Alaska 2021 trip report - in a COVID world, for the less adventurous

Mathmagicland

Disneyland - the original since 1955
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
Welcome to my AbD Alaska 2021 trip report! There are a few AbD Alaska trip reports already posted. I thought I’d share my 2021 Alaska AbD experiences from a couple of different perspectives: AbD in a Covid world, and also Alaska AbD for the less active /less adventurous. I traveled this one with my sister who has some challenges and is not an adventurous person. But, after talking with AbD, there are enough less active options that I thought she’d enjoy it. I also felt Disney would be keeping things as safe as possible, and felt comfortable booking with them.

Before we get started, I want to thank @TXTransplant who planted the seed for an Alaska land tour this year with a comment in another thread: without cruise ship visitors, this might be the best summer to visit Alaska. That got me thinking & researching, and within two weeks I had the AbD booked for just three months later and the flights also booked with a great Alaska Airlines “visit Alaska” airfare sale. Never have I planned a trip like this so quickly!

Since my sister is not adventurous, we will not be doing some of the usual Alaska things like rafting, kayaking, pre-AbD flight seeing for bear viewing, helicopter trips, etc. If you are interested in those activities and the more active side of this Alaska AbD, @DCPhotoGal has a great trip report out there for the current AbD Alaska itinerary -

https://www.disboards.com/threads/alaska-trip-report-june-2018-new-itinerary.3690962/

Disney had advised when booking that some itinerary modifications might be necessary due to Covid requirements or unavailable activities. We were called approx six weeks prior to departure with information on all itinerary changes as of that date. (Changes will be noted on each day’s report.) We were given the opportunity to cancel with no penalty if we were not happy with the necessary changes. We are on the second Alaska Adventure of this summer, so any itinerary changes we experience may not be the same for remaining 2021 itineraries. And, as with any adventure and because things are so fluid, we may end up with some additional changes along the way.

On the same call as the itinerary changes, AbD shared the new required Waiver and Indemnity Agreement. The agreement had to be signed & returned within a couple of days.

Two weeks prior to departure, I received an email with a link to an electronic version of the Adventure handbook. This e-version has the updated daily itinerary with the previously shared changes. It also had most of the current-at-the-time health & safety protocols.

The Adventures by Disney gift collection box arrived 12 days prior to our AbD start date; I must say it was pretty exciting to see a delivery of an AbD box again!

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In the box was -
  • The AbD large duffle with the shoulder strap
  • Guide gratuity envelopes
  • Coded luggage tags for the trip
  • AbD orange luggage straps - I love these, very happy to get a couple more of them
  • Two AbD small leather-type luggage/bag tags
  • A smaller AbD backpack with cinch top opening, shoulder straps, & a small front zipper pocket, unfortunately still missing an outside water bottle pocket
  • Our name tag lanyards, which we usually got at check-in with the AbD guides
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The box also included our Personal Care Kits - more on those in the next posts.

I’m starting this report while still on the AbD, to share some of the health & safety measures sooner in case others are wondering for their own travels or contemplating bookings, but might not be posting every day.

Next up - all of the “health and safety” information.
 

Mathmagicland

Disneyland - the original since 1955
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
Health & safety information & protocols for this adventure prior to departure

***** Caveat - all of the info shared here is subject to change at any time as circumstances warrant, so check often with both your destination and AbD for latest requirements. Things changed several times for us between booking and travel dates, both for Disney and for Alaska; the Disney info seems to change about every 10 days or so. Sometimes it felt like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride! Also, don’t expect Disney to proactively advise of changes on their side; the AbD website says we need to keep checking for changes ourselves. *****

I’m providing a LOT of details here; from comments in a few other threads there seems to be some interest in how AbD is managing this aspect of the adventures this year. If you’re not interested in this part, please feel free to move ahead two posts - smile!

There were a few pre-travel health protocols changes ahead of our trip. The biggest change for us - no pre-travel PCR testing required for fully vaccinated travelers. Since we are both fully vaccinated, this was good news for us! Disney accepts either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Since I’d already done the research on PCR testing, I’ll share for those not vaccinated -

We went to Anchorage one day early. AbD requires a negative PCR Covid test up to 5 days prior to the Adventure start date, which does not include any travel days, the AbD start date, or any pre-nights even if those pre-nights were booked through AbD. For example, our adventure start date was the 14th, with an AbD-booked pre-night on the 13th. The earliest we could PCR test for AbD was the 9th. I had a couple of e-mail exchanges with AbD to clarify the specific timing.. Also, Disney does not require specific test providers; any test provider was OK as long as it was a PCR test and not an antibody test.

Either PCR test results or proof of vaccination must be submitted to the Disney-designated third party The Anvil Group 24 hours prior to the adventure start date, not based on travel dates or pre-nights, which meant the 13th (on our travel day) for us. We would also do the required pre-departure online health assessment with The Anvil Group on the same timing.

I received an email from AbD with the pre-travel health info on Wednesday 9 June, five days prior to our AbD start date, sent at 11:30am ET. It has the most recent changes to health protocols, info about submitting PCR test results, info about the Clearance to Travel Guest Questionnaire (aka the pre-departure online health assessment), and a link to The Anvil Group website. The email was a bit confusing, as it only mentions submitting negative PCR test results, and that guests with proof of vaccine are exempt from the PCR testing. There was no mention of how or when to show proof of vaccine. It indicated the items needed to be submitted on Sunday, June 13.

I called The Anvil Group for clarity, as they are the listed resource on the email. They are a UK company with US offices in Tampa FL who manage travel health clearances for many companies. Their form will ask for either test results or vaccination proof. Their form cannot be completed until the day before AbD start date, so no early submissions. She wasn’t sure as to time zone implications but said if it was too early, their system would not accept the info & to try a bit later. I was able to complete our forms & submit our docs around early on Sunday before leaving for the airport, which I was happy about as it meant doing so on my home network rather than using airport WiFi. I’d suggest completing this information based on east coast time to be safe; most IT systems run on one timezone clock & I’d hate to miss out because I responded too late on a central or pacific time zone which was past midnight eastern time. When I asked Disney this time zone question, they didn’t know either but said all their processes were based on east coast time.

The Anvil form required separate submissions for each traveler. It first goes through the Covid questionnaire, then we submit either the negative PCR test or a copy of the CDC vaccine card. Along with the Covid symptoms, it asks about attendance at any gathering with people outside your immediate household regardless of size within the past 14 days and any travel within the previous 14 days, excluding travel to departure destination. I got confirmation emails immediately saying our PCR results or vaccination info was being evaluated, & we’d get another email when the evaluation was completed. About 50 minutes later, I had the email confirmations that we were cleared to travel. The confirmation emails had a link to download a certificate to take with us. None of the Disney documentation mentioned needing this certificate, but I downloaded it anyway & took screen shots so I’d have them readily available on my phone if needed. No one has asked to see them, so it must be standard wording on the Anvil emails.

One person on our tour commented they received a call from Anvil asking for clarification about one of their responses. I thought that was good, to know Anvil’s cleared fo travel decision is not based solely on responses; they will get additional information to help make that decision when needed.

In case you’re wondering why Disney is using a third party for reporting vaccination info, PCR test results, and the pre-departure online health assessment: while I didn’t ask Disney, Anvil confirmed it is due to HIPAA requirements. There are a lot of rules and restrictions around any personal health info re: the data storage, who can access it, specific employee trainings required, etc, to safeguard the information. By using a third party, Disney is not directly receiving any personal health information on guests...only the Cleared to Travel result. Yes Disney will know each traveler has either a negative test or been vaccinated if there is a positive Clear to Travel, but they won’t know which and they won’t have the specific associated health information paperwork or health questionnaire responses.


Next up, health & safety protocols after arrival & during the adventure.
 

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Mathmagicland

Disneyland - the original since 1955
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
Health & safety information & protocols for this adventure after arrival & while traveling

*****Same caveats apply here, subject to change and check the AbD website often for updates and latest information. I’m again providing a lot of details here; if you’re not interested in this part, please feel free to move ahead once more to the next post - smile! *****

^^^^ protocol changes during our trip have been added to end of this post ^^^^

Once in Alaska, we had a verbal health assessment with the AbD guides when we checked in on Monday, again with the Covid-symptoms questions.

There will also be daily health assessment self-checks, where any Covid symptoms must be reported. Disney also shared that should the verbal on-site assessment or any of the daily health self-checks warrant further review, AbD would connect us with a telehealth service for consultation. Thus far, halfway through the adventure, the guides have not mentioned these daily health checks at all.

Along with our AbD gifts, Disney provided each guest with a “personal care case” that included three cloth face masks which must be worn while on all Disney group transportation, a small 2-oz 70% alcohol hand sanitizer, small pack of 10 hand sanitizer wipes, and a digital oral thermometer for our daily health self-checks. We were welcome to use our own face masks at other times when not on the group transportation, provided those met Disney requirements (same as in the parks). This was not enough sanitizer or wipes for the entire trip, so we brought extras of both along with some additional masks.

The “personal care case” is a lightweight canvas zipper bag, 9”x11”, with a canvas tag attached to the zipper pull where you can write each person’s name to help keep the masks and thermometer separate. I also used a label maker to label the thermometers. Each mask is in its own plastic zip bag, nice for storing when not in use. The masks are a dark gray outside and white on the inside, so I was able to put marks on the inside of one set to identify each person’s masks.


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There is also a card with the required health and safety requirements for the trip.

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For those interested in the Disney-provided face coverings, they were made by a company called Evolon. Here is more info about them - https://evolon.freudenberg-pm.com/applications/face-masks

Mask requirements - the health & safety protocols said masks must be worn at all times indoors, and outdoors when physical distancing of 3 feet (originally 6 feet) is not possible. We could remove our masks when eating or drinking, outdoors where we could physically distance 3 feet, while swimming, or while in our rooms. A pre-trip change on outdoor mask requirements was nice, as originally we were expected to wear masks at all times while outdoors including activities such as rafting and hikes. The guides have been enforcing wearing the Disney-provided mask requirements when on the busses.

We will have two tour busses for our transportation this week, in order to have the physical distancing. The busses are large, so there will be lots of space between travel pods. There are only 13 on our bus, with at least two rows between pods and no pods across the aisle from other pods. We will be on the same bus all week; our guides will trade off between busses so we get time with each of them. We have assigned seats but guides are mixing up the assignments each day so people aren’t always at the front or back. We will be able to have water on the bus and take drinks, similar to airlines where we lower the mask, take a drink, & then raise the mask again. No food or snacks on the bus; we will have snacks at our stops when we we are off the bus & can have the masks off for longer periods of time.

With group meals, each travel pod sits together separate from others. There were no self-service buffets in the group meals; it was either individually plated dishes or served family style to each table. If there was a buffet, someone from the restaurant served the portions to us. At some meals we had table cards with our names; at others we could choose our own table.

^^^^ protocol changes during our trip -
- on the longer bus days, we could have some snacks on the bus; we still had to keep our masks on between bites
- the AbD guides could take their masks when outdoors as long as they could be six feet from others
-:travel pods could share rafts on the float trip
- we could serve ourselves at buffets
- travel pods were able to sit with others for group meals

Enough with the pre-trip info, let’s get going to Alaska!!!!
 
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Mathmagicland

Disneyland - the original since 1955
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
Finally, we are starting our travels! We flew out early Sunday morning 13 June; the AbD started Monday 14 June. Due to the general reduction in flights in a Covid world, we could not get a daytime non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Anchorage, so connected through Seattle. Flights were good & we had a very easy connection in Seattle.

In case you missed the news, Alaska Airlines is in process of switching the bottled water on their planes to paper cartons instead of plastic bottles. Less plastic waste, & the cartons are recyclable. They are kind of cute, reminds me of the school lunch milk cartons. They are 8oz, so if you’re a big water drinker you’ll need a few of them.

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We arrived in Anchorage on Sunday afternoon & were met by the AbD rep for transport to hotel. The AbD hotel is the Anchorage Marriott Downtown, a short 10 minutes from the airport. Nice to see the familiar orange Adventures by Disney sign again!

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We had a bit of a snafu at the hotel with the room. At check-in we were given a room, however when we got upstairs that room had a Do Not Disturb sign hanging on the door! Housekeeping was cleaning the adjacent room, so I showed her our key envelope. She immediately called downstairs to the lobby & they sent a floor supervisor up to confirm. Not sure what happened, but they assigned us a new room on another floor & the supervisor let us in with his master key. We were able to drop our luggage & then picked up our new keys on our way out a few minutes later. It was all resolved quickly and thankfully without a lot of trips back down to the lobby for us,

After a long day of travel, we were ready to get out and start wandering. We spent the afternoon exploring downtown Anchorage. Coming from California where mask mandates were still in place when we left, it felt very strange to us to be able to remove our masks while outdoors if we chose to do so….which we did, when we remembered! Old habits are hard to break. Some of the shops had signs that masks were optional for vaccinated folks while other shops had signs that masks were required for everyone.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of people walking around, almost like a ghost town. The streets were virtually empty! We walked a few blocks before we finally saw some other people. I don’t know if this is typical of Anchorage on a Sunday afternoon or a sign of the current times. I definitely think it was partially due to no cruise ship passengers in town. Now I’m very curious to see if this is an indicator of how it will be for the rest of our time here, We’d see maybe one or two other parties walking once we got to the area with most of the downtown shops. A couple of the larger shops catering to tourists had a few people inside but nothing was really crowded or busy. This was the middle of the afternoon, say 3-5PM.

It was hit & miss as to which shops were open; some were closed for the day. I’d read in a few places about a street fair that happens on the weekends; however, it is a victim of Covid as it isn’t happening this summer. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, temps in the high 60’s, and even the couple of small parks we passed didn’t have more than a very few people.

One stop we did make was a walk to see the huge Wyland mural of life size whales & seals he painted on the side of the JCPenney store downtown. It is one of a series he’s painted freehand at places around the world; this one was done in 1994. Sad note - we asked a gal at a shop for directions to find it, and she said it might not be there much longer. She said the people who owned the shop also own where the mural is, and it is very likely the mural will be gone very soon as there will be a new hotel going up in that area. She said it was good to see it now, as it could be there just another month or two. It seems progress does not protect beautiful street art.

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Another surprise to me was very restaurants in this downtown area, many fewer than I expected to see. As much as we are looking forward to getting our fresh seafood fix on this trip because Alaska has some of the best, we wanted something different. We ended up at an Italian restaurant at the Captain Cook hotel, just a couple of blocks from ours. Sitting in the comfy booth, I started to nod off at the end of the meal so knew it was time to head back to the hotel to make it an early night.
 

Mathmagicland

Disneyland - the original since 1955
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
AbD day 1 - Aleyeka Welcome
Anchorage

Scheduled itinerary -
- Welcome reception & dinner at 49th State Brewing Company

Itinerary changes -
- none planned or announced prior to departure

Our AbD day does not start until evening with the welcome reception & dinner, so we have most of the day to explore on our own. I booked a half-day morning private Anchorage area tour with Tours by Locals. Our guide was Ryan K and he was great! We hit areas around Anchorage not included on our AbD. While we could have taken the Anchorage downtown trolley to see some of the sites, we were able to see things farther outside of the downtown area with the tour. While many of us have had travel plans cancelled over the past 18 months, some of us more than one trip, the tour guide side of the Covid impacts is greater - Ryan commented that his guide business was down over 80% compared to pre-Covid times.

We had some time after breakfast and before our tour was starting, so walked to the Anchorage Veteran’s Memorial which was a block behind our hotel. It is nice with granite blocks listing the names of all Alaskan military who lost their lives in wars conflicts going back to WWI.

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Our private tour included Ship Creek, Earthquake Park, Point Woronzof, the Lake Hood float plane base, Seward Highway & Beluga Point, and Potter Marsh.

While on the tour, we had our first sighting of Denali! This was at Point Woronzof. It was a clear day both in town and at Denali, as several of the taller peaks including Denali were visible. Ryan was a bit surprised; he said that is not common, & the point has a large informational sign board showing where the peaks would be because most days they are not visible. I got the feeling Denali is as elusive as Mt Fuji in Japan. With a lighter sky, a snow-covered peak, and being so far away, the photo didn’t turn out very well, but we still saw it!

A funny thing we saw as we drove round the cargo side of Anchorage Airport to the float plane base - adjacent to the USPS office is a section of a parking lot roped off with lots of mailboxes in the aisles. Ryan said he thinks it is used to help train new USPS mail carriers. He’s also heard local lore that it might also be used for some friendly competitions at times between the carriers.

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Since Ryan offered itinerary modifications, I asked him if we could add a stop at the Alaska Zoo, just outside of Anchorage and on the way back from Potter Marsh. Since there were only the two of us, Ryan was able to add this stop at no additional charge; we purchased our own zoo admission ahead of time. Note - the zoo normally runs a free summer shuttle from downtown Anchorage but was not doing so this year.

This is a small zoo, with lots of shaded walkways. While our AbD includes a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, my sister really likes animals and zoos so we try to hit the local zoo in new cities whenever possible. The zoo has a couple of very young orphaned black bear cubs which were pretty darn cute and very active! They alone were worth the stop here; we watched them play and climb for several minutes. They will be moved other zoos once old enough. There were also snow leopards for my sister, the cat lover. Unfortunately it was a bit too warm for their polar bear to be out & about.

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We ended our tour with lunch at a popular local diner called The Arctic Roadrunner - how can we pass up a place with a name like that! They had a nice selection of burgers, including salmon burgers and halibut burgers which Ryan recommended because they are a bit unique. My sister tried the salmon one & I had the halibut burger & they were pretty good. Note they are cash only; it was so strange to pay cash after 15 months of only using a credit card. Gotta love this logo, a roadrunner wearing snowshoes!

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We got back to the hotel around 3pm and needed to check in with our AbD guides for the week, Peyton and Morgan. Our tour is Peyton’s first return to an AbD Adventure, and Morgan’s second as she was also the local Alaska guide on the summer’s first Alaska Adventure the week prior to ours. The on-site health assessment went quickly, same questions we were asked in the online Clearance to Travel questionnaire. We have 30 travelers on this trip in 9 travel pods.

We had some time prior to the evening AbD activities. One shop I wanted to go to was Oomingmak, aka the Qiviut shop, an Alaska co-op owned by approx 250 Alaska Native women from remote coastal villages who knit each item by hand. This was just a block from our hotel; it is closed on Sundays this summer so this time before dinner was my only chance to stop in. https://www.qiviut.com/ Qiviut is uniquely Alaskan, all items hand made from the downy soft underwool of the Arctic musk ox. It is the lightest, softest, warmest wool - just wonderful stuff! And the co-op is only in Anchorage so this was a must-do for me. I picked up a hat for me, and a couple of hats for some friends.

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The AbD welcome reception and dinner were at the 49th State Brewing Company. With the lower numbers of visitors this summer, the restaurant is closed to walk-in traffic on Mondays and Tuesdays. They opened up just for our AbD dinner; I think that shows their appreciation for Disney’s support of local Alaskan businesses. It is very popular; several folks passing by saw our group enter or exit, tried to go in, and had to be turned away since it wasn’t open to the public. The place brews some of its own beers which adults could try, and also a refreshing blueberry cream soda which was also made at the restaurant. each travel pod has its own assigned table.

With reminders to wear our Disney masks on the busses and the next day’s departure info, our first AbD day came to a close.

This midnight sun thing had us not getting very much sleep, because the view from our hotel room was of the harbor facing North so we could see both the sunset and the sunrise. We could also see the moon set. We watched the sun dip below the horizon around 11:45pm but it never got low enough for the sky to go completely dark; we had what looked like dusk/sunset all night night with an orange sky shifting slowly east until that sunset turned into the sunrise around 4:30 a.m. Wow! Fascinating to see! Since we’ll be in the mountains the next few days, and who know what direction our window will face, we took advantage of this view to spend a lot of time watching the transition. It ended up being an added bonus to our room change, because our original room faced the mountains & we’d only have been able to see the sunrise after the sun was well above the horizon. We didn’t get much sleep; I predict we will be napping on the bus ride to Talkeetna!
 
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Mathmagicland

Disneyland - the original since 1955
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
Alaska day 2 - Follow The Heritage Trail
Anchorage to Talkeetna

Scheduled itinerary -
- The Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage
- Separate Village tours for adults Adults and junior adventurers
- Bike riding and Kayaking at Eklutna Lake with BBQ lunch
- Travel to Talkeetna, check-in at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge
- Adult Dinner at the Lodge, separate dinner & activity for junior adventurers

Itinerary changes -
- Kids joined adults for the Village tour
- No separate dinner & activity for junior adventurers, they will dine with parents

This is our first full day on the Adventure. We were at the Alaska Native Heritage Center at opening. The guides also passed out Alaska Bingo sheets, with 48 items (plus the free space) we will search for over the course of the week. It will be fun, and first to cover their entire card will be the winner. We’re on the honor system, but are encouraged to take photos to confirm our finds of some of the more elusive items. We have assigned seats on the bus, little index cards with our names above our assigned rows.

The Alaska Native Heritage center was a wonderful stop. We learned about the various native cultures in Alaska, how they are similar and how they are different, along with some of their history. We found a few of our bingo card items here; it was funny to see a few people furtively looking around. They’d spot something & mark their card, then others would look to try to see what someone had found. It was not disruptive to our guide, as we were all attentive while she shared her stories and information.

There were a few native artists with tables set up, selling different things they’ve made. About half had beaded jewelry items. One gentleman made decorative tiles using all natural dyes for coloring; I picked up one of those. My favorite find, however, was the lady who had several things made out of seal skin, along with some hats and gloves made out of otter or fox fur, all seal and fur items responsibly gathered as permitted by their culture. If I lived in a cold weather climate, I’d have been very tempted to get those otter mittens, so warm, soft, and comfortable! But I’d never use them in California. What I did pick up was a Christmas ornament of a seal, made of seal skin with beading around the edge. I like to pick up ornaments while traveling, but after getting this one, nothing else in any other shop has seemed worth getting.

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Next up was travel to Eklutna Lake; Morgan said this is known locally as Alaska’s playground, it is very popular with locals. We spent several hours here. With our two busses, it is easy to split groups when needed - by bus! First activity, one bus did kayaking & the other did bike riding. After the BBQ lunch, they switched so everyone had an opportunity to do each one. Here was our first change for the less adventurous as we did neither one. Some folks did one & not the other. We opted for some walks around the park area and down to the lake during the activity times, and also spending time visiting with other adventurers. It was very quiet and peaceful here, except when the ATVs from the rental place just past our location would head out or come back. The lake itself was beautiful!

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There have been questions about how the travel pod concept would impact the guest interactions that are such a part of AbD. Here at the lake was for first place where it felt like the usual AbD. We were outside, so masks were not required. We could sit sit around chatting with others when not on one of the activities or while at lunch. There were lots of good conversations.

We wrapped up our time here and headed on the road again, up to to Talkeetna. As we got closer, we had another Denali peak sighting! We are now two for two on days & sightings. Guide Morgan was so cute - she was extremely excited as this was her first Denali peak sighting of the summer. (That must mean last week’s tour didn’t see the peak.). The sightings puts us in the 30% group - I saw something at the Takleetna lodge where only 30% of visitors see Denali peak and 70% do not.

It was still visible when we got to the lodge, so we immediately all went through the building to the back where we could get some pictures of it. Dinner and room keys will just have to wait!

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and one more, because I really like the sky in this picture.

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We had a group dinner at the lodge, in a private room with huge picture windows looking out towards Denali. We could sit where we wanted, within our travel pods. All had great views.
 

xiphoid76

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 6, 2011
That was great to read! Thank you for the detail. We just came back from alaska - we flew into anchorage and went to Seward and did many of the same things ABD did. It was fun to see again.
The mask thing would have driven me crazy - we didn’t wear a mask at all on our trip - no place required it, the zoo, restaurants, heritage center, boat trips. I had enough trouble wearing it on the plane ride there since I haven’t worn worn in weeks :) Must still be a rule with public bus transportation. We rented a car so avoided that.
Alaska is beautiful. We found downtown quite crowded surprisingly but it was a weekend and there was a concert going on in the park. The restaurants were crowded as well with lots of tourists and few waiters like everywhere. Tourism definitely seems to be rebounding which is nice.
The zoo does offer a shuttle from downtown but only on weekends and feee of charge which is great. Zoo very tiny but the cutest bear Cubs we have ever seen. The highlight was just the beautiful scenery of Alaska. It is very easy to do this trip on your own. The hardest part was getting a rental car - we were lucky and snagged one early but they were sold out weeks before when we tried to see if we could get a better price.
 

sayhello

Have Camera, Will Travel
Joined
Oct 28, 2006
Oooo! Thanks so much for sharing your trip report and pics! Looking forward to more! It's so fun seeing your pictures of your days in Anchorage, as back when I did this trip in 2009, the itinerary *ended* in Anchorage (plus I did post-days) so these same places were the last I've seen of Alaska. It all looks so familiar. :) I really do need to go back to Alaska. I have to admit, I'm quite a bit jealous of you right now! :love:

That is SO SAD about the Wyland wall! It seems there should be *some* way to preserve it! Wyland art work is worth quite a bit of money! Plus, it's just so seriously iconic!

Oomingmak is so cool! I really wish I'd purchased more there! :)

By the way, according to your (AMAZING!) photos of Denali, you are actually now in the *10%* club! The way it goes is, that of all the people who travel to where Denali *should* be visible, only 30% ever see it at all. 70% never see a thing. (It is so high, it generates it's own weather. When I was there my first time, the rest of the sky was pure blue and cloudless, but Denali was shrowded behind clouds.) Then, of all the people who travel to where Denali *should* be visible, only 10% see Denali clearly, without any clouds. So you definitely made it into the 10% club! Congrats! Denali really is as elusive as Mt. Fuji!

The COVID-19 protocol does not sound too bad. Only issue for me as a solo would be eating every meal by myself. While I don't mind it on occasion, I don't know that I'd want to do that for an entire trip...

Sayhello
 

TXTransplant

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
That was great to read! Thank you for the detail. We just came back from alaska - we flew into anchorage and went to Seward and did many of the same things ABD did. It was fun to see again.
The mask thing would have driven me crazy - we didn’t wear a mask at all on our trip - no place required it, the zoo, restaurants, heritage center, boat trips. I had enough trouble wearing it on the plane ride there since I haven’t worn worn in weeks :) Must still be a rule with public bus transportation. We rented a car so avoided that.
Alaska is beautiful. We found downtown quite crowded surprisingly but it was a weekend and there was a concert going on in the park. The restaurants were crowded as well with lots of tourists and few waiters like everywhere. Tourism definitely seems to be rebounding which is nice.
The zoo does offer a shuttle from downtown but only on weekends and feee of charge which is great. Zoo very tiny but the cutest bear Cubs we have ever seen. The highlight was just the beautiful scenery of Alaska. It is very easy to do this trip on your own. The hardest part was getting a rental car - we were lucky and snagged one early but they were sold out weeks before when we tried to see if we could get a better price.

I cam here to post almost the same exact thing! We just got back from Alaska yesterday morning (6/17). We flew to ANC, took the train to Seward, and stayed two nights at Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge on Fox Island. We stayed one night at the Seward Windsong Lodge then took a bus to Talkeetna where we stayed two nights at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. Then we took a bus to Denali, stayed one night at Denali cabins, an and then took another bus deep into Denali National Park where we stayed two nights at the Denali Backcountry Lodge. We wrapped up the trip with a bus ride back to Anchorage and one more night/day there.

We only had to wear a mask a few places: the Alaskan Sea Life Center in Seward required them, the train ride required them (Federal TSA regulation, similar to airplanes), and the bus driver from Denali to Anchorage required it (although, she didn't enforce it). We also did a small group tour to the Matanuska glacier, and that company required masks on the bus ride there and back. A couple of other privately owned businesses required them inside their storefront. But, we did not wear any masks outside. All of our hotels had changed to a "masks optional" policy.

The biggest logistical challenge we had was with food. Quite a few restaurants are still completely closed (DO NOT trust Google!), and ones that are open can have limited hours and 1-2 hour waits to get in (very few accept reservations). Every meal took at least an hour (even at cafes and walk-ups), and many menu items were simply not available. Also, with all the changes to bus/train schedules and certain places being closed/having reduced hours, it can be very difficult to get accurate information from hotels/bus drivers/guides.

The good news is, the food was FANTASTIC (something I was not necessarily expecting).

The bonus was we had almost completely clear weather for almost 3 full days in Denali. We saw the peak three times (each on different days/different locations). We even had completely cloudless skies a few times.

I did see tour buses for Tauck and Backroads. I confirmed with the staff at Denali Backcountry Lodge that National Geographic did not travel last week, so I am REALLY glad I made the call to cancel our trip with them and "go it alone". The nice thing about the lodges is we saw a lot of the same people/families, so it really was like a group trip! And when you're staying at a small, remote all-inclusive, you do get to chat with people, similar to an ABD.

Only disappointment was we did not get to see any bears (but we had some great bear viewings in Canada two summers ago). I did get a very close encounter with a moose in Denali National Park, though, and we were followed by a very curious harbor seal on our Resurrection Bay kayak.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask and I will follow-up.
 

pjacobi

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2001
Denali is breath-taking. I mean literally! As in sitting in a small plane flying around it at 13,000 Ft. That was one unforgettable ride.


-Paul
 

Mathmagicland

Disneyland - the original since 1955
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
The zoo does offer a shuttle from downtown but only on weekends

thanks for this update - when I was researching & purchased out tickets, no shuttle was going to be offered. They must have changed in the past couple of weeks.

The mask thing would have driven me crazy - we didn’t wear a mask at all on our trip - no place required it

Yes, most did not. Where we saw masks required were shops with lots of fabric or artistic items, ie the quilt shop and the Qiviut shop, or very small shops where two or three people made it seem crowded.
 

Mathmagicland

Disneyland - the original since 1955
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
Oomingmak is so cool! I really wish I'd purchased more there! :)
Oomingmak is so cool! I really wish I'd purchased more there! :)

By the way, according to your (AMAZING!) photos of Denali, you are actually now in the *10%* club! The way it goes is, that of all the people who travel to where Denali *should* be visible, only 30% ever see it at all. 70% never see a thing. (It is so high, it generates it's own weather. When I was there my first time, the rest of the sky was pure blue and cloudless, but Denali was shrowded behind clouds.) Then, of all the people who travel to where Denali *should* be visible, only 10% see Denali clearly, without any clouds. So you definitely made it into the 10% club! Congrats! Denali really is as elusive as Mt. Fuji!

The COVID-19 protocol does not sound too bad. Only issue for me as a solo would be eating every meal by myself. While I don't mind it on occasion, I don't know that I'd want to do that for an entire trip...

I may have picked up a couple of added unplanned Qiviut items…:)

Had not heard about the 10% club, makes our viewings even more special. We’ve been very fortunate.

Re the meals, it has been different than usual but not as enforced as I’d expected going into this. We’ve had a few opportunities to share tables.
 

Mathmagicland

Disneyland - the original since 1955
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
The biggest logistical challenge we had was with food. Quite a few restaurants are still completely closed (DO NOT trust Google!), and ones that are open can have limited hours and 1-2 hour waits to get in (very few accept reservations). Every meal took at least an hour (even at cafes and walk-ups), and many menu items were simply not available.

I don’t think we’ve experienced this to the same extent as your trip. While we’ve also seen closed places, we’ve not experienced as long of waiting times for the on our own meals. I’d say 20 minutes tops. Maybe we are not eating at popular places - haha!

One place said 30 but we were seated just before 20 had passed. They had open tables but were staggering the seatings so as to not overwhelm the kitchen which was not back to full staffing.

We’ve seen staffing impacts in several areas - many at our Anchorage hotel had “in training” badges, the Denali hotel with a note in our key packets thst some requests might be slow to respond, shops with not all registers open. Alaska has struggled to get their usual summer employees back, from both local and those who come up to spend the summer working there, with this somewhat unexpected influx of travelers this summer.
 







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