All Aboard The Denali Express

Bright and early we disembarked from the Island Princess for the last time. We passed through security checkpoints , under a plastic covered walkway right to the train.

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Our tickets had seat numbers but not seats like you might expect.  The numbers were really table numbers. When we first got on I thought it wasn’t too bad, even kind of cool. There was a table with a bench seat on either side. It wasn’t luxury but it would do. That was short lived because it turned out that there were 4 people to every table. That mean that unless you were about 12 years old it was going to be very cramped. It was a tighter fit than an airplane! To make matters worse we had to hold our carry-ons or put them under the table right where our feet were supposed to go.

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The brochure says “Princess Cruises exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness service allows you to step off your cruise ship in Whittier onto your unique Princess Alaska rail and arrive at your Princess wilderness lodge that same afternoon.”

I guess that was true. It was a short walk from the ship to the train. The 9 1/2 hour trip turned in an 11 hour trip but being in the land of the midnight sun, it was still daylight when we reached Denali.

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Another  brochure describes the trip like this: Our exclusive Alaska cruise ship-rail-lodge connection takes you straight to Denali National Park. While others are still in transit, you’ll be enjoying more time at one of our two Denali area lodges where fabulous Princess service meets the real Alaskan wilderness.

Well I don’t know if I agree with that. The cruise ship passengers that went to the lodge by bus got there before we did. It was more like we were the last to arrive.

The last quote I’m going to share is the best. Our luxury rail service direct to Denali will make all the difference in your Alaska cruise vacation. It’s one of the many reasons Princess Cruises is the leader in Alaska.

If that is luxury I’d hate to see “coach”. Sandy and I both love to take railroads whenever we can. Vintage sightseeing railroad trips are high on our list. When we put this trip together we insisted that we wanted to take the dome rail car to Denali. We were familiar with the dome cars on the Grand Canyon Railroad. This was nowhere near as nice as those. It would have been fine for a short trip but anything over a couple hours is cruel and unusual.

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The train is owned by Princess Lines. For the duration of the cruise and land tour you are always on or involved with Princess owned or operated properties so the deplorable conditions on the train came as a surprise after the opulence of the Island Princess.

I think it would have been fine if we’d had a little more room. The booths weren’t adequate for 4 adults.

Sandy didn’t say much about the crowded conditions but she tolerates people and crowds better than I do. Her issue was that we had a dome car for viewing but the dome windows were cracked!

They say you can never get a 2nd chance to make a great first impression. Denali Wilderness train didn’t make it. It was going to have to deliver some really special sights to redeem itself.

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