Alaska 2013



What's covered?

For 2013 our choice was Alaska but what to do, land or cruise? The decision was both, a week travelling by coach to various Princess holiday lodges and a week long cruise from Whittier (Anchorage) to Vancouver, one of my favourite cities.

I normally write this page up on or soon after our holiday. This time it is being written up whilst on our 2014 holiday! What a year!

Friday 7th June

Our flights were with BA so we went from Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Gordon Ramsay's is worth the little extra cost so we had lunch there. The flight to Seattle was pretty much on time but there we had a fairly long stopover before Air Alaska took us on to Fairbanks I rather liked their signs saying that if the luggage was delayed by more than an hour, they paid a small amount of compensation, enough to keep them on their toes.

We had been told when booking that the earlier second flight has been cancelled so it was irritating to find it hadn't. I suspect Princess only wanted to do one pickup, which was rather silly when the hotel was just a few miles from the airport so taxis were affordable. I made a note to check such stories out in future. By our bodyclocks we arrived at the Fairbanks Riverside Lodge at 10.30am the day after leaving!

Saturday 8th June

A coach tour of the Fairbanks area and part of the Alaskan oil pipeline.



Sunday 9th June

Sunday morning found us on the Gold Dredge 8 tour that also included the story of the 800 mile Alaskan oil pipeline, with an outer casing made of half inch thick steel to protect the inner pipe carrying the the oil. It is designed to withstand an earthquake of 8.6 on the Richter scale. It is kept clean inside by the whistling pig, so called because of the noise it makes, which is then followed by the smart pig that videos and measures the inside so that engineers can detect weaknesses and potential problems.

Then we were taken on to the Gold Dredge 8 mine for a tour and a well told history.

After lunch we went on a riverboat cruise. That took in two highlights, the story of Susan Butcher and David Manson and the story of the Athabaskan natives.

As you can imagine, all of that after the long flight meant we were tired. We were not amused by the fire alarm being triggered after we had gone to bed. It was a fault that had occurred before on a number of occasions and I doubt the fire service were any more amused than we were. Time to get that fixed Princess!
















Monday 10th June

An 8am rail road trip to the Princess Denali Lodge. (This schedule is a holiday?)

In the afternoon we had a wander around the tourist shops and a generally lazy afternoon. Gill was too tired to bother with dinner so I dined alone in the Base Camp restaurant. Noisy but a good steak.








Tuesday 11th June

Beginning to feel a bit more human by now, we went off on a coach tour into the National Park. Again we were fortunate in that our driver Monty Carpenter was clearly more knowledgeable about the park than required just to do his job, he had a real enthusiasm. At a stopoff we were shown a film about Charles Sheldon, who had lobbied to create the park and Harry Karstens, the first superintendant who had left Chicago thinking he had killed his brother!

Later we were taken to the typical trapper's cabin you see below.

At Primrose a native Athebaskan, Carol, told us about the lives of four generations of her family starting with Chief Charlie and in the afternoon we visited the local tourist centre.

When we got back to the lodge we wandered around taking some pictures of the grounds before we enjoyed some drinks outside Base Camp. Later we had an excellent halibut special in The King Salmon.















Wednesay 12th June

The coach to our next destination was not due to leave until 3pm so we needed a filler. The jet boat trip on Nanona was ideal. The captain was Captain Scott so we were glad that he did better than his namesake! The story of early life in the area was told by Trapper Dan and Susan.

In the afternoon we arrived at Mount McKinley at 5pm to be told our departure the next day was at 8am. Seriously Princess? That sort of stopover did not go down well. We were fortunate though as the view to Mount McKinley was clear which is often not the case. The local expression is "the mountain was out".







Thursday 13th June

The 8am coach took us on to Kenai with a two hour stop in Anchorage. We had a wander around and a look in the local Nordstrom, which I suspect is their smallest store.




Friday 14th June

Today was the Kenai Fjord boat tour going to the Holgate Glacier. On the way we saw orcas, sea lions, sea otters, hump back whales and dolphins. Some of these animals were very good at making photography difficult.

























Saturday 15th June - Monday 17th June

On Saturday we went by coach to Wittier, the port for Anchorage, to board our cruise ship. For this Princess restored our faith with a very efficient boarding process.

On Sunday we passed through Yakutat Bay. Ice meant the ship had to turn 7 nautical miles short of the Hubbard Glacier.

On Monday we passed through Glacier Bay.

During this part of our holiday, I started to feel a bit off colour having caught a cold that was going around the group.









Tuesday 18th June

We docked in Skagway. I wasn't feeling any better but made the effort to wander around the town. Tourism was clearly the main industry here!








Wednesday 19th June

Juneau. Still not feeling well but I was rewarded for making the effort when we visited the Glacier Gardens. A feature of the gardens was the upside-down flower towers with the tree roots being planted out in the same way as a hanging basket. The idea started when the owner lost his temper having damaged a hired excavator. Using the excavator he slammed the tree trunk into the ground. Looking at it, he had an idea. Read the full story.



























Thursday 20th June

A little wander around Ketchikan but soon back to the ship not feeling well.


Friday 21st June

At sea. Most of my day was spent in bed but Gill took some pictures around the ship, including a tour of the kitchens. I missed dinner but Gill dined with Iain and Carol with whom we had spent quite a few good hours.










Saturday 22nd June - Monday 24th June

We arrived in Vancouver and had both been looking forward to seeing this lovely city again. However, I was feeling worse and we knew that I had to see a doctor or I would not be able to fly home again a few days later. The Pan Pacific Hotel had no rooms ready but when their on-call doctor said that he needed me in a room for examination, they were very helpful in getting us into a room as quickly as possible, and what a room!

The doctor diagnosed bronchitis and prescribed various potions.
















Monday Evening 23rd June

By now I was fortunately feeling much better and up to the flight home. The inflight meal was the first meal I had managed to eat and enjoy for days. Good flight home. End of holiday. :-(