In May we set off on the trip of our dreams to Alaska to ride the railroad and do a glacier cruise. We wanted to ride the Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery train to Whittier and it did not disappoint!
Getting to Anchorage
We flew on Delta from Seattle to Anchorage, after arriving in Seattle on the Amtrak Empire Builder and spending a few days looking around the city. The flight itself is incredible, more beautiful than we could have imagined.
Upon landing in Anchorage, we took the hotel shuttle to our home for the next 2 night, the Comfort Suites Ship Creek. It certainly wasn’t the nicest hotel we’ve been in, but you don’t go to Alaska for the hotels. It was however the cheapest hotel we saw, had an airport shuttle, free breakfast, and was really close to the Alaska Railroad depot. I’m kind of surprised this hotel isn’t rated higher considering the convenience and price. We’d stay there again the next time.
Getting to the Alaska Railroad Depot
It was just a short 5 minute walk to the station from our hotel the next morning. The Glacier Discovery leaves early, at 9:45am, but coming from Chicago our clocks were several hours ahead and we were up earlier than normal.
Check in for the Glacier Discovery is a breeze. The staff are nice and assigned us our seats for the day on both trains. Little did we know, they gave us some of the best seats on the train!
On the Glacier Discovery there is an upper level that faces forward over a car with only one level so you can see out of the front and sides of the train at the same time. If you are in seats 1 or 2 on the upper level you’ll have these seats. They would be worth asking about when you get to the station.
The Glacier Discovery route only has Adventure Class, so you don’t need to make any choices on what class of service you’ll have. We thought the Adventure Class was really nice though, even better than we expected. Due to there being no GoldStar Service on this train, there is not an outdoor viewing platform like you would get on the Denali Star.
Our seats were at the table on the left, facing each other. Really amazing seats for this trip. Table 2 is on the right, and those are probably the best seats on the train.
The Ride to Whittier
The train ride started out without much fanfare, but as the ride went on the views just got better and better. Most of the better views are on the right side going to Whittier from Anchorage, but we were looking out the front so it didn’t matter much that we were on the left. This was a really special experience for us, as it is only the 2nd time we’ve been able to see out the front of a train while riding.
As you can see from the picture above, the views are the worst from the lower level left side of the train.
Seats are in groups of 4 and are set around a table. Two of the seats will be facing forward and two will be facing backward. Seats A and C are by the window and seats B and D are on the aisle. Seats A and B face backwards and seats C and D face forward. So the window forward facing seat at the table is seat C.
Try to avoid seats 7 A/B on the upper level at all costs. They both face backwards and look right into a wall! I can’t imagine this is a good ride.
The Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery route runs every day in summer, with round trip service from Anchorage to Whittier. It takes 2.5 hours to get from Anchorage to Whittier which culminates with a ride through the Whittier Tunnel.
Food is available for purchase on board the train from a cafe on the lower level. We bought a pretzel and a coke to share during our ride. We knew we’d be getting lunch on the Glacier Cruise, so we just opted for a snack.
If you need to charge your phone or any other electronics, there are outlets at each table for charging.
The stairs to the upper level are wide and easy to navigate.
If you are connecting to a cruise ship and riding the train one way, there is a luggage storage section on the lower level.
We did see some moose on the return trip at night, but not much wildlife during the day on the Glacier Discovery.
26 Glacier Cruise
When we booked our tour we choose to get the 26 Glacier Cruise included and it pairs perfectly with a round trip or one way train ride from Anchorage. Even though our train was a little late getting in, they held the boat for the train passengers. The 2 companies work in conjunction, so if you are riding the train and taking the 26 Glacier Cruise, you’ll be in good hands. You just step off the train and walk across the street to where the glacier cruise starts. On that day a Holland America cruise ship was also in port.
As soon as you get on the cruise, they start serving lunch, which was pretty good, and we were hungry.
We didn’t really do much research into the cruise, but it was one of our highlights of our entire summer. Doing the 26 Glacier Cruise is totally worth the money and recommended. There isn’t much else to do in Whittier anyway, so if you are spending some time there, you should really consider this glacier cruise.
Not only did we see 26 Glaciers, we saw incredible wildlife. During our cruise we saw seals, orca whales, eagles, otters and lots of other amazing species. What an incredible day!
One note of caution. If you are going to ride this cruise, it is not a slow glacier cruise. It will be going 30-40 mph much of the time and then slow down once there are sights to see. They cover around 140 miles in the time you are on board! If you are going to stand outside during the cruise be prepared for high winds.
Most people rode the train one way and got on the Holland America cruise ship afterwards, but we rode it back to Anchorage that night, as we were booked on the Denali Star route to Fairbanks the next day.
How much does the Glacier Discovery train cost
We paid $228 for 2 roundtrip tickets on the Glacier Discovery. Many people only go one way, so the cost would be cheaper. For that price, we thought it was an excellent value.
Is the Alaska Railroad worth it
The Alaska Railroad is totally worth the money you’ll spend to ride it. We loved the Glacier Discovery Train and would recommend it to anyone that wants to see Alaska by rail. You won’t be disappointed in this trip!