John Muir, the man who started the US National Park system, once said “To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” Due to Alaska’s distance from the continental 48 states, the state is commonly referred to as the last frontier…or if you’re a Star Trek fan like myself, you may joke that it is the “final frontier.” But whatever you choose to call it, Alaska is an amazing place to take a vacation. Alaska has pristine scenery, untouched nature, and a little bit of everything for everyone. In order to see a lot of the interesting things in Alaska, you really need two weeks to do it, whether your trip be part land, part sea or all land.
The two best ways to see Alaska are by cruise ship and by land. When my family and I went to Alaska we did one week on a ship and then a one week land tour. 7 different cruise lines cruise to Alaska during the summer. The major cruise lines that go to Alaska are Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, Carnival, and Norwegian. Cruise West, a smaller cruise company, also goes to Alaska. A benefit of cruising with Cruise West is that their ships are smaller, and therefore have a better chance of getting closer to some of the glaciers that you can see in Alaska while on a cruise. When going on a cruise to Alaska, you need to plan on leaving from Seattle, Washington, or Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Ports that these cruises go to include Skagway, Whittier, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, and Seward. Princess also has one itinerary that goes to Kodiak and Homer.
Each port has something different that visitors can do. In Skagway, my family and I took a bus tour into the Alaskan wilderness that crossed the border into Canada (because of this passports were required for all passengers) and then back into Alaska. On the way back I was able to get a picture of me in front of the “Welcome to Alaska” sign. We also went to the Skagway Fish Company for lunch, a little restaurant that is over by where Princess ships dock. I think that they BEST seafood that I ever ate was at the Skagway Fish Company. In Ketchikan we went to their rather campy Lumberjack Show, which everyone in my family, even my grandparents, enjoyed. Ketchikan also has a walking tour that you can take to learn the history of the town. In Juneau and Icy Strait point my parents and I went on some whale watching tours. Keep in mind, though, that when on a whale watching tour, it’s not guaranteed that you will see a whole lot of whales. We got lucky. My dad got the ever coveted humpback whale tale picture, and we saw a baby humpback whale as well. On the Icy Strait Point whale watching tour, everyone was fascinated with the humpback whales and I was the one who spotted the orcas off in the distance. Once the whales came closer my mom was able to get a picture of a momma and a baby orca whale. I definitely recommend going on at least one whale watching tour while you are in Alaska. Most cruises end in Seward, Alaska, where my family and I began the land tour portion of our vacation.
Once we got off of the ship in Seward we went on the Kenai Fjords and Fox island tour, which was basically an 8 hour whale watching boat trip with a stop at Fox Island for lunch, where I had the BEST salmon I have ever tasted. And I am not a big fan of fish in the first place…
If you want to do Alaska by land, you can either do a guided tour, or have a “tour” personalized for you. Our land tour after our cruise was personalized by Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel | Kick Butt Vacations, and it was amazing. In Seward we did a thing called the Idit-a-ride, where you ride on a sled, and actual Iditarod dogs pull you along. We also did a day-long bus tour into Denali National Park, and saw some spectacular scenery from the Alaska Railroad.