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funmobl

First time on Alaska cruise...need suggestions

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This will be our first cruise to Alaska and I would like some suggestions on what we should do at each port.  We will be going with 2 other couples, leaving from Vancouver on May 20 ( I hope we picked a good month) on the Coral Princess.  Our ports are Icy Straight Point, Skagway and Juneau.   We are also taking the additional land package, spending 1 night in Mt. McKinley lodge, 2 nights in Denali lodge and 1 night in Fairbanks.  From my brief research it sounds like we should do the White Pass railroad up and bus or van back in Skagway,  a hike or something to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau and maybe whale watching in ISP.  I know a lot of you on this board have been to Alaska several times so I'm anxious to hear what suggestions you have.  Thanks for your help.

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25 minutes ago, funmobl said:

This will be our first cruise to Alaska and I would like some suggestions on what we should do at each port.  We will be going with 2 other couples, leaving from Vancouver on May 20 ( I hope we picked a good month) on the Coral Princess.  Our ports are Icy Straight Point, Skagway and Juneau.   We are also taking the additional land package, spending 1 night in Mt. McKinley lodge, 2 nights in Denali lodge and 1 night in Fairbanks.  From my brief research it sounds like we should do the White Pass railroad up and bus or van back in Skagway,  a hike or something to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau and maybe whale watching in ISP.  I know a lot of you on this board have been to Alaska several times so I'm anxious to hear what suggestions you have.  Thanks for your help.

ABSOLUTELY agree on the White Pass railway out of Skagway. It was an amazing trip and we will definitely be doing it again on our next Alaska trip. We did the long one, train from Skagway all the way into the Yukon, then bus back.   Amazing.....

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Alaska is fabulous! You will find much more information and details regarding tours on the Alaska

board. It is very informative! As far as the time of year; when you go is the best time. There is no pinpointing

the best time of year there. It is beautiful!

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The Alaska board is listed under Ports of Call.

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Absolutely do the White Pass Railroad! The scenery is amazing. We also did the train up and a bus down. Our excursion included a marvelous lunch at a small organic farm.  We did a bus tour up to Mendenhall (because our helicopter tour was canceled due to weather).  It turned our to be a great choice!  We loved hiking down to Nugget Falls at Mendenhall (in the pouring rain!).  It’s about 25 minutes each way and we spent time at the lake at the base of the Mendenhall glacier! Don’t miss walking around the Mendenhall Park’s  grounds  - especially the bridge that crosses a stream with salmon swimming under!  And of course wear layers with a waterproof coat on top.  And our umbrellas came in very handy!

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Pack some gloves and clothes you can layer.  You can take a local bus to the Mendenhall glacier.  We had Halibut pizza in ISP and I'm still dreaming about it.  You can walk into town but there is a little bus if you are short of time.

If you have time in Juneau, the Mt Roberts Tram is worth a trip.  The view from up top is spectacular.

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2 hours ago, wcflats said:

Heavy jacket and umbrella

I much prefer layers and waterproof outer layer. Umbrellas take up one hand plus they tend to poke others while walking on the busy streets in the ports.

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Most likely in Denali you have the Natural History tour. This is a short tour that does not go very far into the park and emphasizes history and culture. Most people go to Denali for scenery and Wildlife. You would be best to cancel the Natural History tour and get a refund. Then book independently the transit shuttle bus into the park to eielson Visitor Center. That will cost less than the price of the Natural History tour. With two nights at Denali that should work perfectly.

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I agree with the train/bus back in Skagway; a trip out to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau (and don't forget to stop at the Red Dog Saloon before reboarding the ship - touristy but fun); and, most importantly, the transit shuttle bus offered by Denali Park out to the visitor center. Sit on the left side of the bus.  At Mt. McKinley lodge we took a float trip down the river and nearly froze to death...and that was in August.

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7 hours ago, funmobl said:

From my brief research it sounds like we should do the White Pass railroad up and bus or van back in Skagway,  a hike or something to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau and maybe whale watching in ISP.  

Yes you have it, spot on. The whales should be very active because they are so happy to be back in food-rich northern waters after spending the winter in Hawaii. (I may anthropomorphize a little, but they sure look happy to me!)

 

Do not eat at the Red Dog. If you want to eat local in Juneau, head into town and ask at a gift or other store where you might be shopping, for their recommendation. Eat at Skagway or Klondike Brewing Companies, or Gold Digger Mine & Dine in Skagway. (I always thought we had eaten at Skagway Brewing Company in 2018, but looking at Google Maps it was Gold Digger -- because it was right near Aurora Yarns!) There is also a brewery in ISP, but I have not been there personally. 

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We enjoyed renting a car in Skagway instead of taking the train. It was considerably less expensive and we weren't stuck on a timetable, other than getting back to the ship in time. The drive along the Klondike Highway is spectacular. 

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So many good ideas.  We are meeting with the 2 other couples this weekend and I am glad that I have some trip ideas for them.  Thank You

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By the way, we are from Michigan so cold, wet weather won't bother us.  Our winters are terrible but the other three seasons make up for it.

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This is a great itinerary, we loved Vancouver for pre cruise. Also it is the only itinerary that gets to Juneau early enough to take small boat excursion to Tracy Arm - icebergs at eye level ! See adventureboundalaska.com.

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Agree with no umbrellas use a pancho instead.  The only time so far we've done Alaska we took the attitude "let's do it right" since we're here may not get back.....took a helicopter glacier landing while in Juneau.....it was so worth doing.  White Pass railway is good in Skagway.  Hope you do have a balcony as this is when you really want one the experience is amazing.

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We have been to Alaska twice the end of May. Good walking shoes or hiking boots (waterproof) and dress in layers. Hat or hood in case it is a little rainy. We did have a few days get into the upper 50's and low 60's with overnight lows in the upper 20's. While on the ship definitely layer up while outside watching the glaciers. Also gloves wouldn't be out of the question. We did the White Pass railroad excursion, but we took the bus first and the train back.

Are you doing the land portion before or after the cruise? 

Have fun.

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17 hours ago, frugaltravel said:

I much prefer layers and waterproof outer layer. Umbrellas take up one hand plus they tend to poke others while walking on the busy streets in the ports.

THIS !!! - it's why umbrella's have been banned in certain venues in the crowds

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Check out  this by googling: Discount books in Alaska  .Many discounts are avilable for tours ie  .you can actually see all the discounts 

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14 hours ago, geoherb said:

We enjoyed renting a car in Skagway instead of taking the train. It was considerably less expensive and we weren't stuck on a timetable, other than getting back to the ship in time. The drive along the Klondike Highway is spectacular. 

I've done both the White Cross and Yukon RR and the drive.  Both are spectacular.  Last year I rented a car for the 2nd time (was traveling with my mobility challenged father in law) and we went all the way to White Horse!  (See pics and vids in youtube links below:) Also Ketchikan whales while dining at a buddies, Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls, and lots of antics from once we got to the big part of the state!  Similar things in the link in my signature from 2010 aboard the Sapphire Princess when our kids showed up on the ship, sending my wife into shock!

 

For about the same dough as the Skagway Train you could do the Phillips 26 Glacier Tour in Whittier (there is a 2016 Alaska video on my youtube channel), which is beyond spectacular. 

 

 

 

 

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On the ship, get a cabin on the port side.  If you can, get a table for two in the MDR up against a big window (IIRC, only the 2s were at the big windows), hooded rain jacket and fleece for the glaciers, waterproof camera if it's raining; if you don't have a balcony, be early for a spot when you pull near the glaciers.

 

 

glacier.jpg

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Glacier wind for whale watching in ISP, smaller boats, great service.

When I was there this May it was about 45-50 outside and sunny but out on the water the water temp is about 42 and the wind and spray make it cold. I went into town to eat after and then when I walked back it started raining and got pretty chilly. This place had a  great Salmon sandwich.

 

 

20190516_142800.jpg

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In Skagway have used Chilkoot Tours several times for the White Pass van up/train down excursion - great experience!  If you have time and inclination, we usually include a tour of the Alaska Brewing Company facility in Juneau - just sign up for their van at their store.  Coral is a wonderful ship for Alaska with a broad Promenade deck encircling the ship, public viewing balconies at the aft of the ship, great library and game room accommodations with large windows for good viewing.  We also love that Horizon Court is at the bow of the ship.

 

Have a wonderful time cruising with pals to this wondrous region!

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Thank You all so much for these great suggestions.  We do have a balcony room on the port side and the cruise is first and then the land portion.  I'm really looking forward  going to Denali NP, but it may be too early in the season for us to get very far on the main road through the park.  

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