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many questions about alaska

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I have not been to this great site for many years- -I now need your great insight once again--we are about to have our 50 th anniversity--and the boss stated she like our last cruise to be the one to Alaska to include the land portion to Denili (sp) area--many questions--but any help would truly be appreciated---do you go north to south or the other way---our 50th date is early june so should we start in the end of may? do we need to go on a 10/12/14 day adventure ? best ship--so many questions--if anyone could find the time to help we would really appreciate it--back ground we are early 70's--in pretty good health--I an RVN handicapped Vet --but can move just find--thanks in advance for your help and time--

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Congratulations on your 50th!  We just celebrated ours in September on the Nieuw Statendam.  We did a renewal of vows on that cruise, that may be something you'd be interested in too.  HAL does a great job, I was very pleased and happy we did it.

 

We also did the triple Denali (12 days) in late May.  I suggest doing the land part first, because it can be go-go-go, and then you can cruise south and relax.  🙂  

 

We sailed on the Westerdam (I see that ship will be going again this year).  Also the Koningsdam is doing Alaska for the first time this year.  That ship has the Tamarind restaurant and the Music Walk, which the Westerdam does not.  Whatever you choose, we loved the Alaska Land and Sea.  Going in May-June we had good weather and saw a lot of wildlife.

 

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We went starting the first week in September in Fairbanks.  Stayed there a few days before boarding the train.  There we saw wildlife, some coming down from high country.  We stayed only two days in Denali but there was a lot to see, altho the mountain hid from us.  From thereon the moose were in rhut, and saw moose all over, even in the city streets.  Fascinating.  Then on to Anchorage, boarding the ship in Seward, with a restful trip sailing home.  The weather was good except for one day while aboard the train with some rain.   You will love this land/sea combination -- a great vacation trip.☺️

Marianne

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2 hours ago, the col. said:

do you go north to south or the other way---our 50th date is early june so should we start in the end of may? do we need to go on a 10/12/14 day adventure ? best ship--so many questions

I like to go south to north -- that Westerdam cruise-tour I answered you with on the general board, should run in the other direction (ship has to get back to run the next N>S run). Going South (Vancouver) to North and on to Denali, you are getting more and more Alaskan with every day and every port. 

 

Others (especially those who are still working) prefer to do the tour (land) part of the trip first to have a chance to relax on the ship after some pretty packed days inland. 

 

Starting or ending in Vancouver means you will sail between Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Very scenic!

 

We haven't sailed on the Pinnacle Class ships (Koningsdam & Nieuw Statendam) yet, have one cruise on a Signature class ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam (the other is the Eurodam) and while my husband liked the shiny-newness of it, I didn't love it. Too modern, maybe. We both like the Vista ship, Zuiderdam, and have two Vista class ships booked. The Westerdam is a Vista Class.

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Thanks to all for your quick answers--sounds like mixed feeling as to going south to north or the other way--maybe we will do the land part first and then to the ship--where do you fly into-- to start from the north--do we need to get there a day early--how about some hotel ideas--thank you sooooo much for your help--

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Posted (edited)

The best trip to Alaska was after we had cruised north one year and then done a roundtrip from Vancouver another year.  It took us a while, but we figured out we were only seeing a small part of Alaska.  On our most recent trip there, we flew to Anchorage, rented a car, and did a road trip to Fairbanks and drove just about every paved road we could.  We were on land and on our own for two weeks, traveling on our own clock, and able to really meet the locals and take advantage of their tips on things to see where the railroad and tour buses don't go.  It was delightful.  AND, we spent less than if we had signed up for the cruise line's land tour before the cruise.

 

We eventually wound our way back to Anchorage, checked into a hotel, and then after a day or two of enjoying Anchorage, we made our way to the port and sailed south.

 

Think about it.

Edited by SargassoPirate

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2 hours ago, the col. said:

Thanks to all for your quick answers--sounds like mixed feeling as to going south to north or the other way--maybe we will do the land part first and then to the ship--where do you fly into-- to start from the north--do we need to get there a day early--how about some hotel ideas--thank you sooooo much for your help--

 

Congratulations on your 50th!

 

We've sailed several Alaska cruises (no land, just cruise), round-trip Vancouver, Seattle round-trip, AND from Seward down to Vancouver. All have been spectacular. I think I would suggest either r/t Vancouver OR south-bound to Vancouver. The reason for that is that our favorite days have been in sailing the Canadian Inside Passage. On a r/t Vancouver, you get the Canadian Passage both ways. Going from north to south, you get a full day sailing along the peaceful Canadian Inside Passage as your last day.....altho last time we had fog that didn't burn away until late in the day. Seattle round-trips seem to always go outside of Vancouver Island now ( that = no Canadian Inside Passage).

 

Regardless of which embarkation port you choose, I would definitely suggest at least an overnight in that particular city first. Our last cruise, southbound, we rented a car and a rental house near Aleskya (sp) for 2 nights and really enjoyed it. We used up most of one day driving over to Whittier and doing a glacier cruise from there and had a fun, full day. 

 

Whatever you decide on, you're SURE to have a fantastic celebration. Congratulations again, and very smooth sailing!

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2 hours ago, SargassoPirate said:

The best trip to Alaska was after we had cruised north one year and then done a roundtrip from Vancouver another year.  It took us a while, but we figured out we were only seeing a small part of Alaska.  On our most recent trip there, we flew to Anchorage, rented a car, and did a road trip to Fairbanks and drove just about every paved road we could.  We were on land and on our own for two weeks, traveling on our own clock, and able to really meet the locals and take advantage of their tips on things to see where the railroad and tour buses don't go.  It was delightful.  AND, we spent less than if we had signed up for the cruise line's land tour before the cruise.

 

We eventually wound our way back to Anchorage, checked into a hotel, and then after a day or two of enjoying Anchorage, we made our way to the port and sailed south.

 

Think about it.

 

LOVE this idea. We did our first cruise to Alaska (Seattle r/t, but at that time, it came back via the Canadian Inside Passage) and enjoyed Alaska so much that the following year, we did a "land trip" so we could see more than just the beautiful coastal Alaska. Flew into Anchorage, stayed 3 nights there and saw the surrounding areas, drove every possible combination of road to Fairbanks and stayed 3 nights there (even rented a special car to drive the Dalton Highway …..we were big Ice Road Trucker fans at the time …. and up past the Arctic Circle), then 2 nights near Denali before driving back to Anchorage to fly home. FABULOUS trip, put nearly 2k miles on the rental, and another several hundred on the "special" car for the Dalton Highway. The following year, we were back to cruising, with a r/t Vancouver, which is when we learned that last day sailing the Canadian Passage was so wonderful. When you go north out of Vancouver, most of the Canadian Inside Passage is sailed in late evening. Since we've only ever sailed in either August or September, we haven't had the advantage of REALLY late sunsets during the sailing.

 

Best wishes!

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We did a 14 day Fairbanks to Vancouver for our 30th anniversary and it was great!  We did the land the last week of August and cruised afterwards.  If you do a Sept in Denali be sure that everything is still open, as the season ends around Sept 1 (not sure exactly when).

 

I like the north to south approach, as you get the longest flying out of the way first, plus the land portion is very tiring and you get to relax on the ship afterwards.

 

If I had to do it over again, I would do the land portion myself, as that way is less expensive (IMO) and you really get to so and do the things YOU want to at YOUR pace.  However, it will require alot more planning than simply letting HAL do it for you like we did.

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We did the triple Denali tour last August. We started out in Anchorage, took the train to Denali, and took a bus from Denali to Seward. There we boarded the Noordam for the 7 day cruise to Vancouver.

Our favorite part of the whole thing was our cruise. The train to Denali was wonderful too.

But we got real tired of being on buses, especially that long bus ride to Seward from Denali (about 10 hours).

We were happy we saw some bears on the Tundra Tour, but that was another 8 hours on a bus.

We are happy that we did this tour, and saw this part of Alaska, but if we go there again we will just go cruising.

 

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16 hours ago, the col. said:

I have not been to this great site for many years- -I now need your great insight once again--we are about to have our 50 th anniversity--and the boss stated she like our last cruise to be the one to Alaska to include the land portion to Denili (sp) area--many questions--but any help would truly be appreciated---do you go north to south or the other way---our 50th date is early june so should we start in the end of may? do we need to go on a 10/12/14 day adventure ? best ship--so many questions--if anyone could find the time to help we would really appreciate it--back ground we are early 70's--in pretty good health--I an RVN handicapped Vet --but can move just find--thanks in advance for your help and time--

 

Congratulations on your upcoming 50th Anniversary!

 

The usual recommendation is to do the land portion first, then take the cruise south to Vancouver.  As others have mentioned, the land portion can be tiring, so you can get tired on the land portion, then relax and recover on the cruise.

 

As for when to go, you need to know what is and isn't available on the land portion since some parts of the park may not be open early or late in the season.  Another thing to consider is daylight hours, too.  In late August and in September, the days are shorter. 

Also realize that EVERYTHING in Alaska costs more than in the lower 48, or in the Caribbean. 

I suggest you do some reading on the Alaska forum here on CC
https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/33-alaska/

and keep asking questions. 🙂

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We did a 19 day triple Denali with Holland America.  It started in Vancouver with a 3 day inside passage cruise, then the land portion and ended with a 7 day cruise back to Vancouver.  If you go, I would highly recommend you spend as much time on land as possible.  A cruise only wets ones appetite.  The real beauty is away from the ports.  The full day Denali Wilderness Tour is a must.  We went the first weeek of June and enjoyed perfect weather.  Enjoy!

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I have been on the 3-day Denali cruise/land tour twice and found the land portion required a lot of sitting:  9 hours on the bus from Seward to Denali, 8 hours on the Tundra Wilderness Tour, and 9 hours on the train back to Anchorage.  Add the 9+ hours flying to/from Alaska and you have a lot of sitting squeezed into four days for the land portion.  My choices were both cruise first and fly home from Anchorage. 

 

The three days were actually just two since they count the day of arrival (around 6:00 PM) as one of the three.  One of the days is the Tundra Wilderness Tour and the other day is your choice of activities. 

 

Flights in/out of Fairbanks are very limited whereas to/from Anchorage are numerous. 

 

Talkeetna is on the itinerary but it is only a brief stop, if you are on the train, to allow another train to pass.

 

Here is a link to my 3-day Denali cruise/tour that includes maps, menus, photos of the McKinley Resort:

 

http://www.rogerjett-photography.com/place/alaska-2/denali

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Posted (edited)

We have - driven from Victoria to Haines;  cruised north to Seward and then rented a car for a couple of weeks in Anchorage;  cruised 1 week, Vancouver to Vancouver (twice); and cruised Seattle to Seattle for 2 weeks (twice).  My very favourite is the two-week cruise out of Seattle.  So nice to be on the ship for longer, but I can say that, as we have driven a lot in Alaska!  

 

So I guess I would say that, if you haven't been to Alaska before, do the land portion first and then relax on the cruise back to Vancouver, via the Inside Passage.  But the next one should be the two-week out of Seattle (and I'm sure there will be a "next one")!

 

Congratulations on your 50th anniversary.😀

Edited by Vict0riann

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On 1/7/2020 at 8:35 PM, Marianne said:

We went starting the first week in September in Fairbanks.  Stayed there a few days before boarding the train.  There we saw wildlife, some coming down from high country.  We stayed only two days in Denali but there was a lot to see, altho the mountain hid from us.  From thereon the moose were in rhut, and saw moose all over, even in the city streets.  Fascinating.  Then on to Anchorage, boarding the ship in Seward, with a restful trip sailing home.  The weather was good except for one day while aboard the train with some rain.   You will love this land/sea combination -- a great vacation trip.☺️

Marianne

We are booked on a similar trip in May although we start in Anchorage and then onto Denali for two days and then to a seven day cruise of Westerdam. Having trouble finding good information regarding baggage. Do they transfer all of your luggage to Denali then to the ship? We will have one full-size suitcase and a wheeled carryon.

 

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This land/sea package is a great way to see Alaska, altho you will only be seeing a part of it.  Holland America arranged our airfare for us.  At that time we were living in Portland Oregon, and Holland charged us a total of $100 for out trip to Fairbanks, and then from Vancouver back to Portland.  We flew via Alaska Airlines.  We spent several days in Fairbanks and had such a good time in that city.  The weather was warm, we walked all over or took public transportation.  Regarding baggage handling:  We were instructed to take one  bag for train travel to live out during that time.  The rest of our luggage was taken to the ship and in our room when we arrived.  The baggage situation was no problem at all for us.  Actually everything was well taken care of, Holland America did a good job of caring for us.  While in Denali we stayed in a cabin, again arranged by the ship, and the bus tour of Denali was to me very interesting, saw animals and the weather was good.  (not cold)  Traveling this trip in the late summer/early fall we saw quite a bit of animal activity while on the train as well as in Denali, and in the towns as the moose were in rhut.  This was truly  a wonderful trip for us, and actually our first trip to Alaska.  I'd like to do the Yukon segment for my next trip.  I hope I answered your questions.

Marianne

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, rere827 said:

We are booked on a similar trip in May although we start in Anchorage and then onto Denali for two days and then to a seven day cruise of Westerdam. Having trouble finding good information regarding baggage. Do they transfer all of your luggage to Denali then to the ship? We will have one full-size suitcase and a wheeled carryon.

 

On your way to Denali via bus/train you are not permtted to bring roller bags.  There is only a small area to place a small backpack/purse that contains camera gear/meds/snacks/jacket on the train/bus.  You are permitted one piece of luggage p/p that will be trucked to Denali and will arrive before you do.  The rest of your luggage will be stored and will be delivered to the ship the day you arrive.

 

Before you arrive at the McKinley Resort, you will be given a packet with your chalet room key, personalized itinerary, and luggage tags for moving your luggage to Seward (again via truck to meet you at the ship).

 

Here is a link on the HAL website to help in your planning (not sure if 2020 version is posted yet):

 

https://www.hollandamerica.com/content/dam/hal/marketing-assets/manage-my-cruise-already-booked/faqs/Tour_Tips.pdf

 

As you read the brochure, you will see that Meal Plan is offered.  To be cost effective, you will have to order the most expensive meals and desserts on the menus.  Using the same restaurants, or off-site locations, you can spend half the price of the Meal Plan.

 

Edited by Crew News

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8 minutes ago, Crew News said:

On your way to Denali via bus/train you are not permtted to bring roller bags.  There is only a small area to place a small backpack/purse that contains camera gear/meds/snacks/jacket on the train/bus.  You are permitted one piece of luggage p/p that will be trucked to Denali and will arrive before you do.  The rest of your luggage will be stored and will be delivered to the ship the day you arrive.

 

Before you arrive at the McKinley Resort, you will be given a packet with your chalet room key, personalized itinerary, and luggage tags for moving your luggage to Seward (again via truck to meet you at the ship).

 

Here is a link on the HAL website to help in you planning (not sure if 2020 version is posted yet):

 

https://www.hollandamerica.com/content/dam/hal/marketing-assets/manage-my-cruise-already-booked/faqs/Tour_Tips.pdf

 

Thank you so much!! You explained this very clearly and concisely 

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1 hour ago, Marianne said:

This land/sea package is a great way to see Alaska, altho you will only be seeing a part of it.  Holland America arranged our airfare for us.  At that time we were living in Portland Oregon, and Holland charged us a total of $100 for out trip to Fairbanks, and then from Vancouver back to Portland.  We flew via Alaska Airlines.  We spent several days in Fairbanks and had such a good time in that city.  The weather was warm, we walked all over or took public transportation.  Regarding baggage handling:  We were instructed to take one  bag for train travel to live out during that time.  The rest of our luggage was taken to the ship and in our room when we arrived.  The baggage situation was no problem at all for us.  Actually everything was well taken care of, Holland America did a good job of caring for us.  While in Denali we stayed in a cabin, again arranged by the ship, and the bus tour of Denali was to me very interesting, saw animals and the weather was good.  (not cold)  Traveling this trip in the late summer/early fall we saw quite a bit of animal activity while on the train as well as in Denali, and in the towns as the moose were in rhut.  This was truly  a wonderful trip for us, and actually our first trip to Alaska.  I'd like to do the Yukon segment for my next trip.  I hope I answered your questions.

Marianne

Thank you Marianne. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. We are in Anchorage for two days pretour and 2 days Vancouver post tour. We are excited as this is our first trip to Alaska and not our first cruise but our first Holland America cruise. Always get the best info on cruide critic!!

Marie

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Posted (edited)

It is important to bring binoculars to spot wildlife while in Denali.  The bus driver on the Tundra Wilderness Tour has enough trouble driving the bus on the narrow mountain road so those on the bus are the spotters responsible to shout out.  The tour will provide a snack box with cookies, nuts, cheese, beef sticks, etc.  A box lunch is available for pre-order and pickup just before you board the tour bus.  Water is provided. 

 

If you are planning on a flightseeing/glacier landing, book ASAP as the planes hold only a few passengers.  You will be picked up at the McKinley Lodge office and taken/returned to the Healy airport. 

Edited by Crew News

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Posted (edited)

FWIW train seats are assigned while bus seats are not.  The bus will stop every 90 minutes for a restroom break with some being only slightly better than porta-potties.  Bring your own towelettes to wash your hands.

 

The food on the train dining car is amazing and nicely priced.  Snacks are also available for purchase in the seating area.  Tip:  bring some snack bars as the dining period lasts several hours and is served based on where you are seated, starting in the rear.  If you are near the front, you will be the last to eat.

Edited by Crew News

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Great hints, thanks. These are the little things that make for a much more comfortable trip!!

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Congratulations on your Anniversary.  That said, I am doing the 3-day Denali, land first.  We will arrive in Anchorage on a Tuesday.  I booked a hotel near the airport (about $150 a night) and then on Wednesday, after breakfast, we will uber or Taxi up to the Westmark, which is where I anticipate HAL will book my Wednesday night.  I was lucky to book during a very great promotion, so I will be getting my meals paid for on the land portion, free beverages on the cruise and free gratuities.  I also get a free railroad journey during the cruse at one of the ports...White tail or something?

 

Anyway, so I bit the bullet and am flying into Anchorage.  It's actually easier (I live in the south)....as I only change planes once, in Chicago, and then straight to Anchorage.  Coming home from Vancouver is a different story, as I have to change planes twice...in the middle of the night.  My husband didn't want to spend a night in Vancouver so we are doing it the difficult way.  I, however, booked us in first class coming home, so it shouldn't be  too bad.  (LOL, my revenge!).

 

Anyway, i truly believe LAND first is the way to go, and then relax on the cruise on the way home.

 

Best of luck to you!

 

 

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46 minutes ago, MudderBear said:

My husband didn't want to spend a night in Vancouver so we are doing it the difficult way. 

 

We have found it nice to stay overnight after a cruise at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport. It is real convenient to just go downstairs in the early AM to catch a flight. We cut the cost down by using various credit card points to buy Fairmont gift cards.

 

If we leave the airport the day before, right after the cruise, we don't get home until about 8pm, even though we only have to go to California, due to poor connections. The overnight and early flight gets us home in the late morning...easier for our airport p/u driver friend.

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3 hours ago, MudderBear said:

I also get a free railroad journey during the cruse at one of the ports...White tail or something?

 

 

It's called the White Pass and Yukon Railway and goes from Skagway into the Yukon. The scenery is amazing.

 

 

 

 

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