An Alaskan cruise is altogether different than a Caribbean cruise. The weather, the natural landscapes, and the wildlife are just some of the things that make an Alaskan cruise a completely unique experience. Most likely, you are cruising to Alaska with the hopes of enjoying all that this amazing 49th state has to offer.
But, given that Alaska is the largest state in the U.S, there are plenty of options. So, where do you begin? How do you decide exactly what to do and see during your 7 day voyage? Well, the truth is that you will not be able to experience everything in just one trip to Alaska, but there are definitely some things that should be on the top of every cruisers’ “MUST see list”!
The Five Things You MUST See on an Alaskan Cruise
1. Mendenhall Glacier – While you are docked at the state capital of Juneau, you MUST plan a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier, which is a short ride from downtown. This 3,000 year-old bed of ice covers some 36 square miles and is certainly a sight to behold! The visitor center is open to provide travelers with more information, and there are plenty of walking trails surrounding the base of the glacier. Depending on your sense of adventure, you may want to consider actually walking ON the Mendenhall Glacier or even taking a dog sled ride on top of this magnificent natural wonder.
2. Misty Fjords National Park – Admittedly, it is impossible to see all 2.3 million acres of this monument in one swoop, but you can at least catch a glimpse! Floatplane tours originating from Ketchikan, AK are the best way to view the pristine beauty of this diverse area of snow-capped mountain peaks, blue-water lakes, and flowing waterfalls. These landscapes are why you decided to cruise to Alaska, so a trip to see the Misty Fjords is a MUST! For those with a fear of heights, there are several boat tours that sail through the area as well.
3. White Pass Trail – During your stop in historic Skagway, AK, you will be transported back to 1898 and the dawn of the Klondike Gold Rush. There is no better adventure for your Alaskan cruise than a trip up the White Pass Trail, one of two major routes prospectors took to the Yukon gold fields. Luckily, you won’t have to walk this route. You can enjoy a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway, the most popular excursion in Alaska and another MUST see on your list. There are also bus tours available along the Klondike Highway that parallels the trail.
4. Wildlife – The untouched landscapes of Alaska are not only beautiful but also home to diverse wildlife. While you might be lucky enough to spot some Alaskan inhabitants from the deck of your cruise ship-we did see two whales fluking during our last trip-you MUST get up close and personal with these creatures on a wildlife tour. Here are just a few suggestions you should consider during your Alaskan cruise:
- Black and Brown Bears – Depending when you sail, you might catch a glimpse of brown and black bears while cruising Seward Glacier or Hubbard Glacier. But, no matter where your ship docks, the bears are not far away, and there are plenty of sightseeing tours available.
- Whale Watching- Some of the best whale watching can be had off the coast of Kodiak Island, AK. Other hotspots for whale watching include around Vancouver Island, British Colombia and Juneau, AK.
- Bald Eagles- The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve located in Haines, AK is a short ferry ride from Skagway, AK. At this Preserve, you will be surrounded by these awe-inspiring birds in their natural habitat.
- Sea Otters – If you are lucky enough to stop in Sitka, AK during your cruise, then you might have the opportunity to view all of the above, in addition to an abundance of sea otters, with one of the ferry boat wildlife tours that circle this area.
5. Totem Poles – Scattered throughout the city of Ketchikan, AK, there are about a dozen modern day totem poles that you can explore by foot and learn about the ancient legends depicted in these poles. Modern day Totem Pole craftsmanship is also on display at the Saxman Native Village, just outside of town, which houses the largest collection of standing totem poles anywhere. For history lovers, you can take a 15 minute walk from downtown to the Totem Heritage Center where remains of unrestored 19th century totem poles are on display. You can’t visit Alaska without adding Totem Poles to your MUST see list!
While it will be a packed week of sightseeing, you will be sure to return home with many great photos and lasting memories of your Alaskan cruise vacation. So pack your camera and binoculars, and get ready for the adventure of your life. An Alaskan cruise is like no other, and that’s the way it should be!
This was a guest post by Don and Heidi Bucolo, editors of EatSleepCruise.com, a blog which offers cruise ship and shore excursions reviews, valuable cruise planning tips and strategies, and a complete photo gallery to help you “sea the world one port at a time”.