FIRST OF ALL, this is probably more detailed info than you want to know but hope it will be helpful. We cruised the Inside Passage in Alaska over 10yrs ago but wanted to return & do more land touring. The last one was in June & ... Read More
FIRST OF ALL, this is probably more detailed info than you want to know but hope it will be helpful. We cruised the Inside Passage in Alaska over 10yrs ago but wanted to return & do more land touring. The last one was in June & worked out well, so we decided on June again. There were six in our group. The land/cruise tour began June 20th in Fairbanks.We began our trip on June 19th & flew into Fairbanks, AK. We were there for the longest day of the year (06/21) but the rooms had sun blocking curtains.I had booked a one night stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites, Fairbanks. It seemed to have good reviews & they had a shuttle from the airport to hotel. I called the hotel just after we arrived & picked up luggage. The staff were nice & the rooms clean. Breakfast was plentiful & good.
I would advise if your flight is long (from east coast for us), you need to arrive early to rest up before the "tour" actually began. There was a McDonalds within walking distance so some in our group ate there. Husband & I needed some supplies so we walked over to Walmart & also ate there at Subway. You have to cross a 4-lane hwy, but it's no problem if you go to the light to cross. I would say it's a 10-min walk to the Walmart. It's pretty new & very clean. The walk would be much closer but there's a fence around the hotel & you have to go a weird way. I remember thinking as we were walking that it would be dark before we got back to the hotel & I had looked up & saw there were no street lights. And then it HIT me...it would NOT get dark in Alaska on June 19th!!
The next day, June 20th, after breakfast the hotel called a van for us & took us to the Royal Caribbean hotel which was Pike's Landing. The lobby was very interesting with the animal mounts. There was a small gift shop. I had read on this site that they would have hot chocolate & cookies for guest but that was not so when we were there. Perhaps because it wasn't all that cold. Also read that they give guests a wooden nickel that can be used for free ice cream. Didn't have that either. The did have a nice looking jug of water (free) and coffee (not free) available. I also saw an ice cream station further back, but no free ice cream did we see. It was only open certain hours & a scoop was over $3.00.
Just after we got checked in, we asked where we were to go to meet up with the tour guide for instructions for the next day. She was already with a group of 4 so we just waited for her to come to our table. Her name was Annie & she is a darling! She explained all we needed to know for the next morning & as we continued into Denali on the 22nd. Our bus driver would be April. She didn't look old enough to be in charge of a large coach bus, but she knew exactly what she was doing! You will keep the same tour person & bus driver for the entire time & will be delivered to Seward to board your ship. I had also read they would ask you to downsize to a carry-on bag for the bus & train travel. Luggage tags were handed out, green & white. You could choose to have all your luggage every night if you wanted. I'll get back to luggage a bit later.
After our instructions, we walked over in the parking lot to Pike's Restaurant. I had sandwich & soup of the day. In Alaska, all food is a bit expensive. Be prepared to pay around $15.00 each. Food is shipped in & it's not cheap. At Walmart the previous day I paid $6.00+ for a bag of their trail mix which is $4.00+ at home. We all enjoyed our lunch. We met two ladies in the restaurant who were just ending their land/cruise trip. They did cruise first & then the land tour. Personally, I would always the cruise last as you can just relax & do everything at your own pace on the ship.
Day Two: Tuesday - Fairbanks
Breakfast on your own
8:45am Depart for Fairbanks sightseeing
9:30 - 11:30am Gold Dredge #8 Tour (panning for gold & see pipeline – fun). Inside their gift shop they have HOT chocolate & cookies, FREE!) Be careful, I burned my lip!
Lunch on own in downtown Fairbanks (we ate at Soapy Smith’s – not too impressed)
1:15pm : Continue Fairbanks sightseeing
2:00-5:00pm: Riverboat Discovery Cruise (Fun & free blueberry doughnuts on boat. Can get off boat to view how Alaskans lived, cured meat, etc. – maybe a 45min stop. Will also see where huskies are raised & trained for the Iditarod races.)
Dinner on your own
Open evening for optional activities - we just rested.
Day Three: Wednesday - Fairbanks
6:00am - Place luggage outside your door (after tagging with green tag for luggage you want delivered to your hotel room in Denali. Any luggage you don't want or need at Denali Lodge, tag with white tag. These bags (white tags) will stay on your bus until you arrive in Seward. You can have all your bags at the lodge if you want, & we did. Hard to know what the weather will be like each day. That was not a problem with Annie or April.
Pike's Landing offers a shuttle for $5.00pp roundtrip which you can take to Frey Myers grocery to purchase food. We did that so we'd have breakfast for the next morning. You name it, they have it. We got muffins, fruit, trail mix, crackers, etc. They will give you a card with a phone number & you just call when you need a ride back to the lodge. We actually saw some of the "kids" from the Riverboat Tour in the store.
7:30am Depart for the Fairbanks Depot
8:15 - 12:15 pm : Wilderness Express to Denali. You can have breakfast on the train if you would like. Credit cards only. They also sell drinks. This is the domed train ride. Later in the ride there was some beautiful scenery. Wish it ran through Denali Nat'l Park as the dome made the views easy to see. Some in our group at breakfast on the train. Can't remember the prices, but again, it's Alaska & prices are high. Get use to it!
Orientation to Denali
Lunch on your own
Dinner on your own
Open evening for optional activities
Lunch on your own: We had a burger & fries in the lodge restaurant, which was good.
Dinner on your own: We had a salad in the same restaurant.
Annie (guide) offered a 3-mile hike which husband & I went on. So fun, although a hill in one place was a bit steep. We actually walked up to a body of water & saw a moose & her 2 cubs! So cool! We had actually seen the female from the train ride in (briefly) but had no idea we'd get to see her up close! That was so COOL! I'm not a hiker, so about anyone could have made the trip, mostly on level ground.
Day Four: Thursday - Denali National Park
Breakfast on your own
Annie provided info. on the day's activities.
We went on the Tundra Wilderness Tour. It's a 6-8 hour tour on a bus kinda like a school bus. You may want to take additional snack and/or drink with you. The Lodge provides a snack box, but we ordered a sandwich the night before from the lobby of the lodge. We shared one "bagged meal".
We boarded a "school bus" to go into the park. You will have someone from the park as your driver. The bus does have room above your head for your personal items, coats & your food.
This was a wonderful day! The driver, "Becky" said only 30 percent of visitors get to see Mt. Denali due to clouds, but we did & it was spectacular! You will stop several times en route into the park. Regular coaches & vehicles are not allowed in to the park & you will see why...some very narrow roads! There is room above your head to store food, coats, etc. Also there are monitors which can be flipped down to see any wildlife your driver spots. Lets discuss bathroom facilities or shall we call them large outhouses! There is NO running water in the park itself. Hand sanitizer is available in each of the "facilities" & that's the best it gets. One stop did have a small "ranger-like bldg." that had a few gifts. Again, no running water. We were very lucky to see 2 grizzlies, lots of moose, caribou & sheep. Also saw some smaller animals. It was a long day but loved it. My husband's favorite day, seeing all the animals.
We were told by Annie to be sure we have we had our ship luggage tags on each bag before retiring that night. Our bags, once again, needed to be outside our room for pickup by 6:00am. Also, be sure you have your ship documents & passport with you & NOT in your luggage.
7:30am: Depart for Anchorage
12:30pm: Lunch on your own in downtown Anchorage
We ate at the food court in the mall which was very close by to our stop.
2:00pm: Depart for Seward.
It was a LONG ride on the coach to Seward. There was some beautiful scenery however!
Seward is an Alaskan port, not a city as you may be use to (Miami, etc.). We boarded quickly about 5:00pm. We had early dining so as most do, you go as you are!
We were in a Jr. Suite on the port side of the ship. Having been before, we knew there was more land to see on the port side. The ship had been refurbished & I thought in really good shape. Our stateroom attendant was great as were our waiters. We always had lunch in the Windjammer & dinner in the main dining room. I didn't see any of the shows onboard except a few minutes of some.
We just walked around at each of the ports except in Ketchikan we saw the lumberjack show & actually threw some axes ourselves. That was fun. If you don't purchase through the ship, you can just buy tickets at the event. A short walk from the ship actually.
Hubbard Glacier was a beautiful as ever. Just a breathtaking experience. The captain turned the ship completely around in the bay 2 times to be sure everyone got a great view.
Since are Diamond Plus we also enjoyed the diamond lounge on the ship. Each evening they serve appetizers & free drinks before dinner.
When it was time to depart from the ship, we just took a taxi to the airport in Vancouver. Customs was easy. The taxi was about $30.00 plus tip, which we divided among two couples. The ship's shuttle bus was $37.50 per person. Much better to take a taxi & way less hectic at the airport. I did note however, the taxis will only take a maximum of 4 passengers. If you have more, just get another one.
This will probably be our last trip to Alaska, but would jump at a chance to go a third time! We did book another cruise while aboard the Radiance to some islands we've been to before. You get an onboard credit so you can't lose by doing it. You can always cancel & get your deposit back. HAPPY CRUSING!! Read Less