Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic – Seward to Anchorage
My cruise on the Norwegian Spirit ended at Seward, Alaska – a port city about 120 miles south of Anchorage. In order to get from Seward to Anchorage, you have three main options — rent a car, take a bus, or hop on the Alaska Railroad. The Alaska Railroad was transferred from the United States federal government to the State of Alaska in 1985. My grandfather worked on the Alaska Railroad during WWII so it was fun to get to ride a route he worked some 80 years ago.
I booked the trip as an excursion through Norwegian Cruise Line. The early morning trip out of Seward on the Coastal Classic is specifically chartered by the cruise line for passengers. If you wanted to purchase a ticket directly through the Alaska Railroad, you would need to take the evening train instead.
The cost of the one way trip was $69 after a $50 excursion credit. A typical one way trip would be $119 if booked direct during Summer 2023. The chartered trip does not offer the upgraded GoldStar Service.
The train pulls up to the port in Seward. There is a large barn used as a cruise and train terminal, but there was no waiting around. Once off the ship, we entered the barn and checked in for the train. Then we were given seat assignments and headed to the train car assigned to us.
The train cars for our trip were all identical — single level cars with large dome glass windows and bistro style booths. We were assigned to a Seats A & B that faced backwards. Unless you are a group of four, you will be sat with others at random. There is room under your seat for a backpack but larger luggage must be checked. There are booths on both sides of the train with an aisle down the middle.
As we were on a morning train that left around 6:30, breakfast was available for purchase for the first half of the trip, and then lunch was available.
In addition to ordering items from your seat, you could also go to the cafe car that offered pastries and beverages. The staff also pointed out scenic landmarks throughout the journey.
I enjoyed spending most of the trip in the cafe car as it had windows on both sides and you could easily switch from side to side to see the views.
The trip takes about four hours. As this was a chartered trip, it didn’t make any stops along the way.
As you leave Seward you pass by rivers and lakes with mountains all around you.
You pass by Kenai Lake and a number of glaciers.
You pass by a number of waterfalls during the summer months.
At one point the train does a large loop to get down a steep grade.
The last hour of the trip is along Turnagain Arm outside of Anchorage. Apparently the glacier silt in Turnagain is dangerous like quicksand — stay on the train and don’t attempt to walk out on it.
While we didn’t see any bears along the route, we did see Dall Sheep and moose.
Our journey ended at the airport station where passengers had the option of catching their flight or taking a bus into town.
Taking the Alaska Railroad is a scenic way to get from Seward to Anchorage (and on to Denali and Fairbanks should you choose). It is a relaxing ride with lots to see.