Many people dream of taking an Alaskan cruise, with lots of options for all sorts of travelers available, typically starting from late April through September.
The highlights visitors come for include spectacular coastal and mountain scenery, glaciers and an abundance of wildlife, with humpback whales a big favorite – the especially fortunate may even see these magnificent creatures working together to bubble feed.
If Southeast Alaska is the region you most want to see, including towns like Sitka and Ketchikan, taking a cruise is the best way to do just that since much of the area can’t be accessed by car. The Inside Passage is really what Alaskan cruising is all about. Before you book, be sure to check the cruise itinerary to see how much time your ship will spend cruising in the destinations you’d most like to see.
Ketchikan is really a must. Alaska’s “first city” lies at the southern tip of the Inside Passage and is the first place cruise passengers see when heading north. If you have enough time, a host of outdoor adventures await, including everything from zip-lining over salmon streams and wildlife, hiking to the top of Deer Mountain, flying over the Misty Fjord, watching for whales or exploring the award-winning arts scene, live music and theater, shops and eateries in town.
Sitka,located on Baranof Island, can only be reached by air or sea, and it’s the only Inside Passage community that fronts the Pacific Ocean, clinging to the west shore of the island in the shadow of Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano with a cone that looks similar to Japan’s Mount Fuji. Downtown Sitka is home to more than 20 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as housing multiple restaurants, unique local shops and art galleries. Its stunning natural landscape is ideal for fishing, hiking, kayaking, and whale watching.
Alaska’s capital city sits on a hillside overlooking the Inside Passage, with its downtown area tucked between Mount Juneau, Mount Roberts and Gastineau Chanel. the labyrinth of narrow streets feature a mix of old storefronts, new structures and charming 19th-century homes that date from its gold mining beginnings. The Mount Roberts Tramway offers a bird’s-eye view of the lush rainforest and sub-alpine meadows, ascending 1,800 feet from the cruise dock to the mountain.
Juneau is also home to Mendenhall Glacier, something that’s truly a must see. Adventurers may want to kayak to the 12-mile-long glacier and then ice-climb to the caves inside. Other options include hiking, taking a helicopter, plane, boat or even a dog sledding excursion to reach it.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Just west of Juneau, you can discover a fine example of Alaska’s most wild, majestic beauty. Margerie Glacier, a tidewater glacier that begins on land and stretches out to sea, has been retreating, so you’ll want to see it before its gone. The 21-mile-long and one-mile-wide glacier is jaw-dropping with its jewel-like blue ice – and, if you’re lucky, you might even be able to witness calving, an amazing natural phenomenon accompanied by the thundering sounds of ice cracking and crashing into the water below.
Formerly the gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush, Skagway was once jam-packed with treasure seekers, but today, It offers the opportunityto experience days gone by on the Alaskan frontier. Take a self-guided walking tour narrated by a Skagway local and be sure to stop by the old cemetery which holds the remains of outlaws, gold miners and local legends. A multitude of outdoor activities are available too, including hiking, kayaking, flight-seeing, dog-sledding and rafting.