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Published: September 15th 2013
Another early day for us (6:45 pick up), but not as early as for our poor bus driver who had to go from Valdez to Anchorage and then on to Whittier to pick us up from the boat ride.
When I saw that this trip had a "cruise" on Prince William Sound, I figured it was a couple of hours in the Sound and back to Valdez. Nope, it's a 6.5 hour cruise from Valdez to Whittier. Since there were only 28 of us (27 tourists and one tour guide who got to play tourist today), the Stan Stephens cruise people put us on the smaller boat, which was just perfect for us. We were joined by one other couple, who turned out to be the captain's parents and were very nice.
I think this cruise was one of the highlights, if not THE highlight of the tour. We saw black bears, eagles, moutain goats, sea loins lounging on a bouy, some sea otters and a sea lion eating an octupus. And we got REALLY close to a glacier. Not close enough to touch, but still close enough for it to be incredible. The boat had a wrap around deck, and I spent a bit too much time outside when we were cruising in the beginning and had to spend some time inside warming up. But the freezing was worth it, I think I got some great photos. Lunch was included on board the ship, and was a decent chicken and rice dish.
Once we met up with Bill on the Whittier side of things, we had to go through a 2.5 mile tunnel through Meynard Mountain. It's actually a railroad tunnel, and they can only allow one direction of traffic at a time, so we had to hustle to make sure we made the 3 pm open time. We were actually the first ones through the tunnel at 3 pm and it was a pretty funky ride. The tunnel is very dark (if I'd known in time I would have sat up front to try and get pics), and the bus had to straddle the railway tracks through it.
Had a glacier photo stop once through the tunnel, then on to the Alyeska resort in Gridwood for our farewell dinner. Once again, it was a buffet, with salmon, halibut and steak and new pototes. Quick ride to Anchorage and back at the Sheraton Hotel.
Have an 8 am pick up tomorrow for an 11 am flight to Seattle, then the red eye back to NYC.
While this trip had some disappointments (no Northern lights or good sighting of Denali, and some pretty grey weather) and a bit of unexpected adventure, I really enjoyed it and would definitely consider coming back up this way.
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