Travel Weekly's Alaska E-letter: Aug. 22, 2007

THE ALASKA RAILROAD CORP. and the U.S. Forest Service have joined forces to offer rail passengers an opportunity to travel deep into Chugach National Forest. Travelers can board the Glacier Discovery train in Anchorage, Girdwood or Portage. The first phase of the partnership is the opening of the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop. Passengers can purchase a ticket to Spencer Glacier where they will be accompanied by a U.S. Forest Service interpreter who will lead a narrated walk to a viewing platform about one-and-a-half miles from the whistle stop. The fare from Anchorage or Girdwood is $95 and includes rail fare to Spencer and return to the Portage stop, backcountry use, a guided hike and a motorcoach transfer from Portage to Anchorage. The roundtrip fare from Portage to Whitier is $59. Unguided and overnight use will be permitted starting Aug. 23. The whistle stop service will be limited to the summer passenger season, which runs through September, but might be expanded as the service grows, Alaska Railroad said.

EVENTUALLY, the completed project will include a series of five Whistle Stop Stations with restrooms and other amenities allowing visitors to disembark the train to take a day or overnight trip into the heart of the Chugach National Forest. Plans call for a connected system of trails linking the different recreational sites giving visitors access to lakes, glaciers and mountain passes. There will also be campsites and public-use cabins. In addition, plans include two self-propelled cars called Diesel Multiple Units (DMU) built by Colorado Railcar. The cars can stop and start in a short distance, and are quiet and fuel efficient, the railroad said. The entire project is expected to cost $18 million, with funding through grants, the railroad capital budget and Forest Service funds. Visit www.alaskarailroad.com.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE announced it will offer a trio of Alaska itineraries in 2008 and a total of 156 cruises to the state, including 59 sailings on three ships from Seattle and 97 cruises on five ships based in Vancouver. The cruise line said it will offer the most entries into Glacier Bay National Park of any line. The Alaskan Explorer cruise will depart from Seattle from May 3 to Sept. 21 aboard the Oosterdam, Westerdam and Amsterdam. All Alaskan Explorer cruises will call at the historic ports of Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, plus Victoria, British Columbia, and feature cruising of the Inside Passage and Vancouver Island. Four ships -- the Ryndam, Statendam, Veendam and Zaandam -- will offer 43 seven-day Glacier Bay Inside Passage cruises roundtrip from Vancouver with departures from May 2 to Sept. 19. Meanwhile, two ships -- the Zaandam and Volendam -- will offer 36 seven-day one-way cruises between Vancouver and Seward departing May 11 to Sept. 14, with northbound Glacier Bay Discovery cruises calling at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. Additionally, the line will offer 29 CruiseTours, ranging in length from 11 to 20 days, with several offering two full days at Denali National Park. Visit www.hollandamerica.com or call (877) 724-5425.

AMERICAN SAFARI CRUISES, the luxury yacht cruise line, said it will double its fleet in 2008 and debut its new ships in Alaska in May. The new ships are the 150-foot, 39-passenger yacht Safari Explorer and the 108-foot, six-passenger, charter-only Safari Legacy. The Safari Explorer's seven-day Alaska cruises will include two days in Glacier Bay National Park and a circumnavigation of Admiralty Island. All-inclusive prices will start at $4,395 per person, double. One- to two-week charters aboard the three-cabin Safari Legacy will run mid-May to late August and cost from $55,000 per charter, including a four-person crew, food, premium beverages, fuel and activities. The company will help customers create a customized itinerary roundtrip from Juneau. Call (888) 862-8881 or visit www.amsafari.com.

Alaska Editor: Jorge Sidron

Phone: (973) 898-0011

[email protected]

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