Advise needed for Alaska 07 vacation

Old Nov 2nd, 2006, 11:09 AM
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Advise needed for Alaska 07 vacation

Hello! We are traveling to Alaska June '07 and I would like some suggestions on what the best excursions are at each of our stops. We will be cruising for seven days and will stop at Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. Also, once we reach Whittier we would like to go to Denali and we are thinking about staying in that area for 3 nights. Is this too long? A friend told us that they wished they had more time there. Finally, our last night is already booked to stay in Anchorage. Please give any suggestions that you may have for our trip. I honestly don't know where to begin.

Oh, one other thing. I am trying to decide between staying at McKinley Chalets and Denali Lakeview Inn. Does anyone know anything about either or have a suggestion? We were going to try and book Grande Denali or Denali Princess and neither have availability for our dates.

Thanks!
Anna
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Old Nov 2nd, 2006, 04:38 PM
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I honestly would not do a cruise for my first Alaska experience. The roads are wonderful and it's easy and nice driving. I would start with the Kenai Penninsula, especially Homer and Seward. I would go to the Homer Spit and in Seward I would take a day cruise.They have several cruises varying in length. I would also go to Exit and Portage Glacier. I would also go to the Sea Life Center in Seward.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 03:06 AM
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This is a tough call because you only have 3 days. Towns in Alaska can be very small and very far apart. Whittier is between Anchorage and wonderful places like Seward and Homer. I think a lot of people prefer the KP over Denali because you can see and do a lot. Either way you'll have to go to Anchorage to get a rental car and then choose north to Denali or back south to the KP. I think you would spend more time in the car if you go to Denali but you'll have a better chance of seeing wild animals at Denali. The Kenai Fjords boat trip out of Seward was one of the best things we have done in Alaska and I think you'll see more sea life in one day than during your whole cruise. Also the drive south of Anchorage is very beautiful but the drive north can get tedious if you live in an area that has a lot of trees. If you are headed to Denali I would recommend Talkeetna and Independence Mine as musts to include ... which then subtracts from your time at Denali. You might have to flip a coin on this one. In Skagway, we enjoyed the train ride.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 05:21 AM
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There are hundreds of "best" Alaska port excursions. I suggest you look over a shore excursion list and narrow down your interests then repost. Budget fully, this isn't the place to skimp.

With only 3 days, I suggest perhaps, 2 in Denali park and 1 in Talkeetna. Determine WHAT you want out of Denali park- plenty of activities to choose from. THEN you will see where you need to be.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 05:38 AM
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Anna,
I am going to Alaska every year since 2003. I am planning at least 3 more trips, but I am yet to convince myself that one day I will take a cruise. The main reason is that most cruise folks are not in my age group and I am afraid it may have impact on my overall cruise impression. This is where I would begin: I would plan my first trip to Alaska without cruise.

As to your concrete questions about Denali:
- 3 nights is not too long. If it doesn't rain you would want to spend more time in Denali. On the other hand, 3 full days is sufficient in Denali if you pack them with bus trips into the Park and (a must) hikes.
I did not stay in McKinley Chalets, but I stayed in Denali Lake View Inn. Absolutely gorgeous! Beautiful, comfortable rooms facing Otto Lake. I enjoyed incredible sunsets from the porch every evening returning to my room from trips to Denali, as a bonus.
Clean,attentive staff. Terri, the Inn manager, will go above and beoynd the call for a guest should the need arises. I am speaking from the experience.
Please note that Denali LakeView is located on mile 247, which is about 10 miles away from the Denali "village". Easy drive but absolutely worth it to avoid touristy village.
My Denali photos:
http://lempert.smugmug.com/gallery/1802997
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 08:00 AM
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Oleg, I looked at those yet again thanks to the link above. I think they need to put your photos on their Alaska travel websites, but then when the world got a look at them, Alaska would be too crowded for those of us who go as often as we can.

I, too, can vouch for Denali Lakeview and Terri, the Manager. The place is lovely, right on Lake Otto, and usually moose, loons, and trumpter swans to watch from your balcony.

We were doing a cruise for our first trip until I started asking questions on Fodors. Then I began to see that I could plan a much better trip independently, see more, do more, and even save some $$$!

We're saving cruising the Inside Passage until we get a little older and not so active.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 10:17 AM
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BayouGal -
Thanks. If you liked my 2006 pics, you'll probably like 2005 too:

http://lempert.smugmug.com/gallery/896277

The highlight was staying in Hallo Bay Camp in Katmai NP for 4 nights with BBC crew that was doing documentary on Grizzli bears.
Forget the bears...You should've listened to these people! They made my trip - they and a few hardcore Alaska bear enthusiasts / photographers who probably had seen it all above the 48th.

What started a few years ago with a joke became my addiction. 2007 trip planning is under way.

As for my experience in Denaly Lakeview Inn: I was packing to hit the road back to Anc to catch my flight home on the morning of August 19. Terri came to tell me that Parks Hwy TO ANCHORAGE was closed due to the flood. It had been raining all time and the expectations about the road opening was "a few days".
Terri and I spent a few hours trying to figure out how to get me to Anc. She called a small plane base at Nenana and arranged a trip for me to Anc for a reasonable price. When the question became what to do with the rental car she told me to leave it at the Inn and she would drive me to the plane.
She said she'd call car rental company in Anc and arranged with them. I am sure this plan would go smoothly but I found a better solution: I called the airline and explained. I asked if they can re-book me to the flight from Fairbank to NYC. Fortunately, they had a space on the NW plane via code-share. They did not even charge me a re-book fee, but I had to pay $150 difference in price of the flight.
That morning Terri and her staff were outstanding.
Later I heard from the travelers who got starnded on the other side and could not get to Denali for a few days. Terri did not charge them for days missed. It was not the hotel's fault, but they were very understanding of the situation people were in. Even though they suffered loss of revenue on those days.
I believe in the long run it was a wise decision because they are even more popular now, although they had always been booked well in advance.



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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 10:45 AM
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We'll never get a room there again, Oleg, after that great story! ;-)

When I started asking about Denali Lakeview on Fodors a couple of years ago, no one seemed to know much about it. After staying, I started singing its praises as have many others. Maybe they'll add another building.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 05:11 PM
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I have to agree that if you haven't already booked your cruise, reconsider. Ketchikan was a great first stop. That evening we took the Alaskan ferry up the inside passage from Ketchikan to Juneau with the 'locals' - what a blast! You can sit on the deck right above the water and see everything - the whales, dolphins, seals, eagles - whereas the people on the big cruise ships see none of this because they are 7 stories above the water. Don't expect a stateroom and all-you-can-eat buffet, though. The Alaskan Ferry is what they locals use for transportation. Super people and very friendly! In Juneau, take a Tracy Arm cruise instead of doing Glacier Bay. Adventure Bound was absolutely fabulous - their small 56' boat gets you right up to the glacier. Skyscraper sized pieces of glacier exploded off the face every few minutes and we saw all kinds of wildlife - a humpback whale right beside the boat, so close we were sprayed when it blew. Anchorage - we stayed away and instead rented our one car to drive down to Seward. Yes, the Kenai Fjords dinner cruise was very nice - entire family pods of Orca whales our in force that evening. The Alaska Railway is a super way to get to Anchorage for a night layover and then to continue to Denali. Get a spot on the schoolbuses the Park runs for trips. Awesome! We stayed just one night and then rode the railway on up to Fairbanks, then took a plane above the Yukon Circle. I would strongly recommend a copy of the MilePost - it's a super planning guide. When we would find a hotel we wanted to stay at, I would ask the reservations clerk what were fun and 'non-touristy' things to do where they lived. They didn't steer me wrong once! I have had many people say they want my itinerary when they return to Alaska!

http://www.adventureboundalaska.com/
http://www.milepost.com
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