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Old 07-06-2013, 11:44 AM   #1
Pris
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Our Amazing Alaskan Adventure

I’ve never done a trip report before, but this one was just so amazing that I just had to share. I’m also practicing doing a TR to get ready for our big European River Cruise next summer. So here goes.

Cast Members:
Pris-65 years young and loves to travel
DH-Wade-61 and not quite so fond of traveling
DD-Lauren-28-2nd cruise
DSiL-Jon-30-1st cruise

The Back Story:
DH and I have taken several cruises, including Alaska 2 years ago on the Wonder. We have found it to be a good compromise to our differing tastes and desires on travel. I love to see and do. He loves to sit and watch. His ideal trip would be a balcony on the beach. Mine is full of seeing sights and going. Last summer DD and DSiL got married. As a result, we didn’t take a summer vacation. We did, however, take Caribbean cruises over the last two Christmases through Royal Caribbean. I, also, squeezed in a spring break solo trip to WDW.

I decided last summer that we needed a big family vacation this summer. Originally, we were including DS and his wife. DS was deployed last summer, so did not make it home for the wedding. This was to be somewhat of a family reunion. He is in the Navy and, ultimately, decided they wouldn’t be able to join us. I booked the rooms last summer before the wedding. We decided on Celebrity this time, as we had heard the food was supposed to be really good and DD and DSiL are both trained chefs. They met in culinary school. He is working as a sous chef and she is assistant manager at the same restaurant. She has found that she prefers the front of the house work, but she really loves fine dining and wine is her passion. She is currently in the beginning stages of studying to become a sommelier.

DH and I decided to take a land tour before the cruise as well. We also booked this 7 night excursion through Celebrity. DD and DSiL joined us for the cruise only. We gave the kids the cruise as a Christmas present and gave them a couple of excursions as birthday presents. They had a very short, local honeymoon last summer as funds were quite tight, since they had just had to move back to the states from the Virgin Islands and set up housekeeping, including buying cars and furniture. I did some research here and on cruise critic and decided to book a whale watch through Harv and Marv in Juneau and a tour through Chilkoot Tours in Skagway.

Day 1- Friday, June 7
Travel day is finally here!! Wade and I were up at a fairly normal time as we had an afternoon flight. We had to drop our 2 fur babies off for boarding. They were staying at Camp Bow Wow for the two weeks. The camp has an app so we could actually see them occasionally on camera while we traveled. DD picked us up a little before noon to take us to the airport. We grabbed lunch there and then flew out around 2 pm. Our first flight was fairly short to Minneapolis. We had about an hour layover and then boarded our 5.5 hour flight to Fairbanks, AK. The flights were uneventful and on time, putting us in Fairbanks around 8:30 pm. Of course, I knew we were nearing the summer solstice and that the hours of daylight would be quite long. It was still very bright like mid afternoon, which gave us quite an awakening. Remember, Fairbanks is less than 120 from the Arctic Circle. We exited the airport with our jackets in hand to 70 degree temps! Remember the Alaskan heat wave this summer! Well, here it was.

I had not registered with the Celebrity reps on our incoming flight as we were a day early and had booked on our own. I had booked the same hotel that the tour would be using and was simply going to get their shuttle. The Celebrity reps were in full force and took great care of us when I talked to them. They had our names on their manifest and knew we were coming in. I suppose because we had booked the hotel and linked our reservations with the tour.

We were quickly on our way to the Pikes Lodge Hotel and checked into our room.

It was quite nice and the hotel was like a museum as the owner was a collector. There were antiques and interesting things all over the place.

We quickly headed next door to the Pikes Waterfront Restaurant for dinner. It’s a nice little open air place right on the river. I had salmon and DH chose a hamburger. Here we were introduced to our first Alaskan wildlife, the mosquito! They were huge and voracious! Good thing we had brought bug spray. Unfortunately, it was still packed tonight. ☹


After dinner, we wandered back to the hotel and hit the beds. It had been a long day and it was still quite light outside. Thank goodness for good black out curtains.
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My Previous TripsApril 2018 Wonder thru Panama Canal~Oct. 2016 POFQ~June 2016 Wonder to Alaska~April 2016 POFQ~Feb. 2016 POR/Magic/POFQ~Nov. 2015 POFQ~June 2015 Magic to Norway~May 2015 POFQ~March 2015 POFQ~Dec. 2014 POR~Sept. 2014 CSR~March 2014 POR~March 2013 POR~June 2011 WONDER to ALASKA~March 2011 POR~June 2010 GF/POLYNESIAN~ June 2009 MAGIC ~ March 2008 POP/WONDER/POFQ ~ Oct. 2007 POP ~ June 2007 CBR ~ March 2007 POP/POFQ ~ June 2006 POP ~ Dec. 2005 POFQ ~ July 2005 POR ~ Jan 2005 POP ~ July 2004 POR ~ Jan. 2004 CBR ~ June 2003 POFQ ~ March 2003 POFQ ~ March 2002 Courtyard ~ Dec. 2001 WL ~ July 2001 ASMU ~ March 2001 POR ~ July 2000 SWAN ~ July 1998 DxL ~ July 1992 DxL ~ May 1989 off site ~ Dec. 1976 Honeymoon off site

Last edited by Pris; 07-06-2013 at 12:33 PM..
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Old 07-06-2013, 12:27 PM   #2
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Day 2 - Saturday, June 8

Today was beautiful and we were on our own. We slept in a bit and then had an early lunch at the same restaurant as last night. Itís the only thing located right by the hotel, which is a bit isolated. We were quite liberal with the mosquito repellant today, and I dropped it in my bag for the day. After lunch, we returned to the hotel and had a nice chat with one of the front desk clerks about what to do today. We eventually decided to take a hotel shuttle to the University of Alaska to tour the museum. Itís also possible to catch a glimpse of Mt. McKinley from there on a clear day.

Sadly, although it was quite clear in Fairbanks, the mountain was hiding behind clouds. We were not to see it today. The museum was very nice and we enjoyed wandering around seeing the displays. They had a lot of taxidermy of local wildlife as well as exhibits of native dress and life. A few totem poles were on exhibit, both inside and out, as well as some petrified wood, petro glyphs and skeletons of various types of wildlife. There was also a display of local art.



This table was quite interesting. The legs are caribou, the tusks are Dahl sheep and the fur is moose.




When we returned to the hotel, our tour guide was set up in the lobby area. There were two tour groups gathering here tonight. We were taking exactly the same tour and would travel more or less together, but in different busses, etc. Our tour guide was Patricia, and she was most helpful and delightful. We got our basic itinerary and time guide as well as luggage tags. There were additional tours to be purchased as add ons, but we opted out of those. We were given the option of tagging some of our luggage to be held until the cruise, so we wouldnít have to mess with it this week. We put two of our bags back for that plan.

After meeting with Patricia, we ended up taking a hotel shuttle downtown to a recommended Italian restaurant for dinner. It was ok, but not particularly exciting. After dinner we wandered around downtown Fairbanks (not too big) a bit and then called for the shuttle to pick us up.


We returned to our rooms, got our luggage more or less packed up and properly tagged. One color tag would put it back for the cruise, and another color would have it available for us each day. It was early to bed tonight, as tomorrow would be an early and long day.
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My Previous TripsApril 2018 Wonder thru Panama Canal~Oct. 2016 POFQ~June 2016 Wonder to Alaska~April 2016 POFQ~Feb. 2016 POR/Magic/POFQ~Nov. 2015 POFQ~June 2015 Magic to Norway~May 2015 POFQ~March 2015 POFQ~Dec. 2014 POR~Sept. 2014 CSR~March 2014 POR~March 2013 POR~June 2011 WONDER to ALASKA~March 2011 POR~June 2010 GF/POLYNESIAN~ June 2009 MAGIC ~ March 2008 POP/WONDER/POFQ ~ Oct. 2007 POP ~ June 2007 CBR ~ March 2007 POP/POFQ ~ June 2006 POP ~ Dec. 2005 POFQ ~ July 2005 POR ~ Jan 2005 POP ~ July 2004 POR ~ Jan. 2004 CBR ~ June 2003 POFQ ~ March 2003 POFQ ~ March 2002 Courtyard ~ Dec. 2001 WL ~ July 2001 ASMU ~ March 2001 POR ~ July 2000 SWAN ~ July 1998 DxL ~ July 1992 DxL ~ May 1989 off site ~ Dec. 1976 Honeymoon off site
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Old 07-06-2013, 12:39 PM   #3
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Great! Looking forward to reading your report. I think we may actually have just missed each other by a few days, as we did the land tour part of our trip after our cruising ended on June 8th.
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Old 07-06-2013, 12:51 PM   #4
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Oh cool I got in at the beginning! I'm woefully behind on everything, but I can't wait to read along!
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Old 07-06-2013, 12:54 PM   #5
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So glad to see this, Pris! I guess the warm weather made the mosquito problem even worse this year.
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Old 07-06-2013, 02:40 PM   #6
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Great start. I love reading about Alaskan adventures, having enjoyed our Alaskan cruise a couple of years ago.
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Old 07-06-2013, 03:08 PM   #7
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Quote:
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Great start. I love reading about Alaskan adventures, having enjoyed our Alaskan cruise a couple of years ago.
Thanks! I love Alaskan travels. There is so much to see.

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Originally Posted by shazza View Post
Great! Looking forward to reading your report. I think we may actually have just missed each other by a few days, as we did the land tour part of our trip after our cruising ended on June 8th.
I think you may be right. I've been following along with your report and see so many familiar things, but our weather was immensely better than yours.
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My Previous TripsApril 2018 Wonder thru Panama Canal~Oct. 2016 POFQ~June 2016 Wonder to Alaska~April 2016 POFQ~Feb. 2016 POR/Magic/POFQ~Nov. 2015 POFQ~June 2015 Magic to Norway~May 2015 POFQ~March 2015 POFQ~Dec. 2014 POR~Sept. 2014 CSR~March 2014 POR~March 2013 POR~June 2011 WONDER to ALASKA~March 2011 POR~June 2010 GF/POLYNESIAN~ June 2009 MAGIC ~ March 2008 POP/WONDER/POFQ ~ Oct. 2007 POP ~ June 2007 CBR ~ March 2007 POP/POFQ ~ June 2006 POP ~ Dec. 2005 POFQ ~ July 2005 POR ~ Jan 2005 POP ~ July 2004 POR ~ Jan. 2004 CBR ~ June 2003 POFQ ~ March 2003 POFQ ~ March 2002 Courtyard ~ Dec. 2001 WL ~ July 2001 ASMU ~ March 2001 POR ~ July 2000 SWAN ~ July 1998 DxL ~ July 1992 DxL ~ May 1989 off site ~ Dec. 1976 Honeymoon off site
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Old 07-06-2013, 03:10 PM   #8
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Oh cool I got in at the beginning! I'm woefully behind on everything, but I can't wait to read along!
I've been enjoying following your adventures so much, so I figured I needed to share as well.

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So glad to see this, Pris! I guess the warm weather made the mosquito problem even worse this year.
Thanks for the encouragement on getting this going, Laurie. Yes, the late spring and extra warm weather had the mosquitos in full force. They are sometimes jokingly referred to as the "state bird" of Alaska! It got better as we went further south.
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My Previous TripsApril 2018 Wonder thru Panama Canal~Oct. 2016 POFQ~June 2016 Wonder to Alaska~April 2016 POFQ~Feb. 2016 POR/Magic/POFQ~Nov. 2015 POFQ~June 2015 Magic to Norway~May 2015 POFQ~March 2015 POFQ~Dec. 2014 POR~Sept. 2014 CSR~March 2014 POR~March 2013 POR~June 2011 WONDER to ALASKA~March 2011 POR~June 2010 GF/POLYNESIAN~ June 2009 MAGIC ~ March 2008 POP/WONDER/POFQ ~ Oct. 2007 POP ~ June 2007 CBR ~ March 2007 POP/POFQ ~ June 2006 POP ~ Dec. 2005 POFQ ~ July 2005 POR ~ Jan 2005 POP ~ July 2004 POR ~ Jan. 2004 CBR ~ June 2003 POFQ ~ March 2003 POFQ ~ March 2002 Courtyard ~ Dec. 2001 WL ~ July 2001 ASMU ~ March 2001 POR ~ July 2000 SWAN ~ July 1998 DxL ~ July 1992 DxL ~ May 1989 off site ~ Dec. 1976 Honeymoon off site
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Old 07-06-2013, 04:05 PM   #9
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Day 3-Sunday, June 9
Today we started quite early, especially for DH, who is NOT a morning person. Our luggage had to be outside our doors by 6 am, and we were to gather in the lobby at 7:15. There were close to 80 of us in the lobby with the two groups. Our group had 37, plus Patricia. We met our wonderful bus driver, Bill, who was in charge of getting us where we needed to be and taking care of all luggage. All the busses were identified by name and ours was Sanford. We soon loaded onto Sanford for the short ride to the train station where we boarded our special car for our ride to Denali, AK.


The train car holds about 80 people, so we had plenty of room to spread out. Each touring group had their own car, so we were about half full. The observation deck was upstairs with very comfy seats and wonderful views. We had our own train tour guide who kept us posted on what we were seeing, the history of the area and helped us spot wildlife. We also had a private bartender. Drinks were extra, but we were served breakfast as part of our package. Downstairs was the dining area. The tables were a bit cramped, but the service was good as was the food.

The train ride took about 4 hours. We saw beautiful vistas everywhere we looked. At one point we passed through the little town of Nenana (sounds like banana) where they have a lottery each year on when the ice will break up on the river. They place a tripod on the frozen river and when it goes, the lottery winner is announced.





At one point Mt. McKinley was visible, but DH and I never spotted it. Quite frankly, we may have looked right at it, but at that distance, we didnít know one mountain from another. When we arrived in Denali, Bill was there to greet us and drive us the short distance to Denali National Park. Our hotel here was the Grand Denali Lodge, the buildings with the green roof on the side of the mountain.


We had about an hour to wander the visitor area and grab some lunch before boarding our tour bus, not Sanford this time, but one of the old park school busses used for their tours. We had opted for the shorter tour (about 5.5-6 hours) as we knew our old bodies and bad backs would be ready to collapse after that. Others in the group paid extra for the more extensive tour (8-9 hours) which went deeper into the park. We made the right decision for us, but those on the longer trip really raved about it as well.

The first thing we encountered just a minute or so on the road was this moose grazing right by the side of the road. Traffic came to a standstill as people were snapping away with their cameras. He just continued to peacefully eat.



We made a stop at one of the park cabins and had a history lesson on the many ways people might have used it in the past. I particularly was interested in the last picture which shows the nails protruding through the shutters to protect from bears.





There was beautiful scenery everywhere we turned, and somewhere in those mountains hides Mt. McKinley, or Mt. Denali, as the Alaskans call it.




We were privileged to hear some of the tales of the land from a native Athabascan woman whose family had lived in the area for many generations. She even sang a song in her native language about the mountain. But, alas, still no view of The Great One. It is said that only about 30% of the visitors to the area get to see a completely cloud free mountain.


At this point we headed back towards the main park area. Through the day, we saw several caribou

and, high on the mountains, some Dahl sheep. Unfortunately, my camera doesnít have a great zoom, so no good pictures of them. Our driver took us back to the lodge, where Patricia was there to meet us and give us our room keys. We headed to the room and found our luggage waiting for us. Wade and I decided we didnít want to take the time to take the shuttle down the hill to the little town. We ate in the lodge restaurant, which was quite nice and then headed to our room to unwind and sleep.
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My Previous TripsApril 2018 Wonder thru Panama Canal~Oct. 2016 POFQ~June 2016 Wonder to Alaska~April 2016 POFQ~Feb. 2016 POR/Magic/POFQ~Nov. 2015 POFQ~June 2015 Magic to Norway~May 2015 POFQ~March 2015 POFQ~Dec. 2014 POR~Sept. 2014 CSR~March 2014 POR~March 2013 POR~June 2011 WONDER to ALASKA~March 2011 POR~June 2010 GF/POLYNESIAN~ June 2009 MAGIC ~ March 2008 POP/WONDER/POFQ ~ Oct. 2007 POP ~ June 2007 CBR ~ March 2007 POP/POFQ ~ June 2006 POP ~ Dec. 2005 POFQ ~ July 2005 POR ~ Jan 2005 POP ~ July 2004 POR ~ Jan. 2004 CBR ~ June 2003 POFQ ~ March 2003 POFQ ~ March 2002 Courtyard ~ Dec. 2001 WL ~ July 2001 ASMU ~ March 2001 POR ~ July 2000 SWAN ~ July 1998 DxL ~ July 1992 DxL ~ May 1989 off site ~ Dec. 1976 Honeymoon off site
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Old 07-06-2013, 07:44 PM   #10
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Great start to your trip! Luke and I both love train travel so that portion would be so fun. Love that you saw a moose right off!
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Old 07-06-2013, 07:55 PM   #11
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Beautiful scenery on the train. Do you happen to remember if there was any decent viewing area for those who can't do stairs? Perfectly understandable, if there was not. I've seen shows on this train ride on the Travel Channel and it looks so great.
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Old 07-06-2013, 08:38 PM   #12
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DH and I were also with Cheryl/Mark and Sue/Steve on a Disney cruise in 2011 but after hearing about alternated or additional options of travel in Alaska I am more than ready to return! I'm really enjoying hearing about your adventures
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Old 07-06-2013, 09:03 PM   #13
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Great start to your trip! Luke and I both love train travel so that portion would be so fun. Love that you saw a moose right off!
We couldn't believe that moose. The bus had just barely gotten up to speed and whoa!

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Beautiful scenery on the train. Do you happen to remember if there was any decent viewing area for those who can't do stairs? Perfectly understandable, if there was not. I've seen shows on this train ride on the Travel Channel and it looks so great.
Laurie, the car we were on had a lift or something like an elevator to bring those in need up to the top deck. We had a couple of people on our tour who used scooters. They were always taken on and off first, and Bill was always right there with their scooters. I don't know if all the cars had that or not. Ours was owned by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity.

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DH and I were also with Cheryl/Mark and Sue/Steve on a Disney cruise in 2011 but after hearing about alternated or additional options of travel in Alaska I am more than ready to return! I'm really enjoying hearing about your adventures
We were so excited to see other parts of Alaska. You will see that the cruise, itself, also had a couple of different ports from Disney.
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Old 07-06-2013, 10:46 PM   #14
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Laurie, the car we were on had a lift or something like an elevator to bring those in need up to the top deck. We had a couple of people on our tour who used scooters. They were always taken on and off first, and Bill was always right there with their scooters. I don't know if all the cars had that or not. Ours was owned by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity.
That's great to know! I've heard that Alaska is one of the best states for accessibility, and several of the tour companies have won awards. This trip stays on my bucket list!
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Old 07-07-2013, 02:43 AM   #15
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Oh wow, what amazing views! I have my plans already in place for our return trip in 2015, but now I want to add in more of Alaska... I guess I may have to go back to the drawing board to work out what to do.
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