Monday, April 4, 2016

Cruise News: Princess guests sailing Alaska, experience unique local culture and more!

If you're looking to book a cruise to Alaska this summer or next, better book now for 2016 and as early as possible for 2017 - peak season sailings, Alaska land + sea vacations and the best cabins sell out first. Over 12 cruise lines sail Alaska , among the best is Princess Cruises. The cruise line operates its own ships, hotels and lodges, rail and motorcoach services in Alaska.  However, what sets them apart from all the others, are the unique cultural events and activities guests experience. For instance, Princess Cruises offers their exclusive award-winning "North to Alaska" program that brings local personalities, interactions with Alaskans, culture and cuisine onboard, and ashore to immerse guests in all things Alaska. From world famous fresh Alaska seafood, to a Klondike gold rush festival, to guest speakers from Discovery’s Deadliest Catch, they immerse guests in the best of the Great Land.

Here's a preview....
Princess Cruises features fresh Alaska Seafood including King Crab, King Salmon and Halibut sure to be savored!

  • Cook my Catch - Reel in your fish during the day while on an excursion and enjoy it later that night for dinner! From the ocean, to your table - in the same day.
  • Alaska Seafood - An Alaska-themed dinner in the main dining rooms and special Alaska seafood menus in the specialty restaurants onboard.
  • Local Dives! - Specialty dishes from local eateries including Tracy's King Crab Shack, The Alaska Fish House, and the Skagway Fish Company.
  • Princess' newest Seawitch craft beer - Denali Red - Brewed in partnership with the Denali Brewing Company.

  • Puppies in the Piazza – Meet some of Skagway's newest sled dogs onboard. Snap a picture with the puppies and meet their dog handlers who will be training them for a life of dog mushing.
  • Meet the Mountain Climber – Hear first-hand from mountain climbers who have conquered Denali as they tell the exhilarating stories of their journey and present thrilling photos in the new Hudson Theater at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.
  • Tales from the Deadliest Catch* – From the popular Discovery Channel program, "Deadliest Catch", Captain David Lethin and his shipmates from The Aleutian Ballad relate their true-life adventures and experiences in the Bering Sea in pursuit of crab.
  • Logger Heads* – Living Like a Lumberjack Guests will be treated to a stimulating and exciting presentation that reveals the life and adventures of your host, an actual Alaskan Lumberjack, and will include an authentic axe-throwing competition with selected guests.
  • Alaska Legend Libby Riddles – Meet renowned dog musher Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the grueling 1,100-mile Iditarod sled dog race. She comes aboard in Juneau to share tales of her historic triumph, answer questions and even sign autographs. You won’t want to miss this special Princess exclusive.
  • Alaskan Storyteller Steve Hites – In Skagway, Alaskan storyteller and musician Steve Hites comes on board to perform his “North to Alaska” show. This tribute to the Klondike days brings the region’s folklore, history and poetry of the era to life with plenty of rollicking humor.
  • Tales from the Wild* – with Nick Jans
    New York Times best-selling author, and renowned storyteller Nick Jans comes aboard to tell his compelling, emotional story of Romeo, the wolf, and the effect he had on the people of Juneau, as told in his book, "A Wolf Called Romeo".

  • Discovery at Sea – Inside Alaska with Discovery
    In partnership with the Discovery Networks, Alaska cruises will feature content from the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet on the wildlife, terrain, history, and adventures from Alaska. Discovery Networks shows such as "Gold Rush!" and "Panning for Gold", along with episodes of "Deadliest Catch" and "The Klondike" mini-series will be featured.
  • The Klondike Festival
    Experience the thrill and excitement of a real Klondike Festival, hearkening back to the good ol’, bad ol’ days of gold rush fever with authentic Alaska entertainment. Fun for the whole family, the festival includes gold nugget arts and crafts projects, a Naturalist presentation, harmonica music classes, and North to Alaska dance performances. Enjoy Alaska movies shown on Movies Under the Stars or listen to a guitarist on deck while sipping hot chocolate.
  • Alaska Explorers Youth Program
    In partnership with the Glacier Bay Rangers and the Discovery Channel, kids and teens can explore their adventurous side with activities such as the Jr. Ranger Program, panning for gold, and the Deadliest Catch Crab Sort Challenge.

*Nearly all Alaska voyages will feature either the "Tales from the Deadliest Catch", "the Logger Heads" or the "Tales from the Wild".

North to Alaska onboard enrichment programs. Click here to learn more.

Glacier Bay National Park - A Cruise Wonder
Stunning glaciers, pristine waterways and watching for wildlife are a few of the things you experience while slowly cruising through dazzling Glacier Bay National Park, named one of the 7 Cruise Wonders of the World by Condé Nast Traveler  and Princess is the best way to see this Ice Age marvel.

Six Princess Cruises ships will sail Alaska this summer. 

Roundtrip cruises offer a seven-day cruise vacation filled with glacier-carved fjords, forested islets and quaint ports along Alaska’s famed Inside Passage with port calls in Juneau Alaska, Skagway Alaska, Ketchikan Alaska and Victoria, Canada.
Inside Passage Cruises are offered on Ruby Princess and Crown Princess from Seattle and Grand Princess from San Francisco.

The line's northbound ( Vancouver-Whittier (Anchorage) ) or southbound ( Whittier (Anchorage) - Vancouver ) cruises offer the Voyage of the Glaciers experience.
Princess Cruises' Voyage of the Glaciers sailing is the top-rated Alaska cruise vacation and with good reason. This comprehensive itinerary sails north or south through the British Columbia and Alaska portions of the Inside Passage for more stunning scenery at every turn.
Along the way, you’ll visit Gold Rush-era ports of Juneau Alaska, Skagway Alaska, and Ketchikan Alaska plus enjoy two spectacular glacier viewing experiences - including Glacier Bay National Park! Sail on Coral Princess, Star Princess and Island Princess.

A northbound seven night Voyage of the Glaciers offers a cruise fare of $699 per person for an inside cabin during off peak travel times. Alaska cruises sail May to September, with June, July and August at peak season prices.

The cruise line's Alaska Land and Sea Vacations package offer flexible ways to immerse yourself deeper into the Alaska frontier, visiting Denali National Park, Anchorage, or Fairbanks. Add to your 7 day cruise a 3-7 day land tour and you will experience Alaska's glaciers, wildlife and national parks from the perspective of spectacular ships, exclusive rail service and Princess-owned wilderness lodges. You can choose to take a land tour before or after your cruise. Here are some of the options available:

Denali Explorer - This is Princess Cruises most popular Alaska land & sea vacation and best value. Featuring Direct-to-the-Wilderness rail service on most options - a Princess exclusive - to take you between ship and the Alaska wilderness, you’ll enjoy 7 days at sea and up to 6 nights at Princess wilderness lodges, including at legendary Denali National Park, plus a visit to Fairbanks or Anchorage. It’s one of the best ways to see all the best of Alaska!

On Your Own - A more affordable option, Princess Cruises  On Your Own land & sea vacations are geared for the more independent-minded traveler. With no pre-scheduled sightseeing activities, this option lets guests customize their 3 to 4 nights on land with a variety of optional land excursions.

Off the Beaten Path - Beyond Denali National Park, there is much more to see and these Alaska land & sea vacations can take you there. In addition to a 7 day Alaska cruise and at least two nights visiting the Denali area, you can venture further afield to massive Wrangell-St. Elias National Park or explore “Alaska’s Playground” — the Kenai Peninsula — as well as the Golden Heart City of Fairbanks and/or Anchorage.

Connoisseur Cruisetours - This is the ultimate Alaska land and sea vacation, featuring a tour director escort, our highest level of service and most meals on land included. Spend 5 to 8 nights on land at Princess wilderness lodges visiting Denali and perhaps, sensational places like Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and/or the Kenai Peninsula.

To learn more about the Princess Cruises Alaska experience, visit or call 800.365.1445.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Alaska Certified Cruise Experts Unveils Princess Cruises' 2017 Alaska Cruise and Land & Sea Vacation Program

Alaska Certified Cruise Experts Unveils Princess Cruises' 2017 Alaska Cruise and Land & Sea Vacation Program

Enhanced North to Alaska Experiences Bring Authentic Alaska Onboard; Optional Land & Sea Vacations Provide Immersive Exploration into the Heart of the Great Land. Now available from Alaska Certified Cruise Experts.


March 25, 2016 --- Next summer, six Princess Cruises' ships will sail Alaska's storied waters, offering multiple itinerary options, immersive onboard culinary and cultural experiences and a variety of Land & Sea Vacations for further exploring the 49th state's vast wilderness.
The line's signature Voyage of the Glaciers itinerary, with its unrivaled glacier-viewing opportunities, will be offered by Alaska Certified Cruise Experts part of Alaska Cruises Direct on Coral Princess, Star Princess and Island Princess between Whittier (Anchorage) and Vancouver, B.C.; while cruises through the Inside Passage, with its ever-changing scenery from picturesque shores to quaint coastal towns, will be offered aboard Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess from Seattle and Grand Princess from San Francisco.

While on board, guests will encounter a variety of ways to engage in authentic experiences through the award-winning North to Alaska program, featuring the newest Cook My Catch, an exclusive culinary program allowing guests to return from select Princess fishing excursions to have the chef prepare their very own catch of the day. Also offered in 2017, the crowd-favorite Puppies in the Piazza, where real Alaskan sled dog puppies are brought on board for guests to interact with. On land, guests will hear first-hand tales from mountain climbers who have conquered Denali as they tell the exhilarating stories of their journey in the new Hudson Theater at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.
In addition, the cruise line's Land & Sea Vacations will offer flexible ways to delve deeper into the fascinating Alaska frontier. Land tours are combined with a seven-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise and include the company's premier wilderness lodges, exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness Glass-Domed Rail Service, plus visits to the top two attractions in Alaska – Glacier Bay National Park and Denali National Park.

All 2017 Alaska cruises and Land and Sea Vacations are open for booking.

"As the #1 cruise line in Alaska, Princess continues to offer guests the best of this beautiful state while on land and at sea," said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. "From wilderness and glaciers to fresh salmon and sled dog puppies, the newest North to Alaska experiences truly delivers on our commitment to ensuring our guests come back new."

Alaska Cruises Direct : Princess' 2017 Alaska program includes:

Alaska Cruises
With 113 departures from Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver and Whittier featuring unique ports and destinations, options abound for exploring Alaska in 2017 aboard Princess ships, including:

Voyage of the Glaciers – Princess' most popular Gulf of Alaska sailings between Vancouver and Whittier features two glacier-viewing experiences on every voyage, with visits to the UNESCO-listed Glacier Bay National Park plus either Hubbard Glacier or College Fjord.
Inside Passage –This awe-inspiring part of Alaska, known for its lush scenery and pristine fjords, will be featured on seven- and 10-day roundtrip voyages with the option to visit Glacier Bay on select sailings from Seattle, Vancouver and San Francisco.

Alaska Land & Sea Vacations
Princess offers guests more than 20 Land and Sea Vacations in 2017, most featuring multiple nights at Princess-owned Wilderness Lodges to experience the grandeur of Denali. Guests will once again be able to purchase a pre-paid meal package for the land portion of their vacation in 2017. Options include:

Denali Explorer – As Princess' most popular Land & Sea Vacation, these itineraries feature multiple nights at the line's Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and/or Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. Most offer Princess' exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness rail service between the ship in Whittier and the Denali area all in one day, plus the opportunity to explore Fairbanks and/or Anchorage.
On Your Own – An affordable option for independent-minded travelers, these itineraries offer a flexible way to see the heart of Alaska. Tours follow similar routes as Denali Explorer options, but do not include any pre-planned excursions, giving travelers the opportunity to customize their own experience.
Off the Beaten Path – These itineraries are designed to take travelers beyond Denali to sought-after, remote regions of the state such as the Kenai Peninsula and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.  
Connoisseur – The line's highest level of service, these tours provide a truly immersive experience. With a professional tour director, most meals included and enhanced sightseeing, guests experience the best of the Great Land.
Heart of the Rockies Plus Rail – This 14-night cruisetour originates in Calgary and includes daylight Silverleaf rail service on the Rocky Mountaineer. The fully escorted land tour combines with a seven-day northbound Voyage of the Glaciers cruise on Star Princess and includes most breakfasts and dinners. Spectacular overnight accommodations are offered at Fairmont Palliser Hotel, Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

More information about Princess Cruises 2017 Alaska program can be found here.
Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through this professional travel consultant, Alaska Cruises Direct by calling 800.365.1445 or by visiting the company's website at

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Princess Cruises announced today the launch of Cook My Catch, an exclusive Alaskan culinary experience

Princess Cruises announced today the launch of Cook My Catch, an exclusive Alaskan culinary experience offering guests the ability to enjoy their very own catch of the day while on vacation with the leading cruise line in Alaska.

 The unique cruise dining experience is available on Princess cruise vacations during port calls in Juneau and Ketchikan, as well as Princess Land & Sea Vacations featuring stays at Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge and Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge. The new offering is available on select Princess shore excursions including Salmon Sport Fishing Adventure in Juneau; Salmon Sport Fishing Expedition, Hunting for Halibut and the Discovery Exclusive Alaska Fishing & Wilderness Dining excursion in Ketchikan. As guests return from their excursion, they select their preferred preparation and accompaniments to be prepared by the culinary team – a unique way to enjoy their very own, wild Alaska seafood.

 Cook My Catch is just one of many enhancements Princess is making to the award-winning North to Alaska program in 2016. The program, which partners with local experts to feature a variety of authentic Alaska culinary, educational and entertainment experiences, is designed to delve deeper into the fascinating frontier guests are exploring around them.

 "The newest North to Alaska offerings, including Cook My Catch, truly demonstrates our commitment to provide our guests authentic local experiences in the destinations we visit," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises' president. "Alaska offers so many opportunities to create lifetime memories ultimately ensuring our guests 'come back new'."

 New 2016 North to Alaska highlights also include:

 Meet the Mountain Climber
 Guests traveling on a Princess Land & Sea Vacation can gather in the new Hudson Theater at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge to enjoy an interactive presentation by mountain climbers who have conquered Denali. Participants will hear the storied tales of survival on the mountain, view photos and try authentic climber equipment. After the show, guests head outside to view a retired airplane similar to those used to transport climbers to and from base camp.

 Puppies in the Piazza
 Princess guests meet some of Skagway's newest sled dogs on board a cruise to Alaska in 2016. Guests will have the opportunity to interact with the animals, take pictures and meet the dog handlers responsible for training them to be the next generation of Iditarod champions.

 2016- 2017 Alaska Season at a Glance
 In total, six Princess cruise ships, offer more than 120 Alaska cruise departures during the summer season, May – September, originating from San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver B.C. and Whittier (Anchorage), Alaska.

 For guests interested in experiencing even more of the Great Land, Princess Land & Sea Vacations offer an unmatched variety of itinerary options for a complete Alaska experience ranging from 10 to 15 nights. All itinerary options include a seven-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise including a visit to Glacier Bay National Park, plus up to four nights in the Denali National Park area with stays at Exclusive Princess Wilderness Lodges.

 Additional information about all of the Princess Alaska cruise options and North to Alaska can be found at alaskacruisesdirect.

 Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through this travel professional, by calling 800.365.1445, or by visiting the company's website at

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Let's Debate : Holland America vs. Princess in Alaska

Let's debate which cruise line is the best choice for your Alaska cruise or land and sea vacation.

Cruise Traveler Magazine compares the real difference between Holland America vs. Princess Alaska Cruises.  Learn about the onboard experience,  itineraries, ports-of-call. Compare cruises, or land and sea vacation [ cruisetours ] prices, current promotional offers, bonus extra's and wilderness lodges and rail adventures.

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

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, prices vary between Holland America and Princess. My husband wants to get a balcony, but isn't sure which is the better deal.

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?"

Raye & Marty Trencher
Editors and Publishers
A. OK, here's what you need to know before you go....



 Holland America Line began sailing Alaska in 1967. Princess Cruises in 1969. Both cruise lines added land-and-sea vacations a few years later. So, both companies have years of hands on experience to rely on.

Both Holland America Line and Princess Cruises are the market leaders in Alaska. Both have their own motorcoach and rail services. Princess owns their own Wilderness Lodge accommodations in Denali, Fairbanks, Kenai and Cooper River. Combined they have the most ships of any of the name brand cruise lines sailing Alaskan waters.

Cruising in Alaska is a summertime adventure with an ocean-inspired cruise and an exhilarating land tour of Alaska. Alaska...where summertime memories last forever. Alaska offers a range of enriching options to see the Great Land's glaciers, frontier towns, native culture, wildlife and national parks from the perspective of spectacular ships, exclusive rail service and wilderness lodges.

Both Holland America and Princess' onboard enrichment programs introduce Alaska for a personalized perspective of America's last frontier. On Holland America and Princess cruises, ships feature a naturalist with informative lectures, and a national park ranger during Glacier Bay sailings.

Princess, however, offers their exclusive "North to Alaska" program.  Onboard are Alaska Iditarod winner and renowned dog musher Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the grueling 1,100-mile Iditarod sled dog race. She comes aboard in Juneau to share tales of her historic triumph, answer questions and even sign autographs. You won’t want to miss this special Princess exclusive. Plus, on some sailings meet people from Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" TV show. In partnership with the Discovery Networks, Alaska cruises feature content from the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet on the wildlife, terrain, history, and adventures from Alaska. Discovery Networks shows such as "Gold Rush!" and "Panning for Gold", along with episodes of "The Deadliest Catch" and "The Klondike" mini-series are featured.


In Skagway, Alaskan storyteller and musician Steve Hites comes on board to perform his “North to Alaska” show. This tribute to the Klondike days brings the region’s folklore, history and poetry of the era to life with plenty of rollicking humor.

Then there is The Klondike Festival and Midnight Sun Party. Princess guests experience the thrill and excitement of a real Klondike Festival, hearkening back to the good ol’, bad ol’ days of gold rush fever with authentic Alaska entertainment. Fun for the whole family, the festival includes performances depicting the heyday of the gold rush, Alaska icon & sled racing presentations, penny whistle classes, Tlingit art projects and more.

Princess is providing a variety of authentic Alaska cuisine options onboard including King Crab, King Salmon and fresh Halibut.  There is a dedicated Alaska cuisine themed night in the main dining rooms, and a special Alaska Cuisine menu in the Crown Grill and Bayou Cafe on select evenings.

For kids and teens, they can explore their adventurous side with activities such as our Jr. Ranger Program, Panning for Gold, the Deadliest Catch Crab Sorting Game, and amazing "What would Survivorman do?"

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.

 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.

Both Holland America and Princess' Alaska cruises, offer a number of round-trip seven-night itineraries, that feature the most popular ports of call :

Both cruise lines call on Juneau and Ketchikan.  Itineraries sail through Glacier Bay, or Tracy Arm.  Most sailings visit Skagway. Holland America's Seattle cruises go to Sitka. Some Seattle sailings call on Victoria, BC Canada.

Princess Alaska Itineraries

Holland America Alaska Itineraries

Princess Cruises offer sailings from San Francisco on 10-night cruises that travel the Inside Passage with port calls in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria.

Alaska Cruise Prices

You will find in general, pricing for round-trip seven-night cruises competitive between Holland America and Princess for inside, ocean view and balcony cabins. Inside cabins for sailings during the early part of May or beginning of September start for less than $800.00 per person,  Balcony cabins (known as Verandahs on Holland America) will cost you considerably more.

For north or southbound sailings, we found inside and ocean view cabins less expensive with Princess, at the start ( early May ) and end ( early September ) of the Alaska cruise season.

Shop Princess Cruises

Shop Holland America Cruises

Alaska Land and Sea Vacations [ Cruisetours ]

Holland America's land and sea vacations include stops in Canada. Visiting Dawson City and Whitehorse, the Yukon.  Both cruise line land tours visit Denali National Park. In addition to Denali, Princess can take you to the Kenai Wilderness Lodge, in the Kenai Peninsula and/or the Copper River Wilderness Lodge, to visit Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

Princess' northbound or southbound sailings from Vancouver, begin or end in Whittier, Alaska which is closer to Anchorage then Seward, where Holland America's cruises begin or end. Princess gets the upper hand here, as it has "Direct to the Wilderness" rail service for guests by going straight up north to Denali (or vice versa, going directly from Denali to their cruise ship).  Hours of transportation by train or motorcoach are saved by this service.

Holland America accommodations are in Westmark-branded hotels. in Alaska and Canada's cities and towns. For visits to Denali National Park, Holland America guests stay at the McKinley Chalet Resort, which is less than three miles from the entrance to the park.

Princess' accommodations (except in Anchorage, where they use the Captain Cook hotel and others )  are in " Wilderness " lodges. Guest can stay at the Mt. McKinley Wilderness Lodge in Trapper Creek, near Talkeetna, the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, or the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, and the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge ( less than a mile from the entrance to Denali National Park). Which accommodation(s) you stay at depends upon your itinerary.

Read our new Alaska Land & Sea Vacation Review from our trip to Alaska in September 2015

Shop Princess Land & Sea Vacations

Shop Holland America Land + Sea Vacations

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 Denali ( formally called 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 Denali (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 ) 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.

Luxury dining on the train
Whitewater rafting
Sightseeing from the trainHelicopter Tour


Who won the debate?

Holland America vs. Princess in Alaska

Historically,  Holland America appeals to an older demographic, with onboard activity and entertainment appealing to these travelers. The line is best suited for 55+ and seniors traveling with or without a group of friends.

Princess Cruises is better suited for active couples from 35 -50. Best for those looking for land and sea vacations [cruisetours] and families with young children. Guests should find the onboard experience with Princess Cruises "North to Alaska" appealing.

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.