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DFW to YVR-Alaska Cruise-ANC to DFW

DFW to YVR-Alaska Cruise-ANC to DFW

Old Jun 26, 09, 5:05 pm
  #1  
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DFW to YVR-Alaska Cruise-ANC to DFW

The Trip
This trip report is for travel from DFW to YVR in order to board the Regent Mariner for a northbound voyage up the Inside Passage to Anchorage. Then a return to DFW from ANC.

To the Airport
The owner of the car service my travel agent provides for us is always early, a good thing. This time he arrived at 6:15 instead of 7:00 am. He is also clairvoyant, an even better thing, as we did not ship the bags this time. We decided to check them on the aircraft. At three large and three small bags it would have been a tight fit in the usual Lincoln he drives. However, he arrived in a large SUV which held everything.

DFW
The check-in and subsequent wait at the DFW airport was a quite typical time in the D terminal and the Admirals Club. By typical I mean not crowded, quiet, and no free food other than fruit and cookies. It was a busy morning.



Flight to Vancouver
The arriving flight was slightly late. Then it took a while to clean and do the security check of the aircraft before we could board. Despite a late start the flight was very nice. Everyone says loads are down, but once more we were on a full flight. The crew was outstanding. Helpful, competent, friendly and informative. I have notified AA of how good they were. They where even able to reduce the 45 minute delay to 15 minutes. The 737-800 is an ok plane. The leg room in F seems larger than the MD-80 and the 757. However, the seats are still not as good as the MD-80. I rate domestic AA F seats as MD-80, 738, and 757.

Vancouver
I have noticed that the Canadians place the baggage claim inside the secured area, whereas the USA does not. I wonder why the difference? In this regard they are more security conscious than in the US. On the other hand whenever a cruise ship leaves a US port the local police and the Coast Guard escort it out. In Canada no such thing occurs. Both are due to a difference in philosophy no doubt.

The trip from the airport to the hotel was by taxi. One advantage to the route is the ability to get a nice overview of the area as the main route goes from the airport south of town to the cruise port center in downtown. This was all by surface streets, not freeways, so the view of the city was up close. The driver, from India, was very informative the entire way. Mostly I suspect because my wife is the typical friendly Texan who will strike up a conversation with anyone whether they want to talk or not.

Hotel
The Pan Pacific hotel is very nice. Moreover it is extremely convenient to the cruise terminal being part of the same building. One of the hotel elevators takes you right down to the terminal without even going outside.

The room was the typical standard hotel room.

The only problem with the room was some noise from the TV in the room next door. Otherwise they stay was fine.

Not wanting to wander very far from the hotel we had dinner at the Five Sails restaurant in the hotel. This is a very nice restaurant. I highly recommend it.

The view from this room on the 14th floor is outstanding. Here is Vancouver, float planes, and the other side of the bay. There is scheduled seaplane service from a pier area about ½ mile from the hotel. It connects to the surrounding cities. There is also a helicopter service on the other side of the hotel.

During the night a visitor arrived outside our window.



This is the Holland America Line Volendam. The Regent ship docked on the other side of the cruise terminal.

Regent Ground Services
Just like the last time we sailed on Regent the ground services need improvement. This time the transfer from the airport to the hotel was by taxi with the windows open instead of a car service. While not hot that day the air was very humid, plus it did nothing for my carefully coiffured hair. Then once at the hotel no one from Regent was onsite the day before boarding, only a letter was provided. They had been last time. The next morning when they were due to open at 9 am no one was to be found when I checked at 9:20. It may be that they were actually there, but the sign I found pointing to the unusual entrance later on was not there at 9:20. All of this is nothing major, just not what I expect from Regent.

Boarding in Vancouver
If you arrive a day early, staying at the Pan Pacific hotel makes boarding the ship simple. The hotel and the cruise terminal are all in a single building. One merely takes a garage elevator to the CS level from the hotel lobby.

The Regent on shore staff did redeem themselves as the hospitality room was large enough, and well stocked with refreshments. They kept in contact with their staff downstairs only leading a group of us down when the lines below were short.

Once you join the throng downstairs, in this case Holland passengers all in a big hurry to be first in line, the steps are to clear through Canadian security, American immigration, and on to the ship. The teeming throng was sent off to the left, while the Regent passengers were off to the other side. It was so nice making that turn as we left all the noise and pushing behind. I find that Regent now does the check in onboard with glass of wine in your hand. This is a great improvement over the previous method. Now if Regent can just get the onshore non-Regent employees to improve, then things will be next to seamless. I am not sure if the reduced level of service on the day before arrival is a cutback by Regent or just the nature of service in Vancouver.

First Day Onboard
Initial expectations backed up by observation tells me this will be the lowest average passenger age so far. There are a considerable number of children onboard for a Regent ship. There are also a higher number of grandchild with grandparents only and mother with daughter this time.

So far, despite the turmoil that the turnaround day brings to every voyage the staff is doing an excellent job. They are as competent as always.

The sun was shining for the sail away from Vancouver. This made the views excellent. I am surprised at how large Vancouver is. As always in Canada everyone is quite pleasant. As you sail out from Vancouver the ship passes under the bridge at the lion’s gate. This is supposed to be two hills each one in the shape of a crouching lion. I suppose one could see this. Although I suspect this was first noticed by a couple of guys rowing across from one side to the other while tossing empty Labatt bottles overboard. Vancouverians are also somewhat lacking in creativity as the two communities on the other side of the bay are called North Vancouver and West Vancouver as it is west of the north community. The main city and the suburbs it is quite a large area.

As you sail out past the bridge the communities thin out. We did see one strange house on a small island all by itself. That one along with some others on shore suggests that aircraft or boat is the preferred form of transportation for the outlying sections.

In the hotel we had an excellent view of the seaplane service to these locations. It is quite a busy operation. For example here is rush hour on the water.

[IMG]http://i426.photobucket.com/albums/pp344/chippsphoto/IMG_2090.jpg[/IMG

As this is scheduled air service they takeoff and land around whatever else is in the way, such as small powered boats, sailboats, cargo ships, and cruise ships arriving and leaving all from this same area. There is a red buoy that marks the center of the air operations. I wonder what these folks do in bad weather. There is no ILS system that I can see. I assume this is a fair weather service.

Sea Day
The first day on a south to north cruise to Alaska in one of these smaller ships is spent weaving through various passages inland from the coast. On the map several of these look very small for a ship, but we proceeded down them one after another. This makes for some nice views of the shore.



Part way up we turned off into an inlet. At the end of which the captain pirouetted the ship several times to let everyone get a good look at the terrain. This was one of the best parts of the cruise. It was just us slowly winding our way north through these tight passages. This is why one purchases a cabin with a balcony.

Ketchikan
The first stop was at Ketchikan. This is a town once based on timber. These days it is all tourists. We went on a tour to examine the Misty Fjords. This is an area where the clouds spill over the top of the short mountains, then cling to the sides. Although the trip there and back was tedious the site itself was worthwhile. Many do this by aircraft. As I prefer to get up close to sights we went by boat. During the journey we saw eagles and various aquatic critters. The town itself around the cruise ship docks is nothing but tourist related shops. The Ketrchikanians are nice and friendly, but the main point to the stop is to see more closely what has been observed from the ship on the way up. Here is what it looks like.





Even with five ships in port the town was not crowded.

I am unsure if Regent is sending anyone from the ship on the tours purchased through them as they once did. For this first stop I did not think so, But on the next stop there was someone from Regent with us. It would help if they would identify themselves when we start out, Crystal does do that. So far the level of service on the ship as been as exceptional as always, except for the shore services.

Tracy Arm
The next stop on the way from Ketchikan to Juneau is a divergence into Tracy Arm. The ship only goes part way up. In this case the captain took the ship up to the point where the channel begins to narrow. There is small cove there. The ship went into the cove, then he once again pirouetted it around a couple of times. After that it was around the point to the main channel where he took the ship in just a little ways. Once there around and around we went. As advertised there were indeed quite a few small icebergs in this area. As is said they are blue.





After Tracy Arm it is back to the highway to go to Juneau.

Juneau
As we did not get very near the glacier in Tracy Arm at the next stop in Juneau we caught a bus ride to the Mendenhall Glacier. This included a short tour of the city, which is just about how long any tour would take as this is a very small city. If it were not the capital of Alaska I suspect it would be much, much smaller.

This glacier is viewed from the area around the Forest Service visitor center. For example,



Skagway
The next stop in Skagway is the end of the line for the Inside Passage as the water becomes too shallow for any ship, and many boats as well. The ship backtracks down to take a passage out to the Pacific. Just as when we began this voyage from Vancouver the best part has been watching the ship wind through the narrow parts of the Inside Passage.

Having seen a glacier from a distance it was now time to get as near to one as possible. This process involved a ride on a boat from Skagway to Glacier Point. Once there the boat is beached. After we disembark it is on to luxury buses to a camp site.





The reason for the camp site stop is to put on warmer clothing and a life jacket. This process of getting near a glacier involves a canoe ride from the camp to the face of the glacier. One of the guide’s parents lives about two miles from us back home. Quite strange. Quite strange also describes this group of guides. They all live on Glacier Point for the season in a very rudimentary fashion. They do seem to love it there however.





How close did we get? Look for the little canoe.



We also examined ice bergs that had broken off.



One other strange thing about this trip was the insect behavior. On getting off the boat on the beach there are none. As you enter the rain forest the closer you get to the camp, the more the large mosquitoes appear. They are quite vicious at the camp site. Then as you walk from the camp site to the river they once more disappear. The air is just cool enough on the Inside Passage beach and the river bank to keep them at bay. Only the camp site sees them. Speaking of strange guides, where do you think the camp site is? Yep, right in the middle of the insect area.

After a walk around town it was back to the ship.

Sitka
The last port stop was Sitka. Having seen enough glaciers for a while we went on a small boat cruise around the Sitka area looking for critters. The critter watching has been ok, but not exceptional on this trip. Most of the animals wait for about two weeks later to make an appearance as that is when the salmon run. We did see some aquatic life in tidal pools, as well a few sea otters. The forest was the most interesting part of this day. The rain forest in the Tongass National Forest, which encompasses all of this area, grows on rock. The only way the vegetation survives is by using the fallen vegetation as the soil. In this picture the plants are growing on several feet of basically compost. This makes the ground very springy.





It was out to sea after Sitka. The seas were running about 10 to 15 feet with light rain as we entered the Pacific for the trip up to Seward. I understand several people fell ill from the motion. We love it. This is why we get a room as far forward and high up as possible. The ship was rocking and rolling.

Hubbard Glacier
On the way from Sitka to Seward it is possible to duck into Yakutat Bay. At the very end is the Hubbard Glacier. Now this is what I call a glacier. The other two we visited were nothing compared to this huge mass of ice.





Small ice bergs and chunks of ice were everywhere. This is an impressive set of glaciers.

Seward
There is not much to say about Seward as all we did was walk from the ship to a train for the journey to Anchorage.

Train Ride to Anchorage
One must go to Anchorage a the end of the cruise as it is the only airport nearby. This is typically done by bus or train. We took the train. This is a nice ride with interesting scenery. In this first picture the train is on the other side of the tan building.





The train deposits you at the airport terminal.

For some reason known only to AA the only flight from ANC to DFW leaves at 9:10 pm. As the train arrives about 1 pm this makes for a long wait. Fortunately a friend lives in Anchorage. So we toured around the city.

Anchorage reminds me of Denver. In that the city itself is not that pretty, but the surrounding area is. We had dinner at the Glacier Icehouse in downtown. It was very good. I recommend it as well.

Overall
Although some women standing around the laundry room on the last day of the cruise thought Regent had slipped a little on their level of service, I did not find this at all. Except for the shore services, plus a couple of onboard issues that have always been there the service level was just as I would expect from Regent.

In the spirit of complaining as cruise people like to do I would say that the only problems I noticed are the same ones from last time. Obviously these are endemic to this line. They are:

Adequate but disjointed shore services both from the shore agent and the shore excursion staff.

Often having the table settings missing a glass or leaving unneeded glasses on the table for too long.

An inability of the butler and the room steward to remember to use the correct title for someone.

There was one new issue this trip. About half way through the voyage the flowers on the dining room tables began to droop. No one from the staff seemed to notice this.

In general minor issues, but issues nevertheless.

Children are always a concern during a summer trip. In this case they were all well behaved. The Regent staff and the parents did a nice job in keeping them entertained. About the only thing one noticed was some running around in the rooms or down the hall.

ANC to DFW
I was dreading the flight from ANC to DFW as it would be an overnight flight on a 757. This is my least favorite AA aircraft. The seats do not fit my body very well. It turned out to be even worse than expected. In fact this is the worst flight I have ever been on. Even worse it had nothing to do with the aircraft, crew, or fellow passengers. You see many years ago when I would be visiting with my mother she would complain that her legs were jumpin. Yes I mean jumpin. We do not use gs here in Texas. We would all look at her, smile, and ignore further comments from her on the subject. The only treatment seemed to be for her to get up and either stand or walk around. Many years later my legs started jumpin as well. I tried to explain this to various doctors. Each one would look at me, smile, and ignore further comments from me on the subject. Then one day while reading the news I saw a mention of RLS – Restless Leg Syndrome. Yes! That’s what I have. After taking the article to my doctor he said, oh yeah RLS. Much to my distress I learned that the only treatment for this was constant medication for a chronic condition. As the RLS I have comes and goes I did not want to take something every day for it. As I have not had any episodes of RLS to speak of for several months I have not been taking anything for it.

On boarding this flight I settled in to the seat, got out my over the ear headphones, the MP3 player, eyeshade, and bag to set my feet on. Lastly I reclined the seat, but not so much as to irritate the person behind me. Then it struck. I started squirming, twisting, spinning, and bending and unbending my knees. Of course, nothing helped. The only thing I can generally do when this attacks is to lie down flat in bed or stand up. On a 757 neither one of these is a good option. I spent the entire flight sitting in the seat squirming like a worm, walking up and down the aisle, or standing at the back of the F cabin. I am sure the poor woman in 6E thought I must be crazy. On the other hand the seat this time was fine. The seat usually forces me forward at the shoulders, which makes my back hurt. My wife opined that these seats were so worn that no padding was left. Thus it did not force me forward this time. Of course, it may also be because I spent most of the night standing up or pacing the aisle.

On the other hand the crew was great. The FAs served the snack quickly so everyone could go to sleep. They made several runs through the cabin with drinks, as well as providing a bottle of water for everyone before we nodded off. They also walked up and down the aisle several times during the night to check on everyone. I know all of this as I spent the entire flight wide awake.

As we left ANC the captain pointed out several interesting sights on the way, and then went silent for the rest of the flight. I trust he remained awake.

Summary
Both AA flights were completely full. Both crews were great. All of the passengers even had good manners. The cruise on Regent was also great. I am ready to go again.
Paint Horse is offline  
Old Jun 26, 09, 6:32 pm
  #2  
 
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Great report! I took Regent out of YVR last year, and we did have the check in before boarding the ship (although that took all of five minutes). I'm glad to hear that you had a nice trip overall.
ak333 is offline  
Old Jun 26, 09, 7:07 pm
  #3  
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I think its great trip reports. I'm glad that you are enjoyable the cruise trip out of YVR-ANC. You didn't take lot of pictures inside the cruise and stateroom, too. I am really need to see lot of best photo opportunity for me. I'm sure if you want to take more pictures inside the aircraft and airports, too. It's importance for taking best pictures inside ANC terminal and concourse, too. I'm glad that you had a nice trip on the cruise trip on Holland America. I will try to go to ANC sometime in the future. If we have enough financial for next available trip in the future.
N830MH is offline  
Old Jun 26, 09, 7:41 pm
  #4  
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I have 100s of photos, but I find that FlyerTalk limits you to 20 per trip report. As to the ship, the photos on Regent's web site show about all there is to see. In my experience all medium size cruise ships pretty much look the same. My cruising has been limited to Regent and Crystal for the most part. These are about 700 passenger ships. The one Holland America 1,500 passenger ship I was on was pretty similar as well.

I have two photos of the ANC terminal near the A gates. What can I say? It is a new looking airport terminal. In fact all of ANC looks pretty new or is under construction.
Paint Horse is offline  
Old Nov 26, 09, 7:08 pm
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Great TR thanks for posting.

-Larry
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