I would like to share with you a fabulous cruise-tour taken in June 2015. I had a “significant” birthday and wanted to celebrate by going somewhere my husband and I hadn’t been before. Although we have been on many cruises around the world we had never been to Alaska.
So, we decided to embark on a 7-night Alaska cruise from Vancouver to Whittier, and also included 3 nights pre-cruise in Vancouver and a 4-night post-cruise tour of Denali National Park and surrounding area, finishing in Anchorage.
There is so much to do in Vancouver. It is all walkable, but a good start is to take the hop-on hop-off trolley bus to orientate yourself. The highlights for me were hiring a bicycle to go round Stanley Park with wonderful views of the city and Pacific Ocean; a short ferry crossing over to Granville Island and visiting the market, the outdoor music scene, the art academy and walking past the pretty houseboats. Back in downtown Vancouver there are some department and local chain stores as well as individual shops on Robson Street, and Canada Place has a good variety of eateries, and even a microbrewery at The Steamworks!
Then it was time to embark Coral Princess. There is a virtual US border within the port, so all the process of immigration is out of the way before starting the cruise. The first day was at sea, giving us a welcome rest! A mid-sized ship but with plenty of facilities, lovely food, spectacular entertainment, as well as the usual superb service provided by Princess. This vessel was one of two “Panamax” ships built for Princess to do full transits of the Panama Canal, hence it is a little narrower and longer than other ships of this size, not that you really notice once onboard!
Now into U.S. waters and our first stop:
Ketchikan – A small town from where we took an excursion to go on a wildlife walk. A fairly short tour with excellent guide, finishing off at a rescue centre for reindeer, bald eagle and other birds of prey. Also, there was a totem pole carver at work who explained some of the history. We saw many totem poles dotted around in peoples gardens, and learnt some of the history behind them.
Juneau – An isolated town with a main road of a mere 40km in length, only accessible by air or sea. A tour of the botanical gardens, with extensive views of the sea and surrounding area; a salmon hatchery, although a little early in the year to see much happening, it was interesting to hear about it; and a scenic walk to the Mendenhall Glacier. For those preferring to stay closer to the ship, there is still plenty to see and do, with a cable car, the Alaskan Brewery, as well as the main street where you find small shops, coffee shops and bars.
Skagway – in what was Gold Rush country, many of the buildings along both sides of the main street are original buildings and you can imagine the cowboys riding their horses to the saloon! In fact, this is the home of the Tlingit tribe.
On the days at sea between ports we enjoyed the highlights of the inside Passage, Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier. Our Captain expertly maneuvered the ship to be alongside the gigantic glaciers and as close as possible. He even turned the ship around after about 20 minutes so that people watching from their staterooms on the opposite side of the ship could enjoy the same fantastic experience. There was also a naturalist travelling onboard who alerted us via the PA and TV system when there was something particularly interesting to see along with a little bit of knowledge about said sighting.
We arrived in Whittier, our port of disembarkation, at 1am and it was still light! After a short night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast we said a fond farewell to Coral Princess and her crew and headed for our train to take us to Denali Princess Lodge, at the heart of Denali National Park. We took up our allocated seats which all had a panoramic view from the glass domed roof, and each carriage had its own dining area downstairs and a guide who indicated and informed us about points of interests along the journey and hostess who catered for our needs for the whole journey.
During our 2 night stay at Denali Princess Lodge we enjoyed walks around the Denali National Park, to the very informative Visitor Centre and a visit to the Husky training centre.
Then a short journey to Mount McKinley Princess Lodge. We were 40km from this magnificent mountain at our closest, but it appeared to be much closer! Sitting on the terrace outside the hotel we could relax in reclining chairs and enjoy the amazing view, with refreshments if desired! Before we left we went on a fun ATV trek through the forests led by amazingly knowledgeable guides. I managed to avoid all trees, but did get a bit wet and dirty!
Our penultimate day and we were transported to Anchorage by coach ready for our flight home the following morning.
What lovely memories we have of such a wonderful trip. We organized the stay in Vancouver independently, thereafter Princess had everything organized to the finest detail, leaving me nothing to worry about.
Where to next?