DESTINATION: ALASKA

Ahoy Fellow Cruisers

This week we are going to talk about the beautiful Alaska. A destination popular with kiwis and how it almost rivals the beauty of New Zealand!

Alaska is one of the worlds most popular cruise destinations with all of the major cruise lines having a presence in Alaska and some cruise lines have many ships in Alaska at the same time.

The cruise season is April to September every year and the weather is as predictable and changeable as Auckland’s weather! You can go from t-shirts and shorts weather one moment to a winter jacket the next. So the key is layers, these can be taken off or put on easily to match the weather

There are so many choices of cruises to Alaska and depending on what you are wanting to do, this can help you make the decision on what cruise you should book.

Common Inside Passage Itinerary

You may have heard the term ‘inside passage’ used in reference to cruises in Alaska. This is a common itinerary, it is generally a 7-day itinerary and most often roundtrip from Vancouver or Seattle. There are other options, not seen as often, from San Francisco or even Los Angeles. You will find Princess, Holland America, Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and NCL ships doing an itinerary like this. Norwegian Bliss is one of the newest ships in the region.

The Inside Passage takes you along the Coastal Route of Alaska and it very scenic and mostly calm waters.

 

 

When on a 7 night Inside Passage cruise there are usually 3 ports that you will stop at, they are Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. Sometimes there are itineraries that might have an additional or alternative port but I am looking at the most common today.

 

Ketchikan

Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan is at the southern most entrance to the Inside Passage and is known best for three things: feisty salmon, spectacular scenery and an incredibly rich Alaskan Native Culture.  With a population of over 8000 people it’s not the smallest place you will visit on your Alaskan journey. On a busy cruise ship day there could up to 5 cruise ships in port with 5 cruise ships worth of people in town. If you dock early either head out on an early excursion or head off for some retail therapy and pick up some cute Alaskan souvenirs.

Mama bear up a tree, what you can’t see is her cub just above her in the tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ketchikan is where Zuleika found one of her all-time favourite excursions. This is the only place in Southeast Alaska that you can drive to see bears. You take a 13 km drive through some beautiful scenery and end up at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary. There is a specially designed boardwalk through the forest where you are a couple of metres above the forest floor and you can watch from above the bears going about their day. Don’t be to surprised though as the bears have access to the boardwalk, but as long as you are with the group there shouldn’t be any issues. In the photo you can see a bear up a tree, this tree was about one metre from the boardwalk and the bear had to climb past us to get up the tree, so don’t just look down on the bears, also look up and you never know what you will see up in the trees.

 

 

 

Juneau

Red Dog Saloon, Juneau, Alaska

This is Alaska’s capital city and sits at the base of Mount Roberts. It is a city that you can only get to by boat or sea plane and that fact alone makes Juneau an exciting destination to visit. Depending on when you visit, your ship is unlikely to be the only ship in town. Juneau is able to cope with the demands of multiple cruise ships in port, with multiple bow to stern docks. For the best views in town take the Mount Roberts tramway to the top of Mount Roberts. As long as it is a clear day you will see the most amazing sights. When we arrived in port there were already a number of ships docked and the queues at the tram station were long. I waited until the afternoon and there was no queue at all. Vanessa from Cruise Factor recommends dog sledding on Mendenhal Glacier as a fantastic excursion, you are flown by helicopter onto the Glacier and get to experience the rush of being on a dog sled pulled by a team of dogs and you also get to hang out with the dogs too! One piece of advice I would have for people wanting to check out the Red Dog Saloon, which is one of the very popular tourist spots in town, you should go early. The saloon opens at 0900 everyday except Monday, when it opens at 1100. It is a fantastic place to look around with so much character. Just look out for the swinging doors in the middle of town.

 

 

 

Skagway

Skagway, Alaska

Skagway is a compact city in southeast Alaska. It is part of the Gold Rush National Historical park with its many preserved gold-rush-era buildings. With a year round population of approximately 1000, this doubles over the cruise season to cope with the over 900,000 visitors they get each year. This is where you would take the White Pass & Yukon Route railway, which is a very popular journey for cruise ship passengers, it may be a little pricey but it is definitely worth spending a little extra, you will have amazing photos to FB and Instagram!

 

 

 

 

 

If you want a fully immersive Alaskan experience you could look at a cruise and land tour. There are many different options to choose from when thinking about a cruise/land tour.

 

Zuleika from the office has been lucky enough to experience two cruise/land tours with Princess Cruises. Princess are a great option for cruise and land as they own a number of lodges in Denali and the journey is streamlined.

Princess train
View from the Princess train
Mt McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge
Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge

There are a number of different options for land tours into Denali – all you need to do is to decide how many days you want to spend on the tour and in what direction you want to go. You could do a quick 3 nights or up to 7 or 8 nights on land.

The experience that Zuleika had was that the whole tour process was arranged in a very efficient manner. Here is a little bit of information about her experience:

Two nights before getting off the ship all of the tour information was left in the cabin, so you could see all of your upcoming tour details, you were also given your carriage and seat number for the train. Once on the train the efficiency continued. When we were coming to the end of the train journey we were given an envelope and in the envelope was information about your upcoming stay at the lodge, a map of the lodge grounds and information about the area. If there was a tour included at the lodge there was information about that, your room keys and information for when you transfer to your next lodge with bag tags. This system was fantastic and we never had an issue with any lodges or any transfers.

Rocky Mountaineer

Another spectacular option after your cruise would be to head to the Canadian Rockies before or after your Alaskan cruise on the Rocky Mountaineer train. You can begin your Rocky Mountaineer journey in multiple locations such as Seattle, Vancouver or Calgary. There are so many different choices to make, itineraries, GoldLeaf or SilverLeaf, add-ons, activities and tours. If you let us know what you would like to see and do and we can find the best option for you

 

 

Glacier Bay National Park

 

There are so many options in Alaska, far too many to add to this blog, if there is something you are interested in, that hasn’t been mentioned give us a call and we can go through the options with you. Alaska is one of those destinations that you won’t regret visiting and you will want to go back to.

www.cruisefactor.co.nz | 0800 60 82 60 | info@cruisefactor.co.nz

 

 

 

 

 

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