Alaska stay & cruise days 1-5
Day 1: Anchorage
Landing into Anchorage gave me my first glimpse of the stunning scenery and backdrop of the mountains. I stayed in an area of downtown called Ship Creek which is situated on the salmon river, popular with local fishermen.
In order to get myself into the right time zone (9 hours behind the UK) I forced myself to stay up and go out, so I went to the Moose’s Tooth pizzeria and bar. This is renowned as having the 3rd best pizza in the US (and it was some of the best I’ve had!), plus brews it’s own beers. Even on a Monday night it was packed with a 40 minute wait for a table.
On returning to the hotel I went for a walk by the railway station (across the road) to see the trains that were back in. All the famous scenic Alaskan trains go from here eg McKinley Express, Wilderness Explorer etc. Great to be able to photograph them under the Midnight Sun with the sun still shining brightly at 10pm.
Day 2: 26 Glaciers cruise with Philips Cruises
Body-clock not quite adjusted, so awake early, but it gave me time to set myself up for the day! Got a lift along to the Captain Cook Hotel (supposedly one of the best in downtown and where Barack Obama stayed when he visited) as this was my pick up point for my tour. Sat and people watched in the lobby as the hotel seemed to disgorge vast numbers of people on their way to Princess and Seabourn cruise tours.
Had a great 2 hour transfer along the Turnagain Fjord, Portage and through the famous longest tunnel in the US (via a couple of lookout points) to Whittier, where we joined the Klondike Express. Our driver/guide was friendly & knowledgeable, which really made short work of the journey. The 5 1/2 hour boat trip was a wonderful mixture of scenic cruising through fjords, past temperate rainforest, waterfalls and glaciers plus wildlife viewing through Prince William Sound.
Got up close and personal with several glaciers. Stunning blue ice, the thunderous crack as chunks broke off and being surrounded by blocks of ice was an amazing sight (if freeezing!).
Day 3: Train from Anchorage to Seward & Glacier dog-sledding
Another very early start to catch the 0605 Coastal Classic scenic train to Seward. I treated myself to the Goldstar level which includes travel in a 2 level glass dome carriage with a large viewing platform, cooked breakfast and free drinks! The views were stunning and a wonderful way to travel between Anchorage (the international airport closest for cruising) and Seward, where the majority of cruise lines start or end.
Seward has a great free shuttle bus service around the small town, so you can get anywhere either on this or by foot.
And then the highlight of my day - glacier husky dog sledding with Turning Heads Kennels. There were only 3 of us making it a very personal experience. I was lucky enough to sit in the front seat of the helicopter for the ride up to the top of the glacier, giving spectacular views. We learnt about the dogs and training from our musher Rachel before setting off on our dog sled, pulled by a very eager team. And then to top it off we met the 4 puppies that are kept at the camp - enough for one for each of us! I chose the cutest little fawn one, who spent most of the time asleep. They’d only just been named but the team couldn’t remember which dog was which. It was decided mine was Lizzie (or lazy Lizzie!).
Dinner was at the highly rated “The Cookery” which happened to be over the road from the hotel (very handy!) I can see why it’s one of the best - great food, wonderful service and friendly atmosphere! I had Alaskan scallops followed by the highly prized Copper River salmon and then instead of a dessert I had Alaskan wild mushrooms on toast! One of the best dinners I’ve had in a very long time.
Day 4: Cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park
Very successful full day trip on Kenai Fjords Tours trip called “National Park with dinner on Fox Island”. Weather overcast and quite cold, but thankfully it wasn’t raining and seas were calm.
Wildlife seen: - 5 humpback whales including a mother & calf - sea otters - Stellar sea lions - harbour seals - cormorants - bald eagles - black oystercatchers - common murres - horned puffins - tufted puffins (which we nicknamed the Trump puffin due to their yellow combovers - poor things!)
Also saw some spectacular scenery both on the mainland peninsulas and the islands, including the incredible Aialik Glacier. We stayed here for quite a long time as chunks kept calving off with a thundering crack. Very impressive.
We then cruised to Fox Island (where red foxes were once bred for their pelts) for a salmon dinner at the lodge there and a talk from a park ranger.
Another great day in Alaska!
Day 5: Real Alaska Day Tour with Seavey’s Ididaride
Although the Best Western includes a limited breakfast buffet I decided to go over the road to Zudys Cafe for a more superior offering. Had a Hula breakfast - bagel with cream cheese, thick slabs of Alaskan smoked salmon and avocado - absolutely delicious!
Today I did a tour offered by Seavey’s Ididaride (a play on words from the word “Iditarod” - the famous dog sledding race in Alaska). The Seaveys are the most successful family with Mitch Seavey winning in 2017 (for the 3rd time)with the fastest time yet (his son, Dallas, came 2nd!).
The tour included a hike to Exit Glacier - unfortunately a very fast receding glacier, with frightening markers along the path showing where the glacier used to reach over the last 100 years. I chose to do a relatively flat walk at the base, walking through bear country (interesting when on your own, so I sang as recommended!)
Then on to Bear Creek Weir. Although we didn’t see any bears, we did see lots of sockeye salmon running upriver and jumping the weir.
And finally to the summer husky dog camp! We met Hugo, the celebrity dog (apparently! I’d never heard of it but he was the star of Disney’s “Snow Buddies”), cuddled husky puppies, learnt about how the dogs and mushers prepare for and run the Iditarod, and went on a dogsled using specially built metal carts for the dogs to pull.
Another great day in Alaska.