If you’ve never cruised to Alaska, you may think it sounds pretty straightforward: you fly to the west coast, board the ship, and within days you’ll be watching moose dance atop glaciers, while bald eagles land on your balcony railing as whales breach in the waters below, right?
The reality is that Alaska offers some of the most varied and diverse options for cruisers. There are multiple ports to consider, and some itineraries include two glacier visits while others never stop at one. Plus, there are a myriad of land extensions that could overwhelm even the most experienced travelers.
Here are a few tips to help you plan the experience that is right for you.
To pick an Alaska cruise, it helps to know what you want out of it. Do you want to sail the fabled Inside Passage? If so, you can scratch the port of Seattle off of your list, as voyages departing from there swing out into the open waters of the Pacific and avoid the passage entirely. On the other hand, departures from Seattle often stop in Victoria, the gorgeous, English-styled capital of British Columbia.
Cruises from Vancouver routinely include one or two days of scenic cruising through the breathtaking Inside Passage, where you will see towering mountain ranges, narrow passages and wildlife at every turn. If you want to spend time ashore, take one of the Northbound or Southbound voyages that sail between Alaska and Vancouver. Nearly every cruise line offers overland packages that can include stays in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Denali National Park – a must-see for any visitor to Alaska.
When it comes to what you must do on an Alaskan vacation, the options are limitless. You can tour Kenai Fjords National Park, take amazing photos during a train ride from Anchorage to Denali, go dog-sledding across a glacier, sweep above the treetops on a helicopter tour, and fish for salmon (using equipment, not your ‘bear’ hands like the grizzlies do).
To narrow down your choices into an achievable itinerary, talk to a travel professional with Alaska experience. They will help you sift through the excursions on your cruise, while also offering private tour options to customize the perfect itinerary.
Before heading to Alaska, you know to take rain gear and warm gloves…but what else should you know?
- Bring two pairs of binoculars, because you won’t want to share.
- Layers are the key to staying comfortable, and never underestimate the value of thick, breathable socks.
- Ask for a wakeup call should the Northern Lights appear – just note this could be very early morning!
- Mount McKinley is only visible about 80% of the time, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t see it.
- Chances are, it’s going to rain. Luckily, for many travelers, Alaska can be prettier in the rain than in sunshine.
- Go sooner rather than later. Nearly every cruiser returns from Alaska with the same thought: “I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner.”
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