Alaskan Vacation

From long flights, to long layovers, to long ship rides it was all worth it - Alaska 2015 - two weeks of bears, moose, whales and so much where do we begin.

Denali National Park and Preserve - Nikon D800 w/ 24-70mm f/2.8

Denali National Park and Preserve - Nikon D800 w/ 24-70mm f/2.8

Chapter 1. Getting There

I guess the best place to begin is in the beginning.  I didn't go straight to Alaska, in fact the overall plan was a cruise which left out of Vancouver BC Canada traveling up the inside passage ending in Whittier Ak.  So to get things started I flew from Tampa to Vancouver by way of Phoenix Az. Things just started off great from the beginning! My flight from Tampa to Phoenix amazingly arrived early, and I don't just mean by 10min, no, we were just over an hour early.  Seriously that never happens, thank you US Airways for that.

So after arriving I didn't have much to do but wait.  It would be another 45min before my parents flight would arrive in Phoenix, and 2.5 hours before my flight to Vancouver was set to leave.  [Ok this is where I admit one flaw - I should have booked a longer layover so I could run down the street to Pete's Fish & Chips]. Anyway while waiting I decided to break out the iPhone and do a little timelapse video of the happenings at Phoenix's Sky Harbor.

Chapter 2. Exploring Vancouver

While there wasn't much time to explore Vancouver since we had to be up early the next day to get through customs again and work through the boarding process for the ship, we did make time to check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge.  A combination of a single massive suspension bridge and a series of suspended walkways in the trees and along the cliffs allows for some great scenic viewing [and a little rush of anxiety and adrenaline].  

Chapter 3. Boarding the Ship & First Day at Sea

Boarding the ship went smoothly, of course it helps that I was with cruise ship veterans [thanks mom].  We planned things out great, our hotel was only a few blocks from the cruise ships, in fact I watched them pull in from the hotel room during breakfast.   After eating, we grabbed our bags from the rooms and took a taxi over to avoid carrying the bags up the hill.  Once there a few things were clear, first is that the directional workflow could be a LOT better.  To get checked in it was in the doors, to the far right, up the escalator, down the end of the hall, and check it.  Not so bad since we were one of the few there and got to use the priority line.  Then it was back the way you came, back down the stairs and back to where you came in to hand off the bags you're not carrying on yourself.  Next it's through the line to get to the security checkpoint and it's through the metal detector and into a line for customs.  Finally after clearing customs you're still not done, you sit in a waiting room and wait for them to direct you to the waiting area for the ship.  After all of that, we get to make our way to the waiting room for the Grand Princess, our ship for the next few days.  

This is of course where another benefit of traveling with my parents came in - with their Elite status on Princess we got to enjoy a separate waiting area with food and drinks provided for the wait.  It may not sound like much, but it does have a few benefits.  First is that the premier waiting area boards the ship first, and we were the first ones there.  We'll come back to that.  The other great benefit is they provide food and drinks while you wait, something the general waiting area does without.  It may not sound like much, but realize we were there around 10a and the ship wasn't due to begin boarding until noon.

And finally after all of the waiting, after walking the maze that is the Vancouver cruise port....who was the first on the ship....ME! First time on a cruise and first to go aboard [again, thanks mom].

Chapter 4. Ketchikan & Anan Creek

Arrival at Dawn

Pulling into Ketchikan as the sun rose up over the mountains was a gorgeous sight. 

Flying to Anan Creek

Chapter 5. Juneau, Mendenhall & the Whales! 

Chapter 6. Skagway & Haines

Chapter 7. Glacier Bay

Chapter 8. College Fjord

Chapter 9. Final Day at Sea

Chapter 10. Wittier, Anchorage and Randomness

Chapter 11. Matanuska Glacier

Chapter 12. Talkeetna

Chapter 13. Denali National Park and Preserve

Chapter 14. Fairbanks, The End of the Road