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ejb August 9th, 2010 03:37 PM

Itinerary Feedback please
 
We are planning a 6-4-11 SB from Anch/Whittier. We plan on arriving 5 days early to do some land touring on our own. I just want some feedback on my plans and will I have enough time.
I have done the Inside Passage so the cruise part is easier for us to plan this time.

Itinerary:
5-30-11 Fly to Anchorage Pick up rental car find our motel and crash!
5-31-11 Tour Anchorage and just relax. Looking for thing to do there.
6-1-11 Drive to Denali and sight see along the way-Stay the night.
6-2-11 Tour Denali on one of the buses or??? We don't know the
tour company yet so let me know what you think on that also.
Stay the night
6-3-11 Drive back to Anchorage and sight see what we missed on the
way up to Denali.
6-4-11 Drive to the airport and turn in the car and catch a airport to
ship transfer to Whittier.

The only excursion we are planning is whale watching and we are looking for suggestions on that one.

We would like suggestions for a Denali tour company you have used and would use again or even would never use again.

We have looked at rental car companies and it looks like about $100 to $150 per day. What company did you use? We will set this up way in advance.

Also where would you stay at Denali? We don't need anything great there since we will be on a tour bus all day. To us the room is not the destination.

Thanks for looking and let me know if it is realistic.
EB
Texas

Nurse Debra August 9th, 2010 06:43 PM

EB,

Your itinerary does sound doable. We have been to Alaska 14 times and just canít seem to get enough of it!!

A bit of background on where I am coming from is that my husband and I are not big city fans (not that Anchorage is all that big). We just are not into shops and museums, etc; we enjoy the scenery and majesty of Alaska away from the cities. Based on our own personal preferences, for your first full day in Anchorage, we would recommend driving south west of Anchorage to the Cooper Landing area, near Soldotna in the Kenai Peninsula. A great place for lunch along this route is the Princess Kenai lodge, which is a couple of miles off the highway near Cooper Landing.

As for car rental, I just checked AVIS and found a price of $323 for five days and $315 for a seven day rental for a full size car, for the time period that you mentioned of 5/30/11 to 6/4/11. This price includes $106 in taxes and surcharges, but donít get me going on that one! If there is any way you can extend your stay in Alaska before your cruise to seven days, I would highly recommend that you do. Renting a car and going on your own is for me the best way to see and enjoy Alaska. In the past you could drive your own car part way into Denali, but I donít remember just how far.

If your are interested in the Iditarod sled dog race, there is an Iditarod headquarters located right on the way to Denali in Wasilla. It is a very interesting place to visit.

Most people that we have talked to have said that the best whale watching trips are out of Juneau, with Captain Larry. Have never used any tour company, so I canít offer any suggestions there. The only thing I remember from reading is if you use one, to tour Denali Park is to be sure you take one that goes all the way into the park, which, BTW, is quite a long way.

We usually stay at the McKinley Princess Lodge near Denali. About 1 hour from the park entrance. There are several hotels right at the entrance to the park. You may want to check into the Alaskan Toursaver book which has many buy one night and get one free at various hotels and lodges in Alaska.

Hope some of this helps,

Enjoy your vacation in Alaska.

Debra

ejb August 9th, 2010 09:01 PM

This has been very helpful. We are not big city fans either and would rather see the more wild Alaska. I will check into the Cooper Landing area.
Thanks for the Avis price check. I checked them out today and did not see where you get the car for five days. I will look again.
I have heard that Juneau is the place to go whale watching and I am looking for Capitan Larry tonight.
I did not know you could stay at a Princess lodge without doing it through a cruise tour.
You have been very helpful, Thank you. I wish we could stay longer but I own my own business and can't be gone longer than 2 weeks. After two weeks my clients will think I am dead.

Wow! 14 trips. I brag about going once. Silly me.
Thanks
EB

ejb August 11th, 2010 11:27 AM

After doing more searching we are thinking of getting out of Anchorage and maybe going to Seward to do a 4 or 5 hour Glacier cruise. Don't know what tour yet but sounds like more up our alley. We don't really care about big city Alaska life. Anchorage is more a place to land, get a car and head out.
Anybody out there have some ideas on Seward.
We will be leaving from Whittier on our cruise.
We are thinking maybe stay in Seward the first day and night and then do the Denali tour. Or visa-versa.

????
Thanks
EB

takemeonacruise August 15th, 2010 11:06 AM

I checked car prices with Enterprise at the 4th St location, and if you wait until the morning of the 31st to pick up your car ( they are closed on the 30th) you can get an intermediate size car for 5/31/11-6/4/11 for a total of $144.12 ( that's including all taxes and charges ). If you are just checking into your hotel and crashing on the 30th and don't need the car that day, you could save a bunch of money. The 4th St. location opens at 7:30 am on the 31st.

ejb August 15th, 2010 04:17 PM

Wow!
Thanks a lot. We will not really need a car the day we get there, just sleep. I am still not sure if we are going to stay in Anchorage or outside of the city.
EB

Karen16 August 18th, 2010 04:37 PM

As only a suggestion, if you want to make the most of your Alaska trip, you might want to consider heading to Seward your day of arrival- not knowing the time, but if in the afternoon, very doable. This would free you up for some Seward touring, if of interest?

Anchorage is a "city", and may not offer the most for your short time.

For Denali park, sorry, I NEVER would recomend a stay at the McKinley lodge with having Denali park activities. It is 100 miles aways, so way more than the "hour" mentioned between the two.

I stay frequently at the Denali Park Hotel. Reasonable prices, fridge and microwave in rooms. Clean basic. Plenty of other options. I would not consider the Princess property, nothing special and congested.

For your Denali park visit, in your timeframe, purchase the Eielson shuttle bus. You have the wrong idea with your "tour company" reference? If for Denali Park? I don't recommend the tour buses, and only one company- Aramark for independent visitors. You are too early for Kantishna, I believe?

I suggest you consider taking the train to Whittier, or an early bus, and getting yourself on a Prince William Sound boat tour, just a great option.

There are many car rental options. Enterprise, is noted for good rates. There is Dollar, Payless, Thrify, Alamo plus all the other majors. Independents as well. listings www.anchorage.net

ejb August 19th, 2010 11:45 AM

Karen,
Thanks, I have printed out everything that has been posted in this thread and I am going to do all my research this weekend and then repost my revised itinerary.
I have already been looking at Seward instead of Anchorage for some touring. I am not a big city guy so Anchorage is just a place to fly into to get the whole thing started.
I will get back this weekend with the new plan based on all of your input.
Thanks
EB

ejb August 22nd, 2010 03:29 PM

OK, I have some changes.
5/30/11 fly to Anchorage. Go to motel and sleep.
5/31/11 pick up rental car in town and drive to Denali, sight see along the way. Find our motel and eat and sleep.
6/1/11 Take the Denali shuttle into the park and spend the whole day in the park. Go back to the motel and sleep.

This is where I run out of enough info to make my decision.
We are leaving out of Whittier on 6/4/11 and we would like to do the Prince William Sound tour ( 5 or 6 hour one).
Can I drive from Denali to Whittier or should we go back to Anchorage first, turn in the car and then take a train to Whittier.
Or on 6/2/11 drive to Seward from Denali, stay in Seward that night and then do the PWS tour on 6/3/11 and then take the car back to Anchorage that night, turn in the car and then take the train to Whittier to start the cruise on 6/4.
One last thing is maybe drive to Whittier from Denali and do the tour from there and pay for rental car drop-off there and just stay there that night before the day we cruise.
Please, anybody that knows the area respond. I know it is lots of driving but we live in West Texas and drive 7-8 hours to somewhere all the time.
Thanks
EB

ejb August 23rd, 2010 10:42 AM

Karen,
I am ending up with more time in or around Anchorage than we want. I was thinking about staying around Denali a second day, for half of the day, driving into the park ourselves for a while and then just driving back to Anchorage later. Then taking the train 6/4 to Whittier to start the cruise.
We would start our land tour by going to Seward and doing the PWS tour and then going back to Anchorage that night 5/31, if the tour and train schedules workout.
So it would be:
5/31 Seward-PWS then back to Anchorage
6/1 Drive to Denali
6/2 Tour Denali-Shuutle Bus
6/3 Self tour by car for half day then drive back to Anchorage
6/4 Train to Whittier-Maybe short tour there and board the ship.

Whataya think Karen,....takemeonacruise,....nurse debra or???

Nurse Debra August 23rd, 2010 08:20 PM

EJB,

Your plan sounds like a good one to me. You are wise to leave time to just poke along and leave time to do what ever turns up as you travel.

If you are looking for a place to sleep then the hotels around the Park entrance are your best bet. The princess McKinley Lodge is about an hour and a half from the park entrance. Have not stayed at the Princess Lodge located at the Park entrance for many years and to be honest it was not as nice as the other Princess Lodges. I have stayed at just about every other of the Princess Lodges and they are something special.

If your cruise stops in Skagway, I highly recommend renting a car and driving to Emerald Lake. There is also a train that it is available, but IMHO driving yourself is cheaper and gives you the ability to stop and take all the pictures that you want. The scenery along that road is some of the best in Alaska.

One other tip is to sit on the right hand side of the bus or train as you travel to Seward or Whittier. The first twenty miles, or so, is along Turnagainarm on your right with the side of a cliff on your left for much of the first part of your trip.

Debra

ejb August 23rd, 2010 10:34 PM

Nurse Debra,
Any favorites around the entrance for motels? Should I or can I make reservations this early?

ejb August 26th, 2010 12:52 PM

[QUOTE=Karen16;1310519]For your Denali park visit, in your timeframe, purchase the Eielson shuttle bus. You have the wrong idea with your "tour company" reference? If for Denali Park? I don't recommend the tour buses, and only one company- Aramark for independent visitors. You are too early for Kantishna, I believe? /QUOTE]

Karen16
I need you explain what you meant about having the wrong idea with tour company. Are there tours to take us into the park or do we just take the shuttle in. We would like a tour that talks about the park and shows us the highlights. We don't really plan on hiking the park or anything like that.
Does the shuttle do that?
We have booked the 6/4/11 SB from Whittier and I am now planning the rest.
I was looking at Denali Park Hotel before and your suggestion seconds that for me so that is what we are doing there.
We plan on the Seward trip now, just not sure if we get there early enough to go to Seward the first day and stay there or stay in Anchorage the first night and then go to Seward for the day the next day??
We still need to book flights. What do you think about doing it through Princess with the new flight program the offer. Anybody use this yet? Is it any good?

Thanks

EB

ejb August 28th, 2010 06:40 PM

Hello...hello....hel....h...oooooo out there. Anybody?
EB

Karen16 September 2nd, 2010 11:19 AM

OK, You are very tight on time, if you want to consider including Seward?? I strongly suggest you add a day. Although, change fees, it would offer you far more.

What time do you arrive in Anchorage??

Second point- you have some skewed ideas about Denali park. Frankly, read up on it prior to going, www.nps.gov/dena It's all about access INTO the park, not what "commentary" there may be. It's about scenery, wildlife, not about some endless talking. IF you want to spend the day there, then you need to consider the shuttle buses. You then have the option to get off and walk around anywhere you wish. Biggest factor, is the cost. The "tour" buses are triple the cost. June 1 opens to Eielson, prior to that it would be Toklat.

Another problem, Seward is not a day trip and Prince William Sound is out of Whittier, not Seward. Seward is Kenai Fjords. PWS fits in perfectly your embarkment day of your cruise.

The ONLY suggestion I have with your current timeframe, is 2 nights in Denali park, a night in Talkeetna/Palmer/Anchorage/Girdwood. Early departure to Seward, Kenai Fjords boat tour, over night, then direct to Whittier. This makes the best use of your short time, and allows both Denali Park and Seward. BUT it involves a costly one way Anchorage/Whittier car rental with Avis. Pick this car up, as you go through Anchorage your last trip- not for the whole rental. You need to look at "costs" in other terms than money. :)

IF you happen to have an afternoon Anchorage arrival, then I would suggest you head to Seward by car. Overnight, next am- do the 8am Kenai fjords boat tour, and make your way back to Anchorage. Continue to Denali Park next two nights. Back to Anchorage. Then train to Whittier.

ejb September 7th, 2010 09:50 AM

Karen16,
Thanks for your feedback. It has made us do more research and we have added more days to the land travel.
We really don't like riding buses and Denali is one big bus ride no matter what bus you pick. We have decided to rent a 4WD and drive the Denali Hwy and stay in some cabins there for a day or so. We are going to skip the PWS tour for now and spend all our time driving around and exploring.
We will arrive in Anchorage about 2:30PM. We the are going to look around Anchorage a little and the start our drive tour the next day.
We also plan on a short ride on the shuttle into the park. I know that the Denali Hwy is not Denali park but is also is not a bus for endless hours.
We have expanded our land portion to seven days.
We are leaving it open to do a PWS tour or Kenai tour if we find that the self-driving tour get washed out by weather or we change our mind about where we are going once we get there.
We enjoy exploring so the drive, although over 600+ miles is not a big deal.
We also know that we can't travel at 75 mph on these roads and some are 30 mph and below, but we like that too.
I have seen reviews from people that have driven this road and have seen all kinds of wildlife. So that is what we are doing.
We are booked on the 6/4/11 SB.
I know we have been all over the map, so to speak, on our itinerary but that has been part of the learning experience. We have road maps, downloaded gps info and printed off lots of info on everything else so off we go.

Your input is welcome once again on this, Thanks again
EB

Karen16 October 29th, 2010 09:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ejb (Post 1315254)
Karen16,
Thanks for your feedback. It has made us do more research and we have added more days to the land travel.
We really don't like riding buses and Denali is one big bus ride no matter what bus you pick. We have decided to rent a 4WD and drive the Denali Hwy and stay in some cabins there for a day or so. We are going to skip the PWS tour for now and spend all our time driving around and exploring.
We will arrive in Anchorage about 2:30PM. We the are going to look around Anchorage a little and the start our drive tour the next day.
We also plan on a short ride on the shuttle into the park. I know that the Denali Hwy is not Denali park but is also is not a bus for endless hours.
We have expanded our land portion to seven days.
We are leaving it open to do a PWS tour or Kenai tour if we find that the self-driving tour get washed out by weather or we change our mind about where we are going once we get there.
We enjoy exploring so the drive, although over 600+ miles is not a big deal.
We also know that we can't travel at 75 mph on these roads and some are 30 mph and below, but we like that too.
I have seen reviews from people that have driven this road and have seen all kinds of wildlife. So that is what we are doing.
We are booked on the 6/4/11 SB.
I know we have been all over the map, so to speak, on our itinerary but that has been part of the learning experience. We have road maps, downloaded gps info and printed off lots of info on everything else so off we go.

Your input is welcome once again on this, Thanks again
EB


You continue to have some problems with your ideas. It is not likely that you will have full grading of the Denali Highway, going as early as you are. You also have to have a car rental contract that allows you to drive this road. Most all of the major rentals do not allow it. In the past, National was the only compary. Have you looked into this? You are taking a BIG risk IF you choose to ignore this. There are no services, and cell service can be nil. Many rentals have GPS.

I would encourage you to consider the shuttle bus to Toklat in Denali park. It is very good, and offers some spectacular scenery along with good wildlife potential.

Where are you looking at to "drive"?? 7 days isn't a lot of time, so I would choose this carefully. For the most scenery, I would definately recommend the Glenn and Richardson Highway Glennallen/Valdez segment. Add in Hatcher Pass from Palmer, and a look/trek of Matanuska. This is FAR more scenic compared to the Parks. A real nice loop is to ferry Valdez/Whittier.

ejb October 31st, 2010 05:25 PM

Karen16,
We have reserved a 4wdrive with a contract that allows off paved road driving. We have also planned a alternate route if the Denali Hwy is not ready yet. I have mapped out the trip by hour and by the mile. We have all our reservation made at each stop and a few places in between in the event the weather slows us down.
We have given ourselves 2 days at Denali and I think that will do for us.

I know that Alaska is a big place but a mile is a mile and we drive many miles here in Texas and also many miles in the moutains of New Mexico and Colorado so slow driving or suprise weather is no suprise to us.

7 days will have to do for our trip because I can't afford to move to Alaska to see it.
I started out thinking 3 days and have increased it to 7 because of reading your post and 7 is all I can do with a 7 day cruise at the end of the land part. I have a business to run and a dog that will not forgive me for being gone much more than that.

I believe we have considered most risk and if some show up then we will just have to adjust.
Thanks for all your help.
I will report back to let everybody know if we planned right or we got lost forever in Alaska.
EB


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