After a wonderful week exploring the Kenai in our little rental RV, it was time to return it to Anchorage and begin our final days in Alaska before boarding our southbound ship.
It was so surreal of us to believe that our time in Alaska was soon coming to an end, but not before some remaining fun adventures!
Upon returning to Anchorage for a third time this trip, we had a special treat in store. Some time ago, we were contacted by a fellow 4106 bus conversion owner in Anchorage.
We had to do a double take when he sent us pictures of his bus – it looked almost like our Zephyr, except with all of the original bus windows! It was even more surprising when we accepted an invitation to driveway surf earlier this year and put the pieces together that our host (hi Mike!) had previously owned this EXACT bus many years ago.
So there was no doubt in our mind that we were destined to meet Robert and his bus.
Robert also showed us a different side of Anchorage by taking us on a driving tour up in the surrounding mountains.
Our southbound cruise would be departing out of Seward. We had been generously invited to stay with Ben & Rebecca of His-Hers-Alaska while in the area.
And as serendipity would have it (and perhaps a bit of coordination), our friends Kristin & Jason were heading that way too for the 4th of July holiday.
So.. we hitched a ride after spending a night in their RV at the Cabela’s in Anchorage.
Ben & Rebecca had a surprise in store for all of us – fresh fish they had just caught that very day! They took us to Apollo’s Restaurant in town, with a bag of fish in hand (a little odd?). Instead of ordering off the menu, Ben just handed our waiter the fish and they created a delicious dinner with all the trimmings for our group out of the super fresh King salmon & halibut.
It was SUPER yum – maybe this whole fishing thing has some merit?
But the surprises didn’t end. Popular RVing YouTuber Chris Travels joined with up us! He and his partner G are working the season in Seward, and it was great to finally meet up!
After dinner, we boarded the Swelltime, the very boat our dinner had been caught on.
Since we were still in the land of late night sun, the 4th of July fireworks start at midnight on the 3rd, launching the town’s big weekend.
It was amazing to watch them from the water with good friends and laughter, and even more amazing to hear the booms ricochet down the mountains.
The next day, it was the Mount Marathon Race. We honestly had NO CLUE what we were getting ourselves into here. When Ben had mentioned it during our planning, I thought it was a regular ole marathon.
But noooooo. Mount Marathon is the name of the 3000+ foot mountain hovering over the town. And on a dare a 100 years ago, someone decided it’d be a good idea to race up and down the mountain. This 100 year tradition is now one of the world’s top mountain racing competitions.
The race is only 3 miles. Ok, that sounds easy enough.
Except, the expected wining times are usually in the 50 minute range. It’s 30-40 minutes of a treacherous steep uphill climb at an average of 2 mph, followed by a 10-12 minute downhill in which you try not to kill yourself descending at 12 mph.
Take a look at the super zoomed in image (still loving my Sony WX350 point-n-shoot camera). It looks like it was taken from a flying drone overhead. Except, it’s not overhead, I’m looking straight on – it’s just really that steep!
This race is INSANE.
We stood at the finish line (what, you didn’t think we ran in this crazy thing??) applauding these ambitious people on. Most of them crossing out of breath, covered in mud, bleeding and even vomiting. (Except the winner, who skipped across the finish line while hardly being winded.)
What a weekend! Much gratitude to our super hosts, Ben & Rebecca for sharing Seward with us! This is a town we’d love to explore more. We love that most of the entire coastline is reserved for RV parking with scenic views.
Southbound Cruise Aboard the Holland America Zaandam
If you’ve been tracking this multi-modality Alaskan adventure since we announced it back in April, then you know we left our return back to the bus open ended. We originally thought we’d try the Alaska Marine Highway (aka. the ferry or ‘blue canoe’) for our return trip.
We had priced it out with a tiny bunk room (with no linens, view or private bath) at $1280 for the two of us. And that’s not even including food. That trip would have been 4 nights into Bellingham, WA.
We had also tagged a few possible southbound cruises to watch for last minute deals.
When Holland America ran a special back in May for just $579 for a 7-night ocean view cabin on one of our preferred bookings – we decided to snag it.
For a total cost of $1670 (fare, ports/taxes and gratuities), we just couldn’t argue against this economical choice that would also include someone to make up our included non-bunk linens, a private bath and gourmet food. For comparison, we paid about $3800 for our way up in a balcony cabin on the Coral Princess back in June.
Had we (meaning, I) not been so antsy, we could have waited even longer and gotten the same cabin for as low as $399, or an interior for $299!!
Incredible. These last minute cruise deals can be a super budget, and super fun, way to travel.
Same as before.. in reverse
The downside to taking a cruise southbound, was that the itinerary was essentially the same as our way up aboard the Coral Princess … but in reverse. The cruise ports where the same (Glacier Bay cruising, Juneau and Ketchikan). Instead of stopping in Skagway, this cruise stopped in the darling and non-touristy town of Haines.
We just used those days to get online and get caught up on work.
In the spirit of efficiency, I’m not going to repeat the cruise experience – just refer back to our Northbound Cruise Adventure if you missed it the first time.
Instead, I’ll just highlight a few of the major differences:
Instead of a sweet balcony suite, we were in ‘Aquarium’ class – meaning our little tiny room on the first deck had portholes, not even full windows. For the purposes of a budget travel way back, this was just fine. It gave us some natural light, and plenty of reasons to get out on deck being active.
We indulged in a Greenhouse Retreat spa pass, which gave us a week of access to the thermal suite. Situated right above the bridge, it has a panoramic front view with a hot tub, steam room and heated loungers. For just $149 for the both of us – it was a killer deal. The downside was of course, if I wanted to actually HEAR the glaciers calving, I had to get out of my hot tub and go out on the private deck. Oh, the agony of budget travel!!
- Dozens of more whale sightings. We had two evenings strolling the deck where we spotted probably over 50 humpbacks. (No orcas this time for us.)
- Most excellent food restriction handling. Holland America is my favorite cruise line for handling my vegetarian and gluten free preferences. They have an extensive veg menu, and will modify any meals to be GF – I just have to order in advance. And the unlimited nacho/taco bar and sushi at lunch? Yeah, this budget travel thing just sucks (NOT!).
Overall, while we loved our Princess cruise on the way up – even traveling just doors down from the crew accommodations, Holland America Lines is just heads and tails above. It’s our third HAL experience, and I continue to be blown away with the continual first class service, casual but elegant atmosphere and super friendliness of the crew.
HAL has a reputation of catering to an older demographic, but in our experience – that’s just not true. They have a mix of activities for a wide range of interests- from non-stop tech classes, culinary classes, dance lessons and mixology. And they just seem less pushy with the add-ons.
Transport back to Vancouver Costs: $1828 for 7-nights of complete luxury and transport back to Vancouver.
Follow our Summer 2015 Alaskan Adventure:
- Planning Our Great Alaskan Adventure
- Phase 1 – Alaskan 2015 Adventure: Amtrak Train Travel from St. Louis to Vancouver, BC
- Phase 2 – Alaskan 2015 Adventure: Touring Vancouver, BC
- Phase 3 – Alaskan 2015 Adventure: Northbound Cruise to Alaska
- Phase 4 – Alaskan 2015 Adventure: Alaska Railroad GoldStar Service to Fairbanks
- Phase 5 – Alaskan 2015 Adventure: Adventurer Class Railroad from Fairbanks to Anchorage via Denali
- Phase 6 – Alaskan 2015 Adventure: Exploring the Kenai Peninsula in a RV Rental
What’s Next: After arriving to Vancouver, we explored for a week and then relocated to Seattle for a few days. I’ll have a chapter added soon about those adventures and then wrap this amazing Alaskan adventure up. It’s also been requested that we show just how we packed for this 7 week adventure in 2 backpacks.
For those of you tired of Alaskan tales, I promise it’ll all be over soon and we’ll get back on task with new content as we transition out of vacation mode (thanks so much for your patience and indulging us this time!)
Tech Content Alert: If you’ve been missing tech content from us lately as we galavant around on a seemingly unending vacation, we’ve actually been posting pretty prolifically over at RVMobileInternet.com. Lots of new internet stuff out this past week.
- A brand new mobile satellite option
- Awesome Mexico & Canada phone/data option that is a game changer for RVers who cross borders
- AT&T’s Acquisition of DirecTV
- Finally.. a brand new Verizon USB modem option
- A data usage warning about the new Windows 10 release
… and much more.
It’s amazing, just about a year ago we launched the site – and it’s grown leaps and bounds, and has been so much fun to keep up with! (Much thanks to our growing premium membership which funds the content creation.)
For now, we’re back in St. Louis, reunited with Kiki and staying in Chris’ parent’s ultra comfy guest space. We’ll stick here until the bus is ready to be moved back into, while we continue to assist our members and crank out some new content. We’ll also be gearing up to get back actively involved with Xscapers as they continue to rollout some super useful benefits for the working aged RVer.
Bus Update: The new paint job is well underway at Master Tech RV, and a lot of projects should be wrapped up in the coming weeks. I’ve updated the project task list if you wanted to keep count with us. Estimation for completion? Unknown, but we’re hoping to be able to move back in by mid-August to help wrap up projects. Before we can do that, the windows need to be in, and all plumbing projects completed.