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Trip Report Vancouver/Alaska Trip & Cruise Report

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Vancouver/Alaska Trip & Cruise Report
June 25 – July 9 – 2011
First, thanks to all you wonderful Fodorites for your suggestions! You helped me sort through the enormous amount of information out there as I was planning our trip for our family of four (son and daughter in their late 20s included).

Part I of our trip was visiting Vancouver for three days. We stayed at The Coast Plaza Hotel & Suites in the West End. I would recommend this friendly large-roomed hotel (it used to be condos); it’s in a fun, walkable area. We went to the Public Market on Granville Island, walked along the English Bay, hiked through Stanley Park and Lynn Canyon Park. Located right down from the hotel, the Central Bistro restaurant/bar on Denman/Comox was wonderful: knowledgeable wait staff, live jazz, delicious drinks, and tasty food (try the sweet potato fries!!). One of our favorite meals was in a small Persian restaurant on Pendrell Street named Darya, just off the busy restaurant row of Denman. It’s an order-at-the counter place, but the owners are so friendly, they took our order at the table and served us.

Part II of our trip was the Island Princess 7-day one-way cruise from Vancouver to Anchorage. We had never taken a cruise before, so we were really looking forward to it as much as we were looking forward to seeing Alaska. We weren’t disappointed on either count. The mini-suite was much larger than we expected, with plenty of room for everything. The food was delicious. The views in Glacier Bay and College Fjord were outstanding (2400 pictures later……). It was also nice and unexpected to have a formal family portrait taken on board. We’ve wanted to do that for years. Our port excursions were exhilarating (zip-lining in Ketchikan; whale watching, bear searching, and small plane view of Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau; and riding the White Pass & Yukon Railroad up the mountain and then biking down in Skagway).

Part III was exploring Alaska on land for four days. We disembarked in Whittier and rented a car. (I would highly recommend renting a car, however, it took 1.5 hours waiting in line at the Avis counter in the local hardware store with only one clerk for 15 people.) We drove through the tunnel to the Alyeska Resort where we spent the day. We ate actual Alaskan salmon and halibut (the ship didn’t have Alaskan seafood) and road up the mountain on the tram. We watched several paragliders take off and then hiked up to the top (through snow) to see the bowl glacier and a great mountain view. The next day we drove to Denali National Park and got a great shot of Mt. McKinley at milepost 118. (There are also formal viewpoints along the Parks Highway: Denali Viewpoint South, milepost 135 and Denali Viewpoint North, milepost 162.) We rode the shuttle bus to the Eielson Visitor Center the following day and saw caribou, grizzlies, Dall sheep, and a wolf carrying what I think was a caribou leg in its mouth. (Did no one think to mention how terrifying riding 2,500 ft. up on the edge of a gravel mountain road without guardrails was?? And I thought the train ride in Skagway was scary!) We really liked the Touch of Wilderness Bed & Breakfast in Healy and the Black Diamond Grill was a winner for dinner. We had a great lunch at the 49th State Brewery in Healy--good beer selection on tap.

If anyone wants more details of anything specific, just comment at the end of this post and I’ll get back to you asap. We all had such a wonderful time that I was afraid I’d drone on and on about everything, so I purposely kept it short. 

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