Trip Advisor is my go to website to research everything about where we are travelling to. I had seen this excursion on our cruise ship but the idea of a private tour instead of a large bus tour was very appealing. Howard only had 5 reviews at the time but they were all 5 star reviews so I felt pretty good about booking his tour. He said he would pick us up in the cruise ship parking lot at 7:45 that morning. We were there at 7:45, looking all over for his green Suburban, but no Howard. There was another parking lot adjacent to our ship and we even looked there- no Howard. I finally called him around 8:30 and he seemed confused. Turns out he had parked somewhere different but said he would come get us. At that time, he asked if we would mind sharing the tour with other people. Apparently he had booked our group of 4 and this other group of 2 for the same day ( so much for the private tour). This meant 3 people were in the 3rd seat, 2 people in the middle seat, and 1 person with Howard up front. Howard said we could split the cost of the tour between us since it was a flat rate for 1-6 people. We all agreed and finally got on our way around 8:45.
First off, Howard doesn't like crowds. He likes to get an early start to get ahead of the other tours (which I totally understand) but he was the reason we got the late start. If other tour buses were at the location he usually stopped at he wanted to pass that location up and try and get it on the way back. If he did stop, he would complain about how long it was going to take for our group to be able to get the picture we wanted. He never said "hurry up" but that's how it felt at times. It was difficult for the people in the third row to get out so after the first few stops they didn't even get out of the car for many of the scenic locations.
There was a lot of fog on our way out of town so we had to pass a lot of things up, hoping the weather was better on our way back. He would say "Remind me to stop there on the way back." How can I remind you about something I don't know about? He spent a lot of time bad mouthing other tours (the train, suspension bridge, bicycle and jeep tours especially), constantly reminding us of how much better it was to be with him, for that flat rate, and all the stuff we'd get to see that others wouldn't. He talked plenty on the way up to the Yukon, but it was more like stuff that just popped in his head instead of an organized narrative of our journey.
We saw no wildlife at all. I realize he has no control over that, and he said it was the first time he hadn't seen any wildlife on one of his tours. What I didn't like was his comment on the way back that he needed to concentrate on driving so it was up to us to spot any wildlife. Not an easy thing to do when you're zipping down the mountain at 60 mph. Several times we asked him to stop at a glacier on our way back that had been hidden by fog on the way up. He never did stop there.
When we got back to town, there was a problem with settling up for the balance of the tour. The original arrangement was when booking we paid a deposit (as did the other couple that we split the tour with) so we felt that what we owed him was the balance left after deducting the 2 deposits. He insisted that the balance due was more than that (his figure only took into account 1 deposit, not both). All 4 adults tried to rationally explain to him that his figure did not take into account the deposits left by both groups but he wouldn't budge. He became very angry and rude, and was very belligerent, refusing to even listen to us when we tried multiple times to explain that he wasn't taking both deposits into account. We didn't have a problem paying what we felt we owed him, but certainly had no desire to pay him more.
The bottom line is this. Overall we felt rushed. Everytime we wanted to stop for pictures there was grumbling if other people were there. Our stop at Carcross Desert was long enough to get out, take 1 or 2 pictures and get back in. No walking around on the desert sand. We were there literally 2 minutes. Emerald Lake was beautiful, and I think we were there 5 minutes. I don't need an hour at each location, but 10-15 minutes at the major stops would have been nice. We didn't even get a chance to have our picture taken at the Welcome to Alaska sign because another bus pulled in right when we did and he didn't want to stay. He was definitely in a hurry to get back to town. I really wish we would have had the experience that the other reviewers had. Even if the money thing at the end hadn't of happened I would have still been disappointed in this tour. If I could do it again, I would have rented a car and driven myself or booked a different tour. It just didn't live up to our expectations.
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