We have 6 adults in our group and plan to rent a 12 passenger van (remove the back seats for our luggage) in Anchorage. Our flight arrives on Saturday, July 30th, at 2:20 p.m. We plan to spend Sat. night in Anchorage and then proceed Sunday morning to Denali National Park. We plan to spend Sunday night at a nearby hotel and then take either the Denali Backcountry Adventure (12 hours) or the Tundra Wildlife Tour (6-8 hours). Which do you recommend for the money? The Alaska Tour and Travel quoted us $125 per person for the longer tour and $94 dollars for the shorter one. With one of these tours we could stay at the Denali Bluffs Hotel for $210 per night per room (3 rooms). So with a two night's stay and the $125 (or $94) tour it gets spendy. So we want to make sure this is a good plan. Then we would drive back to Anchorage on Tuesday and spend Tuesday night there before taking the train or bus to Whittier on Wednesday. If we take the train out at 10:00 a.m. (arrives at 12:15) should we look to do something in the afternoon or just board the ship early--will they let us on that early? The other option is to take the bus out of Anchorage at 3:00 p.m. We're cruising with Carnival.
Maybe this is a good deal if the tour & hotel ends up together providing you a good overall price. Otherwise, I think this company is selling you a tour that you could buy directly from the national park concessionair for less. The "Tundra Wildlife Tour" sounds suspiciously similar to the "Tundra Wilderness Tour" offered by the park (6-8 hours and goes to Tolkat). And as far as I know, only the concessionaire can actually operate buses into the park, which means you're paying this company to set up the tour that you could book directly for $84 per person. I can only assume the Kantishna option has similar math involved. Someone please correct me if I'm mistaken.
For me, Kantishna is a bit too far. Tundra Wilderness to Tolkat is a bare minimum and we were lucky enough to have Mt. McKinnley out, which extends the tour by quite a bit. Please consider using the shuttle bus system to Fish Creek (the new "Eilson"). This gets you in a bit further than even the longest TWT and at substantially less (under $24 per person). Wonder Lake is great if you go at a time that avoids mosquitos. The differences from the tour are: (1) no boxed lunch included, but the box lunch is small and not particularly good, so you'll buy outside the park and bring it in with you; (2) no guaranteed commentary; and (3) no give-away at the end, last year a nice photo book of Denali. The shuttle is designed as a transportation system that lets you get on and off for hiking, etc. and so does not guarantee the commentary of a tour. That being said, everyone on these boards is more than pleased with the commentary on the shuttles. We went TWT because of paranoia that the commentary wouldn't be enough, but I don't know that I'd make the same judgment call again.
Booking either the tour or the shuttles is very easy and can be accessed through the Denali Park website (either online or by using a phone number that is provided).
I have used the Park Shuttle bus system for YEARS and have never had a bus driver who did not know Denali park extensively. My opinion only - you are making a big mistake considering these high cost options. If going past mid August- I recommend Wonder Lake, I never recommend the day buses to Kantishna- it is an extremely costly option for basically a ride in and lunch. The reason to go to Kantishna is for the activites available via the lodges and you need an over night to take advantage of them. The shuttle to Wonder Lake is about $32, you do need to bring in all your own food and drink a lot of lodgings sell them. I would suggest you might want to consider Touch of Wilderness B&B in Healy- if you can get enough rooms it would be just a fantastic experience. Barb will pack your breakfast if you have an early shuttle and sells bag lunches. As for your transfer to Whittier- you probably will be boarding the ship shortly after arrival. Excellent are the glacier cruises if of interest- way way closer viewing then what you will get from your cruise ship- sometimes wildlife. Myself, I am never in a rush to get on ships in Alaska.