We did a big loop from North Pole, to Denali, Talkeetna, Seward, Paxson and back up to Fairbanks, renting log cabins. It was a wonderful experience and the perfect way to go. Years ago I did the cruise ship and it's just not my thing. My family wanted to see wildlife on land and sea as well as glaciers.
Staying inside Denali at Kantishna Roadhouse was expensive but worth it. Have to stay at least 2-3 nights to have a better chance to see Denali out in all its glory and get a good feel for the park with hikes, fishing etc. We stayed 4 nights. Lucky enough to see Denali cloudless 2 different times. Going into Denali for the day bus trip is ok if it absolutely is the only way you'll see Denali, but I wouldn't recommend it otherwise. It's a long haul in and out. Staying inside (90+miles) the park means your trip is only one way that day and can be a more intense viewing of wildlife.
The Denali Overlook Inn at Talkeetna is marvelous. They have a gorgeous B&B but we stayed in their large cabin with the upper loft looking out a picture window straight at Denali in the distance. I'm sure the rooms in the Inn were lovely, but the cabin was perfect for my husband, son and I. Their breakfasts are fun. And you might have a chance to see a moose or black bear wander right into the yard!
Paxson is hardly a town, but the Denali Highway Cabins were great. We stayed in the larger cabin (again with a loft) across the road away from the river and it was fine. At first I was worried about it being right near the road, but the Richardson Highway sees about 1 car an hour. Be sure to ask Audie to take you on his float trip down the river--we saw beaver, tons of eagles close up, salmon everywhere around us. Never saw moose but earlier saw moose bones that a bear had eaten.
You can plan the trip yourself with a bit of time and patience. Do alot of web surfing, get the State of Alaska tourism books, pick up the Milepost (Barnes&Noble carries it), and pick up the phone. Talk to the hotels, inns, B&B's, cabins, etc. to be sure it is exactly what you want. Check out their websites. Most importantly, plan enough days in each spot you want to see, and definitely plan enough time to travel between the places you are staying. Alaska is huge and it takes alot of hours to get from one spot to the other sometimes.
We were not disappointed in any of the places we stayed. We did try to stay away from the really commercial tours and trips. But the glacier tour down in Seward was just great. Beautiful weather and saw every type of wildlife out there except orca. Breathtaking views of glaciers calving while seals floated on icebergs below it all. Well worth the day. We did the 6 hr tour, I believe.
Plan right, leave time for hikes, wildlife "hunting", and you'll have an unbelievable time. Enjoy!