North to Alaska

Sinead Lonergan 21 July 2019
Alaska is most famous for its miles and miles of untouched wilderness. Several of its famous sites are accessible only by boat or plane. So how do you experience this pristine wilderness with creature comforts??… On a Cruise Ship of course.

An Alaska cruise is a trip that everyone should take at least once in their lives. I have been so fortunate to have taken this trip many times. The phenomenal scenery of rugged coastlines, mountains, waterfalls and glaciers will captivate both your interest and imagination & no day or view is the same . This is why I feel a balcony cabin on an Alaska cruise is a must because of the abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing. Why would you not want to spot whales, dolphins, seals, sea otters and bald eagles all from the comfort of your balcony

For an Alaskan Cruise your turn around port could be Anchorage, Seattle or Vancouver. With numerous different itineraries, you could start or end in any of these ~ My personal recommendation would be Vancouver to Vancouver. Cruises that start in Vancouver tend to venture deeper into Alaska’s wilderness and sail through the calm waters of the inside passage. May to September is the Alaska season, but where possible I would suggest July to my cruise clients. Days are bright & longer and visibility is better.

Ketchikan ~ Ketchikan means “Eagle with spread out wings”. It's a quaint town with a gushing creek running through. The Ship will dock right in the heart of everything. Creek Street is on the board walk and it is filled with shops and museums. Originally a red light district back in the gold rush days .. it’s a must to get a real feel for the town. Another recommendation for Ketchikan would be Totem Bright State Park, a short bus ride from Creek Street located in a forest and each Totem pole visually telling their own story.

The Salmon Rush. I have experienced this many times and it’s a unbelievable sight, you really want to call out to them “turn back”!! They fill the Creek and fight their way uphill against the current. Ketchikan regards itself as the salmon capital of the world. And before you return to the Ship , you really must take in the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. The show itself is an hour long and there will be up to five shows a day. A great competition of skill and strength full of excitement and laughs and unique to Alaska .

Juneau ~ I love the town of Juneau; I even called my dog Juneau! Downtown Juneau sits perfectly wedged between the huge snow-capped mountains of Mount Roberts and Mount Juneau. Juneau is the capital of Alaska and one of its oldest cites. You can take a local bus to Mendenhall Glacier and take in Nugget fall trail or like me you can canoe right up to the glacier. It’s an amazing experience. Mendenhall is the only drive up glacier in Alaska and would be Juneau’s No 1 attraction Whale watching is another must do in Juneau. On these tours, you are normally accompanied by a naturalist who explains in great detail amongst other things the feeding habits of the hump back whale and of course identifying the many other wild life that share the waters You could also take a Helicopter tour and land on the glacier and then hike or walk the glacier. An excursion I have always enjoyed.

Hubbard Glacier ~ Wow is the one word that springs to mind as I remember my many trips to Hubbard Glacier. It’s an experience like no other. Listening to the glacier calving into the sea of ice. The glacier roars as huge chunks of ice break off and crash into the water. No picture can do this justice, you must experience it. The Glacier is 6 miles wide!!

Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in north America. The Ship will take a few hours to sail into the bay and then make a full 360 turn. Having embarked local Alaskan tribe on the last port, these tribes will host talks around the ship and be on the open decks mingling with the passengers on board .. you must get a photo with them. Amazing breath-taking scenery & seeing it on a clear day with blue skies and the snow-capped mountains and glaciers perfectly reflected in the emerald water is surreal and makes for one of my most memorable cruise experience

Skagway ~ Skagway is very different to Ketchikan or Juneau. It's home to gold-rush-era buildings, now preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Its appearance remains largely unchanged since 1897, when Skagway became the gateway for gold seekers embarking on the Chilkoot & White Passes

For a real authentic Alaskan experience you will have to go “Dog Mushing”. In this adventure you get to experience first-hand a Husky dog ride. This experience does not come cheap and it tends to book out very fast so ensure you book as soon as you can, prior to sailing . You won’t be disappointed. Another must do in Skagway is Bear watching. Again important to pre book and to take an organised tour & don’t carry any food with you!!

And finally in Skagway, you have to take a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, the number one Alaskan cruise excursion. This narrow-gauge railway built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush ascends nearly 3,000 feet along its 20-mile path from Skagway to the White Pass Summit. To expand on this wonderful cruise itinerary, you may consider adding on a few nights pre cruise in Victoria Island , post cruise in Vancouver or if the Canadian Rockies appeal to you add on the Rocky Mountaineer.

Before you go ; Alaska cruises will normally go on sale 2 years in advance, be prepared and consider a balcony cabin for this cruise. Book your shore excursions well in advance, They are not cheap, but they really are worth it. Especially Dog Sledding, Bear watching and Glacier hiking July is the prime month to visit Alaska, better weather and potential wildlife sightings. Shoulder months will be slightly cheaper Pack layers of clothing and bring a rain coat . You could be guaranteed a fall of rain in Ketchikan. It is considered one of the wettest places in USA!!! You may want to invest in a pair of Binoculars for this trip.

With many Cruise Lines to choose from in Alaska, there is an Alaskan cruise to suit everyone. I have an abundance of first-hand knowledge from my many many Alaskan Cruises and experiences to share with you and I believe my experience uniquely qualifies me to assist you in closing the right Cruise for you.