Friday, February 7, 2014

Alaska - Denali National Park - The Great One

Alaska - Denali National Park - The Great One
Denali National Park and Preserve

The towering granite spires and snowy summits of Denali National Park and Preserve straddles 160 miles of the Alaska Range and display so much elevation they are often lost in the clouds. Dominating this skyline is North America's highest peak; Mount McKinley standing tall at 20,320 feet and one of the most amazing sights in Alaska.
But it's not just the mountain that makes Denali National Park a special place. The park is also home to 37 species of mammals, ranging from lynx, marmots and Dall sheep, to foxes and snowshoe hares, while 130 different bird species have been spotted here, including the impressive golden eagle. Most visitors, however, want to see four animals in particular: moose, caribou, wolf and everybody's favorite: the brown, or grizzly, bear. Here at Denali, unlike most wilderness areas in the country, you don't have to be a backpacker to see this wildlife - people who never sleep in a tent have excellent once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to get a close look at these magnificent creatures roaming free in their natural habitat.
Not surprisingly then, visitors come here in droves; the park is a popular place, attracting 432,000 visitors annually. Over the years the National Park Service (NPS) has developed unique visitor-management strategies, including closing its only road to most vehicles. As a result Denali National Park is still the great wilderness it was 20 years ago. The entrance has changed, but the park itself hasn't, and a brown bear meandering on a tundra ridge still provides the same quiet thrill as it did when the park first opened in 1917.
Although generations of Athabascans had wandered through what is now the park, the first permanent settlement was established in 1905, when a gold miners' rush gave birth to the town of Kantishna. A year later, naturalist and noted hunter Charles Sheldon was stunned by the beauty of the land and horrified at the reckless abandon of the miners and big-game hunters. Sheldon returned in 1907 and traveled the area with guide Harry Karstens in an effort to set up boundaries for a proposed national park. Sheldon was successful as the area was established as Mount McKinley National Park in 1917 with Karstens serving as the park's first superintendent. As a result of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the park was enlarged to more than 6 million acres and renamed Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali now comprises an area slightly larger than the state of Massachusetts and is generally ranked as one of Alaska's top attractions.

Facilities
Denali is reached at Mile 237 of the George Parks and at its entrance area is Riley Creek Campground, the Alaska Railroad station, the Denali Visitor Center, the interesting Murie Science and Learning Center and Wilderness Access Center (WAC), which serves as the park's transport hub and campground-reservation center. From the entrance the 92-mile Park Road heads west through the heart of Denali, passing Eielson Visitor Center and five backcountry campgrounds including Wonder Lake Campground where on a clear day campers enjoy a reflection of Mount McKinley on the mirrored surface of the lake. The road ends at the old mining settlement of Kantishna, now the site of several wilderness lodges.
Visitors with vehicles can only drive to a parking area along the Savage River at Mile 14 of the Park Road. The rest of the Denali is reached by the park's wonderful shuttle bus system. Buses begin leaving the WAC at 5:30 a.m. with many making the run out to Wonder Lake, providing one of the best wildlife viewing experiences in Alaska. Day hikers can get off the bus anywhere along the Park Road and at the end of their trek can flag down any bus for a ride back to the park entrance. Campers have their own bus.
For many visitors Denali is the opportunity to escape into the backcountry for a truly Alaskan experience. Thanks to Denali's rigid restrictions and permits, backpackers can trek and camp in a slice of the wilderness all their own, even if it's just for a few days. The park has few trails; most hiking is cross-country over open terrain such as gravel river beds and tundra ridges.
Other activities at Denali or just outside of it include sled dog demonstration, even during the summer, rafting the Nenana River, mountain biking on the Park Road and flight seeing. In Talkeetna the National Park Service maintains its Mountaineering Ranger Station (907-733-2231) for climbers from around the world who arrive to scale North America's highest peak. In the winter activities include dog mushing, cross-country skiing, snow machining and Northern Lights viewing.
Fees
Denali has entrance fee, charged either per person or per vehicle, and is good for seven days. Camping, shuttle bus transportation and mountaineering permits require additional fees.

Accessibility
Denali is accessible by car on the George Parks Highway or via the Alaska Railroad from either Anchorage or Fairbanks. Gateway communities to the park are Healy, Cantwell and Talkeetna. In summer a variety of private bus and van services and the railroad operate daily from Anchorage and Fairbanks.


Alaska is great for kids
Located in Alaska’s Interior, Denali National Park and Preserve is easily accessible via road, rail or chartered airplane. Once visitors arrive at the expansive park – it’s larger than Massachusetts – they’ll face a host of options, including many tailored for children.
 
The Denali Visitor Center is stocked with kid-friendly exhibits and is also a great access point for some of the park’s short and scenic hiking trails. At the visitor center, travelers can also hop on the park’s free shuttles. One goes to the sled dog demonstration, a 30-minute program that features a tour of the park’s husky kennels and a chance to see the dogs pull a musher. Another shuttle takes riders to the Savage River, a perfect starting point for a wildlife-spotting hike on Savage River Loop or a chance to take in the view of Savage Rock.
 
The Denali National Park & Preserve Junior Ranger Program helps children learn about wilderness, wildlife and national parks and is designed as a collaborative project for parents and children. To get started, visitors stop by the Denali Visitor Center, Toklat Contact Station, Murie Science and Learning Center or Talkeetna Ranger Station and pick up a free activity guide designed for children ages 4-8 or 9-14. After completing activities that include lessons on safety and wildlife, children turn in their books and are awarded Junior Ranger badges. The National Park Service also has online Junior Ranger programs and 50 games to help kids learn about national parks.
 
If your kid has an affinity for dinosaurs, they’ll be excited to hear prehistoric creatures once roamed Denali. The dinosaurs left behind fossilized footprints that can still be observed, especially in an area of the park known as the Cantwell Formation. Denali was home to several different types of dinosaurs: meat-eating theropods, beaked ceratopsians, flying pterosaurs and duck-billed hadrosaurs. A fun activity guide gives kids an overview of the dinosaurs and has quizzes about their footprints and behaviors.
 
The park is also home to the Murie Science and Learning Center, a facility focused on research and education. The center is open all year and features adult programs such as research fellowships, teacher trainings and field seminars along with a range of options for families with children. Families can pick up free discovery packs, which are stocked with tools and activities to guide learning experiences around the park. By special arrangement, groups can take guided excursions into the park or short hikes with hands-on learning.

 

Wilderness Lodges in and around Denali National Park




Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge
Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge
You haven't fully experienced Alaska unless you've been to Denali National Park. Its boundaries encompass an amazing six million acres — the size of the state of Massachusetts. Home to Mt. McKinley, North America's highest peak towering an unbelievable 20,320 feet in the sky, the Park hosts an array of wildlife — from moose, caribou, Dall sheep and grizzly bears to gray wolves and red foxes. Located only one mile from the Park's entrance, Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is the premium riverside accommodation in the area. An expansive deck overlooks Denali National Park and the Nenana River — the ideal spot to relax, visit with friends and savor the exquisite landscape.

Featured Photos & Video

Denali
 
Denali
Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge

Denali's Finest Lodging

Each of our hotel guest rooms is comfortably appointed with two double beds, two queen beds or one king bed, television and telephone -- just in case you want to catch up with the outside world. Outdoor hot tubs afford commanding views of the Park and Nenana River while you relax and indulge in a soothing soak. Princess' premier accomodations far outshine average Alaska hotels!
 

A Variety Of Dining Choices
Dining is always a treat at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. Enjoy spirits, appetizers and casual fare on the river view deck or inside at the Base Camp Bistro. Try King Salmon Restaurant for delicious, Alaskan cuisine and panoramic views. Or, hang with the locals at Lynx Creek Pizza and Pub and indulge in a huge pizza and pint of our very own Denali Red micro brew.
 
For those who are on the go, we have Rapids Morning Express and River Run Espresso offering espresso and coffee, cinnamon rolls and a variety of grab and go items. And be sure to experience the Music of Denali -- a dinner theatre featuring a hearty Alaskan meal and a rollicking musical comedy that recounts the first ascent of Mt. McKinley. No Alaska lodge experience is complete without some authentic cuisine and entertainment.

Wildlife, Adventure, And Much More

Part of the allure of Denali National Park is that you never know what you might see. Princess professionals at the Tour Desk are available to arrange a tour into the Park for a glimpse of its impressive ecosystem -- ask for the Tundra Wilderness Tour or Natural History Tour. Or perhaps you'd like to go river rafting, learn about the sport of sled dog racing from Iditarod® musher Jeff King or take a flight via airplane or helicopter for a unique perspective of this immense wilderness preserve. We also provide shuttle service hourly from 7 am to 7 pm between the lodge and the Denali National Park Visitors Center, the Wilderness Access Center and Horseshoe Lake for $10 roundtrip per person. After a day of adventure, return to your cozy wilderness lodge for some peaceful Alaska sleep.
 

Princess Cruisetours feature Alaska Rail

Princess Cruisetours feature Rail Travel that combines the thrill of traveling aboard luxurious rail cars with one or more nights at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, just one mile from the restricted entrance to Denali National Park. Sit back and relax as you journey through Alaska's scenic wilderness on your way to the lodge. Riding the rails allows you to relax and truly see the Great Land, while we take care of the logistics.

Use our tour selector to find and book a Princess Alaska Cruisetour.

Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge

Mile 238 5 George Parks Hwy
Denali National Park, AK

Phone: 907-683-2282
Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge
From the moment you arrive at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge in Denali State Park, you know you're somewhere special. Located south of the National Park near the Chulitna River, this Alaska lodge is a true wilderness retreat with a host of recreational activities, exceptional amenities and awesome views of Mt. McKinley. Plan a day trip into Talkeenta on our daily shuttle service for only  $10 roundtrip or relax on the deck at the lodge after a walk on one of our many hiking trails. Our premiere wilderness lodge has it all!

Featured Photos & Video

McKinley
 
McKinley
 

Relax in Style

This comfy Alaska lodge invites the ultimate relaxation experience. Each of the guest rooms is nestled peacefully on a hillside in this wilderness getaway. Relax in comfort and style in rooms with two double beds, lofty, nine-foot ceilings with fans, a sitting area, a television and telephones.

Unmatched Views

In the main lodge there's a room so spectacular we've named it “The Great Room.” An irresistible haven with an impressive stone fireplace, The Great Room features cozy sitting areas, tables for card and board games, and enormous floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on Mt. McKinley and the Alaska Range — with one of the most inspirational views of the mountain found anywhere. Your Alaska lodge experience isn't complete until you've gazed on this scenic expanse!

Outdoor Adventures

Experience the serene surroundings from the comfort of your wilderness lodge or venture outdoors to explore. To assist you, we have a Tour Desk staffed with Princess Hosts who are available to help you get an insider's look at this special part of Alaska. A variety of exciting outdoor adventures await you including fishing tours, river rafting, a jetboat safari and even a thrilling flight that takes you to the base of Mt. McKinley.

Signature Alaskan Cuisine

Anytime you visit a Princess Alaska Lodge, you're sure to sample outstanding cuisine in remarkable settings. The Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge carries on that tradition with a dining experience for every taste. Enjoy delicious cuisine and panoramic views in the Mountain View Restaurant or 20,320 Alaskan Grill named for the height of Mt. McKinley. Or, choose appetizers and your favorite refreshment in the Grizzly Bar or while relaxing on the outdoor deck.

Princess Rail Tours

Princess Cruisetours feature Alaska Rail

Princess Cruisetours feature Rail Travel that combines the thrill of traveling aboard luxurious railcars with one or more nights at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, featuring incredible Mt. McKinley views. Sit back and relax as you journey through Alaska's scenic wilderness on your way to the lodge. Riding the rails allows you to relax and truly see the Great Land, while we take care of the logistics.
Use our tour selector to find and book a Princess Alaska Cruisetour.

McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge

Mile Post 133 Parks Hwy
Denali National Park, AK

Phone: 907-733-2900

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Need Help Finding Your Way Cruising Alaska?

Welcome to a summertime adventure with an ocean-inspired cruise and an exhilarating land tour of Alaska.

Alaska...where summertime memories last forever.

From the latest cruise news to planning to packing, from discount rates to departure dates, everything you need to know about Princess Alaska and Alaska cruises and cruise tours can be found here.


Plus, read the comments and cruise reviews of cruise travelers like you, and professional travel writers.  Our blog offers the definitive Alaska cruise guide. A must read, before you plan your next Alaska cruise...read about exciting locales in Destination Alaska Uncovered...or read about readers favorite Alaska cruise ships.

Need Help Finding Your Way?

At our Princess Alaska Cruise News  and Cruise Deals Blog  we provide intelligent recommendations and Information from Certified Alaska Cruise & Cruisetour Experts and Online Travel Guides. Representing the next generation of experience and know-how to help you plan the perfect Alaskan Cruise vacation.

Cruising in Alaska is all about inspiration and lasting memories. And our job is to help travelers like you navigate your way through all the choices, and options available before you set off -and, crucially, by acting as a reference point when planning your trip, helping you find your way.

Then, we provide intelligent recommendations and reviews, thus limiting the amount of confusing and contradictory information you may have before you.

In essence, it's all about helping people like you make the most of an unfamiliar place. Meeting travelers’ differing needs.

You visit the mega sites, those that sell everything from car rentals to cruises and have huge telemarketing call centers,  if you want a one-size-fits-all impersonal approach. You visit us if you want to take advantage of our years of Alaskan travel experience (i.e. from people you can trust) and know-how to help you plan the perfect Alaskan Cruise vacation.

We believe when consumers have access to quality information and reviews they find their journeys enriched by the shared experiences of many others, whether checking on the easiest way to reach Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley, or finding the unexpected side to Ketchikan, a popular Alaska destination.

So, fire away. Ask all the questions you want. We're here to help. Just give us a call at 800.365.1445. The call is free. The advice is free.

We provide objectivity and a level of experience that crowd-sourced companies find difficult to match. What we offer many consumers is what they want most: credible and trustworthy advice, period.

Why Make Your Plans With Certified Alaska Travel Specialist?
Choosing the Alaska cruise experience that's right for you...That's what makes the difference

Say Alaska and a variety of images and impressions come to mind: towering mountains, watchable wildlife, icy blue glaciers, endless wilderness, vibrant Native culture, leaping salmon, hardy outdoors; America's last frontier.


Often, visiting Alaska has as much to do with what people may feel as with what they will see. There is a mystique that surrounds Alaska. To some it represents a dream, a trip of a life time, a life altering event, a chance to reach out and touch something inside themselves that is wild and beautiful like they imagine Alaska to be. Our job is to put that dream - or as much as possible of it - within reach of you.

Take your time and explore our Blog. Then, give us a call. Our staff is ready to share their expertise with you. Ask all your questions, find out all the details.

Thanks for visiting our Princess Alaska Cruise News  and Cruise Deals Blog and we hope to see you in Alaska.. very soon!

Raye & Marty Trencher

The "Deadliest Catch" excursion in Ketchikan, Alaska

The "Deadliest Catch" excursion in Ketchikan, Alaska

Alaskan Cruise Destinations
 
Fans of the Discovery Channel's hit series "Deadliest Catch" will be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when their Alaskan cruise stops in Ketchikan, as they'll have the chance to board one of the vessels that was actually used on the show.
The Aleutian Ballad was featured on the second season of the show, which certainly lived up to its title. The crew was in danger several times over the course of the season, most notably when they were nearly capsized by a 60-foot rogue wave.
Those who book this excursion won't be in any danger, however. The Ballad now sticks to much calmer waters, and has been refitted to accommodate up to 150 leisure passengers.
Still, despite the safety precautions, you'll see all the action of the television show unfold right on the boat. The crew members will send out nets in order to catch crabs, squid, prawns and more.
These aren't paid actors either - all the crew members on the Ballad are real-life crabbers who have been to some of the most far-flung places on Earth and come back with a bountiful haul.
The ship will also sail toward the beautiful Annette Island, where you'll have a chance to see some rare creatures, like whales, bald eagles, sea lions and more.

Monday, February 3, 2014

ALASKA: A destination that should be at the top of every cruise enthusiasts bucket list

Alaska - The Last Cruise Frontier  
A destination that should be at the top of every cruise enthusiasts bucket list
   by Chris Dikmen 
Alaska is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world.
And, for those of you fortunate enough to have visited the 49th state,
you know why. The scenery is breathtaking and the wildlife awe-inspiring.
Alaska is one of the "must see" destinations in the world, and there is no
 better way to see it than by cruise ship.
 












Hike the Tongass National Forest

The cruise industry in Alaska has grown steadily over the past 20 years.
The number of people visiting Alaska by cruise ship rivals the total number
 who arrive by air! And, when you consider that many who arrive by air are
 probably doing so to board a cruise ship, the impact of the cruise industry
 on the Alaska economy is pretty clear.
 
















Rent a Harley and go for a guided two-wheel tour in Ketchikan, Alaska
 

What makes Alaska such a great cruise destination? Take your pick!
Abundant wildlife, amazing scenery, an unspoiled environment, and
 much more. Simply put, there is no place on Earth like Alaska.
 
"Animals outnumber people in Alaska, sunlight shines at midnight and nature reigns," says Marty Trencher, Managing Director of Alaska Cruises Direct. Beyond Alaska's breathtaking glaciers lie scenic ports of call, treasured national parks, and abundant wildlife. And, with more than 1,400 miles north to south and 2,400 miles east to west, it's truly a land of epic proportions."




Marty Trencher













A humpback whale breaching within 100 yards of our ship!

As journalists for CruiseReport.com, we have been to Alaska five times
 in the past eight years, and each time we see something new and different.
We have been on large ships with 2,500 guests and small ships with as few as 65 people. There are more than a dozen cruise lines operating in Alaska and all of them have something special to offer.

Alaska is awash with "so many possibilities, so many ways to travel," Trencher says, that any vacation "requires research, research and more research," he advises.


The larger ships offer a host of amenities, dining options, entertainment and "the excitement of crowds, which is impossible on smaller vessels," Trencher notes. On the other hand, "small ships go places where big ships can't. They get closer to the glaciers and the wildlife," he adds.
 















Holland America Oosterdam in Alaska
 
Keep in mind, too, that you're not really seeing Alaska unless you step off the ship and get up close and personal with the wilderness. Here the possibilities seem endless.

Most cruise ships not only sail Alaska's Inside Passage, featuring sailing in either Glacier Bay or Sawyer Glacier, but also visit quaint ports teeming with people (although many of those people will be cruise passengers pouring off of cruise ships) such as Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell and Skagway, and lesser known stops like Petersburg. Essentially, these ports are gateways to snow-capped mountains and glacier-riddled bays and to wilderness adventures that include whale watching, bear sighting, and bald eagle spotting.

 
















Kayaking the calm waters of Alaska's Inside Passage on Innersea Discoveries

Depending on the cruise line, the itinerary and the shore excursions you choose, you also can explore any one of 14 national parks and wilderness areas, including Kenai Fjords, Gates of the Arctic, Klondike (Skagway), Wrangell-St. Elias and Sitka national parks, plus the Klondike Historic Site (Dawson City), Yukon Charley National Preserve, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Misty Fjords National Monument and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.
















Enjoy a glass of wine in a field of icebergs!
 
To capitalize on the majesty of the state, many lines also offer cruisetours which let you augment your cruise with a land stay. Holland America, for instance, offers vacation packages combining 3- or 4-night cruises with 6-, 8-, or 9-day land tours. In all, Holland America has 29 distinct cruisetours ranging from 10 to 20 days and Princess offers 24 ranging from 10 to 16 days. Celebrity, Regent and Royal Caribbean also offer escorted land tours, according to Trencher.

Per Trencher, the most unusual shore excursions are fishing off a float plane from Ketchikan or Juneau, river rafting on the Haines or Skeena Rivers, a backcountry safari and a visit to Denali Park, dog sledding without snow and on wheels in Whittier, and heli hiking, where passengers are flown by helicopter to a mountain top around Mt. McKinley and then hike down.

 


Take a train ride and re-live the days of the gold rush!
 
The list doesn't end there, however. You can trek glaciers, take a mile-long zipline-canopy tour at Icy Strait Point, Klondike rock climb or rappel in Skagway, canoe or kayak almost anywhere, and even go underwater in semi-submersibles. In Campbell River, Regent passengers can accompany an authentic Alaskan mail floatplane making deliveries.

There is a downside to popularity, however. Because of the state's allure, Trencher warns, "There are no huge bargains in Alaska like there are in the Caribbean."


"Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation and high priced," he says. On average a 13-day cruise tour in a balcony cabin on a larger ship will run around $2,400 per person without airfare on the season's shoulders (May or September) and about $3,600 in peak season.


 


Split pea soup on the deck in Alaska is a Holland America tradition
 
But book early and some deals emerge. For example, Norwegian sails three ships (Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun) at published fares ranging in the $800 to $1,500 range (per person), based on double occupancy, for an inside stateroom. Prices drop dramatically if you book early and range from $599 to $699 for lower category accommodations. An early booking special from Holland America will take you on a 7-day Glacier Discovery cruise for $549. Carnival's 7-day Glacier Bay cruises start at $879.
 


Killer whales! Oh yeah, Alaska's got those, too!
 
Of course, luxury comes at a price. Step up the gangway on Regent's Seven Seas Mariner and you'll lighten your wallet by $4,000 to $16,000 for 7-, 8- or 11-day cruises sailing between Seward, Alaska and Vancouver, B.C.

In our opinion, Alaska is one of the must-see cruise destinations that should be at the top of any cruise enthusiast's "bucket list". If your cruise experience has been restricted to the Caribbean, or the typically warmer climates, you simply don't know what you are missing. After all, they call this "The Last Frontier" for a reason.

Special thanks to Marty Trencher, Managing Director of Alaska Cruises Direct, part of Cruise Direct Online (www.AlaskaCruisesDirect.com)

Source: Cruisereport.com