The Alaska Railroad GoldStar ride from Anchorage to Seward Review 2023

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a group of people on a bus

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After our short walk down the hill from the Hilton Anchorage, under bright sunshine at shortly past 5 AM on this crisp May day, we found the line for checking luggage for the train. Thankfully Norwegian (and I think other lines do this as well) sent a box truck to load all the luggage onto the ship, that is, you ride the train while your stuff goes the less scenic route.

Two #ProTips for you about luggage. First up have your cabin tags ready to go, that is, attached to your luggage before you get to the train station to expedite your process. Next, as you will see in photos, carryon space is VERY limited. If you have a stock small roll aboard it will NOT fit. You can “train side” check this and claim it when you arrive – just don’t forget to get it.

a group of people outside of a building

I highly recommend you pre-book your train ride. We used Alaska Travel and with the discount code Denali23 ended up paying just over $200 each for the 4ish hour ride and it was worth every penny.

a pair of hand holding tickets

You will have to wait in line to get your tickets but if you booked via a travel agent make sure you are in the right line vs. just those paying at the window.

a group of people walking on tracks next to a train

a group of people boarding a train

a white building with stairs and a car parked in front of it

Boarding was quick and simple and it was refreshing not having to deal with TSA or any other screening pre-boarding (Hilton in bottom photo right side).

a seat on a train

a person's legs and a bottle of water in a seat

Seats are comfortable, can recline a bit, but have little leg room and as mentioned carryon space is minimal and you must plan for this.

a man and woman sitting in a car

As you can see by our expressions, we were really excited about this adventure. I did bring a book with me because the ride was over 4 hours and beforehand I thought I may get tired of the same views – I was wrong!

a menu with orange and black text

a small kitchen with a computer and a counter

Included in the Goldstar package was 2 drinks and breakfast in addition to the stunning views. In the non-Goldstar (call it coach) rear part of the train there was an upstairs that you could visit to get similar views and riders were told to limit themselves to 20 minute visits but the ticket price was half what we paid.

a man standing in a train

The conductor was hilarious and had worked for the railroad for decades and could be retired but loved the job and the views so much that he just kept doing it. He was happy to pose for photos and shared so much knowledge – what an extraordinary man.

a group of menus on a table

a table set up in a train

a plate of food with a biscuit and bacon

They took folks down for breakfast a few groups at a time starting at the front of the train. We were in the very back so we were some of the last to be called and it took a rather long time. Breakfast was acceptable but not the reason for this ride. The reason was this:

a train on the road

a train tracks next to a body of water

I hope you click play on the short 1 minute video above of the view from the front of this upper deck car. The “eye candy” was beyond words. Truly stunning.

a river with mountains in the background

As mentioned I thought, perhaps, I would get tired of just staring out the windows but I never did for a moment. So breathtaking.

a bridge over a snowy mountain

a snowy landscape with trees and a lake

Seeing ridiculous views as well as glaciers from the train? Yes please and more more more. If you have never done this you WANT to do this once in your life.

a plane in the water

It is hard to comprehend just how big Alaska is and this ties in with the fact that this state has the most private pilots of any state in the US. Having water runways all over does help!

a train on the tracks in the snow

a yellow and blue train

About 3 hours into the ride we had to pause to let the northbound train from Seward pass us who had just picked up passengers getting off the ship. Just before this we snaked our way up a mountain pass and passed waterfalls and so much wildlife. Just amazing.

a view of a field and mountains from a train window

people walking with luggage in a parking lot with a large ship

a light pole with a railing overlooking a body of water and mountains

Upon arrival there were buses to take you to the ship or you can walk for about 5-10 minutes to the ship (don’t forget carryon checked bags). After so many hours of sitting we chose to walk but we would have been better off jumping on the bus as the road to the ship is a bit rugged.

Overall this was a total thrill and I would do it again in a heartbeat and so worth the price. Talking to passengers onboard who took the coach ride they said almost no one came upstairs and they were free to stay as long as they liked and they spent most of the ride with the same views as we had but take that as a YMMV.

Have you taken the Alaska Railroad to your ship or on another route? Were you as impressed as we were? – René

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Great review René! We’re going to be disembarking in Seward next summer and plan to do the same in reverse.

  2. Booked and paid for it on May 19 only to get an email two days before that said the train was cancelled because of avalanche danger. They put us on a smelly bus and refunded part of our fare. Not a great experience but probably better than getting crushed in an avalanche.

  3. René, I should have asked in my original comment, do you have to make arrangements in advance with NCL (or book a transfer through them) to have them pick up your luggage at the train station in Anchorage, or is this something they do for all scheduled trains based on their embark/disembark schedule?

  4. Hi Rene. Local Anchorage gal here. Coastal train is fun. I’m being a tourist and taking it next month for my Regent cruises Rt Seward. Hoping Regent has the same deal where you can check your bag all the way to the ship. If you have time next time stay a day in Seward and enjoy that quaint small town. The aquarium is amazing. Paid for with Exxon Valdez money. It houses rehabilitated animals and is very well done. Of course lots of fishing and whale tours. Plus some of the best coffee I’ve ever drank is in town. Cheers!

  5. Our cruise holiday begins with the Alaska RR Coastal ride, taking the train from Anchorage to Whittier. It is a stress free start.
    We drove once from Anchorage to Seward and got over that quickly, though we enjoyed a stop at Portage Glacier.

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