Alaska in Early August

Hi - I just enrolled in this forum. My wife and I are taking the Grand Alaska tour Aug 6-20, 2011 as our 40th Wedding Anniversary trip, and we are very excited. We are particularly looking forward to our port-side "Vista Suite" in stern of the Diamond Princess during our cruise segment.

I have a number of questions I would like to have clarified:

1. The website says we should only bring one "average sized" suitcase per person. Any idea what "average sized" is? This is going to be a challenge for my beloved spouse, who tends to pack more than that for a weekend visit.... Any advice would be appreciated.

2. To assist in clothing choices, what can we expect weather-wise, rain-wise and insect-wise (read that as "mosquitos") on land in early-mid August (land portion of our trip is Aug 6-12, I think)?

3. We arranged through Tauck for a pre-tour night (8/5) at the Captain Cook in Anchorage - I assume we will not have to change rooms for the night the tour actually commences (8/6) - can you confirm?

I'll probably have more questions, and plan to tune into this forum regularly for advice. Thanks for being there!

Mike Ward
Manassas, VA


  • edited June 2011
    Hi Mike, and welcome to the Forum!

    As far as clothing goes, we advise mostly casual lightweight clothing, capable of layering. You'll be visiting the warmer, dryer area of the interior, and the cooler, wetter areas on the southeast coast. We also advise that you dress for a cruise on the Princess the same way you would for a stylish land-based resort - casual sportswear, including shorts, lightweight pants, and jogging suits, are all the order of the day. We also recommend a sweater or jacket for cooler nights.

    As far as evening wear goes, there are two designations aboard the Princess: Smart Casual and Formal.

    Smart Casual Evenings:
    [*]Passengers dress as they would for a fine restaurant at home
    [*]Skirts/dresses, slacks, and sweaters for ladies
    [*]Pants and open-neck shirts for men

    Formal Evenings: (two)
    [*]Evening gowns and cocktail dresses for ladies
    [*]Tie and jacket, or suits for men

    As far as bugs go, I had the good fortune to go on Alaska: The Call of the Wild a few years back in August, same as prepared for mosquitos. Lots of them, especially around dusk. Bring repellant. And I'd advise long pants, just light ones, so you don't get too hot.

    And as for your pre-stay - we try to give you the same room you will have on tour when possible, but it depends upon the availability of rooms in the rest of the hotel. I'm afraid I can't actually give an answer on that at this time, but keep checking back.

    Congratulations on your 40th Anniversary, Mike, and I hope you have a wonderful time on your trip!

  • Hi Mike. Happy anniversary! I too am on the 8/6 tour and was questioning the "average" luggage requirement. I've decided to use my 28 x 18 x 10 (approximately), which holds about 40 pounds. I think that's considered standard for such a trip. Even so, it'll be a challenge to fit everything given the variety of clothes we'll need.

    See you soon.

    Lois Bizak
    Sturbridge, MA
  • Mike and Lois,
    We are considering taking the Grand Alaska tour next summer--and would love to hear all about it when you both return, since we have the same questions you do--particularly about dress, and weather! Please do a post when you get home to let me know how the trip was, and how everything worked out! We are still deciding whether or not to go with Tauck or with a cruise line (sorry, Tauck!). Thanks!
  • Lois - Look forward to seeing you in August! And thanks for the advice on the luggage size.

    Ocean4Me - I'll be happy to share the experience with you fully once we get back!

    Mike and Jan Ward
    Manassas, VA
  • Mike and Jan,

    How was your Alaska trip? We are waiting for the Tauck Alaska 2012 details to come out--but would love to hear all about your trip, the good and the bad! How was the weather, and how did you make out with that ONE suitcase??

    Hope to hear from you, or any others who have been on this tour this year!

  • Hi Debbie,

    I find it very hard to put into words how wonderful our Grand Alaska trip kinda run out of adjectives after a while! Weather cooperated more than we expected - the long range forecast a few days before we went looked dismal - rain, rain, rain - but it actually only rained the first couple of days and then cleared up and was much nicer for the rest of the first week (the land component of the trip). I do not recall it ever raining (escept maybe a very light sprinkle) on anything we were doing outdoors, so although it was damp, it did not impact the trip hardly at all. Temps were pretty much in the 50s during the day, but I found that with a long sleeve shirt and a light rain jacket I was plenty comfortable - even reverted to short sleeves at times. The itinerary was sensational, and we DID see Mt. McKinley (it was raining lightly the first day when we headed for our "flightseeing" trip departure, but cleared as we approached McKinley and gave us as clear a view as anyone could ever get...flew within maybe 5-10 miles of the peak itself...and got sensational pix! - we also saw McKinley a couple of other times, including a great view from Broad Pass on our way from the second to the third wilderness lodge...

    Among other highlights of the land portion - At Mt. McKinley National Park, our all day nature ride gave us grizzly bears, caribou, moose, and Dall Sheep (although the sheep were only white specks on the mountainside to the naked eye). The visit with the Porterfields at their homestead was very informative and gave a good picture of life in the Alaska wilderness. They are terrific folks!!! Then on to Denali National Park via train (terrific views and a GREAT lunch onboard) and a visit to the "Husky Homeland" - much fun, especialLy the chance to meet and listen to Jeff King and his stories of the Iditarod, and to hold an dmake friends with the adorable little husky pups!!! Then on to Wrangell-St. Elias, where I used the free afternoon to go salmon fishing (didn't catch any, but others in our small fishing party did). Mountains there are even more awesome that McKinley area.... Finally on to Valdez (with stops at a couple of lovely waterfalls and a large glacier, plus the Alaska Pipeline) and the ferry to our ship, the Diamond Princess, for the cruise component.

    I need to say here I had never been on a cruise before, and this one certainly did not disappoint in any way. Viewing from the open decks was a bit dicey (cold winds and occasional rain the first few days), but we had a suite in the aft and could sit comfortably on our huge private balcony and watch the world go by, since they winds were completely blocked. Means were OUTSTANDING, as was the service frmo the entire crew. The weather actually improved as we went south, so stops in Skagway (an AWESOME original of a town, with many original structures), Juneau, and Ketchikan were very nice. The Skagweay stp included what I thought was the absolute highlight of the trip for me - the raft trip in the Chilkoot Eagle Preserve. Saw LOTS of eagles, many quite close up, ad the scenery was breathtaking! Skagway also had the 3-hour rail trip on the White Pass and Yukon RR, again very comfortable and scenic. Juneau offered a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier (AWESOME!) and the opportunity to attend a fascinating presentation by a couple of Tlingit elders, who explained their culture, symbols, and beliefs and were amazing to talk to. Also has a walking tour of the capital area led by Randy, our OUTSTANDING Tauck tour director, and some free time for shopping. Finally, Ketchikan brought overcast and drizzly conditions in the morning, but improved later in the day - again a walking tour of the town led by Randy, a great visit to Saxman Village to learn all about Tlingit totem poles, and some time for shopping. Finally, the day-long cruise through the wonderfully scenic Inner Passage, and debarkation in Vancouver (we stayed overnight in Vancouver and spent the day riding their "on and off" trollies to Stanley Park and other points of interest in the city, topped off with a wonderful 40th anniversary dinner at the Shore Club).

    So as you can see, it is a very full , and energetic trip. Not a single part of it was cancelled, despite iffy wweather at tmes, and Randy is the absolute best for a guide (he has been doing the Tauck Alaska trips for many years and knows so much that it really contributed to the overall enjoyment of the trip).

    One more thing, since you asked. The "one suitcase" worked fine for both my wife and I, although they were so stuffed with clothes that I had to load all my souvenir purchases in my carry-on to get them home! I took about 4 days worth of clothing, including a mix of short and og sleeve knit shirts, plus a fleece jacket and a lightweight rain jacket (from my golf bag). Plus a sportscoat and two dress shirts and ties for the "formal" nights on the ship. We did laundry at a couple of the lodges the first week, and had laundry service on the ship as well, so that seemed to work out fine for us.

    I guess I have gone plenty enough for you at this point, so I will close. Please let me know if you have specific questions I can answer. You can email me directly at [email protected], or continue to chat via this message board. Once Iget a reasonable set of pix sorted out (1 took over 1,000 of them) I will be happy to send you some.

    Bottom Line - TAKE THIS TRIP (but make sure you pick a trip that starts in Anchorage and sails south th Vancouver - (I would not have liked to have had the cruise ahead of the land tour).

    Warm regards!

    Mike (and Jan) Ward
    Manassas, VA
  • Mike,
    Thank you SO much for your wonderful description of your trip! I will read it over several times, I know. I will also email you--thanks for that as well. You have convinced me to go with Tauck (I was leaning that way anyway!). You were so lucky to see Mount McKinley several times; I have heard some say that they got there and never saw it, due to weather. All those excursions sound so good; if I were to take a cruise line's tour, I would want those excursions, anyway--and by the time you add those on to the cruise price, the cost comes out about the same. We, too, will probably stay the night in Vancourver. I am waiting for Tauck to post the 2012 Alaska details; we think we will go in mid-to-late July.

    Again, I can't thank you enough. I am glad to hear about the clothing as well--it shows me that it is possible, formal nights and all! I will email you with any specific questions. I would love to see some pictures!

This discussion has been closed.