o what the heck is a story about hotel
lodges doing in a cruise guide?
Many agents already know the answer. When booking a Princess
cruise to Alaska, they sell their customers on a land package that
includes staying at one or more of the five Princess lodges in
Alaska's wilderness, creating what Princess and other lines call a
cruise tour. Agents get a bigger payday, while helping their
clients see more of a state they may visit only once in their
The land tours are proving so popular that Princess is spending
about $20 million to add a combined 176 rooms, as well as other
enhancements, at its Denali and Mt. McKinley lodges.
After eight days visiting all five lodges and trying various
excursions, I found it easy to understand the appeal of the land
tour. My trip also suggested several selling points an agent can
stress to clients:
Selling point No. 1: Interior motives.
Clients might not fully appreciate how vast the Alaskan
wilderness is until they're actually there. Alaska is equal in size
to about one-fifth of the rest of the U.S., yet most of the state
is parkland or wildlife preserve. Cruises skirt the shore of
Alaska, but only the land tour takes tourists to the interior.
Just traveling to and between the lodges can be
Selling point No. 2: Be Lodge-ical.
Remote could also mean "rustic," but that's not the case with
the Princess Wilderness Lodges. There's not a bad one in the bunch,
though some have more-limited appeal.
Many of the lodges are in remote places by continental U.S.
standards. But they are still beside roadways (not remote for
Alaska) and offer plenty of upscale perks, including fine dining on
Alaskan specialties such as salmon and king crab legs.
The properties are well-maintained, with colorful flowers
livening up many common areas. Outdoor decks and patios and rooms
with floor-to-ceiling windows provide spectacular views of
mountains and rivers .
Each lodge has its own distinct appeal.
• The 85-room Copper River, at the junction of the Klutina and
Copper rivers, looks out over the largest national park in the
country: Wrangell-St. Elias. This is the most remote lodge, which
is part of its appeal, but also a potential obstacle. Many visitors
opt for a two-night stay, usually at the start or end of the land
Princess' decision to move its port next season from Seward to
Whittier could provide a boost for this lodge, because Whittier is
one-and-a-half hours closer to Copper River.
• The Kenai Lodge overlooks Kenai River, most famous for its
fishing, especially for salmon. Each of its 86 rooms include a
wood-burning stove and a porch. The premium and deluxe rooms have
• The Denali Lodge is about a mile from the Denali National Park
entrance, providing easy access to a site that has been a huge draw
for photographers and nature and wildlife lovers.
Denali also is getting an overhaul. The goal of the construction
project is not just to add 80 rooms to the 352 already there, but
also to "change the dynamics of the whole property," said Carole
Halverson, the lodge's rooms division manager.
There also will be more places to walk on the grounds, a covered
outdoor dining area, and a new scenic viewing room with a vaulted
• The 238-room McKinley Lodge, just a few miles south of Denali
National Park, provides the upscale atmosphere Denali is seeking to
The lodge includes "The Great Room" -- an expansive, comfortable
space with seating areas, card tables, a stone fireplace and
floor-to-ceiling windows, designed for a relaxing view of the
Alaska Range, including Mount McKinley.
The expansions at McKinley and Denali are due in part to the
increasing popularity of Maximum McKinley, a cruise tour with stays
in both lodges to maximize the chance to see North America's
In fact, only 20% of McKinley lodge guests actually see Mount
McKinley, general manager Steve Zadra said. McKinley is so high it
creates its own weather system, keeping it obscured by clouds most
of the time.
Visitors can increase their odds by asking the lodge to call
them at any time (including overnight) to alert them if the
• Fairbanks Lodge, located along the banks of the Chena River
but close to the city, is near Fairbanks airport and touted by
Princess as a gateway to Alaska's rugged frontier.
Selling Point No. 3: A Tour de Force.
"You really sell yourself short if you don't sell both the
Alaska cruise and land product," said Dean Brown, Princess'
executive vice president of sales. To that end, Princess again will
offer a series of seminars for agents this fall, visiting nearly
200 cities from September through early November, to explain its
cruise tours and lodges.
Check out the travel agent area on www.princess.com for
To contact reporter Andrew Compart, send e-mail to [email protected].
For more details on this article, see:
• Hiking, hot-tubbing through Alaska
• Meanwhile, back at sea...