I loved my recent trip to Alaska, do put Alaska on your bucket list and don’t die before you get there!! Seriously it is magical. You can read about my week with the bears here.
Some of my comments apply to other parts of the USA, not just the BIG state; some good some not so good!! But all written with you in mind, hopefully they are helpful snippets.
Tipping…I hate tipping, it almost spoils a pleasant dining experience. You are about to leave a restaurant following a delicious dinner and bingo!! The tip has to be calculated regardless of how good the service is.. Has it already been added?, always check this before adding your tip amount which is expected to run around 15% evidently. However many locals I gather only add 10-12%. I downloaded an app. to my phone which was helpful and I could set it to 15% or 12% or whatever. There are numerous apps to assist you when travelling.
I also got caught on a day trip on a tour boat, as we disembarked everyone was handing the crew/person who talked about the sights we enjoyed a tip over and above the fee we had paid! Really!!
Under this verandah in Seward were two restaurants – definitely not well sign posted.
Bottomless cups of Coke, Pepsi etc and Unlimited filter coffee seem to be the normal. I can never drink more than one at a time, but a nice gesture in most American eateries.
The majority of Americans still think filter cona style coffee is great. Mention speciality coffee and they might point you in the right direction! Alaska definitely has a culture of speciality coffee but there are many places like the Crown Plaza in Anchorage who have no idea! . Some shops sell nothing but coffee, not even simple food! Lots of roadside Alaskan cute coffee buses.. Hotels all seem to have FREE wi-fi. Last time I stayed in NZ or Australia this was not the case. Often only free in the foyers😳
I love showers with spray heads, I only came across one bathroom with a hose spray shower. Most NZ showers have hose sprays – how else do you wash your underneath anatomy!! Water doesn’t run uphill!! Oh well just another American idiosyncrasie !!
Buying petrol, it is so simple in Australia and New Zealand but not in the big USA. Insert your credit card at the pump..it says “wait a Moment,” ( wait forever) go inside they say ‘try again, so you trot our dutifully and try again. No luck. Back inside. I ask is it because I have a Foreign credit card? The woman looks at me as though I am an alien… No kidding. She says to me you have to pay inside in advance. I ask how do I know the cost! “Well you can pay cash! Is there an ATM machine I ask?” “two blocks down the road” she mumbled, I might add it is raining !! Then she says “there is another garage in town you could try!” With that I drove to the next garage..went inside first off and the lady said I will put fifty on your card and if it’s less I will refund you! OK I said and sure enough I received $5-75 change… All done with a smile. But it certainly was not simple.
Another day I went to another Gas station and the machine accepted my card and I was done and dusted and refueled in minutes 🙂 On another occasion I was asked my zip code..I knew that wouldn’t work so I tried my sons’ American zip code but Visa knew that wasn’t right!! Back inside and this time the young lass held onto my credit card while I filled up and then she deducted the amount… Simple enough, but honestly American fuel businesses need a shake up!!!
Food..burgers and chips paninis, Caesar salads , all pretty de ja vu – NZ we have a lot more ‘foodie’ eateries, Pacific Rim Cuisine is definitely a favourite of mine. I suspect NZ food is more expensive than the average traveller wants to spend though. High bar stools and booths are still very popular stateside. The best eateries often look quite dark and intimidating from the outside. Certainly you won’t find a meat pie for sale anywhere, hot dogs are the equivalent snack it would seem and endless chips.
Key Lime Pie
Fine Dining… Yes definitely Alaska has some fine eateries. Seven Glaciers at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood and The Homestead near Homer are both well worth making the effort to dine at. Try specialities such as Halibut and Alaskan Salmon of course but don’t overlook the Kennai Scallops at Mykel in Soldotna, large succulent and sweet or the Black Cod called Sable Fish.
The best Halibut and chips without doubt was in Whittier In a quaint little waterside café called Varley’s Swiftwater Seafood. I met people in there who had driven all the way from Anchorage for lunch and to enjoy the Halibut ‘n chips and now I having eaten there I under stand why!! The best anywhere in Alaska.
I couldn’t help noticing the bullet holes in sooo many road signs. Despite signs saying no shooting near the highways!!
Road side notices in many areas are Double Fines for exceeding the speed limit. I wonder if that would work in NZ.? Maybe at Maramarua which is a bad crash site in the north Island!! I didn’t see any mention of speed cameras and I saw only one patrol car !
In Canada the ferries to Vancouver Island run hourly and the voyage is 90 minutes, with waiting time 2-3 hours. Beautiful ferries, they take cars and people, 400 at a time. But strangely you cannot buy a beer on the ferry or either side in the restaurants catering for the passengers. Very strange I thought. Turns out Vancouver was a ‘dry‘ city for twenty years!! The other interesting thing is there was absolutely no security checks for these ferries. Plane passengers are so tightly screened and yet a ferry with 2-4 hundred passengers and cars no one checked a thing… Is that weird or what??
Rental car people; well Hertz in Anchorage anyway. No service – there’s the car and a mumbled thanks on return. How hard would it be to talk to the driver, ask where you’re heading, make small talk. On return ask how was your trip? After all this is one of the last things you might do in a country or city… Leaves a bad impression when they grunt and point to the elevator!! They are just there because they can’t get a job anywhere else! Students on summer jobs are so wonderful, interested in you as a person, happy to be working, great attitudes. Alaska has sooo many of them, wonderful.