HELP! I am planning a first time family cruise to Alaska in July 2004. After sifting through a plethora of options, I think we will go Princess or HAL...southbound...Seward to Vancouver. We will only have three days for land tours before our cruise. Would our time be better spent flying into Fairbanks and doing the Denali/Mt. McKinley area, or should we fly into Anchorage and do the Kenai Peninsula/Seward area. Of course, we would do it all if we had more days on land. Also, anyone seeing a great deal of difference in he price of airfare going to Fairbanks vs. Anchorage. Thanks so much for your help. These boards are priceless for a novice like me.
My opinion- you don't have enough time for either- especially if including travel days. You need at least 2 overnights at Denali Park, if you are interested in viewing wildlife, (my min. distance in is Eielson- an 8 hour trip) and if going to Homer, 2 overnights there as well to make the trip worthwhile- a major reason to go there is fishing. My minimum recommendation is at least 5 days interior. As for airfare, Fairbanks has far fewer flights, compared to Anchorage. But compare both, only difference will be a one way rental car- so search carefully for the best deal. Do try at all costs to extend your time, it is very costly to get there, and distances are vast.
Here are some ideas from research I have done..... Why not fly into Anchorage and do some day trips. Flightseeing over Mt McKinley, Portage Glacier Boat tour, Alyeska resort, Kenai Fjords, Whittier or an overnight tour to Denali ('See Alaska Tours' does this one).
You could rent a car, or you could go Grayline Alaska, Goldbelt tours or choose from many other companies.
Try www.anchorage.net they have an events calendar and online specials with some cheap accommodation plus lots of info on activities, restaurants etc.
Alaskanet.com is also a good site.
You have plenty of time to check it all out and gets some ideas of what you are most interested in... just have fun doing it!
I agree with BQ that you should try to extend your land portion to at least 5 days, The incremental cost increase will be very little, you can see what you want and not wish you had when you return. If you are coming back again the next year, then I guess you could get by. There is at least a days worth of things to do around Anc plus the Seward area is another day. The trip to Seward and back from Anc with a 6 hr boat tour would be a very long day! We drove down from Anc one morning, taking our time, did the Seavy dog kennel tour and ride, saw Exit Glacier and researched the various Kenai Fjords tours. We stayed in BB there and took the early morning tour, had lunch and then drove back to Anc for things there the next day before leaving for two nights in denali the day after. Even then, we would have loved to have more time for the rest of the kenai peninsula and Homer and the parks from there but that will be next trip.
Ras, I am making the assumption that you are planning your vacation with your work schedule in mind, or perhaps you don't want to leave your home unoccupied for more than ten days. Whatever the reason, please do not feel discouraged if you have a limit of three days for land-based sightseeing. Three days, planned well, can still be very rewarding, not to mention less costly.
Approximately halfway between Seward (Anchorage's port) and Anchorage lies the small town of Girdwood. The Alaska Railroad makes a stop there on its way between Seward and Anchorage, if you don't want to rent a car. The Alyeska Resort is in Girdwood on the Kenai Peninsula. I phoned the hotel the other day for myself and was told they will pick hotel guests up (complimentary) from the very small Girdwood train station, but not from Seward or Anchorage. Many day excursions leave from that hotel. Therefore, my vote goes to the Kenai Peninsula for three days. If you can add more days, then you can go to Denali.
The manager of the hotel did say that the Kenai Peninsula tends to be rainy much of the time, as you might imagine, considering it is surrounded by rainforests. :-)
For clairfication- staying at Girdwood is very costly and food options limited, especially without a car. Certainally extremely scenic. but one day would be enough for me. Also the reference to "day excursions" leaving from there would be out of Seward, Anchorage, Whittier. Portage Glacier would not top my list, there are better ways to occupy limited time. If your "touring" is out of Anchorage or Seward, I would not be staying in Girdwood. (Whittier all day cruise with Phillips is a great glacier trip, BUT if you are on a cruise and going to College Fjords plus another glacier, I would use my limited time on something else). Bottom line plan, very very carefully and allow more than enough time in transit- areas are vast and farther than they look. It makes no sense to me to spend all your time "getting there" and no time at the destination. My opinion only.
Karen16 (Budget Queen)
I am going on a cruise in August (Seward to Vancouver) that only goes to Hubbard Glacier (NOT College Fjord).
Would you recommend the Phillips Whittier Glacier cruise OR The Kenai Fjords Cruise if you had to choose just one. We were going to do the Kenai Fjords long cruise, but it sounds like a long time (8-9 hours) on a small boat. The Phillips Glacier cruise (at 4.5 hours) sounds better and we would get to see College Fjord. So which would you recommend??
I'll assume you are on RCI or Celebrity?? Again my opinion only but I feel it is important to get a College Fjord sailing on a one way trip. Anyway- a great deal depends on your priority re the boat trips. Out of Whittier the sights will be glaciers with far less wildlife compared to trips out of Seward. I have twice gone on the Northwestern trips and they are indeed my priority, longer is better. You do have plenty of other glacier opportunities- helicopter glacier landings out of Skagway/Juneau, a cheap ride to view Mendenhall out of Juneau, easy cab/shuttle to Exit out of Seward, a cheap boat to Portage. etc. All the boat trips are certainally worthwhile run by established companies. Choose what is best for you.