Great Alaska Land Tours You Can Add to Your Cruise

by John Roberts

Great Alaska Land Tours You Can Add to Your Cruise

by John Roberts

There is more than one way to see Alaska. In fact, if you're going to head all the way up to the Last Frontier, you might as well make it worthwhile, exploring this vast and remote natural wonderland from every angle. That means by land and by sea. Cruise lines also realize that exploring the wilderness — taking the time to check off all of the animals on your "must see" list — is part of the Alaska experience you are looking for, so they designed awesome land tours to add onto your cruise, each with their own advantages.  Check out these great Alaska land tours you can add to your cruise experience, either before or after your sailing.

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Yukon Railroad going through White Pass / iStock / Rocky Grimes
Touring Alaska
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Holland America Line

Holland America has been in Alaska for seven decades (yes, that's longer than Alaska has actually been a state) so it's easy to see why the company claims it's the industry leader in these tours. Passengers get up to three days in Denali, staying at the line's own lodge — the recently renovated McKinley Chalet Resort — at the base of the park. New to the resort is Denali Square, which has a two-story restaurant, saloon that hosts dinner theater, and amphitheater where you can listen to stories about Alaskan history and culture.

During your tour, you can explore Denali by river rafting or backcountry Jeep excursions. Passengers can also visit Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Talkeetna on various itineraries, traveling by the McKinley Explorer train, coaches and a sternwheeler for a river cruise.

Striking Gold: Unlike other lines, Holland America offers land extensions to Inside Passage cruises that explore both Denali National Park (for up to three nights) and Canada's Yukon. Five of the line's itineraries include trips to the Yukon, with activities highlighting the gold-rush heritage of this rugged outpost. Destinations include Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory, and Dawson City. Riding the narrow-gauge White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad is a highlight.

Holland America has been in Alaska for seven decades (yes, that's longer than Alaska has actually been a state) so it's easy to see why the company claims it's the industry leader in these tours. Passengers get up to three days in Denali, staying at the line's own lodge — the recently renovated McKinley Chalet Resort — at the base of the park. New to the resort is Denali Square, which has a two-story restaurant, saloon that hosts dinner theater, and amphitheater where you can listen to stories about Alaskan history and culture.

During your tour, you can explore Denali by river rafting or backcountry Jeep excursions. Passengers can also visit Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Talkeetna on various itineraries, traveling by the McKinley Explorer train, coaches and a sternwheeler for a river cruise.

Striking Gold: Unlike other lines, Holland America offers land extensions to Inside Passage cruises that explore both Denali National Park (for up to three nights) and Canada's Yukon. Five of the line's itineraries include trips to the Yukon, with activities highlighting the gold-rush heritage of this rugged outpost. Destinations include Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory, and Dawson City. Riding the narrow-gauge White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad is a highlight.

Wilderness Lodge
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Princess Cruises

Another cruise line that's been a leader in Alaska tours for decades is Princess, which also has its own lodges (two Wilderness Lodges in Denali and one each at the Kenai Peninsula and Copper River) to place you at the edge of the national parks. Princess offers four options, and you get at least two nights in Denali on most tours. The lodges — which have Great Rooms in which you can relax and enjoy vistas of the surrounding landscape — feature restaurants, bars and shops and serve as your base camp for daily excursions. Excursions include catamaran tours through Prince William Sound and hiking and rafting outings in Denali. Their tours combine a week-long sailing with three (or more) nights on land.

Striking Gold: Princess is the only cruise line to offer rail service waiting to take you directly from your ship straight to your lodge the same day. The train's glass-domed train cars and open-air observation platforms allow you great views of the sights as you travel overland.

Another cruise line that's been a leader in Alaska tours for decades is Princess, which also has its own lodges (two Wilderness Lodges in Denali and one each at the Kenai Peninsula and Copper River) to place you at the edge of the national parks. Princess offers four options, and you get at least two nights in Denali on most tours. The lodges — which have Great Rooms in which you can relax and enjoy vistas of the surrounding landscape — feature restaurants, bars and shops and serve as your base camp for daily excursions. Excursions include catamaran tours through Prince William Sound and hiking and rafting outings in Denali. Their tours combine a week-long sailing with three (or more) nights on land.

Striking Gold: Princess is the only cruise line to offer rail service waiting to take you directly from your ship straight to your lodge the same day. The train's glass-domed train cars and open-air observation platforms allow you great views of the sights as you travel overland.

Exploring Glacier Bay
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Norwegian Cruise Line

Pick from 11- to 14-day journeys that include up to two nights in Denali with local guides as well as week-long Glacier Bay or Sawyer Glacier itineraries. Norwegian offers a 12-day Denali by Rail Explorer route that features days exploring the wilds in deluxe domed railcars. Also, choose from itineraries that visit Fairbanks or Anchorage and the fishing village of Homer.

Striking Gold: Norwegian has the youngest fleet sailing to Alaska, with a new purpose-built ship, Norwegian Bliss, heading to the region when it launches next year. While on land you can try Iditarod-style dog mushing, panning for gold, or casting for halibut or salmon on a fishing excursion.

Pick from 11- to 14-day journeys that include up to two nights in Denali with local guides as well as week-long Glacier Bay or Sawyer Glacier itineraries. Norwegian offers a 12-day Denali by Rail Explorer route that features days exploring the wilds in deluxe domed railcars. Also, choose from itineraries that visit Fairbanks or Anchorage and the fishing village of Homer.

Striking Gold: Norwegian has the youngest fleet sailing to Alaska, with a new purpose-built ship, Norwegian Bliss, heading to the region when it launches next year. While on land you can try Iditarod-style dog mushing, panning for gold, or casting for halibut or salmon on a fishing excursion.

Dogsledding with the kids
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Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean offers nine options for its Alaska cruise tours, and you travel by coach and in Royal Caribbean's Wilderness Express glass-domed train cars when not at sea. These 10-night journeys combine a three- to six-night land package with a seven-night cruise on Radiance of the Seas.

Striking Gold:  Royal Caribbean is a good choice for families. The line's cruise tours are tailored to include activities specifically aimed at multiple generations, such as visits to the Alaska Sea Life Center to see conservation efforts for the native animal population, gold-panning expeditions and riverboat and museum tours. And, like other lines, all of the packages include at least one night at Denali National Park and feature local guides who lead treks in the park.

Royal Caribbean offers nine options for its Alaska cruise tours, and you travel by coach and in Royal Caribbean's Wilderness Express glass-domed train cars when not at sea. These 10-night journeys combine a three- to six-night land package with a seven-night cruise on Radiance of the Seas.

Striking Gold:  Royal Caribbean is a good choice for families. The line's cruise tours are tailored to include activities specifically aimed at multiple generations, such as visits to the Alaska Sea Life Center to see conservation efforts for the native animal population, gold-panning expeditions and riverboat and museum tours. And, like other lines, all of the packages include at least one night at Denali National Park and feature local guides who lead treks in the park.

Alyeska Hotel
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Celebrity Cruises

You can extend your journeys in Alaska by choosing from cruise tour itineraries ranging from nine to 13 nights, with the land portions available before or after sailing on Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Millennium or Celebrity Solstice. Nine itineraries include stops at the classics: Tracy Arm Fjord, Glacier Bay National Park and Hubbard Glacier, and tours include visits to towns such as Talkeetna, Seward, and Anchorage. And just like Princess, Celebrity's rail segments let you gawk at the picturesque landscape and peep wildlife from the comfort of glass-domed railcars as you make your way to Denali. Be on the lookout for moose, bear, grey wolves, caribou and Dall sheep.  

Striking Gold: The Celebrity difference? They claim it's the lodging. When you're not staying in the well-designed rooms on board, Celebrity places you in local and boutique lodging during your cruise tour, such as the Alyeska Resort with heated pool and mountain views or cozy Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.

You can extend your journeys in Alaska by choosing from cruise tour itineraries ranging from nine to 13 nights, with the land portions available before or after sailing on Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Millennium or Celebrity Solstice. Nine itineraries include stops at the classics: Tracy Arm Fjord, Glacier Bay National Park and Hubbard Glacier, and tours include visits to towns such as Talkeetna, Seward, and Anchorage. And just like Princess, Celebrity's rail segments let you gawk at the picturesque landscape and peep wildlife from the comfort of glass-domed railcars as you make your way to Denali. Be on the lookout for moose, bear, grey wolves, caribou and Dall sheep.  

Striking Gold: The Celebrity difference? They claim it's the lodging. When you're not staying in the well-designed rooms on board, Celebrity places you in local and boutique lodging during your cruise tour, such as the Alyeska Resort with heated pool and mountain views or cozy Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.

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