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Old May 17th, 2006, 05:21 PM
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Default Transportation from Anchorage to Seward and other ?'s

Hi,

I arrive in Anchorage on a Friday morning (2AM) and my cruise doesn't depart Seward until Saturday at 9 pm. What's the best (and maybe cheapest) way to get from Anchorage to Seward? Is it more worthwhile to spend time in Anchorage or Seward also?

Also, is it better to take the Fjords National Park cruise than doing the Captain's Whale Watching Cruise in Juneau? There's just too many options of excursions and wanted to do those that are worthwhile, since I know some places offer better sights than others right? I am in my 20's and like wildlife.

I will also be visiting Skagway, Juneau, Icy Strait, Ketchikan, and Vancouver leaving in about a week. Which of these areas are nice to explore on their own also? I know this trip is meant to splurge, but also have to take care of not going overboard too. Thanks!
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Old May 18th, 2006, 02:35 AM
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errie6,

I arrive in Anchorage on a Friday morning (2AM) and my cruise doesn't depart Seward until Saturday at 9 pm. What's the best (and maybe cheapest) way to get from Anchorage to Seward?

The easiest (most seamless) way is to take the cruise line's transfer -- and there are actually two options.

>> The bus transfer is the least expensive.

>> The Grandview Rail Transfer is the most comfortable and is very scenic.

Amplifying on the latter, the Grandview Rail Transfer actually is operated by the Alaska Railroad using Alaska Railroad equipment. The trains are clean and comfortable, and the seats have a lot more room than the seats on the bus. The train also offers full food and beverage service, and the Alaska Railroad employs guides who give some narration of the scenery as you pass through it. You also can get up, move around, and stretch while riding on the train -- and you will want to do so because either transfer takes a few hours. The train departs from the main passenger terminal at Anchorage International Airport (very handy if you are returning a rental car, but the cruise lines also provide shuttles to the airport from their hospitality stations in the Egan Center, which is right in the heart of Anchorage's downtown). i think that the Grandview Rail Transfer is well worth the difference in price, but your mileage may vary.

If you really wish to go to Seware\d on your own, the Alaska Railroad'sCoastal Classic Train is probably your best option. This train probably departs from the downtown depot in Anchorage, but check in advance to be sure.

Is it more worthwhile to spend time in Anchorage or Seward also?

The cruise lines' transfer services operate only on embarkation day, so the decision is made for you if you elect to use the transfer services. If you take the Coast Classic Train, you will have a choice.

>> Downtown Anchorage comes alive on weekends in the summertime, so there's plenty to do there, and it has a lot of very good restaurants (I have yet to find a restaurant in Anchorage to which I would not return). On a random weekend last summer, I encountered an Irish street festival called Galway Days on G Street. There's also a large indoor mall in the center of downtown and, at least on weekends, a fairly large outdoor market on 3rd Avenue on the block diagonally across the intersection from the Anchorage Hilton. There's also a large indoor mall spanning two blocks right in the heart of downtown that offers a lot of Alaskan articles if you have a shopper in the family. The whole downtown area is imminently walkable and quite safe, too.

If you decide to rent a car at the Anchorage International Airport, a day trip to Talkeetna is worthwhile. There's a scenic overlook on the edge of town, and I had an excellent lunch at an inn named Latitude 62 in the town itself.

>> Seward is primarily a small port city that gets a lot of visits from cruise ships in the summer. It does have some historic sites and shops and a couple lodging establishments, but it is not anywhere near as extensive as Anchorage. Perhaps Karen might have some recommendations as to specific attractions.

I strongly recommend making confirmed reservations for your lodging in either city. The summer is the prime tourist season, so hotels and inns do tend to sell out.

Also, is it better to take the Fjords National Park cruise than doing the Captain's Whale Watching Cruise in Juneau?

Unfortunately, I can't help you with that choice because I'm not familiar with either tour.

I will also be visiting Skagway, Juneau, Icy Strait, Ketchikan, and Vancouver leaving in about a week. Which of these areas are nice to explore on their own also? I know this trip is meant to splurge, but also have to take care of not going overboard too.

Each of these cities/towns has some unique attractions that are worthwhile.

>> Skagway came to prominence as the gateway to the Yukon Territory during the Yukon Gold Rush (1897-1900). Whatever else you do there, don't miss the ride across White Pass to Summit Lake on the White Pass & Yukon Route (narrow guage railroad). Built to haul prospectors and supplies into the Yukon in 1898, it's an engineering marvel even by modern standards because it passes through some of the most rugged -- and visually spectacular -- terrain that you will find anywhere. If you book it through the ship (or your cruise line) as a shore excursion, the train will leave from and return to the pier.

The "Days of '98 Revue Starring Soapy Smith" at the Eagles' Hall, which has a nominal admission and is included in some of the tours of the city, is also worthwhile. The play sheds light on Skagway's wild past and the gold rush era.

The "Ghosts and Goodtime Girls Walking Tour" is also excellent. It presents some of the seedier aspects of Skagway during the gold rush era.

>> In Juneau, there's plenty to do that's FREE if cost is a consideration. The state capital, located about six or eight blocks from the warf, offers free tours. About a block further, St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church and the (Catholic) Cathedral of the Nativity of Mary have worthwhile artwork. The Mount Roberts Tram is also pretty expensive, and the top of the mountain offers great views on a clear day. You probably would see some wildlife on the excursion to Mendenhaul Glacier, too.

>> In Ketchikan, the tour of Saxman Village is very good -- an excellent introduction to the Tlingit culture. The village has a display of totems (which your guide will explain), a series of shops with totem carvers at work where you can observe and interact with them, and a clan house where the indigenous Tlingits present their tribal dances.

>> In Hoonah ("Icy Point Strait" on your itinerary), the options are pretty limited. The cannery tour is both interesting and convenient because the ships use the cannery's fish dock as a tender pier. You probably also would enjoy any of the nature excursions.

You'll undoubtedly see wildlife almost everywhere because Alaksa is teeming with all sorts of critters -- puffins, seals, sea otters, bald eagles and other raptors, brown bears, black bears, grizzly bears, and many other kinds of creatures call the "Great Land" their home.

Have a great cruise!

Norm.


Norm.
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Old May 18th, 2006, 08:22 AM
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I never recommend the cruiseline rail transfer, it eats up valuable touring time and costs double what the regular run costs which is far better for Seward touring.

With a 2am arrival, you don't have a lot of time and in my opinion, not enough time to make getting to Talkeetna worthwhile. Anchorage has plenty to occupy your day, request their visitor guide and see if of interest?? www.anchorage.net If you go the rental car for a day, instead consider Hatcher Pass. Enter from the Palmer side very very scenic drive. Talkeetna is good for McKinley flightseeing, if a priority go there, but certainly not worth the drive for the overlook that most likely will have NO view of McKinley.

As for Seward - a must do for varied wildlife is a Kenai Fjords tour. I suggest you take the regular run of the Alaska RR like I suggest above. You get into Seward in time for the boat tour. www.kenaifjords.com will pick up at the depot, store your bags and shuttle you to your ship. It is a TOP tour, definately my best recommendation along with Denali Park. Here are some photos to look at as a sample http://community.webshots.com/user/budgetqueen

I always take both tours- whale watching and Kenai Fjords, and my recommendation with your wildlife priority.

Contrary to the above, wildlife requires tours in my experience, it is NOT that frequently seen and certainly no way near in the list of the above without tours.


I disagree, Hoonah has plenty to offer and getting past the "Icy Strait" tour section offers more. Whale watching is just excellent here, probably my preference over Juneau. Go independent since those trips go out for twice as long.

Look over a shore excursion list and narrow down your interests. Repost if you want specific information.

I would suggest a downtown Anchorage hotel if you go via ARR to Seward. Some will shuttle to depot and airport.
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Old May 18th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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Karen,

I never recommend the cruiseline rail transfer, it eats up valuable touring time and costs double what the regular run costs which is far better for Seward touring.

Realistically, none of the cruse lines' transfers allow time for sightseeing in Seward. The transfer buses generally leave Anchorage Internatinal Airport, the Eagan Center, and the hotels where the cruise line offers offers hotel packages in the late morning and early afternoon and arrive in Seward in time for embarkation. With a late (9:00 PM) departure, there might be enough time to stroll the main street and perhaps have an early dinner after one compeltes the cruise check-in process. Of course, why pay to eat ashore if one has already paid for dinner on the ship -- especially if one is trying to control costs?

A few cruise lines may now offer hotel packages in Seward rather than in Anchorage, but thiose packages do not necessarily include the transfer to or from the Anchorage International Airport for passengrs who don't also book their flighrs through the cruise line. Thus, anybody who wants to spend time in Seward probably needs to make independent arrangements between Seward and Anchorage -- which is why I provided the link to the Alaska Railroad's regular passenger service.

errie6: I arrive in Anchorage on a Friday morning (2AM) and my cruise doesn't depart Seward until Saturday at 9 pm. (boldface added)

You: With a 2am arrival, you don't have a lot of time and in my opinion, not enough time to make getting to Talkeetna worthwhile.

It appears that you missed the detail that they are arriving very early in the morning on the day before the start of the cruise, so they will have a whole day on Friday and Saturday morning for sightseeing in Anchorage if they use the cruise line's transfers. If one has accommodations in Anchorage, a day trip to Talkeetna is quite reasonable.

(Yes, I have done it.)

Contrary to the above, wildlife requires tours in my experience, it is NOT that frequently seen and certainly no way near in the list of the above without tours.

Whales and other sea creatures usually make their appearances while the ship is underway, and it's also not uncommon to see bears and other shore animals on the banks along the inside passage. Bald eagles are quire plentiful in that region, too -- at first glance, their heads look like golf balls in the trees, and are pretty visible if one is looking for them. Depending upon time of year, one also may see the salmon running -- and sometimes a bear enjoying a lunch of fresh salmon -- in the streams throughout ports of call. Basically, any shore excursion that goes out of the downtown area probably will spot a good amount of wildlife.

Norm.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 10:34 AM
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Yes I did read their timing correctly, if they want to get to Seward for a Kenai Fjords trip, with a 2am arrival the day before, it will be a very rushed , sleep deprived day, to make it back and forth to Talkeetna. This is the reason I don't recommend it.

I will still say, seeing wildlife on shore from a cruise ship is VERY rare. You seem to have had plentiful sightings??? You were very lucky, I spend all my time out on deck, know the routings and sailing areas and never see what you claim. On average, a great many Alaska cruisers see NO WILDLIFE. I also have a couple ship naturalist friends, one very good one, former Carnival and who has worked for Lindblad many years- he is in agreement on sailings via regular cruise ships.

IF someone does want to spend the time scaning shorelines, Glacier Bay is a great opportunity. I have seen brown bears there and one time a moose. But binoculars are always needed, at least 10 power.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 09:29 PM
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Karen,

Yes I did read their timing correctly, if they want to get to Seward for a Kenai Fjords trip, with a 2am arrival the day before, it will be a very rushed , sleep deprived day, to make it back and forth to Talkeetna. This is the reason I don't recommend it.

Yes, I agree completely that both a day trip to Talkeetna and the cruise of Misty Fjords would be way too ambitious. They should choose one or the other. My recommendation of a day trip to Talkeetna was predicated on staying at a hotel in Anchorage on Friday night and using the cruise line's transfers from Anchorage to Seward on Saturday afternoon.

JTOL, staying in Anchorage on Friday night would also ease the pressure to meet a check-out deadline at the hotel on Friday. If their flight arrives at 2:00 AM on Friday morning, it will be perhaps 3:00 AM by the time they get their luggage and get checked into to a hotel. Thus, they might want to sleep late that morning. In the absence of that consideration, a "day boat" cruise of College Fjord out of Whittier would be another viable day trip from Anchorage.

Norm.
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