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Old April 6th, 2009, 07:38 PM
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Default Novice Cruisers w/ land package to Alaska w/ many questions

I'm a new member on cruisemates and found this thread to be most informative.

we have a cruise and land package with princess booked for 8/1-8/13.
for my wife, our 16 year old and 12 year old boys, and myself. We have never cruised before.

Itenary allows 7 hours in Ketchikan
12 hours in Juneau,
13 hours in Skagway

we also go to glacier bay and college fjord, but as I understand no off boat
excursions occur at those stops.

we then land at whittier and train to McKinley Princess Lodge for 2 nights

then we have 1 night at Denali Princess Lodge and then 1 night in Fairbanks before departure.

questions for knowledegable members

1. In Skagway we're torn between White Pass RR and the Eagle preserve float boat to Haines. Any comments on which is better and why?

2. I think we'll do a combo bus to Mendenhall glacier and boat out to whales. Is this a mistake?

3. In Ketchikan, sounds like Misty Fiord but which is better, by seaplane or boat?

4. We can book all of these through Princess, or should we use independents. If so, can you recommend good providers for these activities.

5. Haven't booked any excursions yet, is it too late? Want to book them
this week but I need feedback.

6. At McKinley Lodge, no excursions are provided as part of the tour. What excursions would you recommend. I think the kids would really like to see wildlife over viewing Mt. McKinley.

7. At Denali Lodge a 4-5 hour natural history tour is included. Is this a good excursion or should we be doing some other activity?

8. Sounds like we won[t get to see northern lights. This has alway been a lifelong dream for me, any ideas how it might be possible to see them?
I would stay up till 3:00 am to see them if that what it takes.

9. Packing advice, what do we need to be sure we bring to enjoy ourselves? As I say were novices at this.

I thank all you knowledgable members in advance for your suggestions and advice.

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Old April 7th, 2009, 07:53 AM
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Welcome to cruisemates. You've chosen an excellent first cruise, but the cruisetour is very poor, as I'll explain below. For excursions, I always book independently unless there is no choice, primarily because you get smaller groups and more personalized service.

1. In Skagway, the White Pass & Yukon Route railway is one of the top 10 rail attractions on earth and is highly recommended. The Haines float is a calm float in a spectacular valley, seeing a few eagles which you see everywhere in Alaska. The rail/bus trips at Skagway are particularly good - see http://www.chilkootcharters.com/yukonraildog.htm

2. Whale watching at Juneau is excellent, and getting dropped off at Mendenhall a good way to save time - take a shuttle bus back to the ship ($7 each, no need to pre-book). I've been out with Orca twice and have had great trips - http://www.orcaenterprises.com/

3. The Misty Fiords flights that include an alpine lake landing are superb - for example http://www.islandwings.com/sfs.html

4-7. Now the tough part - 2 nights at the McKinley Princess is 1 too many as there's not much to do, 1 night at the Denali Princess is 1 too little as there's a LOT to do. The Natural History Tour that's part of your deal is a very poor trip, going only a few miles into the park. You need either a cruisetour that gets you the Tundra Wilderness Tour (TWT), or the time to take an NPS shuttle to Eielson or beyond. Deep into the park is where the wildlife is - see halfway down the page at http://www.explorenorth.com/articles...aska_tour.html for photos and comments from a TWT

8. The chances of seeing the Northern Lights that early are extremely remote - the hotels have Northern Lights wake up services, though - just in case.

9. For clothing , the key is layering so that you can be comfortable in every condition from low 40s and wet to high 70s and sun. Good packing list can be found at http://www.murraylundberg.cruiseship...ckingGuide.htm

I hope that helps get you started.

Murray
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Old April 7th, 2009, 04:48 PM
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Thanks so much Murray for your help.

I assume you are recommending we use the tour companies for which you gave us links in your response. If not, please let us know.

Some followup questions. We are in McKinley Lodge for 2 nights which we cannot change as it is part of the combo cruise and land tour we booked with Princess. Can you recommend any excursions or activties while we are there?

Unfortunately only 1 night at Denali Lodge. Sounds like you are recommending skipping the nature walk provided by the tour and instead go on a tundra wildlife tour. that sounds good to me but don't know how or who to contact to set this up. do you have any information about these twts?

We will be booking reservations with the companies you recommend in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway.

thanks again for your advice.
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Old April 7th, 2009, 05:18 PM
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I, too, am going on a Princess cruisetour, but at the end of August. I picked the last week because of the new moon (dark). From what I've read online, neither one of us will have a good shot at seeing the Northern Lights (my lifelong dream also). They do 'wake you up' on request as the previous poster mentioned. Someone also told me to rent a car in Fairbanks and drive just outside the city to view them better. There is a website that predicts the 'lights' short term. Do a search.

I'm doing the Escorted Tour that provides meals and excursions on land. At McKinley Lodge, and I think all of them, they have an Outfitters desk to arrange tours. If you search online for these lodges, and I think the cruise line site also has info, you can reserve tours at each lodge ahead of time.

I've been reading a lot on which tour is best in Denali, and everyone says to do the full length Tundra tour.

In Juneau, I chose the Photo Safari (Mendenhall, boat (whales), etc). Not once have I read a negative comment on this.

In Skagway, I picked the heli/sled dogs on a glacier along with the train on White Pass.

My brother went on the float plane in Misty Fiord and said he would disown me if I didn't do that.

How's that for an answer of someone who hasn't gone yet?

Search, buy books, and ask here! This board is great!

Good luck, sweet sailing!
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Old April 7th, 2009, 05:29 PM
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thanks peg for the respsonse. i will investigate what we can book while at the McKinley and Denali Lodges
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Old April 11th, 2009, 10:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estoniankid
Thanks so much Murray for your help.

I assume you are recommending we use the tour companies for which you gave us links in your response. If not, please let us know.

Some followup questions. We are in McKinley Lodge for 2 nights which we cannot change as it is part of the combo cruise and land tour we booked with Princess. Can you recommend any excursions or activties while we are there?

Unfortunately only 1 night at Denali Lodge. Sounds like you are recommending skipping the nature walk provided by the tour and instead go on a tundra wildlife tour. that sounds good to me but don't know how or who to contact to set this up. do you have any information about these twts?

We will be booking reservations with the companies you recommend in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway.

thanks again for your advice.
I replied elsewhere, but there are options to change this poor cruisetour choice, if you wish to. Princess has tours that offer 2 nights at the Denali Lodge, which is absolutely necessary IF you want to get into Denali Park and if you wish to see wildlife.

It isn't as simple as "taking the tundra tour", with only one night, you probably do NOT have the time to do so?? It also is a very poor choice to go on the "tours in Denali" with kids. The shuttle buses are free for under 16 and 1/3 the price, AND get you further into the Park, FARTHER always equals, more- more scenery and more wildlife.

www.nps.gov/dena spend some time reading this and educate yourself about Denali Park the the distances and activities available.

At the McKinley lodge, again from my prior post, there aren't a lot of excellent tours. Many "fill ins". Flightseeing is a top choice here. Plan this carefully, and don't make the 100 mile round trip to Talkeetna more than once/day. If not on a tour, I believe there is also a charge.

I am sure you got a "deal" on this package, BUT , it is still costing you money, and the sorry problem is, it probably isn't going to work out being what you thought??? Especially, if you have your sights set on all those spectacular wildlife photos. You do have other options to consider, if you wish to do so.
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