Can anyone describe the Princess Train Transfer from Anchorage to Whittier? I'm interested in how long the train takes, if you can drop your luggage early and then see Anchorage and if check-in at the ship is difficult with so many people arriving at once.
I had considered hiring a limo to Whittier for less money but most of the limos leave in the morning or early afternoon and I'd rather spend time in Anchorage than on the ship since we'll be on the ship for two days once we sail. Thanks.
Jeannette, we just took the train transfer through Princess on May 22. It was a beautiful ride and took about 2 hours, although they said it would take 2 1/2. The train was very comfortable and the windows are huge and great for viewing. They also serve snacks (such as individual frozen pizzas - nothing special) and drinks on board for a fee. They also had a closet where you could stash your carry-ons if you didn't want them at your table, but we had plenty of room at our table so we just kept our stuff with us.
Because we booked the train through Princess, we had to check in with Princess at the Egan Convention Center by 1 p.m. They took our large bags right then and there and put them on a truck bound for Whittier (we assumed). There was a large room inside where we could leave our carry-on items under supervision so that we could walk around in Anchorage until it was time to take a bus to the train station, which is at the airport. There were tables in the room where we could sit and wait to hear our bus called. We had to be back there at 2:15, we boarded the bus around 2:30. The train left at 3:30.
When we got to Whittier, we went into a building to check in and this was a quick and simple process. There were several people checking guests in so it went quickly. You just have to show your ID and cruise ticket and sign something (I forget what now) and they gave us our ID cards. Then you go to the ship and as soon as you step onto the ship, they take your picture so that they have a picture on the computers to go with your ID card. So it was pretty easy (and this was our first cruise, so we didn't know what the heck we were doing!). So the whole process was easy and we enjoyed the train ride very much because of the scenery - a nice first glimpse of Alaska - and because it was relaxing.
That said, you can book the same train directly through the Alaska Railroad but it leaves earlier in the day (see http://www.akrr.com/ for more info). Then you have to book the tickets yourself, get to the train station yourself, bring all your bags with you, and you will get to the ship sooner. This is also cheaper. My husband felt safer arranging it through Princess but I don't think it would be a problem to do it on your own. And the train ends right across the street from the pier, so it's a pretty easy walk from the train to the ship, not like you have to lug your bags through town or anything. Of course, it was easy to just have our carry-ons with us when we boarded the ship. Our larger bags were delivered to our cabin fairly soon after we got there ourselves, which I think was lucky for us; I guess some people had to wait until later in the evening before their bags arrived.
Thanks so much for the information. I didn't book a Princess transfer and now I'm wondering about it. I understand that there's nothing to do in Whittier and we'll spend the first two days on the ship so I thought it would be best to spend more time in Anchorage. I've tried to find a limo/bus service to Whittier leaving in the afternoon. I believe the drive is shorter than the train and scenery is just as nice. There's one that leaves around 2:00 and one that leaves at 5:30. Leaving at 2:00, I fear we'd be rushed. Leaving at 5:30, I fear we'll be tired of walking around all day. But it sure would be nice to leave around 3:30 (like the train) and have most of the day in Anchorage and not feel rushed. Any advice?
Leaving at 5:50pm is the way to go if you want to see Anchorage. Being "tired of walking around" would be my last concern for this touring opportunity. BUT best would be a one way rental- costly but my clear pick for those wanting to see something after getting all the way to Alaska. Avis is the only rental with one way Anchorage/Whittier. Add $12 for the tunnel. But superior for the options. Anchorage is a very spread out city and this is clearly your best option to make the most of your too short time.
A rental car would definitely give you the most flexibility. When you are tired of walking around, then you can leave! But I was going to say that we felt satisfied with the time we had in Anchorage.
We stayed at the Hawthorn Suites, at 9th and L Streets. We had breakfast at the hotel around 8, took a walk from there down to the water on 9th Street (about a 5-min walk) and looked around for a bit, then walked back to the hotel. Next we looked over a couple of maps and decided to walk to a park and then a crafts market. We walked to Resolution Park (3rd and L), where there is a statue of Captain Cook and some nice views of the inlet and the Alaska Range in the distance. Then we walked east and went in a few gift shops. Then we went to the open-air crafts market (3rd and E) and looked at about half of the booths, got some fried dough and lemonade and then made our way back to our hotel. We checked out of the hotel, went to the Egan Convention Center (5th and E) to check in with Princess, then had a nice lunch at nearby RumRunners (great burgers and sandwiches and beer). We walked back to the crafts market and looked at the other half of the booth, checked out a couple more shops, and returned to the Egan Center to wait for the bus. For us, we thought that was a nice day. however, I don't know what else there might have been to see in Anchorage that we missed.
Maybe you should ask what are the must-see/must-do things if you have a 1/2 to 3/4 day in Anchorage?
Request the Anchorage visitor guide. www.anchorage.net Yes every Saturday they have the farmer's market. Plenty to do to occupy your time. In the visitor guide is an excellent walking tour map- consider it?
The seats are assigned, but they assign them as you board the train. When you get to the train, there will be a person there handing out tickets with the seat numbers on them, so you just tell her how many are in your party, and she'll give you that many tickets.
However, after everyone is on board, if not all the seats are full, they let you move about and sit wherever you want. As for the scenery, there is nice scenery on both sides and you can see pretty well out both sides no matter which side you're sitting on because the windows are so large. We sat on the left and were happy with that. On the left there are mountains and flatlands and some freshwater ponds; on the right side, the tracks are very close to the Cook Inlet. And there are some nice mountains across the inlet.
Request to sit on the right. This side has all the views on the Anchorage/Whittier portion. The left side is too close to the mountain most of the way to see much of anything. For clairfication- it is NOT the Cook Inlet except a brief view shortly after leaving the depot. The most scenic portion is the Turnagain Arm.