Canada and Alaska
We arrived in Vancouver and stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, overlooking the Canada Place Cruise Terminal, and with the Burrard Inlet and Grouse Mountain as the backdrop it was a fantastic location. We stayed in Vancouver for 4 nights and hired a car to fully explore the Vancouver area. It is a fantastic city, and has everything from mountains to beaches, all within easy driving distances. Our highlights were Grouse Mountain, to visit the Grizzly bears, "Coola" and "Grinder", and the views of Vancouver, the Capilano Suspension Bridge (which is not for the faint hearted), and Stanley Park. We also did a harbour cruise, shopped on Robson Street and visited the white Beluga Whales at Vancouver aquarium.
After Vancouver we spent a few days on Vancouver Island. We drove up to Campbell River, passing some fantastic beaches with great views across to the mainland and the Coastal Range Mountains. Whilst in Campbell River we took a trip to view wild Grizzlies hunting for salmon on the Orford River. What an experience, we were stood yards from wild bears. At one point we had 4 of them around us and saw a mother and her cubs! After this we travelled to Victoria, the state capital for a night before returning to Vancouver.
We then moved west, and flew to Calgary, this time for our drive through the Rockies to Jasper. We visited the stampede ground, the Calgary Tower, with views of the distant Rockies and visited the Tyrrell Badlands and dinosaur museum. From Calgary we drove to Banff and stayed in the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It is just like a fairy tale castle, surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountains. We decided to hit the spa, and spent several hours soaking in the thermal spa waters, with its outdoor hot tub!! What an afternoon!! The following morning, we took the Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain, and then it was onto Lake Louise for 2 nights, where we stayed at the Chateau right on the Lake. We used this base to explore the Icefields Parkway, right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, and saw natural wonders like the stunning Peyto Lake, the glaciers of the Columbia Icefields as well as the Crow Foot Glacier, Bow Lake and Morraine Lake, and more stunning mountain scenery than you could possibly describe.
We moved onto Jasper, to catch the Rocky Mountaineer back to Vancouver. We overnighted in Kamloops and went to the Canadian Lumberjack Show, which was good fun! On arrival back in Vancouver, we had the following day free before joining our Alaskan Cruise, so we took the open top bus tour, and visited Granville Island for lunch, took a False Creek ferry ride and went up the Vancouver Lookout to watch the sunset.
On to the Carnival Spirit for our 7 night Alaskan Cruise. Within an hour of leaving, we had passed a pod of Orca's just outside Vancouver! The second day was cloudy, so we spent the day enjoying the ships facilities, including the spa, and unlimited food! We visited Juneau, Alaska's capital, then the highlight of the trip, Glacier Bay – with simply stunning scenery. The ship then moved onto Skagway, where we flew to a glacier by helicopter. Then onto Ketchikan, where we went on a Bering Sea crab fishing tour. The ship then headed south, cruising through the Inside Passage, where we watched families of humpback whales.
We then flew to Toronto, and went to see Niagara at night, stopping off at a vineyard, where we experienced the beautiful Ice Wine. We had dinner overlooking the Falls, got wet on the Maid of the Mist and then watched the colours of the night time light show play across the surface of the cascading water. Our last day included a bus tour, and the must-do of Toronto - visiting the (very high) CN Tower.
I'm exhausted just writing this, but every day was fantastic, and we wouldn't have missed any of it! They (very) often say "awesome" over there, now we have to agree, Canada really is AWESOME!