Towering tidal glaciers, spectacular hanging glaciers, stunning mountain ranges, majestic whales, salmon-loving bears, majestic eagles, expansive forests, unique native culture, quirky towns, friendly locals, cuddly husky puppies & so much more. It’s hard to capture what Alaska has to offer in words. Pictures really do paint a thousand words! You really have to Alaska to see it for yourself.
Holland America pioneered cruising in Alaska more than 70 years ago. They have “grandfather rights” in the region, meaning that their ships get prime berthing positions in each port, and that they have the most permits to cruise in Glacier Bay National Park. Spending a full day in Glacier Bay is often the highlight for many Alaska cruisers, with Margerie Glacier the most photographed glacier in this fjord. National Park Rangers board all cruise ships entering Glacier Bay, who provide running commentary & are there to answer all of your questions.
If your itinerary doesn’t include Glacier Bay, you will have at least one glacier viewing day somewhere else in your itinerary. The Twin Sawyer Glaciers are found in Tracy Arm Fjord (Inside Passage) and if you’re cruising into the Gulf of Alaska, you may get time at Hubbard Glacier (the largest tidal glacier in North America, known for it’s incredible shades of blue) or College Fjord (home to about a dozen glaciers named after US colleges).
Most other major cruiselines now also send at least one ship to Alaska between May & September each year – from family-friendly favourites to boutique, luxury ships – there is a ship & itinerary to suit everyone. The onboard facilities & service play a supporting act to the star that is Alaska & its stunning scenery.
The three major ports that are visited on a typical Inside Passage cruise include:
Ketchikan: salmon, scenery & native culture. Take the time to wander this charming town – and make sure to visit KetchiCandies & grab a box of chocolate dipped Oreos!
After wandering the historic streets & some souvenir shopping, I took a seaplane over the Misty Fjords on a slightly drizzly day & enjoyed breathtaking scenery from the air.
Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier (only 20km north), whales & bears. Juneau is not accessible by road or rail, so most cruise passengers take to the sea or the air to see more of the surrounding area!
My shore excursion of choice was a whale watching cruise (ending at Hoonah), bear “hunting” on Chichagof Island (we were there too early in the season to spot any!) and a scenic flight back to the mainland (via the Mendenhall Glacier).
Skagway: White Pass Railway & goldrush era buildings. The scenic rail journey up the White Pass & into the Yukon Territory is the most popular activity out of Skagway.
After wandering downtown Skagway, I took a helicopter onto Denver Glacier for a husky-sled ride – and husky puppy cuddles!
Other less visited ports include, Sitka & Icy Strait Point (ABC Islands), Haines, Nome, Valdez & Victoria (Vancouver Island).
Most Alaska itineraries are 7 nights round trip cruises from either Vancouver or Seattle, with slightly longer itineraries from San Francisco. For those with more time or a more adventurous spirit, there are one way cruises that start or end in one of the two ports for Anchorage (Seward or Whittier). Some more unique itineraries start in Juneau (Alaska’s capital) or even Nome! Round trip cruises are generally combined with extended travel into the Rocky Mountains, with one way cruises allowing for extensions into the heart or Alaska & the Yukon.
Many Alaskan extensions visit Denali National Park, home to Mt McKinley (AKA Denali) the highest peak in North America. You can also spend time in Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula, Copper River or Dawson (Yukon). Many cruiselines offer CruiseTours to easily extend your Alaskan expedition, or I can arrange a more independent exploration with our of our Alaskan specialist wholesalers.
Alaska is my favourite cruise destination. I cruised out of Vancouver on the Island Princess in June 2013 & will definitely be back again in the future! I’d love to help get you away to this awe-inspiring destination. The big question is who will you cruise with? Christie
Thinking of cruising in 2019, choose your favourite cruiseline or ship below:
The 2020 Alaska season is just being released by the major cruiselines. If you’re keen to start planning early, your choices currently include:
Cruising from (V) Vancouver, (S) Seattle, (A) Anchorage, (SF) San Francisco, (L) Los Angeles, (J) Juneau or (N) Nome