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RemPuck

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We are strongly considering an Alaska trip in summer 2020, likely the Seward to Vancouver sailing on 2 August.  The Denali pre-cruise, departing on 29 July from Anchorage, is also tempting as we’d really like to do some time inland.  However, this is not an inexpensive addition ($2900, no matter the suite category) and appears to be heavy on bus time.

 

Questions: Has anyone taken the Windstar Cruise Tour?  Any comments/feedback to share?  Has anyone done something similar independently? 

 

Also, when looking at doing this on our own, travel from Anchorage to Seward seems to be either the train (leaving before 7:00 AM, arriving late morning) or buses offering “mid-afternoon” arrivals.  How have others travelled to Seward (especially on the day of sailing)?  I assume boarding starts at 13:00 as on other Windstar sailings.  Per the itinerary, sailing is at 18:00.

 

Thanks for any guidance you may have about Alaska with Windstar.  We’re looking forward to getting back on Star Breeze.

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1 hour ago, RemPuck said:

We are strongly considering an Alaska trip in summer 2020, likely the Seward to Vancouver sailing on 2 August.  The Denali pre-cruise, departing on 29 July from Anchorage, is also tempting as we’d really like to do some time inland.  However, this is not an inexpensive addition ($2900, no matter the suite category) and appears to be heavy on bus time.

 

Questions: Has anyone taken the Windstar Cruise Tour?  Any comments/feedback to share?  Has anyone done something similar independently? 

 

Also, when looking at doing this on our own, travel from Anchorage to Seward seems to be either the train (leaving before 7:00 AM, arriving late morning) or buses offering “mid-afternoon” arrivals.  How have others travelled to Seward (especially on the day of sailing)?  I assume boarding starts at 13:00 as on other Windstar sailings.  Per the itinerary, sailing is at 18:00.

 

Thanks for any guidance you may have about Alaska with Windstar.  We’re looking forward to getting back on Star Breeze.

My husband and I sailed with the Star Legend in Alaska in both 2018 and 2019, and we are booked on the Star Breeze for next June 19th.  Needless to say, we never seem to tire of the unending beauty Alaska has to offer.  This will be our 10th Windstar cruise.  We would never sail another cruise line. Each of the three itineraries is slightly different so we always catch some new ports, new glaciers, and new fjords.  Those who did the pre-cruise tour of Denali absolutely raved about it.  Their only complaint was that the lodge did not have air conditioning, and Alaska was in the midst of a record heat wave at the time. I am certain a similar tour can be done more economically.  We took the Windstar bus transportation from Anchorage to Seward.  It leaves at 11:00 am from the Hilton and was only $79 per person. Due to the wildfires, the views were hazy and at times smoky.  We will do the same next June and hope that the wildfires have been resolved by then. You will find this cruise most amazing, with awe-inspiring beauty forever surrounding the ship.  Be sure to get a balcony suite.  We took some of our best photos from the open balcony doors.

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Many years ago we cruised Alaska on a different line. We ended our cruise in Seward. I hired a "limo" to pick up the 6 of us at the port and then drove us to Anchorage where we rented a van. We proceeded to tour on our own. From Anchorage we drove to Wasilla where my husband had friends and we spent the night. From there we drove to Denali and rented rooms at a lodge/hotel on the river. The next day we took the bus into the park. At lunch, a man came through and offered airplane rides out of the park and my husband, who wasn't crazy about the 3-4 hour bus ride out hopped at the chance. It was incredible flying by all the glaciers and we had a perfect view of Mt Denali. It was 8 pm when we got back to our lodging and still light out so we took the kids and did a white water rafting tour that night! Our last stop was Fairbanks and the Arctic Circle. We found a tour van going up to the Circle which was good since there were fires burning and lots of smoke. We found an Bed and Breakfast in train cars that was fun, especially for the our kids. We flew home from Fairbanks.

 

Alaska on your own is totally doable.

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Thanks Ski Mom.  Did you do a one-way rental on your van (Anchorage to Fairbanks)?  I'm seeing that the drop off charges can be really steep.  Doing a round-trip drive from Anchorage up to Denali and back will eat a lot of time in the short window we're looking at.  (We'd love to do longer, but we still work and the cruise itself is 11 days; 4-5 days will be the limit.)  I've seen some flight-seeing options at Denali and it's definitely on the "must" list.  Did you only have the half-day inside the park itself?  Was it enough?

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Thanks ridethetide.  It's good to hear that people who did the cruise tour found it enjoyable.  There's definitely the benefit of having everything taken care of and not needing to worry about the bits and pieces of making connections work.  And thanks, too, for the comment about the Windstar arranged bus from Anchorage to Seward.  An 11AM departure is definitely better than the 6:45 AM departure on the train if we do that from Anchorage (on our own).  And yes, I do hope that next year is both cooler and less fire-prone.

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Thanks sb44!  It's great to get the first hand feedback about the cruise tour.  When you were in the park, did you have a chance to do any hiking on your own, either as part of the big group or during some "free time"?  We're not looking to "climb Denali," but would like an opportunity to at least get on a trail for an hour or two.  I've also seen some flight-seeing tours, from both Denali and Talkeetna that look really enticing.  Was there any "free time" to do something like that (90 minutes to 2 hours)?

 

I agree that the plus of getting a great over view of what we're seeing, and experiencing, is not to be discounted.  And if I were driving, I know I'd miss everything that's "just over there..." as my husband keeps pointing things out.

 

Much to think about!  Thanks.

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The tour didn't really have any free time which was the one thing that we all would have liked. I looked at the current description for next year and it really doesn't give any more details than those we had.  To go hiking in Denali I think, not sure, that you need a permit. It's pretty rugged and weather is unpredictable.  It was snowed in the day after we were there in June. The park busses go pretty far in from the entrance and we did see hikers but you already have to be deep in the park to do this. It's quite different than the other national parks in the lower 48. As for flightseeing, there was no opportunity but we did visit the flight company that services base camp for climbers  talked to one of their pilots and the woman who runs the place who was also a climber so we really learned so much. We did lots of flight seeing of glaciers etc. when we got on the ship and loved it all. Expensive but so worth it. Our plan is to go back and do our own land tour from Fairbanks north but that takes planning as it's sparsely populated and we are working with someone who specializes in making sure we don't get lost! LOL.  Denali didn't show herself when we were in the park but did the night and morning that we stayed at the Talkeenta Inn. Anyhow, it was the trip of a lifetime. Enjoy!

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Thanks again sb44! We aren’t looking to go true back country hiking but a chance to get out of the bus and do some walking.   Did the bus make stops for photos (views, wildlife, etc)? 

 

I know now the mountain can hide a lot and it’s great she came out for you during your Talkeetna stop! I had a great view many years ago on a flight to Tokyo...I opened my window shade at just the right minute!

 

Lots of thinking to come. Thanks again. 

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Yes, we had lots of opportunities for photos. Best ones were outside our hotel room in Denali.  We had a mother moose and 2 babies outside our windows for a couple of hours. Marvelous videos and photos. And on the cruise we had eagles flying all around the ship. Really, we were part of the outdoors continuously.  Just an awesome trip. 

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On 8/26/2019 at 3:29 PM, RemPuck said:

Thanks Ski Mom.  Did you do a one-way rental on your van (Anchorage to Fairbanks)?  I'm seeing that the drop off charges can be really steep.  Doing a round-trip drive from Anchorage up to Denali and back will eat a lot of time in the short window we're looking at.  (We'd love to do longer, but we still work and the cruise itself is 11 days; 4-5 days will be the limit.)  I've seen some flight-seeing options at Denali and it's definitely on the "must" list.  Did you only have the half-day inside the park itself?  Was it enough?

Well I thought we did a one way rental but my sister and her husband might have actually driven the car and returned it to Anchorage now that you mention it. To be honest I just don’t remember. 

 

The bus ride into the park was long enough to see what we wanted to see. The bus stopped many times for photo opps. The midway point is the lunch stop where you can visit the dog sled team as well. The flight out was so worth it I would do it again in a heartbeat. Plus it was quicker than the bus and gave us more time to add on the river rafting. 

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