Alaska Vacation Help

Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 12:35 PM
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Alaska Vacation Help

Sometime in the near future I plan on visiting Alaska with my wife, mom and in-laws. Some want to cruise. I think I prefer to stay on land. I would like any and everyones opinion on this. I feel that I want to see locals, be able to eat local food, drive to different places. On a cruise, I am only going to see the port cities.
jedivader is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 01:29 PM
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Last year my husband and I went on our first trip to Alaska and our first cruise. We were on Holland America's Statendam. Ship left from Vancouver and went to Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway.

I loved the cruise and except for Juneau felt we had enough time in each port because Ketchikan and Skagway very small.

However, having no regrets for cruising Alaska we would have like to have seen Denali National Park which we choose not to do pre or post cruise because of time and cost involved.

If you have never cruised before and most of the people going with you want to cruise it would be an excellent way to go. On the other hand if you are not going to be satisfied spending one day in each port then you should stay on land.

Either way I would highly recommend the drive from Skagway to Emerald Lake in the Yukon. It was the highlight of our trip. Absolutely beautiful mountains and lake and waterfalls along the road. We stopped every 10 minutes to take photographs.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 01:46 PM
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We just returned from a land-based vacation of South-central Alaska, but I've also visited the Southeast (where most cruises go) and taken cruises in other areas. One possible compromise would be a cruise with a few days of land-based touring afterwards. I think Princess offers some packages like this, but you could also arrange something on your own (I'm not sure which way would be more cost-effective).

IMO, cruising is the most efficient and cost-effective way to see Southeast Alaska. The only other options would be to fly between cities (which gets expensive) or to take the ferry, which can take a long time and isn't particularly comfortable or luxurious given the amount of time you'd be spending on the boat. Southeast is stunningly beautiful, but of course, the downside to a cruise is that you don't get much time in port and the experience is usually more sanitized/touristy than if you were traveling independently.

If you're looking for a more diverse experience, I'd go with a land-based trip. It seems like most people use Anchorage as their base and do some sort of broad loop around the region, seeing Denali to the North and the Kenai peninsula to the South. We branched East and also included Valdez in our tour. This gives you a good feel for both the coastal regions and the interior, which are both very beautiful, but in a different way. The downside to a land-based vacation is that to see all these places you're constantly on the move, changing hotels and spending lots of time in the car, bus or train. We loved our trip, but it wasn't relaxing. Of course, you could choose to stay in one or two places, but for us, it was so far and so expensive to get to Alaska that it felt like a waste to not get out and see a good portion of the State.

If you have the time and the $$, I think I'd spend a few days touring on land (definitely see Denali) and then take a cruise, which allows you to end your trip on a relaxing note. Also, you might consider a small-size cruise ship, which can visit the smaller, less-commercialized areas that the big lines miss. I think some of these also allow you more time in port.
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Old Aug 4th, 2004, 04:46 AM
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On our first trip we took the Alaska Marine Ferry from Bellingham WA to Skagway, drove to the Anchorage area and flew home. We had our own vehicle since our son was moving to AK. The ferry system is the way Alaskans travel in many areas. While not luxurious by any means, people on a budget could sleep in deck chairs or put up a tent on the fan tail. Friends enjoyed doing this but we opted for a cabin. I liked Skagway a lot except for the huge crowds intent on shopping.
We spent 3 weeks on a land earlier this summer with plenty of time to talk to locals and explore. My favorite towns were Seward and Homer. This trip included a 1/2 hour flight seeing trip between Seldovia and Homer plus the longest Kenai Fjords cruise and those were highlights too. I'm a fan of farmers markets and craft fairs so I timed this trip to include Quilting on the Kenai show and 4th of July with a finale dinner show featuring Hobo Jim who is Alaska's balladeer. It was fun running into people who used to live in NH and others who have moved to Alaska. It wasn't unusual to hear, we came on vacation and never left. People are aghast that we didn't go fishing but we enjoyed watching people fish on the Russian River and a nice net fisherman we met on a beach gave us a whole salmon. We opted to stay in a wonderful B&B in Palmer (Alaska Garden Gate) while our son and his friends camped. I excitedly showed him the mountain view from our window but it turned out the campers had a great view of dozens of mountains. Most people might want to skip tiny Hope but I enjoyed hearing two museum volunteers quiz my husband on his knowledge of old machinery parts and he was fascinated by the old mining town in Hatchers Pass. Watching the short video in the Pratt Museum about homesteading in the 50s gave me much to ponder. My parents were enjoying all the new gadgets and luxuries after the war, they could have been homesteading in AK! And needless to say I overheard another visitor say he had planned to move up in the 70s but changed his mind and he wondered what life would have been.
Read Peter Jenkins' book "Looking for Alaska".
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Old Aug 4th, 2004, 09:38 AM
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You can both win. Fly to Fairbanks, drive around on your own or sign up for the land tour with a cruise line such as Princess, and then cruise south through the Inside Passage to Vancouver. If you do this, definitely take the land portion first.
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Old Aug 4th, 2004, 11:07 AM
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have to disagree somewhat, fly to anchorage -- cheaper, much more centrally located and far better air connections.

From there you could take a couple of days up to hit denali, then go to the kenai peninsula (homer, seward) for a few more.

from anchorage there are also nice day trips to girdwood, portage and the underrated Eagle River nature center.

If your pressed for time on your land leg, the Fairbanks swing would be the first to go IMHO.
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