Day 1: Arrive Fairbanks
Alaska by Rail tour members will find that flights to Fairbanks are surprisingly affordable. Upon arrival you’ll transfer to the hotel where your Tour Director will greet you.
This evening you may want to peek outside to see if the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) are visible!
Day 2: Fairbanks
Our Alaska guide will join us this morning and be with us throughout the land portion of our tour.
Following breakfast we’ll embark on a tour of the “Golden Heart City”.
This afternoon we’ll board the Riverboat Discovery and embark on a highlight filled cruise on the Chena River. We’ll be introduced to a family who has made the rivers of Alaska a way of life for five generations. You will see a bush floatplane takeoff next to the boat, then visit the home and kennels of the late four-time Iditarod winner Susan Butcher and see her champion sled dogs in action. We’ll be immersed in ancient Athabascan Indian culture on a visit to the Chena Indian Village. Guides will explain how the wolf, fox, martin and beaver provided food and protection in the harsh Arctic climate. They will also share how the Athabascans survived for over 10,000 years and how they have adapted to Western culture during the past century
This evening your Tour Director will host a welcome dinner.
Meal(s): B & D
Day 3: Alaska Railroad / Denali National Park
This morning we will transfer to the Alaska Railroad Depot and board the Wilderness Express luxury dome car on the Denali Star route. These cars feature spectacular 360 degree panoramic viewing upstairs, complete with a full bar and coffee service. Enjoy a sumptuous, cooked to order breakfast in the full service dining room on the lower level (included). Our arrival into the Denali Depot is scheduled for 12:10 p.m.
Denali National Park is six million acres of wild land, bisected by one ribbon of road. This afternoon we’ll embark on a 5 - 7 hour Tundra Wilderness Tour traveling 53 miles into the park. Spectacular scenery, a narrated history of the park and some of the best opportunities to view wildlife await. Have your camera ready as September is prime time for seeing fox, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears.
Formerly known as Mt. McKinley, Denali is the tallest mountain in North America at 20,237 feet tall. If weather conditions allow we may see it today, if not we have 4 more days for it to show itself.
Following the tour we will transfer to our Denali hotel.
Day 4: Husky Homestead / Anchorage
Following breakfast (included) we’ll transfer the short distance to Husky Homestead, home of four-time Iditarod Champion Jeff King. We’ll be greeted by cuddly puppies and learn how the dogs are selected for the roles they must perform. Jeff will entertain us with stories of mushing, Arctic survival and the challenge of raising girls in a house that has no running water!
We’ll transfer to the Denali Depot and once again enjoy Wilderness Express luxury accommodations and more incredible scenery as we head south to Anchorage. Lunch and dinner are available downstairs in the dining room. Arrival is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 5: Anchorage
Approximately half of Alaska’s 750,000 residents live near Anchorage. This morning we’ll set out on a historic sightseeing tour of this beautiful area.
You are free the rest of the day to pursue all that this fine city has to offer. The Alaska Zoo is the only zoo in North America that specializes in northern animals, focusing on species ranging from wolverines and moose to caribou and Dall sheep. Of course the bears figure prominently with all four Alaskan species (brown (grizzly/Kodiak), black, glacier and polar). The Anchorage Museum and Alaska Native Heritage Center are both culturally rich attractions. Another option is a flightseeing excursion.
Interesting fact: Anchorage’s prime global location combined with the growth of China’s tech exports have made Ted Stevens International Airport the number three airport in the world for cargo traffic, ranking only behind Hong Kong and Memphis (the U.S. hub for Federal Express). Both FedEx and UPS operate major hubs here.
Day 6: Seward
This morning we will board the Alaska Railroad for the Coastal Classic, described as the most scenic rail route in Alaska, so based on what we’ve seen so far, we are in for a real treat! We will be pampered with Gold Star Service, the Alaska Railroad’s premium class. These cars are similar to the private Wilderness Express cars we’ve enjoyed previously, but with one major difference, an outdoor, upper-level viewing platform -- the only one of its kind in the world, offering fresh air and an excellent vantage point for photos! Enjoy a full service breakfast on the lower level (included).
Our arrival into the port city of Seward is scheduled for 11:05 a.m. Upon arrival we will enjoy a city tour and visit the amazing Alaska SeaLife Center.
Day 7: Whittier / Prince William Sound
Following breakfast this morning (included) we’ll transfer to what may be the most unique community you’ve ever visited, Whittier, “The City Under One Roof”.
When the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Islands during World War II, the U.S. Army sought to build a secret military installation. Whittier was perfect due to the surrounding mountain peaks that often keep it shrouded in clouds. For access to the Seward Highway, the Army blasted a 2.5-mile long train tunnel through Maynard Mountain. The Army left in 1960, leaving behind the 14-story Begich Towers, where most of Whittier’s 190 residents live today, sharing the space with a police station, a health clinic, a church and a laundromat.
We will embark on a spectacular 5-hour glacier and wildlife cruise through majestic Prince William Sound, which has the densest concentration of tidewater glaciers in the world and is home to sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, bald eagles, seabirds and whales. Lunch is included.
Upon our return to Whittier we will board the luxurious Star Princess, our beautiful home for the next seven days. The Princess Patter newspaper is delivered nightly to your stateroom and will be your guide to the activities and events of the following day. Departure is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Those opting for the “land-only” package will transfer to Anchorage and fly home this evening.
Day 8: Hubbard Glacier (cruising)
Create your own schedule today, do as little or as much as you care to. Pamper yourself with a massage or facial at the Lotus Spa & Salon. Shop in the extensive boutiques for duty-free liquor, designer clothing and gifts. Head to the internet café or library. Tee up at the putting course. There is a jogging track and state-of-the-art fitness center for those looking to work off some of the fantastic cuisine. Swim in one of four sparkling pools or relax in the spa. You’re never too far from one of the eight relaxing hot tubs.
Try your luck at the Casino featuring a variety of table games, slots (including nickel slots for the not-so-high roller), video poker, etc. Other daily activities include bingo, craft-making, art auctions, pool games, trivia contests, wine and cocktail tasting and that traditional cruise-favorite, shuffleboard! Watch first run movies, concerts and sporting events on the 300-square-foot Movies Under the Stars outdoor screen (enjoy with popcorn and a blanket in the evening).
Princess is renowned for fine cuisine. Dine casually at the Horizon Court, Prego Pizzeria, or Trident Grill. Dining rooms include the Amalfi, Portofino and Capri. There is also an ice cream bar, afternoon tea and 24-hour room service.
To say the nightlife onboard is entertaining is an understatement. The performers are seasoned professionals and their performances are of the same caliber as what you would see on a Broadway stage.
Early this afternoon we will be approaching Hubbard Glacier. Nicknamed the “Galloping Glacier,” it is the largest tidewater glacier in North America. The immenseness and blue hues are enchanting, even from afar, but as we draw closer it is the towering 400-foot face with snowcapped mountains in the background that really impresses! You’ll have a prime viewing spot for this very active glacier and hopefully witness some calving.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 9: Glacier Bay National Park (cruising)
Covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site, one of the world’s largest international protected areas.
This morning National Park Rangers will come aboard our ship to set up an information desk and provide narration. Our captain will do his best to get us up close and personal to the more active glaciers. The park is home to an amazing array of marine life, including humpback whales, sea otters, porpoises, sea lions and harbor seals. Both black and brown (grizzly) bears are commonly seen as are moose, mountain goats, bald eagles and tufted puffins.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 10: Skagway
Skagway was the gateway to the gold fields for the thousands who flocked to Alaska and the Yukon with the hope of striking it rich. Skagway may have boasted the shortest route to the Klondike, but it wasn’t the easiest. The gold rush was a boon and by 1898, Skagway was Alaska’s largest town with a population of about 20,000. Today, Skagway has less than 1,000 residents.
Sample optional shore excursions include: White Pass Scenic Railway, Skagway City Tour, Klondike Summit, Liarsville Experience & Gold Panning, To the Klondike Summit, Best of Skagway., Yukon Jeep Adventure, Ocean Raft Adventure.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 11: Juneau
There are no roads that lead to Juneau. Named after Joseph Juneau who discovered gold in the 1880s, Alaska’s capital city gracefully balances frontier ruggedness with cosmopolitan flair.
Mendenhall Glacier, a spectacular river of ice measuring 1.5 miles wide and over 12 miles long, hugs Juneau’s north side. And of course no visit to Juneau is complete without a stop at the world-famous Red Dog Saloon.
Sample optional shore excursions include: Mendenhall Glacier & Whale Quest, Glacier Gardens & Mendenhall Glacier, Whale Watching, Best of Juneau, Discover Alaska’s Whales, Alaska Salmon Bake, Brown Bear & Wildlife Viewing. Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 12: Ketchikan
Ketchikan is located within the 16 million acre Tongass National Forest. The evergreen mountains and lush landscape are a stark contrast to the lunar landscapes of northern Alaska. Ketchikan also boasts the world’s largest collection of Northwest totems and is often regarded as the salmon capital of the world.
Sample optional shore excursions include: Lighthouse, Totems & Eagles Excursion, Misty Fjords & Wilderness Explorer Cruise, Coastal Wildlife Cruise, Misty Fjords Seaplane Exploration, Cultural Treasures of Annette Island, City Highlights, Totems & Creek Street by Trolley.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 13: Cruising
Ah, a full day to relax and enjoy this magnificent ship. Indulge yourself with a relaxing massage. Shop in the duty-free Boutique featuring designer clothing and gifts. Or just cuddle up with a good book.
Meal(s): B, L & D
Day 14: Vancouver / Seattle
Following breakfast we will disembark the ship, board our motorcoach and head for Seattle’s King Street Station. We will board the Empire Builder for the 4:40 p.m. departure for Chicago.
Meal(s): B & D
Day 15: En Route
Enjoy a delicious dining car breakfast and then head for the Sightseer Lounge car. Today a dramatic panorama of snow-capped Rocky Mountain peaks will begin to rise above the horizon, becoming increasingly dynamic as we approach Glacier National Park. The scenery is striking as we wind past waterfalls, river gorges and other sights. The rest of the day we’ll cross the remote flatlands of eastern Montana and western North Dakota.
(Meal): B, L & D
Day 16: En Route to Chicago
Breakfast and lunch on the train are included. After we go through Minneapolis-St. Paul we head south along the west bank of the Mississippi River. The train winds between the river bank and high bluffs. Later in the morning, we pass through the picturesque Dells Country of Wisconsin. The Empire Builder is scheduled to arrive in Chicago’s Union Station late this afternoon.
At the conclusion of the tour some travelers will continue to home destinations. Others will spend the night in Chicago and continue home tomorrow. Meal(s): B & L