We recently completed an Alaska CruiseTour and stayed in four out of five Princess Lodges, we didn't go to Copper River near Wrangel St. Elias National Park. Here is a review of the four lodges where we did stay.
Each lodge had at least a coffee bar of some sort, a casual-ish bar & lounge and a nicer restaurant. There is no particular dress code. You are in Alaska, dress comfortably and warmly. Each lodge also has a tour desk. If you do not pre-book a tour you can work with the tour desk to set something up. Each lodge also had a gift shop, or shops, featuring Alaska snd regional souvenirs as well as warm weather gear for those coming from warmer climes that get taken by surprise that they may not be able work on their tans on this cruise excursion. The service teams were a mix of locals and summer workers – mostly from the US though some from overseas.
Fairbanks Riverside Lodge
is nestled nicely in a pine and beech grove along the Chena River. It is the most hotel-like of the four lodges described here. It is a single building with three wings. Our room overlooked the parking lot. While in the room we could have been in almost any hotel. The bar had a riverside deck that was not yet open when we were there. The restaurants were nice and service was good and friendly. We had coffee and pastries the first morning, dinner in the Edgewater Restaurant and buffer in Trackers Bar & Grill for breakfast the next morning.
The lodge is in Fairbanks though is somewhat isolated. There are a couple of dining options within fairly easy walking distance. Princess also operates an hourly shuttle service for $5 pp. We stayed on site thought with a group of four I thought it might be a tossup whether the shuttle or a taxi would be less expensive. I would have liked to have gotten into Fairbanks but time just did not allow. After a late night arrival and an early morning tour we took a nap instead.
I mentioned our room overlooked the parking lot. If you don’t have a good view take a walk around the property. In addition to the river there are a couple of small cabins and a cache on property that make for nice photo ops.
Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge
is a sprawling property along the Nenana River. The lodges consists of several two and three story buildings for lodging, a main lodge with gift shop, tour desk and coffee shop. There are a cluster of specialty shops among the “bunk houses” along with King Salmon Restaurant, Base Camp Bar & Grill and the Denali Dinner Theatre. Lynx Pizza is another Princess restaurant located at the north end of the property. There is another mini-lodge between the A and B buildings at the south end of the property with a morning coffee bar and evening wine bar. This mini-lodge has a wonderful deck overlooking the Nenana as does the Base Camp Bar & Grill. We had lunch at King Salmon – tasty but not cheap, and dinner at the pizza place which was okay.
Princess operates a property shuttle from end to end as well as a shuttle to the Denali National Park visitors’ center.
Across the Parks Highway, named for Mr. Parks not the national and state parks, are a string of restaurants and shops typical for a tourist area. If you are not out enjoying the wilderness these are worth a check. There are several tour operators located over here. If you do not have a trip booked with Princess and want to go independent, walk across the street and you can have your pick of hikes, flights, tours and rafting trips. We ate dinner the second night at the Salmon Bake. Which was an experience worth having.
Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge
located to the south of Denali and provides an excellent view of the Great One (when weather permits) and it’s tall neighbors to the east and west. The lodge is spread across several buildings with the main lodge housing the fine dining restaurant, Mountain View Dining Room, a coffee bar, gift shop and tour desk. A large deck with plenty of seating and some of those mounted binoculars, a bar is nearby I’m sure. While we were on site a panoramic presentation on the Aurora was offered at night. It was enjoyable and worth the cost ($8 I think) though the venue was almost too small for the presentation. This show deserves to be seen on a larger screen though I wouldn’t expect Princess to create a new theatre for it.
We ate at 20320 (for Denali’s altitude) Alaskan Grill. This venue also had a nice view of the mountains and the food was tasty if not a little expensive. (All the food in Alaska seems to be a little expensive.) The grill was in its own building away from the main lodge. Between the grill and the main lodge you will find the Fireside Patio an nice open air patio with plenty of fires to keep you warm. You can even buy a s’more kit.
There are some nice but short hiking trails around the lodge area. We walked the Hill Trail which offered nice views of the mountains and creek below. It was good to get out moving about.
There is a complimentary property shuttle and a scheduled shuttle to Talkeetna. The lodge is quite isolated – about 50 minutes from Talkeetna. If you want to do a tour or just look around town I would recommend stopping in Talkeetna when your transportation gives you a chance. Those using Princess transportation are able to take the shuttle from town to the lodge for free (as best as I remember it.)
Keani Princess Lodge in Cooper Landing
was our favorite of four Princess lodges (We didn’t see Copper Mountain.) The property is spread across the hills of the Keani overlooking the river. Each building had about eight to twelve rooms each having a deck looking downhill so there wasn’t much man made in sight. Cooper Landing is somewhat in the middle of the peninsula so you want to be on the coast this may not be the location for you. The lodge is about two miles up hill from the little town. There is a property shuttle but I don’t remember a shuttle to town.
The main lodge hosts Rafters’ Lounge and Eagle’s Crest Dining Room for a nice meal. We enjoyed both. You can also sit on the beautiful deck and enjoy appetizers or a dinner from Rafters. There is a significant downhill path to the river from the main lodge. You can climb back up, I did, or you can use the courtesy phone at the bottom of the hill and have the shuttle pick you up.
Another reason this was a favorite, the rooms themselves. These were the largest rooms we had and they included a pot bellied stove and a little table to enjoy the room a little.