Alaska 2005 Inside Passage Cruise

Glacier Bay National Park. We chose Princess because at the time they had one of the limited permits to visit the National Park.

Glacier Bay National Park. We chose Princess because at the time they had one of the limited permits to visit the National Park.

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)

Vancouver

Our trip started in Vancouver BC, Canada, where we stayed at the Pan Pacific and were treated to the dawn arrival of Coral Princess.

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Before embarking we visited Stanely Park in Vancouver

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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  

The lobby of Coral Princess

The lobby of Coral Princess

A cruise ship in the Johnston Straight

A cruise ship in the Johnston Straight

Ketchikan

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. 

Ships in port in Ketchikan from the float plane

Ships in port in Ketchikan from the float plane

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 Misty Fjord

The Misty Fjord

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

Juneau

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!

The port area in Juneau

The port area in Juneau

We made our way to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center just outside Juneau for a hike and to visit the visitor center.

We discovered during our visit that visitor centers designed for perfect views of the glaciers in Alaska are now distant views because of the shrinking glaciers.

We discovered during our visit that visitor centers designed for perfect views of the glaciers in Alaska are now distant views because of the shrinking glaciers.

Following our hike, we toured around town, and enjoyed some of the unique Russian style architecture. 

a Russian Orthodox Church in Juneau

a Russian Orthodox Church in Juneau

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)

mists and trees of Mount Roberts

mists and trees of Mount Roberts

Skagway

View of Skagway Alaska from the White Pass and Yukon Railway

View of Skagway Alaska from the White Pass and Yukon Railway

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.

Port Area in Skagway

Port Area in Skagway

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.

White Pass and Yukon  railroad

White Pass and Yukon  railroad

The train passes the US/Canadian Border, but passports weren't needed when we passed since we never disembarked the train. 

The view leaving Skagway

The view leaving Skagway

Glacier Bay (at sea)

Another ship makes it way into Glacier Bay National Park, where a limited number of cruise ships are permitted to visit.

Another ship makes it way into Glacier Bay National Park, where a limited number of cruise ships are permitted to visit.

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.

Glacier meeting the sea

Glacier meeting the sea

Waterfall

Waterfall

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.

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One of my favorite wildlife sightings of all time- adorable sea otters riding on an iceberg!

One of my favorite wildlife sightings of all time- adorable sea otters riding on an iceberg!

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.

Entering the Anton Anderson Tunnel at Whittier

Entering the Anton Anderson Tunnel at Whittier

Inside the Anton Anderson Tunnel

Inside the Anton Anderson Tunnel

Portage Glacier near Girdwood, AK 

Anchorage, AK

Potter Marsh

it was thrilling to see our first moose in Potter Marsh, but we would learn they are like squirrels in Anchorage, munching happily alongside their human neighbors everywhere!

it was thrilling to see our first moose in Potter Marsh, but we would learn they are like squirrels in Anchorage, munching happily alongside their human neighbors everywhere!

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.