Jump to content
,

Questions on Coastal Train from Anchorage to Seward


Jeeden
 Share

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

Getting into some planning for our RCCL Cruise out of Seward next Spring/Summer and starting with the travel from Anchorage to Seward. I have done some searching here and looked around the Alaska RR site, but still have some questions I hope some here can give me as I'll probably be passing on the recommendation to my larger family/friend group going with us (about 15 of us)...

 

- I think we are sold on the Coastal train from Anchorage to Seward, but trying to figure out the Adventure vs Gold Star. It would seem that Goldstar equals Adventure plus: Exclusive upper dome car, exclusive upper outside platform, a meal and a couple of adult drinks included, other beverages included. Am I missing something? I have looked at a lot of videos etc and I guess AC can go to the back to go outside, they have another dining car, and they have a "sort of" domed car? I'm just trying to zero in on the value proposition for our extended group to do the GS over the AC

 

- Is Alaska RR the best place to buy tickets? During my search on the above I have seen tour companies offering the tickets for seemingly less money. Do both Alaska RR and those companies both offer transfers from the hotel and all that is included in the GS ticket (beverages, meal, etc). Would there be a reason to try to book through the cruise line instead of independently? I am fuzzy if it is allowed here, but if it is, does anyone have a recommendation on a tour company to purchase the tickets from?

 

- I saw a reference to early/late meal and a recommendation to select the early meal when in the city so you are free to be upstairs during the rural part of the ride. Is this accurate?

 

Any other recommendations re the train

 

I appreciate the help.

 

 

 

Edited by Jeeden
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I’ve taken the train at least five or six times.  IMO, Gold Star is worth it.  I just consider the extra cost as another excursion.  
Adventure Class is basically downstairs and you take turns with the other AC passengers using the upstairs.

Gold Star does have the meal and beverages included.  ( We don’t drink alcohol, but for sure Coke was included.) They also come around with some kind of snack.

Unless it’s something new, the RR did not offer transfers from the hotels in Anchorage.  We were always able to get a cab for the early morning ride to Seward.

I remember someone comparing Gold Star and AC as first class and economy on a plane.  I would agree.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Last month, we took the Alaska RR train from Anchorage to Denali.  We were in Gold Star going to Denali and Adventure class on the return.  I wanted Gold Star going both ways, but Gold Star was sold out on the return date.  We had no choice but Adventure class.  In my opinion, Gold Star was well worth it.  Again, first class versus economy.

 

There is another option that I was not aware when making our Alaska RR reservations.  Check out Wilderness Express.  I'm not sure how it compares to Gold Star, but the domed railroad cars are attached to the Alaska RR cars and engine. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Generally, there are two trains on days that RCI/X sail out of Seward on Friday evenings: Coastal Classic, in the morning, from downtown Anchorage, and Cruise Train, in the afternoon, from Anchorage airport. Both trains are operated by the Alaska Railroad. The Coastal Classic is also marketed by the Alaska Railroad, with tickets sold by the Alaska Railroad, as well as by various travel agencies that might offer different prices or add-ons. It would seem unusual for a travel agency to offer a lower price, at least unless the travel agency was kicking back a portion of its commission. The Cruise Train is a train chartered and marketed by RCI/X, with tickets sold by RCI/X. The Cruise Train is priced by RCI/X, including any promotions that the cruise line might offer its passengers or sales agents. The Alaska Railroad does not offer transfers to or from its stations, and passengers will need to make their own way to either the downtown Anchorage or Anchorage airport stations. In Seward, the Coastal Classic arrives at the railroad station, a very short stroll from the Intermodal Terminal where the cruise vessels dock, but with no formal transfers provided by the railroad; the Cruise Train arrives at the Intermodal Terminal itself. The consists of the two trains are as follows. Coastal Classic has two coaches, one Vista-Dome coach car, two Ultra Dome cars, one café car, one dining car, and one baggage car. Cruise Train has five Panorama Dome cars and one café car. Coastal Classic offers two classes of service, coach class, which the railroad labels "Adventure" class, and first class, which the railroad labels "GoldStar" class. (Yes, it would be easier to understand if the railroad simply used "coach" and "first," but marketing people have their own ideas.) Coach ("Adventure") class entitles one to a seat in either a coach or Vista-Dome coach car, while first ("GoldStar") class entitles one to a seat in an Ultra Dome car. The coach cars are what you might expect, a single level car with many pairs of reclining seats and large windows. The Vista-Dome coach car has, at each end, a single level with pairs of reclining seats and large windows. In the center of the Vista-Dome coach car is a bi-level section, the upper level of which has pairs low-back non-reclining seats with a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape. These upper level seats are not assigned but available to all passengers (the train crew might limit Vista-Dome seating time when there are more passengers seeking access than there are seats available). The only access to the outside from these cars are the dutch doors in the vestibules at the end of each car. The Ultra-Domes are bi-level cars. The upper level has an outdoor area with viewing platform, and an indoor area with pairs of reclining seats and panoramic windows. While these two areas afford great viewing to each side, there is not the 360-degree view--only minimal forward window panes that lack intimacy--that one would have in a Vista-Dome car. The lower level has a dining area where the car's passengers take their meals. The café car offers sandwiches, snacks, and beverages for sale, and the dining car offers full meals for sale. To be clear, meals are included in the ticket price for first ("GoldStar") class passengers, while coach ("Adventure") class and all Cruise Train passengers have no food or beverages included in the ticket price. The baggage car allows for checked baggage service but is not accessible to passengers enroute. Carry-on baggage may be stored by coach ("Adventure") class passengers in overhead parcel racks in each of the coaches and Vista-Dome coach, but because there are no overhead parcel racks in the Ultra-Dome cars first ("GoldStar") class passengers leave their carry-on baggage on the floor under the seat forward of them. The Panorama Dome cars are single level cars with many pairs of reclining seats and panoramic windows. The only access to the outside from these cars are the dutch doors in the vestibules at the end of each car. Because there are no overhead parcel racks in the Panorama Dome cars passengers leave their carry-on baggage on the floor under the seat forward of them. There are many railfan sites online that have photographs of these various car types.

 

My personal preference is that Vista-Dome cars are the best for sightseeing (even better than the Great Dome cars that the Great Northern Railway once operated, and which Amtrak continued to operate through 2019). Traditionally, a "dome car" is the Vista-Dome car in the Coastal Classic train consist, and the use of the term "dome car" for the Ultra-Dome and Panoramamic Dome cars is, in my view, a misnomer, largely because of the lack of intimacy or any true "dome". Consider these cars to be little more than slightly-glorified versions of the sightseer lounge Superliner cars that Amtrak uses on many of its train. The panoramic windows on the Ultra-Dome and Panorama Dome cars look nice in the marketing photographs, but because these are the regular seats used all day, there is no respite from the sun beating down from above, and the lack of overhead storage further detracts. The higher quality of service is nice to have, but with so many passengers using the first ("GoldStar") class service--there are two cars with 72 seats each, compared to only 44 seats in 2-1 configuration for Amtrak Express first class service--that extra service might not always be so noticeable. The outdoor platform is a nice plus, and a bit more convenient than riding the dutch doors in coach, but absent a crowd in the vestibule I have always done fine there. In first ("GoldStar") class you may feel confined to a single car, since that one car has your seat, the observation platform, and the dining area, whereas in coach ("Adventure") class you may feel less confined and free to travel about in the several coach and Vista-Dome coach cars, along with the café and dining cars. In short, I find coach ("Adventure") class to be a better value, and in some areas a better service, and I would only choose first ("GoldStar") if the price premium were minimal, or if I were offered an upgrade. Finally, I generally try to purchase tickets directly from carriers, and thereby avoid middlemen, unless there is some substantial reason to do otherwise. It seems unlikely that there would be any substantial reason for purchasing Coastal Classic tickets from other than the Alaska Railroad itself, or for purchasing Cruise Train tickets from other than the cruise line (or from the agent selling the cruise line ticket).

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

WOW what responses and GTJ you could write a wiki for the forum on that! 

 

 

I guess a follow on would be is it a big deal to walk from the AA platform to the ship vs the intermodal platform to the ship? 

 

Thanks so much!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Jeeden said:

I guess a follow on would be is it a big deal to walk from the AA platform to the ship vs the intermodal platform to the ship?

Absent a disability, it is a short 5-minute walk from the Alaska Railroad station to the Intermodal Terminal, about one-half mile. Best if baggage is on wheels and it is not raining. The attached brochure describes the Intermodal Terminal, and includes both (1) a photograph of the Cruise Train spotted on one side of the Intermodal Terminal building and ax X cruise vessel moored on the opposite side, and (2) a map showing the walk along Port Avenue between the Alaska Railroad station (marked "Rail Depot") and the Intermodal Terminal.

 

Most of the railroad information I provided is excerpted from the Canada and Alaska Timetable (which I edit and publish bi-monthly), along with some commentary as to my personal preferences. I remember riding what is now the Coastal Classic in its first season in 1986, after the route south of Anchorage having had no passenger trains for many years, and following the 1985 transfer of the railroad from the U.S. government to the state of Alaska. In those days the train was much more modest, consisting solely of a pair of Budd rail diesel cars. It was more informal operation, and I remember at one point the engineer had seed the salmon spawning, and spotted the first car on the small bridge over the water . . . the conductor opened up the baggage door on the first RDC and called all the passengers into the baggage part of the car to observe.

 

I had traveled northbound only on the train, having arrived in Seward on the Tustumena, an Alaska Marine Highway vessel, overnight from Kodiak. In those days single travelers could book just a single berth, and given that it was off-season (after Labor Day) I had no roommate and the entire stateroom to myself. Since then Tustumena no longer serves Seward, and instead goes to and from Whittier only. The Tustumena, built in 1964 and now fifty-eight years old, is supposed to be replaced in 2027, so there's only a few more years remaining to hitch a ride on the vessel. (Given that the vessel is two years younger than I am, there's a certain personal discomfort in having it retired!)

 

A few other informalities from that era: This was prior to the paving of the tunnel to Whittier, so all the motor vehicles would have to be loaded on flatcars to be hauled by the railroad between Whittier and Portage. At the end of the train the railroad also carried a pair of former Southern Pacific bi-level gallery cars for passengers. But given that the flatcars was between the locomotive and the passenger cars, there was no head end power, and so all was dark in the cars. (Upon arrival at Portage, a connecting bus transported passengers to Anchorage.) As well, the railroad offered a package deal in combination with MarkAir (or was it Alaska Airlines?) between Anchorage and Fairbanks, one-way by railroad and the other way by airplane. So I bought my tickets at the railroad station in downtown Anchorage, and boarded the train to Denali, At the park there were four retired Alaska Railroad sleeping cars that were parked at the hotel that was once located therein. And visitors could book sleeping car at very affordable rates! The park hotel was on the other side of the park's airport runway from the visitor center, and I remember that the path between the two crossed the middle of the runway. There was a short fence surrounding the runway, with a gate and sign admonishing visitors to stop, watch, and listen for airplanes taking off or landing before crossing the runway. After touring Denali, and then Fairbanks, I arrived at the airport in Fairbanks. While all the other passengers on the flight to Anchorage had airline tickets, I checked in at the airport with a railroad ticket. With my airplane seat number handwritten on the railroad ticket, the flight attendant collected it at the gate (alas, the aircraft crew was not equipped with ticket punches like the railroad conductor). Alas, now thirty-five years later, things are now a bit more formal!

Seward Marketing Brochure.pdf

Edited by GTJ
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A picture diagram can say it a lot better than words - Google Map:

 

 Google Maps

 

In the top left next to Seward Hy 9 is the Alaska RR Seward Depot 

At the bottom right the rectangular white building is the Cruise Terminal

Just above that Cruise Terminal is Ferry Terminal Road where there is a

siding for charter trains to almost pull up to ship

 

The walk to the cruise terminal from the Depot is about 5-6 blocks a

free shuttle is provided or one can walk it in about 10-15 minutes

The Ferry Terminal siding is about a block from the ship

 

The Alaska RR Coastal Classic trains use the Depot -

The Chartered Alaska RR trains use the siding adjacent to the ship

 

GTJ has explained the rest 

 

The only hang up would be weather making either trek to the ship

one that may need rain gear ?

No one has control over that function  

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great information, thank you.  Question when taking the train from Anchorage to Seward is the luggage picked up by the cruise ship and transported to the ship?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My experience NCL JEWEL luggage was checked at the Anchorage Depot with my stateroom tags

and transported by truck to the ship and thence to my cabin door.

This is much better than checking it at the Depot - reclaiming it at Seward and hauling it to the

ship for checking at that point. 

Most all the cruise lines use this method - especially with tour groups.

I don't know how it is done with the Charter rail trips from the airport to the pier - I would imagine

that at the airport your stateroom tags are attached to your luggage and you will find it waiting at

your cabin door.

 

The cardinal theme here - customer (guest) convenience in handling baggage/luggage

 

The non-cruise Alaska RR trips i.e. Denali Star - checked luggage is placed in small wire rack

containers holding about 25-30 pieces of luggage and then that container is forklifted into

a baggage car to be unloaded at the destination you are going to. At that destination a fork

lift removes the luggage from the baggage car and makes it available for claiming in and

near the depot - this is just like the airlines do with container baggage only on a smaller scale.

 

With tours your luggage maybe claimed by the tour operator and taken to your hotel quarters.

 

Simply ask the agents of the cruise line - railroad - or tour operators "What's happening" ?

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 8/1/2022 at 1:07 AM, don't-use-real-name said:

The non-cruise Alaska RR trips i.e. Denali Star - checked luggage is placed in small wire rack

containers holding about 25-30 pieces of luggage and then that container is forklifted into

a baggage car to be unloaded at the destination you are going to. At that destination a fork

lift removes the luggage from the baggage car and makes it available for claiming in and

near the depot - this is just like the airlines do with container baggage only on a smaller scale.

I imagine that at smaller intermediate stations the railroad continues to use traditional baggage handling processes.

 

I remember several years, riding a passenger train of the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway, the baggage handling was so traditional that the baggage tags were actually tied onto baggage with string . . . no elastic bands! At Ross Bay Jct., where mainline trains made connections with branch line trains to and from Labrador City, the two trains would pull up along side of each other on parallel tracks, and a board was laid across connecting the baggage cars of the two trains. (There was no actual platform at the "station.") The baggage man would then walk each checked items from one car to the other, balancing himself on the board connecting the two cars. Alas, when Tshiuetin Rail Transportation took over passenger train operations from the QNS&L in late 2005, the branch line trains to and from Labrador City were discontinued. In any case, checked baggage cannot be sent by truck because there are no roads there.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rarely are there any issues with baggage handling between the Alaska RR and cruise lines -

maybe a remote case with a tour operator.

But as long as your luggage has not lost its mind (ah er that is the handle) and has ID

it will be soon mated with you.

Suggested that you put a copy of your cruise documents inside each piece of luggage.

Alaska is experiencing zero problems of the magnitude like the current European snafu

 

Of course use caution in letting the airlines handle your luggage especially on connecting

flights - everyone needs time to do the job - some more than others.

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • Canadian Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...