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Whittier as port of call


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Our Princess cruise ports in Whittier next May and transports passengers to Anchorage for return flights or land excursions.  We're on the Majestic as b2b passengers.  

 

We're at the age that we usually rely on ship excursions, but have never been to either Whittier or Anchorage.  We're looking for suggestions for how to spend time there as the only Princess offering is a tour of glaciers.  Other tours include airport transfer and we will need to return to ship by 8:30 pm.

 

In advance, thank you for any suggestions,

 

Ruth

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The 26 glacier cruise is a great way to spend the day.   There is a tunnel for cars and the railroad going into and out of Whittier so in order to do anything you would have to plan your times carefully.   Maybe the cruise line will come up with some other excursions.  Portage Glacier visitor center is nearby and so is the Wildlife Conservation Center and Alyeska Resort in Girdwood.  All of these are on the other side of the tunnel.  There may be a rental car service in Whittier or you may find a private tour company to host you.  However, if you don’t get back through the tunnel by sailing time you will be left behind.  

 

Why not ask on the Princess forum since they’ve been sailing out of Whittier for years.  

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5 minutes ago, oaktreerb said:

 However, if you don’t get back through the tunnel by sailing time you will be left behind.  

 

 

 

In light of the 'tunnel' I think we'll rely on tunnel vision and take the glacier tour.

 

Thank you for practical advice.

 

Ruth

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A Prince William Sound glacier cruise is a great choice. Phillips' 26 Glacier Cruise is a popular option. For something a little more intimate is a trip with Lazy Otter: https://www.lazyottercharters.com/

You could catch the Alaska Railroad's Glacier Discovery ( https://www.alaskarailroad.com/ride-a-train/our-trains/glacier-discovery ) train to either the Spencer Glacier stop or to Grandview. Here's our pictures from those trips:

http://akstafford.blogspot.com/2017/08/spencer-glacier-via-alaska-railroad.html

http://akstafford.blogspot.com/2019/07/grandview-on-alaska-railroad.html

You could also rent a car from Avis ( https://www.avisalaska.com/locations/whittier/ ) and explore. I personally don't feel like it's worth it to spend anytime in Anchorage... But with a rental car you'd have time to get to Seward and back.

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The 26 glacier tour is great. Highly recommend it.

 

There is sometimes a "day in Anchorage on your own".

 

Whittier is a very small town. Old military town and everyone lives in one large building, literally.

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The Port of Whittier is the *Major* railroad freight movement from the lower 48 to Alaska.

It is the shorter direct route to Anchorage than the port of Seward.

A tunnel(s) was built by the Alaska RR to move rail freight and was originally only for railway

use - cars and trucks were loaded on flat cars and transported thru the tunnel for shipment

to from the lower 48 by Marine Ferry (the other option was driving the Al-Can Highway).

Awhile back the tunnel was paved over and cars and trucks were permitted to transit the

tunnel alternating one-way traffic every half hour (or other period of time).

The tunnel was shared with movement of the Alaska trains having priority.

 

More facts data about the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel:

https://www.bing.com/search?q=anton+anderson+tunnel+schedule&form=ANNTH1&refig=196871fc277247859e09acd95c3821e5&sp=5&qs=AS&pq=anton+anderson+&sk=PRES1AS4&sc=8-15&cvid=61d820

 

 

Thus when taking a shore excursion and transiting the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel

timing is critical to catch your ship if you miss the tunnel que sequence - - - there are NO

alternatives !

 

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1 hour ago, don't-use-real-name said:

The Port of Whittier is the *Major* railroad freight movement from the lower 48 to Alaska.

It is the shorter direct route to Anchorage than the port of Seward.

A tunnel(s) was built by the Alaska RR to move rail freight and was originally only for railway

use - cars and trucks were loaded on flat cars and transported thru the tunnel for shipment

to from the lower 48 by Marine Ferry (the other option was driving the Al-Can Highway).

Awhile back the tunnel was paved over and cars and trucks were permitted to transit the

tunnel alternating one-way traffic every half hour (or other period of time).

The tunnel was shared with movement of the Alaska trains having priority.

 

More facts data about the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel:

https://www.bing.com/search?q=anton+anderson+tunnel+schedule&form=ANNTH1&refig=196871fc277247859e09acd95c3821e5&sp=5&qs=AS&pq=anton+anderson+&sk=PRES1AS4&sc=8-15&cvid=61d820

 

 

Thus when taking a shore excursion and transiting the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel

timing is critical to catch your ship if you miss the tunnel que sequence - - - there are NO

alternatives !

Tunnel traffic entering Whittier is allowed to pass on the half hour for about 15 minutes.  If you miss the que, come back in an hour.  Traffic exiting Whittier enters the tunnel on the hour for about 15 minutes.  Come back in an hour if you are to far back in the que to transit.  Excursion buses will meet the on-the-hour departure times but those renting cars need to be careful to get into the que before the top of the hour.

 

Anchorage Wild Life Refuge is a nice stop going t9/from Anchorage.

 

https://www.rogerjett-photography.com/here/wp-content/gallery/anchorage-wildlife-refuge/P5288642-2.jpg

Anchorage Alaska Wildlife Refuge
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Whittier, itself, does not have much to do. I speak from personal experience from several years ago, having arrived early in the day on an Alaska Marine Highway ferry, and with a railroad departure not until evening. I ended up just hiking a bit by myself, not to anywhere in particular but just having time alone.

 

There is, in theory, enough time to board a bus from Whittier to Anchorage, and then return on a later bus. But it would leave you only with about 2-1/2 hours on your own in downtown Anchorage. To do this, contact Alaska Cruise Transportation. Buses from Whittier at about 8:45 a.m., or as loaded and dispatched, and arrive in Anchorage at, approximately 10:45 a.m. Marriott, 10:55 a.m. Hotel Captain Cook, 11:00 a.m. Hilton, and 11:15 a.m. Sheraton. Returning to the vessel, buses depart at 2:00 p.m. Sheraton, 2:15 p.m. Hilton, 2:20 p.m. Marriott, 2:30 p.m. Hotel Captain Cook, and arriving back in Whittier at approximately 4:45 p.m.

 

Instead of going into Anchorage, you might want to take a scenic trip on the Alaska Railroad, over a scenic portion of the route well-removed from the surrounding highways. The "Glacier Discovery" train departs from Whittier at 12:45 p.m., returning back to Whittier at 6:05 p.m. (your vessel departs at 8:30 p.m., so the schedule works out well). With the train, you can travel to either Spencer or to Grandview, which the railroad describes on its website as follows: "The next stop is the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, a backcountry paradise developed in partnership with the Chugach National Forest Service. A well-maintained, 1.3-mile gravel path leads from the tracks to the edge of Spencer Lake and a spectacular view of massive Spencer Glacier. Rafting, hiking, and kayaking around the glacial lake are all available as day trips. Staying on the train has its appeal, however, as Bartlett Glacier and Trail Glacier come into view. Many consider this the most scenic stretch of track, as the train winds along the Placer River Valley and amid the alpine meadows of Grandview." At Grandview, the train reverses, picks up the Spencer passengers, and then returns to Whittier. I would not expect that Princess Cruises will promote this train as an option, and so you will need to go to the railroad's website to make arrangements. Or just board the train when it comes into Whittier and buy your ticket from the conductor on board the train itself (there is no real station, just a tent-shelter on the platform across the highway from where the cruise vessels dock, with no railroad ticket facilities or staff present). This is the option I would most likely choose.

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I think the glacier cruise is the best and easiest option although if you want to rent the car and can find one, do. We did a b2b to Whittier and rented a car and drove to Anchorage to visit family for the day.  Don’t be intimidated by the tunnel, just allow enough time to get back as you would with any excursion. The tunnel is actually kind of a fun experience in itself.

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On the other end of the tunnel is portage glacier with is pretty cool. There’s a boat tour there you can take. 
 

the wildlife refuge is also well worth a stop as it’s your best chance to see about all of Alaska’s native wildlife up close 

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2 minutes ago, rsldonk said:

On the other end of the tunnel is portage glacier with is pretty cool. There’s a boat tour there you can take. 
 

the wildlife refuge is also well worth a stop as it’s your best chance to see about all of Alaska’s native wildlife up close 

Just a few feet away from a snoring bear:

 

https://www.rogerjett-photography.com/here/wp-content/gallery/anchorage-wildlife-refuge/P5288639-2.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Thanks to all the expert advice we have booked the Whittier Glacier Excursion.

 

I've learned to trust CC posters for sound advice and suggestions.

 

And we FINALLY have our second COVID vaccinations booked.  Canada has been slow to start but availability is improving weekly.  I suppose cruises in 2021 could require a booster shot.

 

Ruth

Edited by Been There, Planning That
grammar
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I just wanted to give you another option if you didn’t want to do the glacier cruise.
We did a B2B and rented a car with Avis. With the B2B we saw a lot of glaciers on the cruise and didn’t want to do the ship offered tour. Plus we’ve done the glacier boat tour on a previous visit. We drove towards Anchorage on the Seward Hwy. our first stop off was at Potter Marsh walked along the boardwalk. Saw lots of birds and some fish. We headed back south to Beluga Point and other scenic stop offs along the Turnagain Arm.  We then turned towards Girdwood and the Alyeska Resort where we rode the tram up the mountain and back. We had lunch in Girwood and headed back to the ship. 
 

If you didn’t want to do the tram you could always visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center or Portage Glacier. 
 

 

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8 hours ago, Been There, Planning That said:

tmt, your option would have been a great one  a few decades ago for us.  We're now at the 'let the ship excursion employees' look after us.

 

Thank you to so many for youtube links and so many generous suggestions.

 

Ruth

I understand the easy of letting the cruise ship handle everything. I have cruises myself where I don’t get off the ship and just relax all cruise. 
 

you can’t go wrong with a glacier cruise. It’s a great choice. 

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