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Old March 5th, 2008, 08:27 PM
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Default Clueless mother needs HAL Alaska Advice

Hi all,
I am booking a "last minute" Alaska Cruisetour compliments of my wonderful parents. I'll be travelling with my 70 yo parents and my 2 daughters, (4 & 7) Our availability is limited at this point. Our first choice was Princess -- specifically Sapphire Princess on May 19 but we're having a hard time getting the Tundra Wilderness tour in Denali. It seems Princess has met it's allottment on that tour for '08 and my Mom is set on it. We've now turned to HAL Zaandam Double Denali Cruisetour beginning in Fairbanks on June 11. I welcome any comments on either itinerary or line. Will my kids have fun? We've done two RCI Caribbean cruises in the past. (Marylou provided me excellent advice last year. Thank you). Specific questions -- on HAL What is the difference between Haines and Skagway? How far apart are they? This cruise has 3 days of scenic cruising....is that too much? We motorcoach from Denali to Seward on Day 5. How many hours is that drive? I want the girls to see sled dogs, (don't think I can do the Heli), gold panning and a lumberjack show sounds nice. Do you think there will be other kids onboard? Any suggestions? Help!! I'm clueless. Thanks to all .
Cathy
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Old March 5th, 2008, 09:55 PM
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Default Re: Clueless mother needs HAL Alaska Advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by catsy19
we're having a hard time getting the Tundra Wilderness tour in Denali.
Have you tried to book this tour on your own? We ditched the tour that Princess offered and took the TWT. We even returned in plenty of time to catch the Princess bus to our next stop. (McKinley Princess Lodge)

http://www.reservedenali.com/tours/index.cfm

Then ask Princess for a credit for whichever tour you miss from them.

The TWT is a great experience!!!
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Old March 5th, 2008, 10:20 PM
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Thank you. I might consider that. I, also, heard the TWT is the better choice. My parents are not "freestyle" travelers and much prefer tours.

I just read Luisa Frey Gaynor's excellent article on her family trip to Alaska on HAL. Got alot of input. Great article.
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Old March 5th, 2008, 10:39 PM
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Princess and HAL, imo, are the choices for Alaska. Either one will do it right for you.

It is apparent that Princess is just starting to offer the TWT on a few of their itineraries.

Last year, reading this board, I became aware of the deficencies in the Princess offering. It was too late for me to book the TWT independently...all booked up. I asked about cancellations...was told that they would not be available until 6 or 8 days before the date I would want. I took the phone numbers along on our cruise (Diamond Princess) and the day we were in Juneau I called...and got 2 seats on the 6:40 am TWT. Twas perfect....great weather (August), bears, caribou, bears, moose, bears, cubs, dall sheep, bears, hares, ptarmigan...and a great tour guide/driver. The others in our group took the Princess tour...they saw no wildlife and only went a mile or two into the park. They were not impressed.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 04:02 PM
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Please no flames, but the Tundra Wilderness tour, or similar Toklat shuttle bus is not for a 4 year old and not for many 7 year olds either. It's mosly scenery based which is of little interest to kids. Wildlife is most often way off with binoculars necessary. A cruisetour also is a poor choice for a family with kids, they likely are going to be the only ones. And the fixed point to point group traveling isn't the best choice either.
It is far superior to have your own car and the freedom to stop where and when you wish. Gives way more meal and lodgng options.

If you are busing from Denali Park to Seward in a SINGLE day, it's 9 hours. Way more than most kids can tolerate, and I certainly would not recommend this anyway. It missed out completely on Seward- unless it has an overnight?? Seavey's Sled dog tours are excellent to consider out of Seward.

Again, look at other options that what you are. I think you are greatly underestimating the time and distances you need for the areas of Alaska travel. And underestimating the tolerance of your kids for this traveling.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 04:18 PM
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Not a "flame" per se, but do you know the OP's children, Karen? Personally, I've lived here all my life (save for the few foolish post-high-school years) and I wish more people would take their kids on these sorts of tours. Sure, it's no Disneyland, but with a bit of preparation and a backpack full of snacks and games, a long scenic bus ride (or train ride, or boat ride, or plane ride) can be great with kids.

Do be sure to include the younger ones in the touring and excursion choices... Maybe this bus tour is "Grandma's" choice, and the 7 y/o gets to pick from a few choices in another area... Is there something that the 4 y/o wants to do so that everyone can take turns choosing? When my family of 4 (soon to be 5) goes anywhere, it's never either an "adult trip" or a "kids trip"... all of us manage to stay entertained.

-Case

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karen16
Please no flames, but the Tundra Wilderness tour, or similar Toklat shuttle bus is not for a 4 year old and not for many 7 year olds either. It's mosly scenery based which is of little interest to kids. Wildlife is most often way off with binoculars necessary. A cruisetour also is a poor choice for a family with kids, they likely are going to be the only ones. And the fixed point to point group traveling isn't the best choice either.
It is far superior to have your own car and the freedom to stop where and when you wish. Gives way more meal and lodgng options.

If you are busing from Denali Park to Seward in a SINGLE day, it's 9 hours. Way more than most kids can tolerate, and I certainly would not recommend this anyway. It missed out completely on Seward- unless it has an overnight?? Seavey's Sled dog tours are excellent to consider out of Seward.

Again, look at other options that what you are. I think you are greatly underestimating the time and distances you need for the areas of Alaska travel. And underestimating the tolerance of your kids for this traveling.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 08:30 PM
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Thank you both for your input. You both make great points. I noticed that huge bus ride between Denali and Seward and added a day so that we take the train and overnight in Anchorage. Is that a bit more do-able? I always carry a huge, (too huge), backpack of activities and I know it's a ton of work to keep little ones occupied, (I have three now-grown stepkids too.) It may be a rough four days, certainly exhausting, but since Grandma and Grandpa are paying and they are the Tauck Tour types, we are stuck on the bus which I think will be a whole lot more thrilling and amazing than being stuck at home. If I am mistaken I will let you know...from my asylum bed.

A sled dog excursion is definately on the agenda. I will check out Seavey's. Any other recommendations for Mushing Camps, (Is that what they're called?), in other locales. I know my almost 8yo really wants to pan gold, (as does my Mom,) and we are doing that on our first day in Fairbanks. Do you know anything about that experience? Will they get their fill of panning? I also thought they would enjoy the lumberjack show which I realize is a tourist trap but we're trapped tourists. I can't decide between that and the Duck tour or the Totem pole place. I'm so confused. Any input there? I'm also looking at the "Wildlife Experience" excursion out of Haines. Anyone know anything about that one?

My parents took me on my first "plane" vacation when I was about 8. We went to Vegas, Disneyland and Mexico. I remember seeing Elvis onstage at the Hilton, climbing the Pyramid of the Sun and the silver shops of Taxco as vividly as my first ride on "Small World." I'm hoping my older daughter will make a few cherished memories with my parents as well. As for the little girl, I'll just keep buying her stuffed animals!

An additional aside regarding my kids: Since birth we've been shuttling them up every winter weekend for a five hour drive to Vermont. Five hours each way. Maybe that will make them better candidates for dealing with the long rides. I hope, I hope.........
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Old April 8th, 2008, 04:44 PM
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Good idea to take the train. If it were me I would train up from Seward to Denali - you can move around. During panning you are likely to run into flys and etc. - might take repellant. Eagles, whales, and otters are for kiddos - distant wildlife less so. Salmon runs are a kiddo hit as well.


Quote:
Originally Posted by catsy19
Thank you both for your input. You both make great points. I noticed that huge bus ride between Denali and Seward and added a day so that we take the train and overnight in Anchorage. Is that a bit more do-able? I always carry a huge, (too huge), backpack of activities and I know it's a ton of work to keep little ones occupied, (I have three now-grown stepkids too.) It may be a rough four days, certainly exhausting, but since Grandma and Grandpa are paying and they are the Tauck Tour types, we are stuck on the bus which I think will be a whole lot more thrilling and amazing than being stuck at home. If I am mistaken I will let you know...from my asylum bed.

A sled dog excursion is definately on the agenda. I will check out Seavey's. Any other recommendations for Mushing Camps, (Is that what they're called?), in other locales. I know my almost 8yo really wants to pan gold, (as does my Mom,) and we are doing that on our first day in Fairbanks. Do you know anything about that experience? Will they get their fill of panning? I also thought they would enjoy the lumberjack show which I realize is a tourist trap but we're trapped tourists. I can't decide between that and the Duck tour or the Totem pole place. I'm so confused. Any input there? I'm also looking at the "Wildlife Experience" excursion out of Haines. Anyone know anything about that one?

My parents took me on my first "plane" vacation when I was about 8. We went to Vegas, Disneyland and Mexico. I remember seeing Elvis onstage at the Hilton, climbing the Pyramid of the Sun and the silver shops of Taxco as vividly as my first ride on "Small World." I'm hoping my older daughter will make a few cherished memories with my parents as well. As for the little girl, I'll just keep buying her stuffed animals!

An additional aside regarding my kids: Since birth we've been shuttling them up every winter weekend for a five hour drive to Vermont. Five hours each way. Maybe that will make them better candidates for dealing with the long rides. I hope, I hope.........
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