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Q - booking cruise for Alaska

Q - booking cruise for Alaska

Old Aug 27, 17, 11:00 pm
  #16  
 
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Originally Posted by A1pax View Post

Another question about visiting a town on the Artic Circle. Hubby's mother did a trip (from Australia) to Alaska years ago, she wanted to go to Barrow but could not because of the weather. Hubby wanted to know if Barrow would be a better place to visit than Kotzebue?

Thanks so much for your input

I'm planning to do a detour to Barrow while going from Anchorage to Fairbanks in Sept. Will report back once I've been there but for reference, I decided to go just because it's the Northernmost settlement in North America and I can dip my toes in Beaufort Sea/Arctic Ocean.
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Old Aug 28, 17, 12:25 am
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Originally Posted by Chromie25 View Post
I'm planning to do a detour to Barrow while going from Anchorage to Fairbanks in Sept. Will report back once I've been there but for reference, I decided to go just because it's the Northernmost settlement in North America and I can dip my toes in Beaufort Sea/Arctic Ocean.
Barrow is not the northernmost settlement in North America, just the US. Several settlements in Nunavut are further north.

Point Barrow, the northernmost point of all US territory, is a short drive out of town. It's a flat gravel headland and pretty unremarkable overall. It usually takes wandering around it with a GPS to figure out what point of it is the most northern.

https://goo.gl/maps/Ps22gGAM9uL2

The last time I was there, when we arrived at what the GPS told us was most north we looked down to find a dead seabird.
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Old Aug 29, 17, 7:35 am
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Originally Posted by Quokka View Post
Arctic has two Cs.

And Barrow has a new name, Utqiaġvik. But whichever name you use for it, Barrow / Utqiaġvik is a somewhat dreary and depressing place overall. Kotzebue is as well, but less so than Barrow. I'd actually suggest neither and instead suggest considering Nome. While Nome is just south of the Arctic Circle, you usually end up stopping in Kotzebue on the flight there or back, so you can legitimately say you've been to the Arctic.

Nome is a remote, strange place full of odd people, but in a good way overall, and far less dreary than Barrow. Nome has bars unlike Barrow and Kotzebue. Nome even has 3 roads out of town that are each scenic in different ways.

One of the very odd, but great characters of Nome is the mayor:

https://www.adn.com/iditarod/article...er/2016/03/13/

He's a hoot and also does awesome tours of Nome and the area. Highly recommended.

Finally Nome beats Barrow and Kotz big time when it comes to puns you can post with your photos on social media : There's No Place like Nome, Nome is where the heart is, All roads lead to Nome etc, etc.
Thanks, Quokka. You are correct, Arctic has 2 "c"s

Oh, Nome sounded like an interesting place. We are not into social media, and not into bars - very boring people, I know. I think hubby probably prefers Kotz.

I did check out the flights to Kotz and you are right on certain days some flights to / from Kotz stops for 45mins in Nome. Maybe we can legitimately say we are in Nome
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Old Aug 29, 17, 7:53 am
  #19  
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
I'd look on AS's website to see about flight availability in their own mileage program, than use that information when talking to BA.
I have found a helpful wiki post on how to book AS flights using BA avios. http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/briti...nes-avios.html. Thanks again for pointing this out. When ready I will call BA. I also have AA miles and AS miles. BA charges 7,500 avios one-way whereas AA charges 12,500 miles and AS 5,000 miles. Based on my own valuation costs, BA comes out the cheapest for award redemption.
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Old Aug 31, 17, 11:27 am
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[QUOTE=Gardyloo;28732055
Between Seward (and Whittier) and Anchorage, the train follows the road quite closely (a few areas where they diverge) and both are scenic. However driving gives you the option at stopping - for example a short side trip to the historic mining village of Hope on the south side of Turnagain Arm, or at the Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage, or in Girdwood... places and activities the train rolls right past. [/QUOTE]

Hi Gardyloo,
Hubby would like to know if it would be a good idea to drive from Anchorage to Whittier, or train a better option - for the day? Thanks.
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Old Aug 31, 17, 12:23 pm
  #21  
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Originally Posted by A1pax View Post
Hi Gardyloo,
Hubby would like to know if it would be a good idea to drive from Anchorage to Whittier, or train a better option - for the day? Thanks.
Drive. In addition to whatever you're doing in Whittier (glacier cruise I assume) you can stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center close to the junction with the Portage Valley Rd. (which goes to the Whittier tunnel) and the main highway, and you could also stop in Girdwood - maybe take the gondola at the Alyeska Resort - in either direction. There are a couple of very good restaurants in Girdwood; not much in Whittier.

https://www.alaskawildlife.org/
http://www.alyeskaresort.com/resort/about-aerial-tram
http://girdwood.com/
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Last edited by Gardyloo; Aug 31, 17 at 12:30 pm
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Old Aug 31, 17, 3:25 pm
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
Drive. In addition to whatever you're doing in Whittier (glacier cruise I assume) you can stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center close to the junction with the Portage Valley Rd. (which goes to the Whittier tunnel) and the main highway, and you could also stop in Girdwood - maybe take the gondola at the Alyeska Resort - in either direction. There are a couple of very good restaurants in Girdwood; not much in Whittier.
Thanks, Gardyloo - much appreciated your advice.

There are 3 main activities which we would like to do: Denali (3 days in total, trains), Kotzebue (2 days, planes) and touring from Anchorage by car (2 days). Hubby has a further question: Is there any particular order which we should do these?

I have a question: I have read that there will be mozzies. Where are these creatures in our trip? - likely to be in Denali? They will go for my blood, so I will have to be armed with medications.
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Old Aug 31, 17, 6:02 pm
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There will be mosquitoes - bad to terrible - in Denali and Kotzebue. Use DEET (or buy it when you get to Alaska.) They're less a problem in Anchorage and near salt water. Denali, especially Wonder Lake, is notorious for bad bugs.

I know your timing has to do with your husband's works schedule, but if it was at all possible to defer your visit to late July or August you'd be there past the worst of the mosquitoes. Unfortunately June is usually pretty bad as they all hatch out in the late spring or early summer.

As far as the order of things goes, it doesn't matter very much.
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Old Sep 1, 17, 12:24 pm
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
There will be mosquitoes - bad to terrible - in Denali and Kotzebue. Use DEET (or buy it when you get to Alaska.) They're less a problem in Anchorage and near salt water. Denali, especially Wonder Lake, is notorious for bad bugs.

I know your timing has to do with your husband's works schedule, but if it was at all possible to defer your visit to late July or August you'd be there past the worst of the mosquitoes. Unfortunately June is usually pretty bad as they all hatch out in the late spring or early summer.

As far as the order of things goes, it doesn't matter very much.
Thanks again, Gardyloo. Your comments and suggestions have been much appreciated.

Oh, mozzies! We went to Peru (Machu Picchu) last year and were warned about the sand flies there. Luckily the days we were there, not many of them around but we did bring insect repellent. We got away with a few bites. Hubby's work schedule dictates our travel dates. We cannot travel in July or August at all. So I will have to arm myself with DEET or something similar. Besides, we have locked in award flights from the UK to the US / Canada.

Hubby said he will refine the itinerary this weekend - based on some of your suggestions.
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Old Sep 2, 17, 5:51 pm
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
There will be mosquitoes - bad to terrible - in Denali and Kotzebue. Use DEET (or buy it when you get to Alaska.) They're less a problem in Anchorage and near salt water. Denali, especially Wonder Lake, is notorious for bad bugs.

I know your timing has to do with your husband's works schedule, but if it was at all possible to defer your visit to late July or August you'd be there past the worst of the mosquitoes. Unfortunately June is usually pretty bad as they all hatch out in the late spring or early summer.

As far as the order of things goes, it doesn't matter very much.
On a FT group trip, I went to Denali in the summer, and the bugs were so bad, I waited in the van after going out for a bit.
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Old Sep 6, 17, 4:44 pm
  #26  
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Originally Posted by Jaimito Cartero View Post
On a FT group trip, I went to Denali in the summer, and the bugs were so bad, I waited in the van after going out for a bit.
Thanks for the warnings, I will have to protect myself with medication and head net otherwise the bugs will eat me alive.
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Old Sep 6, 17, 4:51 pm
  #27  
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We have been working on our itin again and hubby has made more changes. He changed his mind about renting a car and would stick with the trains instead. We were going to take Gardyloo's advice to fly to Kotzebue, but only for the day (leaving Anchorage early in the morning and returning late in the evening) because we wanted an extra day in Seattle on the way back to London. After researching on what to do in Kotzebue for the day - appeared not much - hubby changed his mind and wanted to fly to Barrow (!) for the day instead. There is a tour we can do during our time there. Well, that's where things stand at the moment. Of course we have not booked anything, but hubby wanted to do some bookings in the next few weeks.
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Old Sep 9, 17, 10:37 am
  #28  
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Originally Posted by A1pax View Post
I have read some trip reports on Alaska and most were done by car. We had a bad experience with Hertz in Australia a couple of months ago and it put me off for using it again. The car rental industry needs reform!
Hertz in Seward is an independent licensee not at all connected with (other than renting use of the logo and reservation system) Hertz. I've heard the guy running the location is pretty nice. I don't have any personal experience with him, though. (Regardless, as someone with 15 years of experience in the rental car industry, I can tell you that they all stink, so renting from a different company than one you had a bad experience you had in the past is not at all a guarantee that things will go better.)

Originally Posted by A1pax View Post
Hubby prefers train travel. But, I will show your suggested itin to hubby and convince him that a driving holiday gives us flexibility in reaching places. We have car insurance cover from the UK Amex Plat card.
Check the terms and conditions in the card. US credit cards do not include third-party liability cover (which is not included in US rental car rates). Some, but not all, non-American Platinum Cards may include liability, but I could not find details specifically on the UK-issued card. If you are not covered for third-party liability, then you will either need to purchase it from the rental company counter (~$13/day) or book an insurance-inclusive rate from a UK broker (https://www.expedia.co.uk/car-hire is my go-to recommendation).

Originally Posted by Quokka View Post
Barrow is not the northernmost settlement in North America, just the US. Several settlements in Nunavut are further north.

Point Barrow, the northernmost point of all US territory, is a short drive out of town. It's a flat gravel headland and pretty unremarkable overall. It usually takes wandering around it with a GPS to figure out what point of it is the most northern.

https://goo.gl/maps/Ps22gGAM9uL2

The last time I was there, when we arrived at what the GPS told us was most north we looked down to find a dead seabird.
FWIW, based on my last two experiences getting out to the point (the first time failing and the second time, this past summer, with an FT group, succeeding), it's not particularly easy. The road ends a couple miles short of the actual point, and it's soft gravel and not suitable for normal vehicles (even a truck with four-wheel-drive). You either need a four-wheeler ATV or a truck with oversized (and de-inflated) tires and experience four-wheeling (and even then, the truck part of our group was in was perilously close to getting stuck). It's also not safe to walk there from the end of the road, especially not without protection (i.e. a gun) due to the tendency of the polar bears to actively hunt anything they see that's a potentially tasty meal.

It was not an easy process to find someone who could take us out to the point, but if anyone does need a potential lead for a guide (and I used the word "guide" loosely--it's a local Native family who has a couple of four-wheelers and a gun and big smiles on their faces and little else), PM me and I can give a phone number.

Originally Posted by A1pax View Post
Thanks for the warnings, I will have to protect myself with medication and head net otherwise the bugs will eat me alive.
Sometimes the only way to stay sane out in the wild is to accept the fact that you'll grow a third arm and slather yourself with DEET. I've just embraced the fact that my DNA will get screwed up and usually go straight for the 100% stuff or, if I can't find that on the store shelves, the strongest (~25%) stuff they sell. That said, I was traveling recently with a couple of friends who used some DEET-free wipes (Skin So Soft or similar) and they claimed they worked well enough.

Originally Posted by A1pax View Post
We have been working on our itin again and hubby has made more changes. He changed his mind about renting a car and would stick with the trains instead. We were going to take Gardyloo's advice to fly to Kotzebue, but only for the day (leaving Anchorage early in the morning and returning late in the evening) because we wanted an extra day in Seattle on the way back to London. After researching on what to do in Kotzebue for the day - appeared not much - hubby changed his mind and wanted to fly to Barrow (!) for the day instead. There is a tour we can do during our time there. Well, that's where things stand at the moment. Of course we have not booked anything, but hubby wanted to do some bookings in the next few weeks.
I've been to Barrow twice and am a little less down on Barrow than some of the others here (disclaimer: I haven't yet made it to Kotzebue outside of the airport, though). It is an interesting place. Because of the relatively high number of tourists and the infrastructure, it's probably harder to engage the actual local Native culture and get a true feel for how they live in Barrow than in Kotzebue (or in even smaller villages), but it's still a fascinating place. (And I use the word "infrastructure" loosely, but they have real hotels and restaurants and things.) We had about 15 or so FTers there this summer (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/commu...23-2017-a.html) and had a blast.

I don't think a tour is strictly necessary, and you could cobble together a perfectly interesting itinerary on your own between walking and a couple of taxi rides.

(Yes, Barrow has taxis, and there was an interesting write-up on the life of a Barrow taxi driver in the Anchorage Daily News awhile back...I couldn't find it, but Googling for it did lead me to this absolutely fascinating article that I think captures the spirit of Barrow quite accurately: http://www.city-data.com/forum/alask...what-good.html.)

That said, a tour of the town will let you see just about everything of interest in a couple of hours. I'd recommend skipping the outfit operated out of the Top Of The World Hotel (Tundra Tours) and contacting Mike Shults instead. He's been in Barrow forever (and ha, I just noticed he was even mentioned in the article I linked above) and knows everything there is to know about everything. If you Google for him, you'll see a lot of positive recommendations. Anyone who needs his phone number can PM me.

As for driving vs. the train: I spent a summer working as a brakeman on the Alaska Railroad, and so I'm probably about as familiar with it as anyone. The Seward to Anchorage stretch is much prettier than the Anchroage to Fairbanks stretch, which is an experience but gets pretty long in the tooth after awhile. So ignoring any other considerations, if I were to recommend a single ride to someone interested in taking the train, I'd pick the Coastal Classic over the Denali Star.

But taking your itinerary and need for transportation in, I think I would agree with Gardyloo that you'd be much better served with a car for your trip. The best of Alaska is found when you come around a bend, see something incredible, and pull off to look at it. Maybe it's an amazing view that you just need to stop and soak in, or maybe it's a mama moose and calf or even a brown bear scurrying off into the woods. The train is great, but there simply is no comparison to the freedom you get when driving.

If you must take one train while you're there, I would still recommend the Coastal Classic from Seward to Anchorage, and then pick up a car and do yourself a massive favor of both freedom and convenience and get a car for your trip to Fairbanks. It will make getting around both Denali and Fairbanks much easier (and open up much better/cheaper places to stay), and there are incredible places to stop on that drive that vastly outshine the train ride. It's also much more efficient: you can do the drive in literally half the time of the train ride.
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Last edited by jackal; Jan 26, 18 at 8:24 pm Reason: Got the guide's name wrong
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Old Sep 9, 17, 1:50 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
(Yes, Barrow has taxis, and there was an interesting write-up on the life of a Barrow taxi driver in the Anchorage Daily News awhile back...I couldn't find it, .
Are you sure the story was in Barrow? Most of the stories over the years about taxi drivers in the Alaska bush have been from Bethel, not Barrow.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business...o-cars/403765/

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/us...i.html?mcubz=0

http://articles.latimes.com/2007/nov.../na-taxicabs30

The ADN often picked up and reran such stories.
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Old Sep 9, 17, 4:15 pm
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jackal: Thank you so much for your lengthy reply - much appreciated. All will be taken into account as we have not finalised our land itinerary after the cruise. I have read your comments to hubby. He said he will think about them

Off the topic: We were trying to book the cruise from Vancouver to Seward tonight but could not do it. I have been researching the fares and contacting a number of cruise agents - all quoted the same prices as displayed by HAL on their website. However, I found on americanairlines.co.uk website that cruises could be booked. I checked it out and found there were 2 prices shown on the aa website: one non-refundable about 500 cheaper than the normal fare. When I tried to book it, it said only US or Canada residents could book! Seemed very strange that the fares were shown on americanairlines.co.uk and in (not USD or CAD). I tried to call aa here in the UK but had to press all the silly options and got shunted to a cruise person in the US who could not help me
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