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Alaska planning.... sorry for all the questions...

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First time cruiser and planning for Alaska for July or August 2016. We're trying not to be too crazy spending money (yeah, right) and also trying to keep the time away from home as reasonable as possible and still see and do what we wanted to see and do...

 

Was looking at a cruisetour and was looking at the CB3 package. Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Fairbanks/Denali, Denali/Whittier. This gives my wife her "Fairbanks fix" doing the riverboat, Gold Dredge 8, Athabascan village and dog sled kennel. Relax a little in Denali. train to Whittier. Stay a couple nights in Vancouver before heading home (western NY area near Buffalo/Niagara Falls)

 

I'm hearing that getting through Vancouver airport can be stressful at the end of a trip. If we HAD to cut out Vancouver (and just go back later and combine it with Seattle maybe), we'd still be looking at leaving around 1pm as we'd never make the morning flights out.

 

So I'm sitting here thinking.... what if we did the whole thing in the other direction? Fly into Vancouver (arrive the day before the cruise starts), cruise north, END the tour in Fairbanks and fly home from there. No customs to deal with and maybe less stress? It's going to be a long trip home no matter what. From Vancouver or from Fairbanks.

 

If we fly to Vancouver. We would have to do Canadian entry customs at the airport. Then we'd board a ship whose first stop is in the US. Do you have to pass a customs inspection at the first US port? Like... drag all your luggage someplace when you reach Ketchican and then drag it back aboard and THEN go on an excursion? Somehow that sounds a bit illogical and logical at the same time. :)

 

If that's NOT the case... do you do US entry customs in Whittier before boarding the train?

 

Am I like... SEVERELY over thinking all of this? :) (I tend to do that but it often results in a GREAT vacation with no travel-related surprises)

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while I've not done that trip I can't advise you.

 

All I can do is welcome you to Cruise Critic, and the wonderful(I think)world of cruising.:D

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First time cruiser and planning for Alaska for July or August 2016. We're trying not to be too crazy spending money (yeah, right) and also trying to keep the time away from home as reasonable as possible and still see and do what we wanted to see and do...

 

Was looking at a cruisetour and was looking at the CB3 package. Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Fairbanks/Denali, Denali/Whittier. This gives my wife her "Fairbanks fix" doing the riverboat, Gold Dredge 8, Athabascan village and dog sled kennel. Relax a little in Denali. train to Whittier. Stay a couple nights in Vancouver before heading home (western NY area near Buffalo/Niagara Falls)

 

I'm hearing that getting through Vancouver airport can be stressful at the end of a trip. If we HAD to cut out Vancouver (and just go back later and combine it with Seattle maybe), we'd still be looking at leaving around 1pm as we'd never make the morning flights out.

 

So I'm sitting here thinking.... what if we did the whole thing in the other direction? Fly into Vancouver (arrive the day before the cruise starts), cruise north, END the tour in Fairbanks and fly home from there. No customs to deal with and maybe less stress? It's going to be a long trip home no matter what. From Vancouver or from Fairbanks.

 

If we fly to Vancouver. We would have to do Canadian entry customs at the airport. Then we'd board a ship whose first stop is in the US. Do you have to pass a customs inspection at the first US port? Like... drag all your luggage someplace when you reach Ketchican and then drag it back aboard and THEN go on an excursion? Somehow that sounds a bit illogical and logical at the same time. :)

 

If that's NOT the case... do you do US entry customs in Whittier before boarding the train?

 

Am I like... SEVERELY over thinking all of this? :) (I tend to do that but it often results in a GREAT vacation with no travel-related surprises)

 

You clear Canada customs at YVR when you arrive in Vancouver . When you board at Canada Place you'll clear US Customs . At Whittier there is no customs to clear .

Leaving Vancouver by plane isn't much of a problem . Usually 2 hours is required to clear US Customs and security .

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I would HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend doing land tour then cruise. The land tour can be exhausting given the sheer amount of travel time between locales -it's wearing to be up early, transferring to another place, settling in, and any additional activities in each locale....HIGHLY recommend land tour then cruise, so you can relax and unwind on the cruise afterwards and come home more Refreshed, rather than bustling from place to place after the cruise and being worn out.

We've only done land then cruise, and if we did it again, that's the only way Wed go. We had several folks on our land portion who had done it previously, but in reverse (cruise then land) And ALL commented on how much better land then cruise was.

We've flew out of Vancouver this time - took maybe 20 minutes from check-in to bag drop and security and indignation for pre-clearance back to the US. Absolutely not an issue, and faster than it is on flights arriving into the US. We had one couple in our cruise from our table who had a flight the morning of arrival in Vancouver, flight was for 11:30 and they had no problems at all making it.

You're over-thinking it, truly. Go with the itinerary that suits you best of course. But highly recommend land tour then cruise!

Edited by reedprincess

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We did a 6 day land tour at the end of the 6 day cruise and had no problems. Flew home from Fairbanks - Anchorage - Los Angeles - Brisbane Australia and felt fine.

It's a great cruise and land tour (we chose the Connoisseur package as we'll only head over there once).

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Yardbird, you mentioned you have a "dog kennel fix", and that you live near Niagara. You have much better dog sledding opportunities right within driving distance of home. Drive about 4 hours north toward Huntsville, Ontario (or around there), and do it around early March. For the price you pay to do some fake, wheeled, summer dogsled in Fairbanks, you can do a real, half-day, dogsled experience in the Algonquin wilderness, and you will be dogsledding over a frozen lake. I would do a full day, personally. If last-minute weather conditions are a problem, those dog mushers are very flexible. It's still expensive, but a heckuva lot better value, and the money goes straight to feeding the dogs. Better yet, you can spend precious landtour time doing something else. That stuff in the Alaskan summer is just a teaser (even the ridiculous $500 heli-glacier excursions)--drive to Ontario in March and get the real deal.

Edited by tetleytea

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Yardbird, you mentioned you have a "dog kennel fix", and that you live near Niagara. You have much better dog sledding opportunities right within driving distance of home. Drive about 4 hours north toward Huntsville, Ontario (or around there), and do it around early March. For the price you pay to do some fake, wheeled, summer dogsled in Fairbanks, you can do a real, half-day, dogsled experience in the Algonquin wilderness, and you will be dogsledding over a frozen lake. I would do a full day, personally. If last-minute weather conditions are a problem, those dog mushers are very flexible. It's still expensive, but a heckuva lot better value, and the money goes straight to feeding the dogs. Better yet, you can spend precious landtour time doing something else. That stuff in the Alaskan summer is just a teaser (even the ridiculous $500 heli-glacier excursions)--drive to Ontario in March and get the real deal.

 

Actually it was a "Fairbanks Fix" :) She wants to do the riverboat, gold dredge, Athabascan village. The dog sled kennel was just a plus. Not interested in the cart ride really. More interested in the dogs.... and puppies.

 

That was the part of any land portion that interested her the most. I used to be an avid backpacker/hiker until some kid decided it was ok to pass on a curve on a 55mph road and that double yellow lines are just decorations. Head-on. I was killed. Well.... not permanently obviously, but after a year in a wheel chair and several surgeries over 10 years, at least I'm walking. Can't hike. Can't run with my dogs. but I can still walk at least for a couple hours at a time.

 

Anyways.... a night in Denali is fine with me and I look forward to all day on that glass domed train. I'm also an artist and (amateur) photographer. Talkeetna for a few hours would have been a plus, but then I'd want Homer and Valdeez and a drive up to Chicken... so... all things in moderation. I'd be happy with the CB3 itinerary on land.

 

In Vancouver I'd really like to get off the ship and go to a hotel on Granville Island. I think I could spend 2 days exploring there. Maybe take a tour around and see some sights, but the suspension bridge is out as my wife can't handle the height. And if it MOVED???? Forget it. If we do that bit in Vancouver we might be able to get a morning flight out without it being terribly stressful :). I'm more concerned about my wife. I am perfectly content to get to the airport way too early and sit and read for a couple hours. It's more stressful if you cut it close and fear not making your flight :)

 

So.... her brother and HIS wife are expressing interest, but upon hearing the cost I think they're backing out. So... I can only plan... and planB, .... and planC... and wait and see how this shakes out. But this trip is a celebration of my wife's retirement and she's been talking about it for YEARS... so we're going.

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I don't know how important it is to you to go into the park at Denali but I thought you should know about the Denali tours offered into the park. The Natural History tour lasts 3-4 hours and goes only to mile 17 or so of the park road. The Tundra Wilderness Tour lasts about 8 hours and goes to mile 50 something (I think). If you want to see the wildlife in the park, chances are slim that you will see anything on the Natural History tour as the wildlife is generally deeper into the park. The last time I was there we did the Tundra Wilderness tour and saw caribou, Dall's sheep, brown bears, and wolves as well as small game.

 

The reason I am pointing this out is to make sure you have time for the longer tour if you only allow one night in Denali if the wildlife viewing is important to you.

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Many years ago my dad and I did the land first, cruise second tour of Alaska. We loved touring first and then getting on the boat, letting down and being totally relaxed when it was time to head home!! I'm taking my husband for our 40th anniversary in May and have chosen to do the same thing again. We are flying into Vancouver and flying out of Fairbanks. Can't beat that itinerary in my opinion!

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For a stay in Vancouver I like the Pan Pacific hotel. It is on the waterfront and you can walk between it and the cruise ship terminal without going outside. You can walk along nice walkways all along the waterfront and it is a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

I too highly recommend the longest tour of Denali and taking the land tour first. I have taken a 3 day land tour and the 8 day escorted connoisseur land tour. It is my opinion that a person should put off an Alaskan cruise tour until such time as they can afford the cost and time away from home of the connoisseur tour. Once you go to Alaska you will want to go back again.

The ride in the domed rail cars is great.

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We just did a week on landing May.....3 nights in Fairbanks, 2 nights Denali, and 2 nights McKinley followed by train to Whittier. We flew from Boston to Fairbanks and home from Vancouver through Toronto and then to CT. Getting transfer to Vancouver was nightmare but the airport was great because we didn't have to go through customs until Toronto. No problems with that. Definitely recommend land first. I thought Fairbanks was my least favorite stop. We did gold dredge and riverboat too. If you want to experience dogs I highly recommend "tails of the Trail with Mary Shields" in Fairbanks.

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We just cruised on the Star Southbound from Whittier and I personally think that is far easier. In Whittier we basically just walked right onto the ship with no wait where I have heard of people waiting for hours in Vancouver to board. If you can book your flight for 2pm or later Princess offers a combo city tour/airport transfer. We walked off the ship, claimed our luggage, and walked right onto a bus. The tour was around 3 hours with 2 stops to get out and walk around, take pictures, buy souveniers and ice cream. We had been to Vancouver before so this was just right for us. A nice little taste of what the city offers for your next trip. They drop you off at the airport where you go straight through US customs. It was pretty busy and didn't take us more than an hour to do all the check in, luggage drop, security, and customs.

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Several years ago my hubby and I did the cruise from Vancouver to Whittier and transfer to Anchorage. There we rented a car and did our own one week land tour, returning to Anchorage to fly home to FL. It was wonderful as we could go at our own pace. We will be doing it again in July 2016 only this time we will spend two weeks on land in Alaska so we can see more. Have you thought about making your own arrangements on land?

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Many years ago my dad and I did the land first, cruise second tour of Alaska. We loved touring first and then getting on the boat, letting down and being totally relaxed when it was time to head home!! I'm taking my husband for our 40th anniversary in May and have chosen to do the same thing again. We are flying into Vancouver and flying out of Fairbanks. Can't beat that itinerary in my opinion!

If you're flying into Vancouver and out of Fairbanks, then it sounds like you're actually doing the cruise first and then the land touring. You might want to check that, as it would really bite to have booked your flights into/out of the wrong cities . . .

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Fairbanks would definitely be an easy airport to fly out of compared to Vancouver, but on the flip side, Whittier is the easiest embarkation port I've ever experienced due to pax arriving over such a long period of time. I do prefer to fly into Vancouver rather than out of it for the reason you stated. On the other hand, I agree with those who have said the land portion is the more physically intense component, so it's nice to do that first. Either way, you're going to have a fabulous time, but I'm like you always trying to work out every detail to perfection, so I understand your quandary. If you do the Northbound, I recommend staying at the Pan Pacific or Fairmont Waterfront; both are fantastic and right at the port. Happy cruising and exploring!

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First time cruiser

 

Welcome along to Cruise Critic, and I hope that you will get all your questions answered. Its a great way to enjoy your vacation.

 

I have only cruised on RCCL to Alaska, and it was on legend of the Seas, it is a fantastic vacation.

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First time cruiser and planning for Alaska for July or August 2016. We're trying not to be too crazy spending money (yeah, right) and also trying to keep the time away from home as reasonable as possible and still see and do what we wanted to see and do...

 

Was looking at a cruisetour and was looking at the CB3 package. Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Fairbanks/Denali, Denali/Whittier. This gives my wife her "Fairbanks fix" doing the riverboat, Gold Dredge 8, Athabascan village and dog sled kennel. Relax a little in Denali. train to Whittier. Stay a couple nights in Vancouver before heading home (western NY area near Buffalo/Niagara Falls)

 

I'm hearing that getting through Vancouver airport can be stressful at the end of a trip. If we HAD to cut out Vancouver (and just go back later and combine it with Seattle maybe), we'd still be looking at leaving around 1pm as we'd never make the morning flights out.

 

So I'm sitting here thinking.... what if we did the whole thing in the other direction? Fly into Vancouver (arrive the day before the cruise starts), cruise north, END the tour in Fairbanks and fly home from there. No customs to deal with and maybe less stress? It's going to be a long trip home no matter what. From Vancouver or from Fairbanks.

 

If we fly to Vancouver. We would have to do Canadian entry customs at the airport. Then we'd board a ship whose first stop is in the US. Do you have to pass a customs inspection at the first US port? Like... drag all your luggage someplace when you reach Ketchican and then drag it back aboard and THEN go on an excursion? Somehow that sounds a bit illogical and logical at the same time. :)

 

If that's NOT the case... do you do US entry customs in Whittier before boarding the train?

 

Am I like... SEVERELY over thinking all of this? :) (I tend to do that but it often results in a GREAT vacation with no travel-related surprises)

 

We did the land tour/cruise in July. I am so glad we did the land tour first. We were on the go the whole time. It was nice to get on the cruise and relax for a few days. It was crazy at the Vancouver airport but it didn't take that long. We stayed in Vancouver one night, did a tour of the city and caught the plane the next day. Enjoy the planning and trip. We had a blast.

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First time cruiser and planning for Alaska for July or August 2016. We're trying not to be too crazy spending money (yeah, right) and also trying to keep the time away from home as reasonable as possible and still see and do what we wanted to see and do...

 

Was looking at a cruisetour and was looking at the CB3 package. Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Fairbanks/Denali, Denali/Whittier. This gives my wife her "Fairbanks fix" doing the riverboat, Gold Dredge 8, Athabascan village and dog sled kennel. Relax a little in Denali. train to Whittier. Stay a couple nights in Vancouver before heading home (western NY area near Buffalo/Niagara Falls)

 

I'm hearing that getting through Vancouver airport can be stressful at the end of a trip. If we HAD to cut out Vancouver (and just go back later and combine it with Seattle maybe), we'd still be looking at leaving around 1pm as we'd never make the morning flights out.

 

So I'm sitting here thinking.... what if we did the whole thing in the other direction? Fly into Vancouver (arrive the day before the cruise starts), cruise north, END the tour in Fairbanks and fly home from there. No customs to deal with and maybe less stress? It's going to be a long trip home no matter what. From Vancouver or from Fairbanks.

 

If we fly to Vancouver. We would have to do Canadian entry customs at the airport. Then we'd board a ship whose first stop is in the US. Do you have to pass a customs inspection at the first US port? Like... drag all your luggage someplace when you reach Ketchican and then drag it back aboard and THEN go on an excursion? Somehow that sounds a bit illogical and logical at the same time. :)

 

If that's NOT the case... do you do US entry customs in Whittier before boarding the train?

 

Am I like... SEVERELY over thinking all of this? :) (I tend to do that but it often results in a GREAT vacation with no travel-related surprises)

Stop. Take a breath. Ok, now slowly back away! Haha! I was exactly where you are now 4 years ago!

I just returned from my THIRD trip to Alaska this June. What I suggest is to read reviews from those on this forum who have done either the NB or SB cruises. Read the Canadian ports of call forum to get a 'feel' for leaving from YVR. (1st time we rented a car and drove ourselves back to Seattle after a couple nights at a B&B in Vancouver; 2nd & 3rd time, we took the Princess transfer to YVR and had no problems-although I recommend checking in with your flight and pre-paying for luggage 24 hrs in advance on your phone or tablet. We were escorted right to a line that bypassed pax who still had to check in and print boarding passes - ours were on our phones)

Flying from NY is a long 10-14 hour trip to Anchorage or Fairbanks. Perhaps give yourself a little 'breathing' room by flying 1st to Seattle for 1 night and then a 3 hr flight to Alaska from there.

Caribill has a very detailed review of his connoisseur land tour. I have done one 'regular' Princess land tour (Fairbanks-1; Denali-2;, McKinley-2) and two DIY trips. We preferred the flexibilty of when/what to eat. Fairbanks Princess lodge offers shuttles into the city to find places to eat, Denali Princess is right across the street from several eating establishments and McKinley lodge offers shuttles into Talkeetna (a MUST see! We LOVE that town!)

Fairbanks was interesting with the rivercruise, but the crown jewel of Alaska is Denali NP! Don't cut yourself short there. Princess offers the Natural History Tour (don't bother) and the Tundra Wilderness Tour for an upcharge (DEFINITELY!). HOWEVER, I recommend you look into purchasing the SHUTTLE bus trips directly from the NP. We went in early June each time and had near perfect weather and saw the mountain out clear every time. The NP shuttle goes further into the park (more opportunity for wild life viewing) and is WAY less $$. One caveat is that the driver is technically NOT a guide, but our driver put the GUIDE we'd had previously to shame with his commentary and willingness to stop as often as possible for photo/wildlife view opps. There is no drop down screen on the shuttles to see in the distance, but honestly, we didn't need it! We were fortunate to see a lot up close and personal!

Feel free to email me at beh614@gmail.com if you'd like to read my reviews. I also posted one on the board here with photos. Look under the link to the Coral Princess up above and then look for the Review-SB Alaska Coral P. June 3-10 (sorry, I don't know how to insert links).

You've come to right place to get your information about Alaska. I can't thank my fellow CC members enough for their willingness to share their insights and recommendations.

Have fun with your planning!

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In response to rdsqrl : Uh, duh, yeah, I should have engaged mind before fingers began to type. Thanks, we're okay!!!

Edited by jawhoffman

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Two suggestions....Instead of flying back from Vancouver....which is always expensive....(at least usually)...when you are through visiting Vancouver take the train or a bus back to Seattle and fly back from there....You might save enough money for one of those dog sledding expeditions....back home.....Also, while in Denali go to Husky Homestead....the Kennel of Jeff King...who has won the Iditarod 4 times and the Yukon Quest one time. He gives the best demonstration and talk in Alaska.....bar none....When you go to the Denali kennels you will see the difference between the freight hauling dogs that patrol Denali in the winter and the Alaskan racing huskies that do distance races...

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Two suggestions....Instead of flying back from Vancouver....which is always expensive....(at least usually)...when you are through visiting Vancouver take the train or a bus back to Seattle and fly back from there....You might save enough money for one of those dog sledding expeditions....back home.....Also, while in Denali go to Husky Homestead....the Kennel of Jeff King...who has won the Iditarod 4 times and the Yukon Quest one time. He gives the best demonstration and talk in Alaska.....bar none....When you go to the Denali kennels you will see the difference between the freight hauling dogs that patrol Denali in the winter and the Alaskan racing huskies that do distance races...

 

You could also cross the border to Bellingham WA and fly from there.

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