Alaska cruise and land trip (May 2012) was one the most memorable and joyous vacation we have ever had. As many of you may know Alaska has magnificent scenic sites which will instantly make you a nature lover.
Hope you enjoy this travel blog. I have split this trip narration in three parts, where part 1 will include basic travel information and Vancouver experience, part 2 will be our cruising experience from Vancouver to Whittier and part 3 will narrate our land journey from Whittier to Anchorage.
The descriptions are going to be short and the pictures will walk you through my entire experience. Alaska is very picturesque and these pictures will surely give you a better idea of Alaskan cities and scenic cruising experience. For more information please leave me a comment below and I will answer all your questions.
1. Visa Requirements for Canada: Please check the visa requirements on Government of Canada’s website. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/tourist.asp
2. Cruise-line Selection: We selected Princess Cruise line over Norwegian as the itinerary & port arrival timings were scheduled better. Also, Princess is the only cruise company which has beautiful lodge resorts in Denali and Mount McKinley and they offer land expedition package after the cruise.
3. Booking / Reservations: We checked so many websites online for cruise reservations, but we finally found a combined package of cruise + land with Princess Cruise line representative. We selected a stateroom with balcony as we wanted to enjoy the scenery from our stateroom. Most Alaskan cruises run between the months of May to late August or early September. So make your reservations well in advance.
4. Stateroom Selection: I would recommend selecting a stateroom with a balcony, as the scenic cruising is the most important element of this cruise experience. During severe weather conditions, having a balcony will provide flexibility to get maximum views from your stateroom. It is expensive, but it is totally worth it.
5. Our Itinerary: Voyage of the Glaciers (Northbound)
a. Seven Days on Cruise
Ports: Vancouver, British Columbia I Ketchikan, Alaska I Juneau, Alaska I Skagway, Alaska I Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska (Scenic Cruising) I College Fjord, Alaska (Scenic Cruising) I Whittier, Alaska
b. Four Days on Land
Whittier, Alaska I Princess Alaska Rail Service (Scenic Train-ride) I Denali National Park, Alaska I Mount McKinley I Talkeetna, Alaska (Bonus Visit) I Anchorage, Alaska
6. Bag Packing Recommendations: Alaska cruise is different to Caribbean or Bahama’s cruise; in terms of cold weather conditions. So don’t forget to carry warm clothing, outerwear, hats, scarves, and gloves.
a. Documents: Valid Canadian Visa, Passport, Driving license, Immigration documents, Pen for filling out forms (don’t forget).
b. On cruise – Even though every cruise has medical service, I would recommend carrying basic medications (like stomach or headache, upset stomach, vomiting, fever, routine vitamins, others recommended by your doctor), PSI bands or patches for motion sickness, thin jacket or cover-up, make-up, sun-screen, swim-wears for on-cruise Jacuzzi or pool, comfortable pair of shoes/slippers as there is a lot of walking required on cruise, formal dresses and dinner jacket for formal nights.
c. Excursions: An umbrella and/or rain-jackets, cold weather jackets, camera/camcorder, tripod (optional), and binoculars to spot wild-life, pair of sport-shoes for hiking/excursions.
II. Before Cruise – Land Experience:
1. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada –
I love all the major Canadian cities; especially Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa are my top favorites. Having similar characteristics, Vancouver instantly won my heart and hopefully I will visit it soon.
We arrived in Vancouver a night before our cruise and selected a hotel which was two streets away from Canada Place in the Harbor Area, as all the cruises embark from this location. The immigration and customs took less than an hour as we landed after 7 pm in the evening. You can choose to take a cab or a rapid rail service (Sky-Train) from the airport to the downtown/harbor area.
a. Downtown Vancouver – Like every metropolitan city, Vancouver offers an impressive public realm and a high quality of on-street lifestyle. One can enjoy local French cuisine, international chain restaurants, high-end and local shopping venues, little souvenir shops, museums, and multimodal transit systems. Downtown business district has skyscrapers which are mostly office buildings and high-rise apartment complexes. I was very much pleased with our walking tour.
Here are the pictures of Downtown Vancouver:
We started our day with outstanding breakfast crepes at this local French restaurant. If you enjoy French cuisine then surely try crepes at Creperie Restaurant. Moreover, there is something special about locally grown and fresh produce. While travelling, my husband and I always chose local joints over chain restaurants.
Here are some pictures of ‘Creperie Restaurant’ located in downtown Vancouver:
Other lunch place I would suggest is ‘Green Leaf Salad Bar’. They have good vegetarian options too.
b. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and City Bus Tour – Our next pit stop was Capilano Suspension Bridge. We booked a bus tour from downtown Vancouver and they offered pickup and drop-off services at various points of interests, just like a hop-on hop-off service. In the beginning of the tour bus driver/guide took us for a city tour and narrated a detailed history of Vancouver’s point of interests. I recommend this bus tour if you have 5-6 hours.
We had half a day so we decided to spend most of our time at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. It felt as if nature has poured all its heart into setting up a perfect surrounding for the bridge. One can enjoy stunning forest vistas from this engineering marvel. You can explore ‘The Suspension Bridge’, ‘The Cliffwalk’, and ‘The Treetops’ in the same campus. If you want to stay overnight then there are few hilltop lodging facilities, on-site restaurants, and cafes as well.
Here are some pictures of the park:
c. Canada Place – You will see a lot happening here as it is one of the busiest port for cruise ships. You can also find restaurants and shops overlooking beautiful ocean and mountain views.
d. Embarkation Process – As every first time cruiser we were very excited to board the ship, so we reached the cruise terminal an hour and half early before our actual boarding time.
Curbside Checking: Before entering Canada Place building, we had to handover our luggage to the crew team outside. All we kept with us was a camera bag and a small carry on with all our important visa documents.
Visa/Pre-Boarding Process: On the same day 4-5 cruises were embarking around the same time, so things became little stressful. They did serve us refreshments, tea, and coffee in the lodge area inside the cruise terminal. We really had to wait for 4-5 hours before the actual visa process. Once we finished our visa process, we started our actual on-board cruise journey.
Pictures of Canada Place and Vancouver from deck of our ‘Sapphire Princess’ ship:
Cruising experience will be shared in my next blog post.
To Be Continued (Part 2)….