Monday, July 25, 2011

Alaska Cruise Tour Review

After being home for almost a month from my recent Holland America Line Cruise Tour 28, I felt it was time to share my experience with others who might be doing the same tour or one similar to it in the near future.  Maybe some of you are trying to decide whether or not you should book a cruise tour so hopefully I can give you a small glimpse of what a cruise tour actually entails.  I went on this tour with my mom and we both had a wonderful time.  The review is long but I wanted to make sure I covered everything.

Vancouver to Whitehorse
Technically our first day started with an overnight in Vancouver.  We stayed at the Fairmont at the airport.  The next morning was when we had our flight out to Whitehorse to meet our tour concierge.  That morning we had to have our bags ready by 8am inside the hotel room.  They came and gathered our things for us and took them downstairs so that we didn't have to worry about getting them down the elevators.  They had them loaded up for us on little airport pushcarts which was wonderful.  Trying to drag all of our luggage to the hotel after baggage claim when we arrived in Vancouver was not my idea of fun.  We took our luggage down to the far end and checked in at Air North.  We were surprised that we did not have to pay extra to check our bags.  We made our way to our gate to sit and wait.  The flight was quite nice.  It wasn't full so we got to spread out.  They also gave us a meal on the plane.  It wasn't a huge meal but it was nice to be given more than a 2 oz glass of soda.  They came through after our meal with fresh warm cookies.  I don't think I've ever been on a flight that does that in COACH.

When we arrived in Whitehorse, we were greeted by someone at the airport telling us which group to go with.  The amount of people on tour 28 was so big that they had to divide us into two groups.  So the lady with the clipboard told us that we were in group 28 A.  I'm not sure how they decided who was in which group.  So we went over and checked in.  Our tour director gave us our bright yellow luggage tags and we went over to find our luggage.  As our luggage came off we were told to put our tags on.  As soon as the HAL people saw that our luggage had a tag on it, they took it away.  They didn't wait for us to have all of our luggage but took it as it was ready.  We didn't see it again until we arrived at the hotel in Whitehorse.  We only had to wait about 5-10 minutes after all the luggage had been claimed for our bus to be ready to go.  Once it was ready we got on and headed to the hotel which was about a 10 minute ride (from what I remember....that was all a blur so I don't remember much).  I just remember thinking it was my lucky day because we ended up in the group with the cute tour did I get so lucky :)  On the bus our tour director, Tom, was giving us information we would need to know when we arrived.  I'm not even sure I remember what he told us.  I know he told us what time we needed to be downstairs for our Welcome Dinner.  He also gave us an information sheet to fill out as to our room preferences such as how many beds we preferred, if we had trouble walking stairs, passport # to expedite crossing the border.  As we got off the bus, he gave us our room keys and our schedule for our time in Whitehorse was on the room key envelope.

We stayed at The Westmark.  The hotel was decent.  It was clean and they had working elevators.  There was no air conditioning but it didn't seem to be a problem.  We were able to open the windows and we were just fine.  There was a fan in the room too so that helped.  We also had free wifi.  There was also a fridge in the room.  When we walked into our hotel room the first thing we noticed was the lack of one bed.  They had given us 1 big king.  We needed 2 doubles instead.  I was just going to make due at this hotel but then I remembered that we were going to be there 2 nights.  So when we went back downstairs later, we told Tom about our situation and he quickly checked and they had a room that we could be moved to.  It happened to be a suite so that was even better.  The staff that worked at the front desk was friendly and helpful.  The welcome dinner was nice.  We met some very nice people from New Zealand that sat with us.  They became our fast friends throughout the trip.  They seemed to sit near us on our bus rides and two of them were on an excursion with us.

We opted to get the prepaid meal plan on our tour.  We weren't familiar with the cities/towns we were going to or what time we would be arriving.  We wanted to make it easy to get something to eat.  I'm not picky so this seemed to be the best option.  I'm not sure if the value was worth it.  I know that we probably could have eaten cheaper if we had tried to go to cheaper restaurants but the convenience was nice and it was already paid for.  Therefore, we didn't need to have extra cash on us or have extra credit card charges that we didn't think about.  The food at most places was decent.

The next day we did an excursion to Kluane National Park that lasted quite some time.  Then when we got back we did a few more store/gift shop visits on main street in Whitehorse.  That night we went to a Frantic Follies show that was alright.  It was about 2 hours long.  There was some cheesy stuff in the show but it was all in fun.  They had a ton of people crammed into the show room but we all survived.  We were worried after the show that we would have to wait a long time to get an elevator back up but we didn't have to wait at all.

On the Road...Destination: Dawson City
The next day was our travel day to Dawson City.  I was looking forward to being in a new place but not looking forward to the full day on the road.  It wasn't as bad as I expected.  They had a bottle of water in our seats for us as we boarded the bus. After we were all on the bus and heading to our next destination, Tom brought around a piece of paper that told about our next stop and it would say the places we would be visiting that day.  It also had a map on it.  We got one of these on each of our travel days.  They stopped every 1.5 hours or so for a "coffee" break.  Our first stop was at Braeburn Lodge.  When you think of a "lodge" you aren't going to picture this place.  They are known for their enormous cinnamon rolls.  They were enormous and pretty decent.  If someone tells me some place is known for something, I'm the first one in line to try it.  Just a little piece of advice that we were told when we arrived.....don't mess with the dogs.  The man that owns the place is particular about his dogs.  After that we moved on.  Our next stop was for lunch at Minto Resort.  Again when you think of a resort, you are not going to picture this place.  As we were pulling up, Tom kept telling us that the workers were really good looking.  Then he ran off to see if they were ready.  Guess who the server was......yes, it was Tom....haha!  He was right!  The food was an all you can eat one time through buffet (sandwich type buffet).  There were small rolls wrapped in saran wrap followed by desserts and salad and lunch meat.  There was no bread.  We asked about the bread and you were supposed to use the rolls to make your sandwich.  That was all fine and dandy but it would have been nice to know that when we started through the line.  After we ate, we went outside and enjoyed the scenery and waited until time to move on.  We also stopped that afternoon at Moose Creek Lodge for another coffee break.  We took a few picture stops too....or it might have been just one, I don't remember.  We finally made it to Dawson around 5pm.  I forgot to add that along the way, our bus driver was telling us all about the things that we were seeing.  From what I remember we also watched a few DVD's about Alaska.  Don't ask what they were about.  I have a problem falling asleep during anything on TV.

Dawson City is smaller than Whitehorse.  Such a cute little town.  The sidewalks weren't sidewalks but they were boardwalks.  The roads weren't paved, they were dirt roads.  We had no phone service so I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere.  It took us quite a while to get there or at least that's what I remembered.  We chose not to go on any excursions on our free day.  We did however go to Diamond Tooth Gerties the night that we arrived.  It was a gambling hall and they put on a show 3 times a night.  It was similar to the Frantic Follies but I thought it was better.  We got there early and went upstairs to sit in the balcony.  I suggest if you want to steer clear of being picked on, the balcony is the best place.  I didn't buy much to drink on the land tour or the cruise for that matter.  I did however decide that I wanted a glass of wine at Diamond Tooth Gerties.  A glass was about the cost of the bottle in the US.  I should have passed it up, but I really wanted wine.  Something you must do while you are in Dawson is go to the Sourdough Saloon at the Downtown Hotel and enjoy your Sourtoe Cocktail.  Only 40,000 something people have had theirs.  It's not for the faint of heart that's for sure but it is something you have to do.  I was the only person on my tour to have the cocktail but I was also the youngest and probably most daring/adventurous in the group.  You pay for a shot of whatever you choose at the bar...I had what they gave me which I think was Whiskey.  Then you take it over to the table to the Captain and you pay him $5 for the toe.  You sign the book, he fills out your card and certificate and then he says his little spiel.  "You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow.  But your lips have gotta touch the toe."  So don't miss out on that.

The Westmark Inn in Dawson was once again decent.  It was just a regular hotel.  They did have air conditioning in the room and a ceiling fan.  There was no fridge in our room.  There was also no elevator but we were on the first floor so that wasn't an issue.  We did not have wifi in the room but we did have it in the lobby of our specific hotel building.  There were 2 different hotel buildings so I'm not sure if the other one that was closer to the main building had a better wifi connection or not.  The food was pretty good in the restaurant.  They had a lounge area and you could order the same food that was offered in the restaurant in the lounge.

The next day before leaving Dawson City, they took us down to the Yukon River and put us on a river cruise up the Yukon.  We were supposed to be taking a longer river cruise up to Eagle, AK but the roads from Eagle to Tok were not safe so we did a roundtrip 3 hour river cruise and came back to Dawson and then went to Tok straight from Dawson.  On the River Cruise they gave you a small meal.  I think we ate around 10am.  You had your choice between a bagel with stuff on it....I wish I remembered what OR a breakfast burrito.  I had the bagel and it was decent.  Not super high quality but you have to remember that we were in the Yukon and I had a petrified toe in my drink the night before.  On the boat you did have the option to go out onto an open deck to get pictures.  I was quite comfortable in my seat so that is where I remained most of the time.

Traveling to Tok
After the our river cruise we got back on the bus and took a ferry across the Yukon River so we get on the Top of the World Highway.  Our driver Lori did an awesome job getting us to Tok safely and entertained us along the way.  I know we stopped a few times (I think).  One place that I do remember was Chicken, AK.  I had heard about Chicken last year and I was hoping we would get to make the stop.  It's a tiny little area with stinky bathrooms and a fun little store.  We only had about 20 minutes here.  I was able to quickly buy my souvenir t-shirt and write 3 postcards and have a quick snack and get back on the bus.  Then we moved on rather quickly.  This was our really long travel day so they did give us a small snack on the bus at one point.  I don't remember where on our journey they gave it to us, but I was very appreciative.  They also gave us a bottle of water (I think).

We arrived in Tok around 7pm I think.  I could be totally off on the time there but I just remember that I was really tired.  We stayed at the Westmark Hotel here as well.  In case you didn't know, HAL owns Westmark Hotels.  We walked into our room in Tok to find 3 twin beds all in a row.  It was a sight I had never seen before.  The bathrooms were tiny but the beds were super comfortable and it was clean.  Really the only thing we had time to do in Tok was eat dinner and breakfast, sleep, and then get ready to move on the next day.  The people in Tok were really friendly and the service was pretty good in the restaurant.  It was love week when we were there so everything was decorated for what looked like a summer Valentine's Day.  They picked a couple from our bus to be the love couple.

On to Fairbanks
When we left Tok, we were heading towards Fairbanks.  We stopped at Rika's Roadhouse along the way.  When you think of roadhouse, you probably aren't going to picture Rika's.  It reminded me more of a lodge type place that was back in the woods.  They had really good bear claws.  If you ask them, they will even warm it up for you.  Several people on our tour also got some inexpensive but appeared to be decent quality jackets in the gift shop.  They always had them on.  So if you feel like you might need a jacket when you stop at Rika's, this might be the place to go ahead and pick one up.  We had about 30 minutes at this stop.  There were some nice things to take pictures of if you are into photography so take your camera off the bus with you.  We stopped also at one point to get a picture of the Alaska Pipeline.  We were very close to it and able to get some great pictures from the ground.

Another stop we made was probably one of my favorites.  We stopped at North Pole, AK.  They had said that if we left 15 minutes earlier from Tok than we were supposed to (which meant we had to leave at 7:45am), then we would have time to stop.  I kind of wonder if they make this stop on every tour.  Maybe they don't.  I was glad we did.  Santa was there and we were able to sit in his lap, and take pictures with him.  I plan to print the picture out and frame it for my students to see at school.  I'm sure they will think it's cool that their kindergarten teacher sat in Santa's lap.  I had to rush around in the store to find a shirt I wanted....there was no time to stop and think.

When we left Santa Clauses House, we went to Gold Dredge No. 8.   The lunch there was served family style.  It was very good but not that filling if you happened to not get much meat in your stew.  They will refill the pot so ask them if you want more.  We had Miners Stew with biscuits and I think there was dessert included too.  They had a place you could go purchase ice cream as well.  They were giving tours of the gold drudge after we finished our lunch.  The tour lasted maybe 15 minutes and then we had some time to look around and take more pictures.  We were only at the place for 1 hour.  Then we moved on.  Next they took us to El Dorado Gold Mine.  We got on a train, went through a tunnel and listened to some people talk about gold mining.  Then we watched a gold mining demonstration (in the rain).  They did provide umbrellas because of the rain.  They escorted us to the next place at El Dorado.  They gave everyone a bag of dirt/rocks with some tiny flakes of gold.  We had to pan for gold to see how much we had.  Then after we had gathered our gold, we put it in a little canister and took it inside so that they could weigh it and tell us how much we had.  They had warm cookies and warm beverages inside that were being served....well it was more of a help yourself kind of service.  We had about 30 minutes inside the big gift shop before we were instructed to get back on the train to pull us back around to our buses.

Once we were back on our bus, they drove us to our hotel.  We stayed at the Westmark.  We had free wifi in the room and the room was nice and roomy.  I'm not sure if all the rooms were suites or if we just had one because we were in a suite on the ship, but it was nice to be in a bigger room.  One thing that Tom told us before we got to Fairbanks was that there were going to be a lot of people when we got off the bus in Fairbanks.  A lot of tours meet up in Fairbanks and end in Fairbanks so there were tons of people.  It would have been a bit overwhelming had he not told us that.  It was still slightly overwhelming so I'm was glad I was mentally prepared.  Large crowds of people who are aimlessly wondering around isn't my preference.

That night we had an excursion to Chena Hot Springs.  We had realized on the bus ride to Fairbanks that our particular excursion had a meal included.  If you remember from before, we had already pre-purchased the meal vouchers.  We wanted to see what our excursion would include so we asked and they informed us that it would be prime rib and halibut.  We opted for that meal instead of the hotel food.  However, that left us with one extra meal voucher that we were not able to use.  Tom went to ask them if we could use it for lunch another day (a less expensive meal than dinner would have been) but they wouldn't allow it.  I guess it's a good thing though that they didn't because of all the places that we went on our journey, the food at the Westmark in Fairbanks was our least favorite.  The breakfast buffet was not good.  There was not a very good variety and no fresh fruit.  So if you want fresh fruit, I suggest you get it elsewhere.  I know some people took a cab to the grocery store while we were there to get fresh fruit.  I should have gone with them.

While we were in Fairbanks we took another included excursion along the Chena River.  It was a river cruise.  There were a lot more people on this excursion than the river cruise that we took in Dawson City.  The cruise in Dawson City was just Tour 28.  This Chena River Cruise was people on our tour and lots of other tours as well.  I wish I could tell you more about this tour but this was after we got in really late from our night excursion and had to get up early for this tour....therefore, I don't remember much.  One piece of advice is to sit on the left side of the boat.  We stopped several places along the way and people that were part of the tour were on the bank of the river doing demonstrations.  You will have a much better view if you sit on the left side, assuming the boats are going the same direction as ours did.  We were thankful that our tour director gave us that little bit of information.  Once we got down to a certain point, everyone got off of the boat and listened to 3 different talks about the Athabascan Indian Culture.  It was a rainy day but they gave everyone little seat cushion things so we didn't have to sit on the wet benches.  The excursion was a great excursion....I wish I wasn't so tired because I know I would have enjoyed it much more.

We went on an excursion later on that evening.  It was a flight over the Arctic Circle.  They picked us up and took us to the airport.  On the way they offered us a sack lunch we could eat along the journey at some point.  We didn't buy it because we had just eaten and we didn't feel that we would need it.  We flew across the arctic circle and landed in Coldfoot.  The flight up was very turbulent.  I'm not sure if it is always that way, but it was enough for me to feel sick.  Once we arrived they piled us into a 15 passenger van and took us about 15 miles to a little village called Wiseman.  If you weren't aware already there are plenty of mosquitoes in Alaska.  There were so many in Wiseman that they gave us mosquito nets to wear over our heads.  They were really bad.  They also had bug spray available.  And if you need to go to the restroom, be prepared to use the outhouse while mosquitoes are simultaneously flying around trying to eat you for dinner.  The flight back from Coldfoot was much better than the flight there.  I would recommend the excursion if you get a chance.  The pilot told us when we were going to be flying over the Arctic Circle so that we could take pictures of the whatever you call it in the plane where it tells you where you are in the sky.

McKinley Explorer to Denali
The next morning was our train ride to Denali aboard the McKinley Explorer.  The train left around 8am.  The seats were comfortable.  The cars were dome cars so that we had a great view.  Below our level was the dining area.  We did not eat breakfast on this ride.  The whole ride was about 4 hours so it actually went pretty fast.  It was nice to be able to go out on the platform and get pictures of the scenery without a glare on the window.  Here's a little information to those of you who have never been on a train like that.  I learned something very quickly about the doors that lead out to the platforms.  There is a button you push to open the door.  It was well labeled.  The door will close automatically on it's own so there is no need for you to begin pulling on the door to try to close it.  I stood there and tried to pull the door closed and felt silly when I realized how it worked.  Oh was I supposed to know.  Also, ask your tour director how to get out to the back platform where you can see the train tracks out the very back of the train.  I didn't know that was an option until our train ride from Denali to Anchorage.  Of course on this train ride we weren't exactly really close to the back so I don't even know if I would have been able to get to the back of the train easily.

Once we arrived in Denali we were loaded onto a bus and taken to our hotel.  We stayed in the McKinley Chalet Resort.  The hotel was nice and clean.  There was free wifi in the lobby.  I think if our room would have been closer to the lobby we might have been able to pick up a signal in the room but we couldn't.  Our iPhones also didn't work very well in our room as far as getting data on our phone.  There was no checking facebook or email in my room using my data on my phone.  It was too slow and basically never worked.  Oh well....why did I need to check facebook on vacation?  The food in Denali was not included in our meal voucher plan that we had purchased because HAL doesn't own any of the restaurants....that's the way I understood it.  I remember the food at the hotel to be pricey.  We only ate breakfast there once and then had one snack.

That evening we had an excursion:  Jet Boat Safari.  I enjoyed it even though I was extremely exhausted.  The views were absolutely beautiful!  The sky was so blue!  The bus ride there was about 45 minutes.  Be on the lookout for moose because we saw some.  Also, we didn't just ride a jet boat.  We did a little panning for gold and got to see some reindeer with optional feeding, which of course I did.

The next morning we had our included Tundra Wilderness Tour.  I was excited about going into Denali but I was a little anxious because of all the reviews I had heard about people on the modified school buses trampling each other when they saw anything with a heartbeat moving outside the bus.  I'm here to tell you that it was not bad at all.  When we got on, we chose our seats and each seat had a boxed lunch in it.  I honestly don't remember what was in the box lunch but I do remember that I didn't eat it.  I think there were chips and maybe some cheese and maybe some kind of meat or something.  I brought snacks with me like peanut butter crackers, nuts, beef jerky, and some extra water.  The excursion is supposed to last 7-8 hours.  Ours lasted more like 8-9 hours because we saw tons of wildlife.  We saw grizzly bears, caribou, dall sheep, etc.  We would stop about every 1.5 hours for a restroom break or picture stops.  Even though the bus is a modified school bus, it's much more comfortable than any school bus I've ever been on.  I forgot to mention that these tours start at 5:30 am.  Ours didn't leave until 6:10 am.  I'm glad it started early because we had a chance to see Mt. McKinley before the clouds rolled in.  I mean I guess it could have been covered by clouds any morning so you never know.  But it was nice to be out and moving so early....I am a morning person so I'm sure that helped a bit.

Later that same day we rented a Jeep.  We originally tried to get out of it, but it was too late to cancel by the time we decided to cancel.  So we went exploring some with the map they gave us.  We had already been down several of the roads on the map so we just went down the ones that we hadn't seen.  After we did some discovering, we went to eat dinner.  We went to 49th State Brewery in Healy.  It took us a while to get some service but once we finally got someone to wait on us, the food was so good!  The portions were huge!  I couldn't even eat half of mine.  So if you get a chance to get out and you want to get away from the touristy stuff, Healy is an option.  It's only like 11 miles up the road.  Be on the lookout for moose because they were out there just hanging out.  We were in the parking lot and a moose walked right in front of our jeep.  That's as close as I ever want to be to a wild moose.

The next morning I did a rafting adventure down the Nenana River.  I wasn't going to but I decided that when would I get a chance to do it again.....I don't know if/when I'll be back, so I better go ahead and do it.  They put you in a dry suit and the only part of you that gets wet is your face.  I would recommend wearing really warm socks or wearing 2 pairs.  The water is cold.....after all, it is glacier water.  They do take pictures of you and you have the option to buy them but they are extremely overpriced.  Just buy a water camera before you get there or they sell them in their little shop, and get someone to get a picture of you that is on your boat.  It's a lot cheaper.

Train to Anchorage
We left around noon on the train from Denali to Anchorage.  That train ride was 8 hours but so picturesque.  I got some amazing pictures!  We got to the train station early and I'm glad we did, because I was able to get close up to the railing and wait for the train to come in and I got a great picture of the train coming in.  This was the train ride that our tour director told me how to get to the back platform.  There was only one car behind us, so it was quite easy to get back there.  Not many people knew about the back platform until someone announced it.  Then it got really crowded back there. At first it was a little confusing because you had to go down some stairs and immediately back up other stairs.   I almost felt like I was going to go in the kitchen of the dining area.   We did eat in the dining car for lunch and dinner.  The food was ok, I've definitely had better food.  There were only 2 of us, so they sat us with other people, which was fine.  We met some nice people that said they didn't have a tour concierge and they felt somewhat lost.  That made me appreciate ours.  We would have been lost without ours.  The train did stop in Talkeetna to unload some people and pick up some others.  We were there for about 15-20 minutes I think.  I didn't time the stop.  We also went through Wasilla.  If you are like me, you will want a picture of a Wasilla sign.  There were a few.  Just go out on the platform for a better chance at getting one and make sure you have your camera ready.

We got to Anchorage around 8pm.  I thought they would take us straight to our hotel, but unfortunately they didn't.  They drove us around for about 30 minutes while our luggage was being delivered and they were staggering all the buses that were going to the Hilton.  Of course they couldn't take us all there at the same time or it would be very chaotic in the HAL lobby.  However, we were ready to be there and did not want to be driving around.  If you are into photography, you will want to have your camera ready.  There was one photo opportunity that I missed because I was tired and ready to be at the hotel.  The Anchorage Museum is mirrored so when you drive by and you are on the right side (as in the appropriate side) to get a good picture you can get a neat bus reflection picture on the side of the building.  Anyways, when we arrived at the hotel, we went to our room and our luggage was there.  .

I can't say much about the food at the hotel.  We only ate the free Hilton Honors breakfast because of our Hilton status.  That was very good, but you only have access to that if you have status and then you have to ask at the front desk about it.  The hotel itself was nice.  It was definitely one of the nicer hotels but what do  you was a Hilton.  I don't know if I have ever stayed in a Hilton I didn't like.

Last Bus Ride of the Tour
The next morning we met in the HAL lobby at 8am.  At that time we loaded the bus and then rode about 2 hours or so to Seward.  If you sit on the right side of the bus, you will see water and have a better chance of seeing marine wildlife.  I didn't see any.  If you sit on the left side, you will see land.  Once we got to Seward, we said goodbye our tour concierge (tear, sniff, sniff) and headed down to the dock to get on our Kenai Fjords tour.  It was basically like a big tease because we could see our ship but they would not let us get on.  I think one person from our tour ended up going ahead to the ship because she was sick.  However, the rest of us went to our boat for our included tour.  The set up in the boat is tables.  I can't really recommend a good side to sit on because you never know when the wildlife will appear.  They made sure that we saw the animals they had control over.  Make sure you take some kind of medicine if you are prone to motion sickness.  The boat did move around a lot and I probably would have not done good if I didn't take medicine ahead of time.  They did provide a lunch on the boat.  I think we had a caesar wrap and some carrots and maybe chips.  They brought around warm cookies a few hours lately.  I fell asleep on the boat because I was so tired, but the smell of the cookies baking woke me up.  They had a snack bar that you could get drinks and other snacks at for a fee of course.  They did have restrooms on the boat but of course that is probably expected since the tour is about 6 hours long.

Once we finished our tour they brought us back to the dock and we went and got back on a bus that would take us on a short 2 minute ride up to the ship.  At that point, we were on our own and ready to completely relax.  Keep in mind that after our Kenai Fjord boat cruise ended and we made it to the ship, it was already past the start of dinner at 5:45pm.  We would not have made it to our assigned dining time had we not had suite passenger check in.  We were late to dinner, but they let us in.

As far as luggage goes, I know some people are unclear as was I when the trip started.  I packed a larger suitcase and left some room in it.  I also packed a smaller suitcase that included the things I was planning to wear on the cruise ship.  I wore many of the things on the cruise that I also wore on land but there were things that I packed only for the cruise.  We had our bags with us the whole time until we left Fairbanks.  At that time, we had to choose the bag that we wanted to send on to the ship and put the "Join Me On Board" tag on the luggage.  The other luggage (which was one piece each) went with us to Denali and then from Denali to Anchorage.  We never saw that other piece of luggage until we got to our stateroom.  So when we left Fairbanks, I re-evaluated my luggage and decided what I would not need until I got on the ship. I ended up putting my souvenirs and things that I had not used that I thought I would use but never did in my smaller suitcase.  It all worked out.

Overall, I thought the cruise tour was very well organized and we ALWAYS knew what was going on.  On the coach travel days they had our stops spread out and plentiful so that we had time to stretch out legs and walk around some. I tried to cover everything I possibly could and if you made it this far, you now know a little more of what to expect on your cruise tour.  I highly recommend you go on a tour if you are debating whether to go on one.  It is well worth the time and money, in my opinion.  If you have any other questions, ask away!

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