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Alaska #26361
04/06/2014 06:39 PM
04/06/2014 06:39 PM
Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 4,135
Rhode Island
RonDon Offline OP
Traveler
RonDon  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 4,135
Rhode Island
Looking for info on taking a cruise and land portion in Alaska. Have you been? And what's the best cruise to take? What land parts should we not miss?

Thank you Rosemary & Don

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Re: Alaska [Re: RonDon] #26362
04/07/2014 05:58 PM
04/07/2014 05:58 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,482
Williamsville, NY
Dugg Offline
Traveler
Dugg  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,482
Williamsville, NY
Hi Part One

Never took a cruise to Alaska, so canít give any advice about which one(s) are best. We think a cruise to Alaska (like most cruises) gives people a chance to sample an area and make plans to visit specific places at a more leisurely pace. Going to Alaska on the Alaska Marine Highway (the ferries, especially the ones on the Inside Passage) is on our bucket list. The last really big trip to Alaska covered an entire summer, using a 4WD vehicle and a pop-up camper trailer to get there on the ALCan highway. We did get a partial sample of the Alaska Panhandle in the Alaska Marine Highway from Haines, via Sitka, but only went as far as Petersburg (on Minkof Island) before going back to Skagway. If we do this, weíll be able to go to Ketchikan. More recently, while going to my wifeís professional meeting in Anchorage (in April!), we got a chance to go back to Portage Glacier and to Whittier, and do a fly-by around Mt. McKinley from Talkeetna on one of the most beautiful flying days of the year.

As to things to do, we have lots of suggestions. Of course, some of these you might see on a cruise. Try to spend a few days in Vancouver and maybe take the ferry to Vancouver Island and spend a little time in Victoria (beautiful town). You will certainly see Kechikan, Juneau and Skagway, and maybe visit Glacier Bay and/or Hubbard Glacier (the biggest tidewater glacier on the continent) near Yakutat. Great views of Mount Walsh and the Kluane Range. When youíre in Juneau, find some way to get to Mendenhall Glacier, only 12 miles from downtown Juneau. The visitorís center is great and there are beautiful rain forest trails from there (e.g. to Nugget Falls). You can get a helicopter trip and land on the glacier as well. We camped at the Forest Service campground at the lake in a site that faced the glacier. Go now before it melts away.

Skagway has an historic district of about a hundred buildings from the gold rush days - visit Soapy Smithís saloon. A couple of choices - the White Pass and Yukon Route (a narrow gauge) goes over the pass into the Yukon (as far as Whitehorse) but you probably wouldnít want to go any farther than Carcross - and the Yukon Alaska Tourist Tours that also goes over the pass to Whitehorse. Beautiful mountain scenery!

Itís possible to get to Tracyís Arm and Sawyer Glacier by boat from Juneau or fly there (easiest from Haines), but some cruise ships visit the area as well. Likewise, some cruise ships stop at Glacier Bay, another great experience, especially if one of the glaciers is calving, pods of orcas are in the area and the seals are sunning on the ice pack. Not to mention the bears and the mountain goats.

Peace
Dugg & Chris
Our VI pics are at http://picasaweb.google.com/papadugg/ and the 2014 pics are finally done


The sun and the sand and a drink in my hand with no bottom
and no shoes, no shirt, and no problems...KC
Re: Alaska [Re: RonDon] #26363
04/07/2014 06:03 PM
04/07/2014 06:03 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,482
Williamsville, NY
Dugg Offline
Traveler
Dugg  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,482
Williamsville, NY
Hi Part Two

Despite its name, Anchorage cannot be reached by ship, with access by ship at Whittier, which is the starting point for the Alaska Railroad - the way you would probably get at Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks. We visited Whittier from Anchorage, passing through the tunnel that the trains take (didnít used to be allowed, but now is OK at certain hours). The afore mentioned Portage Glacier is just off the highway from Whittier, near the former village of Portage that was drowned when the land dropped six feet into the sea during the Good Friday earthquake. You can get to Portage Glacier on the Alaska RR too. The Begich-Boggs visitorís center is spectacular, and you can walk on its terminal moraine, but only see the glacier by boat. The reason why the arm of the sea that goes to Anchorage is called Turnagain Arm (named by Captain Bligh) is that it has one of the highest tidal changes in the world (about 30 feet). If you time things right, you can see the tidal bore, which can be as much as six feet high, racing up (or down) the arm, reaching speeds of 15 MPH. A wonderful sight!

Try to take a tour to Denali. We camped there twice, but no private vehicles are alowed past the Savage River Checkpoint (Mile 14 - campers inside the checkpoint can only take vehicles into and out of the campgrounds). The round trip by bus to Wonder Lake (about 92 miles and the end of the road) will take 11 hours round trip. A shorter trip to Eielson Visitor Center (mile 66) takes 8 hours. If youíre lucky, youíll see the mountain. A bulletin board with pictures drawn by kids had only one (out of twenty odd pictures) that actually showed the mountain. McKinley makes its own weather. Canít say much about the food, e.g. at Denali Lodge. Lots of opportunities for wildlife - you can get off and be picked up by a later green bus - but be careful to watch for grizzlies!

Fairbanks is another 90 some miles up the road. Plenty of things to do there - our favorite is Alaskaland (Pioneer Park, nothing like Disneyland), a beautiful theme park filled with historic buildings that form a gold rush town, with gift shops and places where you can get an salmon bake or caribou stew and visit the stern-wheeler Nenana. Our favorite places nearby are Chena Hot Springs (where we stayed in a cabin and got up early to watch the moose in the hot springs), and Circle on the Yukon River. Itís possible to get to Prudhoe Bay and Deadhorse on the Dalton Road that goes over Atagun Pass (at milepost 244). We would have tried to at least see the Arctic Ocean from Atagun and Coldfoot, (milepost 175) but the weather was against us and there are no services on the way except very little at the three ďtownsĒ (the other one being Wiseman, Milepost 188). Definitely a very tough road - good to have survival gear. Also, beware the truck traffic - screens over you headlights would be a good idea, just as on the Alcan! You could fly to Barrow from Deadhorse, the only way to have access to the Arctic Ocean (none at Prudhoe) where you can join the Polar Bear Club. Of course you can fly to Barrow from Fairbanks.

If your cruise ship stops at Seward, you can take one of excursion boats around the corner to see Kenai Fjords National Park. Holgate Glacier was calving when we went there - an awesome experience. If your timing is right, itís a great place for whale watchhing. And the easily visited Exit Glacier is nearby, and very accessible (but donít go into any of the ice caverns). Great place to have a salmon dinner.

Sorry to be so long winded.

Peace
Dugg & Chris
Our VI pics are at http://picasaweb.google.com/papadugg/ and the 2014 pics are finally done


The sun and the sand and a drink in my hand with no bottom
and no shoes, no shirt, and no problems...KC
Re: Alaska [Re: RonDon] #26364
04/07/2014 06:07 PM
04/07/2014 06:07 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,482
Williamsville, NY
Dugg Offline
Traveler
Dugg  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,482
Williamsville, NY
Hi Part Two

Despite its name, Anchorage cannot be reached by ship, with access by ship at Whittier, which is the starting point for the Alaska Railroad - the way you would probably get at Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks. We visited Whittier from Anchorage, passing through the tunnel that the trains take (didnít used to be allowed, but now is OK at certain hours). The afore mentioned Portage Glacier is just off the highway from Whittier, near the former village of Portage that was drowned when the land dropped six feet into the sea during the Good Friday earthquake. You can get to Portage Glacier on the Alaska RR too. The Begich-Boggs visitorís center is spectacular, and you can walk on its terminal moraine, but only see the glacier by boat. The reason why the arm of the sea that goes to Anchorage is called Turnagain Arm (named by Captain Bligh) is that it has one of the highest tidal changes in the world (about 30 feet). If you time things right, you can see the tidal bore, which can be as much as six feet high, racing up (or down) the arm, reaching speeds of 15 MPH. A wonderful sight!

Try to take a tour to Denali. We camped there twice, but no private vehicles are alowed past the Savage River Checkpoint (Mile 14 - campers inside the checkpoint can only take vehicles into and out of the campgrounds). The round trip by bus to Wonder Lake (about 92 miles and the end of the road) will take 11 hours round trip. A shorter trip to Eielson Visitor Center (mile 66) takes 8 hours. If youíre lucky, youíll see the mountain. A bulletin board with pictures drawn by kids had only one (out of twenty odd pictures) that actually showed the mountain. McKinley makes its own weather. Canít say much about the food, e.g. at Denali Lodge. Lots of opportunities for wildlife - you can get off and be picked up by a later green bus - but be careful to watch for grizzlies!

Fairbanks is another 90 some miles up the road. Plenty of things to do there - our favorite is Alaskaland (Pioneer Park, nothing like Disneyland), a beautiful theme park filled with historic buildings that form a gold rush town, with gift shops and places where you can get an salmon bake or caribou stew and visit the stern-wheeler Nenana. Our favorite places nearby are Chena Hot Springs (where we stayed in a cabin and got up early to watch the moose in the hot springs), and Circle on the Yukon River. Itís possible to get to Prudhoe Bay and Deadhorse on the Dalton Road that goes over Atagun Pass (at milepost 244). We would have tried to at least see the Arctic Ocean from Atagun and Coldfoot, (milepost 175) but the weather was against us and there are no services on the way except very little at the three ďtownsĒ (the other one being Wiseman, Milepost 188). Definitely a very tough road - good to have survival gear. Also, beware the truck traffic - screens over you headlights would be a good idea, just as on the Alcan! You could fly to Barrow from Deadhorse, the only way to have access to the Arctic Ocean (none at Prudhoe) where you can join the Polar Bear Club. Of course you can fly to Barrow from Fairbanks.

If your cruise ship stops at Seward, you can take one of excursion boats around the corner to see Kenai Fjords National Park. Holgate Glacier was calving when we went there - an awesome experience. If your timing is right, itís a great place for whale watchhing. And the easily visited Exit Glacier is nearby, and very accessible (but donít go into any of the ice caverns). Great place to have a salmon dinner.

Sorry to be so long winded.

Peace
Dugg & Chris
Our VI pics are at http://picasaweb.google.com/papadugg/ and the 2014 pics are finally done


The sun and the sand and a drink in my hand with no bottom
and no shoes, no shirt, and no problems...KC
Re: Alaska [Re: RonDon] #26365
04/16/2014 09:38 AM
04/16/2014 09:38 AM
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 2,390
Ill, USA
Will_L Offline
Traveler
Will_L  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 2,390
Ill, USA
Ron, not an expert at all having only taken one Alaska trip, but did research it a fair amount.

We took the cruise first from Vancouver to Seward . As someone in our group said..by taking the one way cruise northbound it just gets better and better as you go". That we found to be true.

There is something magical to be on the ship on the narrow inside passage with mountains going up from the water with snow capped peaks on each side.

We did a whale watching trip at Icy strait point and Juneau ..lucky on the latter to observe a group of humpbacks "bubble feeding for more than an hour, but saw lots of whales on each trip.

Skagway we took the bus to white pass and train down. It was very foggy and rainy and was not a highlight.

We spent two days in Seward that were great. Went fishing on a charter one day...got a bunch of huge halibut and some rockfish..a lot of fun.
The other day we went on a tour boat that was an all day trip to a couple glaciers ..fantastic day. Saw several orcas and all kinds of sea life. The boat was such that you could get pretty close to these glaciers and hear them "calving".as big sheets would break off into the sea.

We took the park connection bus from Seward to Denali...a loong bus ride. At Denali we took the bus to wonder lake..the first day and Eleison the second. Amazing scenery ..Kodachrome pass is perhaps the most awesome landscape I've ever see. We saw several grizzly and everything else except a wolf one normally wants to see. We got a glimpse of mt McKinley (Denali) the second day. Don't count on a clear view of mountain unless going to be there for weeks..or are lucky,

We took the Alaskan railroad back to anchorage from Denali and flew home.

Re: Alaska [Re: Will_L] #26366
04/16/2014 09:49 AM
04/16/2014 09:49 AM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 81,036
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
Traveler
Carol_Hill  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 81,036
Central Florida!
That was definitely our experience also--the further north you go, the more spectacular the scenery, so why on earth would you cruise southbound and have the best part of the trip at the front?? Plus, as you did, if you're going to Denali afterward, it even gets better after you get off the ship, thus again the northbound trip makes the most sense.


Carol Hill
Re: Alaska [Re: Will_L] #26367
04/16/2014 04:53 PM
04/16/2014 04:53 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,482
Williamsville, NY
Dugg Offline
Traveler
Dugg  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,482
Williamsville, NY
Hi

Second your remarks about Polychrome Pass - a spectacular place. Itís named after the technicolor cliffs and there are spectacular views of the Alaska Range from the pass. If youíre a photographer, try to get there with evening light. (Note : there is a single shuttle that goes just to Polychrome at about 5 or 6 PM.) For the geologically minded, the volcanic rocks are part of a terrane (basically a rock island) that was carried to Alaska by oceanic spreading of the tectonic plates (and likely originated in the tropics) - they certainly look tropical. The pass is at Mile 46 - about a 4 - 5 hour round trip.

This is a great place to see wild flowers, and itís ground squirrel and marmot heaven. The nearby area was closed to off-road hikers when we were there because of denning/nesting animals and birds (arctic fox, wolves, black bears and several bird species). The views of the mountains are even better at Eielson VC, though. This is a great place to see Dall Mountain sheep. Remember to reserve a seat on the busses early as they really fill up in the summer. (We reserved seats a day in advance, which is required as well for campsites.)

Be on the lookout for grizzlies, often seen asleep in the snow where they try to evade the biting flies that bedevil them. There was a sleeping grizzly right next to the Visitorís Center on our second visit! Usually, you see them digging for ground squirrels. On our first visit, the tail end of the Barren Ground Caribou herd was migrating up the Teklanika River (a beautiful braided stream), but there were also some in the snow banks for the same reason as above (with the bears). Golden eagles are regularly seen, often flying parallel to a bus. There are moose in most areas, often males with a harem. Red and gray foxes stalk the roads, picking off ground squirrels that have left their dens to beg food from tourists. Enjoy! <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/Clapping.gif" alt="" />

Peace
Dugg & Chris
Our VI pics are at http://picasaweb.google.com/papadugg/ and the 2014 pics are finally done


The sun and the sand and a drink in my hand with no bottom
and no shoes, no shirt, and no problems...KC

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