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Cassie's trip
to Alaska

Follow Oddball Escapes as Cassie first takes a
cruise and then goes on a 10-day land adventure.

Choosing Alaska...

“Have you been there?”
“Well, I’ve completed my Alaska Expert training with Princess, but no, I haven’t been there yet.”

This is how most of my conversations start when it comes to helping people plan their travels to Alaska. And I know that it makes a HUGE difference to have first-hand experience. So, Alaska made it to the top of my list for places I must visit.

I’m headed to Alaska for three weeks in May-June of 2019! I first chose a 7-night cruise along the Inside Passage that includes all the must-see destinations, including Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, and Glacier Bay National Park. The cruise is followed by a 10-day land tour, and I’m very excited for this itinerary! It includes a ride on the Alaska Railroad and we get out on a boat twice! Plus, it has many opportunities to interact with locals and see how people truly live in this wonderful state.

 I’m excited to experience Alaska, and can’t wait to talk to travelers about it.

And off we go!...
Cassie

The Itinerary

7-Night Cruise on the Royal Princess

10-Day escorted land tour

Travel starts May 24th!
Check back for updates on
each destination we visit.

embarking our cruise ship & enjoying a day at sea
Saturday & Sunday, May 25th & 26th

Vancouver

Our hotel was in downtown Vancouver, and the city was beautiful! Trees, flowers, and other greenery lined many of the streets. It was clean and very easy to walk around from our hotel to the outdoor shopping area, which of course had many restaurants to choose from. Our cruise ship was less than a mile away. It was an enjoyable experience to start our Alaskan cruise from Vancouver. 

The Royal Princess

This photo does NOT look like we just departed rainy Vancouver and are headed to Alaska… but we are! Trust me, it wasn’t as warm as this picture appears. But we did spend many hours throughout the trip standing outside to view glaciers, marine life, and to enjoy the passing scenery. Dress in layers! What is the best side of the ship for viewing Alaska?…. Outside! 🙂

Ocean Medallion

Princess Cruises has rolled out their Ocean Medallion program on a few of their ships. This medallion is slightly larger than a quarter and serves as your room key. I wore mine as a watch and Cory wore his on a lanyard. VERY convenient. Plus, there were interactive screens around the ship so that you could “find” each other, look up your excursion details, and much more. I definitely enjoyed the convenience of the medallion. 

Ketchikan
Monday, May27th

Totem Bight State Park

The park wasn’t as large as I was expecting, but I LOVED seeing the totem poles and learning about the different symbols. The native tribes used them to tell the stories of their history, families, and events since they had no written language at that time. Both the symbols and the colors played an important role. Here at the park, there are 14 totem poles that have been salvaged or duplicated in order to preserve the history of the native peoples. 

Creek Street

We HAD to take a walk to the infamous Creek Street! The buildings on this street are built upon a boardwalk that is propped up on pilings along Ketchikan Creek. Many unique shops and boutiques fill the buildings. This area used to be a Red Light district, and you can visit Dolly’s House Museum to learn more. Don’t miss the scenic trail entrance (or exit) located on the other side of the boardwalk that winds up through the trees, called Married Man’s Trail. 

sea kayaking

The weather was perfect for our on-the-water adventure today, which made paddling fairly easy. Our trip took us to 3 areas for a chance to view wildlife. Starfish were hanging from rocky shorelines. Eagles were soaring above. And a seal popped his head up about 20 feet from us just long enough to snap a photo. We loved doing something active today and experiencing Alaska from the water. 

Bonus photos from our kayaking adventure...

Juneau
Tuesday, May 28th

Mendenhall Glacier

Located just miles from Juneau, this glacier is featured on many shore excursion itineraries. This is one of the few glaciers on the cruise that you can see by land. You can visit the 1/2 mile wide terminus at the Visitor’s Center, on a hike, on a bike, in a kayak, on a boat, or in the air while on a flightseeing adventure. Regardless of how you want to view it, this is one attraction not to be missed. 

hiking in the rainforest

I thought this “hike” was going to be too easy and too slow, but it did NOT disappoint! It was a 4- to 6-mile trek on the paths above the Visitor Center at Mendenhall Glacier. We were completely surrounded by nature as we journeyed through the Tongass Forest, and the views from a handful of overlooks of the Mendenhall Glacier were beautiful!

a misplaced statue

Have you ever received the wrong item in the mail? Perhaps there was a mix-up and you received someone else’s package? This is what happened to the Federal Building in Juneau… there are NO pelicans in Alaska! Legend says that this statue was supposedly meant for Florida, and somewhere in Florida stands a statue with a misplaced animal meant for Alaska. 

Skagway
Wednesday, May 29th

the town

Skagway was the jumping off point during the Gold Rush to travel deep into the Yukon Territory. The town has retained the flavor of the Gold Rush, offering a glimpse into the lifestyle during the boom. Nearly 100 buildings are now National Historic Buildings from the gold rush era, including hotels, saloons, dance halls, and gambling houses. It’s definitely worth spending some time walking around town and soaking up its unique atmosphere. 

White Pass Railway

Follow in the footsteps of those who rushed into the Yukon territory during the Gold Rush. The train climbs nearly 3,000 feet and features beautiful landscapes during the entire journey, include Bennett Lake at the top. But the most interesting views were of the bridges and tunnels. We stood on the open-air platforms several different times during the journey, and I recommend making sure you get outside to fully experience this train trip.

biking tour

Dyea was another boom town during the Gold Rush, but it was abandoned. Our biking tour took us through the old streets where we saw remnants of this abandoned town. And we pedaled through the beautiful scenery! I loved soaking up the surrounding forest, river, and mountains from the seat of a bike. It was a wonderful way to get outdoors, be active, and learn more about Alaska’s history.

scenic cruising at Glacier Bay National Park
Thursday, May 30th

Margerie Glacier

What a view!!!  This is Margerie Glacier, and the photo doesn’t do it justice. She is about 1 mile wide and about 250 feet high at the terminus, which is the “wall” that you see here where it ends into the ocean/bay. The ice appears blue because the ice is so tightly compacted that it absorbs all other color wavelengths…. and it is stunning to look at!

Grand Pacific Glacier

Yes, this is a glacier! The dirt that you see is actually rock debris that has been picked up over the years, sometimes due to landslides. This layer helps preserve the ice below it because it insulates the ice and slows down the melting. Obviously it’s not as “pretty” to look at, but this was the glacier primarily responsible for carving Glacier Bay before it began its retreat. 

National Park Rangers

Glacier Bay is a National Park, and like all National Parks, we were greeted by the park rangers. They arrived via boat! This boat is tiny compared to our cruise ship, so they climbed up a rope ladder to board our ship! While onboard they provided commentary, set up an information desk, gave a presentation, walked around the decks, and yes, they brought the stamps for the National Parks Passport books!

scenic cruising at College Fjord
Friday, May 31st

sooo many glaciers!

Ummmm…. silence. I LOVED it here! I believe there were 5 or 7 glaciers in view at one point during our visit to College Fjord. This fjord features 5 tidewater glaciers (that end in the ocean) and several others that sit up in the mountain’s valleys. It was a bit surprising to see each glacier’s stunning “personality” and beauty. 

Harvard Glacier

Havard Glacier is Alaska’s 2nd largest tidewater glacier… and perhaps my favorite! I LOVED it here! This was a true “Pocahontas moment.” Just look at those colors! Its face is 1.5 miles wide and it rises about 200 feet out of the water. Out of all the glaciers in this fjord, this one certainly stole the show… and my heart!

dress warm!

Bundle up! What is the best side of the ship to view the glacier? Outside! And the air will change as you get closer and closer to the ice, so you’ll want to wear layers. If you’re like us, you will want to be outside well before and well after the actual glacier sightseeing. So you may end up spending hours outside admiring the scenery. Definitely dress appropriately.

A recap of my cruise experience
with Princess Cruises

title goes here

I couldn’t ask for a more modern, spacious, and clean bus. Plus I got to sit up front one day, and witness that our driver was very good! 

heading goes here

Pet lovers, you may need to move here! You can literally take your dogs anywhere – inside restaurants, grocery stores, etc. I even saw a guy wearing a dog carrier on his back! Crazy.

heading goes here

Scooters everywhere! Especially in Genoa where lines of parking spots filled the streets.

title goes here

I couldn’t ask for a more modern, spacious, and clean bus. Plus I got to sit up front one day, and witness that our driver was very good! 

heading goes here

Pet lovers, you may need to move here! You can literally take your dogs anywhere – inside restaurants, grocery stores, etc. I even saw a guy wearing a dog carrier on his back! Crazy.

heading goes here

Scooters everywhere! Especially in Genoa where lines of parking spots filled the streets.

title goes here

I couldn’t ask for a more modern, spacious, and clean bus. Plus I got to sit up front one day, and witness that our driver was very good! 

heading goes here

Pet lovers, you may need to move here! You can literally take your dogs anywhere – inside restaurants, grocery stores, etc. I even saw a guy wearing a dog carrier on his back! Crazy.

heading goes here

Scooters everywhere! Especially in Genoa where lines of parking spots filled the streets.

Anchorage
Saturday, June 1st

hospitality center

After the cruise ends, most people have several hours until their overnight flight home. Princess offers a hospitality center in downtown Anchorage for people to store their luggage so that they can explore the city during the day. It was well organized and I felt safe keeping our bags there so that we could wander for a bit.

geocaching

We spent most of the afternoon geo-caching as a way to explore the city. And look what we found… a whale! 🙂 Anchorage has a LOT of geocaches, and we enjoyed hanging out at the waterfront area with a small park and a bike path. This city has miles and miles of bike paths, which I believe turn into good cross country skiing paths during the winter. 

midnight sun

This photo was taken after 11:00pm, with still a few weeks until the longest day of the year! In Fairbanks, their longest day is 18 hours LONGER than their shortest day. This means they are either gaining (or losing) 18 hours of sunlight over 6 months. So 18 divided by 6 = 3 hours of sun each month. They gain (or lose) an hour approx every 10 days! Wow. Impressive.

from Anchorage to Valdez
Sunday, June 2nd

Worthington Glacier

This is a valley glacier located just off the highway. There is a paved path that leads to an overlook area. The great thing about being on a land tour is being able to see the glaciers that sit high up in the mountains, and there are a LOT of them throughout the Chugach Mountain range.

Thompson Pass

To cross the Chugach Mountains into Valdez, you will drive through Thompson Pass.  It’s over 2600 feet high, and it’s the snowiest place in Alaska, averaging over 500 inches each year! The views here were stunning. The photo really doesn’t do it justice.

the pipeline

So this particular section was taken as we headed north to Fairbanks. It starts in the north of Alaska at Purdhoe Bay, and travels 800 miles south to Valdez. The pipe is often buried underground, but where permafrost exists and is too unstable for the pipe, it is propped up above ground like this. 

Valdez & Prince William Sound
Monday, June 3rd

salmon hatchery

It’s too early in the season to see salmon swimming in this hatchery. But we got to see the process that the Solomon Gulch Hatchery uses to keep the population of salmon sustainable in the wild. Over 250 million salmon are released each year at this facility. Personally, I’m glad that there were no fish during our visit… yuck!

Columbia Glacier

We headed out into the Prince William Sound today to see this STUNNING glacier! This glacier is HUGE! It rises between 200-400 feet tall, and to get a better view of just how wide this glacier is, check out the bonus panorama photo posted below!

glacial ice

Glaciers that stretch out of the mountains and into the sea are called tidewater glaciers. The water, of course, is warmer than the ice, and pieces of the glacier break apart, just as an ice cube would in your drink. Icebergs are important habitats to marine life such as harbor seals. The crew on board our day cruise fished out a piece of ice for us to view and to hold… brrrrrr. I should’ve had gloves!

Bonus photo to better understand the size of Columbia Glacier...

Delta Junction & driving to Fairbanks
Tuesday, June 4th

miles and miles of forest

Spruce, spruce, and more spruce! I didn’t realize how much of Alaska is covered in forest. It’s estimated that nearly half of this state is defined as forest land! Our drive today took us into a remote area of Alaska, just for a TASTE of how vast the 49th state truly is. 

braided rivers

These rivers were by far my favorite thing to view from the bus window… beautiful! These rivers are glacially fed, which means a LOT of sediment is brought down from the glaciers and deposited into the rivers.  Expansive, unique, wild, colorful… are some of the ways I would describe these incredible features.

Christmas at the North Pole!

Yes, there is a town called North Pole… and guess who is there! 🙂  An entire store is filled with Christmas decorations and nick-knacks. Of course we stopped there, and surprisingly, I found a must-have souvenir! I didn’t think I’d be shopping at the North Pole during this trip, but I can officially say that I did!

Fairbanks
Wednesday, June 5th

panning for gold

Fairbanks has a lot of gold rush history dating back to the early 1900s. So, what better way to immerse yourself in history than panning for gold. Okay, I thought this was going to be cheesy, but I had fun! Plus it provided a different perspective on the hardships associated that the “stampeders” experienced while hoping to strike it rich.

Riverboat Discovery

We boarded a sternwheeler riverboat and journeyed down the Chena and Tanana Rivers. This was more than a river cruise. A bush pilot showed us how they take off and land on the river waters. We passed a musher camp and saw how the dogs are trained. And finally we stopped at the Chena Indian Village to see how the native Athabascan culture lived and survived on this frozen land.

Gold Heart Revue

Entertaining & informative… this was much better than I was expecting! It’s described as a “light-hearted musical comedy about the gold rush and the founding of Fairbanks, filled with songs, stories, and laughter” and that’s exactly what was delivered! Definitely a highlight of my day in Fairbanks. 

Alaska Railroad to Denali
Thursday, June 6th

dome car

The Alaska Railroad stretches 470 miles from Fairbanks to Seward. We rode it from Fairbanks to Denali… a very scenic way to enter the park! A seat in the dome car is a must! Just look at all the windows! Take a seat, look out the windows, and enjoy the ride. With camera in hand!

breakfast onboard

Gold Star Service serves a meal on the lower-level full-service dining car. This was a treat. The food was decent, but the overall experience was very memorable.

outdoor platform

Each car has its own open-air viewing platform. We lucked out! Our car was the last car… and the view of the open track was amazing!

Denali National Park
Friday, June 7th

whitewater rafting

Different parts of the Nenana River offer scenic floats or whitewater adventures. We rode the rapids for 11 miles down the river. My favorite part was being IN the water and looking up at the rocky mountain sides. It’s a great way to have an exciting experience while feeling connected to nature.

hiking the Triple Lakes trail

The Triple Lakes Trail starts at the visitor center and ends near our hotel, which is where we ventured in for a 6-mile roundtrip hike. We saw all 3 lakes and some wildlife along the way. Had we gone all the way to the visitor center, we would have hiked the longest trail in the Denali park. LOVED getting out into nature in the morning hours. 🙂

bus safari into the park

Denali requires the use of park buses to explore the park and search for wildlife. The driver is a certified naturalist guide who provides plenty of information on all aspects of the park. We journeyed 62 miles into the park and saw a decent amount of wildlife… see the “wildlife” section below for some animal photos! 🙂

Big Lake & en route to Anchorage
Saturday, June 8th

Happy Trails Kennels

Martin Buser is a 4-time Iditarod Champion and today we visited his facility and met his sled dogs. They showed us how they race and care for the dogs. People wandered all over and played with the dogs… including young puppies! Finally he jumped on the ATV and showed us a mock demonstration of mushing.

Native Heritage Center

This cultural center and museum had several interesting displays around a lake of how the native peoples lived in this extreme environment. Plus, the native high school students performed songs and dances of their native culture.

war memorial

Six months after the Japanese bombed Hawaii, they invaded the Aleutian Islands in the Battle of Attu. It was a bloody battle that lasted over two weeks with only a handful of survivors. We visited the war memorial on our way back to Anchorage. Personally, before this stop, I wasn’t even aware that this battle took place. 

Kenai Fjords National Park
Sunday, June 9th

What is a fjord?

As glaciers retreat and leave behind deep narrow valleys, they typically fill in with water from the melted snow. These long, narrow inlets in the sea are fjords. The mountain sides are half submerged, causing DEEP waters where the waters don’t seem very wide. One inlet in Kenai Fjords in particular, Resurrection Bay, reaches a depth of 972 feet!

Holgate Glacier

So this glacier is NOT the largest that we saw on trip, but it’s one of the few glaciers that is currently advancing! And dozens of icebergs were floating around in the water. Harbor seals were all over these icebergs, which really allowed us to put into perspective the size of this glacier’s wall. And I loved how the glacier just seemed to disappear into the sky in these photos!

calving!!!

Woah!!! I caught it on camera!!! Actually, I have photos of the entire sequence of this ice chunk breaking off from the glacier and making a HUGE splash. (See the black dots? Those are seals, for size reference.) When glaciers meet the sea, the ice naturally begins to melt against the warmer water, causing “calving.”  And the splash makes a thundering noise that is unbelievable. Very memorable! I absolutely loved this!

Wildlife!

(Yes, I personally took all of the photos on this entire webpage.)

beaver

rabbit

squirrel (with an egg)

black-legged kittiwakes

starfish

porcupine

a frog

mink

magpie

bald eagle

golden eagle

raven nest in Denali

moose

black bear (far away!)

brown bear (grizzly)

mountain goat

Dahl sheep

caribou

sea otter

harbor seals

sea lions

Dall's porpoise

tufted puffin

horned puffin

humpback whale

gray whale

orcas

Bonus photos of wildlife...

Welp, that's it... Until next time Alaska...

My Experience on the Tour

title goes here

I couldn’t ask for a more modern, spacious, and clean bus. Plus I got to sit up front one day, and witness that our driver was very good! 

heading goes here

Pet lovers, you may need to move here! You can literally take your dogs anywhere – inside restaurants, grocery stores, etc. I even saw a guy wearing a dog carrier on his back! Crazy.

heading goes here

Scooters everywhere! Especially in Genoa where lines of parking spots filled the streets.

title goes here

I couldn’t ask for a more modern, spacious, and clean bus. Plus I got to sit up front one day, and witness that our driver was very good! 

heading goes here

Pet lovers, you may need to move here! You can literally take your dogs anywhere – inside restaurants, grocery stores, etc. I even saw a guy wearing a dog carrier on his back! Crazy.

heading goes here

Scooters everywhere! Especially in Genoa where lines of parking spots filled the streets.

Start the conversation with Cassie about Alaska...

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 Oddball Escapes is will versed in cruise itineraries for various cruise lines, from Princess and Royal Caribbean, to upscale cruising on Celebrity and Cunard. Ask us about current promotion.

Early bird are currently available for 2020! Save 10% per person on select departures for 2020 to Alaska! Make your reservation between now and November 26, 2019 to save 10%! Options available to add a cruise to your land tour.

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