From Seward to Anchorage and Denali National Park

Pier in Anchorage

A morning mist floats around the pier in Anchorage

After a full day at sea, it was good to know we would be disembarking today. We feel we truly picked the best length cruise for us, 7 days was just right. Our next option would have been the 14 day cruise, but we really wanted to get on land and have a chance to explore for ourselves. We were planning on spending the next two days in Denali National Park and couldn’t wait to get there. Holland America made leaving the ship quite simple, we left our bags out for pick-up the evening before and had nothing to do but eat breakfast, grab our carry-ons and leave the boat.

Seward Pier Building

Seward Pier Building

Best lesson I can stress regarding disembarkation, LISTEN to your Travel Agent. The staff on your ship will do their best to make sure you and your luggage get to the right place, but they may not be aware of special arrangements regarding the rest of your vacation. We unfortunately didn’t understand we weren’t to follow the mass of people boarding a bus to Anchorage, we were supposed to have picked up our rental car there in Seward. A few good things came from the mistake however and we did ultimately arrive at our day’s destination, albeit a few hours later than we had planned.

Boarding the tour bus in Seward allowed us to take in the wealth of knowledge our driver had. He didn’t stop talking for a moment, giving us every piece of information he could about the Alaskan frontier, culture, history… little known facts and random stories included. It was actually quite enjoyable, as was the scenery. Traveling up Highway 1, along the Cook Inlet, was remarkable. We even spotted a few whales in the inlet.

We arrived at the convention center in Anchorage within a few hours of leaving the ship. After realizing our error and acquiring a new rental car, we stopped for a bite to eat at Platinum Jaxx . Again we made a great choice, it was priced a little high for a quick lunch but the food was unique and well prepared. I had the Halibut burger and would definitely order it again.

So after lunch, we cabbed to the airport to pick up our rental and get back on the highway. We really wanted to get to Denali as soon as possible, even though we knew at this point we wouldn’t get into the park that day, we wanted to get there during daylight hours for our first view of the great mountain.

Panorama Roadside Trees

Panorama of Roadside Trees - Click to Enlarge

Roadside Portrait of Amy

Roadside Portrait of Amy

Our first siting of Mount McKinley was from a scenic stop / rest stop on Highway 3, about 45 minutes south of the park. It was our first and only chance to see it’s highest peak, making us part of the 15% of travelers that actually get a clear shot of the mountain top. The highest point of Mount McKinley, also called “Denali; the Great One” is usually under cloud cover.

We made it to our hotel by 5:00, tired and hungry but completely excited by everything we had seen on our drive. We were staying at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and had a park’s view from our room. A gorgeous hotel, all the amenities, yet it fit so well into its surroundings. We walked through the grounds, checked out the artwork in the main lodge and opted to head across the street to have dinner at the Overlook Bar and Grill at the Crow’s Nest. We just couldn’t go wrong with our dining choices on this trip. We had some local draft beers, watched Michael Phelps pull out his seventh gold medal and enjoyed an evening out on the deck. Great food, great view; Lonely Planet had it right when they named the Overlook “the best bar in the Greater Denali area”.

Chris Cruises – Princess Cruises Twitter Press trip to Alaska

Domed Car on the Princess Denali Express

Domed Car on the Princess Denali Express

We’re excited to soon be virtually following along professional cruise adviser Chris Owen on his Princess Cruises-sponsored Twitter Press trip to Alaska.

Chris’ trip will be very similar to ours albeit backwards, traveling from Denali towards Vancouver. Although we stayed in the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge as base camp for our Denali self-tours we opted out of the train ride (see photo) that Chris will hopefully write about.

Also be sure to check out his cruise tips as part of your planning your Alaskan Cruise. Chris offers some of the best advice we’ve ever read on the Internet.

There’s nothing better than first-hand knowledge, tips, and suggestions when traveling to someplace we’ve never been before. Many thanks to those who have sent along helpful advice for our hosted Twitter Press trip to Alaska with Princess Cruises coming up in less than a month. Looking through the extensive menu of shore and land excursions available on this trip, we’ve started molding what we will experience, based largely on your input.

Well, make that about half your input and suggestions, (“we did this and it was fabulous” or “you can’t miss this”) and half stuff you want to see or know about for an upcoming vacation combined with stuff we just think looks cool to do. Here is how it breaks down and what our schedule is looking like so far…

[Source: Chris Cruises]

Port Comparison of Seattle vs. Vancouver Departures for Alaskan Cruises

Anne Vipond and William Kelly of the Vancouver Sun compare the experience of a Seattle departure vs. Vancouver:

It’s worth taking an Alaska cruise from Seattle if you would like to spend a day or two in Seattle and would like to visit Sitka. However, if you want to see all of the Inside Passage and visit the Klondike Gold Rush town of Skagway, take your cruise from Vancouver.

There is little or no difference in cost between a round trip cruise from Seattle or one from Vancouver, although the best prices from either port are usually offered on the May sailings. According to Harvey Strydhorst of Sea Courses Cruises, good pricing is still available on Alaska cruises, comparable to the bargains that were offered last year.

A Tale of Two Port Cities

Seattle Skyline view from Harbor Avenue, West Seattle Photo by Daniel Schwen

Seattle Skyline view from Harbor Avenue, West Seattle Photo by Daniel Schwen