National Geographic Sea Bird Cruise Review
Itinerary: Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness with Denali North Face Lodge - August 2012
Beyond our expectations, in all aspects of the trip, beauty of Alaska being number one. We spent hours going over each Alaska company, we checked TripAdvisor, Cruise Critic, Yelp and our friends, most who had been on large ships which was not our choice. We can't remember how we found Linda at Sunstone Tours, but in a ten minute conversation she was able to explain the clear differences in each company which we were not able to see looking at their promotional material.
We chose Lindblad due to Linda's recommendation for what she thought would be the best fit for our interest. She was spot on, our trip could not have been better.
We visited Denali and then the cruise, the best order to do it in our opinion. Alaska is vast, varied and untamed. You need the help of the experts to move you around and not waste precious vacation time wandering.
Denali Land Tour
Arrived in Fairbanks - picked up at airport and our luggage showed up in our hotel room, Pikes Waterfront Lodge. Met for dinner with our fellow passengers and Lindblad personal who gave us an over view of the next few days adventure. Lovely dinner presentation and then a good walk. Alaska Wildland Adventures works with Lindblad on their land tours and we had Elise as our guide throughout our whole trip. She could not have been better in all areas. We had a driving tour of the history of the Alaska Pipeline and history of Fairbanks.
Next morning, the University of Fairbanks, which in itself is a unique building. Then a lovely bus ride down to Denali. Transferred to the North Face Lodge Bus and into Denali we went. We spent some time at the Denali Visitors enter at the Entrance to the park. It was a long valuable educational bus ride, we had many potty and snack breaks among many stops to see phenomenal wildlife. We were treated to a wonderful buffet dinner in the wilderness, set up by the staff from North Face we assume, quite an unexpected treat. Upon arrival at North Face we joined the lodge for dessert and a presentation of our time at North Face. We had a small group some had already sailed and some were going on the ship with us after. Our luggage was picked up in Fairbanks and it showed up in our room at North Face..quite organized.
North Face Lodge
Exceeded expectations - Warm, friendly, run by a family. Our tour guide Elise was exceptional, we felt taken care of and were able to explore on our own or with the group. The lodge provided boots, backpacks, walking sticks, insect repellant. We had large choices of outdoor activities and never felt pushed or rushed. No TV, no radios, no cellphones. Always a fire going in the lodge, large library of books on Alaska. We had talks every night, one night was on berries one night on fungus (fungi, not kidding here) it was fascinating and presented with education and humor. Meals were absolutely delicious with the Chef coming out to tell us about himself and the nights planned dinner. Lunch was a buffet where you make your own sandwich and goodies to take along with you for the day. Dinner, lodge employees sit with you, each has a fascinating story of how they work half the year at the lodge when it is open June-Sept and what they do other times. Hiking levels very accurate, we had very little rain, were able to see Mt. McKinley a number of times on the whole trip. When finally ready to leave Denali the bus ride out was not as long as the ride in. Then transfer to the Denali Railroad for the trip down to Anchorage. At this point we had a hotel night in either Juneau or Anchorage before flying down to the cruise.
Sea Bird - Category 2. We were so spoiled, not sure anything could live up to the North Face experience. The cruise did come close. We had fabulous weather the whole trip. In Petersburg some stores were actually "closed for sun, we are out playing". Our trip was Juneau to Sitka. 3am one morning we were woken up to see the Northern Lights, they were not in color but flashes of light across the sky, never saw anything like it. Taylor was our Hotel Manger on the ship and everything was run perfectly. We saw, we did, we experienced, we learned. Whales sightings were so many in number we were amazed. Our only little issue on the trip were the naturalists. Their presentations were perfect, good information, not to long not to short, answered questions, all done well. We felt their personality on a one to one basis was not all that great. A treat was Mary Jo from Elfin Cove came on our ship and gave us "life in Elfin Cove", what an unforgettable experience.
Overall this trip was over our intended budget, but we clearly feel it was worth every penny spent and wish we could do it all over again. We have started our new trip fund which will be Galapagos in 2014. Thank you for all your help. Congratulations on your new signature of Top 25 Travel Agents, you certainly are and we are blessed to have worked with you.
— John and Mary, NH