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First time land and sea cruise to Alaska with 20 ppl, please help

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Hi there, I am new to the cruise world and could use quite a bit of help trying to navigate putting together an Alaska land and sea tour for the beginning of August 2019. It is going to be a large family trip, there are 20 of us in the group and we range in age from 1.5 years - 70 years old (more than half of the family will be kids ages 1-18). I have started trying to research this on my own, but all of the options and information avail. is overwhelming, so I was hoping you all might be able to give me some advice to guide me in the right direction. I am trying to decide which cruise line to choose, looks like Princess or HAL are the most popular options and we were leaning toward one of them. We are pretty flexible in what we'd like to do, we just want an awesome Alaska experience, this is what I think our preferences are:

 

Land first, Cruise second (we've been told that it is a more relaxing vacation this way, especially with all the kids?)

2 days in Denali

Glacier Bay

Sitka looks like a nice stop (but as fewer tours seem to go here it's def. not a deal breaker)

14 day trip (or 12-14 days)

It would be nice to be able to fly into and depart from the same city, but also not a deal breaker

I think the land part is more important to us than the cruise portion

 

I have read that it is a much better option to plan your own land tour, instead of doing one of the pre-programmed ones offered. I completely understand this and would absolutely pick this option if I were just planning a trip for my small family of 4, but because I am trying to organize a trip for 20 i think it is just too much. We have a couple of very small children in the group, so a land tour where there was not a ton of waiting around or very long transfers between places would be best. We have to fly into Seattle or Vancouver looks like, which will already be a long flight for some of the little ones (6 hours), so after that trek we are hoping we will have some much shorter bus/train trips. I know this is a lot to ask, and I am not giving you many specifics, but any help/advice you might have for me about which cruise line and tour suggestions would be so greatly appreciated. I apologize for my ignorance in advance, but i have never been on a cruise (and that is true for most of the people in the group), so please bare with me. Thank you so much for your help in advance.

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If you want to explore Alaska first, your cruise will probably begin in Seward or Whittier depending on which line you choose. So you'll probably be flying into Anchorage.

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If you plan for Denali you need three nights to get two full days at Denali due to travel time with a few stops along the way.

 

Holland America has a very restful 14 day cruise round trip Seattle. It goes to Tracy Arm and Hubbard Glacier for scenic cruising and glaciers. It goes into the port of Anchorage for a full day...good chance to drive down Turrnagain Arm. You also go to Homer, Kodiak, Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Hoonah (Icy Strait). Each port has lots of activities for cruisers to select. Everybody can choose what they want to do and you can meet for dinner. This will be easiest for families with children since kids will have different interests. You will still see a lot of Alaska and have options for wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking, ziplining, whale watching.

 

Or as the poster above suggested...get a good TA. You may want to choose a local guide to plan and lead your group. Look at travelalaska.com and trip reports at the top of this forum.

Edited by oaktreerb

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My first response would be DON'T.

 

However, if you are determined to do it, pick a travel agent and let them do all the work and more important take all the flack and complaints.

 

Specific suggestions

 

1) Don't try to do any of the group activities as a group. Let the TA pick several options per port and let the people pick what they want to do.

 

2) Don't try to dine together. It will not work.

 

3) If anyone calls you to make any suggestions or questions at all, give them the contact number for the TA and tell them to talk to the TA

 

4) You do not handle any money.

 

5) Tell everyone to get insurance. If they don't and they have to cancel - it is their problem.

 

6) After the cruise when people call you to tell them how they would have handled the cruise, tell them that next time they are welcome to handle it.

 

7) Buy the drink package on board - you will need it.

 

I may be sounding negative but I would never travel with such a large group that has such a large age range.

 

DON

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If you want to explore Alaska first, your cruise will probably begin in Seward or Whittier depending on which line you choose. So you'll probably be flying into Anchorage.

 

Or Fairbanks and then flying out of Vancouver. That is a southbound cruise. The opposite - Vancouver to Seward (HAL) or Whittier (Princess) - is a northbound cruise with the tour portion following the cruise.

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You should look at a map and understand the distances involved in the trip. The constraints you are putting on the trip are not possible to satisfy. Denali is about 240 miles from Anchorage - at least a 5 hour drive plus time for stops and longer by train. Fairbanks around 2 hours so you could shorten that transfer by picking a cruise tour that begins in Fairbanks. Cruises leave from Whittier or Seward which is even farther so the transfer can take 9 hours or more. Some land trips break that up by staying one night in Talkeetna in between.

 

To get well into Denali and see the wildlife there is an 8 hour bus trip. The bus stops for wild life sightings and stops about every hour and a half at a rest stop.

 

If you are flying into Vancouver or Seattle and want to do an Alaska land visit followed by a south bound cruise, you will need a flight from Vancouver or Seattle to Fairbanks or Anchorage to start the trip.

 

You could start by reading some of the trip reports on that board to understand what the trips are like.

 

The drives/train journeys between the cities are scenic and part of the experience.

 

If your group doesn't want a trip with so much bus/train time, consider leaving out Denali with alternatives such as:

  • A round trip cruise from Seattle or Vancouver.
  • The 14-day HAL cruise that oaktreeb mentioned is only offered in May I think so that might not work for you, but people sometimes do a b2b cruise - it means visiting some of the same ports twice, but there is plenty to do in the ports so that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
  • Start the cruise with a couple of nights in Anchorage then take the train or shuttle to Seward and spend a couple of nights there.

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I have considered going to a travel agent, and maybe I will do that, but I at least wanted to educate myself about our options first. I've just never used a travel agent for anything in the past, but we've never traveled with a group this large.

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Thanks new cruiser, you are exactly right, those are the kinds of things that are so helpful to know. I didn't realize the distances would be problematic, we were just picking stops that seemed to be the most desired by the group and show up on many diff cruise tours. I will start by looking at a map of Alaska more closely. We will be flying out of NY and I didn't realize that we may need to fly into either Anchorage or Fairbanks if we want to do the southbound cruise on the second part of the trip. That may change our plans because I think that would be over a 10 hour flight in most cases, or probably more, with at least one layover. I would really like to try and avoid this because we do have several very small children and that is such a long flight. I was thinking we could fly to and from either Seattle or Vancouver, but maybe that's not possible? Even if we do the northbound cruise first, then the land, we may still need to fly out of Alaska on the way home, is that right? I def don't want to fly into and out of Alaska, I don't think the group can handle 2 flights like that; I guess we could handle it if we HAD to one way (preferably on the way home I think).

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My first response would be DON'T.

 

However, if you are determined to do it, pick a travel agent and let them do all the work and more important take all the flack and complaints.

 

Specific suggestions

 

1) Don't try to do any of the group activities as a group. Let the TA pick several options per port and let the people pick what they want to do.

 

2) Don't try to dine together. It will not work.

 

3) If anyone calls you to make any suggestions or questions at all, give them the contact number for the TA and tell them to talk to the TA

 

4) You do not handle any money.

 

5) Tell everyone to get insurance. If they don't and they have to cancel - it is their problem.

 

6) After the cruise when people call you to tell them how they would have handled the cruise, tell them that next time they are welcome to handle it.

 

7) Buy the drink package on board - you will need it.

 

I may be sounding negative but I would never travel with such a large group that has such a large age range.

 

DON

 

#7...Don you are cracking me up, but isn't that the truth! :')

 

To the OP, you really need to rethink this. You have an ambitious plan for 2-4 people, let alone 20 that includes children. Keep in mind that herding and moving a group of 20 takes an enormous amount of time and energy. Are you also responsible for making air reservations, arranging transfers, and booking hotel rooms? If it were me, I would nix the land portion and just do the cruise.

 

Good luck whatever you decide to do. Afterward, I will submit your name to the Vatican to be considered as a saint and martyr. :halo:

 

Roz

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Thanks new cruiser, you are exactly right, those are the kinds of things that are so helpful to know. I didn't realize the distances would be problematic, we were just picking stops that seemed to be the most desired by the group and show up on many diff cruise tours. I will start by looking at a map of Alaska more closely. We will be flying out of NY and I didn't realize that we may need to fly into either Anchorage or Fairbanks if we want to do the southbound cruise on the second part of the trip. That may change our plans because I think that would be over a 10 hour flight in most cases, or probably more, with at least one layover. I would really like to try and avoid this because we do have several very small children and that is such a long flight. I was thinking we could fly to and from either Seattle or Vancouver, but maybe that's not possible? Even if we do the northbound cruise first, then the land, we may still need to fly out of Alaska on the way home, is that right? I def don't want to fly into and out of Alaska, I don't think the group can handle 2 flights like that; I guess we could handle it if we HAD to one way (preferably on the way home I think).

 

You really really need to look at a map. The distance from Vancouver to Anchorage is over 2000 kilometers (1300 miles). That's the straight line distance, driving it is much longer. To put it into East Coast terms, that is like saying that you want to fly into Miami to do a land trip in Maine (as far as straight line distance, though the driving distance between Vancouver and Alaska is longer than that between Miami and Maine).

 

If you want part of a 14-day trip to be a land trip in Alaska, you need to fly to Anchorage or Fairbanks.

 

Alaska cruises on mainstream cruise lines are mostly*:

  • Round-trip out of Seattle,
  • Round-trip out of Vancouver
  • One way between Vancouver and Seward or Whittier

So, to do land in Alaska followed by a cruise, you would fly to Anchorage (or Fairbanks if you want to visit Denali and minimize transfer times) and fly home from Vancouver (or Seattle).

 

I don't see any direct flights from New York to Anchorage. On the other hand, flying with young children, having a stop for a plane change can provide a chance for them to be free of the plane seat for a break.

 

*This leaves out longer round trip cruises from other West Coast US ports such as San Francisco and repositioning one-way cruises. It also leaves out small ship American cruise lines that do cruises that start and end in Alaska, but those are much higher cost and I assume you aren't considering them for a group of 20.

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We will be flying out of NY and I didn't realize that we may need to fly into either Anchorage or Fairbanks if we want to do the southbound cruise on the second part of the trip. That may change our plans because I think that would be over a 10 hour flight in most cases, or probably more, with at least one layover. I would really like to try and avoid this because we do have several very small children and that is such a long flight.

 

We have done the northbound Vancouver to Whittier cruise on Princess twice:

 

 

 

 

  • in 2007 DH and I cruised first - with a non-stop flight from Washington, DC to Vancouver - and then did a 4 day cruise tour (2 nights at Denali, 1 night at Talkeetna and 1 night in Anchorage and then flew home from Anchorage which necessitated a change of planes.
  • in 2012 DH and I cruised with my 3 siblings and spouses. The same itinerary and 2 of the couples did the cruise tour. That year we couldn't fly non-stop to Vancouver nor home from Anchorage.

This past summer we took our 2 kids, their spouses, and our 3 1/2 year old granddaughter to Alaska. Since it was our treat I made the executive decision that we would cruise roundtrip out of Seattle because we could all fly non-stop from/to Washington, DC. It was imperative with a toddler (she did great) - one flight, no layovers. She was off schedule nap wise especially the first couple of days (Alaska is 4 hours behind east coast time). The round trip, of course, meant no cruise tour. I highly recommended that they come back (on their own dime :D) sometime in the future and do that.

 

Don't forget that you absolutely should fly into your departure city at least one day in advance! You do not want to miss embarkation or the beginning of your cruise tour.

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Or you could fly into Vancouver, do a northbound cruise on Princess, get a group tour to Denali for three days and take a HAL ship back to Vancouver...

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Or you could fly into Vancouver, do a northbound cruise on Princess, get a group tour to Denali for three days and take a HAL ship back to Vancouver...

 

I thought about suggesting cruise - land - cruise, but it would be more than 14 days.

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#7...Don you are cracking me up, but isn't that the truth! :')

 

To the OP, you really need to rethink this. You have an ambitious plan for 2-4 people, let alone 20 that includes children. Keep in mind that herding and moving a group of 20 takes an enormous amount of time and energy. Are you also responsible for making air reservations, arranging transfers, and booking hotel rooms? If it were me, I would nix the land portion and just do the cruise.

 

Good luck whatever you decide to do. Afterward, I will submit your name to the Vatican to be considered as a saint and martyr. :halo:

 

Roz

 

I really should have said that the rest of the group should chip in and buy the OP the drink package. Anyone who does not help w the cost of the drink package gets banished from the group.

 

DPN

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You should look at a map and understand the distances involved in the trip. The constraints you are putting on the trip are not possible to satisfy. Denali is about 240 miles from Anchorage - at least a 5 hour drive plus time for stops and longer by train. Fairbanks around 2 hours so you could shorten that transfer by picking a cruise tour that begins in Fairbanks. Cruises leave from Whittier or Seward which is even farther so the transfer can take 9 hours or more. Some land trips break that up by staying one night in Talkeetna in between.

 

To get well into Denali and see the wildlife there is an 8 hour bus trip. The bus stops for wild life sightings and stops about every hour and a half at a rest stop.

 

If you are flying into Vancouver or Seattle and want to do an Alaska land visit followed by a south bound cruise, you will need a flight from Vancouver or Seattle to Fairbanks or Anchorage to start the trip.

 

You could start by reading some of the trip reports on that board to understand what the trips are like.

 

The drives/train journeys between the cities are scenic and part of the experience.

 

If your group doesn't want a trip with so much bus/train time, consider leaving out Denali with alternatives such as:

  • A round trip cruise from Seattle or Vancouver.
  • The 14-day HAL cruise that oaktreeb mentioned is only offered in May I think so that might not work for you, but people sometimes do a b2b cruise - it means visiting some of the same ports twice, but there is plenty to do in the ports so that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
  • Start the cruise with a couple of nights in Anchorage then take the train or shuttle to Seward and spend a couple of nights there.

 

The 14 day that I mentioned above will sail on the Amsterdam in 2019 with June 3, 17;July 15, 29; and Aug 12, 26,; and Sept 9 sailings. We did it on the Zaandam in June and there were several large family groups enjoying the cruise. A lovely ship and a great itinerary. Easy to plan and with a large group you should get special rates for the cruise. Call a TA or HAL directly for a quote.

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I planned a quick land/sea trip for my family of 4- my parents, and uncle and myself. I still went a bit nuts, and we didn’t even see Denali.

 

First off, everything in Alaska is expensive. Even car rental gave me a pause. Imagine if you don’t really want to do something and then have to pay $1000 to go with the group to do it (like a train ride or Denali or something). That causes hard feelings. Avoiding hard feelings is the number one aim here. For you or anyone else.

 

I personally always make the worst flight the one there. People being excited to go on vacation tend to handle bad traveling better than people who are tired and just want to get home.

 

If I were you I’d do one of two options. 14 day cruise (oh it’s so nice when I shove everyone on the boat, and they are contained). Second option would be that every family decides on their own land tour. They can go with the cruise line, or on their own, or RV themselves. It can fit their budget, time off, interests, etc.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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It is going to be a large family trip, there are 20 of us in the group and we range in age from 1.5 years - 70 years old (more than half of the family will be kids ages 1-18).

 

Not trying to pile on, but the bolded part of your post is the kicker in my opinion. Here are some of the inconvenient truths about (most) kids visiting Alaska.

 

Virtually any land portion of the trip will entail long - as in l-o-n-g - hours in vehicles, whether they're tour buses, cars, or shuttle buses. How many of the kids would put up with 8 hours in a school bus - no internet, no water, no toilets, no food - for a round trip to the Eielson visitor center in Denali Park? Sure, there might be some animals visible near or far, and the mountain might or might not be visible, but it's a whole day.

 

Or sitting on a rolling, pitching boat for hours on more-or-less open ocean on the way to the Kenai Fjords from Seward. There will be terrific sightings of marine mammals, glaciers, birds, great scenery. Are they good with that for six or seven hours? Will their parents be happy paying $150 or so for themselves or $90 or so for the kids? Will the parents also be good with paying $250 a night for a hotel that would rate three stars max anywhere else?

 

Now don't get me wrong. I raised my son in Alaska and I think it's a fabulous place for kids. But it's one thing to take your kid on a float plane to a wilderness lake for weekend, where the only company was moose, loons and extremely uncooperative trout, and another to put them in the back seat of a car and drive for five hours through so-so scenery to a hotel that happens to be another five hours from the good stuff - the next day.

 

I think a cruise is a fabulous way for a big group to enjoy each other's company while still having privacy and gobs of activities during the day for all ages. Most of the big ships have good kids' programs, baby sitters, room service on demand, and enough food choices for the pickiest kid that ever lived. If there were 14-day cruises where you could unpack once and let the captain do the driving for the whole two weeks, that would be fantastic.

 

Unfortunately, there aren't any in August. Virtually every cruise then is for seven nights, whether it's a round trip out of Vancouver or Seattle, or a one-way cruise between Vancouver and Whittier or Seward or the reverse. (There are no one-way cruises from Seattle owing to US maritime law.) You could do "back to back" 7-day cruises, but you really would see the same things twice.

 

If it was me - and it certainly is NOT, I would poll the group and ask them if they want to cruise in one direction, north or south, and then have it everyone for themselves on land planning - they'd have to arrange their own itineraries, arrange lodging, transport, etc. Some might want to max out the time available, others might spend a day looking around Anchorage or Seward, whatever, then head to the airport. (Or if the cruise is southbound, arrive a week or two weeks early and just rendezvous for the sailing.)

 

OR, arrange (through a travel agent, who all live for these opportunities) for your group to do a simple 7-day round trip cruise from Seattle or Vancouver, then come up with a pre- or post-cruise plan for the other nights. (If you did this, I'd sail from Vancouver because the sailing routes are more scenic and on calmer water than those from Seattle.)

 

Imagine, what if you did a 7-night cruise from Vancouver that puts you back in Vancouver a week later, then arrange three or four minivans (or any number of rental cars) and spend another few days - could be a week, could be less - in someplace like Whistler BC? Whistler is a couple of hours (or less) up the gorgeous Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver, and because it's a ski resort in the winter (2010 Winter Olympics) it's got lots of affordable lodging - condos, hotels, cabins - at quite good prices available in the summer. You've got umpteen activities in the glorious mountain scenery around Whistler - hikes, swimming, zip lines, fishing, horses, blah blah, and Whistler village is full of fun and affordable cafes, pubs and galleries.

 

People could do their own things, or you could rendezvous at some restaurants a couple of times, whatever. Buy burner cell phones for everybody so you can stay in touch, and just have a week or so touring the area - sleep late, go look for bears or glaciers... it's a wonderful area but the logistics wouldn't be nearly as complicated as they would be in a week in Alaska, because things are all much closer together.

 

I think the round trip cruise would expose you to plenty of marvelous sights and experiences. Nobody would be bored, you'd have a real sense of Alaska, even if you recognize that you're only seeing a small fraction of a huge state. It will probably whet the appetites for those that want to return.

 

Just a thought, anyway.

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Just my two cents but Holland America has a great 11-day cruise followed by three days in Denali that I will be repeating next June.

 

A HAL Personal Cruise Consultant can take care of all of the transportation and hotel arrangements for you from and to your home airport. The cruise-tour portion is all inclusive of hotels and transportation leaving most meals during the land portion for you to pay. I would avoid flying home from the Fairbanks airport because of so few flight options.

 

With such a large group, HAL may have some group discounts available.

 

It never hurts to investigate all of your options before making a decision.

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Just my opinion, but with very young children and long flights...You should forget the land portion, and forget sailing from Vancouver or Seattle. Take Grand Princess from San Francisco R/T for 10 days. Leave the longer, more complicated trip for when the little ones are older and can tolerate the long flights. EM

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I don't know where you are with the travel agent decision, but if you decide to go it alone....and you survive the ordeal...you will wish you had used a travel agent.

 

There will be little to no addtional cost doing so...so why put yourself thru something you know little about?

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Thanks for all the advice, I am currently trying to get in touch with a "good" travel agent who knows quite a bit about Alaska tours, we will see how that goes, i've reached out to a couple people. Maybe I should've said that this trip is not for me, I am helping my in-laws try and put it together, but this is a dream trip that they want to take with everyone in the family for their 50th wedding anniversary. As I will have a 2.5 year old at the time, believe me when I say that it is not an ideal time for us to be taking him on an Alaskan adventure, but we all want to do this once in a lifetime trip for them. And if i could, I would probably cut out Denali, or maybe the land portion altogether, but it is really important to them, and so we will forge on and do the best we can to build the best family vacation we can. Unfortunately, my son and another child won't even be old enough to take advantage of the kids club programs on the ships - does anyone know of any that allow 2 year olds? Thanks again!

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You are a good daughter-in-law for taking this on. Once you've gathered all the information, if there's any way you can dissuade them from the land portion, I would do it. A cruise for 20 to Alaska is going to be so much easier than a land tour.

 

Roz

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My 2 cents ....

Since this is the in-laws dream trip, and there are so many little kids, it would make life a lot easier if the in-laws do the land portion on their own and everyone else meets up in Whittier or Seward for a family cruise.

My guess is that they don't understand the distances involved and how difficult it would be for young families to have suitcases at the door by 7am every morning, with kids dressed and fed, then to sit on buses/trains for several hours a day. So with that info, perhaps they would be open to doing the land portion on their own.

 

BTW, to avoid you having to research cruisetours, which is difficult to do since they aren't forthcoming with the details, you could arrange the land portion thru a pkg trip from Princess Lodges or the Alaska Railroad or train/bus combo with Alaska Tour & Travel.

They could fly into Fairbanks, spend a few days there, then train to Denali for 2 nights, 1 night in Talkeetna, then train to Anchorage.

 

https://www.princesslodges.com/alaska-rail-tours/

https://www.alaskarailroad.com/travel-planning/packages/summer-packages

https://www.alaskatravel.com/

 

As for meeting up for the cruise, the ships depart from Whittier or Seward.

Whittier is about 60 miles and 1 1/2 hrs from Anchorage.

Seward is about 130 miles and 3 hrs from Anchorage.

Both can be reached by train, Park Connection bus, rental car, cruiseline transfer or private transfer. With 20 people a private van with Magic Bus might be the cheapest option plus you could include a stop at the Wildlife Conservation Center and a few other places.

Good luck !

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Great advice, Maple Leaves! I like the idea of the in-laws doing the land portion on their own, and then joining the rest of the family for the cruise. A good compromise.

 

Roz

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It's a good suggestion, if we need to we may skip out on the land portion and meet up with the family for the cruise part, but I know it would disappoint my in-laws, which I really don't want to do. There are really only 2 families with very young children - mine (a 2 and 6 yr. old), and another family has a 1 year old. All the rest of the kids are 11 and up, so their families will be fine with the land tour I think. I'm finding it difficult to find actual details about the land/cruise tours, like the time we would need to leave our hotel, how long the train/bus ride would be to Talkeetna (or wherever), and etc., the actual itinerary for each day. I'm hoping that a travel agent will be able to give me more nitty gritty details so I can figure out what to do about the land tour? Or am I just missing this information somewhere?

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Personally, I think the cruisetours intentionally leave out the details. That's because many of them, esp the 3 or 4 day ones, are mostly spent in transit. ie the 2 day Denali visit often arrives midafternoon on Day 1 and leaves at noon on Day 2, which doesn't leave enough time to do a bus trip into the park. Yet you'll have 2 days in Talkeetna which is overkill.

 

Anchorage to Talkeetna is about 2 1/2 hrs by car/bus. 4 hrs by train. Same asTalkeetna to Denali.

 

This link provides distances and travel times between popular destinations. I've found it quite accurate. alaska.org is a good resource in general

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

Edited by mapleleaves

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We just returned from a 13 day land/cruise Princess tour and would be happy to correspond privately with you on any specific questions you might have. It is beautiful but as others have mentioned the travel between sites was a bit much at times especially having to put luggage out at 6:30-7:00 in the morning. We did fine but many on our trip were exhausted when we arrived at the ship. My email is teri.kiehn@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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I agree with everyone else. Planning a trip like this for a small group would be daunting. Planning for a group of 20 spanning three generations of in-laws? I wouldn't.

 

My husband and I cruised three times to Alaska with 10 other family members (parents, siblings, and siblings' spouses). The 12 of us cruised a fourth time (and only once!) with my then-teenage daughter and three teenage nieces. My parents paid the cruise fares for everyone, but we each had to pay for our own airfare, transfers, airplane meals and drinks, hotel meals and drinks, shore excursions, gratuities, bar drinks on the ship, etc.

 

With that in mind, you need to know the answers to these questions.

 

What exactly have your in-laws agreed to pay for? Everything, as in every little thing? Or just the land/cruise fare? You need to know your budget and what specifically that budget includes. The extra costs can be just as expensive as the base cruise fares.

 

Will you and the other families have any financial burden? If so, can all of you afford to pay equally?

 

Do you get along with all of your in-laws? Do they all get along with each other?

 

Are your husband's parents easy to please?

 

You are getting very good advice on this board. I hope you take it seriously. A trip such as the one your in-laws are proposing could easily cost upwards of $75K. That's a lot of money and a lot of responsibility.

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If there were 14-day cruises where you could unpack once and let the captain do the driving for the whole two weeks, that would be fantastic.

 

Unfortunately, there aren't any in August.

 

Of course there is. As oaktreerb posted twice above, HAL Amsterdam offers this fabulous itinerary, the 14 Night Great Alaskan Explorer, on 12 August 2019. We sailed this one twice with our teens, and I would highly recommend it for a large family group such as the one you have.

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Of course there is. As oaktreerb posted twice above, HAL Amsterdam offers this fabulous itinerary, the 14 Night Great Alaskan Explorer, on 12 August 2019. We sailed this one twice with our teens, and I would highly recommend it for a large family group such as the one you have.
I would recommend this one, too. That way you would see a lot of Alaska and have your traveling hotel room (i.e., your ship cabin) to return to whenever you need to.

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Of course there is. As oaktreerb posted twice above, HAL Amsterdam offers this fabulous itinerary, the 14 Night Great Alaskan Explorer, on 12 August 2019. We sailed this one twice with our teens, and I would highly recommend it for a large family group such as the one you have.

My mistake, apologies. That would be the easiest option for the OP's group. If they wanted to see Denali they could take the day in Anchorage and do a flightseeing tour of the mountain on a floatplane from Lake Hood right in central Anchorage.

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I know it has been mentioned already, but look into the travel times to get to/from Denali, plus read the trip reports of those that have done a land tour to Denali. After my own research, I am deciding to skip going to Denali next summer with my kids (who will be 6 and 8 at the time), as the travel time is too long plus being on a bus for 8 hours with stops every 1 1/2 hours or so to get off and stretch their legs (with no bathrooms on the bus) just would not be enjoyable for any of us, as they would get fed up after awhile. Combined with the fact that you have a much better chance of NOT seeing Denali, meant we skipped this bucket list item for us. We are exploring the Kenai Peninsula and doing much shorter more manageable drives on our own and in the end, spending more time out in Alaska, rather than on a bus or train.

 

Have you talked about budget with your in-laws? Are they covering any of it? It is going to be an expensive trip. You will have the cruise, taxes, gratuities, anything spent on board (alcohol, specialty dining, etc), shore excursions, plus anything for the land portion of the trip.

 

If you decide to do a land portion (or just a one-way cruise and with optional land for those that want to), I would start in Alaska. Do the longer flights while the kids are excited and not exhausted at the end of the vacation. You could look into a stopover in Seattle on the way to break up the flight, if the parents of young kids think it is necessary.

 

Roundtrip Seattle is going to be the easiest. The 14 day cruise that has been mentioned would be a great compromise- see more of Alaska without the hassle of long travel days by bus/train.

 

If your in-laws have their heart set on Denali, I'd suggest booking the cruise as a Southbound (starting in Seward or Whittier depending on the cruise line) and then let every family book their own pre-cruise option. Then everyone meets up at the ship. It will be a lot more enjoyable for everyone.

 

Does everyone have a passport? Flying into/out of Vancouver, every person will need a passport, including the children.

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I will definitely talk to my in-laws about the difficulties that going to Denali may present. I would be on board for the 14 day cruise option, it would be the easiest for my family, but i'm not sure they will want to do that, it does seem like a LONG time on a boat and I think seeing Denali and doing some type of land tour is important to them. They are paying for most of the trip, they don't seem too concerned with the costs since the different cruises we've looked at seem pretty comparable so far, the families are happy to pay for whatever portion my in-laws decide; it may be that we pay for our own flights, not sure yet, they want a cruise that's all inclusive as far as dining and drinks anyway. I think the perfect compromise for us (and i'm sure this doesn't exist of course) would be a round trip cruise out of Seattle or Vancouver that took about 5 days north bound, and then we could do a 3 day break in Anchorage and everyone could do what they wanted (go see Denali, or just hang around close by) and then do another 5-6 day southbound cruise back to Vancouver or Seattle. I am going to see if this is a viable option, but I'm guessing we would have to book 2 one-way cruises, maybe with different cruise lines, and that sounds like it could cost considerably more money. Doing it this way would eliminate the 11-12 hour flight (or more) to Alaska, which would be a huge bonus, not just for my family but for everyone i think. I'm sure i'm just wishful thinking with what is basically 10-11 day round trip cruise with a 3 day layover in Anchorage though. : ) Thanks again so much for all your advice everyone, I am taking it all in.

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