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Bob Jett

Age: 56

Occupation:federal mediator

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Spirit

Sailing Date: July 16th, 2003

Itinerary: Alaska

bjett@tampabay.rr.com

North to Alaska - what an experience - we recommend taking the northern route so you can save the glaciers for last

First, my wife and visited Seattle - if you have a few days in Seattle, take an all day trip to Mt. St. Helen's - it's awesome

We took AMTRAK Seattle-to-Vancouver, and were surprised that it was a bus - very comfortable and the cheapest way to get to Vancouver with our luggage

If you have a full-day or more in Vancouver, think about a trip to Grouse Mountain - nice tram ride to the top and great programs when at the top (Lumberjack show, video about bears, ski lift ride) - from downtown, it's an easy walk to the pier - just to the left (I'm not sure about directions), take the Seabus for $3.00 Canadian (less tan $2.25 US, but you need Canadian exact change) and you get a transfer to the bus in North Vancouver which will take you to Grouse Mountain. Otherwise, US dollars are good everywhere - we found that our hotel would exchange US dollars for Canadian but the exchange/conversion rate was not as you could get at a bank ($1 US would get you $1.25 Canadian when you could get ~$1.35 Canadian) - but when you can use a credit card which will give you favorable conversion.

Whether from Seattle or Vancouver, think about a trip to Victoria, again an all day trip - you can check with the Victoria Clipper on the internet, but just be certain about your plans because there are no refunds - in Victoria, take a double-decker bus tour of Victoria (to include a trip to Butchart Gardens and then High Tea at the Fairmont Hotel - Empress Room) - you can make these arrangements through Victoria Clipper - if you take High Tea at the Empress, ask for the small sitting room just as you enter the Fairmont, otherwise you might find it can feel crowded or noisy as you share a larger room with many more people - High Tea requires reservations at $40.00/person, but with the conversion, it's less than $30.00 US, and you get a $10.00 gift of tea to take back with you - I've never eaten so many watercress and cucumber sandwiches before, but it makes for great conversation.

Get to the pier early in the morning and embarking is much easier than many have commented about.

First port of-call is Ketchikan - very quaint - we took the Best of Ketchikan excursion which departed at 7:30 a.m. for 4-1/2 hours ($249/person) and worth it.

Next is Juneau - we took the Mendenhall Glacier Canoe Adventure ($139/person), which gets you within 50 yards of the face of the glacier - great photography - you cannot get onto the glacier unless you take flight (helicopter for about $299/person) - later in the day, we took the Evening Whale Quest ($141/person) - there are several departures time so when you sign up onboard (you cannot signup for excursions before embarking on Carnival but signing up is easy using your in-cabin TV and remote - just be mindful, if you are signing up for the Evening Whale Quest, with various departure time, use the left/right buttons on the remote to first click on the 'times' - no one we spoke to could tell us how to select the 'times' - the trip was well worth it - we saw orcas and humpbacks - we heard from others who actually saw humpbacks breaching - we got great videos of the humpbacks, including their fluke rising from the water.

Skagway is also a 'hoot - we took the Best of Skagway excursion ($189/person), which included the White Pass RR trip to the summit, then a bus trip to Liarsville where you will be greeted by prospectors and 'soiled doves' (ladies of the evening) - all re-enactors, of course, and who have a lot of fun - we got pictures of me asking a 'sweet young lady' what she was doing in a place like that - my wife was holding the camera (come to think of it, she got a photo - hope she doesn't need it for 'divorce court') - we also panned for gold and then toured downtown Skagway ending with a tour of an actual bordello from the days of the Klondike gold rush (again, some sweet young re-enactors will have some fun with you).

Sitka is the only port-of-call that has a tender take you ashore - we took the Historical Sitka and Russian Dancers excursion ($45.00/person) - with an early departure time from aboard, you take an early tender - you have lots of time to shop and take photos.

Before you get to Seward, you'll travel the College Fjords - we think it's better to have saved this for the end of the cruise - the glaciers are magnificent - the captain got within a ship's length of the face of Yale Glacier and stayed on station for 1-1/2 hours - the glacier 'calved' ~20 times and we got it on video - and this didn't cost extra.

At Seward, we took another glacier tour - Portage Glacier ($39/person, if you already have a transfer voucher, or $89/person without) - check early with the Purser's office re: transfer voucher - ours was included in the cost of our cruise but not so for many we spoke to (I think Carnival changed its policy a few months ago - in any event, you will want to know how you're getting from Seward to Anchorage (Egan Center if you don't have a same day air connection or not at one of a few selected hotels in Anchorage).

If you have the time stay in Anchorage for a day or so - hotels and everything else are more expensive, but well worth the time - great souvenir shopping if you didn't get it done on the cruise - downtown is an easy walk around, and their are tour buses $10/person) which will tour downtown and the outskirts - additionally, most hotels have shuttles to the airport, and otherwise, you can take the mass transit bus to/from your hotel to downtown, if you have a hotel out from the city - ask the driver for an all day pass ($3.00/person) - the flowers were everywhere and the weather was great (only a little rain and fog).

Finally, if I've kept your attention this long, I only have the greatest to say about Carnival - they really work hard to make and keep us happy (and fed) - just one observation less than fabulous - watch out for the chlorine levels in the hot tubs.

If you have any specific questions, contact us we'll be glad to give you our thoughts.

Bob & Carolyn

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