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scooter11 Nov 16th, 2005 04:57 AM

Post-Alaskan cruise itinerary questions?
 
I am planning a post-cruise land trip for my mid-seventies parents. I have been reading the itinerary posts for the last few days, and I still have a few questions for the "alaskan experts". The cruise disembarks at Seward. They only have 5 days before they have to fly out to Seattle on the 5th day. My parents originally wanted to go to Denali, but after reading that Denali would eat up 2/3 nights I thought their time could be better spent doing other things. My questions are:

1.Why does everybody seem to take the RR Southbound to Seward? I know the Northbound RR trip is at night, but the sun sets close to midnight, right? Any preferances for south or north bound? I don't see why they would have to double back to Seward if they are starting there.(the RR dome car trip is a priority for them)

2.Can they do this 5 day trip without renting a car?

3.Is it worth going to Talkeetna if they won't be going on to Denali? I'm not sure if they will do a flightseeing trip, however I thought they might enjoy the views of Mt.Mckinley.

4. I guess in retrospect they could do Denali, but that plus a day in Seward would be it. Is it worth the time to go? Or is their time better spent elsewhere?

My father's balance is not that great, and he needs frequent bathroom breaks, so I think the Denali park shuttle would be too much for him.

Any suggestions would be most welcome!


BudgetQueen Nov 16th, 2005 08:32 AM

You have misinformation- The Alaska RR Anchorage/Seward is certainly taken in both ways and neither better than the other. If they are arriving in Seward- I would recommend that they consider the top attraction here, a Kenai Fjords boat tour- there is one at 11:30am they could easily make with pick up from their cruise ship. Best would be to overnight, but they could take the train to Anchorage that night, WHEN are they going??? Makes a big difference with daylight.

Is a car rental out of the question?? That would offer the best option if they wanted to get to Denali Park, taking the train requires time, but the big benefit is having your own transportation and not having to wait and depend on shuttles etc.

IF they get a car rental, it is easy to drive to Denali Park, overnight 2 days, consider an overnight in Talkeetna, then back to Anchorage. Plenty of scenic stops along the way. For clairfication- it is NOT likely to have McKinley viewing without a flight- with Talkeetna offering some of the best flightseeing options.

Bottom line, Denali Park is one of Alaska's top attractions, if at all possible and with your parent's interest, I would go there. The shuttle buses stop every 1 1/2 hours for bathroom breaks, is this enough??

I would at least consider the shuttle to Toklat mile 53, but Fish Creek can offer excellent bear habitat only 10 miles further.


Further looking at your post you mention the dome car a priority? I assume you mean the cruise contracted train?? I do not recommend this as it is more costly and offers no time in Seward which is a gem, not to be missed.
The regular run of the Alaska RR has a dome car, but steps unto the car and the seats are rotated.

scooter11 Nov 16th, 2005 12:02 PM

Hi BudgetQueen, I was hoping you would reply to my post. Your Alaskan advice seems to be the best! My parent's cruise disembarks on July 9th 2006, and they will be taking a Kenai Fjords boat tour that day(probably a 6hr one).A car rental is not out of the question, they just seem to be hesitant about it.(For what reason I don't know...they drive roundtrip from Detroit to Seattle every summer!)I think if I tell them thats the way to go, they will agree. So here is a tentative itinerary:

Day 1: Seward-Kenai Fjords boat trip, overnight in Seward.

Day 2: Rent a car, drive to Anchorage(instead of RR trip)this way they can stop at their leisure...etc.(Could they stop in Homer?..my parents like art galleries)Overnight in Anchorage.

Day 3: Drive to Denali.(How long will this take?)Overnight in Denali..suggestions for hotel? I see alot of the Denali Park hotels are already booked up for particular dates next summer!

Day 4: Take early morning shuttle to Denali Park, at least to Fish Creek. Overnight at Denali.

Day 5: Drive back to Anchorage, depart for Seattle. They have not booked their flights yet, so they could take a later flight. Or perhaps they could catch an early flight the next day...their plans in Seattle are not fixed quite yet.

Questions:

Can they rent a one-way car in Seward?
They could also take the RR trip roundtrip from Anchorage to Denali...is this way significantly longer than driving a car? Or will they want the flexibility of a car to stop at sights enroute to Denali?

Thank you again for your help...!



Day 3: Drive to Denali.(How long will this take?)


dfrostnh Nov 16th, 2005 12:44 PM

Hi Scooter, check a map. Homer is about 3 hours south of Seward and then from Homer to Anchorage it's about a 5 hour drive. We have only gotten as far north as Talkeetna and were fortunate to have magnificent views of Denali including a short video taken at 1am from a cabin we stayed at. Your parents would probably enjoy the shops and galleries. It's a very small, historic town. But with only 5 days and starting from Seward I would choose the trip to Homer instead. I think the view of the Homer Spit is high on my list of most scenic sights in Alaska. There are some interesting restaurants and the Pratt Museum is a must. Between Homer, Seward and Anchorage, I think your parents will have enough to do. Another option to include Homer would be to fly there from Anchorage on a commuter flight. We spent most of one trip based in Kenai and chose to take a commuter flight to get there from Anchorage. Surprisingly, on our trip home our bags were transferred to United in Anchorage for us when we asked if it could be done. However, if your parents decide to double back by car, it's a beautiful drive between Anchorage and almost all the way to Seward. I thought the drive to Talkeetna was "too long". We never saw much traffic except around Anchorage although I understand traffic on the Seward Hwy is heavy on Friday nights and then again on Sunday evenings. Heading from Seward to Homer there was quite a bit of traffic due to fishing at the Russian River ferry and then passing thru Soldotna is like going thru any suburban commercial area. Then the traffic thins out. Basically, I don't think Denali is worth the long drive when your parents could spend less time in the car if they went to Homer instead. Of course, Denali is the highlight for some people. Sounds like they'll have a great trip whatever they decide.

scooter11 Nov 16th, 2005 01:52 PM

Thanks for your input Dfrostnh! I just spoke with my parents, and they seem excited about being able to fit Denali in, and they renting a car. Although my father seems less so...I think all the time spent in the car is putting him off a little. He does not think he will even do the shuttle into Denali, so perhaps they should just bypass Denali alltogether! This will probably be their only trip to Alaska...so can I get some feedback from people who have gone to Denali? Is it worth the time? Will my father be board at the lodge while my mother is in the park? I know there is no guarantee what they will see as far as animals go. Thanks for any help!

jtrandolph Nov 16th, 2005 04:15 PM

I see you dilemna. The main reasons to do a shuttle in Denali, in my opinion, are the view of McKinley and the wildlife. For great views of McKinley, a flight in a small plane from Talkeetna is wonderful. Would that be an option rather than Denali Park? However, the mountain has to be "out". We were there in September and all was well.

birder Nov 17th, 2005 03:08 AM

As much as I fell in love with Denali, it sounds like your father is not going to be happy with it. He probably would be bored sitting in the lodge all day. Denali is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with such grand views and so much wildlife -- but hard to see unless you are going into the park on a shuttle.

Perhaps just staying in the Kenai Peninsula is a good idea. I wonder if there are 1-day bear viewing trips ... this could give them a sense of those grand creatures if they won't see them in Denali.

I am a little concerned about your father's balance and the 6+ hour Kenai boat tour out of Seward. Will he be OK on that? They should definitely take anti-seasickness medicine (everyone should on those boats), and I know that type of stuff made me feel woozy. The scenary is marvelous but not sure how your father would do with his balance problem.

BudgetQueen Nov 17th, 2005 03:48 AM

I disagree that Denali Park is not worthwhile for these travelers since they have the interest. Especially if you haven't been there???
The overall scenery is stunning and McKinley does NOT have to be "out" to enjoy it. If they can drive round trip a 1000++ miles, they will have no problem driving in Alaska.

For clairfication- I would still recommend the train from Seward their day of arrival. As I mention, the boat tour gets back in time for the train. It is superior scenery compared to the road. Then if they wish from Anchorage, they can easily drive down the Arm- 40 miles or so, stopping along the way.

As for distances, Denali park - allow 6 hours for the drive from Anchorage. I would suggest an overnight in Talkeetna as well either coming or going.

There is art in Anchorage to consider, The Native Museum has some, the Anchorage Art museum and the Native Hospital has a great art gift shop.

If they do go to Homer, allow 4 hours for the drive from Seward. Only car rental for Seward/Anchorage is with Hertz, expect $200/day with multidays less.

The RR Anchorage/Denali Park just about follows the Parks Highway and is the least scenic portion of the railroad in my opinion. Takes 8 hours Anchorage/Denali Park.

A good reasonable motel is the Denali Park motel, clean large basic rooms. But my preference is Touch of Wilderness B&B.

birder Nov 17th, 2005 05:08 AM

BQ, do you really think the father is going to be happy sitting in a lodge all day while the mother is out on the shuttle tour? Or are you recommending something else for them to do together, instead of the shuttle tour?

It does sound as though the father is not real happy about going to Denali: unhappy about all the driving they'll have to do, does not feel he can take the shuttle.

Ultimately, it's got to be their decision. Missing Denali would be very sad, but sitting in a lodge all day while one could be out enjoying the Kenai Peninsula is worse.

jq Nov 17th, 2005 06:39 AM

Scooter,
If your parents really want to see wildlife and possibly Mt McKinley, thye should definitely include denali. If they don't want to drive a lot, take the train from Seward to Anc as BQ recomm. Renting a r/t car from Anc is much cheaper. The trip to denali of 6hrs is with lunch and stops. Talkeetna is a nice lunch stop.
The shuttle bus into denali as you discussed is not as bad as it might seem, as you take breaks to stretch and restrooms. The approx 8 hrs time goes fast as everyone is looking for wildlife, and listening to drivers commentary about denali. We have done 3 times and not yet bored. But if your dad is determined not to ride shuttle, he could occupy himself around park entrance with new visitor center, movie, slide show, the sled dog demonstration at 10am,2pm and 4pm most days. Other than that, not sure what he would do with whole day in hotel. They could take train from Anc to denali but since there is only one per day, the sched is detemined by that. You arrive in the late afternoon and too late to take shuttle bus to Fish Creek or Toklat, so that would be the next morning, then have the late afternoon, evening to look around and catch the train the next day about noon to Anc. If flying out of Fairbanks rather than Anc, the train that direction would be in late afternoon I think.
While Homer is nice, it is the opposite direction from Anc and denali and could not be done in your timeframe. If you wanted to add several days and include driving to Homer, then it is very nice. We did not get to go there on our first trip with only a week on land, but did on our second with 8 full days and having already seen Anc and Seward area.As for wildlife in denali, it is like you said, but in our three trips, we have had grizzly right next to bus, wolves sited on two trips, lots of caribou, goats/sheep, eagles, moose and great scenery. We have been there in late May and in late Aug. So hopefully they will do this trip and remember it forever. Good luck. Keep asking questions.

scooter11 Nov 18th, 2005 05:32 AM

Thanks so much for everybody's advice!

I think the itinerary my parents will follow will be this:

Sunday: Seward-kenai fjords trip,then RR to Anchorage.
Monday: Drive to Talkeetna-overnight at 'Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge'.
Tuesday: Drive to Denali.
Wednesday: Shuttle bus tour into Denali.
Thursday: Drive back to Anchorage.
Friday: Morning flight to Seattle

My Father may end up going on the shuttle bus tour, it will depend on how he feels that morning. Ditto with the kenai Fjords boat trip. I have more questions though...should they stay close to the Park entrance or stay in Healy? I've checked into some B&B's in Healy, they look great. Any pro's and con's to staying at either place? The larger lodges closer to denali sound like they will be very congested! Also, is the Cabin Dinner Show(?) worth their while?



scooter11 Nov 18th, 2005 12:58 PM

I have thought of some more questions...If my parents do not do Denali park,and perhaps they go to Whittier, Girdwood etc., are there particular roads that they should avoid because my father has a fear of heights.

Thanks in advance for the continued help!

BudgetQueen Nov 18th, 2005 02:06 PM

Correct, Glitter Gulch at Denali Park is very congested. Staying in Healy is an easy drive and in my case, always preferable. Cabin Night is usually enjoyed by most, very nice show.

There are no "mountain driving roads", in Alaska. Along Turnagain Arm, you do drive along the wall of mountains at sea level. If he has a fear of heights, not much to do in Girdwood if you don't tram up Alyeska. Whittier isn't much either, with a glacier boat tour the top attraction. But you have to go through a one lane 3 ++ mile tunnel to get there- again is that a concern?? If you don't go to Denali Park- I would add a day in Seward and perhaps, do the one way car rental with Hertz and go to Homer.

Request visitor guides. www.seward.com www.kenaipeninsula.com
http://akms.com/htguide/ www.anchorage.net

scooter11 Nov 22nd, 2005 05:43 AM

After many days of research, I think we have come up with an itinery!
Day 1: Seward-Kenai boat trip,RR to Anchorage,overnight in Anchorage(at Millenium Hotel)
Day 2: Rent car, spend the day exploring Anchorage and driving to Girdwood. Overnight in Anchorage.
Day 3: Drive to Denali,stopping in Talkeetna for lunch. Overnight in Healy(at Lakeview Inn)
Day 4: AM shuttle bus tour, I think my father will do the Natural history Tour while mom goes on the shuttle to the Eielson Center. Overnight in Healy.
Day 5: Either drive back to Anchorage with flight to Seattle the next morning, or drive to Fairbanks and take flight the next morning from there.

Any thoughts on flying out from Fairbanks(as long as they can drop their car off there) I thought they could see a little of the city, or take a Sternwheeler cruise. Is the drive from Denali to Fairbanks scenic?

BudgetQueen Nov 22nd, 2005 01:54 PM

I would not suggest your father go on the Natural History tour, it's $45++ and goes the SAME distance you can drive yourself, which I suggest your parents do anyway. Possible wildlife and an easy drive. Overall, maybe they would consider Toklat?? This is the shortest I recommend, normally.

One way rentals Anchorage/Fairbanks- look at Thrifty, Avis, Hertz. Expect big drop fees. Scenery OK and a short trip of 2+++ hours (25 miles of construction last year, making for LONG waits) verify this is over??

You have a nice easy relaxing routing and timeframe. Certainly offers the wonderful highlights in Alaska. They should have a great time!

repete Nov 22nd, 2005 10:51 PM

The drive from Denali to Fbx is nothing special. It gets less exciting the closer you get to the town.

Not worth any drop fees IMHO, but then Fbx always underwhelmed me.

scooter11 Nov 23rd, 2005 05:04 AM

Yes, I checked into the rental car rates(from Anchorage to Fairbanks)and they were $100.00 more per day. Yikes!! So Fairbanks is out. What is with the differing reviews for the Millenium Hotel in Anchorage? Some people love it, while others hate it! People say it is overpriced, but the Homewood suites by Hilton is the same price! I am looking for a hotel with some atmosphere...Any thoughts?

Mama Nov 23rd, 2005 05:58 AM

Would you consider a little different itinerary?
Because they are disembarking in Seward they can stay there for a couple days, then rent a car for two/three days and drive to Homer, stay there two nights, drive back to Seward, return a car there and get on a train to Anchorage
Seward 2 nights
Homer 2 nights
Anchorage 1 night


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