Alaskan cruise next summer

Old Aug 16th, 2022, 05:37 AM
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Alaskan cruise next summer

We are planning an Alaskan cruise next summer and want to use miles to fly to Fairbanks. Seems like most flights get in at midnight. Is it best to allow an extra day getting there in case of issues? Our excursion starts July 12th. If we flew on the 11th it would be cutting it close. Any recommendations would be appreciated.
We are flying home from Vancouver. The ship gets in the morning of the 23rd and hoping we will have time to fly home that day.
Thanks!
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 06:22 AM
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Does your tour include a bus to see Denali on the way from Fairbanks to Anchorage? Fairbanks is a long ways from the port of Seward where your ship will depart for Vancouver with many port calls in between. Many flights into Anchorage also come in late (around midnight). For our trip to Alaska a few years ago, we lucked out with a flight that got to Anchorage about 9AM which was handy when we rented our rental car. It is not very handy to arrive at an airport and taxi with hundreds of other people to hotels after midnight.
Can you fly to Anchorage and rent a car to see the land portion including Denali before you show up in Seward to board your ship to Vancouver?
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 06:28 AM
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I like to leave an extra day to get places just in case.
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 07:15 AM
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Two big issues -- 1) any flight schedule for next summer is merely a 'place holder'. Every quarter every airline is adding/changing/canceling flights and even routes. So I wouldn't even start looking a flight options until after the first of the year.

2) Arriving in Fairbanks around midnight (so essentially the morning of the 12th) wouldn't be a great idea in the 'before times' and definitely not a good idea in this semi-post-covid era. Flights are cancelled and delayed every day for crew issues, maintenance, etc.

I'd want to arrive in Fairbanks at least a day aerlier.
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 07:35 AM
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A couple of questions..

1. Where is home? Or more generally, what time zone? In addition to long daylight hours (it will still be virtually broad daylight in Fairbanks at midnight on July 11/12) the time change can be a factor.

2. Can you describe the tour? Can we assume this tour will be in conjunction with your cruise, and if so, what cruise line? They're not all alike.

The other big factor to consider, in addition to Janis' admonition about flight schedules, is that many of the cruise tours that start in Fairbanks and end in Seward allocate a day or two for Denali National Park. The problem with that is that the only road that serves the park interior, including the places with the best views of the mountain and the highest incidence of seeing wildlife, is closed for repairs at roughly half the distance between the main visitor center and the Eielson visitor center in the middle of the park (specifically at Mile 43) and the National Park Service says this closure is expected to last through the 2023 tourist season, and possibly beyond.

The upshot for this is that all those cruise tours - and there are many of them, including thousands of people - won't have the same kind of experience in Denali that they would if the road was opened. The cruise lines, which own or control many of the hotels around Denali, will probably keep the tours going, but - and this is personal opinion - you won't be getting value for money compared to previous years.

So my suggestion would be to give strong consideration to passing on the packaged tour and do a self-driving land tour on your own. Frankly, if Denali was off the table (due to the construction closure) I'd skip Fairbanks altogether and spend more time in other areas, particularly the Kenai Peninsula and other parts of Southcentral Alaska. I don't know how long the tour package you're looking at is for, but typically they're for a week or so. With the same seven days, you could get terrific exposure to areas like Homer and Kachemak Bay, maybe tour Kenai Fjords National Park or drive up the Glenn Highway to the Matanuska Glacier, stopping at Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine on the way up or back to Anchorage... many options. It might come in cheaper than the cruise tour, but certainly you'd have more freedom and flexibility.

You have plenty of time to do research and think things through; I'd recommend using it.
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
Two big issues -- 1) any flight schedule for next summer is merely a 'place holder'. Every quarter every airline is adding/changing/canceling flights and even routes. So I wouldn't even start looking a flight options until after the first of the year.

2) Arriving in Fairbanks around midnight (so essentially the morning of the 12th) wouldn't be a great idea in the 'before times' and definitely not a good idea in this semi-post-covid era. Flights are cancelled and delayed every day for crew issues, maintenance, etc.

I'd want to arrive in Fairbanks at least a day aerlier.
Absolutely! IMHO and IME, as a matter of course for almost any cruise, arrive the day before, not just the night before, if possible, and stay close to the cruise port. Extra day, extra hotel stay, a hassle, but think of the alternative risks.

Even the day before, donít take a late or last flight of the day. Late day Summer storms wreck havoc on schedules. If your flight is cancelled, there is no guarantee of getting on an early flight the next day or even a flight that would get you to the port before sail time. We had one early cruise experience of multiple delayed flights and a nail bitting taxi ride to catch our ship 20 minutes before final boarding for a two week TA cruise. One of our last, pre-Covid, cruises, our flight was delayed for hours and all flights after ours from our city were cancelled that day. At least two dozen people did not make the ship. Never again! Whenever I even think about it, I take a breath and remind myself of those situations. Why set yourself up for stress right at the start of a vacation?

Personally, I hate those awful pre-Dawn flights, but will do it if there are not plenty of other flights that day, giving some insurance against cancellations, even with day before flights. If this all seems too cautious, a family in tears at the airport because they are missing their long awaited cruise is sad.

Flying is exhausting at best. Arriving on board ship exhausted takes the fun away from the first day. A nice, close by, hotel the day and night before allows you to have a relaxed boarding with an afternoon and evening to enjoy the ship and sail-away.
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 08:57 AM
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Sassafrass' post is good info, and useful for cruises in general. But just to clarify, it sounds like the OP's trip starts with a pre-cruise land tour (few cruise ships make it to Fairbanks ) But the same issues apply here -- if the flight is delayed/cancelled you'd have to make your way on your own to catch up with the land tour.

Gardyloo makes good points -- especially re the Denali issues and visiting other regions independently before boarding the ship.
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
Sassafrass' post is good info, and useful for cruises in general. But just to clarify, it sounds like the OP's trip starts with a pre-cruise land tour (few cruise ships make it to Fairbanks ) But the same issues apply here -- if the flight is delayed/cancelled you'd have to make your way on your own to catch up with the land tour.

Gardyloo makes good points -- especially re the Denali issues and visiting other regions independently before boarding the ship.
Oh, right, of course. Silly me. Thank goodness for you two and your experiences with Alaska. I get awfully caught up in the cruise thing, but catching up to a land tour might not be fun either. It also would be better not to start that tired, like driving tired after a long flight. It is understandable when people are pressed for time, using vacation days, paying for pet sitters, etc. OTOH, it is interesting to see how much money and vacation time people will jeopardize to take risky, later flights. We were lucky with our twenty minutes to spare lesson.
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
A couple of questions..

1. Where is home? Or more generally, what time zone? In addition to long daylight hours (it will still be virtually broad daylight in Fairbanks at midnight on July 11/12) the time change can be a factor.

2. Can you describe the tour? Can we assume this tour will be in conjunction with your cruise, and if so, what cruise line? They're not all alike.

The other big factor to consider, in addition to Janis' admonition about flight schedules, is that many of the cruise tours that start in Fairbanks and end in Seward allocate a day or two for Denali National Park. The problem with that is that the only road that serves the park interior, including the places with the best views of the mountain and the highest incidence of seeing wildlife, is closed for repairs at roughly half the distance between the main visitor center and the Eielson visitor center in the middle of the park (specifically at Mile 43) and the National Park Service says this closure is expected to last through the 2023 tourist season, and possibly beyond.

The upshot for this is that all those cruise tours - and there are many of them, including thousands of people - won't have the same kind of experience in Denali that they would if the road was opened. The cruise lines, which own or control many of the hotels around Denali, will probably keep the tours going, but - and this is personal opinion - you won't be getting value for money compared to previous years.

So my suggestion would be to give strong consideration to passing on the packaged tour and do a self-driving land tour on your own. Frankly, if Denali was off the table (due to the construction closure) I'd skip Fairbanks altogether and spend more time in other areas, particularly the Kenai Peninsula and other parts of Southcentral Alaska. I don't know how long the tour package you're looking at is for, but typically they're for a week or so. With the same seven days, you could get terrific exposure to areas like Homer and Kachemak Bay, maybe tour Kenai Fjords National Park or drive up the Glenn Highway to the Matanuska Glacier, stopping at Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine on the way up or back to Anchorage... many options. It might come in cheaper than the cruise tour, but certainly you'd have more freedom and flexibility.

You have plenty of time to do research and think things through; I'd recommend using it.
We are flying from Dallas. We have reservations with Holland America to do the land and sea, starting with land.
I greatly appreciate your advice and we will keep researching. We have until April to make changes! This is for our 50th anniversary!!
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 12:06 PM
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If you posted a link to the land portion we could see what it covers/doesn't and could maybe help you decide if that's what you'd want or if there are better alternatives.
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
If you posted a link to the land portion we could see what it covers/doesn't and could maybe help you decide if that's what you'd want or if there are better alternatives.
[img]blob:https://www.fodors.com/70fb636a-730b-47ac-a613-14665e1b81ed[/img]
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Old Aug 16th, 2022, 01:04 PM
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[QUOTE=janisj;17391526]If you posted a link to the land portion we could see what it covers/doesn't and could maybe help you decide if that's what you'd want or if there are better alternatives.[/

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Old Aug 17th, 2022, 09:13 AM
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Okay, so the land tour is basically two nights and days at Denali, with a half-day "tundra wilderness tour" on the first full day and the second day "at leisure," and includes the train from Fairbanks to Denali, then Denali to Anchorage, then Anchorage to Whittier.

Given that the "tundra wilderness tour" is truncated to roughly half the time it would normally be, due to the park road closure past Mile 43, how do you suppose you'd spend the day and a half (more, actually, counting the time between breakfast and the train departure on the 15th) "at leisure?" And to be frank, the train ride between Fairbanks and Anchorage via Denali is not all that scenic (with the exception of a few places) and is quite slow-going. The train ride to Whittier from Anchorage IS very scenic, on the other hand.

I don't know how much the package adds to the cost of the cruise alone, but, honestly, I'm not impressed, and I think you could probably do better, maybe a lot better, by doing things on your own.

If you don't want to drive (and I can understand that, given the high cost of car rentals in Alaska this year and probably next) you still could have a fun time, maybe more train-based, if you did the following.

12 or 13 July - Fly to Anchorage.
14 July - Take the morning train to Seward, spend the afternoon and evening in Seward.
15 July - Do a Kenai Fjords cruise out of Seward and return on the 6 PM train to Anchorage.
16 July - Take the train to Whittier the morning of your ship's departure and do a "26 Glacier" tour out of Whittier. Depart Whittier on your cruise (8 PM.)

Or...

12 or 13 July - Fly to Anchorage.
14 -15 July - Rent a car for two days and do a couple of very interesting day trips out of Anchorage. Google the places on these maps - https://goo.gl/maps/dYK8d2TaX6spzVzZ7 and https://goo.gl/maps/KKrqvmdVsFNTHqTAA
16 July - Take the train to Whittier the morning of your ship's departure and do a "26 Glacier" tour out of Whittier. Depart Whittier on your cruise (8 PM.)

Alaska Railroad | Alaskan Tours & Vacations | Train Packages
https://phillipscruises.com/

Just some suggestions.
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Old Aug 18th, 2022, 04:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
Okay, so the land tour is basically two nights and days at Denali, with a half-day "tundra wilderness tour" on the first full day and the second day "at leisure," and includes the train from Fairbanks to Denali, then Denali to Anchorage, then Anchorage to Whittier.

Given that the "tundra wilderness tour" is truncated to roughly half the time it would normally be, due to the park road closure past Mile 43, how do you suppose you'd spend the day and a half (more, actually, counting the time between breakfast and the train departure on the 15th) "at leisure?" And to be frank, the train ride between Fairbanks and Anchorage via Denali is not all that scenic (with the exception of a few places) and is quite slow-going. The train ride to Whittier from Anchorage IS very scenic, on the other hand.

I don't know how much the package adds to the cost of the cruise alone, but, honestly, I'm not impressed, and I think you could probably do better, maybe a lot better, by doing things on your own.

If you don't want to drive (and I can understand that, given the high cost of car rentals in Alaska this year and probably next) you still could have a fun time, maybe more train-based, if you did the following.

12 or 13 July - Fly to Anchorage.
14 July - Take the morning train to Seward, spend the afternoon and evening in Seward.
15 July - Do a Kenai Fjords cruise out of Seward and return on the 6 PM train to Anchorage.
16 July - Take the train to Whittier the morning of your ship's departure and do a "26 Glacier" tour out of Whittier. Depart Whittier on your cruise (8 PM.)

Or...

12 or 13 July - Fly to Anchorage.
14 -15 July - Rent a car for two days and do a couple of very interesting day trips out of Anchorage. Google the places on these maps - https://goo.gl/maps/dYK8d2TaX6spzVzZ7 and https://goo.gl/maps/KKrqvmdVsFNTHqTAA
16 July - Take the train to Whittier the morning of your ship's departure and do a "26 Glacier" tour out of Whittier. Depart Whittier on your cruise (8 PM.)

Alaska Railroad | Alaskan Tours & Vacations | Train Packages
https://phillipscruises.com/

Just some suggestions.
Thank you so much for all this information!! I really appreciate your suggestions. We will reconsider our plans and fortunately we have time.
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Old Aug 18th, 2022, 06:26 PM
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Don’t miss the Kenai Fjords tour (mentioned by Gardyloo). It was a full day tour and we saw orcas bubble feeding, seals, dolphins….so exciting!
We also did a glacier viewing tour out of Whittier and got to witness several calving glaciers…..exciting! And on this tour saw sea otters floating together…exciting!
2 years later we went on a 1 week Alaskan cruise. I enjoyed it but when I saw an otter from the cruise ship it looked like a stick, until I brought out the binoculars. A cruise ship won’t be up close and personal with a calving glacier where a smaller boat you can hear the ice explode and then watch for it to fall.
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