We were scheduled on the Holland America D1T which began in Fairbanks on Sept. 5th. The ship departed Seward on the 9th. The land package took place on Sept 5-9. There were three couples in our group and we had made reservations at the tour hotel to arrive one day early, on Sept. 4th. At the airport in Fairbanks we saw a Holland America agent greeting customers coming in for other land tours. When we identified ourselves we were warmly received and we were transported on the Holland America buses to the hotel (even though we were a day early). It was good to have the extra day in Fairbanks as we toured the Museum at the University (great museum), went to Santa's house in North Pole, AK, and had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant.
The HAL hotel is the Westmark in Fairbanks. Nice hotel. HAL has a desk at the hotel. Our tour included a very fun and informative ride on a paddle-wheel boat, lunch and panning for gold during the day. We recommend the land tour in Fairbanks. We also went on the salmon bake that evening, which we all agreed was not worth it. The next day we were transported to Denali on the train in observation cars. The observation cars have seats and a bar upstairs and a restaurant area below the seating area. The guides were attentive and informative. At the train station in Denali we were transported to our hotel, The McKinley Chalets Resort. Our group was in a separate full sized hotel near the main lodge. It is a 5 minute walk from there to the main lodge and there's a shuttle running every few minutes. Our impression is that building was owned by HAL. The main lodge has a couple of restaurants, a bar and a gift shop. Across the street is the commercial area with many shops, ice cream, pizza, etc.
We took the flightseeing tour around Mount McKinley. Denali Air picked us up at the main lodge and took us to the airstrip. We flew in an 8-passenger twin engine airplane with retractable landing gear. The flight lasted about an hour. We loved it even though it was a little cloudy that day. Highly recommended.
The bus tour of Denali was in a refurbished school bus. The seats were uncomfortable and the heat was almost non-existent. The outside temperature was barely 50 degrees. The tour guide was very informative. We saw bears and mountain sheep. Despite the temperature and the seats everyone thought it was a good tour.
The next day we boarded modern "deluxe" motorcoaches for transport to Seward. It is a full-day with great scenery all of the way. Our bus driver/guide was very informative. The lunch stop was in Wasilla at a very nice restaurant.
Port reviews are below, except for Ketchikan. Here are our comments on Ketchikan: We went on the HAL tour "Alaska Rain Forest Sanctuary, Raptor Center and Totems." The rain forest sanctuary was the best part. We saw four bears and filmed three of them for perhaps two minutes as they strolled down a creek near us. As our guide said, "if they cross to this side of the creek, we're leaving!:" After the tour we enjoyed walking around town. Even though this is the place on earth with the most rainfall, on this cruise it was the only port in which it was not raining! The next day our cruise ended at Vancouver. We recommend the cruise. The best parts are the wildlife and the scenery. Dress for the climate.