Seward Cruise Port and Transportation

Holland America, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line all use the Port of Seward as the northern end of their 7-day Alaska Glacier Cruises sailing to and from Vancouver B.C.   Seward is a fantastic location to launch further explorations in Alaska to such locations as the nearby Kenai Fjords National Park and beyond to Denali National Park. Seward is located 127 road miles from Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.  Important because Anchorage is also the location of the South-central Alaska’s only airport that has daily domestic and international flights.  Seward and Anchorage are linked both by highway and the Alaska Railroad so cruise passengers can choose to either travel by motor coach via the scenic Seward Highway or by the Alaska Railroad. A great option that Alaska Tour & Travel operates is the Park Connection Motorcoach, our scheduled, twice daily, motor coach service between Seward and Anchorage with same day connections to Denali as well.   (more…)

Car-less in Denali

We often are asked, “how do you get around in Denali if we don’t have our own car?” Well, it is fairly easy with a little planning and knowledge of the transportation options to get to and around Denali. Traveling to Denali, we usually recommend traveling one way via the Alaska Railroad or the Wilderness Express and the other way by The Park Connection Motorcoach.  The Park Connection departs from and drops off at all of the major hotels in Denali and the hotels we recommend are selected in part because they pick up and drop off at the railroad depot.  Once in Denali, there is a network of National Park Service shuttles and local Denali hotel and tour operators that provide complimentary transportation to clients. The next step to planning a visit to Denali National Park without your own car is to select a hotel which provides a shuttle service into the Denali Park entrance area and to the Alaska Railroad Depot.

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The McKinley Explorer’s New Alaska Rail Schedule for 2014

In the past, there was only one northbound and one southbound scheduled passenger train between Anchorage, Talkeetna, and Denali. This train route is traditionally called the Denali Star. New for 2014 is a second train traveling the Denali Star route that may be more convenient for some traveler’s schedules.

Alaska RailroadThe Alaska Railroad’s standard Denali Star scheduled service will continue to depart Anchorage at 8:15am and arrive in Denali at 3:40pm. This train service includes the standard Alaska Railroad Adventure class cars and their Goldstar Dome deluxe cars as well as the privately operated Wilderness Express Dome cars which are pulled at the back of the train. The Wilderness Express offers a great value for independent travelers looking for a premium dome service and is highly rated as well. For guests traveling south from Denali, the Alaska Railroad’s standard Denali Star scheduled service will depart at 12:30pm and arrive in Anchorage at 8:00pm.

New for 2014 is that there is an additional rail departure northbound and southbound between Anchorage, Talkeetna and Denali that will strictly pull the McKinley Explorer Dome cars owned by Holland America-Princess. The McKinley Explorer is customarily the cars used by Princess and Holland America cruise-tour clients but are also available for independent travelers who book in advance. This rail service offers dome seating, open–air viewing platforms and a full dining room in the lower level of the train car. The McKinley Explorer Dome cars will travel on the same Denali Star route but will depart Anchorage at 9:15am, Talkeetna at noon, and arrive in Denali at 4:40pm. (more…)

Alaska’s Wilderness Express Dome Rail Service

IMG_7564Travel by rail in Alaska received an infusion when the Wilderness Express was purchased by Alaskan owned and operated Premier Alaska Tours prior to last summer. The Wilderness Express is a deluxe, private dome rail service that travels on the same route and schedule as the Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star service between Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali and Fairbanks. In fact, it’s attached and beginning this year will act as the “caboose” providing for clear rear views from its outside viewing platform.

Traditionally a rail service that only Celebrity and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line passengers were able to experience, a few independent Alaska visitors traveled on the private dome rail service in 2014 and their reviews were excellent. The dome cars offer 80 leather upholstered seats in the upper dome that recline. The upper dome service also offers a full bar service and espresso bar while the lower dome’s host the restaurant, gift shop, restrooms, and viewing platform. (more…)

Here Comes The Sun – The Norwegian Sun!

norwegian-sunNew for 2013, Norwegian Cruise Line has deployed the Norwegian Sun, to what we believe is the best cruise itinerary that can be offered in Alaska – a 7-day Gulf of Alaska cruise. The Norwegian Sun’s northbound and southbound cruises do not travel to all of the same ports. The Northbound cruises from Vancouver travel to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and Hubbard Glacier before arriving in Whittier. The southbound cruises from Whittier travel to Hubbard Glacier, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, and Ketchikan before arriving in Vancouver, BC.

The primary difference is that the northbound Norwegian Sun cruise includes a visit to Glacier Bay National Park whereas the southbound cruises include Icy Strait Point. Icy Strait Point is located on Chichagof Island, about 1.5 miles away from the town of Hoonah. Icy Strait showcases the local native Tinglet culture in addition to the many of the typical shore excursions found in other Alaska ports such as saltwater fishing and whale watching excursions. It’s hard to imagine beating a trip into Glacier Bay National Park on a cruise ship, but Icy Strait Point has an excellent reputation so both cruise itineraries are bound to be well received by cruisers. (more…)

Dining on the Alaska Railroad

ARR-WildernessexplorerMost visitors who explore Alaska’s South-central and Interior travel at least a portion of their vacation by Alaska railroad. The railroad provides a quality means of transportation from Seward to the south, to Fairbanks in the north with Anchorage, Talkeetna and Denali being the primary destinations in between. While the railroad is likely the most memorable means of transport in Alaska, it isn’t known as being “bullet train” fast so due to the distances involved you will likely be eating at least one meal on board each of the rail segments that you travel on. It’s good then that dining on board is such a fantastic way of passing time while enjoying the Alaska scenery. (more…)

Seward Alaska Day Trip from Anchorage

I have defined many words in my years of high school. Ranging from ascorbic and acidic, to picaresque and punctilious, I have covered a great breadth of vocabulary. But if I were to be put to the task of defining Alaska, I would be forced to fall short. In a task too daunting, I would simply be forced to write “You must see for yourself.” After exploring Alaska on a recent day trip to Seward, I saw that it could not be simply defined through its glaciers and mountains, or its wildlife and human life. I saw that it could only be defined through a firsthand experience.
 
Many people know the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but I would take it a step further in saying that an experience is worth a thousand pictures. Millions and millions of photographs exist that depict many aspects of Alaska. But until a person truly experiences Alaska, those pictures will not have any real meaning. Take a picture of a breeching orca, if you are amazed by that still candid, then the true experience will be like no other. To witness such a monstrous creature arc and spout, knowing it is outside all human control, is both breathtaking and new. For it is a natural show, nothing planned, but still much more than any scheduled event.

My girlfriend and I set forth on our day trip to Seward on an early summer morning from Anchorage. We had made the decision to take the Park Connection bus down, and the Alaska Railroad back later that day. Boarding the bus from the Egan Center in Downtown Anchorage, we left at around seven that morning. Because travelers often prefer to take the afternoon bus, our morning departure only had five or six other passengers on the bus with us. Through the first portion of our ride the driver had a good amount to say about Anchorage, Seward, and many of the places we were passing along the way. As we reached the more scenic portion of the drive, our driver allowed us to sit back in the comfortable seating and enjoy all that Alaska had to offer for us. It was almost surreal to watch the rivers flow by, accented by the bright green pine trees and vibrant wildflowers of every color. I soon drifted off to sleep, lulled by the beauty of Alaskan nature.  (more…)

Tips for Driving The Alaska Highway

We receive frequent questions regarding driving the Alaska Highway.  How long will it take?  What route should we take?  What services are available?  These are just some of the most common questions.  Alaska Tour & Travel does not offer any lodging or tours along this highway but we thought we should steer those interested to the best travel guides to help with the trip! The Alaska Highway is commonly called the Alcan Highway as it begins in Canada and ends in Alaska.  It was constructed in 1942 to serve as a link between Alaska and the contiguous United States (known locally as the “Lower 48”).  The highway has seen vast improvements since its construction, not only in road conditions but in services provided for travelers.  Now the highway is somewhat of a tourist destination in and of itself, not just a way of getting to Alaska!  Alaska Highway travelers truly experience the vastness of Alaska and are amazed at the scenery and wildlife offered by the last great frontier. (more…)

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