Summer is almost here, so grab your raincoats and sweaters… Wait, what?! Yes, it’s the start of Alaska cruise season and you will need good outerwear if you want to see the breathtaking glaciers and adorable sled dogs. Alaska is an incredible destination best seen by a combination of land and sea (and a combination of raincoat and sweater), and I was lucky enough to experience it on a hosted Princess cruisetour. Here’s a rundown of my trip:
Day 1: Flew into Fairbanks, Alaska, and had my first bit of culture shock — or should I say nature shock? It was incredibly bright and sunny at 9:30pm. At first I thought that I had the time wrong and it was 9:30am. Nope… Hello Land of the Midnight Sun!
Day 2: The Fairbanks Riverboat Discovery Tour was the perfect introduction to Alaska. In just four hours, I saw a bush plane take off and land, learned the difference between caribou and reindeer and witnessed an endearing display of Alaskan-style friendliness and entrepreneurship. Next we went gold panning at El Dorado Gold Mine. It was a lot harder than it looks!
Day 3: We were off to Denali National Park, which is absolutely stunning with its mountains and valleys. I had the opportunity to take a helicopter ride and land on Yannert icefield. Wow, just wow. The little melted pools within the field were an other-worldly shade of blue.
Day 4: Took a full-day bus tour, the Kantishna Experience, through Denali National Park. Very scenic, but way too long and I lost count of the hairpin turns.
Day 5: We arrived at our third and final hotel, McKinley Princess Hotel. There we had a view of Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest point at 20,320 feet tall. The peak is hard to see but the clouds cleared for us.
Day 6: We drove to Anchorage where we boarded the ship — the cruise begins! We were so excited to unpack and explore the massive ship.
Day 7: This our first full day at sea. What’s great about an Alaska cruise is that there is plenty to see while at sea, it’s not just endless ocean. That morning, we cruised past Hubbard Glacier.
Day 8: We cruised through the incomparable Glacier Bay National Park. This is why, out of all of the world cruises in 2013, I’d recommend Alaska. We actually got to see and hear the glaciers “calving” (i.e. breaking off into the sea and forming icebergs). It was pretty amazing to hear the creaking and cracking and then to watch a chunk fall into the sea.
Day 9: Our first cruise stop was Skagway. Most of Alaska’s cities are coastal, which is why a cruise makes so much sense. Here we did a fun excursion at a sled dog camp. We got to take a ride with the Huskies but because it was summer we rode through dirt instead of snow. Still fun!
Day 10: Our next stop was Juneau, where I went to see Mendenhall Glacier.
Day 11: Our third and final stop was Ketchikan, an interesting town that’s the Totem Pole Capital of the World. I took a tour of the rainforest here, but I enjoyed just looking for totem poles more than I enjoyed trying to find elusive wildlife.
Day 12: This was our last full day on the ship — the cruise really flew, er, I mean sailed, by! We sailed down the Inside Passage, and it was beautiful. Not as dramatic as Glacier Bay but lovely nonetheless.
Day 13: The cruise was over! We disembarked in Vancouver and began to re-adjust to life on land.
Have you ever taken an Alaska cruise? What would be your dream cruise destination?