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1st Time Alaska Cruisers!

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Sep 16th, 2013, 10:26 AM
  #1
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1st Time Alaska Cruisers!

Husband and I are planning a first time Alaska cruisetour for next Spring - i.e. both a ship and land package, around 12 days. We want to know the most scenic spots, and areas for wildlife. We will be including Denali and of course the ship will tour the Glacier Bay/Inside Passage area. The Kenai Nat'l Park holds high interest. Should we include some or all of the following: Dawson, Whitehorse, Fairbanks, Anchorage. Thanks in advance for any help.
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Sep 16th, 2013, 10:52 AM
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We went on an Alaska cruise a few years ago, and we also wanted to visit Denali. Instead of using the cruise-arranged package, though, we made out own arrangements once the cruise ended.

The cruise ended in Seward, and most of the passengers then took the bus to Anchorage. We chose to take a smaller boat tour from Seward, offered by Kenai Fjords tours, and it was absolutely terrific -- a highlight of the trip. Then we took the Alaska Railroad train to Anchorage, which was surely a lot more fun than the bus. Rented a car in Anchorage, drove to Denali, and stayed in a smaller place in Healy, about 10-15 minutes north of the entrance to Denali N.P.
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Sep 16th, 2013, 10:56 AM
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For me, two of our most "scenic" spots were those we acquired by excursion -- a helicopter ride to a glacier, and an airplane flight over Denali (Mt. McKinley). Both utterly worth the cost.

For what it's worth, after a lot of research I discovered that unlike on Caribbean cruises, you don't save a lot of money planning excursions "on your own" as opposed to doing them through the cruiseline.

Have a great trip!
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Sep 16th, 2013, 10:58 AM
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Just saw DonTopaz's reply -- and he's undoubtedly right about the post-cruise experience on his own. I was referring to excursions during the day, during the cruise portion.
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Sep 16th, 2013, 04:44 PM
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Don Topaz (and bakerstreet) - thanks so much for the info! Don - where did your trip originate from? And if you flew, did you return home from a different city?
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Sep 16th, 2013, 05:15 PM
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Husband and I are planning a first time Alaska cruisetour for next Spring...

Be mindful of talking about "spring" in the context of Alaska. The interior of Denali Park, for example, opens by stages, and some areas aren't always open by the first of June. In other areas, mosquitoes can be hellish in the spring/early summer, so if you're bug-averse, bear that in mind.

I would do some careful price-comparisons regarding a cruise-tour vs. a cruise followed by independent touring. Alaska is quite easy to get around by car, and the independence it gives would allow you to see things according to your timetable, rather than a cruise-tour packager's.
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Sep 16th, 2013, 06:40 PM
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TravelinVic, our cruise originated in Vancouver. We flew into Vancouver, then flew back from Anchorage.
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Sep 17th, 2013, 01:17 AM
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There is so much to see in Alaska. I did the 7 day cruise (brilliant) from Vancouver to Whittier which included glorious Glacier Bay. Then we hired a rental car from downtown Avis and drove around Alaska for a couple of weeks. Unlike others, I found we saved money by organising our own excursions, but I guess it depends which excursions you choose.

Denali National Park needs at least two full days and is so worth it. Driving to Seward, exploring the area and doing the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour was an absolute highlight for wildlife.

We didn't get to Fairbanks, as two weeks was nowhere near enough time for us to do so as we didn't want to be driving too much every day and wanted to see other areas. It is hard to pick and choose, but choices must be made.

If I were to go back to Alaska, I would do Denali and Seward again (they were that good). I wish I had booked in for the Knit Glacier Tour and will definitely do that upon my return to Alaska: http://www.knikglacier.com/

Driving Alaska yourself is the way to go. We saw moose and a calf crossing the road in Cooper Landing, and moose on the side of the road in Denali as well as moose, bears, and wolves in Denali. The wildlife in Seward on the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour is incredible. The puffins and orcas in particular were beautiful. We also saw two different types of Eagles around Portage Lake picking at a carcass.

I have written about our roadtrip and the places we visited in a series of articles at
http://www.dreamhorsemedia.com/travel/

I strongly suggest hiring a car and driving Alaska yourself after the cruise. While we pulled over the side of the road to watch moose, the tour buses just flew on by. Even in Denali, if you have a car you can drive the first 14 miles.

We took the green shuttle bus through Denali to Eielson one day, the next day we drove the first 14 miles ourselves, stopping constantly to look for wildlife and found so many moose hidden behind the bushes - amazing.
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Sep 17th, 2013, 08:20 AM
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Do take the train from Seward or Whitter to Anchorage. The views are just priceless.
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Sep 17th, 2013, 06:41 PM
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We really enjoyed renting an RV (twice) and doing our own land tour. Not many roads so not hard to do. Just get your reservations (RV or motels) early if you do the land section on your own.

Great Alaskan Holidays RV Rental seems to be the favorite and we also had a great experience with them.

My suggestion is to not go too early. July and August generally have better weather.
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Sep 19th, 2013, 01:27 AM
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In 2007 my parents and I took an Alaskan cruise from Seattle to Juneau, Skagway and Prince Rupert in Canada. Mendenhall glacier in Juneau is gorgeous. We also took a side trip to Haines where we floated down a river inside a eagle preserve. I swear we saw over 100 bald eagles.
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Sep 19th, 2013, 08:44 AM
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If you will have only 5-6 days on land (what's left of your 12 days after a 7-day cruise), you will be limited to just two of Alaska's spectacular locations. I think Kenai Fjords and Denali are obvious choices. You could stay in Seward a day or two after the cruise, then drive to Denali, and drive back to Anchorage to fly home. Rent a car and make your own itinerary, unless that is too intimidating and the cruise line has a land package that you think is perfect. (Or start the trip with a flight to Anchorage, then Denali and Kenai before starting the southbound cruise at Seward or Whittier.)

We took a cruise-tour with HAL that included Whitehorse and Dawson, but that involved five days overland by bus and train between Skagway and Fairbanks (plus the three-day cruise and time in Denali and Anchorage). It was fantastic to traverse the great expanse of Yukon and to learn so much Klondike history, but I don't think this is what you are looking for with less than two full weeks, especially if you are set on a 7-day cruise.
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