower platform, down a road, and then along a path in the middle of the woods to get to the falls. The whole time clapping and talking at the top of your lungs so no bears come close... There's also a fire pit in the main room (where they serve food) and lots of people gathered around it in the evenings to read / relax. Make sure you break in your shoes / boots BEFORE you go!!!! I didn't and paid for it! I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have....
DH & DF's day fishing the Deska (an hour & ½ out of Anchorage): I booked DH & DF to fish with akfishermanschoice dot com. They were very friendly and knowledgeable on the phone and I was comfortable with them. Before I went, they advised me to purchase a fishing license & king salmon stamp for DH & DF. Since we were also fishing in Ketchikan over a week later, I purchased them all at the same time. It was easy: $20 for a 1 day license & $10 for a 1 day king salmon stamp. Website: http://www.admin.adfg.state.ak.us/license/. The only annoying part of the website is that you have to purchase each license separately and print them yourself.
DH & DF's review: They were on a small boat with nothing to cover them. Of course, because of that, it poured the entire time they were out there and they got soaked. Also, they caught nothing. Well, no, that's not true—DF caught one illegally (snagged on the side), but they threw it back. Both said the ride to where they were fishing was really nice & it was gorgeous scenery. Also, the boat that went out in the morning caught 6/8 fish. Apparently, the best time to go is in the AM, so book accordingly. They both said the guide was very nice as well. I guess remember—it's fishing, not catching. (I should have taken them to Brooks, but they wanted to fish, so oh well.)
DF & DH'S FOOD for the 24th and 25th: One night they went to Phyllis's for dinner. The little sign says all you can eat, but it's only for certain hours. They went the second night and had the all you can eat crab, but didn't love it. It was good, but not as good as Ocean City Maryland... Also, they went Moose's Tooth one night which was okay as well. DF said the burgers were a little thin, but it was pretty good all the same.
I should also note we had beautiful weather @ Brooks.
June 26th: Day in Anchorage: Alaskan Zoo, Lunch at Jenns, Dinner at Marx Cafe.
Breakfast: Steve from horsetrekkin served us a great breakfast again—eggs, pancakes, ham, hash browns, OJ, and coffee. Yum. Then we headed over to the zoo. We saw lots of animals, but it's just not the same seeing them out in the wild. DH was excited to see the bears, but it's just not the same. Anyway, it's a pretty small zoo (well, I'm comparing it to the Bronx zoo though). We went through it in about 2 hours (stopping frequently and wandering).
At that point, we decided to go to lunch since we had some time. One of the restaurants I looked into, but decided not to book for dinner was Jenns—so, we went there for lunch. We were all in sweatpants-type apparel, but didn't think it was a problem. It wasn't and everything was still fine. But, it seems to me a lot of people go there for lunch on break from work, so there were a LOT of suits and nice clothing...I felt slightly out of place, but it was okay. This also was my 2nd best food recommendation (better than the dinner I would be having later). The wine and food were fantastic!
We had a small caesar with the meal ($4.50) because I wanted to compare with Marx. IT was really good. I also had a glass of Pinot Noir and DM had a glass of Riesling, which was fabulous as well—much better wine than at Marx. It was delicious! For lunch DH had pepper steak which he thought was good and I had Scallops which were amazing! DF had a pasta dish and loved it—he's hard to impress with Italian food too. When the waiter tells you the crème brule is the best in Anchorage, he is NOT kidding. Best I've ever tasted. Get it. Eat it. Then ship some back to me. YUM!!!!!!!!!
After lunch, we decided to hit Walmart—I can't tell you how funny it is to me to think we were going to Walmart in Alaska, but it is. We hit up the Alaskan section and I got some chocolates. We also got some waters to take with us. Also, we stopped and got some crackers because we bought some salmon at the market on Saturday and wanted to have some of it on the train. Walmart is only a minute or 2 from Jenns, so if you're in the area, it's a quick stop. Then you can tell everyone you went to Walmart while in Alaska.
Before I forget again—when you're at the Salmon place at the market, there's a $5 sealed can, a $6 sealed can, and an $11 glass jar—the difference of money is WORTH IT to get the glass jar!!!! I kid you not! They have these all over too and you'll find yourself getting more.
We booked Marx Cafe for dinner and it was okay. I think that is because the other meals I had were just superb, so it ended up being okay—it's a great restaurant and the Caesar salad gets made in front of you, but in retrospect I would have gone to one of the others again instead. Also, you do need to dress for this restaurant. DH had filet mignon and said it was great, but liked S&S better. DF, DM, and I had lamb chops—they were delicious. We also had the Caesar salad prepared tableside, which was very nice, delicious. I liked Jenn's and S&S better though. It ended up being $227 including tip and 1 bottle of wine for 4 people.
I tried to get to bed at a somewhat decent time to be ready for the big day tomorrow—had to be at the train @ 5:45...
June 27th: Early morning train to Seward, Puffin Encounter, Exit Glacier, Salmon Bake, Dog Sledding
This morning we got up early & the 6:45 am train to Seward. We were told to get there by 5:45 and we could bring 2 pieces of luggage & 1 carryon. I booked ahead via the railroad. Website: http://www.alaskarailroad.com/arrc8.html.
I went the day before to see if I could get tickets so I wouldn't have to be as early, but they told me they were only issued the day of and we should be there at 5:45 since it was a full train.
When we arrived, we were the only people there at 5:45—I'm not surprised—how many people actually listen when they say what time to arrive. Most people got there at 6:30... There is a coffee station in the place if you need a jump-start.
Seats are assigned when you get there, but there is open seating in the dome car. Right after we started moving, I moved into the dome (right in my car, so it was convenient). I took the first seat on the right. The arm views are great. Sadly, there was a wait for seating up there, so I stayed about 25 minutes getting great shots and then went back down to my seat. I knew glacier views would be coming up on the left given what BQ said before we left and what that guide said. Just ask one of the very friendly, helpful people walking around and they'll tell you about how many minutes you have until you get there. Then make sure you're in the dome for that too. The views from the train were gorgeous. I can see how you really miss out if you drive. Given, I'm sure there are pluses that way as well, but I'm really glad we took the train. This was DF's top 2 things we did the entire trip. I kid you not!
After we got to Seward, we met up with Renee from PJs taxi, who I booked ahead of time. Renee was ready and waiting at the train station right by our luggage. She's the only female cab driver in Seward, so you can't miss her. We actually managed to fit all of our luggage and us into her taxi. (This was a GREAT concern for me due to the amount of luggage we had.) Then, on top of that she was also nice enough to store our luggage at her place while we went about our day, which was a great help because we didn't waste a lot of time. THANK GOD for that. Renee also suggested we try to schedule our glacier landing for that day since we had great weather, so I called them up (she had the number handy) and did so. Thank goodness we stored our luggage at her place, our day was so jam-packed it was ridiculous—THANKS again Renee. (I just can't say that enough.) She's a great woman, has lots of information, and gave us great prices. So, after we stored our luggage, she drove us to lunch at Thorns (2 SHORT blocks from the Sealife Center), where we were scheduled to have a Puffin Encounter about an hour later. Lunch was excellent. I got the Halibut basket and DH got the Shrimp basket. It was fantastic—DH even stole some of mine! I highly recommend going there—great price and great food. (another great recommendation from Renee) The total for the 4 of us at Thorns—each got a drink and basket of food was $90.70 (after tip). We also arranged to meet her again later when we were done with the Sealife center to get to our dog sledding.
After lunch, we headed over to the Sealife center and signed in and got our tags for the Puffin encounter. It was great. A nice lady showed us around, told us about the birds, and then we got to feed the puffins—they were so cute! One was more interested in eating DM's pants, but he was adorable! A great experience and lots of great information. A lot of the center is for rehabilitation and they ended up building the place with money from a fine for an oil spill. It's a great stop if you have time. Just as we were getting ready to leave, there was an announcement of an eagle fishing at the back look-out. So, we went up there and got some great pictures of him flying and having dinner!
Renee from PJ's taxi picked us up a bit later and transported us to the small airport we were taking our helicopter to the glacier and dog sledding. I booked with Godwin Dog Sled Tours who also gave me a great rate for booking early. Website: http://www.alaskadogsled.com/ It was a SMALL Helicopter. All 4 of us couldn't fit, which I wasn't prepared for. But, hey—I flew on a small plane—bring it on! They had some waterproof gear there, but we were all set with our waterproof boots, pants, and jackets. The guy took up my parents first and then we went next. What a great ride! It was very fast, but great. We landed up at the dog camp and it was so cute to see all the dogs—they had around 75 dogs up there and the mushers live up there all summer (they come down once a week to shower). They're training for races like the Iditarod. I even have our mushers card to follow her progress. The people were real nice and we had a great ride around with the dogs. We went about 2 miles, but it just felt so short. I would have loved to have been there longer. The helicopter down was pretty quick and we landed just as Renee from PJ's taxi pulled into the parking lot. What a great experience—lots of those on this day!
But, we weren't done with the day yet. We asked Renee to drive us to Exit Glacier, but she suggested stopping to see some Salmon first, which we thought would be interesting so we went. It was awesome—we watched them just jump out of the water over and over again—VERY cool. Have Renee drive you around and I'm sure she'll take you there.
So, then we headed to Exit Glacier and started walking. One trail was 1.7 miles and one was 0.3. DH wanted to do the 1.7 mile one, so I went with him and DM & DF did the 0.3 one. As we were walking up, we came to a stream which we had to get across. The water was about 3 inches high, so it was good we had the waterproof boots. On the way up Overlook trail, it was okay and it was a gorgeous sight. Beautiful. I'd highly recommend it. From the time Renee dropped us off to when we got back to the visitors center, it took us less than an hour to do. A warning: on the way back down the mosquitoes seemed to be out in full force and took a liking to DH. It was BAD. Make sure you spray lots of repellant! At this point, I was very tired and we went to the Salmon Bake (driven by Renee again) for dinner. I just had a burger (one of their interesting combo ones) with a pickle you can pick out of a jar. It was very good. YUM! The root beer was great as well. Price for 4 people: $67. Only 1 beer ordered by DH—I was so wiped out by then I don't know how he stomached it. After we finished, Renee picked us up and drove us to get our luggage (at her place) and then out to the Saltwater Lodge (about 10 minutes out of town). As she's driving, she was explaining various things and just as she was saying to watch for sealife, out pops an otter. What timing! I'm telling you, she's got them on a schedule—it was great! Saltwater is gorgeous, had a perfect view, and the rooms were fabulous. Website: http://www.alaskasaltwaterlodge.com/seward_lodging.htm. I reserved the North and South rooms and that came with an "expanded" continental breakfast (more on that later). The rooms looked great—the only thing to be mindful of is that you have to carry all of your luggage up the huge flight of stairs to your rooms. It was so worth it though! At this point, we showered, looked at the great view, and collapsed asleep.
The next day we were doing the Kenai Fjords trip with Saltwater and I wanted to be fully rested for that trip.
June 28th: Kenai Fjords Boat Trip; Dinner @ The Crab Pot Before I start this part, I just want to say again how gorgeous our rooms at Saltwater were. When we were driving up to the place before you see it, DH got a little scared about where we were going. But, even he was SUPER thrilled. There were windows lining one side of the room the entire length of the wall (which was large). We also had 2 queen size beds in the room. Actually, now that I think back on it, one of them could have been a double bed. The beds were facing on opposite walls, but diagonally from each other. It's hard to get an idea of how big the room was, but it was huge for 2 people. The only part that was small was the shower. VERY small. My poor father had a tight squeeze, but was okay.
Okay, onto June 28th. Breakfast at Saltwater was expanded continental. There were bowls of fruit (freshly made that morning—I saw some of it happen), English Muffins, hot chocolate, coffee, and some other things. It was nice. I decided to take some Dramamine—BIG mistake. I was so tired & groggy, which hasn't happened to be before. I'll just stay with the patch from now on—no side effects there.
We booked our Kenai Fjords trip through Saltwater to be on a smaller boat to have a better experience. We met our captain and first mate at the little coffee shop and then went on our way. The boat was very nice—there was an inside area (completely covered) and viewing from all the sides. On the way out we saw a whale—our first. It was great and I took lots of pictures. We stayed there a little while and then made our way to Holgate glacier.
I was able to sit next to the captain with DH and we had a long talk with him on the way about sealife, various birds, and just heard him talk about the area. I find it interesting that a lot of the people we met in Alaska have been there X amount of years, but weren't born there.—just a side note.
At one point, we turned and saw one seal / porpoise tanning on a rock. I was super excited and started taking lots of pictures. Then 1 minute later we came upon a group of rocks with about 30 seals / porpoises tanning—it made my excitement even higher. I kept wondering what amazing things we were going to see next. On our trip, we saw otters, puffins, and other wildlife.
An observation: We also saw some of the larger provider's boats during our trip—PACKED with people. I seriously can't believe the amount of people they fit on those things. We were able to easily walk back and forth across the boat to see things from different angles and those people were lucky to have a railing spot. I was so glad to have been on a smaller vessel with a more private tour.
Another reason I wanted to book with Saltwater is that we were able to stay at the face of the glacier longer than the ½ hour allotted by the larger boats. While the larger boats have to keep more of a schedule, we could detour and see more things.
Just so you know, it was FREEZING the entire time! It was very hard to stay outside, even with the wind. I was wearing underarmor pants (get them, they are wonderful and necessary), warm pants over it, my waterproof boots, a tank top, a sweatshirt over that, and then my jacket with fleece liner. I also had gloves and ear covers on. Then I put a hat on over that. I was still cold, but at least my head, ears, and body were warm. I just ended up with my nose, eyes, and mouth being cold. Too bad I didn't find a way to cover those!
The only thing I wasn't thrilled with during the trip is that we had to pick up kayakers along the way. (One of Saltwater's boats broke down, so we had to take an hour to do this. It didn't cut into our time and wasn't fun, but I guess necessary and not a big deal.)
I would highly recommend that kind of trip to anyone going—it was a great experience.
Originally I had booked the crab pot for 7:30 that night and I was planning to go back to Saltwater and change. But, we heard they had no dress-code and you needed no reservation. So, after we got done, we walked around town a little and went to the Crab Pot for dinner around 6. We, of course, had crab (seasoned). It was very good—pricey, but good.
I also found out from a local that Ray's uses frozen seafood, not fresh. That really astonished me—I guess something to keep in mind for all of you. We also heard Chinooks was good, but we didn't make it there.
After dinner, we just headed back to Saltwater (via PJ's taxi—right on time as always) and hung out on the decks there and the beach. I took a book down to the deck and hung out a while reading while DH walked on the beach a while. It really is gorgeous there. I wish we stayed longer in Seward.
June 29th: Board the Ship We got up early to breakfast again at Saltwater—expanded continental. Same things were there as the previous day: Freshly made bowls of fruit, English Muffins, hot chocolate, coffee, and some other things. We had to check out by 10, so we were out of the rooms by 10:30 (not too bad) and took PJs taxi to the boat docks. We knew we couldn't check in until after 2pm, but we figured we could drop our luggage off there. By pure stroke of luck, they said we could board at 11am! It was only 5 minutes later, so we stayed and boarded right away—easiest embarkation ever. I told DM & DF we'd meet them in the buffet and headed up the stairs with DH. Only after they were gone I looked and the buffet didn't open until noon. We decided to kill some time exploring. The ship is beautiful. It has a very open feel and the staff is very friendly. Even at this early hour, the staff kept welcoming us aboard every time we saw a member and they always said hello—very friendly. So, upon exploring we found the basketball court. DH then became extremely excited and we played a quick game of HORSE (which I won—we had to kill time, right?). After we met DF & DM in the lunch buffet. This was fantastic—better than the other lines I've been on. I was SUPER excited for the pasta-making station. Also, the Caesar salad making station was a favorite too, but I didn't have it a lot because of the other great things.
Since we got on so early, we then decided to make reservations at the Normanie for Skagway (I knew we were going to be too late getting back on the ship for our early seating). This was very easy to do because they have representatives at a lot of sections on the ship to call in reservations.
Then I thought I'd head to the spa—hey, if I could be a spa model and get a free service, it sounded good to me! I found out that they do not have spa models for the tours, but use one of the tour members for one thing. Otherwise, you really don't see treatments going on, as I have previously. Stay to do the tour, it's quite interesting. I did learn on the tour the Rasul was broken, so I don't have anything to report on that. I did do a treatment though—more on that later. I also think the Summit's gym is top-notch. It's huge and they offer classes (some a slight amount of money, but most not).
By the time we got done with that, I went to check out my room and our luggage had arrived. I finally unpacked after a week of living out of my suitcase—that felt great. By then we just relaxed a bit, showered, changed, and then headed down for the early seating dinner. It is open seating the first night, but we were all hungry by the time 6pm rolled around. It was very good and I liked our wait staff the first night. Everyone was very welcoming. Some tips: You can order fresh berries - raspberries, blueberries, strawberries -- with whipped cream every night for desert. You also can order NY Strip Steak any night or every night. Shrimp cocktail is on the every night menu—no need to ask in advance. Half way through our cruise they ran out of the big shrimp and used smaller ones—still great.
The first night's show was a variety show of different performances to come in the week. I liked it a lot. They had two people that did acrobatic-type work—they were amazing. Also, they had Celebrity singers & dancers perform. All in all, I think it was a good first night show and a nice introduction to the ship. We were pretty tired, so at that point, we just went back to sleep.
Now I'm going to break a little bit to discuss my room and some additional 'tips' I found helpful before I boarded: Room: I knew that for Alaska, I wanted an Aft Cabin. Since I know those rooms go really quickly, I had my travel agent (who is wonderful, by the way) call and I called also the day rates were supposed to come out to book cabins. (the second the phone lines opened) I ended up actually getting the ones I wanted (after a lot of persistence telling them I should be able to book). Lesson here: Call the day everything comes out to get what you want. I've also found a lot of people are worried about prices dropping after final payment and want last minute fares. With celebrity, I booked this cabin the day rates came out and then had my price adjusted two times by my TA after final payment to credit me rate reductions. She was very on top of getting me those price adjustments and sent me a bottle of champagne for the trip.
If you're asking if it was worth it: It SO was. I never ever want to cruise again without an aft cabin. The views are just amazing. I did feel vibrations 1 night, but it didn't bother me—just like the sound of the ocean. Also, DH thought it rocked more in the back of the ship, but it didn't seem like it to me. I LOVED it.
Rest of the ship: The staff was VERY friendly and courteous. For example, when I was on Princess, the staff didn't go out of their way to talk to you. But, on the Summit I would get a hello how are you every where I turned.
I'll also rate the activities / food each day if I remember them.
Some additional things I learned: You can get over-the-counter seasickness meds at customer service or the purser's desk. Free, dispensed a couple of tablets at a time. Also, if you see that they are doing a Internet class, you an get free internet for 30 minutes (you just have to sit though the class). I didn't see that happen during this cruise though. Since it's so expensive, this would be worth it.
June 30th: Hubbard Glacier (Cruising) Sadly, this is one of my 'regret' days. It was too foggy to see anything and it was pouring. We couldn't see calving or even hear it. My big regret / upset of the trip. Yes, the day was scenic, but not what I thought it would be.
I did a couple of other things this day. The first was a culinary demonstration. Let me say—do NOT miss this. Also, if you can, be the one who volunteers to be the helper. It was fantastic. Well, I like food and cooking, so it was good for me. But, if you just like to eat, I'd still go to this great show because of the food quality. Hey, if you like Martinis, go to that too!
So, they make filet and I won't get into any details, but the pastry chef made cake and a dessert. Then the girl who helped invited a friend to the table and they ate it. As we were all drooling waiters came around with tastes of each. I had 2—it was that good.
So, I digressed a little—in the middle of cooking, you have to wait about 5-10 minutes for it to actually cook. During this time we had a martini demonstration where the guy threw the bottles around and everything. He had great skills. Anyway, I ended up with one of the 2 martinis. Can you believe 1 lady actually turned down the chocolate martini? If you aren't lucky enough (or eyeing the glass enough) to get one of the 2, they pass around samples of these as well.
They also had someone explain silverware in the middle and what fork to use when—me, I just work my way in from the outside.
I also went to the art auction this day. While on the ship the art guy holds a couple of lectures and 2 art auctions. Both the auctions are on the "sea days." Hint: When he says to trust him, do so!
Today for lunch I also checked out the Aqua Spa Cafe. Some great stuff there & a lot of people don't even bother looking. I found some days of the trip it was PACKED over in the buffet and then there was no one in the aqua spa cafe. Sometimes they have pretty cool stuff. Check it out.
Another food-related tip (many know this already): In the cova you pay for coffees, hot chocolate, etc, but the pastries and cookies are free!
My one big regret of the cruise was not being able to see anything this day. I put away my disappointment though because there are so many nicer things to see. If I had my druthers I would have planned this trip for 2 weeks later. But, hey, I had an amazing time. I did not let it ruin my vacation 1 bit!
July 1st: Juneau from 10-8: Mendenhall Glacier
We got off the ship early and first had to get tickets to a bus ($2 round trip all day) just to get to the town area. Once we got here, we paid the $12 a person (round trip) to get to Mendenhall and back. It was easy enough to do since we were the first people off the ship and we had about a 5 minute wait for the bus to appear to take us back to town.
We didn't do Mt. Roberts Tram because it was too foggy—good thing I didn't prebook.
Mendenhall—it was gorgeous. We took a little hike down to see it and climbed around a bit. I'm not even sure what trails we ended up with (even after I got maps), but I totally recommend at least doing the Photo Point Trail.
Something to note: the visitor's center is not free. So, if you climb up all those stairs to go to the center, be aware you'll be paying some money to get in. (it is research money though) The view is nice though. Also, there are some elevators if one needs. I also used this site for trail maps: http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/districts/mendenhall/trails.html
I LOVE how it's always light here. My S3IS worked perfectly. I'm sorry, I know I haven't spoken a lot about my camera as I said I would before, but if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
We then looked at shops and went back to the ship—it was a nice and relaxing day. (It's too bad I didn't spread these days out—we needed them!)
I also made myself an appointment for the Ocean Wrap on this day. It was a nice seaweed wrap (which they let you try on the spa tour). Then afterwards while you relax (basically in a waterbed) while wrapped you get a massage on your hands and feet. Then you shower everything off and get a full body massage. I would so do it again. Ruth was the woman I had and she was incredible. From someone who gets treatments at home, I can't rave enough. Also, just so everyone's aware: spa services have the gratuity built in already, but you can add more.
We also had a martini tasting right before dinner--$10 for the 'tray.' It was 6 different martinis (smaller sized) and was very good. We ordered this so close to dinner the guy actually put it at our table for us to finish! Yum.
Extra Let me take a second to put in some things I forgot: Before I left to go to Alaska, I was reading the boards and how everything is informal / casual in Alaska. While this is true, while I was in the Celebrity dining room (main early seating), I didn't see one person skimp on the dress code. While on formal night a few people weren't as dressed up as I've seen in the past, it wasn't anywhere near as casual as I was expecting and I'm glad I didn't take my formal clothing out of my suitcase.
July 2nd: Skagway 7-8:30: Train Ride & Bus Back I booked the Carcross Bus & Rail excursion with Chilkoot Charters & Tours. Website: http://www.skagwaysbesttour.com/summitgold.htm. After I booked they sent me a ticket with these instructions: PICKUP INSTRUCTIONS: Ore Dock - proceed to the red weather shelter just across the footbridge. Railroad Dock or Broadway Dock - proceed to the end of the pier and go through the security gate. WAIT for your driver/guide who will be driving a vehicle or carrying a sign with our business name "CHILKOOT CHARTERS & TOURS." You will be picked up at 7:30 AM. DO NOT attempt to board the train at the dock as its destination is different than yours. U.S. AND CANADIAN CITIZENS MUST CARRY A PASSPORT OR BIRTH CERTIFICATE WITH PHOTO ID. GUESTS OF OTHER NATIONALITIES MUST BRING THEIR PASSPORT. Also, this was the itinerary they sent me: Skagway/White Pass Summit/Fraser/Lake Bennett/Carcross. The 4 1/2 hours on the train is actual travel time. There is a 1 1/2 hour layover at Lake Bennett for lunch at the Bennett Depot dining hall. There are also Parks Canada interpretive displays throughout the depot itself and on the viewing platform. The rail trip to Carcross is 6 hours in total, and the Emerald Lake to Skagway portion by bus is an additional 2 1/2 hours.
Review of the trip: When we got off the ship there was a big sign right outside the gate of the dock—very easy to find and we took off within 5 minutes of waiting for some others to get off.
It was GORGEOUS. We were the 20th trip of people to go all the way to Carcross since they expanded the line.
There were only 6 of us in our car and the car ahead of us carried the employees and the one behind of us was empty. So, it was nice to have a train for ourselves.
There are platforms between each car—1 section for the car your in and 1 for the one in front of you. So, I guess if it's crowded the people in front of you could block your pictures. Since our train was empty, I got to spend a lot of time on the platform—it was great. I got some amazing pictures—if I flip press the next button of my camera, I got a round of pictures that make it look like the train's moving into the tunnel. I just put my camera in sports mode, didn't move, and held the button down.
The people were very pleasant getting to Lake Bennett and explained everything. I liked the crew that boarded in Lake Bennett and took us to Carcross a little better because they stayed in the car with us, explaining things and answering questions. They knew a lot about the area—one of the guy's parents used to live in a cabin on the side too. Oh, and they got the bears out for us! All were great, but the crew from Lake Bennett to Carcross was superb.
I'm sure some of you are asking if going all the way to Carcross was worth it? I think it was. When we stopped at Lake Benet and ate (not edible food by the way) some people got off and had to wait about 1 hour extra for a train back. Just in the extra part we saw 2 black bears (one in a tree and one was originally in the middle of the tracks when the conductor called back to us). The scenery isn't as splendid as was seen in the first part though, but there are things to see. Also, I have to say that the ice cream in Carcross was fabulous—DF is still talking about it! The reason I booked the longer trip was to see Emerald Lake—that and the desert were both big highlights!
Also, it's very interesting taking the bus back, in effect seeing things from a different perspective. I highly recommend doing this.
We went to the Normandie for dinner this night since we got back too late for our early seating. We did not have the wine-with-every course, but now I wish I did. After attending the food and wine tasting in the Normandie later in the cruise, I could tell they knew what they were doing. If you like wine, I'd love someone to report back on this.
The food and experience were spectacular and gourmet, while the people were friendly, pleasant, and we were treated like royalty. A couple of highlights—the Caesar salad is made table-side. For those who were reading about Marx earlier—this is a perfect time to go to the Normandie on the ship and skip going to Marx in Anchorage. It was great and made just as well. Also, DF ordered the steak diane which was made tableside. He couldn't stop raving about this either. I had the Goat Cheese appetizer. Let me tell you, I was really weary on ordering this, but it was recommended so I decided to try it. DO IT. YUM! Also, they bring around a cheese cart after dinner. If I knew it was coming, I would have TRIED to save room. I could have had just wine and cheese ALL night. YUM! Dinner was $30 per person + a 15% tip. We tipped more. Tons of people were waiting on us the entire time. Even though I know this is part of going to this restaurant, we had a great time here.
On a side note: I met a guy at the high tea the last sea day we were on the ship. The said the only place good is the Normandie and he would only eat there and have pastries from the Cova all day. The tea was okay, but he was actually loosing weight on the cruise because of this. Now, I know people do have their own opinions, but I'm just going to offer mine. The Normandie was great and being treated like royalty was great, but I wasn't about to expect that every night of a cruise. In the main dining room the food was very good—I enjoyed it a lot. But, someone is not about to come out and cook food in front of you. Also, in the Normandie the staff to client ratio is MUCH lower than your waiter, assistant waiter, and sommelier have in the dining room, so they are able to service you better. I thought our dining room staff was GREAT and the service was OUTSTANDING. But, in the Normandie it was a step up from that. It was nice to have once, but certainly not necessary throughout the cruise.
Since I'm not sure which night it was, I'm going to put the ventriloquist here. Personally, I find these guys sometimes a bit boring, but this guy was outstanding. Do NOT miss going this night—he was hilarious!
July 3rd: Icy Strait Point 7-4: Whale Watching w/Keith @ Teck Outfitters Website: http://teckkoutfitters.com/
I was very excited to go whale watching, but still slightly nervous about getting seasick. Keith assured me we'd be in calm waters, so I wasn't too bad. It was pretty calm, but I'm glad I was wearing the patch. (which I wore the whole cruise and didn't get seasick once)
He has a 32 foot cruiser and there was an inside section with a top area above the inside, it was great. The main level was only exposed in the back for viewing and at the top you can view from all angles.
They were amazing, amazing! Keith picked us up exactly where he said he'd be and drove us to his boat. His wife drove us back. (Also stopping to get Moccasins with Kathy who is GREAT at it and I LOVE them. I pre-ordered them in my size and they were amazing! Be sure to request colors—I didn't, but loved what I got. I can see this could be a problem with some.)
The whales were really close to us the whole time—a mamma and baby and then another whale—we just followed them around. It was amazing. The upper deck was great and open and just the 4 of us were on board. It was fantastic. We saw another boat with passengers from the ship (ship-sponsored) and it was PACKED. 3 floors of nothing but people EVERYWHERE. Crazy! Teck took us exactly where we wanted to go and found the whales for us. Then we followed them around guessing where they would surface—fun in itself. These animals are just so large and great to watch, my breath was taken away doing it.
When we got back to the docks, I wondered around a few of the stores. DH & I are really into artwork, so we stopped in the Southeast Artwork store (they have one in Juneau as well). I bought a nice picture of the Northern Lights and they arranged to ship it to my house. On a side note: A few weeks after I got home, the piece came in the mail and it was cut all down the side like a child was cutting the paper down to size. It looks horrible. After taking up the issue with Southeast Artworks (the owner specifically), his final response was to send it to him (paying shipping both ways) and he'll cut it better for me. This is the only truly HORRIBLE experience I had from the trip and would highly discourage anyone from buying something at one of their stores and having it shipped back. You won't get the product you think you are getting.
July 4th: Ketchikan 9-7: Fishing w/Ken @ Northern Lights
Kind of a rainy dreary day. Since we had fishing starting at noon, we decided to walk around town a bit and possibly shop. I got a great gold-nugget ring which I love and wear all the time, so it was worth the drenching rain to wonder around. Since so many people recommended Anabelles, we headed over there. We each had the soup and then split 2 appetizers (crab cakes being one of them). Also had 2 bud lights (4 people ate total). The soup was very good, the rest was okay—def not my favorite place to eat during this trip. The bill came to $77! I would have rather had the free food on the ship!
I also stopped at Ketchikandies and got some of the chocolate covered oreos—whoever said to get those on this board—THANK YOU—YUM!!!!!!! Also, got some chocolate covered pretzels—those were great too. Anyone going who wants to ship me some, feel free!!!
This was by far the most built-up town and it was a pleasure to walk around, even in the rain.
Before noon I went by our gangplank and took a walk around looking for Ken, our guide to fishing that day. http://www.ketchikanfishing.net/cruise.htm. I was very nervous about getting in a boat because I get a little seasick, but Ken reassured me that everything would be okay. He told me that he would meet me at my gangplank at noon with a sign with my name on it. Then he also gave me a number to call in case he wasn't there, which made me very comfortable. Since he wasn't there yet, I sought sanctuary under an awning for a closed gold shop and waited. He was slightly late and I was glad to have his cell phone number and called him to make sure I was in the right place. It ended up that the people before us forgot to bring cash, so they had to get back on their ship to get it. People, please remember so other people don't have to wait. Anyway, it wasn't a problem and he was there soon enough. We walked right down a gang plank onto his boat. (20 feet from where we got off our boat) A section of his boat was covered, which was great since it was still pouring. But, boy oh boy—the water was ROUGH until we got to our destination.
When we finally got there, we started 'trolling.' I'm not a big fisherman, so for those who don't know what that is—it's where you stick polls in the water off the back of the boat and move around really slow hoping the fish bites a pool. So, while we were trolling and the guys were focused on the polls, I was looking around a bit and saw an eagle—it was really cool, so I pointed it out and Ken told me to look at the "eagle tree" instead. I swear, there were 3 HUGE trees PACKED to the GILLS with Eagles on them---it was an amazing sight!
So, after I calmed down from that, we kept trolling around—maybe for 2 hours and just caught nothing. Then we stopped to pick up 2 additional passengers who booked for the later part of our trip. All of a sudden, we started catching King Salmon. All of us got one except for DF—he claims he has horrible luck ? But, it was still fun. I have a great picture of me holding my King Salmon!
After that, we then were taken back to the dock. I filled out a form to filet & ship my salmon back and ordered some extra from the same place. Two days later DH's grandfather received our fish in a container with dry ice. Everything was packed perfectly. It was GREAT!
I got back on the ship after that and took a nice hot shower and went down for dinner. A nice way to end the day.
July 5th: Inside Passage Cruising
I woke up and just looked outside. It was gorgeous out there. Scenery on both sides of us and it was just beautiful. I could have sat on my balcony all day with a blanket and hot chocolate. What an amazing experience and it was great to see all the land unspoiled by anything else.
We had breakfast upstairs at the buffet—what amazing waffles by the way!!!! Thank you for whomever on the board made sure I didn't miss them! Since it was such a great sight, we stayed at the aft of the ship to watch the scenery while eating breakfast.
A few days earlier I convinced DM to go to the wine & food pairing with me today. So, a short while later we left to go (it was pretty early). We sat at a table for 6 at the Normandie and 2 other couples joined us (both very nice). We then sat though a great explanation of wine and food (much better than many others I've been too). Also, on the last ship I was on (Princess) I went to an event like this and once you were done with your glass, you were done. So, I assumed it was the same way here. But, the couple next to me finished their glass VERY quickly and all of a sudden someone came over and refilled their glass. I thought this was very interesting so I started drinking what I wanted to. If you ask me, $9.95 for 4 bottomless glasses of wine is a GREAT deal. I drank more than 4 glasses. It was entertaining, interesting, and I learned a lot. I highly recommend going.
I arranged to meet DH at the room an hour after the wine tasting started (little did I know that it went for 1 hour & 45 minutes). He played basketball in the meantime, but wasn't too thrilled with my "tardiness." So, keep in mind that it's longer than 1 hour. A short while later, we went to the art auction. (probably not a great combination—drinking and then spending money) DH & I found some pieces we both liked (which is pretty hard for us) and bought a few pieces of art to decorate our house. The prices were great and I really did enjoy the host. We also made an appointment to meet with the people right after dinner, arranged to frame the art, and had it shipped home. (except 2 pieces which we carried to our hotel in Vancouver, on the plane, and back to home) The reason we had to carry some pieces was because the gallery had only a few left, they were 'specials,' and came with the frame. [They do let you know this prior to bidding.]
We then went to the room to pack. It was just so sad that we were leaving the ship and ending that portion of our trip. I tried not to think about it as I packed everything up so I would be ready to put our bags outside at the appropriate time.
I went on my balcony again before dinner and it wasn't that cold out there. It was gorgeous to look at all the majestic beauty of mother nature. *sigh* I wish I was back there right now. Also, since I had an aft balcony, I could see the 3 other ships following us. What a sight!
Dinner was great, as always and I came back to the room stuffed. I glanced up and there was the most gorgeous sunset setting on the 3 other ships behind us. I took a few pictures and marveled at the sight a minute—it did take my breath away.
July 6th: Dock @ Vancouver
That morning we got up, ate at the buffet, and then sat on our balcony for a while just taking in the scenery. Once our steward said he needed the room, we left and went to the Concierge Lounge. This place was VERY stuffy and VERY small. It was hard to get in over people's bags and to find seats. The theater, where a lot of the rest of the ship was, I heard was much better. Anyway, if you could I would try and get off as soon as possible. That means that when they give you the questionnaire; make sure to fill it out that you have plans. I did have plans and wanted to explore Vancouver, but I still got the "Independent Traveler #2 color." It was not fun just sitting there. But, once our color was called and we got off the ship, it was VERY smooth getting our bags and getting a cab. They call people when they have cabs available and such—we had no wait and customs was a breeze.
So, once off the ship, I directed our cab driver to our Hotel. I booked on priceline in April and got the Pacific Palisades hotel. I read it was in a great location, but wasn't that amazing a hotel (run down…). In my opinion, the hotel was fine. It was clean and the rooms were MUCH bigger than I expected. Once we got to the hotel, I dropped our bags with the Concierge (and got tickets for them) and we headed over to Stanley Park. We walked from the hotel and got a big lost once in the park trying to find the aquarium. I didn't want to specifically book anything, so it was the most disorganized time of the trip. In retrospect, I wish I planned it better or booked with the trolley. The aquarium is nice and pretty small. The only thing I saw which I really haven't seen anywhere else is the Beluga Whale. It was pretty interesting to see. Make sure you go during the show time, otherwise you really don't see much. Otherwise, I could have lived without it. Also, so you know—from the hotel down Robson St. toward Stanley Park I could consider the "bad part" of town and the other direction from Robson St would be the "good part." Sadly, we were so wiped out; we thought perhaps there was only the "bad part." I wish we booked a tour than try to do this ourselves.
Anyway, after we went to Stanley Park, we chose to walk back to the hotel and said we'd just walk into a place for lunch. Since it was so hot outside, we just wanted A/C or to sit outside in the breeze. The 1st two places we walked into were so hot from the ovens, we just couldn't stay. Finally, we tried a Greek pizza place (which I thought was interesting in itself) that was pretty close to our hotel. Now, I'm as surprised as the next person, but the food was SPECTACULAR! I'd recommend it if someone could find it. I got baked ziti and it was great. DF & DM shared a pineapple pizza & loved it as well.
Then we got back to our hotel and DM & I decided to see if anyone at the spa was available for reflexology. People were, so we booked and I got DH an appointment as well. It was OKAY. I wouldn't go there again. It wasn't real reflexology, it was just a foot massage, poolside. For a foot massage with screaming kids in the background, it was good. But, that's not what I would be paying $75 for. Yeah, $75—it wasn't worth it!
I had pre-booked the Zin restaurant at our hotel ahead of time and we headed there for dinner after relaxing a while. Dinner was good, but nothing compared to the rest of our trip. Also, since we were so wiped out at that point, I was just happy we didn't have to go far to get there and there was no wait when we did arrive.
After dinner, we just collapsed in bed and watched TV a bit before turning in.
July 7th: Fly home non-stop to Newark I noticed there was a crepe place outside our hotel and was all about having breakfast there. I love crepes and you just can't get a good one in New York. YUM, boy oh boy it was good. Highly recommended.
Then we got a cab to the airport. Miraculously, we got through security and to our gate in record time. We were about 2 hours early, so we decided to walk around a bit and left DF with the bags. When I got to the airport I was surprised to see a sign that pointed to an aquarium. To all those who don't know already, it's just a fish tank. If you went to Stanley Park, don't even bother. Not worth it. Since I was already in debt from giving my credit cards a workout the whole trip, I didn't want to shop. Around lunch time, we decided to grab something from the food court and bring it back to DF and have lunch. Since he wasn't allowed into the gate, he was sitting outside it when we left him there.
Just a quick note: Once you are in the gate area, you can't come out. There are bathrooms and a vending machine in there, but that's it. So, I wouldn't go in until you know your flight isn't delayed…
Sadly, our trip has come to an end. It has been great writing this review / journal, as I got to relive the experience. Any questions / comments I'd be happy to answer.
Some other quick notes before I completely end that I hope can help others.: PACKING LIST: Other: I bought under armour (it's like long underwear) for the trip because both me & DM get very very cold. It worked. Get some if you think you'll need it! I also got buzz off apparel (shirts) to wear in Katmai National Parks and didn't get bitten. I recommend that as well. A lot of the guides were wearing them. Gloves Ear Covers Waterproof Pants My Columbia Waterproof jacket with a removable fleece lining. I got this from a guy I met through e-bay that sells discounted jackets, which he picks up at the outlet store. He can get most anything you want, which I loved. I got one for everyone going for the holidays last year.
Papers: Passports Copy of Passport to keep either on me or in the safe Cruise tickets Alaska Documents / Lists Alaska E-mails on Excursions & Confirmations Alaska Insurance Copy Journal & Pen to write things to not forget in Front & Back Copies of the credit cards I'm bringing Put a copy of the itinerary in each of the bags in case of a loss - it helps!
Medication / Cleaning Stuff Clorox Wipes Hand Sanitizer PeptoBiz Band-Aids Kleenex Sea sickness patch Dramamine Cough drops / Halls Advil Liquid Gels Medicated Chap Stick Gum Zinc Pills: Same as below Airbourne: Take a few days before the trip & take daily
Toiletries / Personal Hygiene: Insect Repellant: Deep Woods Off w/100% Deet Sunblock Face Sunblock Travel Size Moisturizer & Cleanser Travel Sized Lotions & Body Wash Plastic Zip Loc Bags—many. Put some in camera case Shampoo & Conditioner Razors Body lotion Aloe Vera gel Deodorant Toothbrush/Toothpaste Listerine Dental floss Hair Brush Hair Ties Make-up (minimal) Jewelry: Watch, … Glasses: Prescription Sun, Regular Sun, Regular Contacts Liners Flat Iron Perfume
Camera Stuff: Camera Case w/ Camera & stuff Lenses Lens Cleaning Stuff Battery Charger Extra Batteries Extra Memory Cards IPOD with Camera Connection to download pictures: This worked out great for me b/c I took so many pictures. I could just download them to the IPOD and then I downloaded them again to my computer when I got home. Extra headsets IPOD Charger
Other: Binoculars Books & Magazines Little Wallet Type Bag Wallet Purse Cash to spend & for tips Celebrity Credit Card Cell Phone & Charger Throw-a-way ponchos? Fishing License Sleeping Mask to block the light Clothes Pins / Office Supply Binder Clips (to keep the light out) Backpack Insulated Mugs: use on the decks when looking out @ the glaciers & things Umbrella (celebrity provides them on the ship, so bring only for lunch) Duct Tape Post-it notes Ziploc bags