Alaska: Cruisetour (Princess Mt. McKinley & Denali Wilderness Lodges)

As y’all have read, my hubby and I have been lucky enough to be able to do 4 cruises in Alaska, we love the Princess Cruise line, they do a phenomenal job in Alaska and beyond. Princess has their own lodges placed at strategic locations in Alaska and they run their land tours like a well-oiled machine, they are so efficient…and to this organized lady, that is music to my ears.  SO,  back in June (23rd through July 7th), 2012, we decided to add a land tour onto our 3rd Voyage of the Glaciers Southbound cruise; the hard part was choosing which land tour we wanted to do, so when all was said and done, this is the tour we chose (well actually, this isn’t *exactly* the tour we chose…I’ll explain later….there was only one slight change).  We decided that we wanted to do the tour first, and then the cruise.  That said, I’ll also explain later why I’d choose a slightly different land itinerary on our next journey:

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Here is a little cheat sheet to acclimate you as to where Princess’ Lodges are located:

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So we landed at the Anchorage airport, collected our luggage and wheeled them right to our our Princess Rep who was waiting for us right beside the luggage carousel.  We were then transported by motor coach to our hotel for one night, the Captain Cook

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We paid for Princess to handle all of our reservations and transfers, so we were pleasantly surprised when we entered our room; it was a corner room and it was gorgeous! What a start to our vacation, I was beyond excited to see what the interior of Alaska was about to offer up. 🙂

**Note:  On our arrival at the Captain Cook, we were handed a packet from Princess with our land tour’s itinerary.  It spelled out what time we needed to have our luggage ready to go the next morning–the Princess folks came around and gathered it up at each location when it was time to move to the next location.  Also, if there was a piece of luggage that you would only be using on the ship, they provided you a special luggage tag and it was put into storage until it was time to be placed outside your stateroom door…I’m telling y’all, Princess is awesome. The itinerary also included where and what time we were to meet and what mode of transportation would be used on that particular day. It was very detailed and really didn’t leave you with any unanswered questions.

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DSCN0415  After a wonderful night’s sleep, we went out to explore Anchorage for a little while…

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Then it was time to board our motor coach and start our trip to our first stop The Princess Mt. McKinley lodge.  It was a beautiful drive! In just a couple of hours we pulled up in front of the lodge, we would be staying there for 2 nights…

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Unfortunately, I cannot tell you about the regular rooms that they offer at the lodge because my hubby and I got a huge surprise when we arrived.  We were actually given one of the few rooms *in* the lodge itself…what? The rest of the rooms were a bit of a walk (nothing too strenuous by any means) away from the lodge and set up similar to a motel, with outside entrances…everyone said that they were well-appointed rooms, but I’m sorry to say that we never laid eyes on one.
Here is the room that we were given, and no, we didn’t arrange for this room up front, I guess they do a random drawl type thing, and we were chosen…wow, how lucky were we?!

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This window in our room was positioned so that you could gaze upon Mt. McKinley, sadly, it was a cloudy rainy day that day and we didn’t see the mountain…

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We had a lovely meal at the 20320 Alaskan Grill which was a short, easy walk from the lodge–One more note for those of you who have not done a cruise tour…On the tour portion of the itinerary, you have to pay for all of your meals–unlike when you get on the ship:

On our way to the restaurant, there was a sign that you could stand under and on a clear day, Mt. McKinley can be seen over your head…Unfortunately, that beautiful mountain never showed herself to us.

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The next morning, we boarded a motor coach and took off down the mountain to Talkeetna where we’d be catching our jet boat excursion to Devil’s Canyon.  Here is a video describing this wonderful trip: Mahay’s Devil’s Canyon Adventure.

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On our way to The Devil’s Canyon and those class 5 and 6 rapids, we were lucky enough to see this mated pair of bald eagles:

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And this tree that a beaver had done a real number on!

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And this mama moose and her baby!

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A fish wheel:

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Then we reached the rapids and the captain stopped the jet boat in an eddy and we were able to take some great pictures of that rushing water!

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We had so much fun on that excursion, if anyone out there is taking an Alaskan cruise and would like to set this excursion up beforehand, here is a link.

And here is a video that I compiled of our time on this excursion:

We spent one more night at the Mt. McKinley lodge and arose bright and early the next day and took a little trip back down to Talkeetna via motor coach; we’d be catching the Alaska rail (this is where our Itinerary differs from the one pictured above–above, you take a motor coach to the Princess Denali Wilderness Lodge–we took the train).

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The train cars are wonderful!! The seats are nice and roomy and comfy…It was a lovely trip, full of gorgeous scenery as we made our way further to our new destination…

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And of course, while on board, a Princess staff member told us all about the area and watched out for wildlife and so on.  It was such a relaxing, lovely journey. 🙂

It wasn’t long before we pulled into the depot and boarded our motor coach that took us to the Princess Denali Wilderness Lodge, we would be staying there for 2 nights…

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A Princess Representative met us at our motor coach and we were given our room key.  Again, I was amazed at the room that we were given, and again, we didn’t pre-arrange to have this room.  What I found out later was that our room was twice as big as others rooms.  Trust me, one half of the room would have been more than sufficient, but, by the luck of the drawl, we were given a spiffy, upgraded room….

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Our luggage was delivered almost immediately and after we got settled in, we decided to take a walk around the area, there were beautiful vistas no matter which way you looked…such a beautiful place.

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Later that evening, we had pre-arranged to go to the Music of Denali dinner show that is located on the Princess Denali Wilderness lodge’s premises and is only a short walk from our room.  There’s a link there up there in red ^, to say that we had a fantastic time and were fed way too well would be an understatement; it was very, very entertaining and the food was excellent.  I would highly recommend this if you are going to be in this part of Alaska.

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We only had one more day on our land tour and we were supposed to go into Denali National Park on a school bus, but the hubby and I decided that we’d forego that trip and trek out on our own.  He took a long walk and I did some laundry—yes, I actually did laundry in Alaska…haha…;)  After he got back from his walk we took a nice stroll and crossed the road and did a bit of exploring at a little Alaskan style strip mall–wasn’t much to it, but there were some fun things to look at and we had the very best fish chowder we’ve ever tasted at a little rickety restaurant for which, for the life of me, I cannot remember the name.

The next morning, they came and collected our luggage and away we were whisked back to the train depot and onto another rail car that would take us to Whittier (close to Anchorage) and our awaiting cruise ship The Diamond Princess.  We ate lunch in the train with another couple–we don’t normally do that, we usually like to stay on our own, but it was lovely and they were quite a nice couple.  The food was delicious. 🙂

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To be honest, I would not choose to do this particular Itinerary again because this train ride was literally 8 hours long.  As you can see in the picture above, you are given “assigned” seating and another couple joins you at your table–for the entire trip.  Of course you can switch around tables and such, but it was a little awkward to spend that long trying to think of something to say.  They offer a tour where you start in Fairbanks and work your way towards your cruise ship as each day passes so that means that you never have to spend an entire day traveling on a train or bus with strangers.  I would definitely choose to start our next land tour at the furthest location away from the cruise ship and slowly work our way toward the ship. Needless to say, we were 2 tired campers by the time we made it to Whittier and through the tunnel (I describe the tunnel and how it works in my Alaska: Voyage of the Glaciers Cruise – Days 1 & 2 post).

I was quite happy to see the beautiful Diamond Princess sitting there grandly waiting for our arrival.  We were the last group to board the ship at around 6:30 in the evening (normally, we’d be on the ship for hours by that time)…

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There you have it, we were happy to climb on that ship.  The first thing that we did was to dash off to find our mini-suite; we were bushed and ready for some relaxation and pampering.  Regardless of that long, long train ride, we were quite pleased with the land portion of our vacation and we greatly enjoyed the cruise portion of our trip.  We got to see gorgeous scenery, take an awesome jet boat excursion, a couple of train rides, and for whatever reason we got to reside in the creme de la creme rooms that are offered…haha.  Once again, Princess didn’t disappoint!

Until next time, y’all take good care! ❤

~Arlynn

I’ve also written two other blog posts that go hand in hand with these blog entries.  Here is a link to my Alaskan Wardrobe Choices entry. And here is a link to my What’s In My Carry On, My Must Haves, and Packing Tips & Tricks entry.

One thought on “Alaska: Cruisetour (Princess Mt. McKinley & Denali Wilderness Lodges)

  1. Pingback: Alaska – Voyage of the Glaciers – Vancouver, Whale Watching Tour, & a Special Friend Meeting in Victoria – Country Craft Corner

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