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Nieuwcruiser

Alaska land tour portion information request

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We are on the Celebrity cruisetour.  We have booked our shore excursions for the cruise portions, but I have a few questions regarding the land portion.

In Fairbanks we go on a riverboat cruise, visit and an Indian Village and a dog sled camp.  I'm wondering if you get up close and personal with the dogs?  Is this similar to the Dog sled camp excursions on the ship?

In Denali the tour includes the Natural History tour but there is an option to upgrade to the Tundra Wilderness tour.  It looks like the Tundra tour is 8 hours and appears to be mostly a bus ride.  Is that true?  I'd rather hike than ride a bus all day.  Suggestions?

Any must do suggestions for our free time in Fairbanks, Denali, Talkeetna, Anchorage or Seward?

Thanks!

 

 

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It has been some years since we had a tour like yours. We were on Princess, but it's the same tour. You get to go right to the fenced in area where the dogs are, but I did not see anyone getting to up close and personal. There were quite a few people. But I felt like that was a great part of our tour. It was the beginning and I was already hooked on Alaska. You should change to the Tundra Wilderness. You get in much father and see all kinds of animals and I liked the camera on the bus, but if Celebrity lets you, you can ditch that and go on the park buses (much like the Tundra Wilderness bus) and it is much cheaper and if you have time you can go much farther into Denali. On the park buses, you can get off and hike and pick up another bus when you get tired. I just did not see the need to hike and for me, the Tundra Wilderness was far enough. But you do need to take a bus in. Just do it!!

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You know, the seeing the dog camp we were on the river boat and had to just view what was going on down there!  We did see dogs at the camp, but it was like I told before in the last post. I had forgotten about that dog camp.

 

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This is the riverboat excursion offered on cruisetours.  If you have specific questions after reading their info page, give them a call:

http://riverboatdiscovery.com/tour-details/

 

As for the Natural History Tour at Denali, it only goes 30 miles into the park (there are almost 100 miles of park road ) so you would be missing out on opportunities to view the wildlife and scenery.   You could upgrade to the Tundra Wilderness Tour which goes to Mile 63. 

https://www.reservedenali.com/tours-transits/the-denali-tour-experience/tundra-wilderness-tour/

 

A better option would be to skip the tour bus and take a transit bus to Eielson Visitor Center at Mile 66.  Eielson is a an actual destination .... a great visitor center with exhibits, awesome views if the mtn is out, rangers, flush toilets, water, seating, a dispatcher if you want to change buses, and ranger led hikes at noon.  Transits use the same road, same length of time, same stops for wildlife and bathroom breaks, but you don't have the video screen, snacks, water or prepared narrative as a tour bus.   If you want to get off the transit bus and hike, you can do so at any point then when you're ready to continue OR return to the entrance, you just flag down a transit bus. 

https://www.reservedenali.com/tours-transits/transits/eielson-visitor-center/

 

Another advantage to the transit bus is that they leave from the bus depot every 30 minutes so you have more flexibility in your schedule whereas with the tour bus you are asssigned a time which could be 6:30am or 1:30pm.  I typically book the transit between 7:30am and 9am so I don't have to get up early, and it gets me to the Visitor Center around noon which is a nice spot to eat my sack lunch.  It takes about 4 hrs to get to the Vsiitor Center, then the driver stops there for his/her break, then it's about a 3 hr drive back to the entrance. You can stay with the bus or take a later one if you want to hike.  Travel time is dependent on how many stops you make for wildlife.  I wouldn't characterize it as a "bus ride".  It's not like a Greyhound Bus barrelling down a boring highway; you're going about 15mph in order to enjoy the scenery and wildlife .

 

The only issue in using the transit bus is that you have to bring your own lunch/snacks/drinks. Do you know what hotel you'll be using ?  They typically sell sack lunches at the hotel cafe.  How many days do you have at Denali?  They have a free sled dog demo at the park .... i think its at 10, 2 and 4pm .  Verify that on the Denali web site.

https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/things2do.htm

 

As for what to do at your other destinations .... there are probably a few hundred excursions offered by Celebrity. What appeals to you?  If you want to book independently, specify which excursion and you will get some recommendations.   i would also encourage you to read thru the many trip reports posted at the top of this page ... lots of first hand experiences to read about and some great photos as well.

Edited by mapleleaves

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The riverboat trip mentioned by our OP is the Riverboat Discovery.  The same family also owns Gold Dredge #8 so cruise tours often include both.  Hopefully our OP checks their website because, unless something dramatically has changed for the upcoming summer (and the trip hasn't changed in a number of years), the trip includes a stop, with passengers remaining on the riverboat, listening to a miced demonstration of long distance sled dog training.  The boat then stops at replica cabins where there is a discussion of Athabascan culture (Alaska has 12 distinct first nation cultures, and the Athabascan people were the original inhabitants of interior Alaska).  I would not characterize it as a village.  At the stop there is also a presentation by another musher with some sled dog puppies, but there is no "pet a puppy" activity.  

 

In terms of Denali I always think that folks short change themselves if they don't go into the National Park as far as Eielson Visitor's Center.  Use the park buses to do so.  The NPS website has explanations of how the bus system works.  The EVC has interesting interpretive displays and a number of trails around it, including some options for ranger led hikes.  But since the OP has opted for a cruise tour the issue will be whether they have the time to do so.

 

 

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Thanks so much!!!

We're staying at the Denali Park Village.  We arrive Sunday around 4:30 pm so we have that evening.  Monday the trip includes the Natural History tour in the morning (unless we upgrade) and have the rest of that day.  Then some time on Tuesday morning on our own.

 

That does sound like the same riverboat trip.  

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If you want to experience the wildlife and scenery in Denali, you need to upgrade.  The chance of seeing any wildlife in the first 30 miles is pretty slim.   Having said that ... I usually see moose in the flats around mile 8-10. Prime bear viewing is after mile 50.

The 2nd map in this link shows the park road and the bus stops. 

https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/maps.htm#6/63.421/-148.491

 

The Denali Park Village offers a shuttle bus TO/FROM the park, if you decide to ditch the tour bus in favor of a shuttle.

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I hope you'll do a trip report when you come back.  We are are booked on the 13-day southbound Celebrity Cruisetour in August 2021.  I have never been disappointed in a Celebrity cruise and have faith that they hire the best companies (apparently, they use several) for the land portion of the trip, but I do find it a bit frustrating that it sounds like we'll have no information ahead of time regarding the optional excursions and upgrades available for the land portion.  I'm a planner, and having to wait until we get there to get the scoop and decide all that is not sitting well with me.  We've done one week Alaska cruises twice before with another cruise line and so we have an idea what we do and don't want to do at the various ports, but I sooooo want to plan out the free time allocations for the land tour and figure out what optional activities we'd enjoy.  Hope you have as wonderful a time as we did on our previous Alaskan cruises!  ❄️ 🛳️ 🗻

Edited by SunsetPoint

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SunsetPoint,

That's how I felt too.  When I called about it they pointed me to Celebritycruisetours.com, under the resources tab you can find the optional land excursions.  It's labeled 2018 but I'm told they are still valid.

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19 hours ago, Nieuwcruiser said:

SunsetPoint,

That's how I felt too.  When I called about it they pointed me to Celebritycruisetours.com, under the resources tab you can find the optional land excursions.  It's labeled 2018 but I'm told they are still valid.

 

Thanks very much for posting this. One item that confuses me is that the cruisetour brochure says that the Fairbanks accommodations are at Sophie's Station Suites for our cruisetour, but when you  click on "Destinations & Accommodations" and go to Destinations and then Fairbanks, it lists Pikes Waterfront Lodge as the only Fairbanks option. We will fly in a day early and it would make the most sense to stay in the same hotel so I don't want to pick the wrong one. I 'm thinking Sophie's Station Suites is the most likely though, because the brochure is the 2020 brochure and although we know their cruises are awesome, we all know how lousy Celebrity does websites. :classic_dry: 

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Oh! I didn't notice that.  We thought we'd be at Pikes Waterfront Lodge.  We reserved a room there the day prior too.  But can cancel if for some reason that isn't where we'll stay with the tour.

 

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21 minutes ago, Nieuwcruiser said:

Oh! I didn't notice that.  We thought we'd be at Pikes Waterfront Lodge.  We reserved a room there the day prior too.  But can cancel if for some reason that isn't where we'll stay with the tour.

 

 

According to the brochure, the Fairbanks accommodations seem to vary depending upon which cruisetour you're taking (ours is Sophie's), but the tab only has the one.  Since we're not cruising until 2021, I figure I'll wait a little while and see what the 2021 brochure says.

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7 hours ago, SunsetPoint said:

 

According to the brochure, the Fairbanks accommodations seem to vary depending upon which cruisetour you're taking (ours is Sophie's), but the tab only has the one.  Since we're not cruising until 2021, I figure I'll wait a little while and see what the 2021 brochure says.

 

 

I suspect you are correct -- Celebrity uses more than one hotel in Fairbanks.  Several years ago we were waiting for our luggage to come off the baggage carousel, and I walked over to the kiosks the cruise lines set up in our airport.  While they meet certain flights all of the lines have kiosks with hotel information for their various land tour accommodations for those who have not booked a cruise line transfer.  Celebrity indeed used (at least then) both Sophie Station and Pikes' Waterfront.  If my memory is correct, and since this was several years ago it may be fuzzy, they also used Bear Lodge which is part of the Wedgewood Resort complex;  both Sophie Station and the Wedgewood complex are Fountainhead properties.  

 

Sophie Station and Pike's Waterfront are located fairly close to each other.  And both hotels are open year round, in contrast to the Princess Hotels which are all seasonal (even the one in Fairbanks is now closed during the winter).  This is a long shot, but I wonder if you e-mailed the Sophie Station and Pike's Waterfront whether they could tell you which specific land tours they will have on their properties.  I suspect they just know the number of rooms, but you never know.......

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Hi Nieuwcruiser,

When is your Celebrity cruise leaving?  It would help to know for planning purposes.

We (retirees) have been on 2 cruise/tours and are planning another this July.

Like others I highly recommend the Tundra Wilderness Tour.

We upgraded to the Tundra Wilderness Tour from the Natural History Tour.

Again, when are you leaving? 

The NPS needs to preform major repairs to the Park Road near Polychrome Pass (mile 43).

The Park Road may or may not be up and running when are in Denali.

Rock slides and major road erosion around mile 43 has made that section of the road increasingly unstable.

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, John99 said:

Hi Nieuwcruiser,

When is your Celebrity cruise leaving?  It would help to know for planning purposes.

We (retirees) have been on 2 cruise/tours and are planning another this July.

Like others I highly recommend the Tundra Wilderness Tour.

We upgraded to the Tundra Wilderness Tour from the Natural History Tour.

Again, when are you leaving? 

The NPS needs to preform major repairs to the Park Road near Polychrome Pass (mile 43).

The Park Road may or may not be up and running when are in Denali.

Rock slides and major road erosion around mile 43 has made that section of the road increasingly unstable.

 

 

 

 

It's too soon to tell how much of the road will be closed, they have to evaluate it when it becomes visable.  They are intending to have it open by late June - July

 

https://www.nps.gov/dena/learn/nature/pretty-rocks.htm

 

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It’s very hard to plan for the Tundra Wilderness Tour.  In the past, we have travelled this route twice and really enjoy to majestic views, wild animals, mountains, etc.  Denali  Park geologist and Park experts planned on traveling to this section (called Pretty Rocks) in late February or early March to assess to situation.  But weather condition have been brutal this winter.  The temps have been running from:   -54 degrees to -30 degrees below zero the last 60 days.  The Park officials really need a brake in the weather before they proceed with work. 

Options consider:    

1) Northern road over the mountain

2) Southern road into the valley

3) Bring in crush rocks and gravel over 600+ truck loads

4) Build several bridges

5) Build tunnels

6) Use a turn around area near EastForkBridge until road conditions are resolved.

 

Mike Dunlevy Governor of Alaska, Lisa Mirkowski Alaska US Senator has requested help from the Dept of Interior.  They are looking for a long term solution and additional funding.

 

Zena Roberts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (graduate student in geosciences) visited the park last summer.  She presented her findings to the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union held in San Francisco in December.  Her conclusion:  By the summer of 2020, a landslide will bury a portion of the road (Pretty Rocks) from the DenaliNational Park entrance to WonderLake.  This is based on a ground survey of giant blobs of frozen hillside that sometimes ooze over the entire 92-mile road, which workers built from 1923 to 1938.  The steep, unstable section of road on PolychromePass consists of clay-rich soil on top of several feet of frozen ground. As temperatures rise and precipitation increases, the road portion has started moving downhill.  The word “Global Warming” comes to mind.

 

Currently DenaliPark officials believe they will open the road sometime this summer.  The really question is WHEN?  So for now – we are keeping our Tundra Wilderness Tour.  I will be following this situation closely. 

 

John   

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On 2/24/2020 at 10:43 AM, Nieuwcruiser said:

We are on the Celebrity cruisetour.  We have booked our shore excursions for the cruise portions, but I have a few questions regarding the land portion.

In Fairbanks we go on a riverboat cruise, visit and an Indian Village and a dog sled camp.  I'm wondering if you get up close and personal with the dogs?  Is this similar to the Dog sled camp excursions on the ship?

In Denali the tour includes the Natural History tour but there is an option to upgrade to the Tundra Wilderness tour.  It looks like the Tundra tour is 8 hours and appears to be mostly a bus ride.  Is that true?  I'd rather hike than ride a bus all day.  Suggestions?

Any must do suggestions for our free time in Fairbanks, Denali, Talkeetna, Anchorage or Seward?

Thanks!

 

 

No you do not get up close and personal with the dogs.  The riverboat cruise is a narrated tour that goes down the river passing the summer dogsled homestaed and the owners are outside narrating from the shore with a demoonstration with a three wheeler and the sled dogs followed by a narrated demonstration by a float plane pilot as he takes off and flies by the riverboat.  Then you go to a "realistic" Athabascan native village and will disembark and walk around to see how they do things.  You will also see some caribou.  I really enjoyed this riverboat cruise.   You will be disappointed with the Natural History Tour.  The tundra tour is what you will want to be able to see any wildlife at all.  There are stops approximately every 1- 1/2 hrs for picture taking, rest stops etc.  They provide lunch and snack.  This is the way to go.

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5 hours ago, Robinhill said:

You will be disappointed with the Natural History Tour.  The tundra tour is what you will want to be able to see any wildlife at all.  There are stops approximately every 1- 1/2 hrs for picture taking, rest stops etc.  They provide lunch and snack.  This is the way to go.

 

Thanks for the info.  We'll keep that in mind for next year when we go (land tour starting 08/07/2021 in Fairbanks and working our way down to Seward, followed by the southbound cruise).  Hopefully, they'll be offering that excursion next year.

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Does anyone know the charge to upgrade to the Tundra tour?     We were there many years ago and decided to upgrade but they were sold out by the time we decided to switch.   There are six of us and I would like us to stay together.  The prices in the personalizer are $115 for the Natural History Tour and $185 for  the Tundra tour.     It says the History tour is 6 hours and Tiundra 9 hours.   Our rservation says 6 1/2 hours.   There is no options to upgrade.   

 

For those of you that upgraded on a princess tour, did you have to call Princess to do it or did you wait until you arrived at the park?

 

Thanks

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4 hours ago, SunsetPoint said:

 

......  Hopefully, they'll be offering that excursion next year.

 

 

Both of those tours have been offered for years, if not decades, so the odds are pretty good that the excursion will be offered next year.

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15 hours ago, SunsetPoint said:

 

Thanks for the info.  We'll keep that in mind for next year when we go (land tour starting 08/07/2021 in Fairbanks and working our way down to Seward, followed by the southbound cruise).  Hopefully, they'll be offering that excursion next year.

Thats what i always do although honestly after i did the cruiseline tour and saw how easy it is to maneuver from Fairbanks down to Anchorage and then the train to Seward for the ship, i since have done 3 more DIY land tours myself for about half the price and including all hotels, car rentals, meals, and many extra excursions that were not included in the cruisetour.    I know you are going to love it and will return again and again!  Have a great time

 

Robin

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Does anyone know what hotel or hotels Princess uses in Anchorage?   thanks

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On 3/1/2020 at 1:45 PM, compozer said:

Does anyone know the charge to upgrade to the Tundra tour?     We were there many years ago and decided to upgrade but they were sold out by the time we decided to switch.   There are six of us and I would like us to stay together.  The prices in the personalizer are $115 for the Natural History Tour and $185 for  the Tundra tour.     It says the History tour is 6 hours and Tiundra 9 hours.   Our rservation says 6 1/2 hours.   There is no options to upgrade.   

 

For those of you that upgraded on a princess tour, did you have to call Princess to do it or did you wait until you arrived at the park?

 

Thanks

I called Princess and upgraded to Tundra.   Was an easy call, they looked at my cruisetour, based on the time I had available, and booked me.   As this is important to me, I didn't want to wait until later.

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7 hours ago, compozer said:

Does anyone know what hotel or hotels Princess uses in Anchorage?   thanks

 

 

At least in the past I believe they have used the Captain Cook.

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7 hours ago, compozer said:

Does anyone know what hotel or hotels Princess uses in Anchorage?   thanks

I don't know if this is the ONLY hotel Princess used, but they put us in Captain Cook hotel.  We've stayed there in the pasted and enjoy the location, so we will be returning for an extended stay between cruises.

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