I apologise now for this rather detailed review of a TripADeal Tour Cruise holiday but blame the package deal. It not only included a 5000 km 10-day coach tour but a 7-day Alaska Inside Passage cruise as well!
This 19-Day TripADeal land and cruise package to Canada, USA and Alaska only cost us $4999.
What amazing value!
- TripADeal Canada USA Alaska Itinerary
- Highlights of our TripADeal Canada Tour
- Highlights Of TripADeal USA Tour
- Pros And Cons Of The TripADeal Canada – USA Tours
- TripADeal Cruise – Alaska Inside Passage
- Any TripADeal Complaints?
TripADeal Canada USA Alaska Itinerary
Vancouver to Banff
We travelled by coach from Vancouver in British Columbia (BC) to Banff on a very comfy air-conditioned coach that came with a superb local tour guide.
Although the more typical tourist trip is aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train, travelling by coach allows more time to experience places along the way.
The tour was very popular, with three TripADeal coaches leaving Vancouver simultaneously.
Along the western section of the Trans-Canada Highway, we traversed the Rockie Mountains when snow was still visible at Revelstoke and Rogers Pass (end of August).
We drove on through Golden and Kicking Horse Pass (1627m) to Banff in Alberta.
Calgary to Seattle
Heading south to Calgary we left the Trans-Canada highway and crossed the Canadian-US border at Sweetgrass, Montana.
From there, we travelled on to Gardiner, for two nights in Yellowstone National Park, then through Oregon in northwest USA to Seattle, Washington.
Our seven-day return Alaska Inside Passage cruise from Seattle was on board the Royal Caribbean Explorer of The Seas.
Highlights of our TripADeal Canada Tour
Home of the first Rocky movie in the series, First Blood, Hope was a walk down memory lane for the Rambo fans in our group.
Other attractions of this cute country town were its amazing and weird wooden sculptures.
A lunch stop in Meritt revealed an 1860 gold mining town with amazing food!
I suggest the Grand Hotel and Grill for its famous “Ambush burger” or pork belly and scallops.
There were plenty of things to do in Kelowna on Lake Okanagan, such as visiting the marina or walking around the lakeside park.
Kelowna also has lots of eateries to choose from.
Perhaps try your first ever taste of a Canadian maple sugar pecan or a whiskey vanilla home-made ice cream.
Three Valley Gap, BC
The cafe at this lunch stop was a real gem.
Welcome to Three Valley Lake Chateau.
It was cold, windy and remote but had great coffee and souvenirs (polar bear and moose dropping chocolate or warm rabbit fur hats come to mind).
Check out the strange lewd donkey out the front for a selfie to remember and don’t forget the fantastic garden out the back of the Chateau.
Golden, in Kicking Horse Country, is home to the Kicking Horse Pedestrian bridge, which is a classic covered bridge.
We found an interesting pet shop where you can get a squeaky ‘bungee fox’ and ‘bungee raccoon’ to train your dog to shake its prey (I’m serious!).
Lake Louise and Fairmont Chateau, Alberta
At 1600m high, the stunning views of the famous Chateau, its gardens, the mirrored turquoise water of Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier were jaw-dropping.
Moraine Lake, Alberta
14km from Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is half the size of Lake Louise.
The stunning glacial lake at 1884m lies in the Valley Of The Ten Peaks.
The tourist centre was worth visiting for its classic souvenirs.
On our tour, the top attractions in Banff were the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and Bow Falls.
The falls were home of scenes from “The River Of No Return” with Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum (ok, my age is showing).
A short riverside walk past the railway station, along the Bow River, was our chance to spot an occasional roaming deer.
We found some excellent cafes, restaurants and so many boutique shops in Banff.
Try some hot (and I mean HOT) buffalo wings and jalapeno slammers or shop until you drop for Northern Lights gems, ancient fossils or carved antlers.
Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
We tasted real hot chocolate at the Glacier View Inn and watched informative videos at the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre.
A snowcoach ride onto the Athabasca Glacier provided us the opportunity to see blue ice melting at the glacier’s edge and sip a warming drink of maple-flavoured (a Christmas special release) Crown Royal whiskey while buffeted by the piercing icy wind.
Note: Consider taking the TripADeal optional tour to walk on the Columbia Icefield at the foot of the Athabasca Glacier.
Calgary Ski Olympic Park was only a short stop but enough time to take a quick selfie in front of the Jamaican Cool Runnin’s sled with the Olympic ski jump as an iconic backdrop.
Our tour around Canada’s second largest city included a visit to the Calgary Stampede Park, home of the annual rodeo festival, where we enjoyed seeing the sculptures and rodeo wall art.
“By The Banks Of The Bow’ is one of the largest bronze cowboy and horse sculptures in North America.
Head Smashed-in Buffalo Jump, Fort MacLeod
Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump is a World Heritage UNESCO site for a good reason.
It’s here where you can see the ‘buffalo jump’ where hundreds of animals were driven over the cliff edge each year, to feed the local communities for the winter.
It has an amazing museum set in the hillside where you can learn all about the First Nations people, the Blackfoot who hunted buffalo (not to be confused with bison) in this area in the 1800s.
Highlights Of TripADeal USA Tour
Gardiner is situated at the northern gate to Yellowstone Park and home to wandering musk deer, elk and buffalo.
According to the locals, the wildlife escaping the wolves of Yellowstone have made Gardiner their home.
Seeing them roam the lawns of our hotel in the evening was quite amazing.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Seeing the Ol’Faithful geyser eruption was a bucket lister but all of the geothermal lands here were just as incredible.
Mammoth Hot Springs and the Porcelain trail in Norris, in particular, were simply unbelievable.
Throw in more wandering deer, elk, bison and the odd bald eagle.
Yellowstone was a huge highlight of the trip.
Three Forks, Montana
The Wheat Montana Bakery and Deli was a fabulous morning tea stop, from their classic cinnamon doughnuts (the size of your head) to the hilarious T-shirts and sauces.
We even took home some Blazing Rectum to try – say no more!
Deer Lodge, Montana
Our inclusive tour of the National Historic Grant-Kohrs Ranch was fabulous.
We met a cowboy on the oldest working ranch (circa 1872), toured the gardens, house and farmlands.
It’s a place to taste real cowboy coffee (and live to tell the tale) and a great lunch stop to commemorate the role of cattlemen in US history.
Sasqualie, Cascade Mountains, Oregon
Close to Seattle, this lunch stop was a personal favourite for its sasquatch memorabilia, where the guides on how to hunt them were so fascinating I almost believed them.
Or perhaps it was the huckleberry cream liquor we tried or the local cherry pie with huckleberry ice cream.
The last stop on our land itinerary was an interesting tour of Seattle city.
Seattle – home of Amazon, Google and the first Starbucks cafe – is also famous for its Space Needle and Pike Place Markets.
At Pike Place Markets, we watched the throwing of the fish at the Flying Fish stall and checked out the fresh flowers, local crafts and food.
Our personal highlight was a freshly cooked clam chowder tasting at the Sound View Café.
Don’t forget to walk around the corner down Post Alley to see the chewing gum walls.
Now that’s a world first!
Pros And Cons Of The TripADeal Canada – USA Tours
1- The food
The advertised TripADeal Canada and USA land package did not include meals but we did get free breakfasts at many of the hotels.
Although the standard of the food was not brilliant, it was free and a welcome saving taking into account the high currency exchange rate.
2- TripADeal accommodation
The hotels were on average 3 stars but they were fine as we moved on nearly every day.
3- TripADeal extras
Some extra stops and tours were thrown in and not in our itinerary. Many were quaint or quirky and there were lots of opportunities to buy classic as well as weird and wacky souvenirs.
4- Luggage handling
You have to be able to carry your own luggage on and off the coach to your room but there were enough able-bodied travellers to help those struggling.
Be forewarned, gratuity tips are expected in Canada and more so in the USA. So, make sure to budget for a few hundred dollars in tips on top of the quoted price of the tour.
The 20% to 30% for meal service and can add a substantial amount to the cost of the trip.
One way to avoid service tips if you’re on a tight budget is to avoid eating out and buy food from supermarkets or delis along the way.
Expect to tip US$10 per person per day for the coach driver and tour guide at the end of the trip.
TripADeal Cruise – Alaska Inside Passage
This TripADeal cruise offered different staterooms affecting the price ($5899 for an Ocean View or $6899 Balcony).
We opted for the standard deal to free up funds for optional Alaska cruise excursions.
Note this seven-day cruise was a return Alaska cruise from Seattle, not Vancouver, and extended only as far as Skagway and the Tracy Arm Fjord & Glacier before returning to Seattle.
It did not visit Ketchikan, Anchorage or Fairbanks.
Alaska Inside Passage Cruise Itinerary
The choice of Alaska cruise excursions was phenomenal, even though the cruise only had three land stops: Juneau, Skagway and Victoria on Vancouver Island.
The capital of Alaska’s must do’s are:
- see, hike or flyover Mendenhall Glacier
- humpback whale watching
- check out the stunning views from Mount Roberts
- try a traditional salmon bake.
The cruise ship docked at AJ Dock, which was at least a 20-minute walk from town or a $US5 shuttle ride.
Access Mount Roberts (1164m) either by hiking or the six-minute ride on the Tramway.
If lucky, you may even see a wild porcupine.
We can certainly recommend the Mendenhall Glacier canoe paddle or the whale watching Alaska Glacier cruise with a hike through the Tongass National Park.
The unique Glacier Garden Rainforest, with its upside-down trees (Flower Towers), is another must-see.
Quirky souvenirs include:
- bear paws to pull, shred, rip or grip your BBQ meat
- a nugget of Mendenhall or Mount Roberts gold
- his and hers matching fur bra and underpants
Foodies might want to taste reindeer or elk sausage or a caribou burger.
My personal highlight was seeing the lights of Juneau from the 14th deck as the ship pulled out of the harbour at dusk.
All that was missing were the Northern Lights.
The view was awesome!
Skagway is a small gold mining town and a legacy of the Klondike gold rush in the 1880s.
The cruise ship terminal was a five-minute walk from town or a Smart Bus ride costing a few US dollars.
One option was to take the narrow gauge White Pass Scenic Railway into the Yukon, an iconic excursion.
Skagway’s attractions include visiting the Red Onion Saloon, soaking up the ambience of a bygone era on a ghost tour, panning for gold, dog-sledding or, for the foodies, eating yet more salmon bake.
For a wildlife adventure with a difference, we ferried to the small town of Haines to Mosquito Lake Road.
Known for the Valley of the Bald Eagles and home to the most moose in Alaska, Haines can only be reached by boat or air.
Kroschel Films Wildlife Center
Our wildlife fix was courtesy of the rather remote Kroschel Films Wildlife Center.
Steve Kroschel is a highly regarded naturalist and National Geographic filmmaker who shares many wild and spontaneous behavioural similarities with the late Steve Irwin (from Australia Zoo).
Kroschel professes walking barefoot on the cold Alaskan soil keeps him grounded to the earth’s electromagnetic field but I wouldn’t say being “grounded” is a good description of Steve Kroschel.
Think of him as flying high on his passion for his animals.
Steve and his team introduced us to their animal pack, including a red-tailed hawk, very playful wolverine (awesome!), mink, sable, black and red foxes, snow lynx and a howling grey wolf.
We even got to film a charging grizzly bear whose favourite feed was home-made blueberry pie.
The caribou loved our carrots (watch out for those antlers) and we even kissed a moose.
The visit to Kroschel Films Wildlife Center was an unforgettable slobbery but super cool (and pretty exclusive) Alaskan Animal experience.
Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska
With perfect weather, we were able to navigate almost up to the edge of Sawyer Glacier.
The glacial waterfalls were stunning and the ice flow significant.
From 5.45 am to 11 am we stayed within the fjord, watching icebergs and seals go by.
It was simply glorious.
Wander around the city and Beacon Hill Park to soak up the charming ambience of tearooms, galleries and gardens.
The Victoria Bug Zoo is fun for the whole family, where you can hold a tarantula or scorpion or get the ultimate selfie with a huge Madagascan Hissing cockroach (aaargh)!
Take home quirky souvenirs from the zoo, such as sour cream and onion flavoured Crick-ettes, Cheddar cheese Larvets or Scorpion brittle.
I dare you!
General Comments On Planning Your Alaskan Inside Passage Cruise
Shore excursions are optional
First of all, all shore cruise excursions are optional. It’s best to book them online well BEFORE you board, especially if you want to do something specific as it may be a popular excursion and could book out.
Pack warm clothing
Warm clothing is essential and layering is very important but if you don’t bring enough warm clothing, you can buy some on the ship.
Our cruise was a week before its relocation to the South Pacific (early September) so, fortunately, all winter clothing was going at bargain prices.
Cruise ship shoppers, take note!
The Royal Caribbean cruise line has high standards, from retail areas to service, food and beverage.
The onboard entertainment was top class. For example, Mo5aic, a five-man acapella group came straight from Las Vegas and their purely vocal rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody brought the house down with a standing ovation.
The Explorer of the Sea has an ice rink on board and the free ice show Seasons Of Colour was another highlight.
The calibre of the international ice dancers (many ex-Olympians) was truly top class.
Other popular facilities are the ship’s Rock Climbing wall, with self-belaying technology, FlowRider Surf Simulator, which is a wave machine for surfing and body boarding.
FlowRider is fantastic for all ages if you don’t mind freezing in the cold Alaskan air once you get out of the water – brrr!
Any TripADeal Complaints?
There was only one I could think of: I just wish the cruise portion could have been a lot longer!
With this short taste of what Alaska has to offer, we have a huge desire to go back for more.
For more TripADeal cruises go here.