North to Alaska-Train to Denali

June 21—Up early to get to the train station as they said to be there an hour prior to the train, and today was an 8-hour trip on the train to go to Denali.  We were in the Gold Star section, which is like first-class.  We chose this because it gave you reserved seats in the dome car, where if you went Adventure Class you could only go in their dome car for 20 minutes at a time so everyone could have time up there.  You also had a dining room (the other just a snack bar type place to buy food) although it wasn’t free, but not horribly priced, and free soft drinks, tea and coffee.  Part of this trip was about the train ride, so I wanted to be sure we got to see it all for the entire trip.   We were given a gold star pin to wear showing that we could go up in that car, and eat in the dining room.  The food was very good, and a nice size portion.  I had pot roast with cheddar cheese mashed potatoes that I would definitely have again, DH had buffalo chili and a salad and DD had a deli sandwich.  Everyone was pleased.  It sure didn’t hurt that the atmosphere was beautiful, and we got to see Mt. McKinley a few times while we were eating.   We were told that it’s been cloudy, so seeing this great summit hasn’t been happening, but we were lucky enough for the first part of our trip to have clear skies and get some great looks at the mountain.  As we got closer it started clouding up so couldn’t see it quite as well, but as a whole, the scenery is just magnificent!   We did see a few moose, but not any bears.  I hope we have better luck with that when we got into the park tomorrow.

Once we got to Denali, the perfect day had a few kinks.  There were several people at the station holding signs for their resorts, but none for the Princess Denali Lodge, which is where we were staying.  Finally someone told us to go to the far end and that Princess busses were there.    When we got there, they told us to go back to the front, which is where we’d came from and there we did find our bus, only after asking a few people.  They had no sign and out of the 20+ busses there, they should have had something with more information for us.  We got to the lodge, which is huge!  There’s a ton of buildings, including rooms, restaurants, gift shops, etc.  I got checked in and we went to the trolley that would take us to our room—which was building 3, but at the far end of the resort, and the room was at the far end of the building.   We couldn’t get much further away.  No problem—except that none of our room keys worked.  GRRR  Back to the trolley to get back to the lobby, and start all over again.  By the time we got back DH had flagged down someone that got him into the room, and our luggage was just arriving as well (when we checked our luggage at Anchorage they asked where we were staying, then tagged the luggage so they delivered to our room, which was nice).   Even though I’d booked this room under a promotion, so a decent price, I thought, it still cost about 4 times what the Courtyard at Marriott had cost, so I was expecting something nice.  Wrong!  Wow—most cabins on the ship are larger than this room, no exaggeration!  The room last night was about twice the size of this room.  The door doesn’t shut tight, you can see light all around the door,  and a fan, no AC (last night it was 57 in the room as they had the AC turned WAY down!).  In order to sit at the table to work (no desk, just a small table with 2 chairs) I had to scoot the table over to sit in the chair, then every time (and yes, every time—I guess I don’t learn) I hit my head on the glass overhead light.  We’d read some good, and some not-so-good, reviews on the resort, but the pictures looked so good and the price was fair, compared to everything else in the area.  Now, I know it’s a tourist area, there’s not a lot of choices and their season is short, but they don’t need to try to make it all up at once with a lousy room!  No, I will not be recommending this place to anyone!  Now, that being said, the only thing I really don’t like about it is the room.  The employees all are very nice, and the restaurant was excellent.  We ate at the Base Camp Bistro, hoping to sit outside and watch the river below, but just as we got there it started raining, so we sat inside.  We started out with seafood nachos, with king crab and shrimp.  Different, tasty, but after awhile a little blah and won’t have again.  We then split fish and chips and mac n cheese with king crab and shrimp.  Both were good, but the mac n cheese was fantastic!  It just kept getting better and better the more we ate—and DD didn’t let us have much!  Very good, and I’d have it again.

After dinner we headed back to the room to get batteries charges, pictures downloaded, showered and to bed.  We’re still tired from the long day yesterday, and the time change, and the light—it’s just draining.   The only wireless internet is in the main lodge, which is a long ways from where our room is, so I’m using my air card, which is very very very slow, so I spent a couple of hours trying to work, and not getting far, so headed to bed to get a bit of sleep before we hear the alarm to start our long day at Denali tomorrow.  Looking forward to seeing a lot of animals!

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