Please forgive us for a very long post. We are having a trip to Alaska. Because of busy schedule, we have only about 3 days for the trip. So, we narrowed the places to visit as in the subject line. Here are some information of our trip:
Our flights will:
- arrive ANC around 1pm on Wed, Aug 1
- depart ANC around 9pm on Fri, Aug 3
Four members of the trip are:
- 3 male/female adults between late 30 and mid 40, healthy
- 1 female elder in early 70, healthy, no seasick, walkable, going to restroom often, always wears skirt, does not understand English
Because we have an elder in the trip, we try to have only LIGHT ACTIVITIES in this trip. Most of the trip will be sight seeing on boat/cruise/ferry. Our budget is $2,000 (but flexible). Because this trip will be our first (and perhaps the only) time in Alaska, we will try to have VARIETIES of the sight seeing. Here is the plan we have so far:
Wed, Aug 1
- arrive ANC around 1pm by plane
- drive to Exit Glacier
- walk to Exit Glacier
- stay overnight in Seward
Thu, Aug 2
- take a cruise in Kenai Fjords national park
- stay overnight in Seward
Fri, Aug 3
- take 11:30am tunnel to Whittier
- take 12:30pm PWS cruise
- take 6pm tunnel back out of Whittier
- drive to ANC for the 9pm flight
What do you think about the plan? Is it possible? The section that I am still questioning the most is the drive back from Whittier to ANC. I am not sure whether we will have enough time or not if there is a construction or an accident on the highway.
If it turns out that taking both cruise in Seward and Whittier makes planning the trip hard, we are OK to drop a cruise. The question is which one to drop. Will we see glaciers from the cruises in Seward? If so, how much are they different from the glaciers in PWS? Are they still wow enough to a first-time visitor that it is still OK to drop the cruise in Whittier, and spend the time saved from dropping the cruise to add varieties by doing something else.
if you have a better idea for the plan, please let us know.
BTW, which cruises do you recommend for Glacier cruise in Whittier and Kenai Fjords?
I also have 2 questions related to the elder.
- The elder always wears skirt. Can she still take the cruise?
- The elder does not understand English. I saw in the website of Kenai Fjords Tours that they have accredited interpreters on their 9-hr Northwestern Fjord Tour. Does that mean the interpreter that translates languages? (I sent an e-mail to the company, but got no answer.)
BTW, because the plan is still not conclusive, how early should we book these tours/cruises? Is about a week enough?
Also, I found out about the coupon books (TourSaver and Northern Lights). Do we need 2 books for 4 of us? Or, we need only 1 book, and the company re-apply the coupon?
Thank you in advance!
Jul 14, 12, 9:52 am
I gave you my comments on Trip Advisor as did others. Maybe revise your itinerary based on those comments and repost?
Jul 15, 12, 1:58 pm
I think I will drop the cruise in Whittier. I do not know exactly what my crews like/dislike. They may not like being on boat 2 days in a row. Besides, they will see glaciers up close for a while on the boat tour from Seward on Day 2 already. By dropping the cruise, we loosen up our schedule on Day 3, and can enjoy our time with additional short activities/attractions instead. Here is a revised plan:
- arrive ANC at 1pm, pick up the car
- have lunch somewhere, buy fruits, water, snack, etc. at a supermarket
- drive to Seward, stop at lots of turnouts, Potter Marsh, and Bird Point
- visit SeaLife center if arrive Seward by 5pm
- walk in downtown, have dinner in Seward
- sleep in Seward
- take 9am Northwestern Fjord tour (have breakfast + lunch on board)
- return to Seward at 6pm, visit Exit Glacier
- have dinner where? sleep where? (Cooper Landing, Moose Pass, else?)
- visit Wildlife Conservation Center
- have lunch where?
- may visit Portage/Byron glaciers (if the crews want to see more glaciers)
- visit Girdwood at 4pm, take aerial tram
- leave Girdwood at 5:30pm (or 6pm if have dinner here)
- arrive ANC at 7pm, check in (have dinner after security if have not had)
What do you think about this plan? The Wildlife Conservation Center and Girdwood are in the plan on Day 3 to add varieties to the trip. I am not sure about the Portage/Byron glaciers. Are there any other activities to consider?
PS to fti: You may post your comments at Trip Advisor for this revised plan. I post this revised plan here as well so that I can hear comments from wider audience. Thank you.
Jul 16, 12, 11:36 am
I just returned from Alaska. We had four adults ranging from 18 to 78. It was my 15th trip to Alaska and the Kenai Fjords area but I certainly do not claim to be an expert; I am simply relating my experiences.
In Seward, we rented a house for two nights for $250 a night; it was cheaper and roomier than two hotel rooms. The rental was through VRBO and the property was #342726; the owner has a website for her property "A Home Away from Home Lodging.' The house was immaculate. It has two bedrooms with queen beds upstairs and a full bathroom upstairs. The downstairs has a full kitchen, living room with sleeper sofa, bedroom with twin beds, and a half bath (toilet, sink, washer, and dryer). The house had cable television and wifi. It was located in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of Seward.
Seward has a full-service Safeway grocery store that is open 24 hours a day. It has a bakery, deli, and liquor store. If you do not have a Safeway card, apply before shopping and you will save a lot of money.
We took three cruises from Seward. We used Major Marine for the wildlife cruises (no up-close glacier viewing) but we did see humpback whales (after 15 years, I finally saw a humpback breach in Alaska; I've seen hundreds of breaches in Hawaii), sea otters, mountain goats, Stellar sea lions, Dall porpoises, bald eagles, puffins, other sea birds, and a porcupine (the crew stated it was the first one they had seen from a boat). We took the wildlife cruise because it departed at 6:00 PM and returned at 10:00 and I am a whale fanatic.
We used Kenai Fjords and took the Northwestern Glacier cruise (nine hours). Our captain was fantastic! We saw orcas (residential and transient), humpback whales, Dall porpoises, sea otters, Stellar sea lions, puffins, eagles, mountain goats, harbor seals,and lots of sea birds. We were the only boat at Northwestern Glacier and saw some great calving.
The boat is very stable and has inside and outside seating. I spent almost the entire 9 hours outside bundled up in my parka, hat, and gloves. It does get cold so be prepared. The only problem with wearing a skirt is that she might get cold; I wore tights under my jeans and they hepled keep me warm. My 78 year-old mother spent most of her time outside also. If you have AAA, you can get a 10% discount on Kenai Fjords.
We all hiked to the edge of the glacier at Exit Glacier - even my mother with her cane. The hike is steep in places but if you take it slowly it can be done. Exit Glacier has a picnic area with great views.
We did Major Marine's trip to Surprise Glacier in Prince William Sound; it departs from Whittier. We saw better glacier calving and wild life on the Kenai Fjords cruises, but we enjoyed the cruise.
We stayed at a condo two nights in Girdwood; it was $150 per night for two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, and living room with sleeper sofa. On our last day in Alaska, we took the Alyeska tram up the mountain. We saw a moose and her calf from the tram. The views were OK but it was raining a bit. It was about 45 degrees F at the top; snow still covered the top of the mountain.
We went to the Wildlife Center across from the road to Whittier and Portage Glacier. The maximum cost is $30 per car. We enjoyed seeing animals up close - especially the baby musk oxen, baby moose, and bears.
We went to Portage Glacier and enjoyed walking around the lake. The ice chunks from the glacier were impressive but you cannot see Portage Glacier from the visitors center. We also enjoyed the exhibits; we were able to see the video and tour the exhibits free on my mother's Golden Pass for US National Parks. We were too early for salmon viewing at Portage.
We stopped along the way from Girdwood to the airport to look for belugas and Dall sheep but did not see any. We stopped at the Potter Marsh boardwalk and two of us walked; we saw a huge bald eagle, baby geese, and lots of birds.
Have a great trip!
Jul 17, 12, 12:23 pm
I forgot to mention that we booked all of our cruises on the day that we departed on that particular day and we booked directly with Major Marine and Kenai Fjords in Seward. We were there the days before the 4th of July and I would assume that is peak season. None of the boats were full - most were at 75% or less.
I have never heard any narration except for English on any of the day cruises. A lot of the narration involves directing people to look where the animals are. Perhaps since I have been on so many of these day cruises, I just tune out everthing except when an animal is spotted.
The boats all have restrooms; on many of the boats you cannot flush anything that you personally have not consumed; you may flush small amounts of toilet paper - but only the paper provided.
Jul 17, 12, 7:13 pm
I forgot to mention that we booked all of our cruises on the day that we departed on that particular day and we booked directly with Major Marine and Kenai Fjords in Seward.
If you have AAA, you can get a 10% discount on Kenai Fjords.
Note that by planning in advance you can get 2-for-1 for many of the boat tours in Seward and Whittier, as well as other places. With my visit in May/June we got 2-for-1 for two boat tours in Whittier, one in Seward, one water taxi in Seward, one boat tour in Homer and one flightseeing tour in Talkeetna.
Jul 17, 12, 9:13 pm
I am looking for a hotel in Seward for the 1st night and another one in Cooper Landing or Moose Pass for the 2nd night. I would like to get a room with 2 queen beds. Is it normal during this time that such room will cost almost $200/night (tax included)? I am not talking about the top ones like Hotel Seward, HI Express, Best Western, or Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge (those will go up to $250 easily).
What hotels would you recommend? I want just basic amenity, e.g., 2 beds and a bathroom in unit. Thank you.
Jul 18, 12, 8:27 am
I have never stayed at a hotel in the Seward or Moose Pass area. We usually book a cabin or stay at a B&B. The Seward Visitors Bureau has links to every type of accomodation in the Seward, Cooper Landing, and Moose Pass area.
Moose Pass has one hotel. We have stayed at the Spruce Moose Chalets but they cost $399 a night and require a 4 day minimum stay.
Teddy's Inn the Woods is located between Moose Pass and Seward. It is around $150 and has a bedroom with a queen bed and three twin beds in the living room.
The Farm is close to Seward but it is a little dilapadated (but charming and inexpensive for Seward). Camelot Cabins is another place we have stayed.
Hotels in Seward are expensive during the summer.
Jul 20, 12, 6:00 pm
Yes, in the summer lodging rates can often be $200/night for a basic room in any of the towns. You can check the Seward CVB website for all the lodging options with price ranges then contact the one(s) that might most interest you.
Jul 31, 12, 6:43 pm
You might want to invest in the 2012 Northern Lights Coupon Book which will have discounted trips & hotel rooms ^