by Ken Robinson
June 15, 2005
Vancouver - We arrived a day early in Vancouver in order to allow us to adapt to our jet lag. Stanley Park in Vancouver is a must to see. You can reach it easily from any point in the city by catching a local bus.
Spirit - Excellent service and very friendly staff! If you plan to book any excursions, make sure to check the ship's lunch schedule. The hot food bars are only for limited hours; therefore if you miss it, there's only pizza or a deli sandwich to hold you over to dinner. The Lido deck's lunch is very good; however, the dinner menu (hot foods) is very limited.
Camp Carnival - Our 11 year old enjoyed meeting and making friends of her own age. They provided a lot of activities geared for all ages; however, as you get into the older groups, there are more personal freedoms. Sign you child up for one of the slumber parties. My child had a blast with the varied activities, especially staying up until 3:00. The staff made it very safe and enjoyable.
Evening Shows - The first show wasn't that good and contained a scene that I didn't feel were appropriate for the Camp Carnival kids who were in attendance as a group. One of the songs/scenes depicted a man slapping a woman around and pushing her down.
Coke Card - If your child or another family member likes to drink a lot of sodas, purchase a coke card for them. It'll save you a lot of money.
Balcony vs. Inside - For this trip a balcony is a must! You won't regret it.
Ketchikan - Go see the lumberjack show - it's excellent and rather inexpensive when compared to the other excursions. We also went on the Misty Fjords Wildlife Cruise and were very disappointed. Although the sights were pretty, there was very limited wildlife and major sights. In addition, the temp was 78 degrees and there was not an proper ventilation inside the boat. You had to go upstairs to "breath". Make your purchases here or in Juneau as the prices and selection is a lot better.
Skagway - We signed up for the Glacier/Dogsled Flight; however all flights were canceled due to poor visibility. There was no prior notice from the Spirit and very limited time/space to book another tour. We found out that all the flights had been canceled throughout the morning - advanced notice from the ship could have allowed proper time to realign our plans. We hurriedly signed up for the last White Pass/Yukon Railway excursion. It was nice and relaxing with great scenry.
Juneau - We signed up for a boat trip with Orca Enterprises and Captain Larry. The price was very good and we were able to see orcas, otters, sea lions, and many eagles. Very enjoyable.
Skito - Very limited stop. You don't need a lot of time to walk around the city as the number and variety of shops are very limited.
Glaciers - Our ship was able to get 1/4 of a mile from a beautiful glacier. It was awesome watching the ice break off, sounding like thunder as it hit the water. Save film for this part of the trip.
Whittier/Anchorage - Leaving the ship was easy and painless. Buses took us to Anchorage. We extended our trip with a 3-day trip to Denali via the McKinley Express. Looking back, we don't feel like the trip was worth the money. Instead, we would have rented a car for the Denali visit. The train ride was 8 hours long (only 3 - 4 hours by car to Denali) for the first day of the trip. The train was very majestic with dining on the lower level. The guide provided detailed information as we traveled along. For a lot of the train trip there was not a lot of unique scenry. When we arrived in Denali we signed up for the dogsled excursion to Jeff King's camp. It was very unique with our daughter enjoying the dogs and especially the puppies. We spent the night at a local chalet which was simple for adequate. There are very limited restaurants and those which are there have high prices. The best places were the nearby pizza restaurant and a Subway. You'll still have sticker shock; however nothing like the prices at the chalet's restaurants.
The next morning we took a bus ride lasting several hours through the park. We saw only limited wildlife. We boarded the train for the ride to Fairbanks which lasted another 4 hours (total 12 hours on the train - - - if we'd only had known!) Food was hard to find in Fairbanks as the hotels where we were accomodated seemed to be away from the general shopping area. In fact there were only 3 restaurants around us - two in the hotel (YEP, YEP) and one nextdoor.
Conclusion - We would have probably enjoyed it more if we'd taken the South Bound Cruise instead of the North Bound. We could have flown up early to Fairbanks or Anchorage and visited Denali via a rental, enjoying it at our own pace, etc. The scenery during the last 1/3 of the trip was breath taking but we'd already used a lot of film by the time we had arrived.