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  #1  
Old December 4th, 2012, 12:29 AM
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Hi, all,

I have read quite a few threads here (and will read many more over the next few months!), but I'm feeling overwhelmed with all the options. I'd love it if one of the wonderful knowledgeable people here could just point me in the direction of a particular book or website to get me started on my planning.

Here are our details...Myself and DH, mid-50s, fairly active, are on the southbound Radiance of the Seas cruise June 21. We are flying into Anchorage from Ohio on June 18, and out of Vancouver on June 29 (thanks to Delta FF miles!).

We are planning to do some touring in the few days before the cruise DYI. We are pretty adventurous, and our priorities are beautiful scenery and some cultural experiences.

We land in Anchorage at about noon on Tuesday, June 18, and sail from Seward the evening of June 21. I know this is not enough time to see a lot, but it's the best we can do since we are not retired (yet!). We are willing to rent a car, to take a train, whatever will maximize our experience!

So if anyone has any tips for getting started on our planning, I would really appreciate it!
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Old December 4th, 2012, 01:24 AM
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I would suggest heading south and exploring the Kenai area. You could go to Whttier and take one of the glacier tours that leave from there. There is a way to do this through the AKRR in a single day RT Anchorage.

There are also places such as Homer, Soldotna, and Cooper Landing.

If you rent a car you can probably do more - however expect one way rentals to be more expensive.

Does your cruise line offer pre cruise tour packages? That might be the best option as it will take care of your transportation along with some sightseeing.

Take a look here for more ideas: http://www.travelalaska.com/

While it is doable - I would not reccommend heading north to try and see Denali.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 07:18 AM
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To start, I would think about going to the library and checking out an Alaska travel book or an Alaska by Cruiseship book. That should give you a couple of ideas on where to start as well as lay out all of the options for you.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by bonvoyagie View Post
I would suggest heading south and exploring the Kenai area. You could go to Whttier and take one of the glacier tours that leave from there. There is a way to do this through the AKRR in a single day RT Anchorage.

There are also places such as Homer, Soldotna, and Cooper Landing.

If you rent a car you can probably do more - however expect one way rentals to be more expensive.

Does your cruise line offer pre cruise tour packages? That might be the best option as it will take care of your transportation along with some sightseeing.

Take a look here for more ideas: http://www.travelalaska.com/

While it is doable - I would not reccommend heading north to try and see Denali.
Thanks for the insights. Is there a reason you would not recommend Denali? I thought it was about a 5 hour drive?

The cruise line does offer pre cruise packages, but we want to avoid that. We like doing our own thing.

And I truly appreciate the tips, but I'm confused, why would we need a one way rental? If we rent in Anchorage, and then return it to Anchorage, and get one of the transfer services to Seward?

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Originally Posted by mskaufman View Post
To start, I would think about going to the library and checking out an Alaska travel book or an Alaska by Cruiseship book. That should give you a couple of ideas on where to start as well as lay out all of the options for you.
Thanks, that's what I was thinking, but I was wondering if anyone had a specific book they would recommend. I appreciate the advice!
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Old December 4th, 2012, 11:05 AM
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Quote:
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Thanks for the insights. Is there a reason you would not recommend Denali? I thought it was about a 5 hour drive?
It's in the opposite direction and you don't have enough time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by subtchr View Post
And I truly appreciate the tips, but I'm confused, why would we need a one way rental? If we rent in Anchorage, and then return it to Anchorage, and get one of the transfer services to Seward?
If you go south along Turnagain Arm, toward Girdwood & Whittier, you are heading toward Seward. Take the tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska and have lunch there. Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center http://www.alaskawildlife.org/ and then spend your remaining time in Seward. Take in the SeaLife Center, visit Exit Glacier and maybe take an all day Kenai Fjords boat trip. Drop off your car in Seward.

As for books, I like the Fodors books on Alaska, but Frommers are O.K. too. The "Bible" is The Milepost. You can peruse the first two at any major bookstore or your local public library.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 11:51 AM
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It's in the opposite direction and you don't have enough time.



If you go south along Turnagain Arm, toward Girdwood & Whittier, you are heading toward Seward. Take the tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska and have lunch there. Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center http://www.alaskawildlife.org/ and then spend your remaining time in Seward. Take in the SeaLife Center, visit Exit Glacier and maybe take an all day Kenai Fjords boat trip. Drop off your car in Seward.

As for books, I like the Fodors books on Alaska, but Frommers are O.K. too. The "Bible" is The Milepost. You can peruse the first two at any major bookstore or your local public library.
Thanks for the tips! I realized Denali is north and Seward is south, I was just thinking we could visit for a day (travel to Denali the afternoon of the 18th, visit the park on the 19th, travel back to Anchorage on the 20th, then a transfer to Seward on the 21st). But your advice sounds great, too, and more relaxed, which is always good.

I truly appreciate the insights!
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  #7  
Old December 4th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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I just went to the library and took out everything that looked approrpriate. The ones that were no good I just scanned and brought back. There are several books that are geared to cruise ship passengers and understand that you are not in port overnight. However, a more traditional book might be appropriate for your stay in Anchorage and what might work for day trips. Enjoy.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 01:19 PM
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Frommers, Lonely Planet, Insight Guides .... just look thru them all and borrow a few that appeal to you. I'm a visual person so I prefer books with lots of photos.
You only have a couple of days so you need to do some homework and figure out the best options for YOU based on your interests and priorities. What do you want to see and do? what is your travel style? Some people want to travel slowly and concentrate on one area whereas others want to see as much as possible and plan to relax on the ship. So figure out what will work best for you.
If Denali is a priority it can easily be done, but it would be a rushed trip and would take a lot of your time. Here are 2 options for Denali.
Option 1. Expensive one-way car rental; pick up car in Anc and drop off in Seward. Hertz is the only vendor in Seward so your only choice. This is costly but provides more sightseeing opportunities.
--- 18 pick up your car and drive to Talkeetna 2 1/2 hrs.
--- 19 drive to Denali 2 1/2 hrs. Catch the 11am or 1pm shuttle to Eielson. You'd need an early start for the 11am; plan to be in the park by 10 so you can grab your tickets, drinks etc.
--- 20 Drive back to Girdwood area, about 1hr south of Anc. Hiking, gold panning, Wildlife Center, portage Glacier. Overnight here. Suggested stops and activities in this link http://alaska.org/driving/portage-va...spur-drive.htm
... 21 more of the Girdwood area, then drive to Seward 2 hrs. Stop at Exit Glacier just before town and spend an hr or 2. Return car late afternoon and board ship

Option 2 Round trip car rental in Anc
--- 18 pick up car. Drive to Talkeetna
--- 19 drive to Denali. Shuttle
--- 20 drive back to Anchorage. Depending on your energy level , maybe detour to Independence Mine/Hatcher Pass for a hike
... 21 Scenic train to Seward at 7am. Arrive at 11. Catch the Exit Glacier Guide shuttle and visit Exit Glacier. or take a Kenai Fjords cruise at 11:30 or 12. The timing is convenient for train passengers

Or if you want to skip Denali in favor of seeing other sights.
18 .. rent bikes and do the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Watch for moose.
19 ... pick up rental car. Go for an ice trek at Matanuska Glacier, or jet boat tour at Knik Glacier, or hike Independence Mine. Overnight in Palmer or return to Anchorage
20 ... drive south to the Girdwood area and spend the day exploring, or take a Whittier Glacier cruise (noon-4?). Return car overnight in Anc
21 ... train to Seward. Do the kenai Fjords cruise at 11:30 or go to Exit Glacier.

There are several scenic drives out of Anchorage listed in this link, with suggested stops for each drive. http://alaska.org/driving/magnificent-drives.htm Look thru that web site for other info.
So those are a few options to give some ideas. Even tho you only have a couple of days, there are lots of possibilities, but you need to do your homework and figure out an itinerary that works for you. Have fun with your planning!

Last edited by mapleleaves; December 4th, 2012 at 01:20 PM.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 01:44 PM
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do you have two drivers? If so, then I would go direct to Denali park your arrival day. Yes, too short and really not enough time, but only option I would suggest, and it gives you two nights there.

Purchase at least an Eielson Shuttle bus for 6/19.

6/20 drive back to Anchorage, can pick up the dog sled demo at Denali if of interest before you leave, have lunch in Talkeetna perhaps.


Day of embarkment 6-21, take the Alaska RR to Seward. Consider a Kenai Fjords boat tour, that leaves at 11:30am.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 02:48 PM
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I know that when I travel by plane I do get jet lagged - for me it is worse going west to east, but I also know people who have similar problems going east to west. Between Ohio and Alaska you will gain 4 hrs in time zone changes - so when you land at noon in Anchorage - you body will think it is 4:00 PM - and the extra amount of daylight in AK will add to your time disconnect.

You are correct that it is around a 5-6hr drive to Denali and in theory it would be possible you have to ask yourself if that is really what you want to do. If you agree that it is what you want - then use BQ's travel plan as she does know what she is talking about.

If you have not set your air plans - I see where there are direct flights between Detroit and Fairbanks during the summer season. Fairbanks is closer to Denali - you could still do the rest of the trip as per BQ but you would only have a couple hour drive the first day.

Good luck in your planning.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 03:14 PM
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You all are awesome, thanks so much! Now for the fun part, reading up on everything and deciding what to do with our limited amount of time.

And Bonvoyagie, thanks for the reminder about jetlag - I'll definitely take that into consideration when planning that first day.

I'm sure I'll be back with more questions, but these are great starting points for my research. Off to the library, thanks again!
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Grandeur of the Seas - June 2005
Liberty of the Seas - December 2008 -
PHOTO ALBUM
Explorer of the Seas - June 2010 - VIDEO SLIDESHOW CRUISE COMPASSES
Serenade of the Seas - December 2010 - PHOTO REVIEW VIDEO SLIDESHOW CRUISE COMPASSES
Celebrity Solstice - December 2011 - PHOTO REVIEW INFO PACKET CELEBRITY TODAYS PHOTO ALBUM
Radiance of the Seas - June 2013 -
PHOTO ALBUM ALASKA CRUISE BLOG - SUMMER SOLSTICE IN THE LAST FRONTIER CRUISE COMPASSES
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  #12  
Old December 5th, 2012, 04:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mapleleaves View Post
Frommers, Lonely Planet, Insight Guides .... just look thru them all and borrow a few that appeal to you. I'm a visual person so I prefer books with lots of photos.
You only have a couple of days so you need to do some homework and figure out the best options for YOU based on your interests and priorities. What do you want to see and do? what is your travel style? Some people want to travel slowly and concentrate on one area whereas others want to see as much as possible and plan to relax on the ship. So figure out what will work best for you.
If Denali is a priority it can easily be done, but it would be a rushed trip and would take a lot of your time. Here are 2 options for Denali.
Option 1. Expensive one-way car rental; pick up car in Anc and drop off in Seward. Hertz is the only vendor in Seward so your only choice. This is costly but provides more sightseeing opportunities.
--- 18 pick up your car and drive to Talkeetna 2 1/2 hrs.
--- 19 drive to Denali 2 1/2 hrs. Catch the 11am or 1pm shuttle to Eielson. You'd need an early start for the 11am; plan to be in the park by 10 so you can grab your tickets, drinks etc.
--- 20 Drive back to Girdwood area, about 1hr south of Anc. Hiking, gold panning, Wildlife Center, portage Glacier. Overnight here. Suggested stops and activities in this link http://alaska.org/driving/portage-va...spur-drive.htm
... 21 more of the Girdwood area, then drive to Seward 2 hrs. Stop at Exit Glacier just before town and spend an hr or 2. Return car late afternoon and board ship

Option 2 Round trip car rental in Anc
--- 18 pick up car. Drive to Talkeetna
--- 19 drive to Denali. Shuttle
--- 20 drive back to Anchorage. Depending on your energy level , maybe detour to Independence Mine/Hatcher Pass for a hike
... 21 Scenic train to Seward at 7am. Arrive at 11. Catch the Exit Glacier Guide shuttle and visit Exit Glacier. or take a Kenai Fjords cruise at 11:30 or 12. The timing is convenient for train passengers

Or if you want to skip Denali in favor of seeing other sights.
18 .. rent bikes and do the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Watch for moose.
19 ... pick up rental car. Go for an ice trek at Matanuska Glacier, or jet boat tour at Knik Glacier, or hike Independence Mine. Overnight in Palmer or return to Anchorage
20 ... drive south to the Girdwood area and spend the day exploring, or take a Whittier Glacier cruise (noon-4?). Return car overnight in Anc
21 ... train to Seward. Do the kenai Fjords cruise at 11:30 or go to Exit Glacier.

There are several scenic drives out of Anchorage listed in this link, with suggested stops for each drive. http://alaska.org/driving/magnificent-drives.htm Look thru that web site for other info.
So those are a few options to give some ideas. Even tho you only have a couple of days, there are lots of possibilities, but you need to do your homework and figure out an itinerary that works for you. Have fun with your planning!
I'm loving the round trip Anchorage plan with the train to Seward. This may be a stupid question, but what do you do with your luggage? If you take the Exit Glacier Shuttle or Kenai Fjord cruise, do they have provisions for luggage?
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  #13  
Old December 12th, 2012, 08:38 PM
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Okay, thanks to the helpful advice of those here and some research, I feel as if my trip is starting to come together. My goal is to make the most of the relatively short time we have this trip. I hope someday after retirement we can spend more time, because it looks amazing!

Here is my tentative schedule; please comment if I am misguided somewhere along the way!

Tuesday, June 18 - Fly from Dayton through Minneapolis to Anchorage, arrive about noon. We used FF miles for the flights (which would have been $1100 per person!), so I "splurged" and spent $79 for Economy Plus seats for the MSP-ANC.

We will rent a car (still pricing those) and stop at the Elmendorf AFB commissary (DH is retired AF) for drinks, snacks, etc.

I haven't decided for sure what we'll do this afternoon, but I appreciated the helpful link on scenic drives from Anchorage that someone posted.

For a hotel, I am leaning toward the Comfort Suites Anchorage Airport. With a military discount, it's $60 to $100 less per night than almost everything else I checked, and it has good reviews from TripAdvisor. Is anyone familiar with this hotel? I havenít seen mention of it.

Wednesday, June 19 - We decided against trying to drive to/stay in/explore Denali in the short time we have. That will be for another trip! But because of that we are considering splurging for a Denali flightseeing tour from Talkeetna. Talkeetna Air Taxi has overwhelmingly positive reviews, and if we book before January 1 we can add a glacier landing for $25 per person (usually $85). Thoughts?

Thursday, June 20 - More day trips from Anchorage, still researching which one(s), possibly a weather fall-back date for the Talkeetna flightseeing.

Return the rental car in the evening. Since the train is so early, we donít want to have to worry about returning a car in the morning.

Friday, June 21 - We have the train booked to Seward, so an (early) taxi from the hotel to the train station. We got a military discount on the GoldStar service. I am really looking forward to that!

I have some questions about our arrival/afternoon in Seward. I understand the train pulls right up close to the dock, is that right? Is it possible to check in on the ship, mostly to get rid of the luggage and possibly to have some lunch, then disembark to do some touring around Seward for the afternoon? If not, where do people leave their luggage while they tour? We would like to see the Sea Life Center and possibly some other highlights. This is another area that looks incredible, so we will have to plan another trip when we have more time to spend!

On the ship, we have a stern balcony, and we reserved My Time Dining. On our previous cruises we did main dining and enjoyed getting to know our tablemates, but for this trip I want to be able to explore the ports and spend time on deck and our balcony without trying to make a set dinner time. We also donít plan to bring formal wear - more space in the luggage for layered weather gear! We will just do Windjammer on formal nights for sure.

Saturday, June 22 - Hubbard - As an avid photographer, I am tremendously excited about this.

Sunday, June 23 - Juneau - 9 to 9 - Harv and Marvís whale watching tour in the morning. We will do the Mendenhall glacier stop with them after the tour. We will probably stay longer at Mendenhall to hike some and just pay for the shuttle back for $8. Any other recommendations for the late afternoon/evening in port?

Monday, June 24 - Skagway - 7 to 8:30 - Dyea Daveís tour to Emerald Lake, from 8 to 3. Several on our roll call have done this and loved it. Right now we are planning to take the van both ways, although there is the option to take the train one way. Any advice?

Tuesday, June 25 - Icy Strait Point - 7 to 4 - Nothing booked here, just plan to do a nature trail and explore on our own.

Wednesday, June 26 - Ketchikan - 9 to 6 - Misty Fjords Flightseeing with Island Wings - SO excited about this!

Thursday, June 27 - Inside Passage - Cruising - Camera and Binoculars in hand!!

Friday, June 28 - Disembark in Vancouver - I havenít even really started planning here, although I did make a reservation at Blue Horizon, with the plan to cancel and change it if I find something I think would work better for us.

Saturday, June 29 - Fly from Vancouver to Ohio, 12:45 pm departure. So we have all day Friday and the morning on Saturday to see a bit of Vancouver.

So to me it sounds amazing, and I have time to research and learn even more over the next six months! Our priorities are scenery and culture, with wildlife as a ďbonusĒ. Once I started researching I realized that itís a good idea to book the popular tours now, both for availability and, for some of them, a better price.

Thanks for all your help!
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Radiance of the Seas - June 2013 -
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Old December 13th, 2012, 06:24 AM
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If I can add my 2 pennies,why don't you go to Seward a day early....so much to do there.
We are on the same cruise and we are booked a lot of the same things as you! Great minds think a like LOL.
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Old December 13th, 2012, 07:50 AM
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My 2 cents would be on the 24th take the train back to Sagway.
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Old December 13th, 2012, 08:42 AM
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If I can add my 2 pennies,why don't you go to Seward a day early....so much to do there.
We are on the same cruise and we are booked a lot of the same things as you! Great minds think a like LOL.
Thanks for the idea. I did think of that, but I planned the way I did for a couple reasons. First, now that I have this Talkeetna flightseeing idea in my head, I would like to have a back-up day available in case of bad weather on Wednesday. Also, there are a lot of things we would love to do within a couple hours of Anchorage. So exploring around Seward and the Kenai will wait for the next trip - there just isn't enough time to do everything!

Our roll call is a little slow for now, but hopefully it will pick up. I have to admit I just recently posted on it for the first time in months myself!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mskaufman View Post
My 2 cents would be on the 24th take the train back to Sagway.
Thanks, I've heard it's beautiful and that the train takes a different enough route from the road that it might be worth it. Is the train something that should be booked ahead of time? We will be in port with Radiance and HAL Amsterdam, so there will be a lot of cruise passengers that day.

Thanks for the tips, keep them coming!
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Explorer of the Seas - June 2010 - VIDEO SLIDESHOW CRUISE COMPASSES
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Celebrity Solstice - December 2011 - PHOTO REVIEW INFO PACKET CELEBRITY TODAYS PHOTO ALBUM
Radiance of the Seas - June 2013 -
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Old December 13th, 2012, 08:54 AM
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Thanks for the idea. I did think of that, but I planned the way I did for a couple reasons. First, now that I have this Talkeetna flightseeing idea in my head, I would like to have a back-up day available in case of bad weather on Wednesday. Also, there are a lot of things we would love to do within a couple hours of Anchorage. So exploring around Seward and the Kenai will wait for the next trip - there just isn't enough time to do everything!

Our roll call is a little slow for now, but hopefully it will pick up. I have to admit I just recently posted on it for the first time in months myself!



Thanks, I've heard it's beautiful and that the train takes a different enough route from the road that it might be worth it. Is the train something that should be booked ahead of time? We will be in port with Radiance and HAL Amsterdam, so there will be a lot of cruise passengers that day.

Thanks for the tips, keep them coming!
You asked about "misguided" ideas. It is not a reasonable plan, with your short time, to worry about a back up for flightseeing your next day. Are you going to drive back and forth, since likely your Anchorage hotel will be nonrefundable by that time. It probably isn't worth 4 hours of backtracking to do so.

I too would suggest you also consider Seward. Plenty to see and do.

IF your plans are what you state, a "couple of hours" from Anchorage, then stay near those areas. Don't be adding backtracking time you don't have.
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Old December 13th, 2012, 08:57 AM
Budget Queen Budget Queen is offline
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[quote=subtchr;36341715]Tha


Thanks, I've heard it's beautiful and that the train takes a different enough route from the road that it might be worth it. Is the train something that should be booked ahead of time? We will be in port with Radiance and HAL Amsterdam, so there will be a lot of cruise passengers that day.

QUOTE]

If you don't book the White Pass RR ahead of time, it will be necessary to get to the depot early for the best selection of available seats. It is pretty common to be able to get walk up space. BUT, if you have any interest in a combo tour, then this needs advance bookings, as it's hard to snag walk up.
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Old December 13th, 2012, 09:05 AM
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[quote=subtchr;36338809]




I have some questions about our arrival/afternoon in Seward. I understand the train pulls right up close to the dock, is that right? Is it possible to check in on the ship, mostly to get rid of the luggage and possibly to have some lunch, then disembark to do some touring around Seward for the afternoon? If not, where do people leave their luggage while they tour? We would like to see the Sea Life Center and possibly some other highlights. This is another area that looks incredible, so we will have to plan another trip when we have more time to spend!



Tuesday, June 25 - Icy Strait Point - 7 to 4 - Nothing booked here, just plan to do a nature trail and explore on our own.



QUOTE]

You are on a different train, which does NOT use the dock spur track. You will be coming into the Seward depot. You can drop off bags at the dock, may not be on board however, time varies when they clear boarding. With your "wildlife" interest, a significant jackpot is a Kenai Fjords boat tour, loaded with varied wildlife. A "must" for many, including myself- repeatively.

If you are just going to the Sealife center, there should be a loop bus available. If you have no mobility limitations, and can manage your own luggage, you can just walk to the ship from the train depot, but there should be cabs without a too long of a wait.
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Old December 13th, 2012, 09:09 AM
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subtchr subtchr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Budget Queen View Post
You asked about "misguided" ideas. It is not a reasonable plan, with your short time, to worry about a back up for flightseeing your next day. Are you going to drive back and forth, since likely your Anchorage hotel will be nonrefundable by that time. It probably isn't worth 4 hours of backtracking to do so.

I too would suggest you also consider Seward. Plenty to see and do.

IF your plans are what you state, a "couple of hours" from Anchorage, then stay near those areas. Don't be adding backtracking time you don't have.
Thanks, I was hoping you would chime in! We are planning to stay in Anchorage from Tuesday until Friday morning. The backup day would only come into play if the weather was bad enough Wednesday that we would not even make the drive to Talkeetna that day, and arrange a reschedule for the next day by phone. So no matter what, we would only do the round trip to Talkeetna one of the days.

I'll consider Seward, too, though!

[quote=Budget Queen;36341813]
Quote:
Originally Posted by subtchr View Post
Tha


Thanks, I've heard it's beautiful and that the train takes a different enough route from the road that it might be worth it. Is the train something that should be booked ahead of time? We will be in port with Radiance and HAL Amsterdam, so there will be a lot of cruise passengers that day.

QUOTE]

If you don't book the White Pass RR ahead of time, it will be necessary to get to the depot early for the best selection of available seats. It is pretty common to be able to get walk up space. BUT, if you have any interest in a combo tour, then this needs advance bookings, as it's hard to snag walk up.
I already have the tour booked with Dyea Dave. Right now we have it planned as the van both ways. I'm just deciding whether to take the train for one of the legs. Sounds as if we should probably get the tickets ahead of time if we want to do that.

Thanks again!
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