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Princess Cruisetour 10 night


Libbyyell
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I’m looking at the Princess 10 night Denali cruisetour leaving from Fairbanks with 2 nights at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.

 

The TripAdvisor reviews of the lodge are less than stellar.  A big concern of mine, as a solo female, is no AC and having to have the window open at night.   
 

Some people have said the train ride was not that great and even being at this location in Denali wasn’t that great. But this was mixed in with the lodge reviews and didn’t go into too much detail.

 

This is a once in a lifetime trip due to my location and cost.  I’m torn on whether the land portion is worth it or if I should just do the cruise.  

 

Any and all prior experiences and opinions are welcome.  Thanks.

 

 

 

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The land portion is absolutely worth it! We thought the Denali Princess lodge was quite nice and exactly as we expected in Alaska. We have traveled extensively during Covid and found pretty much all hotels no longer provided daily housekeeping due to staffing. Keep in mind this is an extremely “rural” area and you will not have amenities of a large city. The need for AC in Alaska varies greatly as it usually cools off at night. The hotel is several stories high. You could request a room on an upper floor.
 

We enjoyed the train ride it is long but if you enjoy scenery and wildlife you should find it interesting. 

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While not stated directly, I think implicit in your concern is not so much that of the hotel room being climatically hot and uncomfortable but of being insecure. That is, the risk of intruders breaking into your room while occupied at night. Most hotels, however, physically limit window openings to such a degree that it is impossible for a person climb through a window opening, the purposes therefor being both security and safety (e.g., children falling out of open windows). I would expect Princess to have the same feature . . . you might call the hotel--not the reservations center but the hotel itself--just to confirm. And as noted in another response, having an upper floor room would add an additional layer of security, requiring any potential intruders to be acrobats.

 

As to the journey by railroad: the section of the trip from Fairbanks to Denali has pleasant scenery, but I would not say it is "spectacular." The reasons ride this segment of the railroad include (1) a desire to see Fairbanks itself, or because Fairbanks is on the way from wherever you are originating, and (2) being a rail enthusiast who seeks to ride trains of any nature, with every train ride being worthwhile regardless of scenery. I have traveled this part of the railroad for both of the foregoing reasons. It is a relatively short trip, about four hours from Fairbanks to Denali. Otherwise, you might want to consider a land adventure that includes Denali, but excludes Fairbanks, because the more fabulous scenery is south of Denali (both on the segments between Denali and Anchorage as well as between Anchorage and Seward). There are several options offered by Princess that do exclude Fairbanks.

 

As a general matter, I dislike pre-planned tours because it is the tour planner that chooses the hotels and transportation provided, and the tour planner's choices do not always align with mine. The Princess land tours fail for me on at least four counts. First, the Princess hotels, while largely all first class (at least in the context of Alaska travel generally), they are somewhat institutional and not particularly intimate. Second, Princess tours are highly regimented, designed to move and process many tourists uniformly and efficiently. Though with many Princess personnel in an effort to provide "personal" service, it is an anathema for those like myself who do not like being a small cog in a machine. Third, the Princess tours use their own railcars, and most notably these cars are hauled on the direct route between Denali and Whittier, bypassing the very scenic portion of the railroad between Portage and Seward. Were I to choose the trains upon which to travel, I would include the "Glacier Discovery" train offered by the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage and Whittier, which includes the option to travel the scenic portion south of Portage, to Grandview, before returning to Whittier and the vessels ported thereat. Fourth, I think that Princess overprices its tours, notwithstanding its relative low cost in providing the tour elements itself (Princess, through various corporate affiliates, operates all the motorcoaches and hotels, and owns nearly all of the railcars used and provides the services on board) and making excessive profits therefrom. Because of these elements, I would plan an independent land tour. But that does require more work, and those persons who treat vacation as a time to avoid having to work, the booking of a Princess tour greatly alleviates that element of trip planning.

 

In sum, if you the time and financial resources to do so, do not limit yourself to the cruise portion alone, for I think it would be wasteful to have traveled as far as Whittier and then then having missed out on all the interior of Alaska despite it having been at your feet. I would recommend spending some time to ascertain what sights would be truly meaningful to see, and finding toursthat incorporate those elements, rather than simply accepting what a particular tour might offer. (If Fairbanks is of no interest, don't go there . . . if Valdez is of interest, go there!) Keep in mind that you're not obligated to use Princess for the land portion if it does not offer what you want . . . you can use another tour operator (or plan on your own)

Edited by GTJ
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We live about a two hour drive north of the entrance to Denali National Park, and on "normal" years drove down to the park at least once each summer.  With the issues regarding Pretty Rocks we won't return until we can enter the park past the problem area.  

 

In any event, we have stayed at the Denali Princess a number of times.  There is a major lodge building with the check-in counter, gift store, coffee shop and so forth.  The main restaurant and bar are located in a separate building.  The guest rooms are in two story long rectangular buildings, and none that we have stayed in have had an elevator.  While there is no AC there are fans in the rooms.  The decor can be described as "northwoods casual" with photos of wildlife and the mountain itself.

 

The complex is designed to be closed during the winter (ie, water pipes are drained and so forth).  And the number of separate lodging buildings minimizes the chance of loosing the entire complex in a fire.  In the 1990s (or around that time frame) the Denali Princess did experience a fire in the spring and at least one of the lodging buildings was lost.  The canyon outside of the entrance to DNP can be quite windy and the company was very lucky that more of the complex was not destroyed.

 

This design of multiple buildings is typical of the hotel complexes in the "glitter gulch" area at the entrance to Denali.  And none of the "glitter gulch" hotels have views of Denali itself which seems to surprise some folks.

 

But since you are concerned about the hotel would you consider a DIY tour?

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You must do the interior of Alaska. You will get so much more of a sense of the state and its uniqueness than just doing the cruise. I liken it to a foreigner who does a cruise of California: San Diego, LA and San Fran ports and says he/she has seen California. That person missed Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, the Sequoias, Palm Springs. That visitor only got a small taste of what the state is like.

We returned on July 4th from a land tour then cruise, Fairbanks to Whittier. We enjoyed being taken to all the stops along the way: tour of Fairbanks, pipeline, gold panning, Discover riverboat, train to Denali. Enjoyed the train ride the scenery was beautiful. 2 nights at Denali lodge, we were on the second floor on the Solstice. Tundra wildernesses tour and then an atv trip. Onward by coach to McKinley Princess, saw Denali! Quick visit to Talkeetna, hot and dusty. Coach to Kenai with lunch at Snow City cafe in Anchorage. Kenai rustic and cozy, by a river, wonderful. 
Kenai Fjords tour was a highlight. Do the land tour, you will be safe and so glad you did!

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