Disney Cruise Line Skagway, Alaska Train Excursions: Compare/Contrast

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t_logo_fbTouring Plans blogger Kristi Fredericks recently compared our dog sled excursions on a Disney Cruise Line voyage to Alaska. We’re back with another round of Alaska Port Adventure comparisons, this time we’re looking at two train related excursions in the port of Skagway, Alaska. Kristi took the White Pass Railway and Trail Camp trip, while I took the All Aboard Steam Train tour. Here’s the scoop…

WHITE PASS RAILWAY AND TRAIL CAMP

  • Price: $168 for guests 10 years old and above, $85 for children three to nine years old and free for children two years old and younger.
  • Price add ons: There is an opportunity to purchase souvenirs at the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp.
  • Time requirement: The total excursion time is about 4.5 to 5 hours.
  • Physical issues: This excursion is both wheelchair and stroller accessible. Both must be collapsible. Guests must be able to walk on gravel to transfer to the train and motor coach.
  • Age limits: None.
  • Other important details: Passports are required for all guests, because this Port Adventure crosses into Canada.

Kristi’s experience with White Pass Railway and Trail Camp:

We started our Port Adventure by showing our passports before climbing on a large motor coach for a quick 5 minute ride to the train station. Once we arrived, we boarded a vintage rail car and were given a magazine filled with information about the White Pass and Yukon Route. This complimentary booklet also included a map detailing the route we would be taking that day. We found some seats and browsed through the magazine while we waited for our adventure to begin.

Moments later, the train set off on its approximately 90 minute journey to Fraser, British Columbia. Along the way, we were provided detailed narration on what we were seeing out the windows. Word of warning: A fair amount of the information was grim as we passed cemeteries, burial markers and other assorted places where people and animals lost their lives during the Gold Rush. The scenery, however, was spectacular and there were ample photo taking opportunities. Passengers were even given the chance to walk out on the platforms connecting the rail cars for more amazing views. My family and I jumped at this good fortune! I would only recommend this for older children, because small or rambunctious kids could easily fall. People with a tendency to become motion-sick might want to skip the outdoor viewing as well, because the sensations of motion and speed greatly increase when outside on the train. The 90 minutes passed swiftly and in no time we were at the train station in Fraser sitting patiently as Border Patrol checked everyone’s passports. Once we were cleared, it was off the train and on another motor coach for our trip to the trail camp. For the next 35 minutes, we traveled down the Klondike Highway taking in more beautiful sights. As you can imagine, a lot of our fellow adventurers were growing tired and several of them took this opportunity to take a quick nap. By the time we reached the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp, the majority of the passengers on our bus were asleep.

We all groggily dragged ourselves off the bus and walked the dirt path to Liarsville. This trail camp was named after journalists that were sent to Alaska and cooked up tall tales from this location during the Klondike Gold Rush. When reading about this portion of the Port Adventure on the Disney Cruise Line website, I was really looking forward to it. I was promised the opportunity to explore the camp, have cookies and cider, see a “hilarious melodrama” and learn the “art of gold panning.” Unfortunately, Liarsville fell flat for me and my family. We were moved through the area quickly with no time to explore the buildings except from the outside. The cookies were store-bought and the cider was way too hot for kids to drink. The “hilarious melodrama” which I was envisioning to be like Hoop-De-Doo Revue was instead a morbid and gruesome rendition of the Robert W. Service poem, The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill, which tells the story of a prospector who freezes to death. Spoiler Alert: Poor Blasphemous Bill won’t fit in his casket, because he has frozen spread eagle and ultimately has to have his arms and legs cut off to be placed inside. Although, the poem was presented in a funny and sarcastic manner, my boys (ages 8 and 11) were not amused! Finally, we were each given a pre-made pan that contained a couple gold flakes, to try our hand at gold panning in a small trough, before quickly being shuttled to our awaiting bus. After another, speedy 5 minute ride on the motor coach, we were back at the train station and our excursion was complete.

Overall, my family and I truly enjoyed the train portion of this Port Adventure. Ninety minutes seemed just the right amount of time to experience the ride and the scenery. However, if we had it to do over, we would pass on the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp portion of the excursion. That being said, for the right audience (adults and older teens), the trail camp could be a great fit.

Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp Caboose ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp Caboose ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
View from the Platform ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
View from the Platform ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
View of the Train ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
View of the Train ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Train Rail Car ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Train Rail Car ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp Gold Panning ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp Gold Panning ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp Melodrama ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp Melodrama ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp Souvenir Shop ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp Souvenir Shop ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Route Map ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com
Route Map ©www.disneyworldenthusiast.com

 

ALL ABOARD STEAM TRAIN TOUR

  • Price: $214 (ages 10 and up), $109 (ages 3-9), children under age three are free.
  • Price add ons: There is an opportunity to buy a DVD about the Yukon area and a White Pass rail hat. The cost was about $20 each, cash.
  • Time requirement: 3.5 to 4 hours.
  • Physical issues: Wheelchairs and ECVs are not permitted. Guest must climb three steep stairs to board the train. Movement of the train may impact guests with motion sickness issues.
  • Age limits: none.
  • Other important details: Passports are required for all guests, because this Port Adventure crosses into Canada.

Erin’s experience with the All Aboard Steam Train Tour:

My train tour had many areas of commonality with Kristi’s. We were also on the White Pass & Yukon Line (the only game in town), but our journey was on a vintage steam train with period cars rather than the slightly more modern cars with which most of the other trains were fitted. Our excursion started right at the port dock. If the timing is right, your train may pull directly up to the ship’s mooring, as ours did.

The entirety of our excursion was the train ride. We had about 90+ minutes on the way up to Fraser, British Columbia, and then 90+ minutes back over the same tracks, with the exact same view. The only break in the trip occurred at Fraser, where the train stopped for about 10 minutes to take on water (for the steam). We were not allowed to disembark, but our guide did offer us packaged Milano cookies and a glass of champagne or sparkling water for a mid-trip toast.

Our guide happened to be an entertaining story teller. But I missed much of what he said because I choose to take photos from the platform at the rear of our train car. The car’s windows do not open, so I found there was lots of glare when I tried to take photos from inside the train. The platforms are small and, as Kristi mentioned, somewhat dangerous. Our group had about half a dozen people jockeying for position at the rail, which ended up being quite stressful.

I found the scenery to be lovely, but there was no big “WOW” factor for me. We didn’t see anything on this train trip that you wouldn’t see on any other auto or rail trip in a mountainous area. I will say that I grew up in a Northern rural lakes area, so similar sights are familiar to me. If you haven’t had much experience in this type of country, you might be more impressed. Since this was an out-and-back trip, we saw everything twice, which, to me, was somewhat monotonous. As with Kristi’s excursion, many guests napped during the ride “home.” By the end, even our guide seemed to run out of steam and mostly remained quiet to help people sleep. There were a few small kids on my train trip and they were mostly baffled by the complete lack of anything to do on the train other than look out the window.

For me, paying $200 to take a nap on a train, when I could take one on a boat for no additional charge, seems a little silly. While Kristi didn’t have great luck at the Mining Camp, I find myself a little jealous of her experience because at least there were a variety of activities to break up the Port Adventure.

The train pulls right up to the dock.
The train pulls right up to the dock.
The outdoor platforms hold just a few people safely.
The outdoor platforms hold just a few people safely.
Typical scenery. (Also known as "There doesn't seem to be any track.")
Typical scenery. (Also known as “There doesn’t seem to be any track.”)
Nice view from the train car platform.
Nice view from the train car platform.
Champagne toast at the turn around point.
Champagne toast at the turn around point.
Passing the US/Canada border.
Passing the US/Canada border.
You can see many types of train cars just walking near town.
You can see many types of train cars just walking near town.

OVERALL

When you chat with shop keepers in Skagway, most of them will ask you if you’re taking a train trip. The train is the town’s pride and joy and many of the excursions offered in Skagway have a train component. The trains themselves are beautiful, but you can see many of them in town without going on an excursion. You can also learn about much of the train history that the guides present by visiting the White Pass & Yukon office at the edge of town, less than a 10 minute walk from the ship.

If you absolutely love trains, or if you’re longing to look at some forested areas, then you’ll likely enjoy the White Pass & Yukon line. If you want to be active in the outdoors, choose an excursion which pairs the train with a more participatory event.

Have you taken a train trip in Skagway? What were your impressions? Let us know in the comments below.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

6 thoughts on “Disney Cruise Line Skagway, Alaska Train Excursions: Compare/Contrast

  • Pingback:TouringPlans – White Pass & Yukon Line Railway Train In Alaska | Disney World Enthusiast

  • August 28, 2014 at 6:54 pm
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    I did an Alaskan cruise a few years ago and in Skagway, we did a train and bike tour excursion. Pretty much the same 90 minute train ride, but biking the way back, which was almost all downhill so it was mostly coasting and enjoying the scenery. We got to stop for pictures at certain points. And the bike shop was in the middle of town so we got to see more of the town that way as well. This was one of my favorite excursions on any cruise.

    Reply
    • August 29, 2014 at 11:32 am
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      Lauren,
      Wow! That biking option sounds great…especially the downhill part! That would be a nice way to get a different perspective on the return trip. )

      Reply
  • August 28, 2014 at 10:38 pm
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    Thanks so much, ladies, for these Alaska port excursion posts!! I’d read the dog sled one, and was hoping for one about the Skagway trains :-). I am cruising DCL to Alaska for the first time next summer & these posts are very helpful!! There are 11 different train excursions in Skagway & I have been trying to figure out which one I’d want to take. These two were on the list, but I think I will look closer at some of the other options. Can’t wait for your Ketchikan post!

    Reply
    • August 29, 2014 at 11:38 am
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      LG,
      I’m so glad you are enjoying our posts and finding them helpful! Isn’t it overwhelming with how many excursion options there are? I’m currently working on my post about the Misty Fjord Floatplane Port Adventure in Ketchikan. Look for it in September. I hope you have a wonderful trip to Alaska next year! 🙂

      Reply
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