From Anchorage to Vancouver, a Journey through the Heart of Alaska

Our Denali Explorer CruiseTour with Princess will take us from Anchorage to Vancouver. Illustration courtesy of Princess Cruises

It’s like the March of the Live Voyage Reports here on From the Deck Chair, and we start May off with yet another – this time, to one of my favorite cruise destinations: Alaska.
Every year I swear I won’t go back, and every year I do. Ever since I first sailed here in 1998, Alaska has held me captivated. There’s always something new to see. New experiences to be had. I never find it tough to write about destinations like this that only truly reveal their true nature over repeat visits.
For my ninth outing to The Last Frontier, I’ll be joining Princess Cruises extensive, 11-night Denali Explorer CruiseTour that begins in Anchorage on June 16, 2015 and culminates with a weeklong southbound cruise aboard the 2,600-guest Star Princess as she charts a course for Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, the Inside Passage, and finally, Vancouver.

Golden Princess, sister-ship to Star Princess, backs away from her berth in Skagway, Alaska in August 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Golden Princess, sister-ship to Star Princess, backs away from her berth in Skagway, Alaska in August 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

What’s really cool about this itinerary is that it combines a five-night overland tour with a weeklong post-land-trip cruise. I first did an overland trip two years ago, when I was escorting a group on Princess with Vancouver-based Cruise Experts Travel. Being a cruiser, I’d always wondered what the draw was with these land tours. Now I now.
We begin our tour in Anchorage; flat, sun-splashed and fascinating all at the same time. Anchorage is a world unto its own, and it’s different from cities in Southeast Alaska. It reminds me a bit of a prairie town in the Midwest, but with ocean and mountains as its backdrop.

There is nothing - nothing - like a visit deep into the heart of Alaska's Denali National Park. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

There is nothing – nothing – like a visit deep into the heart of Alaska’s Denali National Park. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Then, we’ll continue on to Princess’s exclusive Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge near Talkeetna for an overnight stay in the shadow of Alaska’s most famous mountain.
After that, we’re off to the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge for two days in breathtaking Denali National Park. This is, without a doubt, my favorite part of Alaska – the landscape is so grand and imposing that it defies words. Load your camera up with memory cards; you’re going to need them here.
After that, we’ll hop onboard Princess’s own branded railcars for the nine-hour journey by train from Denali National Park to Whittier, Alaska. Our train will pull right up next to the Star Princess around 5:30p.m., making embarkation a breeze.

The view from the Dome Car, where everyone had spacious, comfortable seating. Imagine this view changing for four hours. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Riding the rails between Fairbanks and Denali in 2013. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I’m also excited to experience Star Princess for the very first time. Years ago, I sailed aboard sister-ship Golden Princess, but that was before both vessels had their sweeping refurbishments completed in late 2011 that saw the reconfiguration of the original atrium into a Crown Princess-style Piazza; and the addition of Vines, the International Café, the Crown Grill Steakhouse, upgrades to the Horizon Court buffet, and other changes.

The unique
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