My wife and I returned yesterday from our Alaska trip. We took an inner passage northbound cruise on Celebrity Millennium from Vancouver to Seward, and then added on 2 nights in Seward after we disembarked and one night in Anchorage before flying back home to DC. First, let me say thanks to all on this forum for providing great advice and tips. Our trip was great...albeit too short. About us: Active couple in our 30s. Not big cruisers but thought it would be great way to see Alaska.
Cruise review: I put something up on Cruise Critic under the same name (diploj). I don't think it's been posted yet but head on over there if you're interested in hearing about our cruise (we had a great time). I'll spare you the details here.
Ketchikan: We did the flightseeing tour with Taquan (used the Toursaver book). Amanda was our pilot. GREAT place to do flightseeing. The mountains, lakes, and other scenery were spectacular and the tour gets you close enough to the mountain tops that my heart skipped a couple beats. We landed on one of the lakes to take a few quick pics and then flew back to the dock in Ketchikan. Weather was fantastic in the Fjords, although it was a bit dreary in Ketchikan. We ate at Annabelle's, which we found disappointing. A tourist trap, basically.
Hoonah/Icy Straight Point: Took the whale watching tour with Glacier Wind charters. We saw a few whales -- although they weren't being particularly active that day. The tour itself was fantastic. We saw bears, eagles, sea lions, sea otters, and porpoises. Shawn was great and we really enjoyed being on a small boat (only 4 other passengers) that allowed us to help shape the experience. Hoonah is a real Alaska town - none of the diamond shops that you find at some of the other big ports. It was interesting to experience but there wasn't much to see. We ate at the crab shack located just next to the tendering dock. Large King crab portion but disappointingly overcooked/rubbery, perhaps because we ate at the very end of the day.
Juneau: We rented a car and rode out to Mendenhall Glacier. Hiked to the waterfall and saw another bear and a porcupine in a tree (not the same tree). Also drove out to the Catholic Shrine and the salmon hatchery. Ate lunch at a hole in the wall fish and chips place that was off the beaten path but recommended by the rental place, and then at Tracy's Crab Shack. Tracy's did not disappoint -- best of our three king crab experiences in Alaska. Juneau was a great place to rent a car and get outside the town -- lots to see during a day-trip.
Skagway: We didn't have anything planned so we walked around the town and then ended up at the Days of 98 show, which we really enjoyed. Small timey peformance about a small timey crook from a small timey town. Really fun. We ate at Skagway fish company just off the dock -- very good fish and delicious Alaskan beer. I wish we had time to do a hike in Skagway but I guess we slept in too late...
Hubbard Glacier: Our cruise took us to the Hubbard glacier -- weather was great and we got within a mile or so of the calving glacier. Gliding through the ice chunks for a pretty close encounter with the glacier was spectacular, despite being on a large ship. The bloody mary in hand didn't hurt, either. If the weather hadn't been so great or we hadn't been able to get so close, this might have been a bit of a dud, but ended up being one of the highlights for me.
Seward: We spent 2 1/2 days in Seward at the end of our trip. We had one sunny afternoon, but rain for the rest of the time. The Alaska Sea Life center was very worthwhile (also used Toursaver here) and a great place to spend a rainy afternoon. Bad weather cancelled our glacier tour. It was a bummer, but we had already seen glaciers and whales earlier in the week, and also were refunded our money, so we can't complain. I took a solo hike halfway up Marathon Mountain when the weather cleared, which provided beautiful views of the mountains and bay. It's a pretty aggressive incline, though. We also did an ice-climbing trip with Exit Glacier Guides, which was fantastic. It was a rainy and tiring day but definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We ate at the brewery near Sealife, which was good (and I understand has undergone a complete change in ownership/menu) and Chinooks, which we thought was great, despite being a little pricey. We liked Chinooks so much we went back a second time.
Anchorage: We took the train from Seward to Anchorage. The views from the train ride really complemented the views from the sea that we'd gotten all week on our cruise. Definitely worthwhile, even in Adventure (the cheaper) class. We had less than a day in Anchorage before flying out, which was enough time to walk around the downtown and get some amazing pizza at Moose's Tooth. Given all there is to see outside of Anchorage, I didn't feel like I was missing much by not having spent more time there, but maybe some would disagree.
Overall, it was really an amazing trip. We had looked forward to visiting Alaska for months, and despite the high expectations, it didn't disappoint. Although we encountered some dreary weather (which we expected), it seemed like whenever we really needed good weather -- such as on our flightseeing tour or at Hubbard Glacier, mother nature didn't disappoint. The Alaskan people were friendly and welcoming; I just wish we had more time.