Travel companies are doing a slow rollout of early-season deals. Some have just a few deeply discounted departures, others have one-day events and others offer travelers a range of dates to book their adventures. Most of the best deals are in May.
If you’ve considered cruising on a small, expedition-style ship through the Inside Passage, Alaska Dream Cruises offers four departures in May at about 60 percent off. The catch? You must be an Alaska resident to qualify.
The Chichagof Dream sails between Sitka and Juneau on an eight-day/seven-night itinerary that includes Glacier Bay, Tracy Arm and other remote locations. There are also port calls in Petersburg and Kake. At 207 feet, the Chichagof Dream can accommodate 76 guests for a week of kayaking, hiking and exploring by skiff. The ship has large viewing decks both fore and aft and big panoramic windows in the dining room and the lounge, according to Zak Kirkpatrick, Alaska Dream Cruises’ marketing manager.
On the company website, the starting price is $3,795 per person. But Alaska residents can sail on May 12 or May 19 for $1,395 per person, double. That’s in an “AA” cabin, which lists for $4,895 per person. On May 10, you can sail on the Admiralty Dream from Juneau to Sitka for the same price (instead of the posted price of $4,395 per person).
There’s one other early-season Alaska resident special, departing Sitka on May 11 on the Misty Fjords. The ship can accommodate just 10 guests. “This is a more adventurous itinerary,” said Kirkpatrick. “It’s almost like an expedition. A trip to Glacier Bay is included, but guests can work with the crew to home in on one area or special interest, such as wildlife migration,” he said. The boat is moored most nights, which offers more opportunities for kayaking in some of the remote coves along the way. The Alaska resident special price is $1,295 per person, instead of the published price of $4,595 per person.
You won’t find these special prices on the website. Rather, you have to call the Sitka office to book: 907-747-8100. Airfare is not included, but tickets on Alaska Air are available for as little as 5,000 miles each way to either Juneau or Sitka, with a 21-day advance purchase. Alaska Dream Cruises is owned by Sitka-based Allen Marine, which has built and operated boats in Alaska since 1970.
Phillips Cruises and Tours is offering a one-day sale to trim $50 off the 26 Glaciers Cruise in Whittier. The regular price is $178.95 per adult. But on April 10, you can purchase the cruise for $128.95. Take the cruise any time between May 3 and Oct. 3, Sunday-Thursday. If you drive to Whittier, there’s a $13 tunnel fee and a $5-$12 charge for parking. You can avoid those extra charges by taking the bus/cruise or train/cruise packages, both of which are discounted $50 on April 10. Call 907-276-8023 on April 10, or book online.
Princess Lodges is offering 2-for-1 hotel/train packages for May. There are several combinations, featuring both the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge near Talkeetna and the Denali Princess near the park entrance. One of my favorites is tour “72A,” which features a round-trip train ride on Princess’ rail cars between Anchorage and Denali Park. Two nights at the hotel also are included. Add on a bus trip into the park, a raft trip or other optional tours. The regular rate is $799 per person. It’s on sale for $399.50 per person. Packages are available starting May 16. Two-night packages for the Mt. McKinley Princess start at $249.50 per person, double occupancy.
Princess has its own private rail cars, but they’re all pulled by the Alaska Railroad. And the railroad cooperates with many companies to put together special packages that are discounted in May and September. Packages feature Kenai Fjords cruises, plus hotel packages in Denali with Denali Bluffs or the Grande Denali Lodge. This summer, the railroad lets kids age 12 and under ride for free on select routes, including: Anchorage-Talkeetna, the Hurricane Turn train from Talkeetna and between Portage and Spencer Glacier/Grandview. Call 800-544-0552 for information or check online.
The Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is having an early-season spring wine dinner on Saturday, May 25. Chef Wes Choy has some special treats for opening day. I like the third course: “Raviolo: hand-made beet pasta, chevre, local duck eggs, arugula and fiddlehead fern curry.” That’s right before the wild boar shank. The dinner is $125 and accommodations start at $99 for the evening. Make your reservations online or call 800-808-8068
Alyeska Resort is offering a “Stay and Ski Free” package with two lift tickets when you stay overnight. The special is available between now and April 21. Prices start at $189 per night. If you want to spend Easter Sunday at the resort, there’s a special $139 room rate, which includes two tram tickets and a $50 food/beverage credit.
Kennicott Glacier Lodge, in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park near McCarthy, offers an early-season rate of $99 per night between May 25 and June 14. The rate features rooms in the original lodge building with a “forest view.” If you want a glacier view, which flows right past the front deck, add $70 per night ($169). The rates include transportation from the footbridge in McCarthy up to the lodge, about 5 miles.
It never hurts to ask about early-bird or Alaskan specials. Depending on where your tour or hotel is located, their opening day could be anywhere from May 1 to Memorial Day.