My First Alaskan Cruise
Two summers ago our family planned a wonderful trip of a lifetime on an Alaskan cruise. After months of discussion, the trip was finally booked on the Holland America cruise line and all that was left besides the packing was deciding which of the many extraordinary excursions to book! Our travel agent provided us with materials describing all the excursions for each port and after a few weeks of research and discussion, we made our decisions. Our trip ended up being all that I dreamed of and more! If you love rugged natural beauty, I would highly recommend you start saving up for that Alaskan trip! We were very happy with most of our excursions but there are so many great choices! I wanted to tell you about a few of my favorites to help you make your own decisions for your own Alaskan vacation.
McKinley Explorer: Glass Topped Train from Anchorage to Denali
Our trip began in Anchorage, AK. As part of our cruise package (which was a Land and Sea Package), we started our trip traveling from Anchorage to Denali.
As you begin to plan your own Alaskan cruise, I highly recommend looking for a package that offers this amazing train ride! It was one of the highlights of our trip. We sat in comfortable, cushioned seats on the top floor of a 2-story train. The glass sides and ceiling allowed for amazing views of the Alaskan scenery as we traveled. A tour guide talked to us at intervals about the history of Alaska and points of interest we were passing. There was also one point where we had the opportunity to view the great Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley) which is the highest mountain peak in North America! The tour guide said it was rare to get a view of it because it is usually covered by clouds. Imagine our delight when we were able to get a glimpse of its majesty peeking out behind the clouds! The train even slowed down so we could get a better view of the impressive mountain as it made its appearance.
Another fun side benefit was the dining car on the first level where you could order breakfast and lunch while viewing the spectacular scenery.
Denali National Park
The tour of Denali National Park was an included excursion with our cruise package, but if it is not definitely book this wonderful excursion. We rode on a bus with a tour guide through the park with several scenic stops. We were treated to the majestic scenery of landscapes and wildlife. Unfortunately, our stop to see the great mountain Denali was unsuccessful due to cloud cover (but thankfully we got to see it the day before on our train ride!).
Our Denali excursion was our best opportunity for a wild variety of wildlife viewing and photos also.
Skagway and White Pass Yukon Railroad
This excursion with our cruise package included a lovely ferry ride from our port in Haines, AK to Skagway to ride the train. However, many cruise ships stop in Skagway itself. We really enjoyed the ferry ride though not only for the scenery but also for some of the best viewing of bald eagles we had on our trip!
This historic railroad fraught with history of the time of the gold rush was steep and maybe even a little startling with the heights but also filled with history and great picture opportunities. It also gave us an opportunity to cross the border into Canada for a few minutes! No passport is needed as you did not disembark from the train but you are able to get some fun pictures of the flags at the border.
Juneau - The Best of Juneau - Glacier and Whale Watching
My last favorite was our Best of Juneau tour which included a trip to a glacier and a whale watching trip on a boat to see the humpback whales. This was a lot of fun and our boat captain made great efforts to give us opportunities to view the majestic creatures. I got some great photos on this excursion! It ended with a fun trip to Orca Lodge for a meal. I definitely wouldn't trade the awestruck feeling of seeing those whales rise and dive with any other excursion!
In conclusion, I just want to encourage you to save up and take that Alaskan vacation! It was definitely a trip of a lifetime that I will never forget! I even REALLY hate to fly but that was one long flight that was worth it!!!
If you are on a cruise, you time at ports is limited and you only have time for one or two excursions. I hope this information will help you to make the best choices to maximize your time and trip!