We are comparing the price for a cruise/cruisetour with Princess. Following the WONDERFUL Karen's advice, I am checking out booking all the land portion independently. BTW: Have a wonderful cruise on the 19th, Karen!
Princess is about $900 or so for the land portion. One option is booking through Princess lodges.com for a tour similar to their itinerary (we do want to stay at one of their timber lodges). I like the looks of the McKinley Lodge better that the Denali. Its close to the STATE Park.
Question: Will the vistas ect though that park be as nice as the National park? It was suggested to get an excursion with a 4x4 Jeep and exlore the state park from Mt Mc Kinley Lodge and then we would skip Denali Lodge and go straight up to Fairbanks to complete or NB trip.
Princess Lodges said that we could get a 2006 Toursaver and get 2 for 1 on any of their tours. I just need to decide about which Lodge.
My friends and I tood the Princess train to Denali Princess Lodge. Once there we did the white water rafting on arrival; next day did the wilderness jeep tour (great fun) and the 4 hour Denali Park bus trip (wish we had done the 8 hour) and the dinner/show (cute but the food was just okay). The last morning before returning by train to Anchorage, we flew to Denali - I cannot tell you how absolutely gorgeous and moving this was. Well worth the $250 it cost. We even bought a t shirt that said we Summited Mount McKinley (although I will never call it Mt. McKinley again - only Denali which it deserves - much more dignified and powerful) The people who are in charge of the climbers are working very hard to keep this mountain pristine and not turn into a garbage dump like other mountains that are being climbed. Enjoy, Enjoy and feel blessed you have seen this "last great wilderness" before it is overrun and destroyed as only we humans can do.
There are several Denali State parks to consider but in no way do they compare to the National Park. Nor will you have the wildlife viewing opportunities. In my opinion, the state parks are so so compared to the National park but great for RV'ers and hikers as a side trip. I would not ever recommend the selection of the state over the national.
Although the McKinley lodge is nice, independent travelers will have to contend with endless lines and waiting people arriving on and off buses. These lodges clearly cater to tours. McKinley is rarely viewable, if a priority, you need to budget several days there for the chance. But Talkeetna which is highly recommended for at least a stop have excellent flightseeing. Usually toursaver coupons available. But I would not stay at McKinley lodge more than a day, just not much in the area and time consuming doing "day" trips.
I would skip the Denali lodge anyway, far better lodging elsewhere and again, loaded with tourists and endless lines of people and buses.