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MsMIssislippi Jan 25th, 2006 10:04 AM

My husband and I will be celebrating his 50th birthday on the Princess Island (southbound) in late August. We want one excursion each in Ketchikan, Skagway & Juneau. He would love to get some fishing in. Further information: we will be staying at the Princess lodge in Denali before the cruise. Any recommendations?? White Pass looked good. Also, which side of ship do we want to request. We have balcony & are cruising southbound. Thanks.

LPOWMACBACK Jan 26th, 2006 03:22 AM

Hi MsMiss... congratulations on your husband's 50th! My husband was 50 last year :-)

We are going on the Coral NORTHBOUND and are on starboard side... so the PORT side is THE SIDE to be on for SOUTHBOUND!

Not sure about any fishing related excursions, but after much research for my family, we've opted to go on Captain Larry (Orca Enterprises Co.) for a Whale Watching tour while in Juneau. In Ketchikan, we are using Island Wings for either the Anan Bear Watching trip -if Michelle, the owner can obtain permits (it is very limited) - if not that, we'll do her Misty Fjords Flightseeing tour - which is known to be nothing short of spectacular! In Skagway, I've read that renting a car and driving up to Emerald Lake and back is also nothing short of spectacular. Many people opt to take the White Pass RR, but that does not go very far - and I've read that the drive is so much MORE exciting and interesting - not to mention you can stop along the way for photo opportunities and a closer look at nature, etc.... (we're a family of adventuring nature lovers).

As for the other stops - Denali, etc... I can not say, for we won't be going inland (don't want to kennel our dog for too long)... but I had done some research at one time thinking we would be going... and remember that you should bypass the "Natural History Tour" and go in much further - on another tour or on your own if you want to see wildlife. (I've found it's usually best to skip the "typical" tourist excursion - which is often on the hokey uninteresting side (to me).

BudgetQueen Jan 26th, 2006 06:34 AM

For fishing- look at Ketchikan, the top area. My family has gone with Northern Lights the most.

Although the above hasn't been there, it looks like some good accurate information like my posts. :)

Definately look at your cruisetour package and make certain you do not have the Natural History tour. A complete waste of time and essentially like seeing Disneyland from the parking lot only. :(

I do disagree however on the White Pass RR, I have done both that and driven the Klondike Highway many times and the White pass RR is superior for scenery, history and engineering. If you have the interest. It is three hours, a good amount of time going over 20 miles. Narration is excellent.

But look over a shore excursion list and narrow down your interests, there are way too many wonderful tours to recommend. There are also way more than the most common- flights, whale watch , Klondike drive/ train. So do your homework and repost for more specific informaion.

BudgetQueen Jan 26th, 2006 06:38 AM

From reading again, not sure if you are in the Princess lodge independent?? If so, then you will want the park Shuttle buses.

As for side of ship, port is always the preferred side for any sailing that goes to Glacier Bay and College Fjords, IF you want to remain in your cabin. All the commentary and extended stops are on the way in and only on this side. If you are on a starboard side, be sure to plan on being out on deck a good portion of the sail in if the viewing is a priority.

For early birds- which I am always one of the very few, get out on deck at dawn, for some prime humpback sightings Glacier Bay day.

MsMIssislippi Jan 27th, 2006 05:19 AM

Thanks for great information in responses. Our Denali is part of the Princess CruiseTour package. We spend 1 night @Princess WIlderness Lodge (McKinley) and 2 nights Denali Princess lodge. The Tundra Wilderness tour in Denali is included. Options at McKinley include Three Rivers Tour and air tour. At Denali, golf is an option. ANy thoughts on these? Thanks for info on Ketchikan and Skagway - will follow up.

BudgetQueen Jan 28th, 2006 12:33 PM

Your best touring option from Mckinley lodge is flightseeing, you are not likely to see McKinley otherwise. But you will need to be shuttled each way 50 miles to Talkeetna for this, so I would suggest you spend the day there and stroll the town, they have a nice museum thats worthwhile. Rather than several shuttles back and forth.

MsMIssislippi Jan 30th, 2006 06:03 AM

I want to make sure I'm understanding - I don't have all Princess info yet, but the abbreviated version says we'll travel by rail from Anchorage to Talkeetna and then by coach to McKinley Princess Lodge where we'll have the afternoon "at leisure". I THINK you're saying stay in Talkeetna and do the flightseeing, etc. then arrange transportation to Mckinley Princess. Is this correct? Do you have a flightseeing company that you recommend? and tips for transporation? Thanks for your great advice. Hope I'm not being too greedy.

MsMIssislippi Jan 30th, 2006 06:11 AM

As a P.S. I noticed that the lists Talkeetna Air Taxi 75 minute flight see (all times) and 90 minute w/glacier landing at 7PM. Would love the glacier landing, but don't know what we'd do in Talkeetna from noon to 7pm. Any thoughts?

cd Jan 30th, 2006 07:43 AM

RE: "As for side of ship, port is always the preferred side for any sailing that goes to Glacier Bay and College Fjords"

As you know, we are cruising HAL out of Vancouver. As I looked at the map, I choose starboard because it looked like that would be the side nearest the best views....Did I choose wrong?

BudgetQueen Jan 30th, 2006 09:08 AM

I most always fly with Talkeetna Aero, be certain of the Princess shuttle schedules before you consider Talkeetna Air Taxi's glacier landing?

Princess shuttles are you ONLY option for back and forth to the lodge.
I believe there is a cost for the shuttles outside of the included transfers, again verify this??

There are big differences in flightseeing options of McKinley, my clear preference are the summit flights, but I have done a lot of Alaska flying and plenty of glacier landings. Determine what your priority is? There is a nice museum in Talkeetna worth seeing, meals will take time. It definately won't be worth a 100 miles back and forth to go directly to the lodge.

As for side of ship. My reference is only for those who want to stay in their cabin during glacier sailing day of Glacier Bay and/or College fjords. You will want port side only.

With Alaska sailings, there are some views on both sides. You need to accept that you won't see it all. :)

MsMIssislippi Jan 30th, 2006 09:49 AM

Budget Queen:
Lots of good info to think about. Thanks. Now - off to VEGAS!!!

Conanthelibrarian Feb 3rd, 2006 02:16 PM

Skagway: The White Pass Rail excursion is quite spectacular. Opt for a noon train if you can. Fog plagues the morning trains. Choose a car in the middle of the train and sit on the left side facing the engine. At the summit, they'll ask you to swap seats with passengers across the aisle. Select seats accordingly. No passage between cars. I spent most of the trip on the car platform taking photos. In Denali we went on the 7:30 am Fish Creek excursion that lasts 8 hours. Be there early to get the best seats, on the driver side is best. Some phenomenal scenery and wildlife. A moose ran past our bus chased quickly by a grizzly. We booked our bus seats in February for mid June and got the next to last pair of seats. If your cruise line doesn't offer the Fish Creek excursion opt for the Tundra Wilderness Tour. It's shorter but more substantial. I can't advise re transportation from Princess denali and the departure centre in the park.

BudgetQueen Feb 3rd, 2006 11:22 PM

There is some misinformation above. It makes NO difference on when you book the White Pass RR. You can encounter mist/fog anytime. I have driven the Klondike Highway many many times and can attest it is not limited to the am.

In Denali Park- there is NO need to book shuttle bus seats way ahead if your plans are not firm. They hold back 35% of the seats and release them 2 days prior. All you have to do, is take the 800 number with you and call at 7am 2 days before and you can get on any shuttle bus you desire. I never recommend the TOUR buses to independent passengers. They are triple the cost and go a shorter distance. I do not consider them more "substantial" since that is only referring to "talking".

Clearly in Denali Park "more substantial" should be in terms of wildlife and scenery opportunities, of which the clear winner here is getting farther into the park.

The cruiselines are NEVER going to offer the shuttle bus options, so don't waste your time inquiring. Their contracts are for the tour buses only. Do your own homework for clairficaiton-

Conanthelibrarian Feb 7th, 2006 06:18 PM

Thanks for clarifying for me budgetqueen. I'm feeling defensive. Yes, fog/mist can sock in Skagway and it can occur anytime of day. In my experience last year, I was able to exchange my morning tickets for noon prior to departure of the morning train. Luckily for us the fog had burned off by noon and we had a clear day. That won't always be the case.
As for Denali, I can only express my experience. Distinguish between shuttle buses which are the school buses which carry travelers to varying distances into the park, and are the only conveyance allowed into the park, and tour buses which are operated by cruise lines, their affiliates and other commercial bus companies. I was told by the nps. agent on the phone when I booked my Fish Creek shuttle tickets that I had gotten the next to last pair. It is correct that they withhold seats for release just prior to the tour. The lineups for these is formidable. MsMississippi is on a bustour extension of a cruise. They won't get to Denali's interior access center 2 days prior. Holding advance tickets will assure them getting deeper into the park which, as you say, is the best course for substantial views. It depends on what they have time for. Tour buses do not and cannot go there. Personal homework, such as contacting nps Denali will provide the information needed and appropriate to individual circumstance.
Fabulous view of Mt Mckinley from the southern lookout alongside the highway in the state park. My parting shot.

BudgetQueen Feb 7th, 2006 11:12 PM

OK for further clairfication. There is a mix up with the "tour" bus, description, I am NOT referring to the cruiseline tour buses. Denali Park has their OWN tour buses that travel the Park Road AND the Shuttle buses. ALL are run by Aramark. Both of these buses are school bus type heavy duty suspension. Different colors, shuttles are green, tour- tan.

And again- you do not have to BE at Denali Park to get the late released shuttle tickets, you call them- 2 days before. The office is open at 7am, they give you a confirmation number, and you pick them up when you get there, or the driver will have them if you have a late night prior arrival.

jcasale Feb 8th, 2006 07:18 AM

Wanted to put my own two cents in on a couple of items here for you MsMlssislippi. Regarding the side of the ship - we had wanted to get the port side on our south bound cruise but couldn't. As it turned out, it really didn't matter. Most of the time that we were in College Fjord and Glacier Bay we were up on deck running back and forth. And the ship pivots (amazing how small the turns can be!) so that both sides get ample viewing. And we ended up being on the correct side of the ship to see a tiny little (8 floor down!)otter floating along with a baby on her chest.

Regarding the White Pass - we ended up doing the White Pass/Yukon Adventure. We took a tour bus up and got to catch glimpses of the train across the gorge. Then we went further up into the Yukon and had lunch at a very fun place that had both live and stuffed animals. Saw a gorgeous lake (Emerald Lake) with the sun glinting off it. Then we drove back and stopped in a little town (sorry, can't remember the name) on another lake and then caught the train back down. It was a fabulous day!!!

In Juneau we did the helicopter tour that takes you to four glaciers and you actually land on one and get to walk around a bit.

In Ketchikan we did the four wheel drive and canoe excursion and probably could have skipped that. It was dusty and bouncy - not exactly what I had pictured. That might be a great place to do some fishing from what I understand.

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