Direct-to-the-Wilderness® rail service

Princess Cruises exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness service allows you to step off your cruise ship in Whittier onto your unique Princess rail service and arrive at your Princess wilderness lodge that same afternoon. Or, on southbound itineraries, leave the Denali area and enjoy a direct link to your awaiting cruise ship in Whittier. Because fewer transfers and less time waiting makes for a more relaxing and hassle-free trip.

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Princess Cruisetours

 

Denali Explorer & On Your Own Cruisetours

Denali Explorer cruisetours include up to four nights at Princess wilderness lodges at Denali.

 

Most tours include exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness® rail service and all include the Natural History Tour into Denali National Park. ( Optional Tundra Wilderness Tour Upgrade )

 

On Your Own options have no scheduled activities so you can customize how you want to spend your free time.  3 days on land from just $299 more than a 7-day cruise!* With no sightseeing activities included, you’ll have the flexibility to create your own adventure with optional land excursions.

Find out More About Denali Explorer and On Your Own Cruisetours

 

Off The Beaten Path Cruisetours

These cruisetours include key benefits of the Denali Explorer itineraries, plus visits to less-frequented regions like Copper River and Wrangell–St. Elias National Park, and the Kenai Peninsula.

Find Out More About Off The Beaten Path Cruisetours

 

Connoisseur Escorted Cruisetours

These deluxe escorted cruisetours represent the highest level of service with a tour director on land and most meals included. They include up to four nights at a combination of both Mt. McKinley and Denali Princess wilderness lodges, with enhanced sightseeing experiences, such as the longer Tundra Wilderness Tour into Denali National Park. Plus, there are options to visit the Kenai Peninsula and Wrangell–St. Elias National Park. 

 

Find out More About Connoisseur Cruisetours


 

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“ What's the real difference between a Holland America and a Princess Cruise Tour of Alaska ”    

Raye & Marty Trencher

Editors and Publishers

Cruise Traveler Magazine

 



Q. "My husband and I are considering taking an 11 or 12 day 'Denali National Park' cruise tour with either Holland America or Princess Cruises. Both cruise lines itinerary are very similar - 7 night cruise including visiting Glacier Bay, a Tundra Wilderness tour of Denali National Park,  a night in Fairbanks, and 2 nights in Denali.  However the cruise lines brand their rail travel, expressing that they are "exclusive", the McKinley Explorer, for Holland and the Denali Express for Princess. Is there an advantage to doing the rail by Princess over Holland America?

We also noticed that, for what looks like a similar cruise vacation, it costs much more on Holland America, costing almost $1300 more per person for a verandah ( balcony ) cabin vs. Princess' balcony that sells for around  $2500 per person. My husband thinks we can even get a suite for less that Holland America charges.

What do we need to know before we choose which cruise line to see Alaska? Could you explain why there is such a difference between Princess Cruises and Holland America, not only on price but amenities as well?"

A. OK, here's what you need to know before you go....

 

The Cruise Ships That Sail Alaska

Each cruise line's ships that sail Alaska have a "personality" of their own and you should review the amenities, onboard programs, entertainment and dining options to decide which cruise ship best fits your lifestyle. Holland America tends to attract a more "senior" traveler, while Princess tends to attract travelers of all ages, especially middle age couples and families.

 

When it comes to choosing a cruise ship to sail Alaska, the difference between seeing Alaska and understanding Alaska is what the cruise line brings to life, while onboard. 

 

Onboard enrichment programs introduce the real Alaska for a personalized perspective of America's last frontier. As an example, Princess cruises brings aboard speakers to share their Alaska adventures, such as the grueling 1,100-mile Iditarod sled dog race. In Skagway, you'll enjoy the entertainment of an Alaskan storyteller. And in Ketchikan, a U.S. Forest Service naturalist will present a program about the largest forest in the country, Tongass National Forest. Alaska's intriguing flora, fauna and geology come to life by the full-time onboard naturalists who sails with you the entire length of the cruise.

 

While in Glacier Bay National Park, rangers from the National Park Service will board the cruise ship to serve as tour guides and answer questions about this national treasure. Rangers also lead our Junior Ranger and Teen Explorer programs in Glacier Bay, which teach kids about the wildlife and scenery in a fun and entertaining way.

Dining onboard spotlights local specialties like fresh Alaskan Seafood. You will also like the Taste of Alaska Buffet, a festive on-deck Fish Barbeque and a Reindeer Chili and Rockfish Chowder Cook-Off. The Chef's Alaskan Dinner and Glacier Bay Gala Buffet are highlights of your Alaska cruise. Or indulge in a romantic Glacier Bay Champagne Breakfast served on your own balcony onboard Princess Cruises.

 

The Rail Services

Now when you disembark the ship, the difference between Princess and Holland America become more clear.

 

First, Princess Cruises docks in Whittier, Holland America in Seward. Whittier is much closer to Anchorage, when most northbound cruise tours begin.  So, travel time is significantly reduced.  If you are headed direct to Denali and will not be visiting Anchorage, Princess offers a real exclusive: "Direct-to-the-Wilderness® Alaska Rail Service".

 

Princess Cruises exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness service allows you to step off your cruise ship in Whittier onto the Princess rail service cars and arrive at their Princess Wilderness Lodge that same afternoon. Or, on southbound itineraries, guests leave the Denali area and board the train for a direct link to your awaiting cruise ship in Whittier. Because fewer transfers and less time waiting makes for a more relaxing and hassle-free trip,  Princess exclusive cruise ship-rail-lodge connection takes you straight to Denali National Park.

 

While others  like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Holland America are still in transit, you'll be enjoying more time at one of Princess' two Denali area lodges. The connection is seamless. You step directly from your ship onto your waiting railcar. Sit back, read, chat, dine and marvel at the panoramic vistas from their domed observation lounge. You arrive at Denali that same day ready to experience the wonders you've traveled so far to see.

If reaching your destination nearly a full day earlier than with any other cruise tour company is important to you. Then consider Princess Cruises. It could mean more time to sit by the fire, linger over grilled salmon and soak up the comfort and luxury of Princess Cruises, Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.

A word about the train. If the rail portion of your cruise tour departs from Anchorage, you will notice that Holland America's rail cars, marketed as the "McKinley Explorer" and Princess Cruises railcars marketed as "McKinley Express" actually travel together on the same train.

 

The train's engine is operated by the Alaska Railroad, which "pulls" the private rail cars of Princess, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.  So, for everyone the view out the window or on the observation decks is the same.  There are some differences on the rail cars themselves, but each cruise line offers glass dome views, onboard dining options, expert guide service and commentary along the way.

 

Denali National Park

Sightseeing inside Denali National Park is operated by the National Park Service, so the tours in the park are identical no matter what cruise line you travel with.

 

With Princess,  you can choose your own park tour!  Most Princess Alaska land and sea vacations include a tour through the park, plus Princess offers the flexibility to choose your preferred experience from three unique tour options. Park tour options include: Denali Natural History Tour, Tundra Wilderness Tour and Kantishna Experience. Your itinerary and time constraints may limit your options.

 

Denali Natural History Tour

Duration: Approximately 6 1/2 hours

Tour Highlights:
    Fully narrated tour that focuses on the rich history of Denali National Park
     
    Travels to Primrose Ridge (Mile 17) for scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities
     
    Includes a screening of “Across Time and Tundra”, a film that depicts development of the park road and early visitor experiences
     
    Stop at Savage Cabin to visit a rustic, back-country shelter used by rangers for decades
     
    Alaskan Native Presentation
     
    Possible opportunity to see Mt. Mckinley (weather permitting)
     
Recommended for:
    Passengers who are interested in Denali’s history, culture and nature
     
    Passengers who have limited time in Denali and want to more thoroughly experience their lodge and/or land excursions
     
    Passengers who prefer to have more free time in Denali
     
Tundra Wilderness Tour

Duration: Approximately 9 hours

Tour Highlights:
    Comprehensive, fully narrated tour that travels deep into Denali National Park (Mile 53)
     
    In-depth information about the history of the park with plentiful wildlife and photography opportunities
     
    Travels over Sable Pass to scenic Polychrome Overlook
     
    Stony Hill Overlook provides opportunities to see Mt. McKinley (weather permitting)
     
    Note: The Teklanika Tundra Wilderness Tour is seasonally offered in place of the Tundra Wilderness Tour when the park road is not fully accessible due to weather.
     
Recommended for:
    Passengers with 2-night stays at Denali
     
    Passengers who want a deep Denali Park experience
     
    Passengers who enjoy motorcoach travel
     
Kantishna Experience

Duration: Approximately 14 hours

Tour Highlights:
    All day tour that travels to the end of the park road (Mile 91)
     
    This tour is guided by a National Park Service Interpretive Ranger
     
    Explore the old gold mining town of Kantishna and learn about its history
     
    Stop at the restored home of Fannie Quigley and learn about the early settlers
     
    Visit the Eielson Visitor Center and Wonder Lake
     
    Abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing
     
    Possible opportunities to see Mt. Mckinley (weather permitting)
     
    Limited space availability
     
    Note: This tour does not operate when the park road is not fully accessible due to weather.
     
Recommended for:
    Passengers with 2-night stays at Denali
     
    Passengers who want to travel to the end of the park road
     
    Passengers who enjoy motorcoach travel
     
Other Helpful Information
 
    Don’t wait; availability is limited. Space is assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Not all requests can be accommodated.
     
    A snack and hot beverage is provided on the Natural History Tour.
     
    Box lunches and beverages are provided on the Tundra Wilderness Tour and the Kantishna Experience.
     
    Wheelchair accessible buses are available, and all stops are wheelchair accessible.
     
    Children under 4 years and/or 40 pounds are required to be in a child safety device (car seat) to ride on buses. Passengers must bring their own child safety device.
     
    Tour buses are school buses and are not equipped with restrooms. Buses will stop approximately every 90 minutes for restroom breaks.
     
    Park road is not paved and travels through beautiful Alaskan wilderness – wildlife is not guaranteed.
     
    Privately owned vehicles are not permitted into the National Park.
     
    Suggested items to bring include warm clothes, rainwear, insect repellant, camera, binoculars, and personal medications as necessary

     

Hotel/Lodge Accommodations

Where you stay in Alaska may matter to you. Both Holland America and Princess offer lodges and hotels in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Denali. Princess also offers accommodations at Cooper River and Kenai. There are differences between the two cruise lines. First, Princess owns their own lodges. ( visit www.princesslodges.com ) So, the  hotel/lodge staff are employees of Princess. This is important, for seamless continuity of service. Holland America and the other cruise lines, contract out hotel space for their guests.

 

Getting around Alaska, with the exception of the rail services provided, is by motorcoach. Grayline of Alaska provides the bus transportation for Holland America. Princess provides its own transportation. Both offer driver/guide commentary along the way.

For more information and to compare Princess, Holland America, Royal Caribbean or Celebrity cruise tours of Alaska, visit Alaska Cruises Direct. www.alaskacruisesdirect.com

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See Why Princess Cruises was voted  Best Cruise Line in Alaska

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Nestled in a prime location near the entrance to Denali National Park, this gorgeous lodge is the perfect starting point for your wilderness adventure.

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On a bluff overlooking the largest national park, this lodge has a wall of windows featuring dramatic views of Wrangell-St. Elias.

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Did You Know: Grizzly bears have been a threatened species since 1975 in the Lower 48 states? Alaska however has over 32,000 grizzlies. Considering Alaska's population is only 670,000, that's 1 bear for every 21 people. Alaska is home to magnificent glaciers, giant halibut, hardy outdoorsmen.... and lots of moose. Alaska has 39 mountain ranges. Did you know? The larger ranges include: Alaska Range, which includes 20,320 foot Mt. McKinley, the continent's tallest peak , Aleutian Range, a volcano-ridden range on the Alaska Peninsula, Brooks Range, which is above the Arctic Circle; the Continental Divide runs through it and Boundary Ranges, along the Canadian border of the Inside Passage.


" Our trip was excellent. The room, with the upgrades, was amazing! We saw many eagles (bald and golden), one bear, many whales, including one breach, seals, one bear, one wolf, moose and carribou, and many smaller animals.. If we travelled during salmon run, we probably would have seen more bear and eagles. The scenery is to die for, the vistas spectacular. The ship was great; service, food, etc were all great. Thanks for everything. "

Larry Seidler - Island Princess


Ask an Alaska visitor about his or her trip and you'll likely hear tales about the state's exotic and awe inspiring wildlife. Chances are, you'll be regaled with stories and photos of the encounters with Alaska's wildlife. And who can blame them? Pictures of Alaska's moose, bears, caribou, bald eagles, whales and dozens of other wild species can be a trip's best (and most memorable) souvenirs. For those who cruise Alaska by sea, there's the opportunity to spot the breathtaking breach of a humpback whale or soaring seabirds such as puffins, terns, gulls, eiders and many others. Learn more about wildlife viewing in Alaska