Author: Ila Luttrell
Date of Trip: June 2012
Princess took care of all the logistics for getting our luggage from one hotel/lodge to the other. That was a great relief for us. However, initially, I did not know that all of our luggage would not travel with us on the land part and we had to re-pack, almost at the last minute. Be prepared for this from the start and packing will be much easier. We loved being able to dress casually in Alaska for dinner.
We flew into Fairbanks one day early to participate in the “Journey Above the Arctic Circle”. The excursion time was 6:15 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and I was concerned about being tired and sleepy, but I should not have worried. The sun was still visible at 11:00 p.m. and helped keep me wakeful and alert. The pilot was very knowledgeable and narrated the entire flight. The bus tour guide on the ground was surprisingly negative and did not say nice things about the military that were at Fort Yukon at one time.
While I rested, DH went on an excursion in a Hummer that went to the oil pipeline. He enjoyed photographing wildlife while on the same excursion.
Our room at The Fairbanks Princess Lodge was adequate. At dinner in their restaurant the waitress was very friendly and explained to us the different types of salmon. We tried the white salmon and it was very good. DH was disappointed they did not have his favorite brand of beer, Miller Light.
The next day we were on the Chena Riverboat Discovery Cruise. We saw lots of beautiful scenery and homes. At the end of that cruise, we boarded the coach for a three-hour ride to Denali. The ride was fairly comfortable even though the seats were very close together.
That evening, we had dinner at the Music of Denali Dinner Theatre. The entertainment was a lot of fun. Prior to the show, they served a family-style meal that was good. Once again, DH disappointed about his brand of beer. We were in room 185. It was adequate, though bare bones. I did not like the sink being in the room instead of the bathroom.
The scenery was awesome. Seeing the huge mountain ranges and the snow-capped tops was breathtaking. I felt like I walked out of the room into a postcard.
The next day we went on the eight-hour Tundra Wilderness Tour. We paid extra to go on this tour in place of the Natural History Tour. It was worth every extra penny. We were fortunate to be on a new, comfortable tour bus and to have a great driver. She was very knowledgeable of the history, the Tundra, the animals…everything. She watched for wildlife and stopped to point out animals she spotted that passengers did not see. We saw moose, caribou, grizzly bear, Dall sheep, and a lynx. We did not see any wolves. Thanks to her we have great photographs. The driver even stopped for us to see and photograph Mt. McKinley, because she was concerned we might not be able to see it later. We had an adequate boxed lunch and bottles of water.
Food at the other restaurants at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge was pretty good. Breakfast before the Tundra Wilderness Tour was a buffet at the Music of Denali Dinner Theatre. We had dinner at the King Salmon restaurant after the tour. My prime rib was very good, but part of DH’s steak was gristly and not as good.
Breakfast at the King Salmon restaurant, before leaving for the two-hour and 15-minute trip to Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, was decent. We had to be up early to put out our luggage for pick up to transport to Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge. Our coach overheated and we had to pull off the road. Fortunately, there was an empty coach right behind us that stopped and we were able to get on that one and continue our transfer.
Our room at the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge was in Building 11. I liked this room better than the one at Denali. There were two full beds, the sink was near the closet, instead of in the room, and the room was bigger and nicer.
We ate at several of the restaurants and, once again, the food was decent.
I had baked French Toast the morning we left and it was gooey on the bottom.
After we arrived at the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, we went on the Byers Lake Nature Walk and I wish we had not. I used one of their mosquito net hats and mosquitos were all over it. You had to look at the ground to be sure not to trip over a root. I would not do this excursion in June again. Maybe at another time of the year it would be more fun.
Mt. McKinley “came out” and we were able to take more beautiful photos. We felt so fortunate, since we had been told many people do not get to see the mountain. Even late at night and early morning we took photos, since the sun never completely went down. It was amazing. Before leaving the next morning we shot really good photos of the top of the mountain. The scenery and mountain ranges were magnificent here, just as they were at Denali Lodge.
We had an hour-long ride on a coach to Talkeetna where we boarded the domed train for a five-hour journey to Anchorage/Whittier and the Coral Princess. There was a lot of pretty scenery along the way. We had a table seat which was nice, but I really would have liked to have been able to recline in a chair for part of the trip. Embarkation was late in the day but it went smoothly and quickly.