Alaska Glacier and Wildlife Cruises
Check out the many Alaska cruises available through the Inside Passage or across the Gulf of Alaska to Seward or Whittier if you are headed to Alaska this summer. Here's some useful tips from USA Today - May 2007 - Ten easy ways to save on an Alaska cruise.
And truthfully, it's a great trip. Think about it: sailing north from the "Lower 48", travelers aboard one of the Alaska cruises have their own floating resort that moves gently from port to port. All the meals are included in the price--and it's great food by any metric. All the shipboard entertainment is included in the price. Each day, travelers on the Alaska cruises sail into a different port and fan out across the area to take in the sites and activities. Sometimes it's flightseeing, sometimes it's fishing, sometimes it's taking a backcountry safari by Jeep.
Those of us who call Alaska home regard the Alaska cruises as the "world's biggest Alaska fam trip". "Fam trip" is travel-talk for "familiarization trip". That means after you finish one of the Alaska cruises, you'll have a better idea of what you want to do the next time you come to Alaska. After all, how much of Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway or Seward can you see in an afternoon? Not much.
Just like there are many types of people who live in Alaska, there are many different types of Alaska cruises. Let's take a look at some of the most popular options:
a. Princess Cruises. Princess is one of a few companies who build the Alaska cruises into part of a larger Alaska experience. In addition to its deluxe fleet of Alaska cruise ships, Princess maintains an exclusive collection of lodges throughout the state, including the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and the Fairbanks Princess Lodge. Princess devotes an entire website to its lodges, many of which feature free wireless internet, stunning views of the surrounding countryside and a variety of tours and activities. Also, Princess has its own "ultra-dome" private rail cars for travelers on the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali and Fairbanks.
b. Holland America Line. Holland America Line also features a deluxe collection of Alaska cruises, in addition to its own private railcars, hotels, tours and activities. One of Holland America Line's unique Alaska cruises is the Portage Glacier Cruise. This one-hour excursion takes you to the face of Portage Glacier for an up-close-and-personal view of the big ice.
c. Stan Stephens Cruises and Tours. One of the most scenic Alaska cruises sails from Valdez, in Alaska's Prince William Sound. Stan Stephens and his family have sailed these local waters since 1971. Cruise on one of Stan's comfortable boats to see Columbia Glacier on a six-hour cruise. Columbia Glacier is Alaska's largest tidewater glacier. Or, choose a longer nine-hour cruise and you'll also see Meares Glacier. Don't miss this trip!
d. Riverboat Discovery. This is an authentic sternwheeler--just like the ones that used to sail all the way up the Yukon River during the Gold Rush days. See a Bush plane demonstration. Visit with Iditarod Sled Dog Race mushers. See a native village on the banks of the Tanana River. Don't miss it.