Alaska 2005 Inside Passage Cruise
In 2005, we took a multi generational family trip including a cruise on Princess Cruises on the Coral Princess and a land tour with Alaska Wildland Adventures. (click on bold notations in text for a link)
Our trip started in Vancouver BC, Canada, where we stayed at the Pan Pacific and were treated to the dawn arrival of Coral Princess.
(Use arrows to scroll)
Before embarking we visited Stanely Park in Vancouver
We embarked the Coral Princess in late June for a one week cruise northbound from Vancouver through the Inside Passage of Alaska to Whittier, AK
Our first port was Ketchikan. We had planned an excursion with my father to go out on a boat to the Misty Fjords, followed by a flight plane trip back to the ship, while my mother (not fond of heights) took a more sedate town tour with our young girls.
When we arrived in Ketchikan, they were experiencing a rare bright, warm sunny day, ordinarily, this temperate rain forest is always rainy.
The town of Ketchikan by the creek, it's rain gauge in the bright sun, and a native artist in his gallery.
The boat trip into the Misty Fjord was amazing, even without the mists; especially when we came upon a pod of transient Orca. Very quickly our trip to see the mists of the fjord turned into an amazing wildlife encounter with whales and birds that were easily visible in the bright sun.
After our boat trip, we boarded a float plane for a view over the Misty Fjords and Ketchikan
Our next port of Juneau, the state capitol of Alaska. If we were expecting a big city, we were surprised. We rented a car to go to the Mendenhall Glacier and return to to town to ride the tram and walk around town. We were disabused of any "big time" city when the rental car agency explained we would simply arrive at the parking garage in town, and find our van with the keys in the ignition waiting for us. When we finished our touring, all we had to do was return the van to the same parking space and leave the keys in it! We later learned that Juneau is landlocked, with only the Alaska Marine Highway and flights to get into the city. With no highways in and out. it would be impossible to steal a rental car out of the city!
We made our way to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center just outside Juneau for a hike and to visit the visitor center.
Following our hike, we toured around town, and enjoyed some of the unique Russian style architecture.
We booked a ticket to the Mt Roberts tram with Princess, and at our appointed time ascended Mount Roberts with it's views of Juneau, the Gastineau Channel and the cruise ships below (weather permitting)
In Skagway, we participated in two ships excursions, first a hike of part of the Chilkoot Trail and float return trip. This trail was the "ant trail" of gold miners into the Yukon from Juneau. Miners had to hike a few trips (or pay men to carry their gear for them) in order to meet Canada's requirement that all miners cache all their supplies before they could be permitted to make a claim. Juneau became a boom town supplying and refreshing miners during the Gold Rush. Our hiking guides, who like the Canadian mining officials, needed to make sure my 60 something mother and our 8 and 10 yo girls were fit enough for our short 3 mile hike and float back down the Taiya river, added a guide at the back of our group. After the first steep, vertical climb, they realized that everyone was up to the challenge and the guides felt confident enough in our abilities to send the spare guide back!
After floating down the river on a gentle raft, enjoying the eagles and other wildlife, we arrived back in Skagway, where we joined the crowds in town.
We got the wee ones officially deputized as Junior Rangers and made our way to the White Pass and Yukon Railroad Train
Boarding for the train is right near the cruise ship docks, and tickets are sold for various departures throughout the day.
The train passes the US/Canadian Border, but passports weren't needed when we passed since we never disembarked the train.
Glacier Bay (at sea)
Glacier Bay National Park was both one of the most amazing experiences and one of the most disappointing. The scenery and day the adults spent on the balcony and deck watching huge glaciers calve into the ocean was one of the highlights of our cruise. Unfortunately, the Princess children's program at the time was terrible. We sent our children to the program expecting a Glacier Bay National Park Ranger to be on board to run Junior Ranger activities as advertised in the Princess Patter. No Ranger was available and a few vocal kids, bored with the calving glaciers, talked the counselors into taking them into an interior room to play video games. With no Ranger in the children's room, our children, who would have preferred to watch the glaciers, were stuck in a room with no windows and in 2005, no way to contact their parents to release them so they wouldn't miss this once in a life time natural opportunity. We were furious when we went to get them after the "advertised" special youth program to discover they missed the whole thing. Our 8 year old was so bitterly disappointed about missing out that she still talks about it more than 10 years later, and she never participated in another ship board children's program again. We learned our lesson and never took a trip to a unique "trip of a lifetime" destination on a mass market cruise line ever again. From that cruise on, we only take destination focused small or expedition cruises for itineraries that we feel are must "see" or "once in a lifetime". Despite the fact that many of our excursions were excellent on Princess, I would highly recommend taking a small cruise ship or land tour (such as our excellent trip with Alaska Wildland Adventures) instead of a large mass market cruise to Alaska.
We did get to see lots of wildlife in the bay also.
College Fjords (at sea)
Having learned our lesson about the kids program aboard the Coral Princess, we enjoyed a day cruising in the College Fjords with the children on our own connecting balconies.
Disembarkation Whittier AK and drive to Anchorage, AK
Princess Cruises disembarked in Whittier, where the 2.5 mile Anton Anderson vehicle tunnel connects to the port on the inside passage and allows vessels to avoid the need to navigate all the way around Kenai Peninsula to get to Anchorage. We rented a car, into which we barely fit! But the experience of a two and half mile tunnel under a mountain was pretty cool. After we emerged like voles and blinked ourselves back into the dazzling mid June light, we were treated to views in the Portage Valley of the Begich Boggs Visitor Center at Portage Glacier and Potter Marsh on our way to Anchorage.
Portage Glacier near Girdwood, AK
We decided we would introduce our girls to the wildlife of Alaska with a visit to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. This gave us an opportunity to show them the animals they would be looking for with binoculars up close and to learn about their behaviors before we got out into the wilderness. The second part of our trip was a 6 night small group land tour with a private guide from Alaska Wildland Adventures. Our trip included a night in Anchorage, followed by a raft trip down the Kenai River and motoring across Skilak Lake to AWA's Kenai Back Country Lodge located off the grid, in the heart of one million acres of National Forest. a night at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and a couple of nights in the Katishna Roadhouse in the heart of Denali National Park. The trips they offer today are different itineraries, as they have added a lodge, the newer Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge. Please see our trip Alaska Wildlands Trip Report Coming Here soon.