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Viking Invades Alaska!

Pushka

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With just on a week to go I feel brave enough to say we are off to Alaska. Not to rehash but we, well, I, planned an intricate itinerary 3 years ago for Alaska to celebrate my Zero birthday but which had to be canned a couple of months out due to a health issue. I had already complied my travel folder which actually was useful in the sense I could go through each hotel, flight, cruise, excursion etc in order as I cancelled each one of them. Insurance on the credit card paid any non cancellable items. Enuf.

This trip fulfils the lengthiest bucket list trip I can remember. I have always wanted to go to Alaska. Now, *one* of us hates the cold so I had to mollify the *one* which I’ve done by adding in a trip staying on the rim of the Grand Canyon, then a week on Waikiki for the *one* to thaw. We did go to the Grand Canyon in 1995 with the kids in December. At a petrol station on the way I saw some white stuff falling onto our shoulders. God, we’ve all come down with dandruff! Nup. It was starting to snow. By the time we reached the Canyon proper it was a white out. The boys and I loved it. The *one* - not so much and somehow sitting in an IMAX theatre as a consolation had quite a contrary effect on the temper.

So, the plan.

Depart Adelaide through to Sydney next Monday then only a short stay in F lounge then on to San Francisco. Booked on an Award flight in J. Travelling in the Jumbo and not being a fan of the top section as we find it claustrophobic, we nabbed seats in row 5. We don’t need to sit together and these are the prize seats for solo travellers, like us!

Staying in SFO for four nights then winging on AA into Flagstaff via Phoenix from Oakland airport. And here I shall stop as the IPad battery is about to go flat. I really need to plan better than this.
 

Pushka

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Love Alaska - hoping you have the most amazing time and looking forward to your updates!
Well Denali, sadly the trip originally planned had a flightseeing flight landing on or near (can’t remember which) your namesake, Denali. Sadly we had to change as I didn’t feel like I can risk the interiors of Alaska this time.

I’m on the phone now.

Also, everyone’s contribution here is very welcome. Please post away.
 

LadyC

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I can see a lot of gags running about the *one* in this report! Glad your health is better and that you are able to start ticking off these bucket list items. It means you can make room for some more then!
 

Pushka

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I can see a lot of gags running about the *one* in this report! Glad your health is better and that you are able to start ticking off these bucket list items. It means you can make room for some more then!
Oh yeah. Egypt is next on “our” bucket list.

So picking up. Where was I? Grand Canyon. We are staying on the rim. Apparently 200 metres from the unfenced edge. Must watch the alcohol consumption.

It was planned for Mr P (morphed from the *one*) to undertake a three day hike. Me? Mm. Shopping. Sadly Trump’s shut down in January and the tour company’s mismanagement meant that they did not get a licence to travel on the dates we had booked with them. They did say they had ‘good news’ - they could offer him dates 3 weeks earlier. This was despite me saying almost a year ago and paying the deposit that we only had a five day window. I did ask them ‘what was the good news’. Couldn’t help myself. After 3 months they finally refunded it. But, we already had flights booked. Frantic reorganisation of accommodation as where I was staying during the hike was a 2 hour drive to the Canyon. But snagged a great deal - must be just off season - on the rim.
 

Pushka

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We are in the Grand Canyon on Election Day. That works for us. I’ve pre voted and have sorted MrP to do a postal vote. Tick.

Three nights on the GC with a one night pre and post in Flagstaff. Which is, in the middle of the desert. Ok. Can’t wait to see what is on offer for breakfast. And do you want fries with that? I’m guessing they don’t have smashed avo and poached eggs, lightly done on rye.

AA of course changed our well organised flights in February and had a window of 35 minutes into Phoenix and on to Vancouver. Contacted AA ASAP and the connections not great. Super long or super short. Eventually decided upon super long as I realised we had access to AA lounges but we will be there for a few hours before our flight to Vancouver. I asked the AA person and she said she wasn’t sure, then she saw we were Emerald and gosh, everything suddenly got a whole lot easier.
 

Pushka

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Vancouver. We pick up our cruise in Vancouver after a 4 night stay there. Our first trip to Vancouver. And we are looking forward to seeing this beautiful city. Plan on the usuals of lots of walking but also booked a tour of Capilano bridge and the more distant area. Sadly no Butchart Gardens.

Then - Viking!

Our itinerary.
A3E785AB-DADF-4B2E-B730-CE96BB56E9EB.jpeg

Why Viking? We were originally booked on Princess and extending that with interior Alaska. Princess offers just a 7 day cruise - not long enough - but it does have Glacier Bay and the usual big ports. My brother and sil are not cruise people but they love Viking. They rave about the line both river and ocean. Ocean carries just 900 passengers. We also wanted a smaller ship that went to smaller less navigable ports. Hello Viking.

We also want to go to Sitka. Few cruise lines go there. Viking has only been in the ocean category for around four years and is already been voted as the worlds best cruise line. Impressive.

What are the good things about Viking? No one under 21 years. No art auctions. No photographers. No casinos. Alcohol is included with all meals and barista coffees 24/7. No extra payments for the specialty restaurants. Included excursions in every port. But the overwhelming reaction from travellers is that Viking anticipates your every need. Sounds too good to be true.
 

tgh

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You may not want to know, but have you checked the port booking for each day ?
We arrived at one of the main ports in our little rowboat ( Silver Shadow), to find a behemoth unloading thousands.
It was quite entertaining to watch a queue hundreds of metres long to re-board while we just wandered on and off at our leisure
 

Pushka

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You may not want to know, but have you checked the port booking for each day ?
We arrived at one of the main ports in our little rowboat ( Silver Shadow), to find a behemoth unloading thousands.
It was quite entertaining to watch a queue hundreds of metres long to re-board while we just wandered on and off at our leisure
Funny you should say that. The one issue about being on Viking and as a newcomer to Alaska is exactly this issue. Oasis ? is coming to Alaska this season, 5000 in one ship. Thankfully not while we are there. To be continued.
 

VPS

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Looking forward to this. My Celebrity Alaska cruise was amazing unlike my meal in Flagstaff (in fact the meals in general the week I was driving around the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce were pretty ordinary)

Have a great time
 

Pushka

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Looking forward to this. My Celebrity Alaska cruise was amazing unlike my meal in Flagstaff (in fact the meals in general the week I was driving around the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce were pretty ordinary)

Have a great time
We are thinking ‘rustic’.
 

VPS

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I think it was the lack of fresh fruit, salad and vegetables and so many carbs in any meal. But I did stop at one little town and they made me a fresh sandwich with lovely grainy bread with fresh salad - still remember that.
 

Denali

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Vancouver. We pick up our cruise in Vancouver after a 4 night stay there. Our first trip to Vancouver. And we are looking forward to seeing this beautiful city. Plan on the usuals of lots of walking but also booked a tour of Capilano bridge and the more distant area. Sadly no Butchart Gardens.

Then - Viking!

Our itinerary.
View attachment 162207

Why Viking? We were originally booked on Princess and extending that with interior Alaska. Princess offers just a 7 day cruise - not long enough - but it does have Glacier Bay and the usual big ports. My brother and sil are not cruise people but they love Viking. They rave about the line both river and ocean. Ocean carries just 900 passengers. We also wanted a smaller ship that went to smaller less navigable ports. Hello Viking.

We also want to go to Sitka. Few cruise lines go there. Viking has only been in the ocean category for around four years and is already been voted as the worlds best cruise line. Impressive.

What are the good things about Viking? No one under 21 years. No art auctions. No photographers. No casinos. Alcohol is included with all meals and barista coffees 24/7. No extra payments for the specialty restaurants. Included excursions in every port. But the overwhelming reaction from travellers is that Viking anticipates your every need. Sounds too good to be true.
This brings back lots of memories from my trip in '97, although I also spent 3 weeks driving/sleeping in tents. Wonder how different it is now.
 

Pushka

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I think it was the lack of fresh fruit, salad and vegetables and so many carbs in any meal. But I did stop at one little town and they made me a fresh sandwich with lovely grainy bread with fresh salad - still remember that.
Thankfully Viking is known for its wonderful food. Fresh fruits etc.
Now, where was I. The cruise. Viking does things differently. It’s owner - Torstein Hagen - Wikipedia - established the River fleet in 1997. It remains a family company and in 2015 it branched into Ocean Cruising. It now has many many river and Ocean ships and when we were in Budapest it was like Viking ‘owned’ the city. They run their own branded fleet of excursion buses in ports.

We are on the Orion which was launched just last year by a female astronaut so it’s pretty new. All the fleet are the same with just minor improvements.

They don’t release excursions until 107 days out for the person in the Owners suite, then every 10 days as you work your way down the cabin categories, more people can book them. We were second last cab off the rank, so we had access at 77 days. By then several of the excursions were already booked out. We had read this can happen so I booked my Must See excursions with private vendors. Besides, I pretty much loathe the huge bus tours. Remember @love_the_life the woman who arrived late to the bus we took in KL and got the last seat down the back then she came to the tour guide and wanted to sit there because her window was dirty and she couldn’t take photos? And there’s always the people who hold the bus up and are never back on time. Then the relentless toilet breaks.

So on the Excursions list.

1. In Ketchikan as we are fans of The Greatest Catch, we are going on one of their boats, Aleutian Warrior and watching them do their trawl and catch. It sounds a bit corny but it gets rave reviews and great photo opps of the large birds of prey as they are fed. This is actually a ship excursion but does not require a bus trip to get there. I could have booked it privately but it doesn’t finish until just before we depart and as we are tendered I knew we would be safely back to the ship in time. It was the same price either way.

2. Sitka. We have booked a small boat private excursion to see the wildlife including bears if they are out, humpback whales, sea otters eagles and so on.

3. Juneau. A biggie. We have privately booked a helicopter tour to the Mendenhall Glacier and going to a Mushers camp. Play with the husky puppies. The ship was charging an additional $250 pp for the exact same excursion. Nope.

4. Skagway. This port usually involves the train into Klondike. We’ve decided to take it easy this time, and instead have a charter flight over the Glacier Bay and the five or six glaciers.

5. Icy Strait Point. This point is operated by the Inuit and it is not a commercial port for other enterprises so it’s regarded as unspoilt. Having said that, it has the largest or highest or longest (?) zip line in the world. We aren’t doing that. But we have chartered a 6 person boat and scouring the water for bears, whales and dolphins. We will be there at the time when most of the whales have just completed their migration and so they are hungry which means they gather round and bubble feed, breach etc etc. ISP is known for having whales completely visible and surrounding the ship in port.

6. Valdez. The port well known for Exxon Valdez disaster. Also my birthday and wedding anniversary. We have booked a kayaking tour amongst the glaciers. I kind of fancy kayaking amongst all the icebergs.

7. The other day we are cruising into Yakutat Bay where the well known Hubbard Glacier sits. It’s growing not receding apparently.

8. The very first day is the only day of solely cruising and being a small ship it will cruise up the true Inside passage which is apparently beautiful.

We arrive into Seward the day before we disembark. So am overnight stop here. We will stay on the ship and enjoy the peace while others do their excursions as many start their return home the very next day out of Anchorage which is a 2 hour drive away. We have the next full day in Seward as the Mountain train we are taking doesn’t depart until 6pm. Apparently the scenery is spectacular as it winds its way up the coast. It’s a four hour trip which is why we aren’t doing the train in Skagway. We’ve booked the clear dome seats for the best views up top.

We are overnighting in Anchorage somewhere then flying to Honolulu the next day.
 

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