Web site says to book directly with cruise ship if arriving on ship. We did that, and did the train up and bus back, which included a few extras, and which I would recommend. Be sure to sit on the left side of the train going up the mountain, and have a great time!
The answer to your question depends upon how many cruise ships are in port at the same time. If there only a few ships you can save by booking directly at the train depot. When we were there in June the port was full with ships from RCL, Celebrity, HAL and Princess docked. Considering that RCL had 2000 passengers, Celebrity 1800 passengers, Princess 2000 passengers and HAL with 1200 passengers there was not many empty seats. Good luck. The trip is not to be missed.
An alternative to consider, which we did....
We rented a car from Sougdough Rentals in Skagway, and drove up the White Pass. Most of the way up, the train was heading up parallel to us. Only we were able to stop at viewpoints etc.
In a car you're also able to keep going into the Yukon, and visit Carcross.. about a 1hr drive.
There are several options for the train -- you can do the train both ways or the train up/bus back which is offered by the ship's tour. We did the bus back because of previous recommendations, and were very happy we did. The bus stops several times for photo ops and the tour guide was very knowledgable and personable so made the trip that much more interesting. The end of the trip was a stop at a recreated "Gold Rush Camp" where we had a chance to pan for gold and had a show by actors dressed in period costume, etc. Was hokey but a lot of fun, and we got some great photos.
We really enjoyed the drive. We stopped at a waterfall to play, and lots of photo ops. Because it's not all that long a drive, we were able to come back to Skagway, head out the other side, and go take a look at the Chilakoot Trail as well.
And all for ALOT less money than the train would have cost!
Well, I have to say that this excursion was the most boring that we encountered in Alaska. My parents felt the same way. Take Kuki's advice, or skip the whole thing. Scenically, it's not as fantastic as some of the other sites you'll see. And you only see the scenery on the way up or on the way down, not both. So if you go--bring a book to read. I'd put the money towards a helicpoter ride in Juneau.
Enjoy your trip!
Thanks for all of the good advice! From everything I've read concerning this train ride, people either are passionate that they love it or vice versa! Talk about controversial! I'm taking everything to heart and trust will make a wise decision. There are 7 in our group, and I'm kinda "in charge". UGH!
I have taken both the train and driven to Whitehorse several times. The train does have spectactular scenery and for someone interested in gold rush history it is excellent. The route splits off for a couple miles at the summit from the Klondike Highway- which is the best of the scenery. I do not agree with Kuki in renting from Sourdough, Avis at the Westmark has unlimited milage cars, Sourdough 100 free miles. I recommend driving to Emerald Lake- 75 miles one way- scenery is limited past there unless going to Whitehorse. Also neither rental company will allow driving the Tagish loop. Kuki recommends the drive to Dyea- I assume that is what is described?? Anyway very scenic 9 miles along the Taiya River, stop at the Slide Cemetery for some more interesting history. Caution- DO NOT cross any water, can be a big bottomless pit. This road is also excellent for bike riding. My best advice is to consider a pm train if the train is chosen, this will allow you the am to take one of the free ranger led walking tours from the park service, visit their free museum as well, will really enhance either the train trip or drive. If the depot will sell you the tickets consider purchasing them direct with them mailing them to you and not depot pick up unless on the pm train. You may not have time to pick them up for the 8:30am train.
This will be our third trip to Alaska. The first trip we bought tix for the White Pass on board (Princess) - only to find out we could have bought them in the station for less. As previous posters said, there is the possiblity that it could sell out. However, as early as we're going I don't think that will be the case. I am an incurable romantic - I love to travel ANYWHERE by train. In this case, it was not the best investment we have ever made. Since the cars were old they were heated by an oil stove at one end of the car. As a result, the temperature in the inside of the car was comparable to some saunas I've been in. When the conductor turned it down, the windows condensed over, limiting visibility. Since there is decent scenery only on one side (left, going up) they ask you to switch sides at the top so others may see. On our second trip a year later we went with one of the local tours at the kiosk on the pier. Less than half the price and you not only saw the same view of the White Pass (albeit, from the other side of the pass - we even watched the trains go up and down) but we stopped along the way for pix and went further up the pass. Also took in the cemetery and Reid Falls as well as other local sights. My sister is traveling with us this trip and we're either going to rent a car or do the same tour with the locals. Don't get me wrong, the train is fun. I just think it's overpriced and a better value exists. Tell you what, let's talk about it on the ship. I know you have plenty of room in that Cat. 3 you've got!
Great advice....I think I'd rather buy a tour from an operator on the pier. The tour you took the 2nd time sounds great. The only thing I continue to toy with, however, is the fact that my Dad suffers with Parkinsons. Getting in and out of a bus making a number of stops may be a little rough on him. I figured the train would be easier.
You're right, however, we WILL discuss it on the ship on our balcony! Time is counting down.....
The train can be booked direct for savings, just be sure the tickets are sent to you and don't agree to depot pick up. There is limited availablity if any the day of departure as they are frequently sold out with 3-4 ships in port every day. Make your reservations ahead.