Want a cheaper cruisetour option in Alaska than what the cruise lines are offering? This works best in May, but there's a trick for other dates as well. I just put one together for my sister, so I'll share the tricks for everyone's benefit.
In this case she found a cruise in May (southbound w/ balcony cabin) that cost $1650 for 2 people including all taxes and fees. The cruisetour price was $3605 and included:
-1 nt Fairbanks
-coach to Denali
-2 nts Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge
-Natural History tour in Denali
-Rail direct to the ship in dome rail car
-the same 7 nt southbound cruise
For $2878, we've got almost the same pkg with one big exception - you can't get the train directly to the ship on your own, so you have to spend 1 nt in Anchorage. On the other hand, our do-it-yourself pkg uses rail instead of a bus from Fairbanks to Denali.
Here's what you do:
1. Book a Fairbanks hotel for ~$120 on Expedia.
2. Book the Riverboat tour thru Princess or another tour desk.
3. Book the rail & Denali hotel pkg with Princess Rail Tours. The D3 tour is 25% off for May departures, making it $299pp.
4. Book the Natural History tour directly thru the park, Princess, or another tour desk. $93pp.
5. Book an Anchorage hotel for ~$90 on Expedia.
6. Book a shuttle to the cruise ship. A mid-priced option to Whittier is $55pp.
Make sure you get your dates right in all the bookings! You'll save over $700 just by doing a bit of the legwork yourself. During the trip you won't be told what to do every step of the way, but almost everyone can find the hotel shuttle from the airport and other such details. Sometimes it is worth it to pay someone to do the details for you, but $700 is a pretty steep price to pay.
If you don't want to travel in May you'll need to buy yourself the TourSaver 2-for-1 coupon book, which will give you 2-for-1 Princess Rail Tours that start and end in Anchorage, so it's slightly different again but still gets you the same amount of time in Denali. Plus, you'll have access to all the other coupons in Toursaver for shore excursions and restaurants, and also if you want to stay 2 nts in some hotels.