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Alaska Princess Cruise/Tour, McKinley, Denali, Juneau, Ketchikan

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Feb 14th, 2009, 12:59 PM
  #1
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Alaska Princess Cruise/Tour, McKinley, Denali, Juneau, Ketchikan

I will be doing the Alaska cruise tour in July and I am looking for some tips about things to do.

We will be staying at the McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge for 2 nights. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what is most interesting in this area, any excursions you might recommend?

We stay 1 night at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. We are scheduled for the Natural History Tour from 1pm-6pm. There are mixed reviews about this tour. Has anyone been on this tour and if so, was it worthwhile? Does anyone have any alternative suggestions? We enjoy moderate hiking, animal siteings, and beautiful scenery.

In Juneau we are interested in a glacier landing, and a dog sled tour. Does anyone know if the Alaska Tour Saver Book can be used in this area?

Any suggestions for Kechikan? Someone suggested renting a car and driving to Herring Cove to see bears. Another suggestion was a seaplane to Misty Fjords.

I have always planned my trips by following the advice of fellow Fodorites. I look forward to your suggestions. Thanks.
molc54 is offline  
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Feb 15th, 2009, 09:05 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
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If you can spare the $, try a trip to Anan Creek out of Ketchikan. This is a National Forest Service area that you need to fly to via float plane. You also need to get a reservation from the Forest Service well in advance as only 60 or so people are allowed per day. There is a viewing area above the creek where you can watch bears feed on the salmon run. Absolutely extraordinary, if you are into that sort of thing. Very expensive, though - figure about $500/person.
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Feb 15th, 2009, 04:44 PM
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We did not take a cruise but drove from Anchorage to Denali and stayed at the Princess. They have a number of tours that you can book through there. We took a tour to mile 53 inside Denali (on a school bus, which is the only motorized vehicle allowed in the Park beyond about mile 12.) That was a great trip, but if you have back issues or a sore butt, it can be brutal. Saw a lot of wildlife and had a great guide. We also toured Jeff King's Huskey Homestead in the area which was interesting. Try to get into the visitor center at Denali and see the huskey kennels there, we loved that.

We took a whale watchig tour in Juneau with a highly recommended independent operator, and we also did the helicopter trip and landed on a glacier where we were able to "mush" the huskies for a bit. I'd recommend the whale watching trip, much less expensive than the helicopter.

Tried to take a float plane Misty Fjords trip but it was cancelled due to fog. Lots of fog up there so you should have a fallback plan in case your initial plan changes.
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Feb 16th, 2009, 01:21 AM
  #4
 
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The problem with the McKinley Princess is that it is going to be a 50 mile shuttle to the nearest town, Talkeetna where all the activities are. So plan carefully and don't do this more than you have to. Best would be to have tours after your arrival, if by rail, and before leaving. Flightseeing is the top choice here, and necessary if you want to see McKinley. Even with 2 days at the lodge, your chances aren't good. There is nothing at the lodge for activities except a short trail.

Sorry, but the Natural History tour is a complete waste of time. Sounds like you already know this. With only one night at the Denali Princess, you may NOT have any other option depending on your mode of tranport and itinerary. Frankly I recommend you look at another cruisetour, which has the nights reversed with 2 at Denali park and 1 at McKinley, a way superior itinerary.

This year, Princess is being noted for NOT giving any refunds for the NHT like they always have in the past. They are allowing upgrades for $60 being reported, IF it can be scheduled for the Tundra Wilderness tour.

As specifics for you to consider. The Park Road into Denali park is 90 miles. The public road is 16 miles, and this is the distance of the Natural History tour. Biggest kick, is the park service does Savage River shuttle buses this distance, for FREE with ranger activites. ALL your significant scenery is well past this. Wildlife is scarce with many NHT seeing none. The TWT goes to mile 53, the shuttle bus to Toklat goes this same distance for $25. My min. distance in is Eielson mile 66, I would never consider any less for me. Wonder Lake is mile 85, this is the area of those scenic McKinley photos. Everything here is equal to distance. The farther you go, the more scenery and wildlife- bottom line.

I drive to Savage River several times during my visits, as an add on and something to do. Not as any highlight.

My take on the Natural History tour is going to Disneyland and never getting out of the parking lot. Plan and simple.

Determine why and how often you are going to get to Alaska. Denali Park is the only highlight of your cruisetour, and you are shortchanging yourself.

Glacier Dog sledding does not have any coupon offers. It is also the most canceled of Alaska tours, ALWAYS have back up plans and know specifics of what Juneau has to offer you, take phone numbers, if you have other tours of interest.

In July, I too, highly recommend Anan out of Ketchikan. Misty Fiords is also a favorite floatplane sighting seeing area of mine.
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Feb 21st, 2009, 07:39 PM
  #5
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
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If you like atv's ,We did the 6 hour ATV tour at the Princess McKinley lodge ,They came and picked us up at the lodge. We chose the 6 hours over the short trip because we love to ride.
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Apr 26th, 2009, 01:18 PM
  #6
WFT
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
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Uh oh. We are scheduled for the natural history tour. However, we are in Denali for two nights. My question is have any of you booked excursions with companies NOT through the cruise line? I've seen a discount book advertised w. 2-for-1 deals for fly overs, etc. Any advice on buying this guide? Should I book ASAP? 1st AK cruise. Thanks!
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Apr 29th, 2009, 11:10 AM
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WFT- CHANGE this worthless NHT, it is a big mistake. With 2 nights there can easily be done. CANCEL and get a refund of the NHT, then book yourself on a shuttle bus to Eielson- do your homework, on this information www.nps.gov/dena Look at a 9am shuttle bus, that way, you will have the lodge shuttles to the Access Center.

Most often, you are limited in Toursave usage. IF you are looking at Talkeetna flights- you are staying at the McKinley Princess??? They have limited times, that don't always work with cruisetours. Verify this before you book and purchase. Contact the vendor- NOW for availabity.
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