Land tour before or after cruise?

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#1
Massachusetts
39 Posts
Joined Jan 2017
My family is taking an Alaskan cruise in July out of Vancouver and ending in Seward, Alaska. Seeings this is a bucket list trip, (we live on the east coast) we want to make the most of our time. My question is, is it better to come a few days before the trip starts and enjoy Vancouver or better to see more of inland Alaska after we get off the cruise? My gut says see Alaska! But I want to hear from people who have been on this trip! Anyone have advice for me?


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#3
Florida
878 Posts
Joined Apr 2016
It might depend on how much time you have. You can easily stay in one place for like 2 nights and see many things in Vancouver. We did that before our Alaska cruise. Very nice city, easy to get around without a rental. We will do it again also.

Now Alaska would not be as easy, nor could you see a lot without moving around. Now if you have the time, I would try Alaska.

Denali is beautiful and well worth it, but we actually were on a land tour as part of our cruise when we did Alaska. So transportion was not my problem. Planning was not my problem. But we did enjoy that. We now know enough that we will probably try that on our own next time too.
#4
YVR & PDX
4,872 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
What's buckety about the trip? Would the requirements be checked off by what you'll see on the cruise, so the land part is not actually on the list? Is there nothing inland in AK that meets your bucket criteria?

Vancouver is a modern urban city, with all the amenities that tends to bring; Alaskan wilderness is almost the opposite. I'm really not sure how you don't already have a strong enough preference for either Chalk or Cheese that posts from randos on the interwebs would be able to change your mind... but for what it's worth, despite my inherent bias toward living in an urban environment (and specifically Vancouver, which is awesome) I'd do more time in Alaska since a cruise barely touches one teeny section of the state, even the one-way which you plan.

If you have to choose either/or, rather than taking more time and doing both this trip, Vancouver is also much more practical to visit in future than AK interior - it's on many major flight routes so e.g. if you plan to go anywhere in Asia to check off more list places, you could stop over en route; Cali Coastal/Hawaii cruises use it as a terminus so you could combine with a future cruise without doubling-up on AK; two great train routes start/end here, across Canada and down the West Coast.

Really the only way Vancouver would not be pretty straightforward to visit in future is if you also have 'commit a crime' on your bucket list without the sensible modifier '...and make sure not to get caught' as you might be unable to cross the border. If so, you definitely want to visit us and any other Canadian bucket list destinations before you check off the DUI/Bank Robbery/Murder Spree bits of the list;-)
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#5
Northern California
3,472 Posts
Joined Sep 2006
My two cents worth is that Vancouver is nice, but Alaska is spectacular. See as much of Alaska as you possibly can.
#6
21,698 Posts
Joined Aug 2013
Would prefer a post-cruise Alaska land tour. I can explore Vancouver on a side trip on a future northwest trip some other time.


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#7
Massachusetts
39 Posts
Joined Jan 2017
Originally posted by martincath
What's buckety about the trip? Would the requirements be checked off by what you'll see on the cruise, so the land part is not actually on the list? Is there nothing inland in AK that meets your bucket criteria?

Vancouver is a modern urban city, with all the amenities that tends to bring; Alaskan wilderness is almost the opposite. I'm really not sure how you don't already have a strong enough preference for either Chalk or Cheese that posts from randos on the interwebs would be able to change your mind... but for what it's worth, despite my inherent bias toward living in an urban environment (and specifically Vancouver, which is awesome) I'd do more time in Alaska since a cruise barely touches one teeny section of the state, even the one-way which you plan.

If you have to choose either/or, rather than taking more time and doing both this trip, Vancouver is also much more practical to visit in future than AK interior - it's on many major flight routes so e.g. if you plan to go anywhere in Asia to check off more list places, you could stop over en route; Cali Coastal/Hawaii cruises use it as a terminus so you could combine with a future cruise without doubling-up on AK; two great train routes start/end here, across Canada and down the West Coast.

Really the only way Vancouver would not be pretty straightforward to visit in future is if you also have 'commit a crime' on your bucket list without the sensible modifier '...and make sure not to get caught' as you might be unable to cross the border. If so, you definitely want to visit us and any other Canadian bucket list destinations before you check off the DUI/Bank Robbery/Murder Spree bits of the list;-)


Ha! Well let me thank you first for the giggle. I assure you my bucket list is full of travel and nothing that will land me in jail! You make some very valid points about Vancouver. Secondly, thanks for the great advice. Just seeing Alaska is a check on our bucket list. Seeing more than what we experience on the trip is just icing on the cake for us. My parents are coming and they are 75 and 78. They are in good health, but you just never know when that could change. This is a trip they have always wanted to take. I’m just starting my research. Tell me what I really need to not miss after I get off the ship! I appreciate the advice so much.


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#8
Oxford, MS
2,932 Posts
Joined Feb 2005
Originally posted by PictureNana
Ha! Well let me thank you first for the giggle. I assure you my bucket list is full of travel and nothing that will land me in jail! You make some very valid points about Vancouver. Secondly, thanks for the great advice. Just seeing Alaska is a check on our bucket list. Seeing more than what we experience on the trip is just icing on the cake for us. My parents are coming and they are 75 and 78. They are in good health, but you just never know when that could change. This is a trip they have always wanted to take. I’m just starting my research. Tell me what I really need to not miss after I get off the ship! I appreciate the advice so much.


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We did interior AK before we boarded our ship in Seward. Since you are doing the reverse, I'll give you what we did - in reverse of course!

In Seward - make sure you do a Kenai Fjords tour. We used Major Marine and the tour was spectacular. So much wildlife to see and we got close enough to a glacier that we could hear it calving. We weren't able to get that close on the cruise. If you have enough time, the Alaska Sea Life Center is a gem. Do a "Behind the Scenes" tour. We did the Sea Lion Encounter and got "sugar" from Sugar (who sadly has passed away). The whole thing was very interesting and they even have a camera that shows the sea lions at the sea lion rookery that you see on the Major Marine tour.

That's a full day in itself and I'm not sure you'd be able to make the evening train to Anchorage after all that. If are able, take the train back to Anchorage...stunning scenery. We paid extra and got the "first class" service with assigned seats in a dome car above a dining car. Loved seeing the scenery and eagles flying overhead while sipping a mimosa!

Rent a car in Anchorage and get up to the Denali area. We stayed there 3 nights. One day we went white water rafting on the Nenana and did a Midnight ATV ride. They bill the ride as "in" Denali National Park, but in reality you are in an area that is surrounded by DNP on 3 sides. It's a dusty ride and the mosquitoes are HORRID, but totally worth it. Oh and 100% DEET is your friend in Alaska - interior especially. Off wipes just don't work - the swarms (yep they swarm) of mosquitoes will just break right through any of that stuff.

Make sure you get in to Denali National Park. If you take the shuttle bus, it's the cheapest way to go. Get as far in as Eielson Visitor Center for a good shot at seeing the mountain as well as any wildlife. We went as far as Mirror Lake - lots of mosquitoes down there. Next time I go, I'd like to get off the shuttle at Eielson and walk some of the trails around there and then catch a different shuttle back. The drivers on the shuttle don't have to narrate as to what you are seeing, but if you ask nicely, they will probably do it - ours did. Word of caution - don't schedule a Midnight ATV ride the night before going into Denali National Park. Yep, my one "regret" on my vacation - we didn't get back until 2am and by the time we all took showers and got the DEET off and into bed, it was close to 3am and we had to be at the park by 6:30 (IIRC) to catch the 7am shuttle - made for a really loooooooooooong day.

After Denali, we made our way over to Glacier View, AK. We rented a cabin there and went and hiked on a glacier - well at least myself and oldest son did, my exDH and youngest son drove into Wasilla to the Iditarod HQ and took a dogsled ride. There weren't a lot of restaurants in the area, but it was very nice to just have a couple days of relaxation.

On our way up to Denali, we stopped in Talkeetna and walked around a bit while my oldest son had a flight lesson (had a groupon for it!). It's a cute town, but not a whole lot to do there - at least not for us.

We did spend a couple extra hours in Vancouver after our cruise. We took a HOHO tour and had lunch before heading to the train station to catch an Amtrak train to Seattle. I would have loved to hop off the trolley at a couple of stops, but my youngest was on crutches with a broken foot (thus the reason he couldn't go walking on the glacier), so it would have been really hard on him.

Hope this helps. I did a review back in 2013 about our trip. It was spectacular and I so can't wait to do it again. There is so much to see and do in Alaska and we just got a little taste of it.
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#9
YVR & PDX
4,872 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
Originally posted by PictureNana
Ha! Well let me thank you first for the giggle. I assure you my bucket list is full of travel and nothing that will land me in jail! You make some very valid points about Vancouver. Secondly, thanks for the great advice. Just seeing Alaska is a check on our bucket list. Seeing more than what we experience on the trip is just icing on the cake for us. My parents are coming and they are 75 and 78. They are in good health, but you just never know when that could change. This is a trip they have always wanted to take. I’m just starting my research. Tell me what I really need to not miss after I get off the ship! I appreciate the advice so much.
Glad you found it amusing and useful!

Since I have yet to go see AK's interior myself I can only point you to further research or hope that you get enough info from other posters. Even in good shape though, 2 late-70s peeps who by the sounds of it would be happy just to see the cruised parts... I'd be asking a few follow-up questions about how well they can handle long travel days. Go look on Google Maps for drive time between places - and pad the schedule generously for photo-stops, loo breaks etc.

Do they already go on long roadtrips? What about bus or train travel? Will they be able to handle consecutive travel days or need to rest up in-between? If you rent your own vehicle and drive yourselves you can book wherever and whenever to stay that works around your group - a packaged bus/train/plane/combo tour means you don't have to drive, but the pace might be too fast, no control over where & when to stop.

Would they be able to, and if so would they want to, hike or do any other more energetic outdoorsy activity? What about you and your spouse/kids/traveling companions - if you youngsters were up for an energetic day in the wilderness but your parents weren't, would they be OK with hanging around in an unfamiliar town or even a lodge that doesn't have anything much around it?

If merely cruising AK is enough to check it off, then Vancouver is one of the best cities on the planet to visit - and generally very friendly to mobility challenged folks. Urban tourism means many things to do close by your accommodation - especially in Vancouver, where we thoughtfully put most of the popular tourist sites and hotels in the downtown core. Anyone who can walk a couple of miles can get from literally any downtown hotel to any downtown site, and every hotel has some popular sites much closer than that. Some outside-of-town popular sites also have shuttles from downtown.
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#10
Massachusetts
39 Posts
Joined Jan 2017
Originally posted by olemissreb
We did interior AK before we boarded our ship in Seward. Since you are doing the reverse, I'll give you what we did - in reverse of course!

In Seward - make sure you do a Kenai Fjords tour. We used Major Marine and the tour was spectacular. So much wildlife to see and we got close enough to a glacier that we could hear it calving. We weren't able to get that close on the cruise. If you have enough time, the Alaska Sea Life Center is a gem. Do a "Behind the Scenes" tour. We did the Sea Lion Encounter and got "sugar" from Sugar (who sadly has passed away). The whole thing was very interesting and they even have a camera that shows the sea lions at the sea lion rookery that you see on the Major Marine tour.

That's a full day in itself and I'm not sure you'd be able to make the evening train to Anchorage after all that. If are able, take the train back to Anchorage...stunning scenery. We paid extra and got the "first class" service with assigned seats in a dome car above a dining car. Loved seeing the scenery and eagles flying overhead while sipping a mimosa!

Rent a car in Anchorage and get up to the Denali area. We stayed there 3 nights. One day we went white water rafting on the Nenana and did a Midnight ATV ride. They bill the ride as "in" Denali National Park, but in reality you are in an area that is surrounded by DNP on 3 sides. It's a dusty ride and the mosquitoes are HORRID, but totally worth it. Oh and 100% DEET is your friend in Alaska - interior especially. Off wipes just don't work - the swarms (yep they swarm) of mosquitoes will just break right through any of that stuff.

Make sure you get in to Denali National Park. If you take the shuttle bus, it's the cheapest way to go. Get as far in as Eielson Visitor Center for a good shot at seeing the mountain as well as any wildlife. We went as far as Mirror Lake - lots of mosquitoes down there. Next time I go, I'd like to get off the shuttle at Eielson and walk some of the trails around there and then catch a different shuttle back. The drivers on the shuttle don't have to narrate as to what you are seeing, but if you ask nicely, they will probably do it - ours did. Word of caution - don't schedule a Midnight ATV ride the night before going into Denali National Park. Yep, my one "regret" on my vacation - we didn't get back until 2am and by the time we all took showers and got the DEET off and into bed, it was close to 3am and we had to be at the park by 6:30 (IIRC) to catch the 7am shuttle - made for a really loooooooooooong day.

After Denali, we made our way over to Glacier View, AK. We rented a cabin there and went and hiked on a glacier - well at least myself and oldest son did, my exDH and youngest son drove into Wasilla to the Iditarod HQ and took a dogsled ride. There weren't a lot of restaurants in the area, but it was very nice to just have a couple days of relaxation.

On our way up to Denali, we stopped in Talkeetna and walked around a bit while my oldest son had a flight lesson (had a groupon for it!). It's a cute town, but not a whole lot to do there - at least not for us.

We did spend a couple extra hours in Vancouver after our cruise. We took a HOHO tour and had lunch before heading to the train station to catch an Amtrak train to Seattle. I would have loved to hop off the trolley at a couple of stops, but my youngest was on crutches with a broken foot (thus the reason he couldn't go walking on the glacier), so it would have been really hard on him.

Hope this helps. I did a review back in 2013 about our trip. It was spectacular and I so can't wait to do it again. There is so much to see and do in Alaska and we just got a little taste of it.


Wow!! Thank you so much for taking the time to write all that! That’s tremendously helpful! You’ve got me even more excited about our trip and I was already very excited!!Take cafe.


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#11
Massachusetts
39 Posts
Joined Jan 2017
Originally posted by PictureNana
Wow!! Thank you so much for taking the time to write all that! That’s tremendously helpful! You’ve got me even more excited about our trip and I was already very excited!!Take cafe.


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Oops! Take CARE that is.


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#12
Oxford, MS
2,932 Posts
Joined Feb 2005
Originally posted by PictureNana
Wow!! Thank you so much for taking the time to write all that! That’s tremendously helpful! You’ve got me even more excited about our trip and I was already very excited!!Take cafe.


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You are welcome! I missed the part of one of your posts that your parents would be with you. My mom (76 at the time) was with us for the trip from Anchorage to Seward and then the cruise. She probably would have enjoyed the week before the cruise, but I'm not sure she's as interested in everything we did. If you don't think your parents would be interested in white water rafting or an ATV ride, and if they would be comfortable just sitting at a hotel, you might want to look at one of the Princess hotels or even renting a cabin or something through VRBO.

Also - look into getting a Alaska Tour Saver book and/or the other coupon book that is recommended on here. Our land "excursions" were mostly booked using coupons from those books. I was even able to use a coupon for our stay at the Denali Bluffs Hotel (small rooms, no air conditioning, nice location). You are able to look at the coupons online (or were 5 years ago) before ordering the book. Take advantage of as many as you can - I know mine paid for themselves with the money we saved.
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#13
North Texas
1,039 Posts
Joined Feb 2013
If you decide to rent a car in Alaska to see the interior, recommend a book called "The Mile Post." Full of maps, things to do for the tourist, contact points for activities, hotels, etc. It also makes a great souvenir after the inland trip!
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#14
Massachusetts
39 Posts
Joined Jan 2017
Originally posted by DaKa2002
If you decide to rent a car in Alaska to see the interior, recommend a book called "The Mile Post." Full of maps, things to do for the tourist, contact points for activities, hotels, etc. It also makes a great souvenir after the inland trip!


It’s now in my Amazon cart! Thanks for the tip!


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#15
North Texas
1,039 Posts
Joined Feb 2013
Originally posted by PictureNana
It’s now in my Amazon cart! Thanks for the tip!
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I really hope you find it incredibly useful. It was our 'bible' for the three years we lived in Anchorage years ago; we have also bought updated copies of the Mile Post for two of the six vacations back to Alaska since we moved "outside." They are all highlighted in multiple colors, with multiple pages turned down, and badly dog-eared!
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#16
4,560 Posts
Joined Dec 2014
@PictureNana : What is your cruise date leaving Vancouver? Perhaps we can identify some event opportunities to leverage. There are a few fireworks nights.

Vancouver has a lot to offer for a first time visitor for a few July days. How would you like to experience it?