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Rail or Bus to Port


fleeflicker
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For reference:

 

Alaska Railroad | Alaskan Tours & Vacations | Train Packages

 

The Glacier Discovery train $105.00 leaves Anchorage 0945am arrives Whittier 1205pm

All one class of service (Adventure class - NO bilevel cars) 

Don't have a schedule or price transfer service by bus.

In both cases your luggage is most apt to be checked before either and taken by truck

directly to the ship and to your cabin.

The train leaves from the Anchorage depot and arrives across from the registration

facility of the cruise line at Whittier.

The bus leaves from a location i.e. hotel and arrives at the same place the trains do.

Real easy 

The train has priority going thru the tunnel to the cruise port - the bus has to wait for the

que - not much difference either way.

The train has ample seating and a cafe/concession car for a late breakfast meal

 

BOTH REQUIRE RESERVATIONS - book early train maybe sold out

 

Scenic wise the train cannot be beat B-I-G windows - and best handicap/mobility impaired service 

 

Consolation prize to the Bus leaves from your hotel location - as - you have to go from the

hotel to the depot for the train.

 

I highly recommend taking the "A" train - such comfort and viewing !

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I also suggest train.  When I boarded Coral Princess at Whittier (having been driven there by my Nephew), I recall passing Princess Cruise's buses stopped for, what I assumed, was a rest stop.  I arrived at the terminal around 11:30 A. M. and was among the first on board.  A 12:05 P. M. train arrival ought to be a good time to arrive and check-in.  

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9 minutes ago, fleeflicker said:

Thanks. Book direct or through Princess?

 

Make it easy on yourself.  Book through Princess and let them handle the details.  They will handle the luggage; there will be Princess staff available to assist in Anchorage and in Whittier.  

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On 8/18/2021 at 5:30 PM, fleeflicker said:

Thanks. Book direct or through Princess?

 

The answer depends on which train or bus will be used.

 

As for trains, there are two trains from which to choose. As noted in a prior post, one train ("Glacier Discovery") leaves the station in downtown Anchorage daily at 9:45 a.m., arriving in Whittier for the first time at 12:05 p.m., and then after that train continues further on an excursion beyond, it returns to Whittier for the second time at 6:05 p.m. The train has ordinary coaches, a bi-level DMU coach in which sandwiches, snacks, and beverages are sold, and a baggage car. This train is operated by the Alaska Railroad, which itself sells tickets directly for the journey, but Princess Cruises is unlikely to offer to re-sell these tickets to you. A second train leaves the station at the Anchorage airport on cruise days only at approximately 4:05 p.m., arriving in Whittier around 6:35 p.m. The train has panorama dome (single level) coaches, and a café car in which sandwiches, snacks, and beverages are sold. This is a train also operated by the Alaska Railroad but chartered exclusively to the cruise lines. The railroad itself does not sell tickets for the journey, but instead Princess Cruises is the exclusive seller of the tickets. Indeed, Princess Cruises controls the details of this second train, including departure time and even if the train will operate at all in conjunction with a specific cruise. Thus, it depends on the particular train that you intend to use whether to book direct or through Princess Cruises.

 

A similar situation exists for bus services. Two reliable regularly-scheduled motorcoach services operate between Anchorage and Whittier. One is the "Park Connection" bus, which departs the Anchorage Museum at 3:00 p.m., arriving in Whittier at 5:00 p.m. The other is the Alaska Cruise Transportation bus, which departs the Sheraton at 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., the Hilton at 12:45 p.m. and 2:15 p.m., the Marriott at 12:50 p.m. and 2:20 p.m., the Captain Cook at 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and the airport at 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., arriving in Whittier at 4:45 p.m. (the earlier departure includes a stop enroute at, including admission to, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center). Both services are booked directly. Princess Cruises offers its own transfers via charter bus, but details are less transparent, and I would anticipate a higher cost. You would, of course, book such services through Princess Cruises.

 

All else being equal, I would generally choose the railroad option, departing in the morning, opting for the extended excursion, and alighting in Whittier at the train's second stop. My bias is that I generally avoid cruise-arranged transportation because it is usually overpriced, impersonal, indifferent, less transparent, less competent, and involving an unnecessary middleman (the cruise line) between myself and the actual carrier. The advantage to cruise-arranged transportation is that a single entity takes care of everything.

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Here is a little different prospective. We took the Princess shuttle and really enjoyed it. We spent a few days in Alaska before the cruise and had a rental car. We weren't sure what time we wanted to head to the ship since we were plannig on going to the Saturday market and a few other places. I didn't want to have to worry about meeting a transfer at a certian time. The Princess shuttle left the airport on the hour between 12 and 4. So when we were ready we just headed to the airport, returned the car and hopped on the shuttle. Our driver was great and gave us a running commentary all the way to Whitter. At the time the shuttle was $54 which wasn't much more than the independant ones. The train and road run side by side so the scenary is pretty much the same.

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Another consideration is whether the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is of interest to the OP.  I have never visited it, but from reading the trip reports some folks find it really interesting while others find it worthless.  I've always found it interesting that the opinions are so varied.

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1 hour ago, Eileen G said:

The train and road run side by side so the scenery is pretty much the same.

 

Between Anchorage and Whittier, very much true about the similarity of routes (and the railroad tunnel into Whittier is shared with highway traffic). The reason for bus or train for direct travel is preference for the type of vehicle (including the comfort and facilities offered), not the route taken. However, the extended route taken by the morning train does go into areas that are accessible only by railroad, so that may be a reason to choose rail travel.

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1 hour ago, Northern Aurora said:

Another consideration is whether the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is of interest to the OP.  I have never visited it, but from reading the trip reports some folks find it really interesting while others find it worthless.  I've always found it interesting that the opinions are so varied.

If it is included in the price of tour - of course take it !

Now if you have to pay in addition - IT IS ABSOLUTELY WORTHWHILE (imho) !

You will not find any other place in North America that has the wide variety of LIVE wild life all

within a short walk and you can get up rather close for the photo opts - it is an outdoor zoo.

 

Some of the bus tours going to the cruise pier at Whittier stop at the AWCC

and are timed so that you don't wait in que to use the one-way tunnel -

The Alaska RR will stop to let you off at Portage for the AWCC but will not wait for your

visit. 

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, don't-use-real-name said:

The Alaska RR will stop to let you off at Portage for the AWCC but will not wait for your

visit. 

 

Beware of using the Alaska Railroad to visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. The railroad station is about 1-1/2 miles north of the conservation center, and so visitors traveling by railroad would need to walk along the shoulder of the Seward Highway for a fair (though unreasonable) distance, and will need to allow a half hour for this hike. Check Google maps for details. The train from Anchorage arrives at Portage station at about 11:30 a.m., and the later train onward to Whittier departs from Portage at about 5:25 p.m., giving you about 5 hours for a conservation center visit, plus the one hour round-trip hike (the train does not "wait" at Portage, but instead continues on its route before returning to Portage later in the day). I had used Portage station many years ago--prior to the paving of the railroad tunnel and when there were many passenger train shuttles--and connected there with the railroad's bus service to Anchorage, seeing that there was really not much of anything there beyond a safe place from which to alight from the train, so it could prove to be a rather extended day with not a lot to do beyond the conservation center itself. In short, using the railroad for a conservation center visit is possible, but not particularly practicable. Better is to rely upon the bus service operated by Alaska Cruise Transportation, as its earlier departure is specifically timed to allow a conservation center visit, and to do so without a hike (the additional per-person charge for the conservation center visit is $25 over the cost of the bus ticket that excludes the visit).

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I think it also depends on if you have anything else planned that day and which method of transportation lets you accomplish that. Our ship left out of Seward; however, I think the advice still applies. We didn't have as many time options on the train- but the bus had a lot. The bus allowed us to get in at an earlier time (and save money..) so we were able to do a boat tour that day before boarding our ship. I'll be honest; we had taken the red eye in and both fell asleep for a little on the bus so we were glad we didn't spend the extra money to sleep through the scenery anyway. 

 

That being said I have heard people LOVED the train that day. We didn't love the bus...however we did love our boat tour that we were able to do because we got in at the right time. 

 

So my advice: If you really want to ride the train- ride it- I imagine you will have an unforgettable experience. However, I wouldn't sacrifice something else fun to make the timing of the train work. 

 

**We did the park connection bus and it was very comfortable and nice

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