It’s hard for me to believe that’s it’s been more than four years since I’ve been to Alaska. The good news is that I’m going to be making a return trip to the Last Frontier next June.
After leading my first cruise group to Alaska in 2020, I told some folks around town that I’d vacation in Alaska every summer if I could. That statement still holds true today. There is something extra special about the unspoiled wilderness that is Alaska. Perhaps it has something to do with the thought of being the first human being to walk across this particular part of the Tongass National Forest, or the first person to actually trek across the grass, or snow, of the Chugach Mountains.
Cruising to Alaska is magical because you pack and unpack once and they, the cruise line, take you to the next location. All you have to do is sit back and eat. And eat, and eat some more.
Take one look at me and you can tell that has happened, but I’m working hard to control that craving. Something about a 24-hour pizza bar or a 24-hour ice cream bar that is a real battle to resist.
One of the things I’ve learned about cruising to Alaska, whether you’re northbound or southbound — I don’t do the round-trip things from Seattle — is that it is a good idea to go in a day early and spend the night either in Vancouver or Anchorage so that you don’t have to worry about air connections getting you to the ship on time.
I almost didn’t make it on that very first trip in 2000. We took a group of 82 to Alaska and had to split up in three different groups for travel purposes. One group flew to Seattle and then connected to Anchorage; another group flew to Salt Lake and made the connection; while my group flew through Minneapolis and on to Anchorage.
The hop from Minneapolis to Anchorage was on Northwest, a partner with Delta, and it was overbooked by 15 passengers. The airline was actually begging people to come off and re-book so that we could get everyone on board. Our cruise aboard the old Carnival Jubilee was leaving out that same day, so we had to get there.
I managed to get everyone onboard but Northwest had already started making plans to fly me up later and put me on a puddlehopper to Haines, which was the first port of call for the ship the following day. Fortunately, two ladies decided to come off and take advantage of all the perks that were being offered to them to give up their seats. I actually ended up sitting next to one of those ladies’ husband, who said he felt like he was going to regret his decision not to come off the plane as well.
This will be my 11th cruise to Alaska. Like I said, I’d go every year if I could afford it. There is enough different to do in each of the ports that you could have a completely different experience on each trip. In fact, several of the folks who will be joining me on this trip have been to Alaska before as well.
On this cruise, we’ll be on the Norwegian Jewel, which is a mid-sized ship. The cruise will be northbound out of Vancouver so our group will be flying into Vancouver. Day One is spent cruising through sections of the Inside Passage along Vancouver Island.
The first port will be Ketchikan, which is one of the rainiest cities in the U.S. It sits on the edge of the Tongass National Forest, which is a temperate rainforest. Summer rains in Alaska are the result of the Japan Current bringing clouds across the Pacific and having the clouds wrung out by the coastal mountains of Alaska.
One of my favorite excursions in Ketchikan is called Lighthouses, Totems and Eagles. The area around Ketchikan is home to many of the indigenous people and has more totem poles, which tell family stories, than any other region.
By the way, don’t you dare call the indigenous folks up there Eskimos!
The next stop on the cruise is Juneau and if I were to cruise Alaska 100 times, I’d do the same whale watching excursion in Juneau 100 times. The Mendenhall Glacier is also a top attraction in Juneau as is the Red Dog Saloon, located right in the heart of the city.
Skagway is up next along with a train ride up the White Pass Mountains, following the route of gold miners headed for the Yukon way back when. A raft ride down the Chilkat River is also one of my favorite activities in Skagway.
A cruise through Glacier Bay National Park is next on the itinerary. The glaciers are magnificent and breathtaking when they clave away and fall into the sea.
The Hubbard Glacier by itself is next as the ship starts to cross the Gulf of Alaska to our end port at Seward.
We’ve still got a few cabins left and if you’d interested in making the trip next June 26-July 3, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.