Alaska road trip and Alaska cruise

Old Jun 24th, 2014, 04:44 PM
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Alaska road trip and Alaska cruise

We went on a road trip to see Alaska in 2010. We started at Anchorage, driving south to Homer. Staying at Homer for 2 nights, went hiking on Kachemak Bay State Park, then continued on to Seward. We visited the Kenai Fjord National Park, and hiked the Exit Glacier trail. We stayed a night at the Windsong Lodge, and back to Anchorage for the night before heading north to Denali National Park.

On the way, we visited the Iditarod Headquarter, and got to hold the future Iditarod huskies. We spent two nights at the Denali Princess Lodge, visited the Wonder Lake, and did some hiking in the area. After Denali NP, we decided to go north, visiting Fairbanks, and checked out the North Pole, and stayed overnight at Fairbanks.

We then Drove the Alaska Highway to Tok, along the way was the Trans-Alaska pipeline that brought oil to Valdez. We stayed overnight at Copper Moose B&B, and also visited the Wrangell and St. Elias NP visitor center. Since we had only a sedan for car rental, we decided not to risk driving to Kennecott, instead we drove to Valdez. Along the way, seeing some of the spectacular falls from the mountains just beside the road. We also visited the Worthington Glacier.

We chose not to stay at Valdez since the weather was not that good. We turned around and drove to the Glenn Highway. We spent a night in a motel by Glenn Highway. Even though we did not have a clear blue sky while driving the Glenn Highway, it was still very scenic to drive on this highway. We still could see the Matanuska Glacier along the highway. It was absolutely stunning to see such huge glacier along the highway. When the weather permitted, we did some short trail to have a great view of the glacier. It would not be such a good idea to climb the glacier in that condition though.

Instead of driving directly back to Anchorage, we did a short side trip to Hatcher Pass, visiting the Independence Mine State Historical Park. It was raining at that time, but we put on our ponchos, and hiked up the hill to see the historic park. The reward was well worth the effort. There were only a few visitors at that time, so the deserted mine was even more in its real atmosphere as it was. We would not trade it any way to see this park as the way it was deserted.

We then drove back to Anchorage for the night. The next day, after walking around the city, we decided to do the hike to the Flattop Mountain. It turned out to be the best hike of the trip, the view up there was absolutely beautiful. We were so happy, and vowed to see Alaska again in the future with our kids. Sure enough, four years later, we went on a cruise to see a very different Alaska in the south eastern part, and again, we were very happy about the decision to go on a cruise as a family trip.

Here are some of my 2010 pictures:

Our port of embarkation was Vancouver, and port of disembarkation was Anchorage. Port of calls consisted of Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. We had very good views of the glaciers up close, and were lucky that the weather was holding up pretty good for the 7 days on board, as well as on shore. This was our first cruise, so we could not compare the services of the cruise ship, but we had no complains, and would use NCL again.

We were so used to driving and moving on from one place to another, cruising was really a very slow pace for us, but once a while slowing down the momentum is always good. For the entire trip, we also did not join any of the excursions organized by NCL. The first one and half day was just relaxing and having family time for us. When we were at Ketchikan on the third day, we took the local bus transport to visit the Totem Bight State Park and Potlatch Park.

The schedule of the local bus can be found here:

It was a very nice day for us at Ketchikan, we just walked around downtown, and watching all these float planes taking off and coming in. We also had a very good sunset that day while sailing the Inside Passage. Later, the captain announced that since we had such good weather and calm sea, we would be sailing through the inside-Inside Passage. It was indeed very beautiful sailing.

We arrived Juneau very early in the morning. This is the usual port of call that most tourists will do small- boat whale watching, float planes to glaciers, Mount Roberts tramway, or visit the Mendenhall Glacier. We chose to visit the Mendenhall Glacier. We rented a car from Avis, and drove ourselves to Mendenhall Glacier. We did some good hiking in the park, and enjoying some of the scenic views along the way. We decided not to hike the trail to the tramway station on the Mount Roberts since it was not a very clear day on the mountain. The cruise ship sailed away around 9pm that day, and the evening was nice as we sailed away.

When we reached Skagway the next morning, it was quite cloudy, and misty. We had booked our rental car from Avis, but the line was pretty long, with only two people handling the bookings. The wait was half hour to 45 minutes before we picked up our car. Since we had a whole day here (about 9 hours), we would be fine driving to Lake Emerald and back in 6 hours, including all the stops that we wanted to see. This was a much economical way for us to see the area. Be sure to bring your passport if you are going to cross the border to the Yukon territory of Canada. The scenic highway was absolutely stunning. When we were on the Canada side, the weather was gorgeous, the glacier-lakes and the mountains were so beautiful. On the way back to Skagway, the view was even more stunning. Do check with the car rental place if there is any major delay on the highway before heading off-not for heavy traffic jam(there is not much traffic on the highway), more of highway repairs.

We arrived Glacier Bay National Park early in the morning, and the park rangers got on our ship around 6:30am. It was such a good sensation when we saw all these snow-capped mountain ranges, the water was so green, and the ice was so blue. Everything is just clean and pure. After an early breakfast, people were just crowded on the open deck to have good views of the Glacier. The cruise had to slow down while on the national park area, and this gave opportunities to view the surrounding areas, as well as sporting wildlife. The park rangers gave very good narration of the NP as well as the glaciers formation in the area. It was definitely the highlight of the whole trip. Since there was not much ice in the Tarr Inlet, the captain was able to get very near to the glacier for an incredible views of the Margerie Glacier, and the Ferries Glacier. We also had good views of the Margerie Glacier with the ice calving into the sea. We also spotted some wildlife on the ice. The ship slowly did a 360 degree turn before leaving the area. We later had a breathtaking view of the John Hopkins Glacier from a distance as the ship passing its terminus.

As we left the NP and sailing towards the Icy Strait, we spotted whales that were feeding and swimming. Once the ship entered the Pacific Ocean, the waves were rough, many people experienced sea sick, and unfortunately I was one of them. From then on, we pretty much had a rough sea sailing before reaching the Hubbard Glacier the next morning. It was another impressive glacier viewing with very big ice calving. After that, it was rough sea again for the whole day.

When I woke up early the next morning, it was calm again. I quickly slid off the bed, hoping to have another good morning sunrise for the last cruise day. It was a cloudy day, but I was awarded with incredible views of snowcapped mountains and glaciers. Prince William Sound has its own charm since it is surrounded by mountain ranges and islands in an enclosed area. We found out later that it was a very clear good day for us, as it had been foggy and rainy for the past days in the area. Indeed, it was such a beautiful clear day in Whittier, as well as in Anchorage. We took the (Alaska Cruise Transfer) bus shuttle that we had booked 6 months ago, it was half the price of what the cruise would offer to take us through the tunnel and to Anchorage. The bus provided some narration of the journey which was quite interesting, and we paid $28 per person for this beautiful journey back to Anchorage.

We did some sight-seeing in Anchorage city, and later heading to Eagle River for a short hike near the Nature Center. It was a very beautiful day, and we were surprised that the mountains were still snow-capped, and the Flattop Mountain that we climbed last time was actually covered with snow. The inland of Alaska is so beautiful! Hopefully someday we will be back again for the Aleutian Islands.

Here are the 2014 pictures:

Happy traveling!
Cherthor is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2014, 06:12 PM
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Nice report. How great that you included both trips. We so enjoyed our time on the Kenai Peninsula and in Denali last summer. We would love to take an Alaskan Cruise one day. Thanks for posting. Fodors needs more Alaska trip reports.

I'll have to check out your photos.
LindainOhio is offline  
Old Jun 25th, 2014, 08:51 AM
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Thank you for this detailed trip report. I am planning a 3-generation trip to Alaska for next summer and all the little details help so much with my planning.
sharona is offline  
Old Jun 27th, 2014, 06:13 PM
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Thanks for both the rat rip reports. If you were to return, which type of trip would you take?
emalloy is offline  
Old Jun 28th, 2014, 03:40 AM
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To me, cruise is good for family. I prefer road trip as I like to hike. Mainland Alaska is very beautiful with all these snow capped mountains. I will return to Alaska for a road trip in a heart beat.
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 09:17 PM
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Thanks for your report! My husband and I considering an Alaskan cruise in August but have mixed feelings about being confined to the ship and not getting a chance to really see / experience the sights. However, from your trip report, it sounded like it was a good mix of relaxation and some hiking and sightseeing.

While you do recommend NCL, do you have any tips for the type of ship, room or if the 7 day trip was sufficient? We're new to cruising. Thanks!
travelgo7 is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2014, 03:27 PM
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As I had mentioned above, it was our first cruise trip, so we do not have any idea what other cruise would offer compared to NCL. We did quite an extensive search before we made the decision using NCL.

We also like the ports of call and wanted to flew into Vancouver, and flew back from Anchorage, so that we got to see Hubbard Glacier. We had balcony stateroom since we wanted to have a view of the ocean. For us, to each of his own, a seven-day cruise was a pretty long time on the ship.
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