Finest Tours Review
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and Turnagain Arm Tour Review
This was the worst tour we have been on in our many years of traveling. It was inefficient, unprofessional, boring, overpriced and way too long. It was billed as a 4 1/2 hour tour to the Conservation Center and Turnagain Tour walk in the rain forest. Nothing was said about the size of the bus/group. I have also noticed that they have revised their “Additional Information” after my many complaints and reviews. Although they still indicate “Professional Guide.” He was not a guide. He was a driver. We could have done the same tour with a rental car for a fraction of the price.
It was a beautiful sunny day. We met at the appointed time/place and found it was a small van. The driver was rather unsure of who paid and who didn’t. After everyone was there and he let a woman and her young child pay in cash (she hadn’t pre booked) we left about 15 minutes late. We drove for about 90 minutes, stopping at one point at a turnout to look around and take pictures. The driver did not give any commentary of the area during this time.
We pulled in to the drive of the Wildlife Center, where he stopped and made some phone calls. The person he was calling had a full mail box and he couldn’t reach him. We were not sure what was happening. Finally the person called him and after some lengthy conversation it was explained that they were switching drivers. The other person drove up and they switched vehicles. It seems our driver was new and he was going to take a group back to Anchorage. Our driver would take over.
We didn’t go in to the Center. He drove to the “rain forest”. He dropped us off, explaining that we should each walk into the forest alone to “experience” it. It was a short 5 minute walk and we could go through it as many times as we’d like. He would meet us at some buildings up ahead in 45 minutes. He also made some rude comment to the woman. We didn’t hear it but she was very upset about it. She just said it was something about her having a black child (she was white).
The single man in our group went first, and then each one of the couple went separately, then the woman and her child. We were going to go together. As we started to go in, the first of the couple was coming out. She told us it was up a steep hill and then up a large flight of stairs. Due to my husband’s COPD we decided not to go. This was billed as a light activity tour but they have now changed it to “moderate physical fitness level.” They did not have that before as I am always concerned about the fitness level.
We met up with the rest of the group by the buildings and waited for our van/driver. He showed up on time and then he had to drive the couple to a boat dock because they were taking a boat tour of the lake. He did a hard sell trying to get us to take the boat but no one else was interested.
The weather was now changing for the worse. A light rain started falling. The driver took the rest of us to the Wildlife Center and dropped us off at the far end where the bear feeding was taking place. He said he would be back in 2 hours and left. It was now starting to rain rather heavily. We hiked back to the Center’s buildings rather quickly since we didn’t have rain gear to walk and enjoy the animals. When we got to the gift shop we asked if there was a place inside we could sit and wait for our driver. They told us no, only outside. We all were rather upset because the driver wouldn’t be back for another 90 minutes. We saw other van groups taking people around to each of the animal pens in the van due to the rain.
Our driver finally returned with the other couple from the boat ride. But he drove them down to the end where the bears were and stayed down there for about 30 minutes instead of coming back up. We finally got to sit in the van and we all voiced our displeasure at the experience. We had now been on the tour for over 5 hours and we were still 90 minutes away from Anchorage.
He left for the drive back and about half way there, he got a call. It seems he forgot to pick up another couple at a spot about 15 minutes back. So we turned around to get them. Where these people came from we don’t know. We finally all got back to Anchorage about 7 hours after we left. Certainly NOT a 4 ½ hour tour as billed.
Things I noticed they changed on their site: “please dress appropriately” (although even the Anchorage weather did not predict rain that day.) “Not recommended for infants or passengers who cannot walk for 40 minutes.” “No heart problems or other serious medical conditions.” “Tour will have a maximum of 14 travelers (thus indicating a van not a bus)”
My recommendation is to steer clear of Alaska’s Finest
Tours, particularly the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and Turnagain
Arm Tour. All you get from them is a driver.