Caribou, Moose and Bears, oh my! Alaska is a naturalist’s wonderland. It’s a place where glaciers thunder, whales breach and eagles soar. There’s no better way to discover the breathtaking beauty of Alaska than on a cruise vacation. You’ll have captivating onboard activities and endless onshore options to challenge, entertain and delight. Explore charming ports of call and savor fresh, regional cuisine. Hike through glacial waterfalls and rain forests; glide above ice fields in a helicopter, race across icecaps behind a team of huskies. To fully experience the heartland of the Last Frontier, avail yourself of the cruise tours, designed to introduce you, in depth, to Alaska’s awe-inspiring wonders.
The old salt saying goes, “the bluer the water, the bigger the fish.” It’s not just a catchy line, and nowhere is it more evident than in Ketchikan. Known as The Salmon Capital of the World, this area’s fish-fertile waters also yield wild trout, halibut, cod, red snapper and more. Besides fishing, Ketchikan is also renowned for the granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and low-hanging mists of majestic Misty Fjords. This National Monument features some of Alaska’s most spectacular scenery, ranging from tidewater estuaries to evergreen forests. Ketchikan also holds the colorful distinction of having the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles.
The Quaint Capital of Juneau
Mendenhall Glacier is Juneau’s most popular attraction; about a half-mile wide, with ice 300 to 1,800 feet deep. But Mendenhall is literally the tip of the iceberg. It’s part of the much larger Juneau Icefield, an area of myriad glaciers. Unlike other glaciers, Mendenhall can be viewed not only from your ship, but also from land. Step ashore for a most amazing experience. Whale watching, fishing, hiking, rafting, kayaking and even ziplining are other thrilling activities not to be missed. As the state capital, Juneau is naturally replete with shopping and dining opportunities. Pop into a downtown restaurant to devour the day’s fresh catch, or head out to a remote lodge for a scrumptious salmon bake.
Sitka by the Sea
With vistas of island-studded waters and stately spruce forests stretching to the water’s edge, Sitka is considered Alaska’s most scenic seaside town… a veritable treasure steeped in culture, history and natural riches. This “Treasure Island” is bordered by snowcapped mountains on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Ancestral home of the Kiksadi Tlingit Indians, captured by capitalistic Russians, sold to the Americans; Sitka carries the legacy of each. Learn about its diverse heritage at local museums housing rare historical archives and artifacts. Nestled amid Sitka’s unparalleled natural splendor, the island boasts 24 attractions listed on the National Register of Historic Places, seven of which are National Historic Landmarks.
Skagway: “Sifting” through the sights
Skagway is best known as “The Gate to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898,” and the spirit of those rollicking gold rush days still permeates the town. Be sure to visit The Trail of ’98 Museum and The Gold Rush Cemetery – and catch the lively matinee or evening performance of “The Days of ’98 Show with Soapy Smith”, now in its 83rd year. Surrounded by dramatic 5,000-foot mountains, Skagway is also the quintessential spot from which to engage with nature. Hiking, biking, sledding, flightseeing, boating and fishing are popular pastimes, as is a train ride on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, which provides a stunningly scenic tour of the area’s many highlights.
Park it at Denali
In this land of pristine natural beauty, it’s no wonder there are numerous parks and preserves. Perhaps the most famous is Denali National Park, a haven for wildlife and home to Mount McKinley, the most magnificent mountain in North America. At once tranquil and exciting, the park simply inspires. It is most visited in summer months, when day hiking, cycling, fishing, mountain climbing and camping are most exquisite. Further south, the Kenai Peninsula is another masterpiece of nature and offers many of the same thrilling outdoor activities and gorgeous scenery.
Explore Alaska’s Inside Passage
Most of the destinations highlighted here are found along the Inside Passage, a peaceful coastal waterway favored by cruise ships and other ocean-going vessels. It yields astonishing views of endless water, snowcapped mountains, icy peaks and exotic wildlife. Look for brown and black bears and orca whales; listen for the cry of eagles and the howling of wolves. Inhale the fresh, cool air.
If you like the majestic and rugged, you’ll love Alaska. Take it in from the comfort of a cruise ship for the best of both worlds. It’s a Dream Vacation, to be sure. Isn’t it time to make yours come true?Author: Lisa Codianne Fowler, Grand Getaways
Lisa Codianne Fowler is an award-winning travel journalist, travel video host and travel radio co-host. She’s covered cities from St. Petersburg, Russia to St. Petersburg, Florida; ridden bum boats in Singapore and swum with sharks in Tahiti. An active Grand Getaways member, she has contributed feature articles from destinations across the globe.