Alaskan Adventure - by sea and land

July 06, 2015  •  2 Comments

Embarkation - OverviewEmbarkation - Overview Photos above Clockwise: Vancouver from the water, humpback whales, Alaskan Husky sled dogs and Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay.


I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Alaska and enjoy a 7 day cruise and 3 day land trip with my family.  I will spend the next couple of weeks sharing not only photos from the trip but also a review of the cruise and tours in case anyone has wondered what it's like to cruise in Alaska.  This was both our first cruise and our first trip to Alaska.  We were not sure what to expect or if cruising really fit our vacation style which tends to be more free flowing and exploratory rather than scheduled with lots of formal tours.  More on that later but in short I enjoyed the cruise but there were times I wished I could explore more off the main path and other times I wished I had more time in a spot to really explore.

This trip was a Christmas from my mom and I traveled with my husband and my 15 year old son.  We took the Princess Cruises Denali Explorer which was a 7 day cruise from Vancouver to Whittier and then a three day land excursion.  See number 10 if you click through the link.  The schedule was as follows and we did excursions/tours as listed at the various ports.

  • Embarkation from Vancouver
  • Day at Sea
  • Ketchikan - Duck tour
  • Juneau - Whale viewing and Menendall Glacier
  • Skagway - Mushers Dog Sled Camp
  • Scenic Cruising in Glacier Bay
  • Scenic Cruising in College Fiord
  • Disembark in Whittier and train to Talkeetna.  Stay at Mt. McKinley Lodge
  • Bus to Denali (north part of park) and tour of Denali
  • Bus to Fairbanks and Riverboat cruise

We also stayed a night in Vancouver and an extra night in Fairbanks.  I definitely liked arriving a day before the cruise emarked.  Otherwise I'd have worried about delays with the flight.

Our room was a mini-suite (I think that's what it was called.  It had an area with the bed and a tv, then space with a pullout couch and a tv and the best part . . . our very own balcony with a clear view.  It was basically one room with all of that.  There was no great divider between the two sections.  Total square feet was just over 300 I think.  The bathroom/closet area was bigger than I had expected.

The ship was big.  It had a few outdoor pools, an indoor pool, an adult only pool, a spa and gym, all sorts of restaurants, several theaters and lounges, bars, a casino and more.  My son met lots of other teenagers and we hardly saw him on the ship which meant he was having more fun than he would have had with us adults.

Upon boarding the ship and settling into our room we went exploring the ship.  There were Princess employees everywhere selling soda passes, coffee cards and drink passes.  While the food is pretty much all included, drinks are not.  My husband and son each got a soda pass allowing them unlimited sodas and other drinks (not coffee or teas though).  I got myself a coffee card.  We all passed on the drink cards but if you plan on drinking much it is probably worth it.

The people from the spa were working hard to promote their 10-20-30 special.  Now, I had reserved for our "at sea" day a massage, a fancy pedicure and a basic manicure.  They were all over me suggesting I upgrade the manicure and combine with the pedicure so it would be a "specialty service" and then I just need to add a facial and I can get 10% off the first treatment, 20% off the second and 30% off the third.  This sounds all fine and good but when you do the math the changes still amounted to around $200 more than my original setup of treatments I actually wanted.  So I had the conversation with 3 or 4 people and said No, No, No to the changes.  I'll review the spa in my next post where I talk about our "at sea" day.

I did take the tour of the spa and gym because I really wanted to know the class schedule so I could figure out my workouts for the time on board at least.  After just over a month of Crossfit I did not want to just sit for two weeks straight.  They had several classes and signup sheets for each.  They varied in price.  Classes included:

  • Body Sculpt Boot Camp - 4 sessions - this didn't fill so it didn't run
  • TRX - 3 sessions (all on the non-port days so I chose this as it was strength work and didn't conflict with a tour like Boot Camp)
  • Pilates - this didn't fill so it didn't run
  • Yoga

I didn't sign up that day as I wanted to compare the schedules to my excursion schedule and pick one where I wouldn't miss any classes.  I signed up the next morning when I went to the first TRX class.  I do NOT recommend this. Sign up early if you want in.  They almost couldn't accommodate me but luckily there was a no-show.  The ship also had free Zumba classes in one of the lounges on the other side of the boat.  I went to two of those in addition to my TRX classes and found them fun.

Last, the food was good and plentiful though my husband felt it could use more seasoning.  He likes things spicy.  There was a buffet where we at this first night.  We also had a table assignment for dinners in our dining room (traditional cruise dining) and we ate there three nights.  There were two formal nights which we skipped because we aren't fancy.  And there were two higher end restaurants, a good sit down pizza place, and several fast places for burgers, pizza by the slice, ice cream and more.

That summarizes the ship and our first day.  I'll post separate for each of the following.  Posts reviewing the cruise and sharing our adventures will be on Monday and Wednesday until I've run out of things to say. :-)

  • Day 1 - At Sea - the TRX class, the spa, more general cruise stuff, Pizza.
  • Day 2 - Ketchikan - bald eagles, the town, the duck tour which was not a tour where you see lots of ducks . . . I saw no ducks on this tour.
  • Day 3 - Juneau - Whales, whales, more whales and a glacier.
  • Day 4 - Skagway - Sled dogs, puppies . . . wait, did I say puppies?  Yes there were puppies.
  • Day 5 - Glacier Bay - Glaciers.
  • Day 6 - College Fjord - More glaciers.  Sorry if it gets redundant.
  • Day 7 - We train it to Talkeetna and then see Mt. McKinnley.
  • Day 8 - Denali Park - where I longed for another day.
  • Day 9 and on - Fairbanks - I didn't take a lot of pics here but I have a few.
  • Finally - would I do it again?

Pictures not in these posts are already posted @theshutterbugeye on Instagram. 

I hope you enjoy these or find them useful.  If you do, comment.  Those who comment on all the posts will get a special Alaska Free texture pack.  They are from glaciers (yep, redundant) and rock carved out by glaciers.  So comment on each post to get the link at the end and be sure to include an e-mail in your last comment.









Diane K. Miller, Naperville Portrait Photography
Thanks for visiting. :-) I'm glad that you are enjoying it.
Nice and interesting read. I love travel stories.
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