Alaska is truly the last frontier, as many places in Alaska can only be reached by boat or seaplane. The remoteness of some parts of Alaska are ideal for exploration by cruise ship, and exploring Alaska by cruise ship is easy.
Each port stop allows you to get off the ship and explore on your own, or you can take an excursion (tour) to get some first-hand experiences with nature. Taking a cruise to Alaska allows you to visit some amazing ports such as Juneau, Icy Straight Point (Hoonah), Haines, Skagway, Seward and Ketchikan. From Seward you can take a bus or train to Anchorage, and then onto the interior or Denali National Park by train, bus, or car.
Cruising to Alaska can be done in several ways such as seven days round-trip from Seattle or Vancouver, seven days northbound one-way from Vancouver or Seattle, seven days southbound one-way from Seward, Anchorage, or Whittier, or a combination of the last two for a roundtrip fourteen-day cruise, and some cruise lines offer longer cruises from Vancouver, and other port departures such as San Francisco. The Alaska cruising season runs late April to mid-October.
Alaska's beautiful scenery can be viewed from the deck of a cruise ship at all times during a cruise. Most cruise ships will sail what is known as the Inside Passage. Since land is visible from both sides of the ship during most of the cruise, there is magnificent scenery to be seen from the deck of the ship. Most cruise ships will visit a fjord such as Tracy Arm Fjord while in Alaska. Fjords are narrow water passages with steep mountains climbing on both sides carved over thousands of years by glaciers. The entry to and exit by cruise ship from a fjord is not to be missed, so get up early and watch the entry from the bow of your ship. You will not be disappointed!
Also, most cruise ships will visit one or two glaciers of the thousands of glaciers in Alaska on your cruise. There is the Hubbard Glacier, Margerie Glacier, Spencer Glacier, Glacier National Park and many, many others. Glaciers are sheets of ice and are a blue like color, and advance into the ocean, inch by inch. As they advance, massive chunks of ice break off in a process called calving. You will hear cracking and then a thunderous roar as the ice breaks off into the sea! You can experience this phenomenon from your cruise ship in safety and comfort.
Alaska is truly known for the amazing array of wildlife that can be experienced from a cruise ship. The wildlife in Alaska is varied and numerous. You could see bald and golden eagles, moose, grizzly and polar bears, sea lions, bison, caribou, mountain goats, Dall sheep, and 16 species of whales! There are more eagles in Alaska than in all of the other 49 states combined. Some of the wildlife spotting can be experienced from the ship, but if you want to see more wildlife, an excursion (tour) might be just the thing to get up close to nature.
Spotting wildlife is never guaranteed, but most of the guides in Alaska are native and know when and where the wildlife appears! The summer season is the best time for wildlife in Alaska as most animals have ended hibernation and are rearing their young. Also, the summer season brings warm weather, longer days (up to 15 hours of daylight), and the salmon runs. Watching the bears catch the jumping salmon as they swim upstream is an event not to be missed!
Alaska is a once in a lifetime destination for most people, so you will want to do your research and know what you want to experience before leaving for Alaska. Excursions (tours) can be pre-booked before your cruise so that you can be sure to get the tour you want while in Alaska. Be sure to book early, as most excursions are very popular. A cruise tour can also be added as part of your cruise. These are tour days either added on to the front or back of your cruise, that allow you to experience parts of Alaska not seen by cruise ship, though not all cruise lines offer cruise tours. The cruise tour is for the traveler that wants an immersive Alaska experience.
The activities in Alaska are as varied as the wildlife. Here is an example of some of the things you can experience in Alaska: take a boat tour and get up close to the glaciers, visit a glacier such as Mendenhall Glacier from Juneau, there is whale watching from Icy Straight Point, dogsledding on a glacier from Juneau, take the White Pass Railway from Skagway to the summit of the mountain, rent a car in Skagway and ride into the Canadian Yukon and visit Emerald Lake, take a float plane to Misty Fjords National Monument from Ketchikan, attend a Alaska salmon bake in Juneau, or a boat tour of the Kenai Peninsula in Seward.
Alaska is unique as it has a large indigenous (native) population broken into eleven different cultural groups. During your time in Alaska, you can visit the Alaskan Native Heritage Center in Anchorage where you can experience the different cultural groups, and learn of the ways of their ancestors that some still use today such as hunting, fishing, artwork, ceremonies, and silversmithing. At the heritage center you can also visit examples of the different native villages as well.
While visiting Alaska you can learn about the history, use and significance of the totem pole, and visit totem pole sites in Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan and Saxman. You can also learn about the history of Alaska, and how it came to be our 49th state and learn about the history of the Klondike Gold Ruch that shaped much of Alaska’s history.
In Alaska there is something for everyone. Once you visit Alaska, you will long to return over and over again, as one trip to Alaska is never enough to see and do all that Alaska offers.