Sunday, July 29, 2007

Turn and Burn

Today I'm "turn and burning." I dropped off my latest tour at the ship at noon and immediately boarded the ship to pick up the next group. The tour I just finished was another Alyeska tour. I didn't do as well in tips as I should have, but I had a family of 11 from England. The English are great people, but they are not accustomed to tipping.

I had a great group of people. At Hotel Alyeska is the 7 Glaciers restaurant, which is on the top of Mt. Alyeska, and is rated four diamonds by AAA. You have to take a Gondala-style tram to get to the top, which is fun. A group of my guests had asked if I had ever eaten there, and I told them I hadn't since it was a bit out of my price range, but many of my guests come back with rave reviews. These fine folks invited me to go with them since I had helped them out with a number of items. It was a lot of fun, and the food was great. I would've taken pictures of all the food, not just the dessert, but I think that would have been a bit odd for the hosts. The dessert is a devil's food cake with chocolate mousse and ice cream on top. There was a thin chocolate crisp layer around the edge with gold stenciling, along with the chocolate spoon with stenciling. Divine is the one word to describe it. My meal was a great goat cheese/arugala salad with pecan crusted halibut with curry sauce. Yummy!
This is another great view on the pathway from the Hotel Alyeska into Girdwood. There were also a number of paragliders, and I failed to take a picture of them. I was too much in awe of what they were doing. I even had the chance to see how they took off on the top of Mt. Alyeska. It's safe to say that I'm too much of a chicken. Cockle doodle doo!
This is a huge mushroom that I found along the path in Girdwood. And a beautiful flower.
Poor, poor Roslyn at Alyeska. The poor girl had four sick people on her tour, and she didn't get a break!
This is the front of the train when it was coming in last week in Denali. The front of the train is the Alaska Railroad, and the McKinley Explorer cars are owned by Holland America. The top is glass domed and holds 88 guests. The ground level is the dining compartment and serves 44.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Land first ... Cruise later

If you ever decide to go on a cruise and land tour, please, for my sake, go on the land portion first. This is a lesson I learn time and time again when I pick people up off the ship. When people have been pampered on a cruise ship, then they go on the land tour, especially to places like Prudhoe Bay, they are quite cranky. Those that go on the land first have no idea how cushy the ship will be and are geared up and excited for their vacation.

My Alyeska tour went wonderfully. The people were great and the accomadations were amazing! This is the only place that we get to stay in the same hotel as the guests. Check out the cushy beds. There's also a great pool, hot tub, spa and workout room. Girdwood is the town Hotel Alyeska is in, and it has a population of about 3,000, but the town consists of a few restaurants, a post office and a book store. It's definitely a place where you take advantage of its beauty.

This is a view on the walk from the hotel into Girdwood. Gorgeous!

Here I am doing a meet and greet at the Westmark Hotel in Fairbanks. Doesn't this look like the tour director you would want to tour with?!

Here I am by the river in Denali. There were a couple curious foxes near by and I managed to get a few pictures. I would say they got within 10 feet of me.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Right now I'm on a "Tour 20." This tour is a really nice tour for the guests and myself. I met my 39 guests in Fairbanks and the following day we rode the train to Denali. That afternoon they could do optional excursions or soak up the scenery. Today they all went on the eight-hour Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park. They didn't go on the same tours, so I was sending people off for three hours, and greeting them when they came back for four hours. I'm not complaining though, because I could never get tired of this place. Tomorrow we're heading to Anchorage and then we spend two days in Alyeska, which is a 4-diamond resort. I'm looking forward to the cushy beds and the swimming pool.

This afternoon I went down to the river with some others to watch the rafters go by. On our way through the woods, we came across a brown fox and a red fox. They were really close. I'll share the pix when I can.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Finding Fun in Fairbanks, Part II

I spent this morning following up on my resume. This isn't the best time since it seems that a number of people are taking a long holiday weekend.

This afternoon I went to the Museum of the North and the Botanical Gardens at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. If you get the chance, you should definitely check it out. The museum is architecturly beautiful and the exhibits are very nice. There are all kinds of animal, native indian and history exhibits. Also the art is wonderful.

Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Ceremonial Athabascan Indian dress made by Dixie Alexander and her daughter, Rita Prita. Rita does presentations everyday at the Riverboat Discovery on beadwork and Dixie's work is displayed in the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History.

UAF Botanical Gardens

I'm trying to be artsy with my pictures. I thought the colors in the flowers were amazing!

Fairbanks must be where Cabbage Patch Kids are grown. These are HUGE!

View from the top of the hill where the museum sits. This is looking toward Fairbanks, across the ag test grounds. UAF is known for its agricultural studies, especially for artic agriculture.

I failed to post this yesterday from the July 4 party. Nothing says, "God Bless America," like a man wrapped in a $.99 tablecloth eating potato chips ... Jeff, Juli and Melissa need help ...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Finding Fun in Fairbanks

Unfortunately, I have two longer breaks (4 days) broken up by my one short tour. My tour ended, and much to my joy, the family of ten left. Alaska is not a vacation spot for young, energy-filled children.

Anyway, during my break, I decided to stay in Fairbanks. I'm never here long enough to see the other sites besides the Riverboat Discovery and the Gold Dredge. These last few days I've played tourist.

Tuesday I went to the Alaska Art Gallery, wondered around downtown, went to the ice museum and Chena Hot Springs. Wednesday I went to Pioneer Park for July 5 festivities, then I worked for a few hours at the Westmark and that evening Holland America through a party for all the staff. It was a lot of fun. Today I'm briefing and debriefing for my next tour and getting all that prepared. I also plan to follow up with my resume today. Tomorrow I will go to the Museum of the North and Botanical Gardens at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

The past few days have been really hot in Fairbanks - I would say mid-80s to mid-90s. Actually the past couple weeks have been unusually warm all over Alaska. Many guests come with parkas, not prepared for short-sleeve weather ....

Fairbanks is known as the Golden Heart City because of it's locale and the gold rush that took place here. This picture was taken at Golden Heart Square, and it's a sculpture of Alaska's first family. The family does not have any ethnic origin because there are a number of different "first nations" or native people in Alaska.

This is the tent for the ice museum at Chena Hot Springs. The first rendition was made entirely of ice, but it only lasted through the winter, not the summer months. Now they've constructed this tent to hold the ice bar, sculptures and rooms.

Dustin is quite surprised about having an ice bed ... No one stays in the rooms, but in the first ice hotel, it was an option. It's safe to say that this was a bone-chilling experience.

I took a stab at being a little Eskimo girl, but I don't think I would make it. Oddly enough, the igloo was a bit warmer inside.

Two knights were jousting in one of the sculptures.

One of the ice sculptures.

On the way to the Chena Hot Springs - there is actually a hot spring pool there that we used - we saw a bull moose. This is the first bull moose I've seen here.