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  #1  
Old July 28th, 2014, 03:31 PM
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Cinderellie Cinderellie is offline
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Talking Advice needed for southbound pre-cruise land tour must-sees

Hello, traveling friends. Let me tell you about us before I ask your advice.
- We are a couple in our late 40's, early 50's -- recently married -- who are looking to see Alaska. DH, for the first time, me almost 25 years ago.
- We are BOTH chubby, NOT the hiking, outdoorsy type. We are sightseers who want to see all the WOW we can... the beautiful MAJESTIC LANDSCAPE, NORTHERN LIGHTS, and some animals/whales if we can.
- My DH gets SEASICK and we just survived our Hawaii honeymoon cruise, but only with heavy-hitting meds.
- We hope to cruise end of May or June next year or late August/September of 2015 to takes advantage of good cruise deals.
- We are both executives who are bargain shoppers, but do like nice places to stay... no budget motels, nor B&B's. But knowing what they REALLY cost as business travelers, we try to go as nicely but as inexpensively as we can. Bottom line -- we shop for VALUE.
- We would rather do things independently (than on a group bus) but don't mind group tours occasionally.
- We have NOT chosen a cruise line yet, but have sailed on most. Not important.
- We are not history or museum buffs... rather interactive experience type of people.

If you were planning a trip for us BEFORE our southbound cruise -- what would be the MUST-SEE things you would recommend? Where, what, why?

Where would you suggest we stay?

Yes, we will be doing tons of reading, but I would appreciate your "gotta do this -- this was INCREDIBLE" direction to guide our research.

Much obliged...
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  #2  
Old July 28th, 2014, 03:45 PM
mapleleaves mapleleaves is offline
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Alaska is HUGE ... I think you need to do a little research before anyone can begin to tell you what to see and do. Asking now, and providing no parameters is open to unlimited suggestions.
And how much time do you have for your land trip?
Depending on your interests you could spend an entire week on the Kenai Peninsula www.kenaipeninsula.org
Or if you want to travel around the interior more you could fly into Fairbanks and drive around for 2 weeks before your cruise.
Or if you have an unlimited budget you could do helisledding, private boat charter, fly-in lodges at Denali, etc
Or you could fly into Anc rent a car and drive to Denali for 2 days then spend a few days in Seward prior to your cruise.
Way too many options. Do a little research first ..... read trip reports (STICKYs above), borrow Alaska travel books. go to the alaska forum of tripadvisor for trip reports on land travel.
When you have a basic itinerary post again for feedback.
Research and planning is half the fun! There are some wonderful photos in the trip reports, as well as suggestions for lodging, excursions, etc so they are a great resource.

P.S. if you do a Southbound tour in May, keep in mind that it's shoulder season so many activities, vendors, Park Visitor Centers, even lodging do not open until Memorial Day. This is a big consideration if visiting Denali, June 1 is the earliest I'd suggest for visiting Denali as this is the first day buses will run as far as the Eielson Visitor Center. Check the Denali NP web site for details.

Last edited by mapleleaves; July 28th, 2014 at 03:49 PM. Reason: typos
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  #3  
Old July 30th, 2014, 12:01 AM
Budget Queen Budget Queen is offline
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You need to determine what areas are of YOUR interests. And way before this, TIME is a significant factor. And most important, your friend. I am currently in Alaska, and have run into way too many people, who have made the wrong assumptions and plans. Today it was a couple who have to fly out on Saturday at noon, and "thought" they would take a ferry to Valdez tomorrow (good luck getting space for their rental car on the ferry, they have no idea about the costs either), then go to Homer for some "sightseeing". We are in Seward. Way too rushed, and no time to do anything but brief stops and marathon driving.

So, I too suggest, you first, find out about Alaska. It is a huge place with LOADS of options, way more than the "popular" that people seem to funnel into. There is so much more.

I am ending a 4++ week trip end of this week, and clearly could have used more time in my destinations. Activities is what's it's about, and time at the destinations important.

For your list of ideas, for wildlife, clearly Denali Park is the budget winner. I recommend multiple entries in, to at least Eielson. I asked 4 different drivers, I went with what their take is on the current wildlife sightings, compared to previous years. ALL stated, wildlife is scarcer than a few years ago. This has been my experience, with currently, my sightings being over three trips, are what they were on a single trip 10++ years ago. This year I flew into Katmai and clearly was a big winner. I also stayed for 2 nights where I also recommend (I would never consider any of the day trips, myself). Kenai Fjords is my other "always" wildlife area. I will be on my 4th trip tomorrow (pushing 30 overall). With my previous 3 a big range of wildlife sightings. These were all different trips. For Northern Lights, then you are limited to your Sept touring choice, with the recommendation, you take a northbound cruise, and have a LOT of time. The benefit of a northbound in this timeframe is significant- the inside passage, drops off more quickly than the mainland, and weather has the worse potential.
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  #4  
Old July 30th, 2014, 11:45 AM
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Both of you offer very sage advice. I agree ACTIVITIES are the key thing here as well. But I don't know what I don't know. Hearing other people's highlights -- what they absolutely adored (just like on a menu when I ask the server their favorites) helps me narrow down the vast selection.

I'd still love to hear some favorite things from Alaska land tours.

Thanks again.
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Old July 30th, 2014, 11:57 AM
rjeffler rjeffler is offline
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I did a 16 day trip like you mentioned. Large name hotels all of the way and didn't spend very much. Rather than rehash it all, check out my pre-planning and post cruise links in my signature. I started planning 16 months out!

I will say, Running Reindeer Ranch in Fairbanks was one of my favorite as well as Whale Watching with FISHES in Icy Straight Point.

I had planned so much, I was worried about things not working out and they all did. Even if my plans weren't the best for someone else, they worked great for my husband and I!!
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Old July 30th, 2014, 01:27 PM
MrsFredriksen MrsFredriksen is offline
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As others have said, read some of the trip reports on this board and see what appeals to you. Doing the research is fun. That said, I will offer what our family enjoyed most from our trip last month after our Vancouver-Whittier cruise:

-- Denali National Park. Took shuttle bus in to Eielson (8 hour trip but the time goes quickly!). Saw beautiful scenery, a grizzly bear, two red fox, several herds of caribou, Dall sheep, and more. Driver was very interesting and informative throughout the day. We spent two days at Denali (one into the park, one at visitor center and dogsled demo, etc.). The drive up to Denali is gorgeous, especially if it's clear and the mountain is out. Stopped a lot to take pictures of Denali, Mt. Susitna, and a mama/baby moose!

-- Flightseeing Mt. McKinley from Talkeetna. My husband's favorite activity of whole trip by far (mine was taking a helicopter onto a glacier in Juneau -- both absolutely amazing. Also pricey, but if you can swing it, amazing and worthwhile bucket list kind of experiences).

-- Full afternoon glacier cruise from Whittier (do on the day you embark/debark if that's your port). Smaller boat gets you so much closer to the glaciers, it is really cool. Our whole family loved this one. Also, drinks made with glacier ice are delicious!! And fun.

-- We spent a full day in Anchorage, and actually really enjoyed the Anchorage Museum for the afternoon. Part of it is in cooperation with the Smithsonian, so some really beautiful and interesting exhibits on native Alaskans, as well as the huge Alaska earthquake in 1964. We also went to a very fun minor league baseball game, which was perfect for our baseball-loving family (playing at 10 pm with no lights -- so fun!). We had a nice meal at the Glacier Brewhouse right downtown, and a very nice dinner our last night at Simon & Seafort's with a lovely view out over the water.
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Old July 30th, 2014, 02:03 PM
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Cinderellie Cinderellie is offline
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Smile Terrific recap

rjeffler, thank you so much. I LOVED reading your pre and post summaries and your pics. I learned much from your postings. You have helped me immensely!
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  #8  
Old July 30th, 2014, 02:29 PM
mapleleaves mapleleaves is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinderellie View Post
I LOVED reading your pre and post summaries and your pics. I learned much from your postings. You have helped me immensely!
trip reports are a gold mine of helpful information; what to pack, where to go, sights, activities, vendors, etc. There are 2 excellent reports just down the page a little (from josierhodes and arymay both with excellent photos)
Research is fun!
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  #9  
Old August 1st, 2014, 01:06 AM
Budget Queen Budget Queen is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinderellie View Post
Both of you offer very sage advice. I agree ACTIVITIES are the key thing here as well. But I don't know what I don't know. Hearing other people's highlights -- what they absolutely adored (just like on a menu when I ask the server their favorites) helps me narrow down the vast selection.

I'd still love to hear some favorite things from Alaska land tours.

Thanks again.
I don't do trip reports, there are plenty to keep you busy. I do suggest you get yourself a map while you read, will come in handy for reference.

As an example, covering distances and where people go, could offer you suggestions.

I'll start with where I went this trip, for a map look. Took northbound cruise NCL Sun that ended in Whittier. Did Surprise glacier boat tour that day. Transfer to Anchorage, overnight. Anchorage to Soldotna, flew to Katami, 2 nights, flew to Kenai, overnight, flew to Fairbanks. Early morning flight to Deadhorse overnight, overnight in Coldfoot, Fairbanks 2 nights, Denali Park 3 nights, Anchorage 2 nights, Seward 3 nights. Anchorage- Whittier day trip.

Leaving tonight.
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  #10  
Old August 4th, 2014, 08:33 PM
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GORDONCHICK GORDONCHICK is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Budget Queen View Post
I don't do trip reports, there are plenty to keep you busy. I do suggest you get yourself a map while you read, will come in handy for reference.

As an example, covering distances and where people go, could offer you suggestions.

I'll start with where I went this trip, for a map look. Took northbound cruise NCL Sun that ended in Whittier. Did Surprise glacier boat tour that day. Transfer to Anchorage, overnight. Anchorage to Soldotna, flew to Katami, 2 nights, flew to Kenai, overnight, flew to Fairbanks. Early morning flight to Deadhorse overnight, overnight in Coldfoot, Fairbanks 2 nights, Denali Park 3 nights, Anchorage 2 nights, Seward 3 nights. Anchorage- Whittier day trip.

Leaving tonight.
What transfers do you recommend to Anchorage? We are looking at a glacier tour out of Whittier & doing it the day we disembark makes the most sense.
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  #11  
Old August 4th, 2014, 08:43 PM
mapleleaves mapleleaves is offline
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Originally Posted by GORDONCHICK View Post
What transfers do you recommend to Anchorage? We are looking at a glacier tour out of Whittier & doing it the day we disembark makes the most sense.
If you're disembarking in Whittier, the timing of the Alaska Railroad ( 6pm) is timed perfectly with the end of a glacier cruise.
Or a rental car (AVIS) or independent transfer.

On the other thread you asked about Seward - Anchorage. Which is it?
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  #12  
Old August 5th, 2014, 12:26 AM
Budget Queen Budget Queen is offline
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Originally Posted by GORDONCHICK View Post
What transfers do you recommend to Anchorage? We are looking at a glacier tour out of Whittier & doing it the day we disembark makes the most sense.
I used Major Marine's contractor, Magic Bus, for $25 each way. Excellent service.
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