Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Alaskan Cruises Embrace Grand Natural Beauty

Alaskan cruises provide thousands of miles of scenic coastline including high mountain peaks, huge glaciers and vast wildlife. This cruise gives off a “frontier-like” feel, providing a look into the past history of America’s 49th state.

One of the favorite parts about this area is the wildlife. Whether they are spotted from the ship or in port, keep an eye out for bears, whales, eagles, seals, moose and seabirds. Spotting one of these animals in its natural habitat is quite stunning.

The only drawback of an Alaskan cruise is the weather. Depending on the time of year, weather will be chilly to down right cold. Grey skies, clouds and rain can take up most of the days on the trip. Be prepared and dress accordingly.

Destinations and Ports of Call

There are a few different itineraries one can choose when cruising Alaska. There is the “Inner Passage”, the “Gulf of Alaska” and longer sailings.

Inside Passage- This itinerary is usually seven nights and sails roundtrip. It will either begin in Vancouver or Seattle. The Inside Passage is a waterway between the Pacific Coast islands, which provides calmer waters for guests. The main ports consist of Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.

Gulf of Alaska- This is also a seven night cruise but it is one-way, not roundtrip. Voyages go between Seattle/Vancouver and Seward/Whittier, the gateway ports of Anchorage. The ports of these cruises will most likely include Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka.

Longer Voyages- Some cruise lines will offer trips from ten to fourteen nights. Most of them are one-way or roundtrip from San Francisco.

Tourist Attractions

Juneau- This is Alaska’s capital, where visitors can enjoy kayaking, hiking and canoe rides. The Mount Roberts Railway, located in town, takes tourists 1,800 feet up to beautiful views and skylines. Hikers can get off and enjoy some amazing trails. Juneau also has 2 zip-line companies for those who want to take part in an adventure. Try Alaska Canopy tours or Alaska Zipline Adventures.

Skagway- White Pass and Yukon railroad will take cruise passengers on a scenic route that the gold seekers once took over the pass to the Canadian border. Luckily, guests will enjoy the co

nvenience of the train, while prospectors had to go by foot.

Ketchikan- The main attraction in this town is Creek Street. In its past, it was the city’s red light district but now it is lined with quirky stores and eateries. Those who choose to explore this port should bring umbrellas, as this city is one of the rainiest in the U.S. From this port, cruisers can book tours to Misty Fjords and Tongass National Forest.

Sitka- Once home to the Tlingit Indians, this town has many remnants of the past. Visitors can tour through St. Michael’s Cathedral, the Clan House and Totem Park. There is also the Alaska Raptor Center, where American eagles and bird of prey are healed.

Restaurants and Shopping

Although the Alaskan towns are small, they do provide ample eateries and shopping for guests. The following will give some ideas for good bites to eat and places to shop.

In Sitka: Ludwig’s Bistro (Mediterranean), The Larkspur Café, The Pioneer Bar, and Nugget Restaurant. For shops, go to Lincoln Street and Katlian Street, although let it be known that this is not a town known for shopping.

In Juneau- Tracy’s King Crab Shack, Sandpiper Café, The Rookery Café, and Red Dog Saloon. Best shops include: Jade Shop, Caribou Crossings and Alaska Fur Gallery.

In Skagway- Skagway Brewing Company, Starfire (Thai), Stowaway Café and Jewell Gardens Restaurant. Shops include: A Gathering of Spirits, Lynch and Kennedy, and The Train Shoppe.

In Ketchikan- George Inlet Crab Feast, O’Brien’s Pub, Burger Queen and Bar Harbor Restaurant. For shops go to Eagle Spirit Gallery and Scanlon Gallery.

When to Go/ Weather

The Alaska cruise season runs from May to September, with the most popular months being June through August.

June, July and August have the highest temperatures (highs: 50’s - 70’s), but the months can also be fairly rainy. The later into summer you get, the better chances you have of seeing wildlife on your cruise.

During May and September cruisers can find cheaper prices and fewer crowds. However, if you do choose to go during these months, shore excursions have a greater chance of being canceled due to weather.

May is one of the driest months but you may find snow on the ground in the Inside Passage. This can put a damper on hiking plans. September offers the best possibility for catching the Northern Lights, for those who want to see this once-in-a-lifetime event. However, the Gulf of Alaska is the choppiest during this month and it is not recommended for travelers who get seasick. Also, Denali National Park has been known to close in September due to snow.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.
August 07, 2013