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Train to Seward, fjords

Washington DC...
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Train to Seward, fjords

We are a party of 6 (2 adults, 2 seniors, 2 children ages 11, 12) visiting Alaska for the first time late August and early September for 10 days. We have a tentative schedule and some reservations already made but had a couple of specific questions. Appreciate any advice and clarifications.

We have a rental car already but heard many good things about the train ride specifically from Anchorage to Seward. The problem is the schedule for that ride is from 6:45am to 11 am. Due to other logistics, we won't make that so wondered if the views are just as good going from Seward to Anchorage. That route is from 6pm to 10:15pm. Sun sets at 9pm ish so I'm assuming scenery is visible for majority of the trip. Is that route worth the ride or should we change things around to do the Anchorage to Seward instead? Are any other train rides in Alaska just as scenic? Our tentative schedule is around Anchorage, Seward area ( flexible: Homer, Kenai, Whittier, Girdwood..etc) and then up to Denali ( again, flexible stops: Talkeetna and maybe even up to Fairbanks).

Another question is touring the fjord. I'm so confused at the number of ways we can tour. We are not very experienced on boats (never been on cruises..etc). 9, 7.5..etc hours on a boat seem really long, esp if one or more of us get seasick (despite taking the planned medication as precaution). I think I read that larger boats (for longer rides) will also not be as rocky so may minimize the seasickness. Are the shorter trips pretty much the same as the longer ones? We'd like to get the most bang out of the time. Prices are not much of an issue.

Thanks so much!

fti
MN
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1. Re: Train to Seward, fjords

Welcome to the forum.

With 10 days, I suggest that Denali, Seward and Homer is the most you want to pack into your time. Do you have a tentative itinerary you can share? (include fixed reservations that can't be changed or can't be changed easily).

Personally I think the train is overrated. I took it once from Anchorage to Seward (before a cruise). It was nice and goes through an area that the road doesn't go through. But with the train you can't stop. In a car you can make multiple stops along the way. On the way back from Seward to Anchorage (if you took the train), one of you would have to drive the car (or pay a hefty one-way drop off fee with Hertz). And you miss one of the more scenic parts of the ride (just south of Anchorage) due to darkness (though you will have seen that in the car driving to Seward. My suggestion? For six of you, the car will be way cheaper so stick with that and use the money you save on other things.

Re: the Kenai Fjords tour. Any tour less than six hours (yes, even 5-1/2 hours) does not get out of the bay. That is great if you think you might get seasick (no travel in the open ocean) but you see a LOT less. No stop at a glacier to see it up close and possibly to see it calving. Very little chance to see whales. Less chances to see other marine wildlife, though you would see some on the bay cruise. Take Bonine or other precautions for seasickness. The tours that are 6 hours or longer do go into the open ocean, but not for a super long time. Plus, if the seas are rough they might limit the tour to the bay anyway (and give you a partial refund or a chance to cancel for no charge).

The train ride between Anchorage and Denali pretty much parallels the road and takes quite a long time. Perhaps if you are in Talkeetna you could consider the Hurricane Train. It is more of a local train. Takes about 6 hours to go from Talkeetna to Hurricane Gulch and back to Talkeetna. I think it runs $65/person but you can get 2-for-1 coupons for it. You could even get from Anchorage to Talkeetna the same day you board that train (or Denali to Talkeetna). Then spend the night in Talkeetna and go to your next destination the next day.

Also, for the Kenai Fjords tours there are often discount coupons available for those as well. Sometimes $50/person off, sometimes 2-for-1. Check the details under the Top Questions about Alaska then look for the topic about the coupon books.

Duluth, Minnesota
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2. Re: Train to Seward, fjords

We rode the train roundtrip Anch to Seward and back, with the day spent walking around Seward. Well worth it for my money, and the coupon books work for the train.

The 6.5 hr National parks cruise is pretty cool...it doesn't feel like you're on the boat that long, and we didn't see anyone looking bored:) Nor did we see any sign of seasickness, but it was a pretty calm day. Again, an excellent trip, and 1/2 price for 4 of us with 2 coupons.

Washington DC...
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3. Re: Train to Seward, fjords

fti

Wow, you just answered all my questions! Thanks so much!

I wondered how great the train ride really was but with the difficult schedule, I don't think I'll have regrets skipping that now.

And most definitely, we'll take the longer cruise to get out to the ocean.

Really helped me move forward on the rest of the planning! Thanks very much!

Edited: 07 August 2013, 00:41
Seattle, Washington
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4. Re: Train to Seward, fjords

Which tour company did you take for your Alaska cruise that had a parks guide?

Duluth, Minnesota
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5. Re: Train to Seward, fjords

Major Marine has a 7 hr (or 6.5, I'm not sure) National parks cruise compleat with park ranger. Nice guy, and good with the kids that were onboard.

Washington DC...
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6. Re: Train to Seward, fjords

Tania B,

I haven't picked one yet. I am still trying to decide. Any recommendations?

MNman,

That goes completely out to the open ocean? I was thinking of taking the longer ones but I'll take your recommendation into consideration. Thanks!

Edited: 07 August 2013, 15:14
Duluth, Minnesota
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7. Re: Train to Seward, fjords

Yup, open ocean for sure. Glaciers , whales, bird rookeries, very cool day:)

Leicester
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8. Re: Train to Seward, fjords

We went with Major Marine on 6/22 on the 7.5 hr tour and it was one of the best days we had on a 2 week Alaska trip! Saw lots and lots of wildlife and the ranger on board was excellent. However, this is my shout out to MM's customer service: about 2/3 of the way into the tour I had taken a picture of an otter. When I finished I dropped the camera into what I thought was my pocket, but it was really thin air! Yes, I can still see it hitting the side of the boat and dropping into the water! Well, there goes all Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage. Anyway, I was a little upset and the crew gave me one of the USB ports they sell for $25. It was a very nice gesture and I'll think highly of them for many years.

Washington DC...
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9. Re: Train to Seward, fjords

mimi312, MNman

Thanks for the inputs.

I looked into Major Marine cruises and though I like the sound of the shorter cruise that still go out to open ocean (vs the 9 hr ones), I was concerned with some of the reviews: smoking allowed, crowded conditions, crew (?). I'll have to just decide as there are pros and cons to both. Thanks again.

Edited: 08 August 2013, 18:46
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10. Re: Train to Seward, fjords

Just to clarify, Major Marine does have a non-smoking policy:

http://www.majormarine.com/contact/faq/