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If I’m going to Alaska one time in my life... do I need to do a land tour AND the cru

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Hello!

 

My family has had the lifelong dream to go to Alaska all together. We’re going to make it happen. Here’s my question: We’re trying to decide if the land tour (either pre or post cruise) is worth it. Or - do we just do the cruise? Most of my family members don’t plan to go back to Alaska after this 1 visit, and are noting it to be the “once in a lifetime trip”. Do we need to do the land tour as well as the cruise? Or will they feel fulfilled with just doing the normal 7/8 day cruise?

 

Here is a look at the family:

- Mom and Dad (mid-60’s who barely ever travel. Alaska has been their one life long dream to visit though. Not traveling for them isn’t due to lack of money, it’s just that they never got around to it, as sad as that is).

- Myself and my husband (mid-20’s, avid travelers. This will be our first time to Alaska, but it won’t be our last).

- My sister and brother-in-law (early 30’s... again, barely ever travel. Alaska is a life long dream for them too).

 

I am concerned that because my family members are not huge into traveling (albeit they are SO STOKED for Alaska, that 10-14 days of land/cruise will be too much. My sister and her husband have never even been on a cruise, nor much ventured out from the Eastern U.S.).

 

So - what are your thoughts? Will 7/8 days on a boat with the typical Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Glacier Bay be enough for them to feel fulfilled with their Alaskan visit (noting that they’d more than likely never travel back)... or do we splurge and spend the x-thousand dollars extra to do the land tours? For people like my family members who never travel - BUT are super interested in everything Alaska has to offer - be too much?

 

Thank you for your thoughts in advance! I appreciate them. :)

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:)The first time we went to Alaska...we thought that it would be our only time too and decided to do a cruise tour. It was a most fantastic trip and seeing some of the interior parts of Alaska was sooooo worth the extra money! We have been back 2 more times since then and will be going back again this June! So my advice to friends and family who are considering an Alaskan cruise is that if it is possibly in their budget...then do a cruise tour because seeing places like Denali, the Yukon, Anchorage, Fairbanks etc etc is just awesome. Our 1sr cruise tour we spent 2 fascinating days in Anchorage on our own before meeting up with the group for the HAL land tour...for another 8 days of experiencing the interior of Alaska!

So my opinion is if your family members have long wanted to go to Alaska...then the extra money for a land trip pre or post is a must! The cruise lines offer a variety of land packages from 2-3 days to more than a week...so pick what suits your budget and interests...but GO! And have a great time!

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Do a land tour. You won't regret it. Alaska cruises are beautiful, to be sure. I decided to move to Alaska after my first cruise! If you don't do the land portion you won't know what you missed, but you will miss a lot! If it's a once in a lifetime trip, do a land tour. It would be a shame not to!

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Seems like a consensus from everyone! Do the land! Here's another question, though. We are specifically looking at NCL's "12-Day Denali by Rail Explorer - Northbound Cruisetour". If we choose to do the land tour... and I believe we will - at that point, having seen Alaska on foot to some degree, is a balcony necessary? For this specific cruise for 2 people: It's $4,500 for an interior cabin, and $7,000 for balcony. Is the balcony worth the extra $2,500?

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We considered doing a land tour/cruise several times after doing two 7 day cruises, one on Princess round trip from Seattle, and one on Royal Caribbean southbound route from Seward to Vancouver. We decided to take a longer Alaska cruise instead.

 

We took a Holland America 14 day Great Alaskan Explorer cruise round trip from Seattle, WA. We had 8 port calls and saw 2 different glaciers. Although we enjoyed our two previous Alaska cruises, this was our best experience!

 

Take a look at my wife's website if you have time. Check out her Alaska cruise slideshows to get an idea of the itineraries. Alaska cruises are all about the beauty of nature. Try to see as much as you can. Alaska is amazing!

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I would suggest a different ship where you could get an outside cabin with windows without having to spend $$$ for the balcony. Also, before you put down money on a cruise/land portion, be sure and read up. Many people here on this board are very knowledgeable about doing the land portion on your own. You can tailor it to different ideas for Denali for instance. If you like to plan, you can probably save some money. Decide what you want to see and make sure you pick the right month. Happy planning.

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Your profile doesn't say where you're from but I'm assuming the USA. Why not hire a mini van and explore from Anchorage to Fairbanks or vice versa at your own pace? As a group of six you'd save a lot of money and be able to plan exactly what you want to see and do especially around Denali.

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Yes, do the land tour! But, you can do it on your own. I took a cruise in '16 for my first Alaska experience - 10 days of cruising only. I wanted to do a land tour too but didn't have the time to do it right. Last year, in '17, we went back but flew to Anchorage then did a two week road trip of the interior. If you only cruise you are missing A LOT. Take a one-way cruise that ends in either Whittier or Seward. Then transfer (train or bus) on to Anchorage where you can rent a car for the land portion - it sounds like you will need a minivan or larger SUV.

 

Most everyone wants to head to Denali, which is pretty nice. One would need to spend at least two nights in the Denali area so there's a full day for a Denali park tour. Expect to spend a minimum of $200-$250 per night per room on lodging in that area. There are plenty of smaller mom & pop type motels and quite a few good places to eat - we stayed at the Denali Park Hotel and one of our best meals of the trip was at 49th State Brewing - both at Healy, AK.

 

Something I noticed is that travel distances and times don't match up too well - it takes much longer to go a distance than you will expect. There is just so much to see that you'll want to stop much more than you might expect. I would allow at least twice as much time as you might normally allow for a given distance. It's very easy to make going the 250 miles from Anchorage to the Denali area an entire day of travel. There's also the chance of a wreck or road construction causing a backup. The risk of getting lost is slim - there are only a few main highways in Alaska. It's handy to have a GPS mainly to keep up with when you are going to arrive to your destination.

 

Do a little research and decide what will be interesting for your family. Practically anywhere you drive there is always something pretty special to see. It seems most flights out of Anchorage leave in the middle of the night so your last day will still be a good day for seeing things too. On your own you won't be whizzing past everything in a bus full of other tourists - missing way too much.

 

Good luck!

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Hello!

 

My family has had the lifelong dream to go to Alaska all together. We’re going to make it happen. Here’s my question: We’re trying to decide if the land tour (either pre or post cruise) is worth it. Or - do we just do the cruise? Most of my family members don’t plan to go back to Alaska after this 1 visit, and are noting it to be the “once in a lifetime trip”. Do we need to do the land tour as well as the cruise? Or will they feel fulfilled with just doing the normal 7/8 day cruise?

 

Here is a look at the family:

- Mom and Dad (mid-60’s who barely ever travel. Alaska has been their one life long dream to visit though. Not traveling for them isn’t due to lack of money, it’s just that they never got around to it, as sad as that is).

- Myself and my husband (mid-20’s, avid travelers. This will be our first time to Alaska, but it won’t be our last).

- My sister and brother-in-law (early 30’s... again, barely ever travel. Alaska is a life long dream for them too).

 

I am concerned that because my family members are not huge into traveling (albeit they are SO STOKED for Alaska, that 10-14 days of land/cruise will be too much. My sister and her husband have never even been on a cruise, nor much ventured out from the Eastern U.S.).

 

So - what are your thoughts? Will 7/8 days on a boat with the typical Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Glacier Bay be enough for them to feel fulfilled with their Alaskan visit (noting that they’d more than likely never travel back)... or do we splurge and spend the x-thousand dollars extra to do the land tours? For people like my family members who never travel - BUT are super interested in everything Alaska has to offer - be too much?

 

Thank you for your thoughts in advance! I appreciate them. :)

 

imho i would DEFINITELY do a land tour, but i have been twice- getting ready for #3 this June. First time i did 12 day land and sea cruise tour with Royal Carribean and there were several things i would have done differently so i did the second time. I did a DIY tour the second time and paid about half for the 5 days on land and included things that were not part of the RCCL tour. It is very easy as there is one main highway (parks highway) from Fairbanks all the way down to Anchorage that we pretty much stayed on. Second trip i flew into Fairbanks and did a one way car rental to Anchorage which is where we took the train down to Seward to board the ship but a one way car rental is double the return to same location price so this time we are flying into Anchorage for one overnight then driving to Denali for two days then back tracking to Talkeetna, Palmer (reindeer farm) then finally to Anchorage. Then the Goldstar train the next morning to Seward to board. It is super easy to DIY and big savings so we can do helicopter to glacier for dog sledding and more with the savings. I would be happy to forward any of my travel info after i had TONS of research if you would like! Have a great trip! PS i am 62. Your parents will love it!

Edited by Robinhill
Typos

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While this will be my first cruise/first time to AK, my husband and I have traveled extensively. One thing I would give some thought to is, how seasoned are your other travel companions in terms of general travel. I have friends and family who are chomping at the bit to be back in their own bed, eating their own food after about a week. After that, they become irritable and miserable. If that's the case with anyone in your party, you may want to consider just doing the cruise. If you feel they can handle a 2+week adventure, I say go for it.

 

We usually are DIY travelers but I'm grateful this time we've turned the planning over to the tour people. My husband visited AK 5 years ago on a motorcycle and I think towards the end of his adventure, he got very road weary. This time, we'll just be sitting back and taking in the views.

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Building on Mchang1995's concerns: do you know if your companions like to travel? And how do they feel about packing and repacking frequently as they move from place to place? For some people, land travel is so draining that they aren't fully processing or enjoying what they are seeing and experiencing. It's just too much. If your parents haven't travelled much, it might be worth it to dig a bit deeper to see if there are other reasons besides a lack of time.

 

If that is the case, I would advise against a land tour first. You know that you will be back, and that you can do it up right -- land, sea, air, the whole shebang. If this is their one and only trip, it's important to balance what they will genuinely enjoy versus how much they can handle. If they burn out on the land portion, they won't fully enjoy the sea portion either.

 

My advice comes from experience. My mother loves to believe that she loves to travel, so we recently spent 2+ weeks in southern Italy on a DIY land-tour. Turns out her body doesn't love travel as much as her mind and heart want to. When her body is unhappy, everyone is unhappy -- if you know what I mean. Had I known that beforehand, I would have planned a less ambitious itinerary.

 

Good question about the balcony -- I have been wondering the same myself. My daughter and I don't love being cold, so we suspect we wouldn't actually use the balcony if we had it. The ship we've booked has an option for floor-to-ceiling windows on an upper deck, so we grabbed that. We hope it will give us the visual splendor of a balcony, but from the warmth of our lovely room. We'll know in 13+ months if that was the right choice :-)

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I've taken several Alaska cruises but last year we took HAL's 13 day triple Denali/Dawson Cruisetour. It was GREAT!

 

However, I think you have to go with what makes the others comfortable. I can assure you that all will have a wonderful time if you choose to cruise only. You can always go back and do a land tour later. You don't want to have somebody with you that's uncomfortable with all the travel. On the ship they can be as active or relaxed as they want and the ports and excursions available are first rate.

 

It's Saul Goodman.(y)

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I can only share my experience. We sailed to AK in 2015 from Vancouver. It was to be a once in a life time trip. I loved it. The scenery from the ship was amazing. I enjoyed very town. We added on one day in Seward that wasn't part of our cruise. Seward was my favorite part. I spent so much time out on an open deck taking in the views. It is so different from a Caribbean cruise where you are surround by the ocean (which I also enjoy.) There is something amazing to look at for 360 degrees. I knew when that cruise ended that I had to see inland. Now three years later we are sailing again but adding on 5 days land tour. Because of the difference in cost, we chose to get an inside cabin. We ended up being outside almost the entire time. We are using the savings to add on the land portion, fly in a helicopter to Mendenhall Glacier and fly in a seaplane in Ketchikan, plus several other great excursions. I've never been in an inside cabin, but I've also never got to experience the helicopter, sea plane and land portion. I decided that with my budget, the experiences beat the cabin. If we had done the land portion on the first trip, I would have saved a lot of money by not having to fly in and cruise again.

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Seems like a consensus from everyone! Do the land! Here's another question, though. We are specifically looking at NCL's "12-Day Denali by Rail Explorer - Northbound Cruisetour". If we choose to do the land tour... and I believe we will - at that point, having seen Alaska on foot to some degree, is a balcony necessary? For this specific cruise for 2 people: It's $4,500 for an interior cabin, and $7,000 for balcony. Is the balcony worth the extra $2,500?

 

 

Does the entire party have to book the same stateroom category? Is this a group booking of some sort? Also, does everyone have to do the northbound cruise tour? Possibly those who might feel overwhelmed should just to the cruise. Just a thought.

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The land portion scan be very expensive, have you considered doing a Back to Back North-South cruise? If you sail for example on Princess you will visit Glacier Bay twice, Hubbard Glacier and College Fjord. On the Northbound trip you will have time in Juneau for an all day trip with Adventure Bound into Tracy Arm.

 

Two vists to the ports gives you a chance to do more tours or just take it easy the second week. More relaxing time rather than travel on a bus to another town

 

Just a suggestion, enjoy your trip

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My thought is that your family group should take the longest Princess Connoisseur Escorted Cruise/Tour you have the time and funds to do.

We have rented a vehicle and toured on our own. Won't do that again as that causes a lot of stress that riding a tour train and motor coach don't. (Rental company warned us to keep off gravel roads, drive slow watching out for frost heaves in the pavement and jaywalking moose.)

We have made our own hotel reservations. Won't do that again as that causes a lot of stress picking a hotel and getting a reservation before they become booked up.

We have lugged our luggage all over Alaska. Won't do that again as I am too old to enjoy the workout.

 

We have also taken a short unescorted cruise tour and it was frustrating in what it did not include.

 

We have only used Princess for our Alaskan cruises and cruise tours so I can't speak about what other cruise lines offer. My research convinced me that Princess was the leading company in Alaska and they have their own lodges and that is why we booked with Princess. We have not been disappointed in the least with our choice.

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In Sept. of 2014, my husband and I, along with another couple our age (late sixties) did a week-long independent tour of Alaska after a Princess cruise. We stayed in Healy for 3 nights and took the park shuttles where we saw lots of beasties and a cloudless view of Mt. Denali). However, on the 4th day, driving on the old Denali Highway to Copper River, 14 miles into our drive,we had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, the car had a donut, so we were able to turn back to the paved highway and get our tire fixed.

We then decided to head south and take the Glenn Highway across instead but darkness fell while we were on this very winding road. Thank goodness we came upon Sheep Mountain Lodge where we spent the night (The Princess Copper River lodging refused to refund our money, which was understandable, but now we were out even more money).

Next day, we had to jam on the brakes as a moose and her calf suddenly crossed the road just ahead of us. Thanks goodness it was now light and we weren't going fast or that could have been a very bad ending.

My point is: All four of us absolutely loved our independent tour, but if you think these type of incidents would spook your inexperienced travelers. maybe just take the cruise or the cruise-ship land tour.

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We lived in Alaska, Anchorage for three years; traveled extensively while there including the interior, and over the years have taken 7 Alaskan cruises since returning to the lower 48. If at all possible - take an inland tour.

Some suggestions: one, to save some money (if you wish), book one party into a balcony cabin where you can all gather and share part of the experience together; the rest of the party could be in other type cabins. Two, save the cruise for last, as it provides a more restful return from the trip. Three, if you are a real planner and wish to save big time - purchase "The Mile Post," rent an appropriate vehicle, and lay out your own tour and timing of the Great Land.

 

Anyway you choose to go, you may find Alaska grows on you and the land and the people will call you to return!

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We have only been to Alaska once, but I am planning a trip for my friends 40th wedding anniversary and dying to go back again! I would definitely do the land tour. You won't regret it. Booking through the cruiseline will cost you more but the details will be handled for you. You could save a lot of money by booking the land portion on your own. If there is someone up for driving, renting a car would be your cheapest option. Then you can stay at some independent places (B&B's, smaller hotels). Car rentals out of Whittier were less than Seward when I looked recently. If you aren't comfortable driving yourself, there is a company (which I am not allowed to give the name I don't think) that you can book transportation, hotels, excursions, etc. independently so you can see what you want and stay however long you want in each place. They don't mark up the price at all, but basically put together your trip for you. We rented a car, but our friends didn't want to so they are using this company. Just do a search. Also, check our the toursaver books. Lots of deals and with a large group you could really save a lot. And do spend some time in the Seward area. Most people head north immediately after the cruise and are missing one of the best areas! The Kenia Fjords nature/glacier boat trips are spectacular. You will see more wildlife there than you can imagine. Happy planning!

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Southeast Alaska is just a small portion, 35,138 sq. miles, of this huge State, 663,300 sq. miles. No way you are going to see it all though, my gosh, I'm 78, born and raised here, in addition I was a commercial pilot up here for years and there is a very lot I haven't even seen.

However, just by visiting our "pan-handle" one can hardly say they even had a hor-devours sampling of Alaska's scenic wonders. My suggestion would be to spend at least three weeks, two at the least, get on a cruise that crosses the gulf and terminates in Central Alaska. Some of the cruise lines offer excellent "cruise tours", however, they might be too expensive for your budget, if you do get one, I suggest get the better type, not the on your own variety, Princess best is called the connoisseur cruise tour.

Now, if you can handle it, rent your own vehicle, with your size of group a small motor home would be great, or else two cars, preferably SUVs which the rental firm will allow you to drive on gravel roads with. As previously mentioned, get a copy of the "Alaska Milepost", if nothing else you will have a lot of fun reading it and planning.

Budget Queen posts a lot on this forum, she is an expert on Alaska, particularly the type of travel you might undertake, where visitors aren't dependent on a big pro-outfits setting everything up for them. Look up some of her posts pertinent to this, she is a wealth of advise.

Welcome to Alaska.

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