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Reasonable rate for Alaska cruisetour

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We (multigenerational group) are planning a late July cruise to Alaska. From all that I have read/learned on this forum, it seemed that it would be ideal to add a land portion to the cruise since for many of us this will likely be our only trip to this part of the world.

The best "deal" I have found is just under $3,000 per person for a balcony cabin on the Coral Princess. The four day land portion of the cruise will include Fairbanks (river tour/gold mine), Denali Park, natural history tour and a train ride.

I like this itinerary because it includes both Hubbard and Glacier Park. But, the cost ...

Does this sound right to you guys? I did look into ocean view rooms. However, apparently, with the deal they have now, the cost for balcony and ocean view would be the same.

Thoughts?

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    In a word, no.

    I can see balcony cabins on the Coral Princess sailing on 7/31 (Vancouver > Whittier) for $1700 + $160 taxes per person, so call it $1860 for the cruise. If it's $3K per person counting the land portion, then that's $1140 pp for four days, or almost $300 per day per person, higher than the daily rate on the cruise itself.

    Depending on the size and makeup of your group, you can almost certainly rent cars and pay for hotels on your own much cheaper than that, and make up your own itinerary to suit yourselves. Four days from Whittier that include both Fairbanks and Denali means you're sitting on buses or a train for hours - days - on end.

    With just four days I would never include Fairbanks; with all due respect to the locals, it's too far and not enough to do/see there to warrant that much time being allocated, especially when in the same four days you could stick around the Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound and see a lot more than you will from some bus or car windows. Or get a car in Whittier, drive the first day to Talkeetna, take a flightseeing trip of Denali the next day, then drive back to Anchorage and visit the Native Heritage Center or some such.

    Or, if you have more than four days, you can certainly head up to Denali and actually go into the park, or go down to Seward and take a Kenai Fjords tour... or both, if time allows.

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    Land extensions are expensive when added onto Alaska cruises, but this sounds about what I'd expect. You're paying a bit less for the 4-day land portion as you would pay for the 7-day cruise.

    I'm not sure you can do this much cheaper unless you make your own arrangements. I know that working out the logistics can be daunting, which is one reason why these add-ons cost so much. Did you price a Holland America cruise? They operate and own the scenic rail cars, so you might get a bit more with a HAL excursion than you would from Princess. But it might be a bit more expensive.

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    Gardyloo, yikes. When you put it like that, it puts things in perspective. Doug, Holland America was much more expensive.
    We're a group of nine so the logistics are a bit daunting. Any suggestions for small tour operators? Also, my thinking is that it is better to take a pre-cruise tour so that the last part of our trip can be restful. What are the reasons people might have for taking a post-cruise tour. Those do seem to be running cheaper.

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    Yes, if you have the option, I'd say that flying up to Alaska before the cruise, then using the cruise to decompress, would be preferable. Where are you coming from?

    With a group of nine, frankly I'd look at splitting yourselves into two groups, or even three, renting cars at Anchorage airport, and touring on your own for a bit. Use cell phones to communicate from car to car (or even cheap walkie-talkies). Of course you'd need several hotel rooms per night, and need to agree on an itinerary that makes sense, but it's certainly doable. Alaska's a big place, but there aren't that many roads, so getting lost isn't much of a risk. With cars you could have the flexibility to stay at smaller places, stop when you want rather than being at the whim of the tour operator, change thing around if the weather turns lousy, and all that. Frankly I think you'd see more.

    Yes, the logistics could get complicated, but maybe you could delegate things - cars, hotels, recommended stops, etc. Depends on your group I suppose.

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    I do like the idea of a re-cruise tor as well. But is hard to tour Alaska, and I don't know if I ave any more ideas than you've already received. There must be local tour operators who can accommodate a group like yours with a van. I'd re-post in the US forum and post about Alaska. But I too would want to see Denali, and its just really expensive to go there. Keep that in mind.

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    Car rental in Alaska is expensive and you need to book now if you want one. With a party of 9, that would be 2 vehicles minimum. One thing that people has not considerd is how expensive everything is. Food - very expensive compare to the lower 48. Here is an example: you pay double the price for Milk when compre to the lower 48. Restaurant meals are expensive, even fast food.

    For any kind of cruise tour arranged through the cruise line, per day cost is much more than the "sea portion".

    Let's use Florida (an inexpensive destination) as comparison of ship vs land. 1 week Caribbean cruise cost $900 pp with balcony, including meals and entertainment. We spent a week in Florida pre-cruise with a hotel at Hollywood beach. Food (not as grand as the ship), accomodation and zero entertainment for the week cost $1200+ pp.

    Considering the distance travelled and what they provided, the rates is reasonable. You can save maybe $100 per person, or maybe more, but with the logistics, and a group of 9, you are better off pay the moeny and get it done and over with.

    Here is a suggestion to save money: not everyone needs a balcony cabin. Have a couple of balcony cabins and the rest in inside cabins across the hall or nearby. Or, book a suite and put 3 or 4 people in it and the rest in inside cabins. Everyone can gather and use the one balcony at the suite. Look at the various potential combinations and see what makes the most sense.

    The Coral Princess is a nice ship. You will like it.

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    Best place to go for cruise deals is:

    http://www.CruiseCompete.com

    Here you select the cruise you want and agents compete to offer you the best deal. Because the agencies tend to focus on sailings where they have an advantage (eg., group space) you cdan save pretty significantly.

    Good luck!

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    Thanks for the insight and information!

    After speaking to others in the party, it seems we might just forgo the land portion. :(

    I'm exploring round trips now. If I don't do Hubbard and only Glacier Bay, does that offer enough glacier viewing? Also, for all the itineraries that don't include these, are there no glaciers seen?

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    You don't want to skip Glacier Bay National Park. That would be the "must" if you have never crusie Alaska. There are plenty of opportunity for Glacier viewing, some close (College Fjord) and some from afar. Round trip from Vancouver rather than Seattle or SF.

    For balcony cabins, pick port side as you will have day light hours on the way back, vieiwng Glacier and Mounatin ranges afar from your cabin. You can always go to an open deck if you don't have a balcony.

    I thought some Princess ships goes to both Hubbard and Glacier Bay on inside passage cruise. Some may go to Tracy Arm but that is a crap shoot sometime.

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    I have used Cruise Compete several times getting the best deals and perks thru them. We just went on a transatlantic cruise that I booked thru the Cruise Compete agency that I selected. The perks on this particular cruise were unbelievable. I was pleased w/ the agency also, my emails promptly answered, etc.

    We did Alaska 3 years ago and the best deal was thru HAL. You just need to shop around and compare the itinerary. We only had a 2 day pre-cruise land tour and I would not recommend that to anyone. We simply didn't have enough time and felt rushed to get to the next destination. We did enjoy taking the train to Denali as it was a fun trip doing this, we got to see lots of the Alaskan landscape.

    I booked our flights separately and got decent prices doing it this way. When I was comparing cruise lines I did find that Princess was more expensive and that is why we booked HAL. I liked the ship size (1200 passengers) and we were able to get in close to glaciers, etc. However, I think that you can find some deals on Princess if you shop around. I agree that $3,000 is expensive and think you can do better.

    Personally, we didn't have time to see Fairbanks, we boarded the train to Denali here but others have said you are not missing anything there. Opinions will vary on this.

    Denali - our very favorite part of the trip. We stayed 2 nights at lodging that was near the Princess hotels, we loved it. We had cute little cabins w/ separate bedroom and living area. We could walk or take the shuttle to the main lodge where we had dinner one night.

    The only thing that I was very adamant about was not doing the Natural History tour that is included in the package. I did a lot of reading and everyone said that you won't see much if you do this tour. It only goes about 15 miles into Denali then turns around. This was correct, when we reached that point on our tour I was so glad we didn't do the Natural History tour. Here is a description of the tour that I found on www.Alaska.org:

    "The Denali Natural History Tour may not travel as far as some other tours do into Denali National Park—but in some ways, it goes deeper, giving you a vivid look at the history and culture of this pristine wilderness. If you don’t need a full-day tour, but want an enriching experience, this is a great choice.

    The 4- to 5-hour tour, led by a driver/naturalist, takes you to Mile 19 of the Park Road (private cars can’t go past Mile 14). It begins at the Wilderness Access Center, where you’ll see the award-winning film “Across Time and Tundra,” which tells of the creation of Mt. McKinley National Park in 1924. Next, you’ll climb Government Hill—look off to your left and you'll see an expansive view that includes part of the Yanert Valley.

    After Mile 3, you begin to enter the wilderness. This is taiga forest—and although no wildlife viewings are ever guaranteed— this is prime moose habitat, and moose may be seen anywhere on this stretch of road. Watch for a flash of sun glinting off antlers, or moose nibbling fresh willow leaves along the road.

    You might also see foxes on this section of road, trotting along with a jaw filled with dead ground squirrel. Watch for caribou above treeline. The Great one—Mt. McKinley—often comes into view at about Mile 9, if weather is cooperating.

    At Mile 12, you’ll visit Savage Cabin, the original cook’s cabin in the Park’s first tourist camp, and still a ranger patrol cabin used by the Park Service. At Mile 17, you’ll see a presentation by an Athabascan Alaskan Native interpreter, sharing the story of Alaskan Natives in Denali, and how they survived thousands of years in this harsh wilderness."

    We went the first of July and we did not see any wildlife on the above portion of the Natural History Tour. The bus goes very slowly on the tour and the driver looks for wildlife w/ his long-range camera and will slow down or stop the bus if he sees anything. However, others may tell you that they did see wildlife.

    I upgraded to the Tundra Wilderness Tour and was so glad that I did. I did not have success in changing this tour thru HAL they told me that I couldn't change it. I contacted the hotel we were staying at and they said that I absolutely could make the change and pay the difference for the longer tour. I was able to do this at the guest relations desk at the hotel. We were sooo glad we booked this tour, what a fantastic day we had. It is a very long day but very fulfilling in how much wildlife we saw.

    I guess it would be a matter of what your party would like to do but I would highly recommend the tour. You will experience the true Denali and appreciate it's beauty so much more.

    Misha, you will positively regret not doing the land tour and especially seeing Denali. I went round and round about not doing the land tour but decided that if we were in Alaska we should see Denali as we might not get back there again. We had a party of 6 and all of us agreed that our favorite part of our cruise was doing the Denali Tundra Wilderness tour. It is so amazing to see the changing landscape as your bus progresses into the park.

    Good luck. If I see anything better for prices I will post here.

    Also remember that Alaska has long daylight hours so you can see so much more on your land tour. We were heading back to our hotel after the tour, it was 10 pm and it was still daylight!

    Mary

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    Thank you all so much! Your advice and words of encouragement convinced me. There seemed to be a sale so we moved our dates and were able to add a do it yourself four day land tour to the cruise and still come in under $1800 per person for the balcony! I would not have pursued this further if it were not for the wonderful detailed advice I got from all of you.

    Eschew, the cruise will cover Hubbard and Glacier Bay. Luv2 Travel, we will certainly explore the Tundra tour option. Gardyloo , triathlete and Doug thanks for all the tips and putting things in perspective.

    The only downside is that we only got starboard bacony rooms. How bad is this going Southbound? Off to explore flights!

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    Misha2, starboard on a southbound is still good. At Hubbard and Glacier Bay, they will turn the ship around in front of the Glacier so both sided would get equal time. While you are not facing the Glacier, go to the open deck. And when they turn the ship around, go to the comfort of your balcony cabin and view it from there. Trust me, it is a whole lot warmer and more comfortable viewing the Glacier from your own balcony.

    Clothing: dress warm and in layers; gloves, scrafs etc are necessary, especially on the open decks and while the ship is moving towards the glacier. Bring binocular or field glasses.

    While the ship is on it's way south, it will sail pass the mounatin ranges and glaciers on the continent side which you can only see from the port side (left side). With a cabin on starboard side, you won't be able to see it in the comfort of your balcony and you will have to go to an open deck, which is not a big deal. On our last cruise, it was right after dinner and the view made more spectacular by the lowering sun. Just go to the promenade deck on the port side. They may or maynot make an annoucment when they steam pass the ranges but it took a long time to pass the whole thing so you will have plenty of viewing time.

    You should ask the crew about the timing of all the scenic view pionts that the ship will pass through so you won't miss anything. Below are links to a couple pictures of the view (mountain ranges on the continent side) you can expect on the port side southbound.
    http://www3.telus.net/eschew/places/images/_MG_4362.html
    http://www3.telus.net/eschew/places/images/_MG_4349.html

    I have posted quite a few pictures over the years on "webshot" but the company was sold and you can no longer view those pictures. I will have to re-up them somewhere else more public. I can post a link if you wish when I am done (probably in a few months). In the mean time, here is a link to a page where I posted a few pictures from the last Alaskan crusie (2010) for my friends and have totally forgotten to remove. There are no descriptives and many shots were from Sitka, not a "regular" port of call for the mass market ships. There were not too many shots from the other stops or excursions on this albumn as pictures from prior cruises were posted on "webshot". Hopefully, the pictures here will wet your appetite.
    http://www3.telus.net/eschew/places/index.html

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    Wow! Wow! Wow! These are so wonderful, Eschew. Thanks for the tips and the reassurance. WIll still keep looking into possible port side cancellations. I feel so lucky that we are getting to do this. Please do post a link when you have them all up.

    Since you have all been so helpful. Are there any tips you have on budget excursions in Denali or the ports and which excursions are really worth the big bucks.

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    Assuming that you are booked on Princess, I'll guess that your stops would be Skgway, Juneau and Ketchikan (and in that order since you are south bound)

    First off: Excursions are expensive in Alaska, doesn't matter if you book through the ship or not. It is marginally cheaper booked outside of the ship but the tour typically last a bit longer, smaller group etc. If you have a group, it is definietly cheaper to book outside the ship with a tour operator directly (not through a cruisetour company as they are the middle man just like the ship. They just take a smaller cut as they have less overhead).

    Skagway is a sleepy little town and a majority of the passeneger will take a train ride on the Whitepass Yukon railway, going through the Chilkoot trail and re-live the Klondike gold rush era. The train ride is not cheap, $99 minimum booking on your own direct from the railway and more if you book through Princess (since they will add on transfer to the train station, maybe a stop here and there)

    You can take the train up (to the summit) and bus down or ride a bike down through the ship's excursion. You can do a town tour, a salmon bake, gold panning and plenty of outdoor adventures. The hiking is excellent. You can rent a car and drive up to the summit and down (not through the ship though) Avoid the dog sled (pesonal opinion) as (a) not worth the money, (b) cruel to the animals (have you seen the dog team trying to pull some overweighted tourist instead of the lean drivers who maybe half their size?)

    There are 2 recommendations here: if you want to spend money, take the train. You can google image and see what the sceneries are. Too bad my webshot is "shot" (no pun intended), otherwise, you can just see my posted pics. If you want to save money, do a town tour (on your own and walk around town) and a quick hike on a nearby trail. Amazing trails and scenaries.

    Good places to stop or view include Pitchfork Falls (Goat Lake Falls) is noteworthly, with 2100 feet drop in less than a mile. You can see the whole thing from the Klondike Highway; and Jewell Garden, a very worthwhile stop in Skgaway. Lunch is relaxing there. You'll be amazed at the size of the cababge and rubarb etc, among other things.

    Juneau is easy, Mendenhall Galcier and the Mt. Roberts tram would be the choices if you have not been there. You can do both if you time it right. Bus ride to Mendenhall is much cheaper than the excursion from the ship and you can spend as much or as little time there. There is a nice system of foot trail there and if you take the ship's excursion, you will only have a couple hours. There is an interpret center there and 2 hours is just not enough to admire everything there (The Glacier and the surroundings, not the center). Mount Roberts is the highest point and it over look the city. View is spectacular. On the album link posted earlier, there are pictures of Mednenhall Glacier (and lake) and view from Mt. Roberts. The city itself is only so so, but stop by the Red Dog Salon for a beer. I don't want to giveaway what you will see there. It is unique in Juenau.

    Ketchikan is probably the most underrated stop and easily with the most things to do. It is also the cheapest souvenir stop. Resist the urge to buy souvenirs at the other 2 stops. Ketchikan is the shopping stop (and I am not talking about Diamonds) for your generic Alaskan cruise souvenir such as T-shirts, jackets, salmon, and local artisan work etc. Read the labels, make sure the artisan work are indeed local and not mass produced elsewhere.

    Excursion is very interetsing here too. You can spend $500 or more per person or spend $0, and we have done both. Flightseeing is the big thing in Ketchikan and it cost upwards of $400 per person for a short flightseeing tour between 2 to 3 hours in total (flight time is probably 30 -45 minutes). Flights are subject to weather and permits. Misty Fjord is #1 and Bear Island is probably #2 for flightseeing.

    Wildlife tourism is big. Whale watching, bald Eagles, you name it, they have it. Cost about $150 to $200 per person.

    If you want to spend zero dollars, take a self guided walking tour of the town, which is only minutes away (walking) from the cruise terminal. Check out Creek Street and all the "historic" landmarks and visit various artisan shops there. Take the "elevator" to Cape Fox Lodge. You have to make a small donation ($2). I believe you don't have to pay but they will give you the "look" and make you feel quilty.

    The Cape Fox Lodge offers great scenic view point as well as Totem poles and hiking trails. The hotel lobby (and the second floor) are open to the public and the displays are very educational. It is also free. There is a restaurnt there if you want refreshemnt. Plenty of seating area for tired bodies and sore feet. The link to the album included pictures of Creek Street and the Totems outside the hotel. Of course, they pale in comparison to the poles at Totem Bight State Park, which also worth a visit.

    We have tried to visit Alaska every other year and because of our "other" commitment (work), we were there last in 2010 so we are due back this year, probably mid-August. Once you have been there once, you will want to go back for more.

    Other than warm clothing, bring rain gear. Buy the ponchos at your local dollar stores. You will see cloud/rain/drizzle/mist/fog at least 2/3 of the time in the summer months. Just look at how people dress in the pictures. We have yet to have a trip that is rian free. I ruined a camera with a downpour last trip without proper protection. Note: shower caps works great to keep your camera from getting wet but you will look really funny with a shower cap covering your hand.:)

    Good luck on yout trip planning and if you have any questions, just ask!

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    Eschew,

    Thank you so much for the detailed information. It gives me a great starting point to explore. Also, knowing what is our there, helps me feel better about missing Fairbanks. Just wasn't possible to tour there without spending an extra night.

    Are there particular independent tour operators that you suggest? Also, any recommendations for Denali excursions? I've been reading about the Tundra Wilderness Tour that Luv 2 Travel suggested and it sounds great. Hmm, guess I should create new posts for these questions too. :)

    Thanks,

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    Hi misha2, wow, have you ever received some wonderful advice here! Glad that you decided to pursue the cruise and find better options and prices. Way to go! That's what I love about any of these forums, you will get so much great advice from others.

    As far as the Tundra Wilderness Tour is concerned (and I feel very strongly about doing this tour vs the Natural History Tour), we did have the price of the tour included in our HAL package we got, land and cruise tours. However, when everyone told me to upgrade to the TWT (Tundra Wilderness Tour) I just went to the hotel concierge desk and asked about doing an upgrade and they said it was possible, we just had to pay the extra cost for the other tour.

    However, you can book the TWT on your own. I will look up the website info for you. You may be able to book it at the hotel also. You would probably be staying at a Princess Lodge which was right next door to where we were staying w/ HAL.

    I will look up some info for you on the tour prices, etc. and get back to you. I am on the way out the door right now.

    May

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    Tour operators in Alaska are regulated. I have not come across a real bad one yet. Everyone is good in tehre own way as that's their livilood. I seldom recommend only one operatir. I don't want to be accused of promoting someone to get freebies or goodies.


    Go to each town's "officail" tourism board's web pages and look at their "recommended" list. That means they have apid advertising and were also scrutinised.

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    Hi again misha2,

    Eschew gives some good advice about what to do in the ports. You can easily do your own thing in most of the Alaskan ports. We did not book any tours except for a floatplane excursion in Ketchikan. That was the one thing that our group decided to do. It is not cheap (think we paid $200 pp) so you may opt not to do something like this. However, I will say that it was one of the most amazing experiences we have had on a cruise. The scenery from the air is spectacular, we landed on a lake and spied a bear coming out of the woods. If you are trying to keep your costs down then this may not be a viable option for you.

    Ketchikan has many things to do on your own. There is a huge store (Tongas Trading Company) right near where our ship was docked where you can pretty much find anything you want as far as souvenirs, decent prices also. They even supply large plastic souvenir shopping bags for you to do your shopping.

    Here is a nice site I just found that will help you w/ Ketchikan:

    http://www.cruiseportinsider.com/ketchikanonyourown.html#.USd7eDuM2jY

    This is a wonderful website full of info on what to see and do, tours you can take, name of tour companies, etc. Check it out and think you can pretty much find everything you need to know or ask there. I wish I had discovered it when we were planning our cruise.

    Ketchikan is easy to navigate, everything is pretty much located near the port and easily walkable. We walked from the ship to Creek Street. Many nice restaurants located in Ketchikan also. We loved our day in Ketchikan. When you go to Creek Street, be sure and say hi to "Dolly". She will probably be standing outside her store. Won't say anymore!

    Be sure that you take a picture right outside the Visitor Information Centre on the dock at the Cruise ship terminal. The rain gauge is located on the end wall, measuring the amount of rain Ketchikan receives in feet, NOT inches! Ketchikan is the wettest spot in North America with an average rainfall of around 160 inches. I think you are pretty lucky to have a fine day here! This is also a meeting point for any tours.

    http://www.alaskatours.com/day_tours.htm

    The above website has information on what you can see and do in Denali, tours, etc. Check it out. You can book tours thru the website company but I just thought you might find it helpful to see what you can do in Denali. Also gives the comparison of both the Natural History Tour and the Tundra Wilderness Tour. You do not have to book these tours thru Princess but can do it on your own and save some money.

    We also did the Jeff King's Husky Homestead Sled Dog Tour from Denali and that information is on the above website also. It is reasonably priced and about a 3.5 hr. tour. They will pick you up at a designated spot in a van and drive you to the site. We found it to be informative as they show you how they train the dogs for the Iditerod races, we got to hold one of the baby puppies, and they had a demo w/ the dogs showing how they train. Of course, they have a store to buy your souvenirs. LOL It is a nice tour if you have any children going with you.

    I have given you enough information for now. I will post some other info on Juneau (we loved our day in port). We did not go to Skagway and Eschew gave you info on that.

    Good luck w/ your research. We have tried to give you advice based upon our experiences. Alaska is one of my favorite cruise vacations. I would return in a heartbeat!

    Another reason we did not book tours other than the floatplane was because of the weather in Alaska. We decided that we would just do our thing and see how the weather was when we arrived in each port. We went the first week in July and had spectacular warm weather. If it rains you can have a backup plan/activity to do. However, it is what it is when traveling and we have done many excursions in the rain. I would suggest you bring umbrellas and some layers, windbreakers, etc.

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    So thrilled to explore these other options. Thanks for all the info!

    Luv2travel, I think we are going to do the Husky Homestead on the first night in Denali! Then, some of us will probably do the TWT and others one of the whitewater rafting. I guess I'll explore one port at a time and try to mix in a few "splurges" with some modestly-priced/free days. Going to dive into those websites. :) Excited about the surprises you have both alluded to.

    Thanks for the reassurance about the operators Eschew and all the other info.

    I have already learned so much and feel a bit selfish asking. However, I have been hearing mixed things about Denali eateries. What have your experiences been? We have a few vegetarians in our group.

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    Vegetarians is not an issue. Price is. Restaurants are expensive there. It is the nature of the beast as food prices itself is expensive. Wages are expensive too and so it goes. Nothing is cheap in Alaska, except end of the seson sale. $20 for a jacket and DW picked up 5 of them, LOL.

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    Agree w/ Eschew on eating, very expensive at Denali. There were a couple of restaurants at the HAL Lodge we did eat at because you are not going to drive around the area looking for cheaper places. LOL They did have pizza on one of the menus. There were a couple of take out places you could go to.

    From the Princess website: "Dining is always a treat at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. Enjoy spirits, appetizers and casual fare on the river view deck or inside at the Base Camp Bistro. Try King Salmon Restaurant for delicious, Alaskan cuisine and panoramic views. Or, hang with the locals at Lynx Creek Pizza and Pub and indulge in a huge pizza and pint of our very own Denali Red microbrew.

    For those who are on the go, we have Rapids Morning Express and River Run Espresso offering espresso and coffee, cinnamon rolls and a variety of grab and go items."

    There were some stores, shops, etc. right across the street from the lodge where you could probably purchase take out food items and eat in your room to save some money. I saw the stores but we didn't visit them.

    On the Princess website I see the list of activities offered and you can book the Tundra Wilderness Tour right there. I might suggest that as soon as you get your dates, flights, etc. firmed up you book that excursion as it is very popular and if you want to get a morning tour those times go quickly. We ended up going in the afternoon but then you get back to your hotel very late in the evening (remember it will still be daylight in Alaska until midnight (?) in July. It was the most bizarre feeling to be walking around and still having daylight, you think it is the afternoon.

    One other suggestion for you that we didn't think about. When you book the Tundra Wilderness Tour you will also get a "box lunch" because you are going to be driving into Denali for 8 hr. The lunch is included in your tour price. However, I would really suggest that you bring your own lunch w/ you as what is provided in the "box" was not very interesting and IMO quite awful. If you do not bring your own food then you are forced to eat this lunch.

    You can buy your own take out sandwich, bring some water, snacks, etc. on the bus with you. I always take one of those soft-sided lunch bags you can purchase in a dollar store when we travel. Comes in handy for bringing food w/ you. You could put some ice in a zippie bag to keep the food cold. The bus driver had large plastic bags on the bus and collected everyone's trash before we got off the bus. They are very strict about disposing of trash anywhere in Denali because of the wildlife.

    Husky Homestead Tour should be a nice one too. We only had 2 days to do things in Denali so opted for the 3 hr. Jeff King tour.

    Mary

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    Eschew's recommendations for Juneau: Juneau is easy, Mendenhall Galcier and the Mt. Roberts tram would be the choices if you have not been there. You can do both if you time it right. Bus ride to Mendenhall is much cheaper than the excursion from the ship and you can spend as much or as little time there. There is a nice system of foot trail there and if you take the ship's excursion, you will only have a couple hours. There is an interpret center there and 2 hours is just not enough to admire everything there (The Glacier and the surroundings, not the center). Mount Roberts is the highest point and it over look the city. View is spectacular. On the album link posted earlier, there are pictures of Mednenhall Glacier (and lake) and view from Mt. Roberts. The city itself is only so so, but stop by the Red Dog Salon for a beer. I don't want to giveaway what you will see there. It is unique in Juenau.

    Totally agree w/ his comments! Just get off the ship and you will see booths where you can purchase the tickets to Mt. Roberts. You should allow about an hour to 1.5 hr. there, depending upon the weather.

    I would suggest taking the "Blue Bus" out to Mendenhall, 14 mi. ride.

    Mendenhall Glacier Transport (tel. 907/789-5460;

    www.mightygreattrips.com

    You can ride its "Blue Glacier Express" bus for $16. Generally, it runs every half-hour both directions, from the waterfront visitor center to the glacier and back, daily 9am to 6pm in summer.

    We did not have enough time to explore Mendenhall because we had booked the combo tour at the cruise pier. You will save money by riding the blue bus. We loved Mendenhall and wished we had more time to explore there.

    There are tons of shops right across from the cruise pier if you want to do some souvenir shopping. Restaurants galore, we stopped at Red Dog Saloon for the "experience". A great place but so crowded and so hot inside in July, we didn't stay there. If other ships are docked then you probably won't get near it. Do try tho, it's fun to see.

    That's about it. Good luck planning. Let us know if you need any other suggestions.

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    we did the northbound cruise on Coral Princess, and a week on land. If you are interested in more pictures, and ideas, here is my blog : http://north2alaska-chinacat.blogspot.com/ (like most blogs, it runs backwards in time, so click on the earlier links for the cruise...the one labelled "Departure Day" is the first day of the cruise)

    We had a port-side balcony on the northbound cruise, and thought it was perfectly fine. there are times when there is scenery on both sides.

    I think if whale watching is an interest, you should do that form Juneau. I don't think whale watches out of Ketchikan see as many whales (though admittedly, I could be wrong about that).

    Our biggest excursion splurge was the helicopter glacier landing in Juneau. That was really cool, and highly recommended.

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    I’ve scanned the posts above, so please excuse me if someone has mentioned this before.

    Skagway, Alaska covers the Klondike Gold Rush in a National Historical Park tour through town. http://www.nps.gov/klgo/index.htm If you have kids in your group, they can become “Junior Rangers” which can be fun as well as educational for the whole family and I believe the tour is free.

    I suppose another option for touring before/after your cruise is to rent a large RV and rent some additional camping equipment. You can all tour in the RV to your locations, stock up with food before you leave to cut costs, not have to worry about hotels, and since it’s only a few days, take turns sleeping outdoors in the tent. (The younger generation might enjoy that portion.)

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    My sister and her hubby will be northbound last week in July. I am considering joining them instead of going off on our own in mid August.

    Have a nice trip and post a trip report when you are back!

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    Misha, Princess is running spring sale now. We just adjusted prices for our cabins. If you booked directly with Princess you can do it yourself, otherwise agent has to do it for you.

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