Posted on 20-Jan-2020 by Administrator
For those of you who make a buck-list of travel experiences and destinations to visit every year, what lengths of the earth are you willing to travel this year? If you wish you explore a place serene and captivating in equal measure, unexplored and untouched by time, the north American state of Alaska should top your bucket list. While most imagine Alaska as a far-off winter wonderland (which is undeniably is), this state is also home to some of the world's most stunning glaciers and wildlife impossible to be seen anywhere else. It exposes a side of America unfathomable to most - nature unmarred by civilization and urbanization, and endless expanse of raw wilderness constantly meandered by a stunning coastline.
Therefore, taking a cruise to Alaska is a dual delight in itself - you get to experience the splendour of cruising in all its entirety, while journeying through this mystical wilderness. The cruising season in Alaska commences in late April and runs through September and there are many cruiseliners that operate 7 to 12 nights cruises to Alaska, mainly from Seattle or Vancouver. Apart from round trip cruise options, the more popular cruises are the Northbound or Southbound Alaska cruises between Anchorage in Alaska and Seattle or Vancouver via the Inside Passage.
Your week-long Alaska cruise will take you to all, if not most of these destinations:
Juneau: Alaska's capital city, Juneau is bound to be a port that most cruise liners will dock at. Juneau will surprise you, not just because of its beauty, but because of the sheer magnitude of it all. It is all in superlatives, the gigantic mountains, the summits, cascading streams that foam silver while diving deep into the valley, the flowers that act like an unexpected splash of vibrancy in an otherwise grim background and, of course, the ice – endless. Your time in Juneau will probably be devoted to exploring multiple Glaciers, most notable of them being the Mendenhall Glacier, where you get to walk on the glacier while observing its netting of streams and rivers and observe its unique wildlife. Other excursions include kayaking through intricate fjords, observing seals, jumping salmons and humpback whales gorging on their feasts at throwaway distances, dog-sledging and good old- hiking.
Denali: Six million acres of endless wilderness in the heart of Alaska comprise the Denali National Park and Preserve. Though a wee bit inland, a visit to this heartland will turn out to be a memorable experience primarily because of the sheer number of activities you can cram into a short time here. They can range from a Tundra Wilderness Tour, a trail exploring multiple lakes, an air-borne flight tour over the numerous mountain tops covering the entire Park, Sled Dog rides and demonstrations, and an adventurous river raft ride.
Anchorage: Known as the gateway to Denali, Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and also your gateway to viewing the majestic Northern Lights whilst in Alaska. Although inroads from usual ports of call on an Alaskan Cruise, if you do decide to make your way till Anchorage, you can spend your time pedaling across the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, visit Alaska's largest museum, explore the native culture, find and play with the exotic Alaskan Moose, take a trip down to Turnagain Arm to see Beluga Whales aggressively chasing down salmon and of course, spend your nights with your eyes glued to the spectacular dance going on on the canopy of the sky - the Northern Lights.
Seward: Nature lovers, thrill seekers, and those wanting to capture the most scenic parts of Alaska, Seward is going to be the place for you. It is located just east of the Kenai Fjords National Park and is therefore at an easy distance for you to cover with time as little as less than a day. To explore most of the surrounding areas, I'd advise taking a dog sled tour - imagine the joy of racing past the icy coastline on a sled with distant mountains and chilly and buoyant wind as your only company! Other excursions include hiking at Mount Marathon, taking the classic Alaskan Railroad or kayaking in the Resurrection Bay.
Skagway: Skagway is situated at the northern tip of the Inside Passage - an endless stretch of water underneath the icy Blue Mountains and sky and therefore a sure shot spot on most cruises to Alaska. Skagway will offer multiple options for hiking enthusiasts with beginner level hiking and water trails to summits ascending heights as high as 5,000 feet. The Jewell Gardens with its wide variety of flowers are a popular attraction, as are the multitude of fine dining restaurants that you may find here. For wine connoisseurs especially, Skagway will be the highlight of the voyage.
Ketchikan: Ketchikan is a popular town near the Misty Fjords National Monument and is famous for the Clover Pass Bike Ride, the Bear watching and inarguably the best salmon fishing in the entirety of North America. The largest forest in America, the Tongass National Forest - spread out over a whopping 17 million acres - offers a wide number of trails that can satiate the explorational hunger of any nature lover. Another attraction that pulls most tourists to Ketchikan is the Misty Fjords National Park, that, as the name suggests, promises hazy fjords coupled with towering peaky waterfalls and icy blue skies.
Cruiseliners that offer cruises to Alaska:
Alaska might seem like a far-off land but making your way to this heaven is no daunting task at all. There are already over 120 listed cruises for voyages to Alaska in 2020 with week-long cruises to lengthy voyages aimed exclusively at exploration with leisure.
If one were to broadly classify, cruises to Alaska depart from three ports - San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver. Below is a curated list of the popular cruise liners offering cruises to Alaska from these three ports:
Cruises from San Francisco:
Carnival Miracle: Carnival Cruises offers a straight ten-night round trip cruise to Alaska aboard the flamboyant Carnival Miracle. Beginning from July 2020, this deluxe family cruise takes you through key ports of Juneau (the Icy Straight Point), Skagway, Victoria in British Columbia before returning to San Francisco.
Star Princess: As far as cruising to Alaska is concerned, Princess Cruises has an edge over most cruise liners - they've been pioneering cruises since 1965. Starting from July 2020, the Star Princess offers an exclusive, ten night voyage to the Inside Passage covering major ports of Haines, Juneau and Ketchikan. Cruises further down in August have specifically included journeys to the Glacier Bay National Park, over and above the usual ports in an Alaskan cruise.
Regatta: The 12 Nights Scenic Northwest Voyage from Oceania Cruises' Regatta will truly and absolutely stun you, for it combines the raw majesty of the Alaskan wilderness with comfort and luxury of the Regatta. Comfort yourself with a glass of vintage wine in your rooms, visit the Grand Dining Room, play a game of golf, or merely indulge in a number of on-board activities, Regatta will always have options for you. The 700-odd passenger ship is less crowded than the other mega-ships travelling Alaska and is more preferred by couples and discerning travelers. Their itineraries, beginning from May 2020, are slightly different from the usual favourite spots, including visits to Oregon, Sitka, Vancouver and Juneau, which will give you the opportunity to discover less visited ports and explore nature in a most un-touristic way.
Cruises from Seattle:
Ovation of the Seas: Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas offers a 7 Night Alaska Glacier Cruise beginning from May 2020, taking you through the Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier as well an intricate Glacier tour across Juneau, Skagway and Vancouver before docking back to Seattle. In addition to all the thrill outside, the ship itself leaves no stone unturned in serving up opportunities for fun and frolic in features like the thrilling RipCord by iFly - a thrilling skydiving stimulator, the North Star, and the SeaPlex - an indoor sports complex. Ovation is also famed for its no-rules-attached dynamic dining as well as the vast number of dining options in place for the passengers.
MS Oosterdam: Beginning from the end of May, MS Oosterdam has a consistent line up of tempting week-long cruises to Alaska from Seattle, dubbed the 7 Nights Alaskan Explorer. Starting a cruise from the 'Emerald City' of Seattle itself is a huge bonus, in addition to the cruise, you can explore this marvelous city (with its Space Needle towering over the snow-capped mountains in the distance) prior to the cruise. Further, you get a chance to explore Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, glacier gazing at Hubbard and the beautiful Victoria in British Columbia before getting back to base. The night life on the ship has been lightened up all the more by the addition of Music Walk - a hub of music and entertainment that is constantly graced by the stars of the music and entertainment industry.
Norwegian Cruise Line: The Norwegian Cruise Line has deployed not one but two of its premier ships – the Norwegian Bliss and the Norwegian Joy for 7 Day Alaskan Cruises beginning from May. Anyone familiar with the NCL knows the extent of excellence this cruise line promises, in addition to an intimate sojourn with the surrounding scenery and wilderness. Norwegian Joy has the Icy Straight Point specifically included in its itinerary, an experience that will remain etched in your memory.
Cruises from Vancouver:
Grand Princess: Princess Cruises' Grand Princess offers a 7 Nights Glacier specific voyage from Vancouver from May 2020. Other than visiting Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway, this cruise takes you to College Fjord in northern Alaska - a fjord containing five tidewater glaciers and five large valley glaciers - the Glacier Bay National Park and the charming city of Whittier. Eponymously, the ship lives very much up-to its name, as far as grandeur is concerned. With a Vegas-style Casino, Sports Clubs, and un-ending entertainment options, your cruise to Alaska will leave you with not a dull second.
Radiance of the Seas: If there were ever a ship made exclusively to explore the ice-capped ends of the earth, Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas would be it, with its largely all-glass exteriors. Radiance has 7 Nights cruises for Alaska and Hubbard beginning from May 2020. The Alaskan Inside Passage and the Hubbard Glacier are the highlight of the trip. The voyage also takes you to the Icy Strait Point and to Juneau, Ketchikan and Seward. Radiance might just get an upper hand over other cruise liners by this little snippet of information - almost every cabin and stateroom has floor length glass windows. Just imagine the sight that'll greet you every time you turn tour eyes to the ocean, with just a thin layer of glass separating you from the endless miles of ocean spread around you!
People often mull over why Alaska should be visited via cruise over any other mode of transport. The answer lies not in the luxury or panache that a cruise adds to any other mode of travel. It is in the fact that there can be no equivalent to the sight that greets you from the deck of your ship when you first make your way into a fjord, or pass by a glacier, or when you first glimpse a whale tearing through the surface of the icy water. Cruising is the gateway into this untouched, unbothered, undefiled part of nature - few of them that there are left to us. So tick this place off your bucket list this summer itself - pick a cruise liner from the multitude of options at your disposal. Just grab as much thermal wear as possible, and capture memories enough for a lifetime!