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White Pass Train or Rental Car.....


Tenn4ever

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If I can only do one which is better? Rent a car and drive to Emerald Lake or take the White Pass Train Excursion?

 

We debated this for a long time. Then decided since we would likely be in Alaska only this one time, we would do the train/bus combo trip. This way we would see the scenery from the train and the scenery you would view from the car, only we would be on a small bus. Initially we thought the scenery was identical, but once we learned that was not the case, we figured we would splurge for the train. This company come highly recommended on these boards. We are taking the 9 hour tour.

 

http://www.chilkootcharters.com/yukonrail.htm

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We did the train trip but only to the summit and back. The principal reason for this is that Skagway has so much history attached to it we wanted the afternoon to explore the town. Next time we would probably drive but that would pose a problem for us as Canadians can not take an American plated car into Canada so we would have to try to find one with BC or Yukon plates.

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Thank you everyone. This really helps with making my decision. I'm most likely going to make my excursion reservations thru RCI for White Pass Train but none of them mention Emerald Lake. I don't want to make through an independent company because if there is an itinerary change with RCI then we lose our money on the excursion but not if we make our reservations through RCI. However, the RCI excursions do not mention Emerald Lake at all. :mad:

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Sorry, there are none available to rent in Skagway.

 

So none of them make it over on one ways? That is too bad for me, back in the early 70's I had a major involvement with the development of Qwanlin Mall and used to spend a lot of time in Whitehorse. At one point I even was considering moving my wife and family up there; I probably haven't been back to Whitehorse in close to 20 years. I was rather hoping to bring my wife over to look at the city the next time we did an Alaska cruise because she has never been there. I guess I am going to have find someone who is an American to drive us over. Thanks for the information.

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So none of them make it over on one ways?

 

Skagway only has a seasonal Avis office and an independent, Whitehorse only Budget, Hertz and National. Whitehorse has lost a lot of the character it had when I arrived in '85, though it now has most of the amenities that yuppies want. Qwanlin Mall loses its anchors over and over again, so seems to always be teetering on the edge.

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Thank you everyone. This really helps with making my decision. I'm most likely going to make my excursion reservations thru RCI for White Pass Train but none of them mention Emerald Lake. I don't want to make through an independent company because if there is an itinerary change with RCI then we lose our money on the excursion but not if we make our reservations through RCI. However, the RCI excursions do not mention Emerald Lake at all. :mad:

 

Sorry, this is mostly an invalid concern. IF your itinerary were to change, which would be EXTREMELY rare, anyway. Just about all the independents would fully refund.

 

Through RCI tours, you need to look for the combo rail bus tour that is about 7 hours. These "may" go to Emerald Lake. Otherwise, look at Chilkoot, which gets raves from first hand reports on this board. Ask them directly about your above concern with refunds.

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Sorry, this is mostly an invalid concern. IF your itinerary were to change, which would be EXTREMELY rare, anyway. Just about all the independents would fully refund.

 

Through RCI tours, you need to look for the combo rail bus tour that is about 7 hours. These "may" go to Emerald Lake. Otherwise, look at Chilkoot, which gets raves from first hand reports on this board. Ask them directly about your above concern with refunds.

 

Chilkoot is one of the operators who does refund in the rare event that your itinerary changes (I think they all do, but Chilkoot does for sure).

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Thanks again everyone. I will check with Chilkoot again. I looked at their site once but they didn't give the price of the excursions online (had to email them) so I just backed off. I will look at them again.

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Thanks again everyone. I will check with Chilkoot again. I looked at their site once but they didn't give the price of the excursions online (had to email them) so I just backed off. I will look at them again.

 

 

I did ask why they didn't post prices. It has something to do with their agreements with other companies who book with them. Best I understand it is Chilkoot books both independently and through tour groups. The tour groups are charged more. The tour group operators don't want their customers to see that the prices would be cheaper if they booked independently. At least that is how I understood it. I have found the same thing with a Helicopter Company. If you book directly with them, their prices are cheaper than what you get through the cruiseline with the same Helicopter company. My guess is they have an agreement with the cruiseline that they won't post prices.

 

Chilkoot tours seems to be a very professional company. I have spoke with them directly and was very happy with their professionalism. So many on this board highly recommend them, that I am sure I will be very happy with my trip with them.

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Thanks VBMom for that explanation as to why they don't post prices. Did they email you a price for your excursion? I have heard high praises for them. My main concern is if our ship would not stop at Skagway for some reason or come into port two or three hours late. The excursions are expensive to not get a refund for those reasons.

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We chose to drive over the summit to Emerald Lake last September instead of taking the train. Personally I loved it. We could stop and take pictures where we wanted. We found some trails and stopped at Lake Toshi (drove right down to the shore). At some of the pullouts we met other travelers and talked. It was nice to not be cooped up with all the same people from the ship and to have some time to do our own thing. We also had our 5 and 8 year old with us so that had a lot to do with our decision. I've seen the tape of the train ride (my parents took the train when they went) and it looked great, but being a photography buff I liked being able to jump out where I wanted.

 

Just a different opinion to consider.

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Thanks VBMom for that explanation as to why they don't post prices. Did they email you a price for your excursion? I have heard high praises for them. My main concern is if our ship would not stop at Skagway for some reason or come into port two or three hours late. The excursions are expensive to not get a refund for those reasons.

 

Yes, they emailed me the prices.

 

And I thought I was a worrier!!! LOL!!! Yukon stated above that they will refund you for those rare circumstances when a cruise ship is delayed.

 

I see nothing wrong with people who prefer to book through the cruiseline. However, if the cruiseline does not offer what you want or charges a lot more, I would not hesitate to book independently. I really think you are worrying for nothing. In our case this will likely be a once in a lifetime trip to Alaska. I am booking everything I really want to do, without worrying about my ship missing port. I may never be back. I want to get it right. I say book whatever you have your heart set on.

 

Give them a call and express your concerns. I am sure you will feel very comfortable booking with them after you talk to them.

 

Happy planning!

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  • Administrators

To the OP, I posted a similar question a couple of months ago -- about the railroad versus renting a car (having read Murray's Guide -- http://www.*****), but when even Murray himself ("Yukon," above on this thread) said effectively "hey, if you like trains, as a first time visitor, take the train," that was good enough for me.

 

We still have a rental car on hold, but we've booked the 7 hour Chilkoot Charters trip as well -- and are really looking forward to it. We'll probably call to cancel the rental car reservation in the next month or so, and save the drive yourself option for our next visit.

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We chose to rent a car on our stop in Skagway. We got the car, headed out of town into very heavy fog. We couldn't see anything until we got to the Canadian border. The fog lifted and we enjoyed the rest of the day at our own pace, stopping whenever we wanted and staying as long as we wanted. On our return to Skagway, we got to see what we had miss that morning. We really enjoyed the car but next time we want to do the train. We want a little different view and the history we will get on the train.

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Thank you everyone. This really helps with making my decision. I'm most likely going to make my excursion reservations thru RCI for White Pass Train but none of them mention Emerald Lake. I don't want to make through an independent company because if there is an itinerary change with RCI then we lose our money on the excursion but not if we make our reservations through RCI. However, the RCI excursions do not mention Emerald Lake at all. :mad:

 

I took a bus/train combo booked thru HAL. The bus took us up the Klondike Highway to Carcross, Yukon - with some scenic stops along the way. In Carcross we stopped at an outpost and were given a BBQ Chicken lunch. We then went a little further North to Emerald Lake where we stopped for photos, etc. We then made our way back down to Fraser, BC where we caught the train to Skagway. The trip was about 8 hours in duration and it was fabulous!!! I would highly recommend it.

 

In the tour description, it did not mention that we were going to Emerald Lake. I would think that anything going up to Carcross would take you by Emerald Lake as well.

Emerald_Lake.jpg.6966200d4df1053c9a51ff641e003893.jpg

White_Pass_Railway.jpg.00434663026a526afdffdc9a77abe1af.jpg

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We are looking at either the Carcross or Yukon train/bus ride with Chilkoot Charters. My question is will anything still be open in Skagway when we get back at 4:30 or so in the afternoon? We would like to do some walking around the town but it isn't much fun if everything is closed.

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We are looking at either the Carcross or Yukon train/bus ride with Chilkoot Charters. My question is will anything still be open in Skagway when we get back at 4:30 or so in the afternoon? We would like to do some walking around the town but it isn't much fun if everything is closed.

 

Most everything is open until the ships leave. :)

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I'm confused between chilkoot and White Pass. Doesn't Chilkoot just run the railroad? Shouldn't the prices be the same?

http://www.whitepassrailroad.com/excursionmap.html

http://www.chilkootcharters.com/summitrail.htm

 

Janet

 

Chilkoot Charters doesn't run the railroad, but they offer rail/bus excursions. You can also book rail/bus excursions directly from the railroad, but I don't know who operates the bus portion.

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