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On-your-own cruise tour question


ClaudiaB
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Has anyone ever taken an Alaskan cruise and then planned their own interior of Alaska tour? We are having second thoughts about a Celebrity cruise tour we have booked for next year. I think there's going to be a lot of mixed transportation and schedules which eat up time we could be doing this ourselves.

 

I'm in the process of researching this, and it seems like it would be a lot of fun to rent a car and do some time in Kenai, Anchorage, and drive up to Denali.

 

My question is: has anyone here done that? I'm interested in your opinions, reviews, recommendations, etc.

 

Thanks in advance!

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Many of us have done DIY land tours in Alaska. I've done several, by rental car and by RV. It's very easy; there are only a few hwys and for the most part the roads are 2 lane. Impossible to get lost.

The hardest thing is that most people have limited time and don't realize that destinations are far apart. People think they can do Denali in a day or 2, not realizing that it takes 5-6 hrs to get there. This chart will help you with travel times:

http://www.alaska.org/advice/mileage-chart

alaska.org a good general web site with lots of helpful info so take the time to look thru it.

 

Your best resource for land travel is the Alaska forum of tripadvisor.com. If you look under Top Questions you'll find links to current and past trip reports. The trip reports will really help you build an itinerary and provide suggestions on how far to drive, where to stay, activities, excursions. etc. Great photos too. You'll also find a RESOURCE thread that will lead you to lots of helpful info ie http://www.kenaipeninsula.org And you'll find answers to many commonly asked questions.

 

Borrow some Alaska travel books from your library to get better familiar with various locations and the sights and activities available.

 

If you have an idea of when you;re going, book your car NOW. some vendors like Enterprise have early bird prices .... you can book a car for $150 a week where it will be $150 oer day if you wait until next yr. If you don't have an exact date, add a few days on either end just to grab the price .... you can always cancel the days you don't need later on. If you are a family. consider a small RV rental.

 

Have fun planning!

Edited by mapleleaves
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It's completely doable on your own. Putting your own trip together allows you choose what you want to and where you want to stay and where you want to eat.

As suggested, get your rental car reserved as early as possible.

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Yes, I have done independent traveling mainland Alaska multiple times. There is plenty of good advice and trip planning on this board, that is first hand and accurate. Many people have trip planned using it. And guess what, never, has their been comments, after return, of anyone, regretting not taking a cruisetour. :)

 

I am just back from over 3 weeks mainland with another week on a one way cruise.

 

To get you started, I suggest you head to your library and take out Alaska travel books. Get familiar with the various Alaska areas, and determine WHERE you want to go. I discourage you from just going to the "popular" areas without looking at the whole picture. :) Spend your time in areas of YOUR interests. It's disturbing for me, to view, bored, aimless people stuck in some cruisetours areas. I saw this clearly at the McKinley Princess a few weeks ago.

 

Good plans come from fine tuning and reworking over a few times. Do this all on paper first, way before you get into any reservations. Best advice I can offer is to go for as long as you can afford. Time is your best friend in Alaska. :)

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Thanks for the great advice. We've been to Alaska twice, but never inland. I've purchased several guidebooks (gotta' keep good old Barnes and Noble in business!) - the library's aren't completely current and as I tend to mark and tear out, etc. from the guidebooks I always just buy my own.

 

It will be just the two of us and we're pretty sure where we want to go. We're trying to only take an additional week after the cruise which is totally ridiculous, we know, but at least we'll get a taste and can certainly come back for more.

I'm so glad I had a *thought* a couple days ago about not continuing with the cruise tour offered by Celebrity. We normally don't take cruiseship excursions, much preferring to research and get well-recommended options on our own. Why we thought an organized cruise tour, following THEIR schedule and THEIR meal times and THEIR stops (or not) would be good for us, well, blame it on a huge momentary lapse!

 

We might get off the cruise ship in Seward and spend a couple days around the Kenai Peninsula and then take the train to Anchorage to rent a car. Never occurred to me to get a car so early but that's a great word and I'm all for saving $$$$ there. I've gotten that same advice about four times in the last 24 hours from different places so it must be good.

 

I also really like the idea of staying a few miles away from Denali. Crowds and big buses and waiting on people and following a group of 40 of our new best friends is NOT how we want to spend our time.

 

Thanks again for the help and I'll be checking back here from time to time.

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We're going to Alaska in a couple of weeks. I found a website that mentioned the Milepost. It is a publication that tells you, mile by mile, what is on the Alaskan highways. I bought the hard copy at B&N for $35, then you get access to the online version. You can also buy only the online version at Themilepost.com (I think).

 

We are only going to be there for a weekend before our cruise starts on a Monday, but this publication has enabled me to see exactly where I want to go on the Kenai peninsula.

 

Vic

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The Milepost is a great planning tool ! I think it's included in the RESOURCE thread on tripadvisor.

You can buy a used edition on amazon for under $10. It works just as well as a new; towns and roads don't change but vendors may have gone out of business or a new one started up. I still use my 2007. For each hwy, it provides the milepost # where you will find hotels, gas stations, sights, activities, scenic vistas, frequent wildlife sightings, etc

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Unlike others on this board, I actually love the land portion of a cruisetour. While sometimes you do have to wait for folks, most on our cruisetour were back to the bus in a timely manner. Actually my husband was one of the late arrivals at one stop, so no complaints from me if a person is 5 minutes late getting back to the bus. The driver has the job of fighting traffic, road closures, etc and is in communication with someone that keeps him informed of what's ahead. I also feel there is safety in numbers. We actually had our bus full of 40 and a following bus of 40. We traveled over 1800 miles in tandem, sometimes with us in the lead and then a switch so the other bus was in the lead.

 

Some of the roads we traveled, we saw 1 or 2 cars. We did the older version of the Yukon in a bus. I understand that has now been eliminated and they fly you to Dawson City.

 

When you know you only have 7 or 8 days to do and see what's in a particular area, I don't want to spend time searching, backtracking, etc. They handle your luggage each morning and night. They know what's in the area that is of importance to see. They know the scheduling to get from point A to point B and the distance involved. They handle breakdowns. And with only 7 or 8 days, you wouldn't be able to dawdle, or stop when you want to all the time, or you wouldn't complete your routing.

 

The only way I would consider going independent, is if you are only going to one location and plan to stay at that location the entire time. A week in Denali would be great!

 

While cruisetours aren't for everyone, to some of us, it is a great way to travel without any stress. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

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I have purchased the Milepost guide and it's wonderful! We are going to rent two cars - one for a few days in Seward for the Kenai Peninsula and then take a train to Anchorange.

We'll rent a car there for Denali and then return it to Anchorage and fly home from there.

I think at this time that the independent way is definitely still for us. We want to be able to stop on a dime and pull over if we see something interesting. By then we'll have every 'mile marker' researched and over-researched! So we will know what is interesting and what is not. And with some flexibility built in we'll be able to just stop or whatever, whenever we want.

 

We've already got some great ideas for things, so now to narrow it down and build in flex time. This is really a very good message board and thanks to all the on-line information I'm getting a pretty good sense of things there and what we want to do.

 

I actually think seeing only a couple cars on the road sounds heavenly! Can't wait!! It's wonderful that we all have a choice to do what we want to do. I'll stay in touch here from time to time to let y'all know what we decide on, and then do a detailed report. For sure we're saving money, and with that we're going to do a few more plane rides to some remote places - some things we would have liked to do but decided against because of the already high cost of the cruise tour.

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keep in mind that Seward is VERY small so you may not need a car unless you choose lodging out of town. It's about a mile walk from the Small Boat Harbor to downtown (Sealife Center) if you follow the main road. Or you can use the waterfront path instead ... a little longer but very scenic with views of mountains/glaciers across the Bay on one side and MtMarathon on the other. Usually bald eagles around, and otters playing in the water close to shore.

 

Plus the town has a free shuttle. http://www.seward.com/visit-seward/

(Send for the Seward visitor guide.)

 

And the Exit Glacier Guides run a shuttle for $10pp. And a taxi anywhere in town will be under $10.

 

BTW, I highly recommend Thorn's Showcase Lounge downtown for halibut and chips. It's a smokey locals bar but their food is to die for. 2 people can easily split a BOWL OF 'BUT. If it's a nice day, get it to go and walk a block to the gazebo on the waterfront.

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