I am planning on an Alaskan cruise this summer- hopefully. tlaked to Princess Curise Lines and seems like many are already booked. I have been reading the message board for its great advice. I had looked at the Princess Cruise/tours and they sial through glacier Bay, while Celebrity cruises do not seem to do this? Is this a drawback? Also, had looked at a cruise tour from Princess that had 4 night for the land protion- two in Denali and two in Fairbanks. Would it be better to book the cruise by itself and then use and independent land tour company? My husband really does not want to drive to Denali and that is one ploace I really want to see. Am planning on a one way northern cruise - seems Princess now goes from Vancouver to Whittier instead of Seward- is this a drawback? One last question- Princess informed me that all their "tundra Wilderness" excursions were booked. Is it possible to book one right through the park itself or another independent while we are there? After reading this board-really want to do that! Thanks for all the advice!.
"I am planning on an Alaskan cruise this summer- hopefully. tlaked to Princess Curise Lines and seems like many are already booked. I have been reading the message board for its great advice. I had looked at the Princess Cruise/tours and they sial through glacier Bay, while Celebrity cruises do not seem to do this? Is this a drawback? Also, had looked at a cruise tour from Princess that had 4 night for the land protion- two in Denali and two in Fairbanks. Would it be better to book the cruise by itself and then use and independent land tour company? My husband really does not want to drive to Denali and that is one ploace I really want to see. Am planning on a one way northern cruise - seems Princess now goes from Vancouver to Whittier instead of Seward- is this a drawback? One last question- Princess informed me that all their "tundra Wilderness" excursions were booked. Is it possible to book one right through the park itself or another independent while we are there? After reading this board-really want to do that! Thanks for all the advice!."
You will need to look at all the various options in terms of cruise tours to figure out which will work best for you. If you want to see denali & do not want to drive to and from Denali, that limits your independent traveling. There are bus tours from Anc and from Fairbanks, train also but that takes much longer. As to tours of denali, once you know what hours you will be there, you can schedule a park shuttle tour, to at least mile 63, to get a good view of what it has to offer. You would probably need at least two nites there. Again regarding Glacier Bay, this is considered one of the top attractions for viewing from ship, which is why they limit the number of ships. Check each cruise lines brochures to see which cruises go there. Some go there on some of their trips. It could be that the tundra wilderness tour is booked from Princess. They reserve spots with the vendor who runs these tours, stick with shuttles if you want to save money and go farther into denali, but book ahead once you know your dates and times. To mile 63 is about an 8hr round trip and you need to take your own food and water. You will make three or four stops for restrooms.
With regard to Denali, the Tundra Wilderness Tour is operated by the park concessionair (who also does the shuttle buses). The concessionair contracts some TWTs out to Denali Park Resorts of which Princess gets a certain allocation. If going on a cruisetour through Princess, you want to make sure that Princess can provide the TWT itself (otherwise you're paying them for a wasted Natural History tour and/or won't have time for the TWT, which is what you came there for). If going independently or with some other company, TWT will still be available either through Denali Park Resort (which charges a service fee) or the concessionaire, but in this case you probably want to instead go with the shuttle bus to Fish Creek (significant cost savings for the same route, but gets you further into the park). If ultimately deciding on the TWT, the only advantage to Denali Park Resorts are: (1) pickup/dropoff at the big hotels in the area and (2) you pick up tickets at the hotel's front desk instead of the day before at the visitor center, which is good if you are arriving in Denali after the visitor center closes.
The concessionair can be found on the Denali Park website.
You ask some important questions that I have my own opinions about based on many Alaska trips. Some disagree- but here goes. A 4 night add on is a poor choice, you need at least 7 with a cruisetour. A great deal of this time is in transit- you don't go all the way to Alaska to ride a bus overnight then another bus and another bus. Plan enough time for exploring areas and taking advantage of the excellent touring opportunities. I am no fan of cruisetours- and having been on both- way superior is going independent. There is nothing special touring Alaska on a fixed generic schudule- going by group travel. Extremely costly for what you get. Princess this season is mostly Natural History tours- a complete waste of time, never consider this tour and certainly don't pay for it if you want more out of Denali Park- go independent and take the shuttle. You are not going to be able to book the Tundra Wilderness tour at the park- these are always sold out.
A lot of people make the "don't want to drive" claims. I think they don't have a good understanding of Alaska driving. It involves 2 lane highways, plenty of pull offs, no "traffic" concerns and extremely simple. The scenery unfolds as you go- you can't miss it- so the driver gets plenty of sights too. There are no cliffs, hairpin turns etc. Mostly stright full sighted miles ahead. If your husband doesn't want to drive- why don't you??
As for the Whittier question- definately inferior to Seward in terms of touring opportunities- but a big amount of people just pass through- so it doesn't matter. But if you are smart- take advantage of where you are.
You sound very knowledgeable when it comes to independent travel. We are doing the northbound cruise that ends in Seward and would like to rent a car and drive to Denali. Can we drive into the park or do we have to take the bus tour once we are inside Denali park? How far of a drive is it from Seward and can you think of any better places to visit in 3 days?
You can only drive a limited distance into Denali and this won't get you to where you will see the amazing topography and where you are most likely to see the wildlife. So, you will definitely need to either take the Tundra Wilderness tour or a shuttle bus to Fish Creek. Both go along the same path, with the shuttle going further. The tour costs significantly more, provides an unedible lunch (so you'll need to bring in food from Subway or a similar restaurant nearby either way), and guarantees commentary (although everyone who takes the shuttles is happy with the commentary they get).
3 days is probably too short as a tack-on. You really need a bare minimum of 5 full travel days in the interior. Denali is 5.5+ hour drive from Anchorage (without scenic/touring stops). The drive from Seward to Anchorage is 2-3 hours additional (without scenic/touring stops and this is one of the most scenic highways in the country). So, you're talking about an 8+ hour drive after disembarking in Seward. This gets you to Denali in the early evening. You will want to take the earliest shuttle/tour you can stand to be up for the next morning and these tours are 6-8 hours in length. After, you'll want to nap and might be able to make the last dogsled kennel tour. The next morning, you will have to turn around and take the 5.5+ hour drive back to Denali. This all calls for a lot of driving relative to touring and I'm not sure its worth the exhaustion (and this is coming from someone who now has Denali pictures hanging in the living room).
With only 3 days, I'd consider touring Seward or something else in the Kenai penninsula. Or split your trip between Anchorage and Talkeetna (which will give you the opportunity to take a summit flight of Mt. McKinnley).
...not to mention that you will be fighting the clock on the drive back to Anchorage to catch your plane. To me, its too risky being that far away in case something goes wrong on the way from Denali to Anchorage.
We have been booked on a northbound tour ending in Fairbanks. I am considering driving/shuttle/train back to Anchorage for the flight home instead of Fairbanks. Can anyone help with the logistics of this time-wise? Or should we just depart from Fairbanks and keep our lives simple?
Lisa- no you don't have enough time for Denali park. For clairfication you can only drive to mile 16 on the Park Road out of 90. This is the same distance as the worthless Natural History tour. But with added days there- the park rangers offer programs there, look at Savage River activities. If you are limited to 3 days- I would spend the day of arrival and the next day in Seward. Consider the top attraction of the Kenai fjords Boat tours, then take the train Seward- Anchoarge.
Cap- Frankly- if you are looking to return from Fairbanks to Anchorage from a cruisetour- WHY not just skip the cruisetour and go on your own round trip- GREATLY benefiting your touring options with a better schedule???
But to answer your question- there is one train- leaving 8am- 12 hours later arriving Anchorage. You can drive- costly one way rentals however, look at Thrify and Avis? 350 miles, best done over 2 days. It really isn't worth the transit without the touring in my opinion. Fairly so so scenery most of the way- definately many highlights but no enough to re do the distance. If you have 2 extra days- you could use the entire time to readjust your cruisetour itinerary - spread out sections of too much transit and linger at areas of interest. Add some of the small real "Alaska" stuff. Get out of the lodges loaded with other tourists? And have some contact with some real Alaskans.
I learned from AAA yesterday that ALL wilderness tours are booked. Denali is not allowing as many buses into the park as they used to. They have given "passes" to the locals and are not permitting any cruiselines as far into the park as the wilderness tour goes. All princess cruises have been changed to the natural history tour which is about 4 hours instead of 7-8 hours.
It has nothing to do with not as many buses. It is the explosion of tourists on cruisetours. For clarification- it is still completely available to book the SHUTTLE buses on your own and probably also the Tundra Wilderness if you choose to (never recommended booking directly by me however). The Natural History tour is a complete waste of time.
We are booked on the cruisetour to Denali May 23rd and according to Princess our entire traveling party is booked on the Tundra Wildreness Tour, not the History tour. So I'm not sure AAA is giving you correct info.
Island Princess - cruise tour leaving May 23, 2005
AAA may be giving me bad information but a couple of travel agencies through the internet including CruiseBrothers (calling their 800numbers) told me that Princess has cancelled their cruisetours with the the Wilderness Tour and rescheduled on the Natural History Tour. I think I will look into it further and see if I can change to the Wilderness tour.
After reading your last response I called Princess directly and was told that they tours were all full. They gave me the same reason that someone stated earlier that the parks service was not allowing as many visitors so the tours were all full. I did double check my specific tour and we are confirmed on the TWT not the Natural History Tour. Good luck. I'm thinking maybe we are all getting miss information. I hope we don't get to Denali only to find out our TWT has been cancelled.
"Why do you not recommend booking Tundra Wilderness Tour directly?"
SIMPLE, this is EXTREMELY costly for what you get. This tour runs $80+++ and if you take the SHUTTLE you go 10 miles farther on the SAME ROAD for $33.75 (Fish Creek). The TOUR includes a "snack". You must bring in all your own food and drink on the shuttles. Since it is included with cruisetours. This is likely your only option into the park, since most people want other activities if they have the time rather than going in again. Some may claim having a "guide" is preferred, but I have take the shutttle buses MANY TIMES over MANY years, and never had a guide that wasn't excellent and completely knew Denali Park. There are also WAY more shuttle buses running allowing for YOUR preferred time. Either way- you much reserve ahead. complete information www.nps.gov/dena