Sister cruise lines Holland America and Princess have cleverly invested in a domed observatory train to enhance the already spectacular trip between coastal Anchorage and Denali National Park and Preserve to the north. Board the train in Anchorage and within minutes it is free of the city. The train doesn’t need many amenities—fast-bounding rivers, three mountain ranges, moose, swans, homesteads, high vistas of broad glacial valleys, and tiny towns speeding past the windows would honestly be enough—but each dome car has a guide aboard who, armed with personal experience, natural history and Alaskan history, narrates the scenery and answers questions (lots of “How cold does it really get?”) and a bartender (who was kept very busy by my fellow passengers). Past the single brief stop in Talkeetna, there’s a stretch of the trip where, on clear days, Denali can be seen. I don’t think it was just me: when the train crossed the continental divide and drew closer to the park, to the Alaska Range and its remarkably high peaks, and to the possibility of seeing Denali, the festive mood in the railcar become far more reverent and hushed.
Ann Shields traveled to Alaska and the Yukon with Holland America Line as part of AFAR’s partnership with the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, and peace-of-mind to destinations across the globe. For more on Ann’s journey, visit the USTOA blog.