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Budget Queen

Planning considerations

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I just got off the NCL Jewel after 2 weeks and I ran into numerous people who were caught by surprise with poor planning. I’m suggesting next years visitors avoid this with detail planning.

Common was wrong assumptions on distance and not enough time. Many had no clue it wasn’t enough to simply have Denali” listed Getting INTO the park is what’s important. A lot did not have time Some booking agents should be ashamed about what they sell. Last mistake was getting from Seward. A group of 6 strolled off the ship around 9a (late). No transfers for flights leaving that evening. Asking everyone to help them. They were trying to get back on the ship thinking that was going to make a difference?? I made some suggestions they seemed incapable of managing.

 

So please —- Double check your plans and know the details. Avoid problems because you guessed or wrongly assumed. Have a great trip.

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Could not agree more. Travel in Alaska is easy to plan a head of time, but trying to wing it can be a nightmare... And do not, do not underestimate the distances and travel time...

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:eek: Yikes, I cannot imagine anyone taking any type of vacation without planning! I plan for years sometimes...... and trying to plan for a land tour of Denali is absolutely driving me nuts.......It is so overwhelming to me and I am a very organized planner.... I've cruised AK several times but just can't get this National Park together for some reason!

 

I have read and read all the cruise line tours and just cannot bring myself to book one as we are not mass-bus-tour folks.....what to do??!

 

Budget Queen, you have been an amazing help to so many here (including me!) -- have you ever posted your ideal tour of the National Park and surrounding areas? I mean -- posted it all in one place? I know you have patiently answered a million questions and some multiple times...... I must be overthinking this one. :confused::(

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I am a planner by nature and am amazed at how many people just “wing it” when traveling. That may work in many places, but Alaska is not one of them. You don’t need to plan every minute of your trip, but the basic logistics of getting to / from the ship / plane, time / distance to get to where you need to be for excursions and booking low capacity / high demand excursions in advance are a necessity for an enjoyable, stress free trip.

 

Sadly, most of those who don’t plan ahead do not use sites such as this, so the ones who need to see these messages the most will not see them.

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

Edited by JT1962

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What you should also learn is that almost every detail the the cruise line tells you about your cruise tour will be either an lie or at least an exaggeration. A perfect example is when they tell you that you have 2 days in Denali and you find that you get into Denali at about noon on day one and you leave early afternoon on day 2. That is a bit of an exaggeration.

 

Another example that they fail to tell you that distances in AK are long so you spend more time driving from place to place and little time at place 1 or place 2. They say that you are going to drive from Denali to Seward in one day and don't bother to tell you that the distance is 370 miles and it will take you more than 6 hours assuming that you do not get held up in traffic.

 

Or else they say that you are staying at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge on the day you get to visit Talkeetna and they don't tell you that the lodge is 50 miles from Talkeetna. One could easily list other instances on AK cruise tours.

 

This is one reason why every one of my AK trips have been DIY land trips.

 

DON

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:eek: Yikes, I cannot imagine anyone taking any type of vacation without planning! I plan for years sometimes...... and trying to plan for a land tour of Denali is absolutely driving me nuts.......It is so overwhelming to me and I am a very organized planner.... I've cruised AK several times but just can't get this National Park together for some reason!

 

I have read and read all the cruise line tours and just cannot bring myself to book one as we are not mass-bus-tour folks.....what to do??!

 

Budget Queen, you have been an amazing help to so many here (including me!) -- have you ever posted your ideal tour of the National Park and surrounding areas? I mean -- posted it all in one place? I know you have patiently answered a million questions and some multiple times...... I must be overthinking this one. :confused::(

Even for those of us who live here, Denali is a bus-based experience. You can only drive a private vehicle about 15 miles into the park. Then is by bus, foot, or bike only. We like to take the bus to the Eilson Visitors Center. It’s a nice day without being overly long, you have several great chances to get the iconic Denali photo if the weather cooperates, and we always see wildlife. Transportation to the park is one day, actually seeing the park at all takes a second day. And then the return trip is really a third day. Alaska is huge. Take the train one way if you can, and splurge for Gold Star class.

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Planning, planning and more planning are the key words. We don't take vacations like this often. Our 16 days next May has maps, calendars, notes and Joy even has made a huge Excel spreadsheet. All in one binder. We have booked most everything by now, have detailed timelines, and emails. On the days we have only driving sight seeing, we have tried to figure times but with me being an avid photographer, that is nearly impossible. Plan, plan and plan some more. Double check your timelines. Thanks to Budget Queen for this heads up to all folks.

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My favorite saying is: Failing to plan is planning to fail!

 

I find that the planning is half the fun! We travel with another couple and my friend and I do all of the planning. Our husbands are always amazed how seamlessly things happen and how much they love everything we do on our trips.

 

We do try to be as flexible as possible, but that means choosing A over B at the moment or deciding to skip something.

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Thank you all for your posts.....I just booked our Alaskan cruise for 2020 and was thinking about doing a cruise/tour but believe we will DIY it. I have no idea where to begin so I better start researching now. I know we plan on spending 4 - 5 days precruise and we are sailing out of Seward. Not much of a start.

 

I agree with the whole planning everything, we are booked on a 14 day Med cruise and I have a notebook and spreadsheet. As far as winging it the only time we have done that is with our numerous Western Caribbean cruises.

 

I will be researching the Alaska boards starting today!

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One other thing I might suggest. I made a small spreadsheet showing all of our "booked" excursions. It's just a simple dateline with names of vendors and phone numbers. I've listed alternate vendors, web page and phone numbers in case the primary has a failure to launch - like a flight seeing or whale watch having a mechanical snafu that cancels the tour. It might save part of the trip if we can get on another excursion at the last minute.

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One other thing I might suggest. I made a small spreadsheet showing all of our "booked" excursions. It's just a simple dateline with names of vendors and phone numbers. I've listed alternate vendors, web page and phone numbers in case the primary has a failure to launch - like a flight seeing or whale watch having a mechanical snafu that cancels the tour. It might save part of the trip if we can get on another excursion at the last minute.

 

Excellent suggestion. Thank you!

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I think people don't ask enough questions or read about where they are going. For instance, cruises say.... start/end in Anchorage. Ah, no, probably Seward or Whittier. I believe HAL does go all the way to Anchorage.

 

It takes awhile to plan. I am already reading up for a one way in 2020! Did the R/T in August. I admire the spread sheet idea, I start with pieces of paper in a folder when I read something.

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Thank you all for your posts.....I just booked our Alaskan cruise for 2020 and was thinking about doing a cruise/tour but believe we will DIY it. I have no idea where to begin so I better start researching now. I know we plan on spending 4 - 5 days precruise and we are sailing out of Seward. Not much of a start.

 

I agree with the whole planning everything, we are booked on a 14 day Med cruise and I have a notebook and spreadsheet. As far as winging it the only time we have done that is with our numerous Western Caribbean cruises.

 

I will be researching the Alaska boards starting today!

 

What cruise line do you use? We are trying to book for 2020 Alaska but are having trouble finding lines with dates.

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We have just booked one way North with Silversea for July 2020. I am impressed by the spreadsheet idea - I thought my text itineraries were very detailed, including everything we book ahead of time, but I have not thought of alternatives. I intend, nearer the time, to book a Hertz car at Seward, and drive ourselves to Anchorage for a few days after the cruise.

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The spreadsheet idea was my lovely wife's. I started with a spiral pad and pencil. She has done a master job listing Date, Activity, Location, Address, Phone#, Reservation#, Room Info & Time Reserved, Cost, and a Comment Section with $$$ due & names of Contacts, etc. Fortunately, our printer has a way to feed legal sized paper ;=| My little contribution is pretty simply mostly to have access to backup tour & excursion contacts. I also added notes to mine concerning stuff that still needed booking - air, bus connections, and restaurant reservations. I also made me a small timeline calendar - page for each day (17 of 'em). The only thing on the last page is an entry @7am Fly to IAH from Seattle. All in pencil to be easily erased and changed. It might seem overkill, but for me, it buffers "old man memory problem". And don't get me on "check lists"! Did I unplug the iron, turn off etc. Hey, this is the biggest, most complex trip that Joy and I have planned.

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Loving this topic and definitely following.  We are booked on Norwegian Jewel in August 2019.  When I first booked it I thought it was pretty far ahead - now I'm thinking booking 18 months in advance is just right!  Working on putting together excursions and such now.  Appreciate all of the ideas and planning tips.

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Budget Queen,

Well said!!! Somehow, this needs to be relayed to all cruisers; especially newbies.

We just returned from our first trip to Europe and I spent a year and a half planning the details

and it was time well spent! We had lots of cushion time "just in case".

I recently posted on one of the boards to the OP that it would be to their benefit

to book their private tours ahead of time and not go to the site and wait for a tour guide to approach them or find one there.

(we are talking Rome Colosseum, the Vatican, etc) Yikes!!! We were very happy with our tours too.

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On 10/17/2018 at 3:55 PM, ddmcruiser said:

Loving this topic and definitely following.  We are booked on Norwegian Jewel in August 2019.  When I first booked it I thought it was pretty far ahead - now I'm thinking booking 18 months in advance is just right!  Working on putting together excursions and such now.  Appreciate all of the ideas and planning tips.

We are on the Jewel in Aug. 2019 also.

I am a planner and I was surprised that things were already getting booked up for next August.

My other surprise was that I read that it was easy to rent a car and drive yourself from Seward to Anchorage (we are doing north bound) Well it may be easy but the cars are $1000 per day!!! Haha! We will be taking the train 😀

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That is not good! I tried to make a Hertz booking for our 2020 trip just now to see the prices, but it says "not more than 16 months in advance". I shall look again next spring.

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We are DIY for pre-cruise Golden Princess (Southbound July 6, 2019). The idea was to rent a car and tour Kenai for a week. The hitch turned out to be turning the car back in. Whittier is not an easy place! The solution that I've come up with is return to Anchorage on Friday, turn the car in and grab the Princess shuttle/transfer to Whittier on Saturday. Is there a better way? 

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AVIS is the only vendor in Whittier. 

One-way rentals are usually quite high so you'll need to price both options :

1. RT rental car with the best price you can find, PLUS,   transfer fees for each member of your group.  Princess shuttle is probably high so look at the independent companies like Alaska Cruise Transportation which is popular with this board.  

2. AVIS One-way rental

 

Then weigh the cost vs the convenience.  With the Avis car you can enjoy your location on the Kenai Peninsula until you're ready to head to the ship mid afternoon.  (be mindful of the tunnel access; it's only open once an hr into Whittier, on the half -hour.  Google Anton Anderson Tunnel for the schedule)

Otherwise you'll need to return to Anchorage to return the rental car, overnight,  then find something to do for a few hrs the following morning until your transfer departs.

 

p.s. you'll get more responses if you open your own thread rather than adding your question to a rather unrelated thread.

 

 

Edited by mapleleaves

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Thank you mapleleaves! I appreciate you catching my post and giving me informative details and advice! 

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Glad it helps.  One thing to keep in mind .... if the RT car rental is significantly cheaper than AVIS , plan your itinerary in order to end up in Seward, Cooper Landing, Summit Lake or Girdwood on Friday night.  This way you'll be 3 hrs from Anchorage at most, so late Sat morning you could drive to Anchorage, return the car, and catch the mid afternoon shuttle to Whittier. 

https://alaskacruisetransfer.com/whittier-tours/

 

 

 

Edited by mapleleaves

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21 hours ago, sunbird51 said:

The solution that I've come up with is return to Anchorage on Friday, turn the car in and grab the Princess shuttle/transfer to Whittier on Saturday. Is there a better way? 

We did that in 2007 - we flew in to Fairbanks, rented a car, stayed there a couple days and visited family over Labor Day weekend (they were in Delta Junction at the time) then drove to Anchorage and turned the car in (the one way rental was expensive but just barely cheaper than 2 one way flights to ANC would have been, and we needed a car for touring anyway) and got the Princess bus to Whittier.

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We’re doing a South bound from Seward next July and plan on a 7-8 day land tour pre-cruise. We’ll fly into Anchorage and want to visit Denali and the Kenai peninsula, have just started looking into options, etc. We’ll be an extended family of 5 on the land tour, my nephew joins us at the end for the cruise. 

 

I also plan all our tours well in advance, this time round I’m rather behind due to work constraints and have only just started researching what we’d like to do.

This will be my third Alaska cruise and second land tour.

 

Thanks for all the suggestions, these boards have helped me so much over the years. Budget Queen, have heard so much about you over the last several years and am surely going to come to you for help planning our trip...😊

Edited by prish

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Sunbird, not necessarily better, but another option would be to take the Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery to Whittier in the morning (leaves after 9 AM and gets in to Whittier about noon). 

https://www.alaskarailroad.com/ride-a-train/schedules

That should allow time for a boat tour in Whittier (glaciers and wildlife) before boarding the ship.

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