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Opinions on Kenai Fjords cruise and driving vs. train to Denali


Alaska adventurer

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I am planning a cruise in July and going to do a land tour independently so I have more control over where I go.

I will be arriving in Seward in the morning after the cruise and planned to take the Kenai

Fjords National Park Cruise (6 hours). Or maybe one through Alaska Heritage as I just read a thread about this vendor. I know the waters can be rough and I am planning to get some Scopolamine as I do tend to get sea sick and don’t think Bonine will be enough and Dramamine will make me too sleepy. What I am wondering is is the cruise worth the time since I could be slightly seasick. I have never taken Scopolamine and I don’t know how effective it will be. Also IF we will have seen whales and other sea life along the way of the cruise then maybe it won’t be anything more that what we saw during the past 7 days. Our port stops are Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. If it matters, I am in my 40’s and will have my 13 year old son with me.

Also, I am willing to drive to Anchorage and then to Denali. If I drive all the way to Denali, we’ll have the convenience of the car and not have to work with the train and bus schedules. Plus perhaps have better choice of hotels even outside of the Denali area. But I wanted to take the train at least one way from Anchorage to Denali since the train tracks go where the road does not. Is it really worth taking the train over renting a car and driving with the ability to stop at will. Also if I take the train, the Alaska railroad now has upgrades available for the dome cars. Is this worth an upgrade for the view or are the windows on the regular cars large enough? I thought the McKinley Explorer allowed other passengers but my TA says no. I am taking a Holland America tour but don’t want to do their land tour.

Once I resolve these questions, I’ll be able to finalize my land tour.

Thanks for any information/opinions anyone is willing to share.

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You could take the alaskan railroad from Seward to Anchorage, overnight in Anchorage, rent a car and drive to Denali for at least 2 nights. Add a stop in Talkeetna for flightseeing. You'll save the one way Hertz rental from Seward and enjoy the railroad from Seward to Anchorage, the more scenic portion of the route. The boat trip into Kenai Fjords National Park is not duplicative of the cruise. More wildlife, closer views of the glaciers. In Seward, besides the Sea Life Center, Exit Glacier, Seavey's sled dogs, you could helicopter to Godwin Glacier and dog sled on snow with Gowdwin Glacier Dog Sled Tours.

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The Kenai Fjords Nat'l Park was one of the highlights of our trip in August to Alaska. We stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express there in the harbor. There is also a marine center located downtown. I think at least one day in Seward is well worth the consideration. We love, love, LOVED the Major Marine Tour that left at noonish and took 6 hours to complete. While we didn't see any whales - there were plenty of otter and various birds who nest along the cliffs. The water wasn't rough at all. From everything we 'heard' from the locals there, the train trip from Seward to Anchorage is by far the more spectacular. So, if I were going again, would take the train from Seward to Anchorage and rent a car from Anchorage (also assuming you will be returning the lower 48 from Anchorage airport) and thus eliminating any drop off charges. Have a great time!

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I agree with ghouck2532, in that I would take the train from Seward to Anchorage and rent the car there to get to Denali. The Anchorage to Denali portion of the train, from all I have heard, is not all that exciting. Plus it takes a couple of hours longer than driving.

 

You can get off the cruise ship in Seward, take the 6 hour cruise out of Seward and still catch the 6pm train to Anchorage. The two pluses of doing this, as mentioned above, is that you don't have the exhorbitant one-way rental fee out of Seward and secondly, you would pick up your car in downtown Anchorage, thus avoiding the hefty airport surcharges.

 

From other threads in the past couple of weeks on this board, you can see that the rental car prices out of Anchorage are starting to go up for next summer. The sooner you can reserve a car the better. There are several vendors in Anchorage but it seems Enterprise, Avis and Hertz have the best rates. You would probably need to call the Enterprise office directly in Anchorage for the rate since their website basically says "sold out" for the entire summer. For Avis, you can probably get a discount code by going to www.avisalaska.com.

 

Good luck. I love Denali. Am going there for 3-4 nights next summer myself.

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Probably the top two highlights in interior Alaska are Kenai fjords and Denali Park. :)

 

Since you are prone to motion sickness, you are wise to get advice on precautions, I assume you are going to be "covered" on the rest of your trip?? You can NOT count on smooth sailing on your cruise ship either. But overall, Bonine is a great product, for Kenai Fjords- key is the preparation and consistancy in keeping you well. Your health care professional is your best reference for you.

 

As for your Kenai Fjords "is is worth it" question. This area is WAY superior to ANYTHING you will see from your ship or tours in port. No comparism, bottom line. It is not a whale watch, but a route trip that offers varied wildlife and close up glacier viewing. Here is a photo sample if you care to look , from ONE trip. http://community.webshots.com/user/budgetqueen

 

From Seward, book the Alaska RR yourself, direct for the 6pm train. Overnight in Anchorage, then get a round trip rental car and spend 2 days in Denali Park. The railroad and Parks Highway, just about parallel.

The car will give you the utmost freedom to enjoy all the small stuff along the way. Take the Park SHUTTLE but to at least Fish Creek.

 

Allow 5 days for these two areas. Add in some wonderfull tours and seeing Alaska.

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Thanks for the information. I have lots of decisions to make that impact our itinerary.

 

I am going to plan on the Kenai Fjords cruise and just take my chances with the seas. One key reason for going is my son's interest in wildlife so it should be an opportunity to see more. I'd also like to see the Wildlife Center there in Seward. Not sure we can do all of this and still catch a 6 pm train.

 

Does anyone know if it is convenient once we get to Anchorage by train to find a hotel and then a rental car? Would it be possible to rent one that late at night (after 10 pm). I wouldn't need it until the next day but I don't want to have to spend a lot of time to get to a rental office and/or find a convenient hotel near the train station.

 

Does anyone have suggestions for a place to stay in Anchorage that would be close to the train station?

 

I think my TA (who has driven around Alaska w/ her family) may want me to rent the car in Seward despite the one-way charge (I don't know how much it is but the train fare may offset it). That way I have more flexibility when I leave Seward and what I might try to see on my own after leaving Seward. For example Exit Glacier. Or do you need a tour to visit Exit Glacier.

If we do the cruise in the day it will be almost time to leave Seward that night by train. If I rent a car, I can stay overnight, still see the Wildlife Center and Exit Glacier and probably get to Anchorage before it is too late in the evening. Otherwise I would have to wait until 6 pm for the train the next day.

 

Does this make sense? I am making a lot of suppositions just based on what I have read on this site and some tour books, but until we get there and do it, I won't really know if it will make sense to do it the way I ultimately plan.

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Thanks for the information. I have lots of decisions to make that impact our itinerary.

 

I am going to plan on the Kenai Fjords cruise and just take my chances with the seas. One key reason for going is my son's interest in wildlife so it should be an opportunity to see more. I'd also like to see the Wildlife Center there in Seward. Not sure we can do all of this and still catch a 6 pm train.

 

Does anyone know if it is convenient once we get to Anchorage by train to find a hotel and then a rental car? Would it be possible to rent one that late at night (after 10 pm). I wouldn't need it until the next day but I don't want to have to spend a lot of time to get to a rental office and/or find a convenient hotel near the train station.

 

Does anyone have suggestions for a place to stay in Anchorage that would be close to the train station?

 

I think my TA (who has driven around Alaska w/ her family) may want me to rent the car in Seward despite the one-way charge (I don't know how much it is but the train fare may offset it). That way I have more flexibility when I leave Seward and what I might try to see on my own after leaving Seward. For example Exit Glacier. Or do you need a tour to visit Exit Glacier.

If we do the cruise in the day it will be almost time to leave Seward that night by train. If I rent a car, I can stay overnight, still see the Wildlife Center and Exit Glacier and probably get to Anchorage before it is too late in the evening. Otherwise I would have to wait until 6 pm for the train the next day.

 

Does this make sense? I am making a lot of suppositions just based on what I have read on this site and some tour books, but until we get there and do it, I won't really know if it will make sense to do it the way I ultimately plan.

 

 

IF you are referring to the Alaska Sealife Center, you have time for that prior to an 11:30am boat tour. Make the most of your Seward time and make an effort to get off your ship early and enjoy your day. BUT if you are referring to the Wildlife Park, this is in Portage, not in Seward and easy to get to via rental car from Anchorage, if of interest.

 

The train Seward/Anchorage is superior for scenery and cost. Expect $200/day for a Hertz one way rental. There is no advantage in doing this, despite what your agent says, if your routing and interests are what is listed above. Yes you can pick up a car rental from Anchorage airport, the agencies are open until at least 1am. But again little advantage, if you get a hotel that has both depot and airport shuttles. If you get a car by 10 am, you will have ALL Day for the wonderful drive with plenty of stops if you want to get to Denali Park.

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If you take the railroad from Seward to Anchorage, and get a hotel downtown, you can pick up your car at a downtown rental office the next morning and save the hefty airport surcharges, which are 25% or more depending on how long you rent the car for. You can pick the car up downtown and drop off at the airport with most companies and still avoid the airport surcharge. Plus, downtown is closer to the road to Denali than the airport is, so it would save you a little bit of time in that regard. The downtown offices usually open 8-9am so you can still get a pretty early start.

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Thank you everyone for responding with great advice. I know the regulars answer the same questions again and again. Right after I left my last message I found some more information on another recent thread.

 

I will do the Kenai Fjords cruise and the Sealife Center. Then take the railroad to Anchorage, stay overnight and rent a car the next morning.

Thanks for the tip about booking the car soon. I usually plan a trip far in advance but I have never been to Alaska and have never had to plan this far in advance for a summer vacation!

 

Now that I will have a car around Denali, any favorite places to stay for a couple of nights? Healy has been suggested. I'm already feeling better that I won't have to rely on a hotel that would shuttle me back and forth to the train station.

 

My TA was wise enough to advise me from the very beginning of planning this trip to drive it myself rather than take a cruisetour. As I read more on this board, it is very good advice.

 

Cindy

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Now that I will have a car around Denali, any favorite places to stay for a couple of nights? Healy has been suggested. I'm already feeling better that I won't have to rely on a hotel that would shuttle me back and forth to the train station.

 

Cindy

 

I personally like McKinley Creekside Cabins about 15 miles south of the park. Many people like Denali Lakeview Inn, others Touch of Wilderness B&B. With McKinley Creekside Cabins, you have a nice cabin (various sizes and prices), and there is a reasonably-priced restaurant on-site. The cabins are very clean, staff friendly.

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