One of the first questions you’ll be wondering after looking into an Alaska Railroad vacation is if it is worth it to purchase the upgrade to Alaska Railroad GoldStar service. It comes at quite a price hike, but what do you get and is it worth your money.
Alaska Railroad GoldStar Service is worth the money to upgrade from adventure class on your trip of a lifetime. If you’ve spent the money to get all the way to Alaska, this upgrade should not be where you decide to start cutting back, as you’ll be missing out on a few things that will make your trip more enjoyable. Let’s check out some of the benefits to GoldStar Service vs. Adventure Class.
The GoldStar Service class has a two level domed car with large windows and seats on the upper level. Of these things the seats being on the upper level is the most important. There are times when that extra 10 feet of height will get you a much better viewing angle.
We didn’t find the windows to be much better than Adventure Class, because while you can see out the top, there is nothing to see out the top, and it just means you’ll have the sun reaching you more directly. They have shaded the top portion of the windows for this reason, which makes it even harder to see out the top. You’ll get the same viewing experience out of either type of window, because you’ll usually be just looking straight out.
Outdoor Viewing Space
In our opinion, this is where the GoldStar Service really shines, the outdoor viewing platform. At the rear of the GoldStar car, there is an outdoor viewing platform that can accommodate about 12 people at a time. Views are perfect and it is the ideal choice if you are planning to do any photography or videography on your trip.
You won’t want to just stand out there the whole time though. When the train is moving quickly it can be quite windy and difficult to stand due to sway of the train. The train will slow down or even stop at the prettiest parts of the route, and you’ll usually be notified when it is a good time to go back there. This of course does make it more crowded than it would otherwise be.
After the first half of the trip, many passengers will tire of walking back there though, and we found that we had it all to ourselves on the last half of the trip most of the time.
This is simply one of the best photography experiences from a train that you can find. If you love photography, this is reason enough to upgrade to GoldStar Service.
If you are wanting to get shots of the front of the train set against the landscape, this is the place to do it. You can lean over the edge and get a great picture of the engine as it turns in several places. You’ll want to have a strap on your phone, because you’ll be holding the phone or camera over the edge.
Meals are included in your Alaska Railroad GoldStar Service experience. The food in our opinion was good, on par with the Amtrak Traditional Dining experience we’ve had. Don’t expect cruise ship food, but it is better than bringing your own food, and it is also nice to eat in the dining car on the lower level.
We didn’t see much difference in the actual seats between the classes. We expected the GoldStar seats to be bigger than they were, but they were perfectly comfortable for a day trip.
There is however much less room to store bags in the GoldStar car as the back is taken up by a bar and the outdoor viewing platform. In Adventure Class there is a luggage rack for extra bags. If you are riding in GoldStar you should check whatever bags you can.
The Adventure Class had a few table style seats where 4 people could sit facing each other on the Denali Star. On the Glacier Discovery, the whole train was Adventure Class, and all of the seats were table style family seating.
All of the seats on the Denali Star were forward facing in GoldStar class. To choose the best seats on each train see our 12 things you need to know before riding the Alaska Railroad.
The GoldStar car does have an accessible lift, the first we’ve ever seen on a train!
Cost is obviously the biggest difference between the two classes. GoldStar service comes at a hefty price hike, but if you have any interest in photography, or seeing the landscape from outside, the GoldStar tickets cannot be beat. The GoldStar class also comes with a collectible pin that can be kept. It is what signifies to the staff that you are allowed to be in the GoldStar car.
We thought Adventure Class would be a poor experience, but we were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. Gone were the perks of GoldStar, but as far as the seat and viewing experience, it was really great.
There is a snack bar adjacent to the seating area that offers both drinks and snacks. We got hot food there like a pretzel and a corn dog. Prices were fair and the food was good.
Would we buy GoldStar again
If we were doing the trip again we would get GoldStar on the Denali Star at least one way, going towards Denali, and get Adventure class for the rest of our trips. The outdoor viewing platform was amazing for us, as we love taking pictures and videos, but if we were riding round trip to Denali we wouldn’t need to do it both ways.
If you’ve planned out a really nice vacation we recommend springing for the GoldStar car for at least one train ride. Alaska was a dream trip for us and it did not disappoint us at all. Having GoldStar seats on the Denali Star was a cherished experience that we will remember for a long time.