Alaska cruisetour/train: how long?

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Jan 28th, 2002, 09:36 AM
  #1
sonia
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Alaska cruisetour/train: how long?

We're considering a cruise for our first visit to Alaska, late August '02: we plan to do a land tour first, then cruise (Princess or HAL) southbound. We want to spend time at Denali, and use the Midnight Express train to/from park to either Fairbanks or Anchorage (yes, we love train travel). Many tours train up, overnight at the park, leave the next day. That doesn't sound like much time to see what you're actually going for. Any information out there on how long the train ride is, and how much time you're actually on site in the park?

Also, has anyone tried the new Princess facility at Copper River near Wrangell/St. Elias, or Kenai? Seems they are trying to introduce interesting land areas -- but again, how long to travel by coach from Denali or Anchorage? I know these are details, but they will help us choose between several appealing options. Any advice appreciated!
 
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Jan 28th, 2002, 08:30 PM
  #2
Windy
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Kenai is a 3 hour drive south of Anchorage, the Princess Lodge is probably about 2 - 21/2 hours south of Anchorage, it has a stunning view of the Kenai River and is in some of the prime fishing grounds. Hope this helps. * I live an hour South of here!*
Windy
 
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Jan 28th, 2002, 09:36 PM
  #3
Paul Therault
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Hi Sonia,

The only reason one would subject themselves to the long trip inland to Denali would be to see Mt. Mckinley (which most times is shrouded in fog). Denali is all hype. They say you will see wildlife (squirrels). You may see a moose. Fat chance to see a bear. If you fish it is ideal. If you plan to take a short boat trip you will see wildlife but not a great amount. Also, what quite a few passengers do not know is they have to pay for their own food at the hotel and the train which is more money than the meals at Spagos.

If you like trains, take the one in Skagway. It is unique.

Windy gives good advice. Go South on your own and stay a few days in Seward. The mountains are more spectacular. The Kenai area is the "real" Alaska. Take a small scenic boat through the Fiords and see more wildlife and claving glaciers you will ver wish to see. It will knock your socks off.

You must see a travel agent that is an Alaskan specialist. Be careful what you do on your trip of a lifetime.

Paul



 
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Jan 30th, 2002, 08:49 AM
  #4
sonia
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Thanks for the helpful information -- yes, I'll be working with a TA.

Anybody know how long the train ride is from Anchorage to Denali? Any information on the Copper River/Wrangell area?
 
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Jan 30th, 2002, 01:08 PM
  #5
John
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Geez, Paul, give the big guy a break. Okay, so Denali Park isn't Ngorongoro Crater, but you're sure to see more than rodents there. The bus drivers on the park road are very adept at spotting sheep, bear, or other beasties, and limiting traffic to official vehicles only keeps Denali from becoming Jellystone on an August afternoon.

Sonia, the train takes around 7 hours each way, more or less depending on how many folks from up the holler are getting on or off at the flag stops. You can drive it in 5 or so. The bus trip all the way into Wonder Lake and back takes all day, so an overnight, or an all-nighter on the road, are needed. (Not that you're driving in pitch darkness in the summer - it's pretty light all night, but dusky enough to make that moose in the road lead to a George of the Jungle moment if you're not careful...)

I think it's unfair to both areas to compare the interior and the Alaska Range with Prince William Sound. Remember, Mt. McKinley is the tallest land-based mountain in the world (measured from altitude at the base to the summit, unlike the Himalayas which start out pretty high to begin with.) Even if the big hill is hiding, or if the bears aren't begging treats out the bus windows, there are still other splendid peaks in the range to see, plus the vistas (tundra to mountains) in the interior of Alaska are quite unlike things you'll see around the salt water.

It's true Denali NP gets a lot of hype, especially from cruise lines and travel agents, but the fact remains that Alaska is so huge and diverse, and most tourists get to see so little of the state, that even a little bit of the vast interior is better than nothing. Would I go to Denali if my time was so constrained that I had to choose between it and some other destination, including Prince William Sound? Maybe not, or maybe yes, if I want to see another part - equally "real" - of this big place.
 
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Jan 30th, 2002, 11:28 PM
  #6
Paul Therault
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Hi John,

Great post. I agree. When one visits Alaska there is much to be discussed. If one really wishes to see the hightest peak in North America then Mt. Mckinley/Denali is the place to go but for guaranteed wildlife sightings one must go to an area where you are assured to see wildlife. In Kenai you will definitely see seals, otters whales, eagles, puffins camorants and quite an assortment of sea birds and a few types of whales especially in late August and September. You may see a mountain goat, moose or bear. If one wishes to see bear a bear camp would be the best.

Again, my opinion entirely.

Paul
 
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Feb 5th, 2002, 09:24 AM
  #7
tommy
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Personally I enjoyed the train ride from Anchorage to Denali. The scenery was spectacular along the enitre way, the train was comfortable, and the food in the dining car, although somewhat expensive was excellent (which I cant say for all of the other expensive meals I had in Alaska.) I found it much more enjoyable than the train ride in Skagway, which was too long, forces you to listen to a poorly trained teen age tour guide, and passes the same scenery on the return trip.

And while I was told this was unusual, I had unobstructed views of Mt Denali both on the train and on the bus tour of the park. Even without the view of Denali, the scenery on the bus tour was spectacular - completely different from what I saw in the lower part of Alaska. We saw alot of wildlife - several bears, ptarmigans, dall sheep, and caribou - one of which stood directly in front of our bus, precluding us from moving down the road.

Additionally, I enjoyed some white water rafting the next day on the Nenana river.

It seems my experience is the complete opposite of what as been offered in the other replies to this post. I am extremely grateful I added this part to my trip to Alaska - it added immensely to the experience.

Have you thought about booking this part of your trip not through the cruise line, but by yourself? It is the same train that Princess uses (Princess just uses separate cars), you can stay at cheaper hotels than Princess if you wanted, and you can spend all the time you want without having to worry about their schedule.

Good luck.
 
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Feb 12th, 2002, 09:52 AM
  #8
sonia
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Thanks to all for the helpful input. It's great to hear from someone who has been there/done that.

Any input on Wrangell/St Elias area?
 
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Feb 12th, 2002, 12:26 PM
  #9
Ann
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Go for it. Denali is beautiful and well worth the trip. The train ride is wonderful and takes 8 hours from Anchorage The scenery is spectacular. We took the bus into Kantishna Roadhouse and back. The trip took about 12 hours but we saw alot to wild life. Small bits of advice go from south to North if it is your first trip. The mountians and scenery get more dramatic and snowy every day till you reach Anchorage. We have traveled on our own and with the cruise line and found that it is cheaper and more convenient with the cruise line believe it or not.
Ann
 
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Feb 12th, 2002, 11:14 PM
  #10
Paul Therault
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Agreed. One should definitely choose the one way northbound or soundbound cruise and not the round trip "inside passage."

Paul
 
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