CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Princess Cruises Dawn Princess Alaska August 23, 2004

Note the first 7 days of this review (which is actually my trip journal) covers the land portion of our trip to Alaska; the cruise begins about halfway into the report.

Day 1 - Monday, August 16th 2004

Plane flight from Chicago to Anchorage was bumpy on many occasions. We are really seeing some cool scenery now from the plane flying over Canada. On our left you can see St. Elias and we will be flying over Prince William Sound. The captain says if it¡¦s clear then they¡¦ll point out more scenery as we get closer. John is taking pictures, and I think it¡¦s going to be the first of hundreds of pictures of mountains and glaciers we¡¦ll be taking. This was one long-ass plane trip though, 6.5 hours from Chicago and before that a 5-hour layover there, and 3 hours from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago. I got only about 5 hours sleep last night as I kept waking up, too excited to sleep! It was great to have my friend Aggie pick us up at the airport and have lunch with her to catch up on old times.

Day 2 - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

This is really a lie since it¡¦s been 2 whole days in Alaska and we have been having such a good time we have not kept up this diary at all. That¡¦s a good thing! It¡¦s actually the morning of Day 4 but I¡¦m going to go back and pretend like I was doing this all along. So¡Kwe arrived last night after a wonderful flight in with a beautiful view of the mountains. Got our car and checked into our hotel using our Visa points certificates, all with no problems. I was a little nervous/skeptical about this but it all worked out great. The rental car guy even commented that it was a good deal, and I had to tell him we had to spend a lot of money to get this free car rental :-). The Marriott hotel at the Anchorage airport was a beautiful hotel, with all the wood/log interior that is so common up here. There was a separate building in the middle of the complex with a workout room, a sauna, a heated pool and a spa. I went there first thing after coffee and swam 50 laps. This was all at about 6am as I am still not used to the time difference. Anyhow we have our complementary breakfast which was great, and head off in our car to the great unknown. Today¡¦s Anchorage Daily News headline was ¡§Smoke Pours Into Region¡¨ and I thought my worst fears had come true as I had been following the wildfire activity up here for quite some time, fearing the worst but hoping for the best. And it was quite a smoky and hazy drive up towards the Denali area leaving Anchorage. In the distance at times we could just make out the outline of what we are sure were spectacular mountain ranges. Nevertheless we determined to make the best of it, and the fact that the weather was beautifully sunny and warm we were definitely grateful for. We decided we would make this a leisurely drive and stop wherever we felt like, which was only about an hour out of Anchorage at Thunderbird Falls. We stopped at a marked hiking site with signs telling you which way to walk; it was about an hour¡¦s walk (uphill both ways) to some waterfalls in the middle of the woods. At the entrance you could read about the place and if you were going to make the hike then you put your $5 into an envelope and into a box at the entranceway! It was a lovely hike and reminded us a lot of hiking to the falls in New Hampshire with Robin & Steve. We also exited at the town of Eagle River and drove up the mountain a little bit. We finally arrive at Denali, check into our hotel at Denali River Cabins. This is a cute, rustic like place with the cabins right on the Nenana River. Unfortunately it¡¦s also right next to the highway so you do hear the river quite well but only when there are no cars going by. Nevertheless it is comfortable and quite fine for our purposes. We drive up the hill to the Overlook bar and grill and have a couple cocktails and decide to go back down the hill for a dinner at a self-serve BBQ salmon place which we rate as a C. I had 2 cocktails before dinner which proved to be a big mistake as still not having my internal clock reset and mixing alcohol makes Michelle quite loopy. We got back to the room, I laid on the bed fully dressed and that was the last thing I remembered! John spends an hour or so at the restaurant/bar across the street talking to locals. I have a feeling me going to bed and John socializing is going to be an ongoing theme in this narrative¡K

Day 3 - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Denali National Park! What can we say but WOW. Turned out to be another gorgeous weather day with the sun shining. Only about 30% of visitors to Denali Park see ¡§The Great One¡¨ being Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. Yes, we did, and what a sight it was. I had, in advance, bought and paid for the longest bus tour into the park (12 hours) and even John said it was worth every penny. We made many rest and scenic stops along the way into the heart of the park, saw our share of wildlife, which is a hit-or-miss thing so we were very, very lucky to have had all this success. I was a little pessimistic what with the smoky conditions and the iffy weather up here that we would have a good day here so we were thrilled with our luck. At our first rest stop, 3 Dall Sheep had come very close to the rest stop; the park ranger was keeping people away and everyone was snapping their cameras like crazy, talking in hushed voices, unable to believe our luck! Usually you see these Dall Sheep as little white specks up on the cliffs on the sides of the mountains in the distance, so much so that they are nicknamed ¡§Dall Dots¡¨. We have fabulous pictures of these beautiful animals. We also had good luck seeing some other animals in the not too distant scenery: A big grizzly bear on his own foraging for berries, several caribou, ptarmigan (the state bird), a couple of mooses, a mother and baby grizzly bear running fast across the plain in the distance, so we did see every wild animal you usually see in the park, with the exception of a wolf which is a rare sighting. We were also lucky in this, as many people visit the park not seeing all this wildlife, maybe just 1 or 2 animals and we did talk to people afterwards who were unlucky. We were in a school bus like vehicle with about 50-60 people and driving through and on the sides of mountain ranges 90 miles into the park to the Kantishna Roadhouse area. Had I known we would be in this big school bus on practically a single lane on dirt roads cut out of the sides of the mountains with huge cliffs looking down, I¡¦m really not sure I would have booked this trip! I told John this was the ultimate Space Mountain ride. Of course this is the only way to get in or out of the park but it definitely took my breath away on more than one occasion, I can tell you. We finally made it safely to the roadhouse which is an Athabascan (native Alaskan Indian) owned complex deep in the heart of the park. They have these beautiful wooden log buildings and we were served a really nice soup and sandwich lunch. Then we had time to roam around on our own, and John and I took a nature trail hike along the creek. Then we were to meet up at 2pm to have our choice of either a sled dog demonstration or gold planning. I did the dogs and John did the gold and got 3 specks which he is quite proud of. The dog demonstration was good but you didn¡¦t get to pet the dogs as I have read you can do at other places; very interesting though. We left there and had a nice ride back, with perhaps not as many stops, as the mountain was not visible as it was now clouded in (its usual state). We arrived back at the hotel around 7:30pm after having awoken to meet the bus at 6:10am that morning, so a very long day. We had a nice dinner at the restaurant across the street, my first official Alaska salmon which was very good. I went to bed not long afterwards and you guessed it, John went back across the street for a beer and to talk to locals!

Day 4 - Thursday, August 19, 2004

Today we headed up to Fairbanks, and here our worst fears did come true. The plan was to go on a rafting trip in the morning before leaving the Denali area but we had heard that even on the mild ¡§floating¡¨ trips you will get wet and on all the trips they give you dry suits to wear. John pointed out that at 50 degrees in the morning, this might not be the most enjoyable activity and I had to agree. So we decided to drive a little bit and if we saw a rafting company after the weather warmed up, then we would stop. However this didn¡¦t happen, and after we were on the road for about 45 minutes north of Denali we started to notice and smell significant smoke which was from the wildfires. It got worse and worse the closer we got to Fairbanks. On the way, there were several pullouts from the highway where they indicated a photo opportunity, and you could see nothing but smoke. We knew the cancellation policy was such that we would lose our money if we didn¡¦t show up at the inn so we decided to go and try to just stay for one night. Unfortunately they weren¡¦t having that and we were faced with losing the second night¡¦s money unless they could fill the room. Anyway we decided to try to make the best of a bad situation and since we didn¡¦t come to Fairbanks for the scenery anyway, we went ahead and got on the 2pm Riverboat Discovery cruise, a touristy thing akin to the Jungle Queen. It¡¦s a huge paddle wheel type boat that goes down the Chena River for 3.5 hours. While on the boat they gave us a demonstration of a little Piper airplane that took off on the side of the river on a runway about 200 feet long; many people have such little planes here since the distance between towns is so great. It was also interesting to see the beautiful log homes on the sides of the river. We then arrived at a little replica of an Indian village where there were several demonstrations such as dog sled dogs, salmon smoking, and native buildings and crafts, with speakers telling about each activity. After this we shopped a little in the gift shop and went to eat dinner at Pike¡¦s Landing overlooking the river, our most expensive dinner so far which was very nice but perhaps not quite worth the inflated prices. John had local salmon and prawns and I had halibut. After this we headed back to the inn where we relaxed for the rest of the evening.

Day 5 - Friday, August 20, 2004

Well we have coughed and gagged our way through another smoky day in Fairbanks. But By God we didn¡¦t have to forfeit a night¡¦s lodging fº. So stupid or not, here we stayed. The news said this is the worst they have had all summer and if you don¡¦t have to be outside you shouldn¡¦t be. So, we spent most of the day outside. Why? Because we are tourists and we¡¦re gonna see the sights come what may! We certainly did see a lot today despite it all: Alyeska Pipeline & Visitor Center, Gold Dredge #8 where John conned me into panning for gold (can you say staged?), then because we still had time left over we even visited the Large Animal Research Station at U of Alaska for a very interesting hour-long tour of their Musk Ox and Caribou farm. Oh yes and we also stopped briefly at the satellite tracking data and acquisition center that John found on the map (that¡¦s what happens when you vacation with an engineer). Unfortunately they did not let us through but we did get to read about it. The first two stops can be read about on the internet, but I will say the pipeline was very neat to see and read about, and the gold dredge was as well. You might even say it was a very educational day! We determined to find a cheap but good place for dinner and did so downtown, and had the best burger I¡¦ve had in a long time. Back early to the inn, and we requested brown bag breakfast so we can get the heck out of dodge at first light. Tomorrow¡¦s goal is to get back to Anchorage in time to spend a few hours at the downtown Saturday flea market where they have a lot of locally made goods for sale.

Day 6 ¡V Saturday, August 21, 2004

After breakfast at the B&B in Fairbanks we headed out around 8:15am. We decided to not worry about getting back to Anchorage in time for the Saturday market so we could just take our time getting back. A man at breakfast told us about the town of Talketna where he said you could see people staging to climb Mt. McKinley, and we had also read that it was one of the best places to take flights up to see the mountain. However when we got close, we were down the road about 10 miles and it turned into a slow gravel road. Because of that and the fact that it was very cloudy out, we decided to turn back and head for Anchorage. Before that though, we saw a sign that said Troublesome Creek which indicated a place to hike. When we stopped we saw that it showed a 10-minute hike, and this was just great as we really needed to stretch our legs. There were also the usual bear warnings on the sign but we didn¡¦t think anything of it. Well we didn¡¦t see a bear but we sure saw recent evidence of one in the form of very fresh bear doo-doo, in several places along the path. (We have lovely close-up photos of it too, replete with identifiable berry seeds and requisite flies, yum!) It was beginning to freak me out actually; if not for the fact we knew there were a few other people on the path I would have been totally freaked. Plus there were all kinds of warnings to dispose of any food properly and John had brought a beef jerky type thing with him to eat. Of course I was imagining every bear in the area getting a whiff of that yummy beef jerky¡Kanyway we got to the creek safely and to our surprise it was full of salmon swimming upstream, not too successfully as they were finished spawning and actually in the process of dying. But it was very cool to see this as more than something you see on TV on National Geographic. We then understood why the bears were in the area too. The rest of the ride to town was pretty uneventful, but we were glad that it was a much clearer day this day than the day we drove out of town as we were able to see all the beautiful mountains that surround the town. We did actually arrive in time for the Saturday market downtown and walked around for a couple of hours. Although we didn¡¦t buy anything we did have a great dinner there of deep fried halibut and corn fritters with honey butter, very yummy and fattening! We found our Lake Hood Inn which funnily enough was just down the street from the Marriott where we stayed the first night. Very different though, as it¡¦s a kind of homey, B&B type place. John loves it as it¡¦s right on the lake where all the float planes land and take off, and on our 2nd floor patio are headphones you can put on to hear the pilots. The weather is still very unusually hot; the locals say they are normally having their first frost around this time of year. We are counting ourselves very lucky at having this weather as it normally can be rainy this time of year too. We heard later that this is the hottest and driest year on record. Right now it is 9:00pm and we just got back from a walk around the lake and it¡¦s still light out, the sun hasn¡¦t gone down yet! I think I¡¦m starting to finally adjust.

Day 7 ¡V Sunday, August 22, 2004

Shades of Sebring -- at 7:30am we awoke to the sounds of floatplanes loudly taking off and landing outside our door! I made coffee and let John sleep in, as he seems to be coming down with a cold. I went for a nice walk and to the Visitor¡¦s Center where I managed to find more things I needed to buy fº. I took some Danish and stuff in our backpack and off we went to explore Anchorage. We first went to Lynn Ary Park and had our breakfast overlooking Knik Arm, then hiked a bit along the coastal trail. Some bicyclers told us they almost ran into a large moose a mile or so down the trail in the park! We then decided to visit Earthquake Park in the same area and hiked there a bit. These parks surrounding the city are so beautiful; I told John I want to live here! Of course that¡¦s easy to say when it¡¦s 75 degrees and sunny. Next we decided to go to the Ship Creek Salmon Viewing Area where we took pictures of many men wading in the creek trying to catch the last salmon of the season going upstream to spawn (Silver Salmon). It was neat to see them fishing in a beautifully clear creek almost in the middle of downtown Anchorage. We visited the Ulu Factory, then went to the Sourdough Mining Company for a late lunch which was a place that sounded much better than it was. However, it had a nice big gift shop adjacent, and a beautiful paved path through the woods parallel to a creek which we walked. Gassed up the car, then came back to prepare for an early day tomorrow as we need to re-pack for our cruise and prior to the cruise we have booked a small boat wildlife cruise of Prince William Sound. We have really enjoyed our stay at Lake Hood Inn, even with the sound of the float planes, and would highly recommend it. Of course John loves it because he has something to do all the time and a constant source of entertainment, and I like it because it has a full-service kitchen upstairs and it¡¦s a nice homey style atmosphere where they have thought of all the little details.

Day 8 ¡V Monday, August 23, 2004

A whole week has gone by already! But I prefer to think of it as we still have more than a whole week left :-). On our way to cruise today, but a slight glitch along the way, our only one really. We returned the rental car, then made our way to the train station next door at the airport, and it appeared to be closed. We were scheduled for a 10am train and when nothing opened after 9am frantically started to make some calls only to find out we were supposed to be at the train station downtown, not at the airport! So we ran with our luggage, grabbed a cab and said ¡§Step on it!¡¨ (I always wanted to do that.) We barely arrived in time and finally got on the train with not a minute to spare. They checked our baggage straight through to our cruise ship which was nice since we had a day cruise scheduled for Prince William Sound. The train ride was very scenic with mountains on the left and coastline on the right, took about 2 hours. Then we got on a Major Marine Tour which took us close up through some ice to the face of a couple of glaciers; we were also able to see some sea otters and a beautiful bald eagle quite close up in a tall tree. The guide originally told us we had only a half full boat but at the last minute another tour boat broke down and we ended up bringing aboard about 60 Japanese tourists. I think the guide forgot they were there, as during his commentary he mentioned the Aleutian Islands being invaded by Japan, kind of funny! Then whenever we would turn off the engines and everyone was quiet so as not to scare off the sea otters, the Japanese interpreter would without fail choose that moment to get on the PA and announce something earsplitting in Japanese. It was a fun and interesting tour though. John told me to note the different kinds of glaciers we saw: Piedmont, Tidewater and Terminal Moraine, and that the ridges along the mountains prove global warming started 10,000 years ago (engineers!). Finally, we board our cruise ship the Dawn Princess around 7pm; we have a nice dinner with some rather strangely silent dinner companions and back to the room where I conk out and John watches the stars.

Day 9 ¡V Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I have died and gone to heaven. Last night I asked for breakfast to be delivered this morning, and it was! Also when we got back to our room last night, the bed was turned down, we had chocolates on our pillows, and my nightie was arranged into a flower! Yes, this is the way I need to live, forever. Sadly though, we are rudely awakened at 5:45am by the PA system over which the park ranger begins describing the sights in College Fjord. We soon forgive him when we open the balcony doors to a stunning view of snow capped mountains and glaciers all around us. This day is the most beautiful weather, and the ranger says several times the views just don¡¦t get any better than this. We have been so blessed with all the beautiful weather so far, which is very unusual for these parts. We have a small breakfast and coffee in our room, then walk around the Promenade Deck three times which is 1 mile. Then we decide to have another meal at the breakfast buffet before it ends at 11am! Then we find deck chairs on an aft deck outside and have a mini-nap with the cool air and sun shining on us, and mountains all around. It just doesn¡¦t get any better! We explore the ship, play ping-pong and get ready early for our first formal night. We have fun trying to take our own formal pictures. We had a very friendly table for dinner tonight and have good conversation about nursing and politics and lots of other things. Although the couple to the right of us, while friendly enough, keep their sunglasses on all through dinner, hmmm. We think they¡¦re spies. We still haven¡¦t seen a show on the ship, but cruise ships generally aren¡¦t really known for their extremely high quality of entertainment anyway so I don¡¦t feel we¡¦re missing much. While dinner is great, none of us at the table are very happy at the end about the waiter trying to sell us on a wine-tasting activity for $25. It¡¦s a shame they are obligated to do it, as it seemed a bit tacky. I don¡¦t mind these types of things being available at an extra charge, but I don¡¦t feel there¡¦s any need to try to sell them, especially at the end of a lovely formal dinner.

Day 10 ¡V Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Had a bit of a sleep-in today, awakened by our room service coffee and fruit being delivered, gotta love it :-). Today we cruised all the way into Glacier Bay, another nice day, some sun and clouds but no rain. It was neat seeing the tender bring the National Park Service rangers aboard and we got good pics of it from our balcony window. They pull alongside while cruising at the same speed and come aboard by ladder, looks like a James Bond move. We saw 2 humpback whales today, and 2 seals on an ice floe, also some sea otters. We spied the humpback whales spouting in the distance and watched them spout 3 times, then the last dive down we saw the tail come up out of the water¡Kvery cool! It was awesome scenery, but unfortunately the big glacier (Marjorie Glacier) did not calve while we were there for approximately one hour. That was a little disappointing, but we did see a glacier calve just a little bit on our day trip a couple days ago. In the middle of the day it was quite cold so we came back to the room, and I called for room service to bring us a lunch of hot soup, tea and sandwiches. It arrived in 20 minutes¡Kthis is the life for me. We discovered our cell phones have not been working in the area, and we have not been able to access email either. I can¡¦t honestly say I¡¦m sorry for either! It¡¦s quite nice to relax and be totally out of touch with your everyday life, it kind of makes it more truly a vacation. Tonight we saw a comic juggler who was pretty good and then ate in the formal dining room; John had snails (yuck) and I had turbot (fish) which was very good. We also did another 3 laps around the ship today.

Day 11 ¡V Thursday, August 26, 2004

Well our weather luck finally gave out. Today started out extremely foggy and only got worse from there. We¡¦re docked at our first port of Ketchikan and have a helicopter trip and glacier landing scheduled for 8:05am but when we arrived we found it had been cancelled. We were on the fence about this trip anyway, since we had 2 other small plane excursions planned, so we weren¡¦t too crushed that it didn¡¦t happen. We had them reschedule us for a trolley tour of the town which was just okay, then we shopped for a while. It was drizzling and foggy all day. We also had an excursion scheduled for the afternoon and we were hoping the weather would clear up since it was a bicycle trip 15 miles down a mountain. These excursions go rain or shine, and go we did, in the cold, wet rain all the way down the freakin hill! It really woke us up, that¡¦s for sure. Afterwards I decided I had earned a nice souvenir and so we went back to a jewelry shop where I had seen some gold in quartz earrings but didn¡¦t want to spend that much money on. The stone is mined in Alaska, and they are made by an Alaskan jeweler. So I got them and love them. It¡¦ll be a nice souvenir of our trip. Of course we have also bought loads of other souvenirs for all the relatives. After our bicycle experience, we trudged our way in wet sloshy shoes and clothes all the way back to the ship (about our 3rd trip of the day) and we were wiped out. I never had such a nice hot shower in my whole life. We had a couple of cocktails and checked out the menu at the buffet and decided to try eating at the pizzeria. It was very good and since we were so tired it was nice not to dress up and have to make conversation with a lot of other people, and I¡¦m glad we had the chance to try something different. Afterwards straight back to the room as our feet hurt, our backs hurt and we were just plain exhausted.

Day 12 ¡V Friday, August 27, 2004

We wake up to find ourselves in Juneau, the Alaska state capital. The day is starting out rainy again but not quite as foggy. Unfortunately we met our tour on the pier, and he told us it had been cancelled due to the weather. So we decided to walk into town ourselves and see if we could book an independent tour of Mendenhall Glacier. We found a town and glacier tour leaving in 45 minutes and did some shopping until then. (I¡¦m now doubly glad I bought the earrings I wanted since we are saving so much money not taking the expensive excursions we were booked for!) Sadly it was still cold and drizzling and our tour bus windows were totally fogged up; we all had to keep wiping them with paper towels the driver handed out! It was also very foggy and we couldn¡¦t see what looked like beautiful mountains all around the town. On the way we stopped to see a creek chock full of salmon, the last of the season heading upstream to spawn. It stopped raining exactly long enough for our hour-long stay at Mendenhall; it¡¦s a beautiful glacier that you get to be very close to and is the only glacier accessible by road in Alaska. We had a beautiful hike, and saw two bald eagles way up in a tree which are very plentiful in this area. So, while we didn¡¦t get our floatplane/salmon bake trip, we were able to see this glacier which we wouldn¡¦t have had time for otherwise. On the way back we had a better view since the driver had gone out to purchase defogging stuff for our windows which was fortunate since it rained the whole way back to the ship. I did 3 laps around the promenade deck again, in the hope I can in some small way make up for all this food I am eating! We happened to pass a fudge shop on the way back to the ship, and of course I had to stop for some ¡§samples.¡¨ Speaking of food, tonight is Alaskan king crab legs in the main dining room, so I made a reservation for a table for 2. John¡¦s stomach was feeling a little out of whack today and he didn¡¦t feel like being at a table full of people, and we didn¡¦t like what the buffet was serving. We had a very nice dinner tonight with our best waitress yet, Gisela. We will ask for her tomorrow night as well. John had Alaskan king crab and I had salmon, and we both had a wonderful chocolate cake with cherry filling, delicious! Before dinner we saw the comedy magician show which was pretty good, and stopped at the casino to make our donation :-).

Day 13 ¡V Saturday, August 28, 2004

We woke up to a sunny day today! We watched all the float planes land as we made our way through the harbor. We had breakfast delivered (of course :-) ) and watched them tie up the ship. We were so excited we were finally getting a plane ride, on our last possible day! We were late getting into Ketchikan but we were the only cruise ship in town this day which was nice. The tour lady said they had 5 ships at one time yesterday. We later found out the reason we were late is because during the night there were extremely high seas, but we both slept right through it, luckily. Anyway about 8 of us set out to the floatplane office where they asked us our weight and assigned us our plane and pilot. And off we went to our bear-watching adventure. The flight was awesome with beautiful views, we took off from the water and it was a sunny day, a little cloudy but no fog. After about a 20-minute flight we landed kinda in the middle of nowhere on a little lake and disembarked. Then we were taken in a minibus about 5 minutes away and then we all walked 5 minutes through the woods to a wooden viewing platform overlooking a big stream chock full of salmon trying to make their way upstream. The ranger said there were thousands of salmon in the stream. I¡¦m sad to report, though, that we did not see one single bear. She even took us to another location after about 45 minutes but no bear there either. Well that¡¦s why they call it wildlife I guess. So, disappointing but still a great day and a beautiful plane ride. We then were going to find some supposedly very good fish and chips at the little dock store but they were closed so we went on board ship for a quick buffet lunch, then made our way back into town for a little shopping and a final chance to spend some money which of course we managed to do. Tonight is our second and last formal night so we get all gussied up and have dinner with our favorite waitress and some nice people at the table; tonight is lobster tail which John has, and I had Beef Wellington, both very good. Then we went to see the dance show in the theatre (Rythms of the City) which was pretty good, then went to see the champagne water fall in the atrium. We finally made it to 12 midnight, yay!

Day 14 ¡V Sunday, August 29, 2004

A day at sea, and our last day of cruising. The seas are 4-8 feet, and John and I both take Dramamine and Bonine as soon as waking up as it looks to be a bit of a rough ride today. Just as I was typing this John was sitting on the bed looking out at the water and yelled ¡§porpoises!¡¨ I jumped up and right next to the ship were 8-10 porpoises racing alongside the ship, all leaping way up high out of the water! We do both love our balcony room, it¡¦s so worth the extra money, for this route anyway. We had a few sightings of porpoises along this route today. We also always enjoyed watching the ship come into port and ¡§park¡¨ at the dock and tie up and untie and leave too. It was also very neat watching them take the pilots and park rangers on and off board while the ship was moving; we always tried to watch that if we could. Anyway today we kind of slept in as it was a day at sea, and rainy besides, so it was very relaxing. I think we mostly ate and wandered around the ship. Later in the afternoon began the sad task of packing our bags, as they need to be put outside our room this evening.

Day 15 ¡V Monday, August 30, 2004

A pretty painless departure from the ship, our number gets called relatively early, and we are off around 9am. We made a good decision to rent a car for a day, as we stopped at baggage storage and they wanted $5 per bag per day or something like that. So we have our own transportation and immediately head off to Stanley Park in Vancouver. It¡¦s a nice sunny day and we got a bunch of coupons from Budget so we decided to use one at the horse drawn trolley ride through the park which was nice. Then back in the car and up to Capilano Suspension Bridge. This we thought was pretty pricey to walk across a bridge but turns out they had a bunch of stuff to do on the other side. On the way over I didn¡¦t dare to look down! I just hung onto the back of John and looked straight ahead. On the other side they had miniature walkways way up in the trees which was cool, and we went on a short guided nature hike through the woods. Our next stop was nearby, at Grouse Mountain. Here we took a tram ride up to the top of the mountain, saw a short lumberjack show and walked around a bit. We also had a ride down and up on a ski lift. It was a gorgeous view of the city. By this time it was late in the afternoon and we decided to try to find our hotel which we did with not much trouble, not far from the airport. This was another Scorecard hotel which was great, a very nice room with all the amenities, and we also got room service breakfast with the deal. Our last room service breakfast :-(.

Day 16 ¡V Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Last day of vacation if you can call it that. It¡¦s a day spent traveling, and a much better day of traveling than the first day. The first flight is only 4 hours as compared to 6.5 hours, and the plane is half empty so there¡¦s plenty of room. They¡¦re also showing a movie which makes the time go by. I asked John his favorite things from the whole vacation, and he says the floatplane trip and bus trip into Denali. I say I really enjoyed our stay at Lake Hood in Anchorage and the day we spent just walking along the coastal trails in the city parks. We decide we liked both parts of the trip, but maybe the car/land part a little better than the cruise, as it seemed more relaxing and we had more freedom to do whatever we felt like when we felt like it. We both would definitely love to visit Alaska again, it¡¦s a beautiful place.

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