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We had taken the Coral on the 10 day Panama Canal a couple of years ago. She was a good size to do Alaska, since she was able to get pretty close to the glaciers compared to the larger ships. I organized our own pre-cruise portion and that worked out well taking the Alaska Railroad. I bought the Alaska TourSaver coupon book, which saved a lot of money. I also booked all of our tours online about a year in advance to make sure to get the times I needed to fit it all in. We had a small but mighty roll call for this trip and many of us met at various tours along the way. General impressions: The cruise and ports were all great, but do think some time spent on land is a must. Weather seems to be ever changing and not that predictable, so layering is key. At one time or another we wore everything from under layers of Winter Silk, fleece lined tights, fleece pants or jeans, long sleeved tees under outer shirt, fleece jackets and water/wind proof jackets and pants to capris, shorts and tee shirts. Gloves, ear warmers, scarves, hats helped for the glacier viewing. A bathing suit for covered pool or hot tubs and your covered. Seeing wildlife of course is luck of the draw, but devoting time and excursions to viewing is also a must if you want a better chance at seeing it. On glacier days we spend hours and hours out on deck with binoculars to see whales, seals, otters, sea lions, puffins eagles, and other birds as well as the sights and sounds of the calving of the glaciers. In Denali we went into the park as early as we could and spent all day into the early evening there. We were rewarded with many moose, wolves, Grizzly bears, foxes, caribou, Dall sheep, ptarmigan, snowshoe hares, Merlins, Eagles (Golden and Bald), and Marmots. Other people we talked to visiting the park within days of each other all saw a lot of wildlife. I have a loooooong review mainly so I can remember what we did as time passes, but tried to make notes of where we used the TourSaver and where we stayed at each stop and tour operators used in case it will help others planning their trips. I've broken it down into segments so you can easily move on if that part isn't of interest. Pre Cruise 7 days on land: Seattle: Saturday July 24 we flew to Fairbanks with a long layover in Seattle. We stored our carryon bags at Ken's Storage between carousels 12 & 13 under the escalators ($5-$9 per item) and took the Light Rail from Sea-Tac to Westlake Center where we grabbed the monorail to the Space Needle where we had reservations for brunch at the revolving restaurant. The reservation includes the cost of the elevator to the top (and eliminates the long wait in line) The views of the city were amazing as was the food. There were 3 courses with several choices in each category. We made several revolutions around as we ate. We took the monorail back to West Lake center and then walked to Pike's Market and took in the sights and smells. Fresh flowers, fish market (yes, they tossed the fish), various food stalls and souvenir shops. Still full from brunch we grabbed 2 of the largest peaches I have ever seen (over a half pound each!) and took them for dessert for after whatever we found at the airport for a light dinner. Walked back to West Lake center and took the light rail back to Sea-Tac. Arrived in Fairbanks late that night and called for the free shuttle to Pike's Lodge where we spent 3 nites (1 nite free with coupon) in one of their cabins. (at this point we had been awake longer than 24 hours and we got a couple hours sleep before having to get up for our 7:36a flight to Barrow.) It was a nice clean well appointed cabin, with our only complaint being the cabin was hot! Seemed there were heaters to keep pipes from freezing or something and an open window would have been welcome if they opened. I imagine most times of the year it's not an issue. It was a convenient place to stay and very nice. Barrow: We booked the tour through Northern Alaska Tours which included the transportation on Alaska Air and the city tour with a local company. We made a stop at Prudhoe Bay (Dead Horse) for fuel and to drop off supplies as our plane was half cargo and half passengers. Then a short time later we were in Barrow which is the most northern town is the U.S. Had a fantastic local tour guide Eli for the day who showed us the sites and entertained us with stories and history about the area. Stopped at the Arctic Ocean where we dipped our fingers in...burrrrr. We saw a couple of snowy owls, a seal, loons, ducks and other birds. We stopped at Pepes North of the Border for a pretty good Mexican lunch where we received our Arctic Circle Crossing certificates. Then finished our day tour which included a stop to see Inupiat Eskimos performing traditional dancing and the blanket toss. There are normally more there to perform, but their Olympics were being held in Fairbanks and most were there. A nice museum there and some locals selling their crafts. I bought a cute pair of earrings made of seal fur and skin from a local artist. The Inupiats in Barrow are a whaling community and there were huge bowhead whale jaws to stand in and get photo ops. 2 people on the tour decided they wanted to join the Polar Bear Club and took a dip in the Artic Ocean. Water was in the range of 0* or low negatives. Burrr. They had no bathing suits so they went in their underwear. To earn the certificate they had to completely submerge and stay under for I think 30 seconds. It's not something I could have done, but was a great photo op! The lady who did it had me take pictures with her camera and my husband also got some great shots that we will email to her. A very nice day here. (record heat for the area---still cool for my standards) We stopped at the local supermarket to pick up something to eat while waiting for our return flight. (no food at their small airport and it was dinner time) Everyone on the tour was getting a kick out of the high prices in the market. Everything has to be flown in so of course it's expensive. Got some cheese and crackers and enjoyed them while we waited for our flight---that was quite late and we had time to walk around town some more. So, already going on next to NO sleep we arrived in Fairbanks around 11:00p instead of 9:20. We rented a car for the next day and went back to the lodge. Fairbanks: We were able to get a bit more sleep as our Riverboat Discovery tour (2 for 1 coupon) didn't start until 8:45. It was just a short drive from the lodge and was another lovely day. The sternwheeler was a fantastic trip with stops at Susan Butcher's dog camp (her husband now runs it), and various displays and demonstrations of reindeer, furs and native ways of life. We saw Beavers in the water as well as birds here. They had samples of smoked salmon made in a cream cheese spread that was to die for. Of course you just HAD to buy some of the salmon to have shipped home. After that we drove to the Chowder house and had a couple of delicious chowders. One was a smoked salmon chowder (our favorite) and the other halibut & corn chowder. We then headed off to find the Pipeline visitor's center. We drove right by it, but had a lovely drive until we were to be at the El Dorado Gold Mine Train (2 for 1 coupon) at 3:00. It was on the Tana Valley Railroad and there was someone singing and playing fiddle and banjo. We went through a permafrost tunnel and had a walking tour of the mining camp. We panned for gold and had it weighed but didn't have it put into any jewelry. Did enjoy the hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. Then we drove back to the Pipeline Visitor's center to check that out. We then drove to a town called North Pole and saw their reindeer and shopped in Santa's village. Drove back to Fairbanks and grabbed a quick dinner and returned our rental car and took the free shuttle back to Pike's Lodge and walked around their grounds, had some Huckelberry ice cream and Blueberry cheesecake ice cream before heading off to get a bit of sleep. Next day we took their shuttle to the train station and headed for Denali. The Riverboat Discovery and El Dorado tours were both quite well done. Denali National Park: We had Gold Star service on the train (private dining car and the domed windows) All segments were 2 for 1 with coupon. We ate breakfast there and enjoyed reindeer sausage served in omelets and croissants. We enjoyed the scenery and spent a lot of time outside on the viewing area between cars. A moose was spotted and Greg saw a dead moose beside the tracks. We had a great sighting of a golden eagle sitting by the tracks, beaver dams and lodges and lots of other birds. Arrived in Denali at 12:15 and we took the park shuttle to the Denali Princess Lodge. Went across the street and ate at Great Alaska Fish & Chips Co. Had 1 Cod and 1 Haddock with fries and sweet potato fries. Really good food! We went to the Toklat Visitor's center and the Wilderness Access center and looked around and watched the movie. Went back to the lodge and checked in and our bags were waiting. (and someone else's bag had been left there as well). Luckily, it belonged to our neighbor and not to someone who had already left on the train. We walked across the street and had dinner at the Salmon Bake restaurant. We had made reservations prior to the trip and got right in. Really good food. We had the elk sliders for the appetizer and had an Asiago & Parmesan crusted Halibut and King Crab Chimichangas. Greg had a sampler of the local beers. We then shopped for something to take for lunch the next day at a local market. Cheese crackers and some sliced Salami and some oreos and sodas were easy enough to pack in the little soft sided cooler we brought. Found some more ice cream to try the local flavors. Next morning we got up very early for our 6:00 Eilson Shuttle. We found out that Princess shuttles don't run that early so we walked from the lodge to the Wilderness Access Center. We had picked up a couple of yummy cinnamon rolls at the lodge the night before and we ate them on the shuttle. Wildlife sighted on our shuttle was 11 moose, 2 sets of mama grizzly bears with 2 cubs each, male and female caribou, 2 foxes, a ptarmigan, a couple of golden eagles, a few Dall Sheep, 2 snowshoe hares, Marmots, a juvenile Merlin, ravens, and a pack of wolves with at least 15 of them with their young. Though I can't be sure it looked like they had made a kill as I saw a large animal with huge antlers on the ground and they were gathered around. They all howled (the bus got very quiet to listen to this) and we got pictures in that classic howling pose. The shuttle driver said he has only heard them howl now twice in his life. We got to Eilson center and had our lunch and watched the movie on hiking McKinley. We then went to hike a short trail, but were quickly called back as they were closing the trail due to a bear in the area. We had time so we upgraded our ticket to continue onto Wonder Lake. The terrain is really different during that part of the drive and not really much wildlife sited during this portion (except mosquitoes and a fox) The lake was beautiful and we picked wild blueberries. The Ultrathon insect repellant really worked and we weren't bitten by the swarms of mosquitoes. We then did the ride back stopping for animal sightings. We did get a few glimpses of Denali as the clouds were ever moving and we got lucky and just happened to look at the right time to see the peak. We got back with barely enough time to make the 8:30 Cabin Nite Dinner theater. (2 for 1) We met up with a couple from our roll call who were traveling on a different schedule on their land portion, but we found ourselves here at the same time and met for dinner & the show. The Cabin Nite was nice enough, but in hindsight, we wished we had skipped that and spent longer in the park. (another full day here would have been really great!) The Princess Lodge was nice enough with one interesting feature.....the bathroom door auto closes and it was like a meat locker in there. We had to prop open the door to let some heat in. Denali to Talkeetna: Finally, we got to get nearly a full night's sleep! The train doesn't leave until 12:25 so we slept in and walked across the street to have breakfast at the Salmon Bake. Really good blueberry cinnamon bread French Toast with fresh berries and anything you want from their "toppings bar". Another enjoyable train ride to Talkeetna. A bear was sited and we saw some swans. I can't say enough about the hospitality of the folks in Talkeetna. We stayed at Denali Fireside Cabins and the owner picked us up at the train station. She gave us a mini tour of the town and checked us into our cabin and then she knew we wanted to grab a quick dinner and head to our 7:00p Mckinley flight with Talkeetna Air Taxi (2 for 1 coupon) so she drove us to Mountain High Pizza Pie where we had a wonderful reindeer sausage, pepperoni, onion and roasted garlic pizza and as we were leaving the restaurant the owner of the cabins was there to pick us up and take us to the airport for our flight. She wanted to wait for us as the weather was pretty cloudy and not looking like we would be able to go, but she had been invited to dinner by friends and we said it was no problem, it really was just a short walk to anywhere around town. Our flight was canceled. Our friends that we met up with at Cabin Nite said they got their flight, but no landing. They said they would do their best to reschedule us the next day. We had a 7:00a 4 hour river float with Talkeetna River Guides (2 for 1 coupon) so we rescheduled for just after that. It was raining as we walked to meet at the yurt for our ride to the river float. We had time to grab some fresh out of the oven cinnamon rolls at the Roadhouse. We jumped into the vehicle with the river guides who chatted and ate their breakfast on the drive there. Everyone else on the tour had stayed at the Princess McKinley Lodge or other so we met a few people there. We were first to arrive and donned our "Groton's Fishermans" outfits. Bright yellow rubber overalls and long jacket and boots. If you didn't dress appropriately they had lots of fleece jackets etc for you to wear as well. The float trip was amazing. So serene floating down the river and we saw at least 15 eagles along the way, both juveniles and adults. The weather cleared and the sun came out and it got down right hot in all that gear! It also gave us beautiful views of the mountains. It was looking good for our flight to go! We had time to grab a quick lunch at the Roadhouse and had some tasty pasties. One reindeer pastie and the other pulled pork. We stopped for some Hot Licks ice cream at the store next door to wear we stayed and owned by the same people. Best ice cream EVER! Loved the dark chocolate. We walked to the airport and we got our flight and the landing at the base of McKinely! (couldn't use the coupon due to the rescheduling, but they gave us a discount) The landing was really cool as the plane skids to a stop on it's skis on the glacier. So quiet and beautiful up there! I ate glacier snow. We got a few glimpses of McKinley out. Beautiful views from up there and landing on the glacier was fantastic! The people from TAT offered to drive us to the train station first stopping at the lodge to pick up our luggage. Did I say I couldn't say enough great things about the hospitality of the people there? Would highly recommend the Denali Fireside Cabins, The river float and the McKinley flight! We enjoyed the pizza place and the food at the Roadhouse. Back on the train. Phew! We had some leftover pizza. (that the owner of the lodge took from us and put it on a plate and dropped it by our cabin and put it in the fridge for us while we did our plane flight.) Beautiful views on this segment as well. A moose was sited. There had been an aviation accident that had part of the tracks shut down while it was under FAA investigation so we had to get off the train and be bussed the rest of the way to Anchorage about an hour out. It was all handled very efficiently and only added about 30 minutes to the length of the trip. Got checked into the Historic Anchorage Hotel which was very nice. It would have been a short walk from the train station, but it was raining pretty good so we grabbed a cab. (less than $5.00!) We then set out to find a light snack and some ice cream. Found the lady with the reindeer hot dog stand by the Federal Building and caught her just as she was closing up. For $6.00 got a dog, chips and a soda. It seems I can't get enough of reindeer since I first tried it last year in Stockholm. YUM! Then, walked around a bit and found an ice cream place open. Cruise portion: Up early for our transportation to Whittier on Alaska Leopard Comedy tour. Just 6 of us in the van and was good cheap transportation to get to Whittier. Comedy is dismal at best, but great views out the window. It was cool and rainy and so we didn't spend much time out viewing the sites where we stopped. We got to the cruise terminal early and knew we would have to wait a bit to check in and board. However, what we weren't prepared for was NOT being able to drop off our luggage. We were first to check in around 11:00a but couldn't board as we had to stay with our luggage until the union luggage guys started at 1:00! Not an issue if you used a bus or train to get there as they check the luggage for you directly to the ship. Considering this drawback, I think Alaskan Leopard is a good means of transportation leaving the ship at the end of a cruise, but not beneficial for arriving there unless you want to sit for hours and watch everyone else get on the ship while you sit with your luggage. We had a Prince William Sound Glacier cruise scheduled with Prince William sound Glacier Cruises and found out they would have picked us up and stored our luggage for us. Weather was misty and rainy for the start of the PWS cruise, but eventually cleared and we got some great views of glaciers. We saw lots of sea otters, 3 eagles, a black bear by a stream on the mountain, many harbor seals and some huge jellyfish. Saw and heard our first glacier calving. AMAZING! Beautiful waterfalls and scenery. Would have loved the 6 hour tour here, but only did the 4 hour. (2 for 1 coupon) Being that close to the glaciers was really a treat. Included crabcake lunch and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Finally got on board the ship and found our cabin with luggage waiting. We got unpacked and met our friends for dinner, which was open seating that first night. We skipped the show that evening and just chilled out. Early to bed for a full night of sleep. The first full night since we started this vacation. Hubbard Glacier: I slept in and Greg got up and exercised. Showered and had a light late breakfast and headed for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in the Wheelhouse Bar at 11:00. It was fun to meet the people we had chatted with over the months before the cruise on the boards. We all exchanged stories of our vacation so far. Most had done land portions before the cruise. Then it was off to lunch in the dining room. Then back to the room to bundle up for the glacier viewing. We headed forward on the Caribe Deck to the "secret balcony" It never got crowded out there and you could hear the commentary. We spent the whole day out there. Saw seals, otters and quite a bit of calving and icebergs. Just amazing. Had a late dinner in the dining room and went to the evening entertainment. Glacier Bay: Slept in and had breakfast before heading out on the same deck for the viewing today. Again, we spent the whole day out there taking a quick break for the seafood buffet on deck for lunch and a quick change for dinner and then changed back to warm clothes and back out on deck for some whale watching. In the day time we saw a couple of Orcas on the sail in to Glacier Bay, later we saw otters, puffins, harbor seals, and after dinner we saw humpback whale tails and one thumped it's tail about 20 times in a row. Skipped the show & got to bed for a bit of sleep before our day in Skagway. Skagway: Booked with Dyea Dave and our van was all cruise critic friends and not crowded at all. Dave was great. With all the reviews about him, I was prepared for a long day of groans with bad tired jokes. Maybe he was on his best behavior that day, but we all really enjoyed him as a tour guide. He really took every effort to keep ahead of the big tour buses and to stop at just the right spot for the perfect photo ops. He was very knowledgeable and informative on our ride to the Yukon. Highly recommend him! We did see a black bear beside the road, a marmot, magpies and Canadian Geese. The drive was beautiful and we stopped at Carcross to buy our White Pass Railroad tickets from Fraser back to Skagway. Unfortunately the Cinnamon Cache had closed and she was trying to sell her business. We ate at the Spirit Lake Lodge, which was an experience in itself. Dave warned us about the owner. Said she liked things to go her own way and as long as we all did as we were told everything would be fine. Let's just say that the experience had us all remembering the Seinfeld episode of the "Soup Nazi" We would have loved to have tried the Dutch pancakes, but we were all told we could not order off the menu and could choose from the pre-made sandwiches, soup and pie. The pie was very good and it definitely was an interesting dining experience. (chalked it up to the local "charm") As much as we hated to leave Dave we opted for the White Pass Railroad back to Skagway. It was a fun experience on the narrow gauge tracks and we spent the whole trip outside on the viewing platforms. Beautiful views! Dave had already given us a tour of the town and was waiting for us as we got off the train. He then would take us back to the ship or drop us in town. We opted to stay in town, found some ice cream and made our way to the Red Onion Saloon. Very enjoyable day here with great weather! Juneau: We booked a whale watch tour with Chris at Rum Runners who was willing to go out for a 7:00a tour on his 6 person boat joined by 2 other Cruise Critic couples. Highly recommend his company! Only 6 of us on the boat with Captain Chris and his mate a nice young guy who was very informative. Oh, and his adorable dog Autumn Moon who seemed to know when the whales would surface. We were lucky enough to watch a pod of Humpbacks bubble net feeding. A group of whales working together will dive under schools of herring, one whale will swim in a circle while blowing bubbles under the herring. When the bubbles rise they form a net and scare the herring into a tight ball in the center. The whales then come up through the middle with their mouths open, capturing large amounts food. Just awesome! Saw lots of mouths open, tails, dorsal and pectoral fins and spray from the blowholes. We estimated there were at least 11 whales doing this and we saw a few single whales as well. After watching this for some time he took us to see some Steller Sea Lions hanging out on a buoy. We saw 3 eagles on the ride. Hated to see it end, but as promised Captain Chris got us back to the dock in time for meeting our next excursion. Knowing we didn't have much time between excursions we made some sandwiches from the buffet the night before and put a few cookies in a baggie and we ate those on the bus ride to the airport. We had a little time to walk the town before meeting the van for ERA helicopter and dog sledding adventure. I must say they run a fine operation and it was fun to watch the helicopters take off and land 6 at a time taking off or landing right after the other. Scenery was breathtaking! Then it was time to land on the glacier and we could see these dots down there that eventually turned out to be the Dalton Gang dog camp. They have about 150 dogs that rotate doing the tours. There was plenty of time to interact with the dogs before embarking on the dog sled ride. Each of us got a chance to stand on the back and help work the brakes and then switched to ride in the seats of the sled. Interesting perspective from both of the positions. More time to pet the dogs and talk with Dave Dalton about sledding and racing. On the flight we saw many glaciers including Taku the largest one in the Juneau Icefield. We saw a seal in the water and 9 eagles. Another awesome experience! We even purchased the picture they took up on the glacier. We had a bit of time before boarding the ship and we walked down to the Red Dog Saloon where Greg sampled more of the local beers. Fantastic day in Juneau! Ketchikan: We had a little time to walk the town before our first tour. We booked a Misty Fjords floatplane trip with Michelle at Island Wings. It was a clear and hot day so no mist, but fantastic views. We were on her Beaver with another CC couple and with only 4 of us we each got our own rows on the plane. Perhaps Michelle isn't a morning person, but we found her a bit "bristly". She pointed out the salmon jumping and Greg asked what kind as we had learned there are 5 kinds of salmon and she answered "Salmon, didn't I say salmon?" I was looking out the window and listening to her commentary and I turned to look at her as she was very interesting. She says to me and not in a "nice way" that I should be looking out the window at the beautiful scenery instead of watching her, "after all you paid a lot of money to go on this tour" She pointed out some mountain goats that I didn't see. (I think the wing was blocking my view) Since I didn't see them I used my binoculars to try to find them. She says the reason I can't find them is because I'm trying to use binoculars and they are useless in a plane. So, she makes another pass and says if you don't see them now you should get your eyesight checked. They were there, but really just dots with the naked eye-----our pictures with super zoom did confirm they were indeed mountain goats. One of the other passengers was making too much noise with his mouthpiece and she just said "whoever is doing that it's not acceptable". She did seem to warm as the flight went on and we felt safe and the views were awesome. The landing was fun and we got to get out and walk around. We picked some blueberries and salmonberries and Michelle took photos with our cameras of both couples. We then headed to the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's boat. I don't think there is a bad seat on the boat as they make sure you all get to see everything. Very fun and interesting. Even if you don't watch Deadliest Catch I'm sure it would be of interest. They told lots of stories of the boat and crabbing and showed us samples of each type of fishing. There was a box crab that they passed around and they let us pose next to the King Crab one of the deck hands held. They let you hold the snow crab. They also had brought up a couple of octopus and a sunflower sea star that was really cool. We saw about 20 eagles, some Dall's purpose, jellyfish and lots of salmon jumping. Very good time. Finally, a relaxing sea day! This was Greg's birthday and I had chocolate covered strawberries delivered to the cabin. We played bingo in the morning and headed to the Pub lunch served in the Bayou Cafe. Had a couple orders of fish and chips and bangers and mash. Delish as always! Got our things packed for disembarkation the next day and headed to the final bingo session. We had skipped bingo the other days as viewing the glaciers and wildlife had us ignoring the usual things to do around the ship. Drum roll please......I won the final jackpot of $1,750.00!!!!!! Boy, did that top off an already great vacation! That evening we had reservations for the Bayou Cafe for Greg's birthday. I guess I should have reminded them when we made the reservation as they didn't acknowledge it. He did get balloons by our cabin door. The food was as fantastic as we remembered, except for the chocolate pecan dessert which was hard and dry. It was moist and fudgy last time and to die for. The steak and the lobster were superb and the appetizer sampler platter very tasty. We attended the evening's entertainment which was good. Vancouver: Disembarkation went well (though it's never pleasant ending your cruise). We walked to the Hotel le Soleil where we spent 2 nights with our luggage in the gentle rain. It was a very nice hotel and there was an included continental breakfast. We had them hold our bags and headed out and bought transportation tickets for the next 3 days. Even though it was misting or raining we walked to Stanley Park and walked along the sea wall for a while instead of taking the bus. Wildlife today was a black squirrel, Canadian Geese, swans and other sea birds. It was frustrating trying to find the park shuttle as all that came by were the HOHO tours. (in hindsight that would have worked better) We finally gave up waiting when we found the sign saying they didn't start until 11:00 and walked to the Fish House for lunch. Had salmon cakes and a haddock burger that were quite good. They told us where to get the shuttle. They actually directed us to where the HOHO buses come by and we walked back to the other stop after waiting for half an hour without one coming by. The HOHO drivers all said it would be by soon. Finally, we get on the park shuttle and bought our tickets and stopped at the rose garden, first nations exhibit, totem poles and a couple of other viewing spots and also had a beaver tail as a snack. It proceeded to rain all day and evening here. We skipped Granville Island since we lost so much time this morning. Took the bus to Gas Town and China Town. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden was still open, but we missed the last guided tour and walked around on our own. It was time to find some dinner and we made our way to Shanghai Chinese Bistro which had about an hour wait so we put in our names and went elsewhere to grab a drink and wait since it was so crowded there and there was no place to wait. Had a wonderful meal and were surprised to find 2 CC couples that we had done the whale watch with just getting seated as we were starting our meal. Too funny. Lots of places to eat there...what are the odds? Day 2 in Vancouver: we had booked an all day tour with Prince of Whales. (highly recommend) Met them at the Sea Bus station on Waterfront. On the way to Victoria we had a whale watch and saw a couple different pods of Orcas. One was a family with a baby that was very playful. Actually all the Orcas were quite playful. Lots of great whale viewing. We also saw seals lying on logs being transported via barge, harbor seals, 4 eagles, lots of interesting things being transported by barge and many sea birds. We arrived at Victoria and were headed to Barb's fish & chips, but the crew told us that Red Fish Blue Fish was closer and very good. So, we waited over an hour in line to order our fish and chips, which we enjoyed while sitting on the dock and listening to a guy performing there for tips. The sun had come out and it was a beautiful day. We had no time left to tour the town as we wanted to spend at least 2 hours at Butchart Gardens. Grabbed the bus there and the gardens are beyond description. Just breathtaking! We wished we could have spent a couple more hours here. In hindsight we wished we had skipped day 1 in Vancouver and spent the night on Victoria. At 5:30 we headed to the dock at the gardens for our 2 hour boat ride back to Vancouver. Dropped some things off at the hotel and grabbed a bus to Robson street to find a late dinner. Found Hon's Chinese food and while a different atmosphere than the Shanghai Bistro the food was quite good. Then happened upon a Gelato place that had the best gelato we have had since we were in Italy. An article on the wall said they originated in Rome. Back to the hotel to pack up and check out the next morning. Day 3 in Vancouver: Again, the hotel stored our luggage as we headed out to the sea bus to the North Shore to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It was a fun experience and a nice little park with a short nature walk. We then grabbed the bus and went to find the Capilano Fish Hatchery. It was supposed to be a short walk...but ended up being quite a bit longer than the 1 kilometer stated. The salmon weren't jumping the ladder, but a few were resting there. It was a lovely park and a great place to spend a whole day. With only a short time to spend there, we should have skipped it and went straight to Grouse Mountain. It started to pour rain during our walk and despite the low visibility we took the skyride to the top. Actually, the mist was kinda cool and towards the top it was starting to clear. We grabbed a quick lunch here and wandered out to see the sights. There was a small wild deer that was attracting a lot of attention and posed for a lot of pictures. I think it was too scared to move as some kids were kind of boxing it in. We took lots of pictures of the beautiful tree trunk carvings. The 2 bears were sleeping, we watched a very nice bird show. We watched part of one of the movies before it was time to take the ride down. The skies cleared and we got very nice views of the city. We stopped at Londsdale Quay for a snack at Beaver Tails. The chocolate hazelnut pastries were to die for! Very nice market here with lots of international cuisine. Took the Sea Bus back and Greg left me at the train station while he went to collect our luggage. We took the train to the airport and had time to grab dinner. Had a short flight to Seattle and Customs was a breeze. Had a couple hour layover in Seattle. We went to board the plane and were told to speak to an agent. We booked seats well in advance and checked in several hours before the flight, but they gave one of our seats away. We booked an isle and a window in the same row. (I get up a lot and don't like to walk over other people). We were told about 3 different excuses of what happened. One said, there was a 1 year old they had to accommodate, one said it was a computer glitch, and another said it was to accommodate someone with an injury. The person who had Greg's seat was traveling with a dog and no one in either of our rows was a child or had an injury. Greg got one guy to trade with me so he could have my window seat and I took his middle seat to sit next to Greg. The woman with the dog had demanded the isle seat, but the under-seat space is smaller there and her dog didn't fit very well. The flight attendant kept telling her to keep it completely under the seat. She left it out and since there was no room for her feet she spent the whole trip with her legs spread on either side of it which of course was in my space and the isle. She actually took the dog out of the carrier and held it for a while making smooching noises and the dog dives towards me. It was a small dog and it only made a few whimpers, but the woman loudly shooshed it waking me up several times. It was a redeye and I really wanted to sleep. Ah well, only s small sour note to end a fabulous trip!

Amazing Alaska!

Coral Princess Cruise Review by AG Cruisers

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: July 2010
  • Destination: Alaska
We had taken the Coral on the 10 day Panama Canal a couple of years ago. She was a good size to do Alaska, since she was able to get pretty close to the glaciers compared to the larger ships. I organized our own pre-cruise portion and that worked out well taking the Alaska Railroad. I bought the Alaska TourSaver coupon book, which saved a lot of money. I also booked all of our tours online about a year in advance to make sure to get the times I needed to fit it all in. We had a small but mighty roll call for this trip and many of us met at various tours along the way.
General impressions: The cruise and ports were all great, but do think some time spent on land is a must. Weather seems to be ever changing and not that predictable, so layering is key. At one time or another we wore everything from under layers of Winter Silk, fleece lined tights, fleece pants or jeans, long sleeved tees under outer shirt, fleece jackets and water/wind proof jackets and pants to capris, shorts and tee shirts. Gloves, ear warmers, scarves, hats helped for the glacier viewing. A bathing suit for covered pool or hot tubs and your covered. Seeing wildlife of course is luck of the draw, but devoting time and excursions to viewing is also a must if you want a better chance at seeing it. On glacier days we spend hours and hours out on deck with binoculars to see whales, seals, otters, sea lions, puffins eagles, and other birds as well as the sights and sounds of the calving of the glaciers. In Denali we went into the park as early as we could and spent all day into the early evening there. We were rewarded with many moose, wolves, Grizzly bears, foxes, caribou, Dall sheep, ptarmigan, snowshoe hares, Merlins, Eagles (Golden and Bald), and Marmots. Other people we talked to visiting the park within days of each other all saw a lot of wildlife. I have a loooooong review mainly so I can remember what we did as time passes, but tried to make notes of where we used the TourSaver and where we stayed at each stop and tour operators used in case it will help others planning their trips. I've broken it down into segments so you can easily move on if that part isn't of interest.
Pre Cruise 7 days on land:
Seattle: Saturday July 24 we flew to Fairbanks with a long layover in Seattle. We stored our carryon bags at Ken's Storage between carousels 12 & 13 under the escalators ($5-$9 per item) and took the Light Rail from Sea-Tac to Westlake Center where we grabbed the monorail to the Space Needle where we had reservations for brunch at the revolving restaurant. The reservation includes the cost of the elevator to the top (and eliminates the long wait in line) The views of the city were amazing as was the food. There were 3 courses with several choices in each category. We made several revolutions around as we ate. We took the monorail back to West Lake center and then walked to Pike's Market and took in the sights and smells. Fresh flowers, fish market (yes, they tossed the fish), various food stalls and souvenir shops. Still full from brunch we grabbed 2 of the largest peaches I have ever seen (over a half pound each!) and took them for dessert for after whatever we found at the airport for a light dinner. Walked back to West Lake center and took the light rail back to Sea-Tac. Arrived in Fairbanks late that night and called for the free shuttle to Pike's Lodge where we spent 3 nites (1 nite free with coupon) in one of their cabins. (at this point we had been awake longer than 24 hours and we got a couple hours sleep before having to get up for our 7:36a flight to Barrow.) It was a nice clean well appointed cabin, with our only complaint being the cabin was hot! Seemed there were heaters to keep pipes from freezing or something and an open window would have been welcome if they opened. I imagine most times of the year it's not an issue. It was a convenient place to stay and very nice.
Barrow: We booked the tour through Northern Alaska Tours which included the transportation on Alaska Air and the city tour with a local company. We made a stop at Prudhoe Bay (Dead Horse) for fuel and to drop off supplies as our plane was half cargo and half passengers. Then a short time later we were in Barrow which is the most northern town is the U.S. Had a fantastic local tour guide Eli for the day who showed us the sites and entertained us with stories and history about the area. Stopped at the Arctic Ocean where we dipped our fingers in...burrrrr. We saw a couple of snowy owls, a seal, loons, ducks and other birds. We stopped at Pepes North of the Border for a pretty good Mexican lunch where we received our Arctic Circle Crossing certificates. Then finished our day tour which included a stop to see Inupiat Eskimos performing traditional dancing and the blanket toss. There are normally more there to perform, but their Olympics were being held in Fairbanks and most were there. A nice museum there and some locals selling their crafts. I bought a cute pair of earrings made of seal fur and skin from a local artist. The Inupiats in Barrow are a whaling community and there were huge bowhead whale jaws to stand in and get photo ops. 2 people on the tour decided they wanted to join the Polar Bear Club and took a dip in the Artic Ocean. Water was in the range of 0* or low negatives. Burrr. They had no bathing suits so they went in their underwear. To earn the certificate they had to completely submerge and stay under for I think 30 seconds. It's not something I could have done, but was a great photo op! The lady who did it had me take pictures with her camera and my husband also got some great shots that we will email to her. A very nice day here. (record heat for the area---still cool for my standards) We stopped at the local supermarket to pick up something to eat while waiting for our return flight. (no food at their small airport and it was dinner time) Everyone on the tour was getting a kick out of the high prices in the market. Everything has to be flown in so of course it's expensive. Got some cheese and crackers and enjoyed them while we waited for our flight---that was quite late and we had time to walk around town some more. So, already going on next to NO sleep we arrived in Fairbanks around 11:00p instead of 9:20. We rented a car for the next day and went back to the lodge.
Fairbanks: We were able to get a bit more sleep as our Riverboat Discovery tour (2 for 1 coupon) didn't start until 8:45. It was just a short drive from the lodge and was another lovely day. The sternwheeler was a fantastic trip with stops at Susan Butcher's dog camp (her husband now runs it), and various displays and demonstrations of reindeer, furs and native ways of life. We saw Beavers in the water as well as birds here. They had samples of smoked salmon made in a cream cheese spread that was to die for. Of course you just HAD to buy some of the salmon to have shipped home. After that we drove to the Chowder house and had a couple of delicious chowders. One was a smoked salmon chowder (our favorite) and the other halibut & corn chowder. We then headed off to find the Pipeline visitor's center. We drove right by it, but had a lovely drive until we were to be at the El Dorado Gold Mine Train (2 for 1 coupon) at 3:00. It was on the Tana Valley Railroad and there was someone singing and playing fiddle and banjo. We went through a permafrost tunnel and had a walking tour of the mining camp. We panned for gold and had it weighed but didn't have it put into any jewelry. Did enjoy the hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. Then we drove back to the Pipeline Visitor's center to check that out. We then drove to a town called North Pole and saw their reindeer and shopped in Santa's village. Drove back to Fairbanks and grabbed a quick dinner and returned our rental car and took the free shuttle back to Pike's Lodge and walked around their grounds, had some Huckelberry ice cream and Blueberry cheesecake ice cream before heading off to get a bit of sleep. Next day we took their shuttle to the train station and headed for Denali. The Riverboat Discovery and El Dorado tours were both quite well done.
Denali National Park: We had Gold Star service on the train (private dining car and the domed windows) All segments were 2 for 1 with coupon. We ate breakfast there and enjoyed reindeer sausage served in omelets and croissants. We enjoyed the scenery and spent a lot of time outside on the viewing area between cars. A moose was spotted and Greg saw a dead moose beside the tracks. We had a great sighting of a golden eagle sitting by the tracks, beaver dams and lodges and lots of other birds. Arrived in Denali at 12:15 and we took the park shuttle to the Denali Princess Lodge. Went across the street and ate at Great Alaska Fish & Chips Co. Had 1 Cod and 1 Haddock with fries and sweet potato fries. Really good food! We went to the Toklat Visitor's center and the Wilderness Access center and looked around and watched the movie. Went back to the lodge and checked in and our bags were waiting. (and someone else's bag had been left there as well). Luckily, it belonged to our neighbor and not to someone who had already left on the train. We walked across the street and had dinner at the Salmon Bake restaurant. We had made reservations prior to the trip and got right in. Really good food. We had the elk sliders for the appetizer and had an Asiago & Parmesan crusted Halibut and King Crab Chimichangas. Greg had a sampler of the local beers. We then shopped for something to take for lunch the next day at a local market. Cheese crackers and some sliced Salami and some oreos and sodas were easy enough to pack in the little soft sided cooler we brought. Found some more ice cream to try the local flavors.
Next morning we got up very early for our 6:00 Eilson Shuttle. We found out that Princess shuttles don't run that early so we walked from the lodge to the Wilderness Access Center. We had picked up a couple of yummy cinnamon rolls at the lodge the night before and we ate them on the shuttle. Wildlife sighted on our shuttle was 11 moose, 2 sets of mama grizzly bears with 2 cubs each, male and female caribou, 2 foxes, a ptarmigan, a couple of golden eagles, a few Dall Sheep, 2 snowshoe hares, Marmots, a juvenile Merlin, ravens, and a pack of wolves with at least 15 of them with their young. Though I can't be sure it looked like they had made a kill as I saw a large animal with huge antlers on the ground and they were gathered around. They all howled (the bus got very quiet to listen to this) and we got pictures in that classic howling pose. The shuttle driver said he has only heard them howl now twice in his life. We got to Eilson center and had our lunch and watched the movie on hiking McKinley. We then went to hike a short trail, but were quickly called back as they were closing the trail due to a bear in the area. We had time so we upgraded our ticket to continue onto Wonder Lake. The terrain is really different during that part of the drive and not really much wildlife sited during this portion (except mosquitoes and a fox) The lake was beautiful and we picked wild blueberries. The Ultrathon insect repellant really worked and we weren't bitten by the swarms of mosquitoes. We then did the ride back stopping for animal sightings. We did get a few glimpses of Denali as the clouds were ever moving and we got lucky and just happened to look at the right time to see the peak. We got back with barely enough time to make the 8:30 Cabin Nite Dinner theater. (2 for 1) We met up with a couple from our roll call who were traveling on a different schedule on their land portion, but we found ourselves here at the same time and met for dinner & the show. The Cabin Nite was nice enough, but in hindsight, we wished we had skipped that and spent longer in the park. (another full day here would have been really great!) The Princess Lodge was nice enough with one interesting feature.....the bathroom door auto closes and it was like a meat locker in there. We had to prop open the door to let some heat in.
Denali to Talkeetna: Finally, we got to get nearly a full night's sleep! The train doesn't leave until 12:25 so we slept in and walked across the street to have breakfast at the Salmon Bake. Really good blueberry cinnamon bread French Toast with fresh berries and anything you want from their "toppings bar". Another enjoyable train ride to Talkeetna. A bear was sited and we saw some swans. I can't say enough about the hospitality of the folks in Talkeetna. We stayed at Denali Fireside Cabins and the owner picked us up at the train station. She gave us a mini tour of the town and checked us into our cabin and then she knew we wanted to grab a quick dinner and head to our 7:00p Mckinley flight with Talkeetna Air Taxi (2 for 1 coupon) so she drove us to Mountain High Pizza Pie where we had a wonderful reindeer sausage, pepperoni, onion and roasted garlic pizza and as we were leaving the restaurant the owner of the cabins was there to pick us up and take us to the airport for our flight. She wanted to wait for us as the weather was pretty cloudy and not looking like we would be able to go, but she had been invited to dinner by friends and we said it was no problem, it really was just a short walk to anywhere around town. Our flight was canceled. Our friends that we met up with at Cabin Nite said they got their flight, but no landing. They said they would do their best to reschedule us the next day. We had a 7:00a 4 hour river float with Talkeetna River Guides (2 for 1 coupon) so we rescheduled for just after that. It was raining as we walked to meet at the yurt for our ride to the river float. We had time to grab some fresh out of the oven cinnamon rolls at the Roadhouse. We jumped into the vehicle with the river guides who chatted and ate their breakfast on the drive there. Everyone else on the tour had stayed at the Princess McKinley Lodge or other so we met a few people there. We were first to arrive and donned our "Groton's Fishermans" outfits. Bright yellow rubber overalls and long jacket and boots. If you didn't dress appropriately they had lots of fleece jackets etc for you to wear as well. The float trip was amazing. So serene floating down the river and we saw at least 15 eagles along the way, both juveniles and adults. The weather cleared and the sun came out and it got down right hot in all that gear! It also gave us beautiful views of the mountains. It was looking good for our flight to go! We had time to grab a quick lunch at the Roadhouse and had some tasty pasties. One reindeer pastie and the other pulled pork. We stopped for some Hot Licks ice cream at the store next door to wear we stayed and owned by the same people. Best ice cream EVER! Loved the dark chocolate. We walked to the airport and we got our flight and the landing at the base of McKinely! (couldn't use the coupon due to the rescheduling, but they gave us a discount) The landing was really cool as the plane skids to a stop on it's skis on the glacier. So quiet and beautiful up there! I ate glacier snow. We got a few glimpses of McKinley out. Beautiful views from up there and landing on the glacier was fantastic! The people from TAT offered to drive us to the train station first stopping at the lodge to pick up our luggage. Did I say I couldn't say enough great things about the hospitality of the people there? Would highly recommend the Denali Fireside Cabins, The river float and the McKinley flight! We enjoyed the pizza place and the food at the Roadhouse.
Back on the train. Phew! We had some leftover pizza. (that the owner of the lodge took from us and put it on a plate and dropped it by our cabin and put it in the fridge for us while we did our plane flight.) Beautiful views on this segment as well. A moose was sited. There had been an aviation accident that had part of the tracks shut down while it was under FAA investigation so we had to get off the train and be bussed the rest of the way to Anchorage about an hour out. It was all handled very efficiently and only added about 30 minutes to the length of the trip. Got checked into the Historic Anchorage Hotel which was very nice. It would have been a short walk from the train station, but it was raining pretty good so we grabbed a cab. (less than $5.00!) We then set out to find a light snack and some ice cream. Found the lady with the reindeer hot dog stand by the Federal Building and caught her just as she was closing up. For $6.00 got a dog, chips and a soda. It seems I can't get enough of reindeer since I first tried it last year in Stockholm. YUM! Then, walked around a bit and found an ice cream place open.
Cruise portion:
Up early for our transportation to Whittier on Alaska Leopard Comedy tour. Just 6 of us in the van and was good cheap transportation to get to Whittier. Comedy is dismal at best, but great views out the window. It was cool and rainy and so we didn't spend much time out viewing the sites where we stopped. We got to the cruise terminal early and knew we would have to wait a bit to check in and board. However, what we weren't prepared for was NOT being able to drop off our luggage. We were first to check in around 11:00a but couldn't board as we had to stay with our luggage until the union luggage guys started at 1:00! Not an issue if you used a bus or train to get there as they check the luggage for you directly to the ship. Considering this drawback, I think Alaskan Leopard is a good means of transportation leaving the ship at the end of a cruise, but not beneficial for arriving there unless you want to sit for hours and watch everyone else get on the ship while you sit with your luggage. We had a Prince William Sound Glacier cruise scheduled with Prince William sound Glacier Cruises and found out they would have picked us up and stored our luggage for us. Weather was misty and rainy for the start of the PWS cruise, but eventually cleared and we got some great views of glaciers. We saw lots of sea otters, 3 eagles, a black bear by a stream on the mountain, many harbor seals and some huge jellyfish. Saw and heard our first glacier calving. AMAZING! Beautiful waterfalls and scenery. Would have loved the 6 hour tour here, but only did the 4 hour. (2 for 1 coupon) Being that close to the glaciers was really a treat. Included crabcake lunch and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Finally got on board the ship and found our cabin with luggage waiting. We got unpacked and met our friends for dinner, which was open seating that first night. We skipped the show that evening and just chilled out. Early to bed for a full night of sleep. The first full night since we started this vacation.
Hubbard Glacier: I slept in and Greg got up and exercised. Showered and had a light late breakfast and headed for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in the Wheelhouse Bar at 11:00. It was fun to meet the people we had chatted with over the months before the cruise on the boards. We all exchanged stories of our vacation so far. Most had done land portions before the cruise. Then it was off to lunch in the dining room. Then back to the room to bundle up for the glacier viewing. We headed forward on the Caribe Deck to the "secret balcony" It never got crowded out there and you could hear the commentary. We spent the whole day out there. Saw seals, otters and quite a bit of calving and icebergs. Just amazing. Had a late dinner in the dining room and went to the evening entertainment.
Glacier Bay: Slept in and had breakfast before heading out on the same deck for the viewing today. Again, we spent the whole day out there taking a quick break for the seafood buffet on deck for lunch and a quick change for dinner and then changed back to warm clothes and back out on deck for some whale watching. In the day time we saw a couple of Orcas on the sail in to Glacier Bay, later we saw otters, puffins, harbor seals, and after dinner we saw humpback whale tails and one thumped it's tail about 20 times in a row. Skipped the show & got to bed for a bit of sleep before our day in Skagway.
Skagway: Booked with Dyea Dave and our van was all cruise critic friends and not crowded at all. Dave was great. With all the reviews about him, I was prepared for a long day of groans with bad tired jokes. Maybe he was on his best behavior that day, but we all really enjoyed him as a tour guide. He really took every effort to keep ahead of the big tour buses and to stop at just the right spot for the perfect photo ops. He was very knowledgeable and informative on our ride to the Yukon. Highly recommend him! We did see a black bear beside the road, a marmot, magpies and Canadian Geese. The drive was beautiful and we stopped at Carcross to buy our White Pass Railroad tickets from Fraser back to Skagway. Unfortunately the Cinnamon Cache had closed and she was trying to sell her business. We ate at the Spirit Lake Lodge, which was an experience in itself. Dave warned us about the owner. Said she liked things to go her own way and as long as we all did as we were told everything would be fine. Let's just say that the experience had us all remembering the Seinfeld episode of the "Soup Nazi" We would have loved to have tried the Dutch pancakes, but we were all told we could not order off the menu and could choose from the pre-made sandwiches, soup and pie. The pie was very good and it definitely was an interesting dining experience. (chalked it up to the local "charm") As much as we hated to leave Dave we opted for the White Pass Railroad back to Skagway. It was a fun experience on the narrow gauge tracks and we spent the whole trip outside on the viewing platforms. Beautiful views! Dave had already given us a tour of the town and was waiting for us as we got off the train. He then would take us back to the ship or drop us in town. We opted to stay in town, found some ice cream and made our way to the Red Onion Saloon. Very enjoyable day here with great weather!
Juneau: We booked a whale watch tour with Chris at Rum Runners who was willing to go out for a 7:00a tour on his 6 person boat joined by 2 other Cruise Critic couples. Highly recommend his company! Only 6 of us on the boat with Captain Chris and his mate a nice young guy who was very informative. Oh, and his adorable dog Autumn Moon who seemed to know when the whales would surface. We were lucky enough to watch a pod of Humpbacks bubble net feeding. A group of whales working together will dive under schools of herring, one whale will swim in a circle while blowing bubbles under the herring. When the bubbles rise they form a net and scare the herring into a tight ball in the center. The whales then come up through the middle with their mouths open, capturing large amounts food. Just awesome! Saw lots of mouths open, tails, dorsal and pectoral fins and spray from the blowholes. We estimated there were at least 11 whales doing this and we saw a few single whales as well. After watching this for some time he took us to see some Steller Sea Lions hanging out on a buoy. We saw 3 eagles on the ride. Hated to see it end, but as promised Captain Chris got us back to the dock in time for meeting our next excursion. Knowing we didn't have much time between excursions we made some sandwiches from the buffet the night before and put a few cookies in a baggie and we ate those on the bus ride to the airport. We had a little time to walk the town before meeting the van for ERA helicopter and dog sledding adventure. I must say they run a fine operation and it was fun to watch the helicopters take off and land 6 at a time taking off or landing right after the other. Scenery was breathtaking! Then it was time to land on the glacier and we could see these dots down there that eventually turned out to be the Dalton Gang dog camp. They have about 150 dogs that rotate doing the tours. There was plenty of time to interact with the dogs before embarking on the dog sled ride. Each of us got a chance to stand on the back and help work the brakes and then switched to ride in the seats of the sled. Interesting perspective from both of the positions. More time to pet the dogs and talk with Dave Dalton about sledding and racing. On the flight we saw many glaciers including Taku the largest one in the Juneau Icefield. We saw a seal in the water and 9 eagles. Another awesome experience! We even purchased the picture they took up on the glacier. We had a bit of time before boarding the ship and we walked down to the Red Dog Saloon where Greg sampled more of the local beers. Fantastic day in Juneau! Ketchikan: We had a little time to walk the town before our first tour. We booked a Misty Fjords floatplane trip with Michelle at Island Wings. It was a clear and hot day so no mist, but fantastic views. We were on her Beaver with another CC couple and with only 4 of us we each got our own rows on the plane. Perhaps Michelle isn't a morning person, but we found her a bit "bristly". She pointed out the salmon jumping and Greg asked what kind as we had learned there are 5 kinds of salmon and she answered "Salmon, didn't I say salmon?" I was looking out the window and listening to her commentary and I turned to look at her as she was very interesting. She says to me and not in a "nice way" that I should be looking out the window at the beautiful scenery instead of watching her, "after all you paid a lot of money to go on this tour" She pointed out some mountain goats that I didn't see. (I think the wing was blocking my view) Since I didn't see them I used my binoculars to try to find them. She says the reason I can't find them is because I'm trying to use binoculars and they are useless in a plane. So, she makes another pass and says if you don't see them now you should get your eyesight checked. They were there, but really just dots with the naked eye-----our pictures with super zoom did confirm they were indeed mountain goats. One of the other passengers was making too much noise with his mouthpiece and she just said "whoever is doing that it's not acceptable". She did seem to warm as the flight went on and we felt safe and the views were awesome. The landing was fun and we got to get out and walk around. We picked some blueberries and salmonberries and Michelle took photos with our cameras of both couples. We then headed to the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's boat. I don't think there is a bad seat on the boat as they make sure you all get to see everything. Very fun and interesting. Even if you don't watch Deadliest Catch I'm sure it would be of interest. They told lots of stories of the boat and crabbing and showed us samples of each type of fishing. There was a box crab that they passed around and they let us pose next to the King Crab one of the deck hands held. They let you hold the snow crab. They also had brought up a couple of octopus and a sunflower sea star that was really cool. We saw about 20 eagles, some Dall's purpose, jellyfish and lots of salmon jumping. Very good time. Finally, a relaxing sea day! This was Greg's birthday and I had chocolate covered strawberries delivered to the cabin. We played bingo in the morning and headed to the Pub lunch served in the Bayou Cafe. Had a couple orders of fish and chips and bangers and mash. Delish as always! Got our things packed for disembarkation the next day and headed to the final bingo session. We had skipped bingo the other days as viewing the glaciers and wildlife had us ignoring the usual things to do around the ship. Drum roll please......I won the final jackpot of $1,750.00!!!!!! Boy, did that top off an already great vacation! That evening we had reservations for the Bayou Cafe for Greg's birthday. I guess I should have reminded them when we made the reservation as they didn't acknowledge it. He did get balloons by our cabin door. The food was as fantastic as we remembered, except for the chocolate pecan dessert which was hard and dry. It was moist and fudgy last time and to die for. The steak and the lobster were superb and the appetizer sampler platter very tasty. We attended the evening's entertainment which was good. Vancouver: Disembarkation went well (though it's never pleasant ending your cruise). We walked to the Hotel le Soleil where we spent 2 nights with our luggage in the gentle rain. It was a very nice hotel and there was an included continental breakfast. We had them hold our bags and headed out and bought transportation tickets for the next 3 days. Even though it was misting or raining we walked to Stanley Park and walked along the sea wall for a while instead of taking the bus. Wildlife today was a black squirrel, Canadian Geese, swans and other sea birds. It was frustrating trying to find the park shuttle as all that came by were the HOHO tours. (in hindsight that would have worked better) We finally gave up waiting when we found the sign saying they didn't start until 11:00 and walked to the Fish House for lunch. Had salmon cakes and a haddock burger that were quite good. They told us where to get the shuttle. They actually directed us to where the HOHO buses come by and we walked back to the other stop after waiting for half an hour without one coming by. The HOHO drivers all said it would be by soon. Finally, we get on the park shuttle and bought our tickets and stopped at the rose garden, first nations exhibit, totem poles and a couple of other viewing spots and also had a beaver tail as a snack. It proceeded to rain all day and evening here. We skipped Granville Island since we lost so much time this morning. Took the bus to Gas Town and China Town. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden was still open, but we missed the last guided tour and walked around on our own. It was time to find some dinner and we made our way to Shanghai Chinese Bistro which had about an hour wait so we put in our names and went elsewhere to grab a drink and wait since it was so crowded there and there was no place to wait. Had a wonderful meal and were surprised to find 2 CC couples that we had done the whale watch with just getting seated as we were starting our meal. Too funny. Lots of places to eat there...what are the odds? Day 2 in Vancouver: we had booked an all day tour with Prince of Whales. (highly recommend) Met them at the Sea Bus station on Waterfront. On the way to Victoria we had a whale watch and saw a couple different pods of Orcas. One was a family with a baby that was very playful. Actually all the Orcas were quite playful. Lots of great whale viewing. We also saw seals lying on logs being transported via barge, harbor seals, 4 eagles, lots of interesting things being transported by barge and many sea birds. We arrived at Victoria and were headed to Barb's fish & chips, but the crew told us that Red Fish Blue Fish was closer and very good. So, we waited over an hour in line to order our fish and chips, which we enjoyed while sitting on the dock and listening to a guy performing there for tips. The sun had come out and it was a beautiful day. We had no time left to tour the town as we wanted to spend at least 2 hours at Butchart Gardens. Grabbed the bus there and the gardens are beyond description. Just breathtaking! We wished we could have spent a couple more hours here. In hindsight we wished we had skipped day 1 in Vancouver and spent the night on Victoria. At 5:30 we headed to the dock at the gardens for our 2 hour boat ride back to Vancouver. Dropped some things off at the hotel and grabbed a bus to Robson street to find a late dinner. Found Hon's Chinese food and while a different atmosphere than the Shanghai Bistro the food was quite good. Then happened upon a Gelato place that had the best gelato we have had since we were in Italy. An article on the wall said they originated in Rome. Back to the hotel to pack up and check out the next morning. Day 3 in Vancouver: Again, the hotel stored our luggage as we headed out to the sea bus to the North Shore to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It was a fun experience and a nice little park with a short nature walk. We then grabbed the bus and went to find the Capilano Fish Hatchery. It was supposed to be a short walk...but ended up being quite a bit longer than the 1 kilometer stated. The salmon weren't jumping the ladder, but a few were resting there. It was a lovely park and a great place to spend a whole day. With only a short time to spend there, we should have skipped it and went straight to Grouse Mountain. It started to pour rain during our walk and despite the low visibility we took the skyride to the top. Actually, the mist was kinda cool and towards the top it was starting to clear. We grabbed a quick lunch here and wandered out to see the sights. There was a small wild deer that was attracting a lot of attention and posed for a lot of pictures. I think it was too scared to move as some kids were kind of boxing it in. We took lots of pictures of the beautiful tree trunk carvings. The 2 bears were sleeping, we watched a very nice bird show. We watched part of one of the movies before it was time to take the ride down. The skies cleared and we got very nice views of the city. We stopped at Londsdale Quay for a snack at Beaver Tails. The chocolate hazelnut pastries were to die for! Very nice market here with lots of international cuisine. Took the Sea Bus back and Greg left me at the train station while he went to collect our luggage. We took the train to the airport and had time to grab dinner. Had a short flight to Seattle and Customs was a breeze. Had a couple hour layover in Seattle. We went to board the plane and were told to speak to an agent. We booked seats well in advance and checked in several hours before the flight, but they gave one of our seats away. We booked an isle and a window in the same row. (I get up a lot and don't like to walk over other people). We were told about 3 different excuses of what happened. One said, there was a 1 year old they had to accommodate, one said it was a computer glitch, and another said it was to accommodate someone with an injury. The person who had Greg's seat was traveling with a dog and no one in either of our rows was a child or had an injury. Greg got one guy to trade with me so he could have my window seat and I took his middle seat to sit next to Greg. The woman with the dog had demanded the isle seat, but the under-seat space is smaller there and her dog didn't fit very well. The flight attendant kept telling her to keep it completely under the seat. She left it out and since there was no room for her feet she spent the whole trip with her legs spread on either side of it which of course was in my space and the isle. She actually took the dog out of the carrier and held it for a while making smooching noises and the dog dives towards me. It was a small dog and it only made a few whimpers, but the woman loudly shooshed it waking me up several times. It was a redeye and I really wanted to sleep. Ah well, only s small sour note to end a fabulous trip!
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