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Alaska Cruise, Restaurants & Excursions

10 Jun 2009  We wanted to go on an Alaska cruise to see wildlife and glaciers.
4.0 of 5 stars based on 2 votes

Our Alaska Cruise from San Diego to Vancouver with stops in San Francisco, Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. We live in San Diego, so check out my San Diego list too.

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: San Francisco, Hoonah, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Vancouver
  • Category: Recent trip
  • Traveler type: Sightseeing, Active/Outdoors, Never been before, Repeat visitors
  • Appeals to: Couples/romantics, Honeymooners, Singles, Budget travellers , Active/adventure, Tourists
  • Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • 1. San Francisco
    San Francisco, California

    We've been to San Franciso several times, so we didn't plan an excursion. We just wanted to visit some friends.

    We tried to wake up early to watch us go under the Golden Gate Bridge, but we couldn't wake up at 5:30am when our alarm went off. We got off the ship after a quick breakfast and a work out at about 10am to meet up with some friends by lunchtime. We walked a little down Fisherman's Wharf before grabbing a cab to the Mission area.

    We got to Mission and had coffee at The Corner coffee shop. We had 2 huge cups of their french press coffee. It was delicious. They offered us a carafe of water for our table as well.

    After finishing our coffee, we went 2 doors down to meet our friends for lunch at Weird Fish. This is a great restaurant with sustainable fish and vegetarian options. It's a little on the small side, so it gets busy pretty easily. After lunch, our friend took us for ice cream at a supposedly famous creamery, Bi-Rite Creamery. I'd never heard of it before, but I had the cinnamon ice cream with snickerdoodles and it was amazing!

    We left our friends to head back to our ship by using the Bart. We stopped at Union Square to ride the cable car, which is one of my favorite things to do in San Francisco. I like to ride on the outside in the front, but that part fills up fast. We got off around Columbia St. and walked back to our ship.

    We left San Francisco about 5:30pm and stood on our balcony to watch us go back under the Golden Gate bridge. No reason to have gotten up so early in the first place, we had to go back under it to get out!

  • 2. Weird Fish
    Weird Fish, San Francisco, California

    We decided to try out the restaurant because one of our friends works there. We took a taxi to get here. I was a little nervous about the food since I'm not a vegetarian. I didn't know what kind of choices there would be or how it would taste. Ah man, the food was great. It's a vegan and sustainable fish restaurant. They don't have take out anymore unless you bring your own container (good for them)!

    For apps, we had a little b. stack (grilled yam, tofu, spinach & goat cheese with lil'b sauce) and buffalo boys (catch of the day with buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing). AMAZING! I could have just eaten these as meals.

    For entrees, he had the a fish taco and a waco taco. He really enjoyed the waco taco made with yams. I had the steelhead with olive-caper tapenade. The food was very flavorful. I really like new and different and flavorful food, and this place has all that and more!

    The restaurant is very intimate with only about 10 or less tables. It can get a little crowded and usually only one server is on during the week. I hope we can go back there when we visit again.

  • 3. Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop
    Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop, San Francisco, California

    After lunch, we walked several blocks to the creamery. Our friend told us it was famous and that there is always a long line and people taking pictures. Sure enough, when we get there, there are people taking a picture of themselves at the counter. There wasn't much of a line when we got there, but it was building up when we left.

    There were about 12 choices of ice cream in the case. I ordered a kid size scoop of the cinnamon ice cream with snickerdoodles in it. It was one of the best scoops of ice cream I'd ever had. He ordered 2 scoops, one of the cinnamon with snickerdoodles and one of the brown sugar with ginger caramel swirl...yummy!

    This place is so good if you are ever in the neighborhood, you have got to try it out!

  • 4. Icy Strait Point and Hoonah
    Icy Strait Point, Hoonah, Alaska

    The cruise ship called this port Icy Strait Point. At the point is a historic cannery that serves as a museum now with shops, a couple of restuarants, and it has a zipline. The small village a mile away is Hoonah. This village is an authentic Alaska village. This town was the only place that wasn't touristy on our trip. It's just a small town with a few stores, a bar, and a trading post.

    We got off the ship about 2:30pm. We decided to walk through Hoonah and look around. We visited a local liquor store, a thrift store, a souvenir store, the trading post, and, of course, the bar. We were just browsing around the different stores. Everyone working in Hoonah was very nice and said hello and bye to us. We stopped in the bar, The Office, for a drink before heading back to our ship.
    On the way back to the ship, we saw our first Eagle in Alaska. After that, we saw them all the time. We toured the cannery and shops after returning from Hoonah and got back onto our ship about 6:30pm.

  • 5. Skagway
    Skagway, Alaska

    We got up early to meet a private tour guide that was going to take us to explore Skagway, the Yukon, and Emerald Lake outside of Carcross (Yukon Territory of Canada). We got off the ship about 7:30am and looked for our guide. It took a while to find him, because he sent someone else in his place. We found his van and his sister, Ruth, was to be our guide for our trip. We got in the van and headed to pick up another couple off another cruise ship.

    We headed into town and stopped at the Visitor Center to watch a film on the history of Skagway. The town has a very interesting history that relates to the Klondike Gold Rush. Ruth took us through the town a little to point out some historic buildings. Then, we took off for the Canada border and the Yukon Territory.

    We stopped along the way to take pictures. We saw the WP&Y railroad and a train moving along the mountainside. We ended up riding that back down to Skagway from the Canada border in Fraser.

    We crossed the Canada border and drove to Carcross and Emerald Lake. After visiting the lake, we stopped in Carcross to have lunch. We drove through Carcross, got our passports stamped and headed back to Fraser to catch the train back to Skagway.

    After getting off the train, we headed to the Red Onion Saloon for a drink and walked through Skagway before getting back onto our cruise ship. We stopped at one ice cream shop for a snack and they'd run out of ice cream! They'd told us to come back after they got their delivery the next day!

  • 6. Dyea Dave Tours in Skagway
    http://www.dyeadavetours.com/

    Dyea Dave is very popular on the Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor websites. I'd read great reviews about him and his tour. We decided to book his tour and go from Skagway and out to visit the Yukon, Emerald Lake, and Carcross. I'd heard on the websites that Dave was very funny and was a great storyteller. I was excited about his tour and meeting him. No one had ever mentioned the tour being done by another driver.

    I'd been in contact with him through email and up to a week before our arrival in Skagway, he'd given us instructions to look for him in his tophat when we got off our ship. When we got off our ship, we couldn't find the tophat. We asked someone and they said to look for a gold van. We finally found the van and his sister, Ruth, said she was going to be our guide, because Dave had stayed out late the night before.

    Ruth is a nice lady, but we weren't expecting to have her as our guide. She even said she didn't know a lot about the area we were driving through, because she had only been on the route a couple of times. We were looking forward to Dave and he was the reason we'd booked the trip in the first place. It ended up being a nice trip for the price, but we were disappointed that Dave was not our tour guide and we did not know there was a possibility of someone else driving us. If I would have known Dave wasn't going to be our guide, I would have liked to have the chance to decide if I wanted to do something else.

  • 7. White Pass & Yukon Route Railway
    White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, Skagway, Alaska

    We caught the White Pass and Yukon Railroad (WP&YR) back to Skagway from the Canada border at Fraser. The railroad runs on Alaska time, not Canada time which was an hour difference.

    We also bought our tickets for this trip before leaving Skagway.

    It seems most tours offered a ride on the WP&YR one-way and then supplemented with a drive back to Skagway or a drive into Canada. We did the drive from Skagway into Canada and Carcross and then took the train back to Skagway.

    You are assigned a car by someone right before boarding, usually dependent on your tour. The train is somewhat smooth, but was a little jerky in spots. We were able to go out in between cars after the train started moving and got a little ways from the station. There is a narrator on the train, but she only points out and explains the historic areas marked on the map along the route.

    The ride was about an hour and a half and we saw some amazing scenery. 2 bears were spotted while on the train, but we never found them ourselves. One was close to the tracks, but was gone by the time our car came around. We were in the second to last one.

  • 8. Mendenhall Glacier Hike in Juneau
    Above & Beyond Alaska, Juneau, Alaska

    Our trip to Alaska on the cruise ship was all about seeing the glaciers while they were still around. So, our plan for Juneau was to visit the Mendenhall Glacier. Our original plan was to take the public bus to the visitor center and find some trails to go hiking. We were watching the travel channel one day and saw a story on this company that took visitors to actually hike on the glacier. We immediately booked a trip with the company.

    We got up and had a big breakfast (good thinking!) before getting off the ship to get picked up at 9am. The group going on the hike included 6 people. We got our equipment and started our hike about 1030am. We hiked though the forest for about 2 miles then climbed up some steep rocks and down the other side before reaching the glacier. We stopped to put on our crampons and climbed onto the glacier. Our guide taught us how to walk on the ice in the crampons and we followed him around the glacier to see some of the amazing things on the glacier. We hiked on the glacier for about an hour before making the hike back to the trailhead. We all filled up our water bottles with glacier water before heading back.

    We ended up having a couple of people on the tour that went a little slower and we ended up 2 hours behind schedule. One lady didn't make it to the glacier, because the steep climb up the rocks became too difficult for her. This delay made for a long day with only snacks provided by the tour company (trail mix, granola bar, 2 mini candy bars, gummi fruit snacks), a bottle of water, and no bathroom break! We made it back to the trailhead about 5:30pm. Regardless, it was the greatest part of our whole trip and something that I will never forget and would do again in a heartbeat!

    Our guide, Ed, was born and raised in Juneau and he was very educated about the area, glacier, and vegetation. He said he's been hiking on the glacier since he was 8. And, he made the trek on the ice fields from Juneau to Skagway in 10 days pulling all his supplies on a sled!

  • 9. Ketchikan and Misty Fjords National Monument
    Misty Fjords National Monument, Ketchikan, Alaska

    We arrived in Ketchikan an hour and a half earlier than planned. We scheduled a boat tour to see the Misty Fjords that was going to take up our whole time in port, so this gave us the opportunity to get off the ship and explore Ketchikan a little.
    We got off and headed to Creek St, a former red-light district. It's a very scenic street, sort of reminded me of something you'd find in Silver Dollar City. We took the elevator train up to the Cape Fox Lodge. We orginally planned on eating lunch up there, but saw a fish market on the way and decided to go back down to eat there instead. We did order a marshmallow latte from the little coffee shop in the Lodge first, it was very tasty!

    We made our way back to the Fish Market for lunch and headed back on board to get ready for our excursion to the Misty Fjords. We boarded the boat to the Fjords and found only 30 people or so on a rather large catamaran.

    It was an hour and a half to the heart of the Misty Fjords. Along the way, we stopped to see an Eagle's Nest and EddyStone Rock (made out of volcanoes). In the Fjords, we saw amazing scenery, waterfalls, and a mountain goat. We stayed about 1/2 hour before heading back to Ketchikan. On they way back, they stopped to see Harbor Seals and an Indian pictograph.

    The tour had a snack bar onboard and they gave out strudels, vege chili, clam chowder, and smoked salmon on a cracker. They also had free flowing coffee, hot tea, and cocoa to keep you warm.

    It was a long trip, but I was too afraid to get in a floatplane to make the trip. I heard it was a 2 hour trip that way.

  • 10. Vancouver
    Vancouver, British Columbia

    We disembarked from our cruise in Vancouver. We got off our ship a little after 10am and got through customs and the taxi line in about an hour. We were at our hotel by 11:30am. Our room wasn't ready, so we went out exploring.

    We walked to the Marina in Yaletown to catch the Aquabus to Granville Island to visit the public market. We spent a couple of hours there checking out all the booths and enjoying some food. From there, we walked back to Chinatown and on to Gastown. We stopped to have a drink and people watch before walking back to our hotel to check in. We had dinner in Kitsilano and spent some time soaking in the hot tub before calling it a night.

    The next day, we walked back to Yaletown and rented bikes to cruise along the seawall bike paths. There were so many people on the paths. It was a great day to get out and ride up through Stanley Park. We went 15 miles in about 2 and 1/2 hours. After our ride, we had a drink and snack along the bike route. This is a very fun thing to do as there are so many different people and bikes along these paths. We had dinner in Gastown our second night.

    Our flight out was on Air Canada and it was non-stop to San Diego.

  • 11. Bishop's
    Bishop's, Vancouver, British Columbia

    We were referred to this restaurant by a travel website and made reservations through http://OpenTable.com. We were greeted immediately upon arrival. The service was excellent throughout the entire dinner service. The menu is nice and small with less than 10 options for entrees, but there is a rather extensive wine menu. The tables are all covered in white linens and candlelight on most tables. It is a very cozy restaurant with around 20 tables. We were very impressed with the local and sustainable food choices on the menu. Everything came out at perfect temperatures and just great flavors, nothing was bland. We were given plenty of time to enjoy every course, we never felt rushed. The portion sizes were just enough to keep us from over eating, but allowing us to eat everything on our plates.

    One server noticed we liked one of the breads more than the other and offered to bring out more. Our water glasses were always being filled. I had mentioned a birthday celebration on my reservation and when we ordered dessert, they brought it out with a candle and Happy Birthday written on a piece of hard pastry. They didn't sing though, which was nice.

    We each had wine, an appetizer, an entree, coffee, and shared dessert. We both went for the halibut and it was cooked well, came out very warm. The halibut was complemented with nice flavors. I love dishes that have a lot of different flavors.

    Our dinner was a little expensive ($50+ per person), but it was a special occasion and we were traveling and it was worth it. We definitely enjoyed every bit of our dinner. For a restaurant with linens, the dress code is pretty lax. We wore dark jeans. He had a collared shirt and I wore a nice top and heels. We noticed a few in shorts and flip flops when we arrived.

  • 12. Water St Cafe

    We didn't make reservations for dinner on our second night in Vancouver, so that we could go with the flow. We walked to Chambar as our first choice, but when we went in, we couldn't get a seat without a reservation.

    We walked around a little and came across the Water St. Cafe. It's located across from the Steam Clock. It looked promising, because there were lots of people inside. We looked at the menu and discovered it was an Italian restaurant, one of our favorite cuisines. We were able to get a table without a reservation on a Saturday night around 7ish.

    The service there was great, everyone was very friendly and greeted us promptly. We ordered a 1/2 liter of wine, which was our favorite way to order wine in Italy. Anytime we are able to order 1/2 liter, it seems pretty authentic. I ordered one of the specials, seafood spaghetti with clams, mussles, tuna, and halibut. It was very good, but a little too much pasta, I had to end up picking out all the fish before I got too full. Mike ordered the gnocchi. It had a rich sauce and was very good.

    The atmosphere is pretty casual.