Dad's Alaskan dream...last wish.

Old Jun 10th, 2008, 08:51 AM
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Dad's Alaskan dream...last wish.

Hi.

This is my first post here, I hope it isn't out of line.

My Dad, who is 74 now, has always said the one place he would like to see in his lifetime, is Alaska. Being a responsible father of seven children, he has not yet been able to find the time or resources to be able to do it.

Two months ago, he was diagnosed with advanced stages of terminal Cancer. Though quite thin and weak, he has made it through surgery to remove some of it, and is now taking Chemotherapy, in hopes of slowing down the invasion of the rest of it, which is inoperable.

I'd like to find a way to help him realize his lifelong dream. My concerns are trying to get him the most out of a trip to Alaska without over taxing him, so he'll be able to enjoy it.

It seems like a cruise might be calm enough, but would he be able to see enough. One person said the only way to really see Alaska is by rail, but I worry about the constant jostling and boarding and unboarding the train. A driving tour is simply not an option, since niether he, nor my mother would be able to do it.

Any advice out there as to what might work, and what part of Alaska would be the best for him to try to see?

Thanks in advance,

Barb
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 09:51 AM
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Look into a small boat cruise of the Inside Passage. Cruise West is one. They are expensive, but you see so much and the ships only hold about 100 people so there aren't crowds to contend with.

There are a couple of other companies.

http://www.alaskacruises.com/cruises...st_cruises.asp
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 10:28 AM
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Hi Barb -

I also think that a cruise may be the best option, especially since he can retire to his room if he needs a nice rest.

You may want to post this on the cruise forum as well.

Good luck to you in your planning - I love that you are doing this trip.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 11:49 AM
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My mother-in-law, age 72, took one of the Cruise West tours in Alaska last summer. She said she saw a lot being on the smaller ship and really enjoyed it.

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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 12:25 PM
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We just returned from Alaskan Cruise (inside passage) on Diamond Princess. I think if you were able to get a balcony stateroom your dad would be just fine. My mom has emphysema and I found myself thinking that once we made it on the ship she would be fine. We were on the starboard side and had plenty of nice views almost all the time (we were sailing northbound from Vancouver to Whittier.) I hope that you are able to pull this off for your dad. It was one of the most beautiful trips I've ever taken!
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 02:21 PM
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Inside Passage Cruise.
Get off Whittier or Seward.
Take train to Denali.
Take bus back to Anchorage.
Fly home.
If your Dad can make it through Chemo, he can do this.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 02:40 PM
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Denali would be way too taxing, as there is no way to see the park itself without riding a bus. The transfers getting there and back would also be tough.

The Inside Passage cruise is beautiful and rewarding, especially if you can include Glacier Bay. I think this would be way the best option for someone like your dad.

There are many Alaskas---Southeast, the Kenai Peninsula, the Interior, the Arctic. Each is beautiful in its own way, but I think many people find the coastal areas, with fjords, mountians, forests, glaciers dropping into the sea, and lots of wildlife, stunningly beautiful.

Whoever told you that the "only way to see Alaska is by rail" has a very narrow view. I could say the only way to see it is on foot, or by car, or by dogsled, or on skis---all of which I have done. But none of those would be appropriate for your father.

A cruise, on the other hand, is appropriate, and will enable him to realize his dream.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 03:17 PM
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I too think a cruise is the best option, as much for your comfort as for his. The cruise lines are very familiar with elderly or infirm passengers, and the ability to unpack once, sleep or eat when you feel like it, enjoy comfortable quarters and have the the scenery come to you, all are tailor-made for folks like your dad. Pick a cruise like the Princess one that goes from Vancouver through the Inside Passage to Glacier Bay, then north up to College Inlet for more tidewater glaciers, then ashore at Whittier (a short bus or train ride into Anchorage.)

Instead of Denali, which as enzian points out involves way too much time in a bus, and too low a probability of even seeing the mountain, maybe pop for a flightseeing trip from Lake Hood in Anchorage on a float plane up and over the Chugach Mountains and Cook Inlet. It would just be for an hour or two, but would provide a stunning viewpoint of some real wilderness without foregoing any of the creature comforts.

Good on 'ya for doing this.

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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 05:57 PM
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As a travel nurse consultant and someone who has medivaced people all over the world I'd say check with his MD first and then if get the ok...

Be sure to check out if an MD is aboard AND that they speak fluent English (or whatever primary language you speak in your family.)

Also mk sure you have a list of current meds and a receent medical history to include major diagnoses and treatments as well as name and tele fax number of current MDs and Advance Directive.

Also I would make sure you purchase trip cancelation ins.

Check with ins co on paymnet of Ship MD medivac (MEdicare doe not pay for out of US medcial care except in very rare circumstances)

Also purchase travel medical ins and BE SURE it pays to air medivac off the ship and to nearest medical hospital as well as repatriate to home.


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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 06:30 PM
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One other consideration is your starting point. If you must add a cross-country trip as well, for example, coming from the east coast or Florida, that would also figure into the equation. Your post is a good, albeit sad, reminder to all of us not to put off that which we really want to do. Best wishes to all of you.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 06:56 PM
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As a child who lost her father to cancer. I know that he has said that this has always been his dream..... but please ask him if this is what he really wants to do given he has terminal cancer. Dreams and wishes change with time and situation. My father just wanted to be at the cabin with family...

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Old Jun 11th, 2008, 04:04 AM
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hope this gets posted in the right spot.

I read all the replies to my inital posting about my Dad's Alaskan Dream.

I just have to say I'm impressed, and moved that you all shared such good information that will help with the Alaskan trip planning...that is after I check with the Dr. to see if it is okay.

It sounds like there are some other things I have to look into more carefully too, besides the Alaskan part...the insurance and med stuff...

Thanks again, for everything.

Barb
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Old Jun 11th, 2008, 07:43 AM
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Hi Barb: That's so awesome that you want to make his dream come true.

I agree. Lots of good advice here. Excellent advice on purchasing insurance (especially for medical evacuation-chartered flight to a hospital, and unexpected last minute cancellation) for the trip. It'll probably cost around $150 for the insurance but it's well worth it. I'd like to give you a referral. I used these people and they were great:

http://www.insuremytrip.com/service-1000-0-0-43.html

I spoke with a representative who helped me choose the right package. Insuremytrip.com represents many insurance companies which will give you a broad selection of policies to choose from, which should meet your needs. Most of the policies require that you purchase the insurance policy within a day or two of booking your trip.

I'll never forget a conversation I had with a woman whose husband suddenly fell ill somewhere in Europe. After he spent a couple of weeks in a foreign hospital, he passed away. It was so difficult for her to have to deal with the unexpected illness, the inability to pay for a private flight home to get him to his own doctor, and after his passing to have to find a way to have his remains flown home. She talked about the importance of travel insurance and wished she had known about it and purchased some.

I hope your dad and his doctor think that he is strong enough to make the trip. Everyone I have ever spoken to regarding Alaskan cruises have RAVED about it. Everyone. I hope you'll go with him on the trip. It would make for such a great time. Best wishes.







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Old Jun 11th, 2008, 08:26 AM
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Barb,
I say go for it! You can ask the Dr.'s opinion, but if your Dad really wants to do this, you don't need his Dr.'s permission. A cruise up the Inside Passage is the only way to see that part of Alaska and is life-changing. You can choose whether to go ashore based on how he's feeling that day-if he enjoys the cruise experience he may just want to stay onboard. The ships are completely accessible, so if her needs a wheelchair even part time, he can still roll out to deck to see Glacier Bay, or sit in the theater listening to the naturalist. If he's feeling good the day of Skagway, you can take the little train up the gold trail to get a little taste of off-water Alaska.
Enjoy!
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Old Jun 11th, 2008, 05:15 PM
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Yes, my dear, go for it if your father wants it.

But, please do not put him on one of those huge ships, even with a balcony cabin. On a small ship there will be so much more flexibility and peace for him without the crowds and having to take a tender if he wants to go into port. The meals are excellent and a good time to make new friends.

And the small ships get up close and personal with the wildlife, both the whales and the wildlife on shore. The ship's captain has the flexibility to stay in one place, in one of the bays, near a calving glacier, or when the whales are acting up, without having to keep a large ship's inflexible schedule.


The small ships dock right by the city (well, they are really towns) and getting on and off is easy. There are some shore excursions, most of them free, if he feels up to seeing the Raptor Center in Sitka where they rescue injured birds like bald eagles. There are a couple of folk dances, one by children in the Norweigan colony town, etc.

You get to know the staff and the other passengers. It is a great experience.

I know it is a LOT more expensive. See if you can get some help if it costs too much. It is SO worth it.

It was one of my best trips and we have been all over Europe, South America, Hawaii, Central America. And mainland Alaska. We took a three-week European river cruise trip from Bucharest to Amsterdam, also on a small boat, and this 7 day trip was actually better.

Bless you and good luck.
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Old Jun 12th, 2008, 06:52 AM
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You've gotten excellent advice. I would encourage you to ask a travel agent who is a cruise specialist to assist you. They can easily check the best deal and best ship for your mom and dad and provide advice on insurance. They also may have access to group space and other specials or promotions. They can do all the planning and probably save you money. Be sure to book early, now is the best time to book for 2009. If you don't go with the small ship, I recommend Princess. They have an excellent special needs desk and would take good care of your dad. Best of luck!
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Old Jun 12th, 2008, 06:54 AM
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I would recommend Holland America's flagship the Amsterdam. We were very impressed with the ship, plus it is smaller than most ships. Cruise West's trip is wonderful I suspect, but do they have an infirmary? Do they have elevators etc? I know they are expensive and that can add up if you have lots of family going along. Holland American is more affordable and Tracy Arm is actually nicer than Glacier Bay I think. We loved being out on the deck with our blankets and the stewards serving hot pea soup as the lovely scenery passed. Their library with comfy lounge chairs and wonderful headphones and music selections is another thing dad could enjoy.
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Old Jun 12th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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Barb:

This is such a wonderful thing you are doing for your dad. On Tuesday, I actually booked a cruise on Cruise West for my grandfather (age 91), my parents (ages 58 and 54), my brother (age 25), and my husband and me (ages 29). We wanted something that all of us could enjoy, that wouldn't tax my grandfather too much, but there would be enough to see and do for us younger folks. Cruise West was the only one that fit our tight schedule, but after talking to their customer service people, I think it is the right option for my mobile but still elderly grandfather. I would highly recommend that you call them, because their customer service is fantastic --- the woman I spoke to spent almost an hour with me as I asked her miscellaneous questions ranging from whether they will accomodate vegetarians to motion sickness on the ship.
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Old Jun 12th, 2008, 09:40 AM
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My husband and I have taken the Holland America cruise to Alaska 5 times since 1997. Several times was roundtrip out of Vancouver and several were roundtrip out of Seattle. We have never gone inland, because that would require more days on vacation than we can get at one time; flying out of Florida we always include an overnight stay the day before the sailing. When we retire, we will take the full trip inland; we're in our 50's. We were upgraded the very first cruise from a mini-suite to a full suite and were we ever spoiled. We now only book suites on the left side of the ship, near the middle of the ship (we book almost a year in advance so we can get the prime suite that we like.) You don't want to book at the rear as the noise from the anchor is annoying; you want to book mid-ship because of the stability (nausea concerns.) If nausea is a huge concern, you would want to book lower floors, as the lower you go the less rocking you will feel. However, these ships are huge and the cruise to Alaska is mostly inside passages (hence the name) so the water is always tranquil. I have not been on the smaller ships like Cruise West, but they would give you the best views of wildlife and can get closer than the big ships. They are more intimate, if getting to know other passengers is what you like. I read most of the posts here and agree with what has been said. When we went the 1st time we thought it was a once in a lifetime thing, so we did ALL the excursions. However, Alaska hooked our hearts and we went back 2 years later and 3 more times since then. We always book the 2nd sailing of the season in May. Rates are low and they have the kinks worked out from the 1st trip (they come to Alaska from Hawaii sailings.) We use a travel agent that is in a network of many other travel agencies, and have gotten the best monetary deals with perks from them. The 1st time, we used AAA, and we paid through the nose, because we did not know better. One of the favorite pastimes of some cruisers is to compare costs of their and your trip. We felt like idiots that we paid nearly brochure prices the 1st time, but we gained knowledge how to do it again less expensively. You are very INTELLIGENT asking for advice from a travel forum before making plans. Those that have gone before are the best resource for information. God bless you and your Dad, this is such a wonderful thing to do for him. Never put off your grandest desires, life is so short and unpredictable. BTW, I used the doctor once, Holland America sailing in Caribbean (severe migraine.) After 2 hours of being sick in the infirmary with the nurse, the doctor FINALLY showed up and talked to me for almost another hour before he would do anything to help. Then I was injected with a painkiller and slept for 12 hours. The doctor visit was less than $150 and my insurance covered it when I got home.THAT IS IMPORTANT - GET TRAVEL INSURANCE - NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT IT. The cost of insurance should be considered part of the trip expense - never leave home without it.
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Old Jun 12th, 2008, 02:13 PM
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My husband and I took his 84-year-old father to Alaska as an early 85th birthday present. He had congestive heart failure and Alaska was one of two states he hadn't been to. We chose a one-week Holland America cruise, which was not the way my husband and I would travel again, but just right for dad-in-law. There were other people on board in worse shape. He saw enough to make him happy (couldn't walk too much, didn't want to get cold). We did low-key shore excursions and watched a lot of scenery from inside the ship.
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