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Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

Sydney, Australia
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Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

Hi all,

I've been reading many of the posts here on this horrible cold afternoon in Sydney and starting my research for our trip next year. Here's hoping that some of you may be able to help and/or offer advice!! Thanks heaps in advance.

Husband is 58 and I am 44 years old and love travelling together (leaving the kids behind this time). We love nature in general, adore seeing how the locals live, enjoy fishing (well hubby does anyway although I did catch the biggest fish in Bora Bora last year - HAH!, would like to taste some amazing salmon, love whales, seals, all animals (big and small), would kill to do the Mendenhall Glacier helicopter and dog sled tour and love glaciers and the like.

Trip details are as follows (not tied in yet but this is the agenda):

Fly Sydney - Vancouver (1 ngt in Vancouver)

Join Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf for 3 days staying Kamloops, then either Lake Louise or Banff, unsure which location we prefer as yet (will be putting a post up in Canada's forum but appreciate any thoughts here as is very pricey)

Fly Calgery - Vancouver

Join Silversea Cruise for 9 day voyage featuring Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Prince Rupert Sept 14

I realise that Sept is not an ideal time to visit Alaska but unfortunately due to work commitments its the only time we can travel. Fortunately being on a smaller ship apparently means we can get into the smaller ports which will be nice. We don't enjoy being on a 2,500 passenger cruise and prefer more intimate and personalised service. Of course you pay for it but hey you may as well enjoy your money while you can, not that we are loaded!!! And its our wedding anniversary. Bucket list holiday.

Have been looking extensively on Cruise Critic but I prefer TA as it is much better laid out and easier to read.

Wondering if it is better to arrange your land tours privately through tour operators on TA e.g or go through the cruise ship (more pricey I would imagine). I have listed our interests above so this should give people a good indication of what we like. We would like to see as much as we can in each port without emptying the bank account.

If anyone has been on a Silversea cruise to Alaska I would really appreciate your thoughts. We are looking at a Verandah 4 suite and I have some concerns about the general dress attire and formal nights on the ship (have read a prior review on TA but it was quite out of date). Hubby and I are not formal people really, although we do like to dress up occasionally. More your jeans and top kind of people.

Weather wise I see it is around 50F or about 10C during the day. What about wind chill factor? Will we be needing thermals and 4-5 layers of clothing being outside on deck and/or land?

Sorry to have asked so many questions and rambled on but your replies would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers

Caz

New South Wales...
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for Fiji, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory
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1. Re: Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

Hi Caz - a lot of your questions have answers in the "top questions" section on the right of this page - particularly regarding clothing & weather.

Your question is really about shore excursions. I've just been looking into some Regency cruises and all the shore excursions are included in the fare so I would check with Silverseas regarding inclusions. If they're not included, Regency are quite similar in cruise style so it may be worth looking into what they have to offer. My only concern is that onboard life may be WAY too formal for us...... still deciding.

Lake Tahoe...
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2. Re: Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

The Silverseas Shadow passes through Homer once a year at the beginning of the season. They appear to be one of those high end priced cruises out of my price range. Do you really want that Canadian part of the trip (which is not cheap)?

You might consider flying directly from Sydney to Anchorage with an overnight. stop in Honolulu and spend the rest of your time in Alaska. There you can get a car and tour the state on your own

Chennai (Madras...
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3. Re: Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

Both Lake Louise and Banff are good but Banff is more beautiful and it is a larger than Lake Louise. There could be more activities in Banff and there are some excellent hikes beyond the Lake louise.. Of course one can spend hours at the lake front and the lake is serene. If possible do a day trip from Calgary/ Banff. Limited coach service is available. I am not sure of Rocky package for LL from Vancouver. If there then you can first go to LL and from there you can visit Banff on your own on the way to Calgary.

Lake Tahoe...
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4. Re: Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

I think the train to Banff from Vancouver and back is something like a minimum of five days. It has been a long time since we visited the Lake Louise area, and what I remember is the high rise hotel and very crowded with visitors.

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5. Re: Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

I presume you are flying into Vancouver because you cannot get a direct flight from Australia to Calgary? If you can, I would suggest you have a look at doing just that and complete your trip in reverse order so to speak.

We have been lucky enough to have visited Canada/Alaska a few times.

When we decided to visit Alaska, there was one train we hadn't been on in Canada - The Skeena. It leaves from Jasper which we had visited before but The Rockies are so beautiful, we decided to go over the same ground for part of the trip. We flew into Calgary from the UK and took a Brewster Coach trip across the Icefields Pathway all the way to Jasper. IMO the journey is incredibly beautiful and one that takes you through the heart of The Rockies. We saw black bears eating on the grass verges by the roadside and also a mother grizzly (brown bear) and her cubs swimming across the creek. We stopped en route at various picturesque lakes and also the Athabasca falls and glacier. The coach dropped people off at Banff and also LL (which is best viewed early/late in the day when the bulk of the tourists have gone). We stayed on the coach as we were planning to visit Banff and LL on our return journey at the end of our vacation. (By the way, we stayed at Deer Lodge, about a 5min. walk from LL and much cheaper than the Fairmont Lake.)

After a few nights in Jasper, we took the train to Prince Rupert for our onward journey to Alaska (Skagway)via the Alaskan Marine Highway (ferry system), stopping off for a few nights at several ports en route.

We found this very easy (and cost effective) to organise ourselves and gave us the freedom to choose our own ports. We travelled as foot passengers and simply took a taxi from the ferry ports to our hotels.

There are cabins on the ferries for the longer journeys (basic but comfortable with shower/washing facilities ensuite) and we found the food to be good. There are facilities to heat up your own food should you wish to do so. While I have nothing against cruises, on this occasion, it was all about the scenery, not the onboard entertainment.

If you do decide on the cruise (departing from Vancouver), you might consider staying 1-2 nights in Jasper and taking the coach back to Banff in order to join the Rocky Mountaineer to Vancouver. Yes, you would be travelling the same highway between Jasper and Banff but if I could, I would travel the Icefields Pathway back and forth many times over!

If you have to fly into Vancouver, I would suggest you spend more than one night there. It is a lovely city and there is a lot to see and do.

As for the Rocky Mountaineer: dining in Gold Leaf is a lovely experience - table service etc. - and you get to ride in the glass dome. However, if you find it a little too pricey, opt for Red Leaf. The food is good and the windows are large. There is also a viewing platform at the end of the carriage which is great for taking photographs. The main difference is that you eat your meals whilst in your seat as opposed to sitting at a table in the separate dining car. The seats in Redleaf are much more comfortable than on an airline and there is more leg room between the rows which helps when you pull down the tray to eat your meal.

We travelled in June but found that layers worked well. On deck, it could be quite chilly at times but once ashore, the temperature rose a little and on several occasions we walked about in our T-shirts. A lightweight waterproof jacket is useful for that "liquid sunshine". We haven't travelled in September.

If you want to go whalewatching, Juneau is the place. Harv & Marv do a fantastic trip that includes a brief visit to the Mendenhall glacier. If you want to linger there, you can always take the regular bus back instead of the shuttle service they provide. Book H & M as soon as possible.

Whatever you decide, have a great trip. We're already planning our return - this time to visit further into Alaska than Skagway.

Sydney, Australia
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6. Re: Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

wow!! thanks so much everyone for your help here. fab...

just caught up at moment but will have a good read tongt and reply properly. i now have more questions.

everyones so helpful on TA. thanks all

Greater Sydney...
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7. Re: Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

G'day neighbour from Casula,

Your questions in regard to the Canadian Rockies are far best addressed on the Alberta forum for that region, not this Alaska forum.

tripadvisor.com.au/ShowForum-g154909-i219-Al…

The remainder of your post is in regard to the Silver Seas cruise and excursions, and has really not been addressed by those kind enough to post so far. Even though this is a luxury offering, I do not see from their website that shore excursions are included as someone mentioned above, so can understand your asking here, but that question has been rather obscured by all of the other stuff in your post. I do see that SS have a concierge through whom you can arrange private excursions though. I would be one who would select options well in advance and book them independently before leaving Aust.

As SS do not publish an excursion list as the contemporary cruise lines do, perhaps you could go to the HAL or Princess website and download their excursion lists, study them and select a few options in each port of interest and within budget, and the peruse/search the individual destinations on this forum for previous posts or post again what your choices might be. Then we will be in a better position to advise of local providers of similar trips. I could list what we have done and enjoyed, as also could other previous cruisers, but they may not be of interest to your or within your budget. Another thought would be to Google the official tourism websites for each port where you will see pages of activities to wade through as well.

I would love to experience the SS luxury, but it would be beyond me. The dress code would also be a bit off-putting as well. For a 9 day cruise they have 2 formal nights, 4 informal nights and 3 casual nights. I see that their definition of "informal" is a jacket for men, but tie optional, and dresses/slacks suite for women, and formal IS quite formal. I hope the link below works as there is a fair bit of information in that document.

silversea.com/uploadedFiles/…20Guide.pdf

It would appear that on formal nights there is no restriction to dining in other facilities on-board in casual gear.

See how you go, and one thing on your side is that you have plenty of time for planning.

Edited: 18 September 2013, 06:38
Sydney, Australia
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8. Re: Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

Finally home to read everyone's responses!! And ask some more questions no doubt. I will post a thread on the Alberta forum in regard to several areas in Canada and Rocky Mountaineer shortly and muchly appreciate everyone's advice with that.

Pamjo, Frommy, I honestly hadn't thought of flying to Calgery first. Makes more sense in hindsight. Looked at flights and we can fly to Calgery but via Vancouver which probably wouldn't be a big deal. I think it makes more sense actually flying to Calgery, then spending a few days in LL and Banff and ending Rocky Mountaineer in Vancouver, then joining the cruise.

There wasn't too much difference in the price between Redleaf and Gold from what I remember, but as we are only planning on probably doing this once we're going to go all out!!!!

I am a little concerned with August being a tad bit too cold on the cruise, but you can certainly rug up that's for sure. Unable to go earlier in the season due to work which is a bit of a bummer, but several of the cruise lines do August cruises, so it can't be too bad at the end of the season and believe me its a fair bit cheaper than May/June time.

Pamjo, I have looked up Harv and Marv with regard to whale watching and they look fabulous. We like small crews who take good care of their customers and prices are pretty darn good. Will defintely consider (and I'm sure they will be cheaper than excursions booked through Silversea).

G'day Frommy, you're not all that far from me, we're also in Sydney (North West). Small world isn't it. Hope you may be able to also help me when I post on Alberta forums with queries for Canada and Rockies.

Agree with you Frommy, Silversea don't say much about their excursions which is a bit silly to be honest, HAL, Princess, RSSC ALL do along with costs. I have looked at the other cruise lines tours available to give me some idea of costs, choices available. I'm all for booking the tours myself independently but don't want to get stung as I did in Bora Bora and stupid me lost US$1500 through some tour group who wouldn't refund my money 2 years later. Major humph and left a sour taste in my mouth that's for sure. I certainly will be going with very reputable tour companies in Alaska as we want to make the most of our time financially and otherwise.

I get what you are saying about the formal nights on the ship. Apparently I have seen that you don't HAVE to attend the formal nights, you can eat in your own suite or even in the more casual restaurants instead, but I wouldn't mind hearing from people who have cruised with Silversea. Probably don't mind the odd formal night as it can be a bit of fun, but not every evening. That would tire me out to be honest. Thanks for your homework with Silversea.

Thanks everyone, always grateful for your comments and posts!!! Looking forward to planning this trip with a few people's help. One big holiday together. LOL

Cheers Caz

Greater Sydney...
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9. Re: Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

Ah, so you are not actually in Casula.

In your original post you mentioned a cruise in September, and then above you mention a cruise in August but I think that might be a typo. Correct? As for cruises, the last ones for the season would be on the water now I think.

"I certainly will be going with very reputable tour companies" Just make sure that you book DIRECT with the operator, like Harv & Marv, not through a third party, and you cannot go wrong.

I see that you have now posted on the Alberta forum and will reply to you again there.

Sydney, Australia
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10. Re: Ideas/tips for a trip of a lifetime to Alaska

fair way from casula frommy, its my nickname!!

totally a typo earlier. cruise will be sept for sure but early in month.

look forward to your replies on other forum.

cheers

caz

Edited: 18 September 2013, 11:33