We had taken the Inner Passage cruise in Alaska many years ago and always regretted not having gone to the interior, so this time we took the 7 day land tour before getting aboard the Grand Princess for the 7 day cruise back to Vancouver.
The Land Tour:
We started out in Fairbanks, where we enjoyed a train excursion to a gold dredge, where we panned for gold and I got enough gold to put into a locket as a keepsake. The following riverboat cruise was mostly interesting for the stop at an old Chena Indian Village, where we learned a lot about the native life and history. The next day we traveled by train to Denali. While on the train, we got a good glimpse of Denali, which was a good thing, because it was enclosed in clouds for the rest of the time. The 2 days at Denali Park Wilderness Lodge were very nice, but the room didn't have any comfortable chairs, just a desk chair, so I had to go elsewhere to relax and read, etc. There were a good variety of restaurants on the grounds, and we enjoyed meals at several of them. We took the Tundra Wilderness Tour in the morning and although never were able to see Denali's peak, the fall leaf colors in the park were outstanding, with red and purple on the ground, yellow aspens and green spruces above them. We did see some wildlife, but not a lot. We spent only one day at Mt. McKinley Lodge, but took an excursion that was the highlight of the trip for us: a visit to the Sun Dog Kennels, where we were treated to an exhilarating ride in an off road vehicle that was pulled by a team of dogs. We were told all about the training and care of the dogs, and watched the whole sled process from beginning to end, after which we were able to cuddle some adorable 9 week old husky pups! The last two days of the land tour were spent at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, which was our favorite. The setting is lovely, and the cabins are perched on a hillside above the lodge, with complementary shuttle service to and from the lodge whenever you want it. And the rooms are huge, with a separate living area with a couch and chairs and a wood-burning stove, plus a balcony with a knock-out view. We would have loved to spend more time there. The one excursion we took was the Kenai Fords National Park Cruise out of Seward, and were very glad we did, as it was the only time we got really close to some tidewater glaciers. We also saw a lot of wildlife, including 3 bears, some pods of orcas, sea otters, seals, mountain goats, and bald eagles. But it was very cold, and we were glad we had brought along lots of layers, wool hats and gloves. After that, it was on to Whittier to board the Grand Princess for the cruise back to Vancouver. In summary, we highly recommend doing the land portion first, because after a week of constantly packing up and moving from place to place, the ability to unpack and stay in one spot for a time is very welcome.