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I'm looking at the southbound Alaska Princess Cruise tour in June 2022.  We want to do the land first.  Can't decide between 2 nights Fairbanks, 2 nights Denali or 1 night Anchorage, 3 nights Denali.  I'm traveling with my kids, 14 & 17.  Fairbanks includes Riverboat and panning for gold and it looks like the ride to Denali is much shorter, but we don't really get a full free day.  The 3 nights in Denali provides plenty of time, but it looks like the bus ride from Anchorage is pretty long and we just really see Denali.  Both include a Denali bus tour. I was hoping to book an river raft excursion in Denali.

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Instead of the pre-package tours from the cruiselines, I would highly recommend renting a car and putting together your own great trip. That way you can chose what you want to do and when. There's nothing offered on a cruisetour that you can book on your own, often for cheaper. Especially having teens, I think being herded along as part of a typically older crowd is not the way to go.

My opinion here is based on 2 years as a motorcoach driver for Holland America in Alaska.

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Above all, it looks like Princess defaults your Denali tour to the Natural History Tour. If so, upgrade to the Tundra Wilderness Tour, if at all possible. The NHT does not get far into the real interior. You will see a lot more wildlife on the TWT.

We enjoyed Fairbanks more than we expected. The Riverboat Discovery, though tacky, was worth going on once. 

With two nights in Denali, you should reserve the whole day for the TWT. The national park schedules the tours to leave throughout the day; so you do not know when your tour will leave or return until you get there. If you also want to do a river raft excursion, it may be difficult to fit one in late on arrival day.

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I live in Fairbanks so observe so many of the cruise land tours.  While the OP knows their own kids, I just don't think many teenagers would enjoy one.   Please consider renting a vehicle and customizing your own vacation.


The riverboat tour mentioned by the OP is the Riverboat Discovery.  The gold mining experience is the Gold Dredge No. 8.  Both are owned by a local family, and either can be booked independently if they are appealing.


Regarding Denali National Park, I would suggest that taking a shuttle into Eielson Visitor's Center is much superior to either the Natural History Tour or the Tundra Wilderness Tour.  The Denali National Park website has information on the booking process for the shuttles.

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I am a recent widow and do not feel comfortable venturing out on our own.  I want a set tour that handles everything for us, even if it is more expensive.

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On 4/6/2021 at 6:28 PM, afiaccone said:

I am a recent widow and do not feel comfortable venturing out on our own.  I want a set tour that handles everything for us, even if it is more expensive.


I would choose the one with more time in Denali.  We have done both the gold panning and the Riverboat on a Royal Caribbean cruise tour and they were okay.  It was interesting to see the gold dredge, the Riverboat takes you to a village were there are people dressed in costume and you go from talk to talk.


We enjoyed Denali and on our tour, we were able to add optional excursions, for an additional charge.  We were able to go river rafting and ATVing.  We had a two person side by side ATV, more like a dune buggy that was really fun to drive.  They have four person ones too that your whole group could do.


I would check the details of your cruise tour for optional excursions.

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On 4/6/2021 at 3:28 PM, afiaccone said:

I am a recent widow and do not feel comfortable venturing out on our own.  I want a set tour that handles everything for us, even if it is more expensive.

We have done several of the Holland America cruise tours.   You need a minimum of two nights in Denali and HAL includes the Tundra Wilderness Tour.   They also offer three nights in Denali which would give you the TWT and the time to do rafting, see the park exhibits, and do some hiking.  Your first night in Denali would be the perfect time to schedule Jeff King’s Husky Homestead for an introduction to sled dogs and the Iditarod....and to cuddle puppies.  The McKinley Chalets is a large property with cabins on or near the river, near the Princess property, and across the street from the shops.  The train is the best transportation to Denali and the bus is the shortest and best way to get to or from Fairbanks, if you want to do Fairbanks.  The Discovery riverboat is fun and the Gold Dredge and pipeline are educational.


You may think the teenagers would prefer Princess but Holland America has a lot of children sailing with parents and grandparents in Alaska.  You would be best to choose an itinerary that goes to Glacier Bay.  Sitka has a lot to interest teenagers.  Skagway is a National Park and full of Gold Rush history as well as a great place for hiking.


HAL cruise tours are an easy way to travel.  Your luggage is handled for you and your hotel room is prearranged so there is no checking in at Denali.  You get your key before you get off the bus and you will be dropped off at your cabin.  HAL and Princess work together in Alaska and have representatives everywhere if you need assistance.  


You’ll all have a memorable experience, for sure!

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The D1L is a 12 day cruise tour that starts in Fairbanks with a bus ride to Denali.  All of the transportation has narration whether it be the bus or train.  Take a look at the HollandAmerica website which has e-brochures for their Alaska tours.  I'm attaching a chart of their choices.  I wouldn't get a dining package.  You will want more flexibility.1586092228_ScreenShot2021-04-10at2_48_48PM.thumb.png.9b841d9c63544921224453ec2a1716a1.png

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