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Denali Explorer - Pre-Cruise Cruise Tour


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I am wondering if anyone has taken a cruise like this in the past. I have looked all over and can not find any info on one so I was wondering if this is something new for NCL.. I was just curious on what kind of hotels NCL puts you up in and also how good the tours were? 

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You are not the only person who has asked that question - I did it just last year after booking my Jewel cruise from Vancouver to Seward (since cancelled). As you have discovered there is little to no reviews on these boards - even in the AK ports of call section. NCL has been doing cruisetours for several years now - they were the last to get into the game - RCCL and Princess led the way back in the early 90's. I abandoned the cruisetour idea and elected to DIY the land portion of my vacation - or at least look into other companies travel packages. I found that the AK RR has several different packages for traveling - but no lodging options. I also discovered other companies that offer both guided and unguided tours of AK - some even start at the dock - however most start in Anchorage   so I looked at getting to there on day one - disovered that NCL offeres a direct transfer from the ship to Anchorage. From there you can do a day trip back down to Whittier and Seward on the AKRR returing to Anchorage. The next day you can then take the train to Denali - stay overnight on your own and then do the park the following day - you can spend as much time as you want - then train to Fairbanks and tour there for a day or so before flying out - I found direct flights back to the lower 48 without having to go back to Anchorage. I also entertained renting a car in Fairbanks to do some extra touring on my own - like drive part of the Dalton Hy etc. Good luck on your planning - I have put AK on the back burner for now hoping for a better experience in either 22 or 23.

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No matter what you choose, be sure to stay in Denali for two nights.   That way you can take the eight-hour bus tour into the park.  It is not to be missed.   An absolute highlight of any visit to Alaska. 

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If you choose to go by train you arrive at Denali station around 4PM - the train runs once a day so in theory you could move on to Fairbanks the next day after doing the all day tour - or not.

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If you choose May,  keep in mind that the road into Denali doesn't fully open until around June 10.  I believe the road is open to Eielson Visitor Center starting June 1.   Eielson is the most popular destination; it's a lovely destination with exhibits, rangers, views, hikes, and running water.  And it takes you into prime bear viewing area.

 

The 2nd map in this link, PARK ROAD MAP, shows the destinations of the various transit and tour buses.  Maps - Denali National Park & Preserve (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

 

Bus reservations open in Dec for the next yr.  The reservation site has good info on the difference between tours and transits, dates, and other info. Reserve Denali | ReserveDenali.com

 

As you look at any cruisetour, be very mindful of the travel times.  As was mentioned,  you need 2 nights at Denali, just to get 1 day in the park.  Most tours arrive midday and leave at noon the next. The trip to Eielson takes 8 hrs so if you only have one night at the park, you only have time for the Natural History Tour which doesn't get very far into the park to see the sights or wildlife.  

 

If you want to travel independently:

1. the Alaska Railroad offers various pkg tours, including accomodation. You'll stay at the big hotels used by the cruisetours.   Summer Travel Packages | Alaska Railroad.  

 

2.  Alaska Tour and Travel  owns the popular Park Connection Bus service (it runs between Seward and Denali with a couple of stops in between).  The company also offer package trips by bus, train or a combination of bus AND train.  You work with them to decide where you want to stay overnight and for how long.  Alaska Train & Bus Vacation Packages | Alaska Railroad, Deluxe Motorcoach | AlaskaTravel.com

 

I always arrange my own trips and either rent a car or an RV.  Pretty easy to do once you decide where you want to overnight.  I like having the freedom to stop for wildlife sightings or places of interest along the way, plus I prefer to set my own schedule.  Leaving my suitcase in the hallway by 6am each morning isn't my idea of fun.

 

Good luck with your research.

 

 

 

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I did a 7-day pre-cruise tour in September 2019 and I loved it. Started in Anchorage and boarded the ship in Seward. But we had a small group (and a big bus) and the weather was fantastic. Tours were very well orchestrated but might not have been so good with a larger group. Hotels were OK (Sheraton Anchorage, Bear Lodge Fairbanks, Denali Park Village, Best Western Valdez) - we were late season, so fewer choices.

 

Obviously, season will make a difference.  We were end-season and could of had weather issues but we managed to see Denali (last day they were doing the bus tours) and Northern Lights from the field next to our hotel in Fairbanks.

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On 1/11/2021 at 12:52 PM, bonvoyagie said:I also entertained renting a car in Fairbanks to do some extra touring on my own - like drive part of the Dalton Hy etc.

Just a note from personal experience, as someone who rented a car in Fairbanks in 2018.. It’s the only place I’ve ever rented (globally) that made us sign an additional addendum to the rental agreement that bans you from driving to/on certain roads... including the Dalton Highway. 
 

I was super high status in Hertz at the time, so usually it’s just a keys and go situation. When the agent pulled out the addendum with a super specific list of roads and routes, I was like “uh...?" and the agent summarized "no ice road truckers road, or you own the car." 

 

Dalton thankfully wasn’t part of our plans, but we made sure to verify the drive out to Chena hot springs was okay before leaving the airport. 

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10 hours ago, mapleleaves said:

As you look at any cruisetour, be very mindful of the travel times.  As was mentioned,  you need 2 nights at Denali, just to get 1 day in the park.  Most tours arrive midday and leave at noon the next. The trip to Eielson takes 8 hrs so if you only have one night at the park, you only have time for the Natural History Tour which doesn't get very far into the park to see the sights or wildlife.  

This 100%. You’ll really need two nights in the Denali area so you can see the park for a full day. We opted for the Kantishna Experience tour, which goes to the end of the road in Denali. It’s listed at 11-12 hours, but ended up taking a more than 14. It was a mixed bag... a number of people on the tour didn’t realize the tour was supposed to be a full day (their family members booked) so there was lots of griping. Lots of wildlife, and we had the opportunity to get off the bus and hike with a park ranger, but after nearly 15 hours we were exhausted at the end of the day. 

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On 1/11/2021 at 12:35 PM, Topdog52 said:

I am wondering if anyone has taken a cruise like this in the past. I have looked all over and can not find any info on one so I was wondering if this is something new for NCL.. I was just curious on what kind of hotels NCL puts you up in and also how good the tours were? 

We did NCL from Vancouver to Seward two or three years ago.   I had booked the cruise before any cruise tours (like one's to Denali) were available.   Once the cruise tours were released, I called NCL to book the cruise tour and add it to our cruise, but couldn't do it, since NCL had a policy that you had to book the cruises and the cruise tour at the same time.  Since I had booked early, my cruise fare was several hundred dollars lower than what it was then, so I found a good private tour.  It was with Alaska Tours and Travel.  Check them out and compare to NCL's prices.  

 

Another warning, we booked the Alaska Rail from Denali to Anchorage with the scenic glass ceiling.  The train was held up because of a rock slide and the train trip cancelled.  We go NO refund from Alaska Rail.  Apparently, this is there policy, since it legally force majure (Act of God).

 

Denali is amazing you so much wildlife as well as the mountains and scenic areas.

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