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1 Week in Alaska after a cruise: Where to go and what to see?

1 Week in Alaska after a cruise: Where to go and what to see?

Old Feb 22nd, 2007, 08:45 AM
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1 Week in Alaska after a cruise: Where to go and what to see?

We are planning a week-long cruise along the inside passage in early June with a group of 8 couples. Four of us then plan to stay an extra week in Alaska exploring the mainland area. We are a mid-thirties couple traveling with parents. We are not sure where to spend this extra week and what to do. Initial research suggests that the Kenai peninsula area might be worth a visit for a night or two, but wondering if we would have alreay 'seen this' sort of thing along the cruise tour. We will end up in Anchorage for return flight, but considering a trip to Fairbanks, Denali Park, and possibly a drive over to Dawson City in Yukon. Not really into numerous musueum tours, but do enjoy beautiful scenery,train rides, rustic towns/villages with charm and interesting local food and wares. Also interested in activities specific to this state (Glacier Trekking etc...)Would love some suggestions from experienced folks - Thanks to all!!!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2007, 10:02 AM
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You don't mention where the cruise ends so it's hard to make suggestions for only a week. Suppose it ends in Seward. Distances are long in Alaska and winters are hard on the highways. From Seward to Fairbanks will likely take you 2 days without much for stops. This ain't no 4 lane thoroughfare here. There are lots of things to see too and stops to make. A short hike will take you to the end of Exit Glacier. You need to take a side tour over toward Kenai or Soldatna to watch the people fishing for salmon from driftboats or combat fishing the Russian River. If the Sockeye are running, a stop at the town of Kenai is fun. We found a small park on the bluff in Kenai where we could watch people catching salmon in hand held dip nets. Nothing like it in any other state. Since you're already that far, you should drive on down to Homer and spend the night. No other town like Homer either. Now make your way to Anchorage. It's a fairly slow trip so it will take you a good part of the day and already half your week is gone and you haven't gotten to see Denali yet.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2007, 10:52 AM
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There is nothing like the interior of Alaska. I would go to Homer and Seward and I would visit Exit and Portage Glaciers, it you get the chance. The drive from Anchorage to Valdez is wonderful, just make sure you have plenty of gas. Some of the areas do not have gas stations.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2007, 10:48 PM
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Depends upon what you like to do, how much you want to see, and how much time you want (or don't want) to be in a vehicle driving. In Anchorage the Alaska Native Heritage Center and museums are nice. It'll be too early in the year to see people catching king salmon downtown at Ship Creek. Portage Glacier (just outside Anchorage) has a nice visitor center, places for picnics/camping, and sometimes icebergs floating in the lake (although the glacier has been receding so it's not a guarantee there will be ice chunks). Girdwood, not far from Anchorage, headed south is a ski resort town. I don't know if they have any special events in early June but it's a fun little place. For history, I've heard that Dawson is fun. Homer is a town down south that is a long drive but many people enjoy the funky, artsy town. Seward is also a nice tourist destination. You could stop off and see Exit Glacier. I love Denali Park but you must plan ahead as that takes several days and requires advance reservations.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2007, 02:31 AM
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There's a big difference between being on a cruise ship and a small day cruise out of Seward. You have the opportunity to get very close to some of the seals, birds and even whales. We have wonderful video taken as the boat stopped to watch several orcas. A whale surfaced so close to the boat we smelled whale breath. It might still be too early for salmon fishing on the Russian River near Seward. Where salmon are running is front page news. Haven't been to Dawson City but suggest you look at the mileage. We drove thru the Yukon from Skagway to Anchorage and there's a lot of scenery and little else. OTH there's more to see and do between Anchorage and Seward. Each town seems to have its own personality. Due to distance, you will need more than a night or two for the KP. Seward to Homer is 3-4 hour drive. Homer to Anchorage is at least 5. Seward to Anchorage is about 3 but you'll want to make stops. Independence Mine, north of Anchorage is very interesting. If you don't read some of the background history you'll miss out on understanding how big a town it used to be and then figure how they got all the building materials, etc to a place that was pretty remote at the time. If I recall correctly, Portage Glacier got its name because it was a good trail in winter. Some places were more accessible in winter than summer. But because of the '64 earthquake, the town of Portage was abandoned. You can listen to recordings of what it was like during the earthquake at the visitors center.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2007, 06:52 AM
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A week is not a lot of time for interior Alaska. So I suggest 2 highlight areas to consider Denali Park- at least 2 nights and Seward for a Kenai fjords boat tour. If your cruise in Seward- excellent. Can get right off your boat, onto a boat tour, then train to Anchorage. If you are coming into Whittier, I suggest you might want to consider a PWS boat tour- then the train to Anchorage. Overnight, then either Seward and perhaps Homer, back to Anchorage, then 2 nights in Denali Park.

There are plenty of variations to consider. Do your homework and determine what is the most interest and go there. www.toursaver.com may offer significant discounts.
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 09:11 AM
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Thanks for all the great tips - Yes, our cruise ends in Seward (sorry about that). If we make it into the Denali park, is there a place to stay in or around the park? A suggestion was to spend a coupe of days there...
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 10:19 AM
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If you start toward Denali from Anchorage, it's a 239 mile drive and the road isn't real fast. It will take a fair part of the day to drive up there. Once you are there you probably want to take the shuttle bus into the park to see the animals and the mountain if the weather is nice. If you go all the way to Wonder lake and back it takes 11 hours. Now you need to get back to Anchorage and there is that 239 mile drive again and you've used 3 days. A second day in the park would be really nice, but now you have used up 4 of your 7 day week. I hate to throw cold water on your tour, but one week is really short in a state the size of Alaska. Maybe it would be enough if Alaska was flat desert so you could travel fast and not have to stop and see the sights all the time. If you are young enough to consider another trip to Alaska, I'd suggest you spend the whole week on the Kenai Peninsula and in the Anchorage area. There is plenty of opportunities for sightseeing there.
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 10:47 AM
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I join most of the other posters in recommending a "less is more" approach. With the distances involved and and the narrower, slower roads in most of AK, your suggested intinerary would be too much for me. That early in the season, if it were me, I'd explore the Kenai Peninsula for the entire week. A full day in Seward, a couple of days in Homer, and a day or two in Anchorage will fill that week when you consider driving times.

Suggested itinerary:

Day 1: Wonder around Seward. Visit SeaLife Center, Exit Glacier, and checkout the scenery.

Day 2: Full day boat tour to Kenai Fjords National Park. Evening train to Anchorage and overnight there.

Day 3-4: Pick up rental car, drive down to Homer, stopping and sightseeing along the way. Explore the Homer Spit, some of the downtown shops, the superb views from Hillside Drive and from the highway, and some of the Russian villages in the area.

Day 5: Drive back toward Anchorage. Visit Hope and Girdwood areas. Visit the Wild Animal refuge just outside Girdwood on the Seward Hwy. Overnight in Girdwood.

Day 6: Continue into Anchorage. Sightsee along the way and make a trip out to the National Native Heritage Center and the Eadle River State Park, both in Eagle River (an Anchorage suberb).

Day 7: More Anchorage area touring and catch your return flight.

Following an itinerary like this will give you a great excuse to come back to visit some of the areas you missed on this trip.
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