Alaska cruisetours, which are cruises that include land trips by bus, train or plane, can be the perfect finish -- or start -- to your Alaskan adventures. Alaska cruise and land tour packages take you deep into the 49th state, giving a whole new perspective on this wild and wonderful place.
Almost all cruise lines offer several cruise tour packages that seamlessly take you to or from your cruise and transport you to the Kenai Peninsula, Denali, Fairbanks or even the Yukon territory in Canada. Princess Cruises and Holland America Line have traditionally dominated this space, as both cruise lines operate their own lodges.
Princess Cruises has four different types of cruisetours, ranging from three to 10 days, from more affordable, independent self-guided itineraries (On Your Own), to trips where every detail is taken care of, escorted every step of the way by a tour director (Connoisseur).
Holland America Line also offers a number of combinations, bringing together Denali National Park with fascinating towns like Talkeetna (literally “where three rivers meet”), plus Anchorage and Fairbanks. HAL has also been a leader in adding Dawson City and Whitehorse, Yukon to their trips.
Now is the time to sift through Alaska cruise and land packages in 2023 and beyond -- and book the right one for you. Here are five of the best reasons to book your land extension to next year’s Alaska cruise.
Both Princess Cruises and Holland America have charming lodges for visitors to get an authentic yet comfortable experience while staying in Alaska. Plan to spend time just enjoying the amenities and services on site regardless of which one you choose -- along with the stunning natural views right outside.
Princess operates five lodges in Alaska, and each one brings its own personality and style. At the small, charming Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, big bungalow-style rooms climb the hillsides, each one with its own private porch overlooking the greenery, perfect for relaxing with a book on a sunny day.
At the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, which is right next to Denali National Park, stroll along the Nenana River and take photos from viewing platforms before grabbing a drink and sitting by the fire pits at Fannie Q’s.
Holland America’s McKinley Chalet Resort sits at the doorstep to Denali and is spread over 60 acres, where you can explore the serene area on foot. Visitors can also find shows and lectures at the amphitheater, as well as restaurants serving fresh crab and caribou burgers. At both lodges, you’ll find charming rooms, some in a brand-new building with junior suites that feature separate sitting areas and large balconies.
The Denali lodges (McKinley Chalet Resort and Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge are right next to each other) are also convenient jumping off points for excursions, including the Denali Tundra Wilderness bus tour that takes you directly into the park from the lodges' entrances for epic wildlife viewing.
With more than 650 miles of track running between Seward in the south and Fairbanks at the northern terminus -- just a tick below the Arctic Circle -- riding the rails of the Alaska Railroad is one of the state's great thrills.
Princess and Holland America operate 20 special cars, rolling stock with expansive domes and outdoor decks for photos. The cars are continuously improving in an ongoing effort to renovate, with about two carriages per year coming out like new. Both cruise lines use the McKinley Explorer trains, which carry you between Anchorage and the lodges at Talkeetna and Denali.
No matter what your journey's starting and destination points are, the train winds across vertiginous trestles, through deep valleys and past rushing glacier-fed rivers. Guides provide colorful stories and excellent interpretation along the miles of track. It’s the easiest and most relaxing way to traverse a state that can have mind-numbing distances between towns.
Until you see it yourself, it’s hard to imagine the soaring majesty of Denali. Meaning “the great one” in the local indigenous language, the summit -- draped in blue glaciers and flashing white snow -- is North America’s highest and stretches to 20,310 feet. It's surrounded by the six million acres of Denali National Park, a place as big as the state of Massachusetts.
Two Princess lodges -- Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge in nearby Talkeetna -- as well as HAL’s McKinley Chalet Resort offer a variety of ways to experience Denali's natural wonders.
The must do is the afore-mentioned Tundra Wilderness Tour that takes you deep inside by road, about six hours round-trip, giving exceptional opportunities to spot massive moose, sure-footed Dall sheep and big grizzly bears. While wildlife sightings aren't guaranteed, you ride in a school bus and restroom stops are spotty, this excursion is well worth it for an up-close-and-personal experience with the national park.
If you aren’t too nervous, a Denali flightseeing tour is worth the (somewhat steep) price tag. On a good day, you’ll glide right up to the frozen world, at the top of the mountain. Denali sightings are scarce -- only 30% of visitors can see it -- but even if you don't see the mystical mountain, you'll see the surrounding area of glaciers and snow-capped mountains, which is a treat on its own. Simply put, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you’ll never forget.
There are also heli-hiking excursions that take you soaring along the mountain and its range. Some heli-hiking and flightseeing experiences include a glacier landing where you stop for 20 minutes to admire the tranquility and natural beauty -- and even sip on fresh glacial water from the palm of your hand.
All of that wilderness is sitting right at your doorstep when you're on a land tour in Alaska. Just like a shore excursion on the ship, all you need to do is sign up (preferably in advance) and tour operators will take you into the wild. Typically, you’ll simply board a vehicle near the front desk with the details and plans taken care of.
The choices are practically endless. Fly in a helicopter over glaciers, roll on a paddle-wheeler to visit sled dogs, or just enjoy a leisurely ride on a raft down the Kenai River, the perfect platform to spot bald eagles along the shoreline. You can bike, hike, fish, kayak, or pan for gold. Options exist for all levels of ability.
Alaska is unquestionably a wild and vast place. After all, you could fit Texas inside the state of Alaska more than twice. Fortunately, booking a land tour in Alaska provides so much ease and convenience, all the while allowing you to see and tour giant swaths of territory with minimum fuss or trouble.
When leaving one lodge for another, simply attach a tag to your suitcase and leave it outside your door. Staff will transport your bags for you -- they'll be stashed out of sight on your train or bus -- and your bags will be right inside your room at the next stop, waiting for you.
Coaches are comfortable and swift, steered by experienced drivers. Train rides are a standard feature. And if you book a Connoisseur Tour, a guide will accompany you all the way through. They provide a stress-free experience all around and include expert commentary, a letter in the evening outlining the next day’s plan and highlights, and answers to all your questions.