We all have a unique and diverse bucket list when it comes to travel. But one place seems to be on just about everyone’s bucket list. It should come as no surprise that it’s none other than glorious Alaska. Whether you’re looking to wade knee-deep in a river salmon fishing or experience the glaciers from the deck of your cabin, everyone seems to have a soft spot for Alaska!
JoAnne Weeks, one of our experienced travel advisors here at Acendas, has been in the travel industry for over 20 years. She began as a cruise specialist for the first 13 years of her career and has expanded into worldwide river cruises. She has traveled the globe, both by land and sea, and has cruised over 90 times on numerous cruise lines. Alaska is a favorite, and she knows both the cruise and land tour portions in and around Denali and the Yukon.
Who better than JoAnne to give us some of her best tips for traveling Alaska by cruise. Read along as she shares her favorites and what she’s learned along the way as an experienced Alaskan cruiser.
Majestic glaciers, awe-inspiring wildlife, and rich culture are just a few reasons why I believe Alaska draws us in again and again. There’s nothing quite like it. But just seeing Alaska is not enough; you have to get out and experience it – which is why cruising has become so popular! There’s no shortage of active adventure options for land and sea exploration.
The seasons are shorter in Alaska, but they each have their charm and opportunities depending on your interests. There isn’t a wrong time to go – it just depends on what you want to see and do. Spring, lasting from May to mid-June, is when you’re most likely to see wildlife, including mothers and their calves or cubs. The flowers are blooming, and you can do white water rafting in the glacier runoff. It’s a lovely time to visit.
During mid-June through August, summer is peak cruise season because of optimum weather, salmon running, and daylight. To experience the most sunlight, come three weeks before or after the summer solstice and the longest day of the year, June 21. The longer days allow for more opportunities for excursions, sightseeing, and activities, such as golf at midnight if you’re up for it! If you want to see fall foliage ashore, I recommend cruising through the first three weeks of September.
My personal favorite Alaskan cruise liner is Holland America. They go above and beyond to ensure that each passenger gets the most out of their Alaskan experience – offering incredible excursions ranging from culture, food, wildlife, and more. You can mush a dog team over a glacier or go high into the mountains on the White Pass Railway for breathtaking views. My favorite excursions are sightseeing by air, landing on a glacier in Denali National Park, and seeing the bald eagles in Sitka.
In addition to incredible excursions, Holland America is the only cruise line that offers a three to four-night cruise option combined with a land tour. It is an excellent option for someone who’s not sure if cruising is for them, and it’s also great for someone who wants to explore deep in the Yukon and Alaska. If you do a land tour, you might consider doing it before the cruise portion of your trip. The land tour will keep you busy while on the go, and then you can board the ship and relax for a few days while at sea. Additionally, look for a land tour that doesn’t have a lot of redundancy or travel time – remember that Alaska is vast, and destinations may take some time getting to.
If you travel to Juneau, I recommend visiting Glacier Gardens, just a few miles from port. The plants and flowers are incredibly vibrant because of the additional sunlight in the summer. Glacier Gardens offer guided tours, and a lower garden area is available for walking after the tour. If history is more your thing, a donation-based state museum is within walking distance from the port and is very educational. Before you leave, take a brewery tour and try the Alaska Ale, it’s my favorite!
Another reason why I love Holland America is that it’s excellent for both families and adults, offering a wide range of accommodations from family suites to single rooms. Though the ships are mid-size, the rooms are more spacious than other cruise liners, with a reduced capacity. But don’t assume that you lose any of the perks you get when cruising on a larger ship. You’ll experience larger-than-life music venues, innovative dining options for every taste (including 24-hour room service at no charge), and activities galore coupled with small ship service and lots of elbow room. I love that they offer heated and temperature-controlled swimming pools with all glass enclosures so you can see the environments while swimming and possibly catch a glimpse of a whale or two, a favorite among the kiddos.
Ready to plan your Alaskan getaway? Contact an Acendas travel advisor and we can design the perfect Alaskan adventure for your needs.