My parents are thinking of going on an Alaskan cruise. I suggested that they spend a few extra days there. I've been doing a little research but I'm starting to believe that much of the activity in Alaska may be a little too strenuous for them. It seems that much of the activity involves hiking.
I am not sure what they consider to be hiking, but I'd say that my parents are capable of maybe 4 or 5 miles on relatively flat terrain. They are approaching 60 and not in the best shape. When we went to Japan last year they had trouble keeping up with me in Kyoto because of all the stairs everywhere we went.
Anyways they would potentially be starting at whittier on july 9 at 7am and ending at ANC at 1am on july 13. I saw that there were some day cruises from seward, but I feel like this might just overlap with the cruise. I am perhaps thinking that denali would be the thing to do, but am unsure about it. People seem to like this 11 hour bus through the park, but I can't imagine how much you will see trapped on a bus all day. Also it sounds like getting there from whittier might be a little much.
Any ideas for a nice three day tour. I think the easiest thing to do would be pick up a car in whittier, see the kenai peninsula for three days and then drive to anc. Or perhaps return to whittier to save the drop charge and then train to anc. But will they already have a good look at kenai peninsula from teh cruise.
Apr 8, 07, 8:03 am
I'm older than your parents and have spent much time in Alaska.
Frankly you are talking about prime season and Denali will be mobbed. You do see a great deal on the bus tours of Denali with stops for the necessaries and a typical box lunch stop. However, the road isn't smooth. If your parents have back or neck problems, could be a problem for them.
They won't see much of the Kenai from their ship. Also because of the tunnel that goes to and from Whittier, going back to drop off a car serves no purpose but potential aggravation. They would still have to get to Anchorage.
I'm thinking that an organized tour run by their cruise line is something to consider. Also check other theads on this topic for many posts with excellent ideas.
You don't have to hike to see good stuff in Alaska. Anchorage itself is fairly flat and easy walking. The towns along their cruise and very up hill and down again.
Apr 8, 07, 12:30 pm
I live in Anchorage Alaska, There are many things to see here in Anchorage. I would fly in to Anchorage, Rent a car and do day trips to Seward (2 to 3 hours) Whitter, and other places yor folks would like. You will find people helpful along the way. Oh by the way I am over 60.
Apr 10, 07, 2:49 am
There's a ton of fishing, but depending on the person, this can be considered "strenuous", but I know someone over 70 with his own boat who goes out regularly for Halibut.
I went on one of those bus rides (6 hr one) and it was pretty good, but a little long and rough. Bring Binoculars if one goes on this. Saw plenty of animals, from wolves to grizzlies. Only problem really was Denali wasn't quite visible, so wasn't quite as awe inspiring as it could of been.
One can take the train to ANC, then up to Denali. The one from ANC to Denali is quite spectacular I hear, nice dome cars. While up there, they can also take a flightseeing tour of Denali.
Apr 10, 07, 4:39 am
Rent a car.
Until I saw the taxes and fees charged at ANC for RAC, I thought they were outrageous at PHX and MCO. Alamo compact for a week is 120USD? Add 70USD for the Man.
Your 2.49 per gallon beats mine at 2.79. Some comfort I guess.
Apr 10, 07, 4:01 pm
I'd check in to the Alaska Railroad. Your folks could take the RR from Whittier to Denali/Talkeetna and back to Anchorage.
In Anchorage, they should be sure to hit up the Artic Roadrunner for halibut burgers and/or the Moose's Tooth for pizza & beer.
Apr 10, 07, 4:14 pm
My brother and I took my parents to Alaska last September to celebrate their 54th anniversary. We flew from DFW to ANC on miles (my mother opened a CitiBank Mastercard for him during AA's 25th anniversary and he received 25,000 AA miles just for getting the card). My father just turned 73 and had been undergoing chemo all summer; he is doing great now.
We rented the Spruce Moose B&B just outside of Moose Pass. The title B&B is a tad misleading since they offer two chalets. For around $175 (we did get a discount for being returnees and skipping the breakfast option) per night, we had our own house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sleeping alcove, a large living room with satellite tv (it was football season so we had to have the tv), a kitchen, and a deck with a gas grill and hot tub. The owners will deliver breakfast to you every morning. Moose Pass is on the Seward Highway about forty-five minutes from Seward and about fifteen minutes from Cooper Landing. We only had four days so we spent our time in the area between Seward and Anchorage.
One day we drove to Seward and took the nine hour cruise through the Kenai Fiords National Park. Even in late September, we saw lots of wildlife (no puffins or humpbacks); we had an amazing experience with a pod of orcas (our naturalist said that ir was one of his best in ten years). My father, who is a retired taxidermist, was fascinated by the stellar sea lions, seals, and orcas. The orcas cooperated by staying with us while we watched Holgate Glacier calve.
Another day we hiked at Exit Glacier. My father had no problem doing the shorter trails at Exit Glacier. We did not attempt the seven hour hike. On my other visits to Exit Glacier, we saw bears; however, we did not see any this time. We did some short hikes in the area around Cooper Landing. On other trips, my mother enjoyed hiking to the Russian River Falls (off the Sterling Highway just past Cooper Landing); the trail is flat and easy. The Russian River Falls is a great place to watch salmon swim up the falls; bears sometimes fish for salmon there.
On our last day (the only day that it rained), we took the 26 Glacier Cruise offered by Phillips out of Whittier. We saw more glaciers calving and finally saw sea otters (I could not believe that we did not see any on our other cruise).
I have also travelled to Alaska with just my mother - she is over 60. We took the longest bus tour that we could at Denali National Park (we were there over Memorial Day weekend); we saw so many animals: grizzly bears, moose, caribou. The bus was comfortable and Ranger Ken was extremely cute.
Other activities that my mother enjoyed include: hiking in the State Park near Portage Glacier, visiting Portage Glacier, panning for gold near Girdwood, visiting the reindeer farm near Palmer, and visiting the musk ox farm near Palmer (Alex Trebeck used to be one of their biggest supporters).
We totally lucked out in September and rented a SUV from Alamo for under $200 for a week. We saved money on food by buying food and wine at Safeway and Carrs (get the discount card). Our total expenses for four people were around $1,600 for lodging, car rental, gas, food, two day cruises, and airfare.
We did fly for $5 each plus 25,000 miles and each person used their own AA miles). My father's seat assignment got messed up on the flight home and through the re-assigning process, his fare code was changed and he received his AA miles on the flight home. My mother and I are both lifetime Platinum on AA (over 2,000,000 miles for her and almost 3,000,000 for me); we were envious because we did not get any miles. AA let all four of us sit in the exit rows on the flights there and back.
Apr 10, 07, 4:43 pm
FlyForFun, fantastic post! So good I saved the info for myself.
Apr 11, 07, 1:50 am
I have talked to my parents and told them of the various options. I think they definitely want to head inland as opposed to kenai. They feel that they will be on a cruise for 7 days and should say many glaciers and probably some sea life, so they would rather see the mountains and wildlife towards denali. I see thier point and I think I agree with them.
I showed my dad a princess railtour and he really wants to do that although I kind of disagree with him. The denali lodge is unavailable for both nights. So either they can do two nights at the princess mckinley or one at each. I feel that they will be trapped at the princess mckinley without a car. I guess the hotel offers some tours, but I'm not sure they are as good. Plus they do not get you into the true heart of the park.
I think they should rent a car spend two nights at denali and take the bus tour along with some other activities in denali. But however I think my dad really wants to take the train and it really impractical to take the train one way and then rent a car. Plus I don't even know where you can rent a car. But I guess he feels it will be relaxing and such. Guess that goes to show our age difference. Well I guess it is their trip, but I think they are pretty much set on a rail tour.
Apr 11, 07, 7:29 am
The Princess train is very nice. The train doesn't stop for traffic jams on the highway which do happen. Frequently!
The passenger trains usually stop for at least one Denali photo op and sometimes if they spot animals along the way.
Your folks can visit with folks on the train which is something they can't do driving alone in the car. The train has nice rest rooms, food and big windows.
There's stuff to do at both Princess hotels. Don't worry about that.
Apr 11, 07, 8:53 pm
We rode the Denali Star Train from Fairbanks to Denali National Park. Then after staying at a wilderness lodge in Denali, we rode the Denali Star Train from Denali National Park to Anchorage.
We chose the Alaska Railroad's GoldStar Service. It costs more but provides assigned seating in a super nice observation car that provides a panoramic glass dome and an open-air observation deck. Also, you get complementary beverages (alcohol costs extra), cute little gift pack, priority check-in and boarding. Basically, GoldStar is equivalent to First Class service on a domestic airline.
You can see pictures and a complete description of the whole train experience at my website: http://larry.dtdns.net/Alaska/AlaskaRailroad/index.html
Definitely worth the time/money.
Apr 12, 07, 3:58 am
Great WEB site and photos. This will help people make decisions.
I've ridden plenty on the regular Alaska Railroad trains and especially on the less than wonderful winter trains, so seeing this new service is a good up date for me.
I don't go to Alaska in the summer when it is crowded so I doubt if I will get to do this particular trip on this nice train.
Apr 12, 07, 6:25 pm
I always love threads that discuss traveling to Alaska--I love helping people have a good time up here.
Let me answer a couple of points made here.
1. First, although you did say that you think they've decided to head inland (an idea I agree with), I wanted to let you know that they shouldn't plan on renting a car in Whittier. I do believe Avis maintains a branch in Whittier, but they're the only company that does--which means it's going to be at a premium rate (on top of the already-exorbitant summer rates up here--someone mentioned seeing a compact at $120 per week ($70 of which was taxes...that's a little high; it's 29.1% plus $4.12/day in fees)--in the summer, it would not be out of the question to see $120 per DAY in the middle of peak June/July season). Take the cruise line-provided transportation (usually a bus, although some charter a train) to Anchorage and rent there (if you can rent off-airport, you'll save the 11.1% airport concession fee and $4.12/day consolidated rental facility charge).
2. I do recommend the bus tour in Denali (there are actually several to choose from: first, the expensive tours operated by the cruise companies on nice motorcoaches that only go to Savage River (mile 15--you don't see anything on these) and the myriad of Park Service concessionaire-operated shuttles (really ex-schoolbuses and correspondingly uncomfortable) which offer various excursions (as far as Wonder Lake at the end of the road, something like a 10-hour round trip) but worth it for the wildlife and scenery. See the bus info here (http://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/bus-travel.htm) and of course the main Denali National Park site here (http://www.nps.gov/dena). Alternatively, an awesome view of Mt. McKinley and some great Denali flightseeing trips can be found at Talkeetna.
3. If they're just going to Denali, the train is a great option (and GoldStar Service is worth the small upgrade price). If you were to turn this whole thing into a two-week excursion and drive all around the state, I'd recommend taking a car for the freedom and the ability to drive to Fairbanks and then south down through Glenallen and maybe even Valdez. But on your short itinerary just north to the Park, there is little reason why a car would be useful outside of Anchorage, so the train would be a great option.
Here are some links to lot more discussion on ideas for an Alaska itinerary:
A thread at Kayak (http://www.kayak.com/h/chatter/thread/G-US-AK-28519/2fd0985543d8488a) with an extensive post by yours truly with a sample intinerary and reviews of my recommended restaurants in Anchorage (Moose's Tooth is on the list; I forgot about Arctic Roadrunner, though).
An FT thread (http://flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=575852) on a 10-day itinerary. Even though your trip will be much shorter, you could probably glean some useful ideas from this thread
Another FT thread (http://flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=576861), this time on a seven-day trip.
One last FT thread (http://flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=559223), this one discussing Princess lodges but also containing other useful ideas.
There are probably dozens of other useful threads, but these are the ones I've come across recently.
Apr 12, 07, 6:31 pm
oh gosh, i hate to tell you, but approaching 60 wouldn't be considered senior any longer. you'll find that out for yourself soon enough.
we took a 95 year old with us to alaska last year and she went kayaking.
Apr 12, 07, 6:40 pm
someone mentioned seeing a compact at $120 per week ($70 of which was taxes...that's a little high; it's 29.1% plus $4.12/day in fees)--
Read my post closely. I found economy car @ 120 per Sept. week plus 70 taxes at ANC on the Alamo website without trying any coupons. Is this clear now??