need opinions

Old Aug 2nd, 2001, 10:13 AM
Jo Carol
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need opinions

My husband and I are starting to plan a trip to Alaska for Aug, 2002. I'm told not to miss the cruise, Holland America, it's out of this world! But I would like to go to Deneli also. So we're considering a cruise and then a few days land package, which I'm told is offered by many. I would like to know your experiences visiting Alaska by ship and land and your most memorable moments. What you liked the best and least, etc. Thanks,
Old Aug 2nd, 2001, 10:49 AM
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You want opinions?
You came to the right place.
No shortage of opinionated (and argumentative) types circling around this website.
My (opinionated) opinion?
Don't like cruises. Love to be able to customize my itinerary and come and go as I please. Everything which is great about the Alaskan coastline can be viewed from a day cruise out of Seward or even a short multiday excursion.
The interior is as breathtaking as the coast, and I will never take one of those motorcoach tours unless/until I'm physically incapacitated someday.
Driving Alaska was a memorable experience. Large distances but spectacular scenery everywhere.
Old Aug 2nd, 2001, 04:37 PM
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I have written up our HA cruise/land to Alaska several times..........try researching past replies........but, basically, we are so glad we did the land portion......three nights on cruise and eight days inland with an absolutely superb guide. This included Denali.....We got off the ship in Skagway and started on the land portion. The whole thing ws great.
Old Aug 2nd, 2001, 07:19 PM
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My husband and were gone for 3 weeks last summer. We did 2 weeks with a rental car before going on a Princess cruise. Driving in Alaska was great, no it was wondreful. If I had to choose between the two, I would certainly take the land over the cruise. The cruise was great and we enjoyed it very much, I believe seeing the real Alaska, you need to be on your own. I heard some people on the cruise talking about 'being herded like cattle' while on a land cruise through the ship. Alaska was easy getting around on our own. We saw moose and caribou, eagles, we played in the snow (June), it was absolutely wonderful. There wasn't any least liking - it was all great, Homer and Sewart were wonderful areas to visit and Denali was really nice. It's just a great state. We stayed at a wonderful B&B on the Kenai Pen. for a few days, and other than that, just ended up somewhere at night and found a room.
Old Aug 2nd, 2001, 08:26 PM
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Is a cruise the thing you want to do.. or visit Alaska - since you heard how great HAL were?

Alaska can be seen via an car (rental), RV, cruise, train or plane. Each has its merits.

Are you the cruise type? Do you like to have your days planned and all the arrangements taken car of?

Do you like some adventure? Is driving an RV a problem?

Anyway.. from the sounds of your question.. I'd say you aren't exactly sure what you want to do...

Write again and let us know.

Old Aug 2nd, 2001, 08:45 PM
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Sorry. I realized you may be asking because you don't know what you want to do.... I'll give my perspective.

If you like to cruise, that is, take cruises to many different places, then Alaska is definately one of the hot cruise destinations. The SouthEastern cities and ports are all geared to the cruise ship passenger. The area is beautiful. Many land excursions are available.

Princess, in my opinion, the best land packages. They have a well oiled machine (or cattle, if you will) that take cruisers to Denali or Kenai Fjords with ease and adequate accommodations. I also heard that Princess has most of the rights to ports in Alaska cities, whereas other liners have to anchor outside and take smaller boats in. Princess "owns" many lodges and "resort" properties that are adjacent to many tourist areas. Princess has a very good net around the state.

However, if you want to see Alaska, you don't cruise. You must get out on your own to the interior. And not just a part of a 1/2 day here or there, or to some remote village to see kids tossed into the air. Alaska is unique. It is huge. It is special. It is many different things to residents of the lower 48.

Before our trip, I asked each family member what one thing they wanted to do or see in Alaska. We planned our trip around Denali, Humpback Whale Watching, visiting Wrangall St. Elias Nat Park and camping. I ask you the same thing: Do you want to cruise? Then, once cruise is done, see other things?

During my research, I posted many questions to about Alaska planning. will get you started on using this newsgroup. At the time, there must have been hundreds if not thousands of different posts comparing real experiences between cruise lines, and the pros and cons of various land excursions. It will take time.. but you will hear from people who have been there.. done that.

While in AK, we drove through the Yukon to get to/from Haines. We saw a couple of Holland American Lines busses. It was a LONG trip and I would not have wanted to be on that bus. I suspect they were going from Skagway (or nearby) to an interior point (say Denali) or back to Fairbanks or Anchorage. This did not seem to be a lot of fun. Some cruise companies travel the interior by train.... instead of motorcoach..

Old Aug 2nd, 2001, 09:50 PM
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Jo- we did the Holland America cruise from Vancouver to Seward, then took the bus transfer to anchorage, rented a car and drove around the Kenai Peninsula for 5 or 6 days, then came back and flew out of Anchorage home. We had never been on a cruise or been to alaska, and I have travelled all around the world and never gone on any guided trip other than an occasional city tour. We LOVED this trip. the boat was so relaxing, yet you could get out and socialize if you wanted. We walked around most fo the ports, except in Juneau, where we took a helicopter onto a glacier. After a great guided bus trip from the boat to the airport, we asked the driver what she thought about kenai vs Denali. She confirmed what many others had said- Denali is a long trip to a crowed park, and the odds of your actually seeing Denali are slim. Kenai had much to see: wildlife, glaciers, Homer's museums and art galleries, boat trips over to see grizzlies, and even clamming on the beach at midnight. Maybe someone else can comment on the Denali sidetrip, but I certainly recommend the HAL cruise and some sort of exploration inland after you dock! Driving around is easy, and there are places to stay virtually everywhere.
Old Aug 2nd, 2001, 10:35 PM
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We did a cruise/land package in July of this year. We enjoyed the cruise from Vancouver(on Princess)to Seward. The small towns are full of tourists. However they each have great visitor centers. The national parks system has films and displays that help you get to the history not just the best souvier shops. We then rented a car in Seward and drove to Anchorage and Denali. If you do this I would go on to Fairbanks rather than drive back to Anchorage. The drive is long and you have seen it on the way up.I am glad I went but next time I will spend more time in the Kenai Penisula it was the prettiest. We went to exit glacier where you can walk up a touch it. (about 1 1/2 miles from the parking lot) If you want to cruise for it's own sake fine other wise fly to Anchorage and go south!!
Old Aug 3rd, 2001, 05:25 AM
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Having done both Kenai Fjords and Denali tours, I'll take exception to the tone (I guess) of the earlier comment, "Denali is a long trip to a crowed park, and the odds of your actually seeing Denali are slim." Denali is at or near the top of a "Don't Miss" category.

While what she said is true, the chances of seeing Mt. McKinley are slim, Denali Nat. Park has much to offer. About crowds - the way everyone sees Denali is by taking a bus on the only road through the park. Only the 1st 15 miles are open to traffic. Some busses are basic; others are "tours" with box lunches. It is not like Yellowstone or others where you drive, park, step outside, look and move on. You will be part of a busload of other visitors. You won't notice other people.

Weather will be the major determining factor on most of your Alaska touring. Whether it is Denali, Kenai, Glacier Bay.. you won't see anything if the day is cloudy, foggy or rainy. [But weather changes quickly.. do don't despair]

On our bus, we saw 16 grizzly bears including mom with 2 cubs. Several moose including a bull in a small lake, countless caribou, Dall sheep and more.

Don't miss Denali.
Old Aug 9th, 2001, 12:38 PM
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I was born and raised in Alaska and now go to school in the lower 48. I get tons of questions about these land/sea cruises because people hear they're wonderful. I am sure they are. BUT I will tell you what I tell everyone else: if you don't mind spending the money (which it sounds like you don't if you're willing to pay for a cruise) fly into Anchorage and get on the Alaska railroad to Denali. It should be at least an overnight trip, staying either in Fairbanks or Denali Nat'l Park. having been on the train before, the tracks take you places you can't get with your car, and the train accomodations are reasonable. THEN, when you get back to Anchorage rent an RV (book early). Drive South down Turnagain Arm and onto the Kenai Peninsula. Having travelled all over the world, and of course living in AK, the Kenai Peninsula, and in turn the drive there, is the most beautiful place I have been. Waterfalls spill onto the highway, leftover winter snow greets you in the Pass, and there are lakes and river of bright green glacial water. Breathtaking.
And the best part about going in an RV? No cattle-driving guides, you can get out and touch the ice-cold river, and you can park in any local Wal-mart (try Soldotna, close to Homer AND Seward) for free.
Really, you will LOVE it. Seward and Homer are the most beautiful ocean-side towns ever, and you will more wildlife you could hope to see from a huge cruiseliner.
Lastly, I have to say this as an Alaskan. The cruise line industry has REPEATEDLY destroyed the oceans of Alaska. They have been caught leaking oil all over the beautiful wildlife its passengers coo over, they have them on videotape dumping bags of garbage overboard, and frankly I don't think you want to patronize companies like this.
Have a WONDERFUL trip, and although it's not as cheap or warm as Mexico, its somewhere you must go in your life.
Happy Trails!
Old Aug 10th, 2001, 06:43 PM
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My boyfriend and I just returned yesterday from AK and we are SO happy we didn't take a cruise! We flew into Anchorage, rented a car, and drove down the Seward Hwy to Seward. It was the most spectacular drive! The best thing about being on your own is that you can stop and take pictures when you want or sit on a scenic overlook and have a snack or just take in the scenery. We had all the time in the world to hang out at Exit glacier. We stayed at the Harborview Inn (which I HIGHLY recommend, the rooms are spotless! and the price is good too!)Took the Kenai Fjords Cruise which is a MUST! Saw a ton of wildlife: otters, killer whales, bald eagles, puffins.
We then went north to Talkeetna which is a great little town. Our second favorite spot. We stayed at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge (Another HIGHLY recommended hotel). The hotel has a great deck where you can just sit and wait for McKinley clear up (which it did for a bit!) A great view! Then, we went to Denali, didn't see McKinley there but saw much bear activity on the bus tour. I felt the bus tour was extremely long and tiring but worth it to see the bear. No moose, the driver said he hadn't seen a moose in almost week. Nobody really knew why. We spent two nights in Denali but I think we could have done three so we had time for horseback riding or rafting. Driving the Parks Hwy is OK, not as scenic as Seward Hwy IMO. I think I would consider the train to Denali with a stop in Talkeetna next time and also a longer stay on the pennisula to see Homer. There were Princess cruise buses all over. The people were definitely being herded. I don't think the cruise people got to see nearly as much as we did. To package or not to package is a personal preference, I guess. There will definitely be a next time for us and it will be planned independently again. We LOVED it!

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