If you’ve never cruised to Alaska or enjoyed an Alaskan vacation, you may think the destination sounds pretty straightforward: Fly to the West Coast, board your ship and go. Right?
The reality is that Alaska offers some of the most varied and diverse options for cruisers and Holland America Line takes it up another notch with cruise and land tours, AFAR media experts and BBC partnerships.
There are multiple ports of embarkation and disembarkation; itineraries that include stops at two glaciers and others that never even visit one glacier. Plus, there’s a myriad of pre-and-post cruise land extensions that could overwhelm even the most experienced travelers.
If you’re overwhelmed with the options, we’ve asked our top Alaska travel agents for some Alaska vacation tips to make sure you don’t miss anything!
Do you want to sail the fabled Inside Passage? If so, you can scratch the port of Seattle off of your list; voyages departing from Washington State’s largest city swing out into the open waters of the Pacific Ocean and avoid the passage entirely. On the other hand, cruising from Seattle often offers stops in Victoria, the gorgeous, English-styled capital of British Columbia.
``I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner.``
Cruises from Vancouver routinely include one day, and sometimes two, of scenic cruising through the breathtaking Inside Passage, where you’ll see towering mountain ranges, narrow glacier filled passages and wildlife at every turn.
If you want to spend time ashore in Alaska pre-or-post cruise, take one of the Northbound or Southbound voyages that sail between Alaska and British Columbia. Overland packages can include stays in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Denali National Park – a must-see for any visitor to Alaska. A few, like those offered by Holland America Line, even include a trip to Barrow, Alaska; the northernmost city in the United States.
Some travelers may appreciate taking a weeklong northbound cruise and booking the southbound journey to create a 14-night voyage that departs roundtrip from Vancouver.
There are so many wonderful options that we didn’t want to miss anything, but finally narrowed it down to our top seven:
``The most important tip we can give? Go!``
For glacier experiences, choose an itinerary that includes a day of scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. With its emerald-green waters and snow-capped peaks, Glacier Bay National Park is one of Alaska’s most awe-inspiring and frequently photographed sites, and literally changes with every visit as the glaciers advance and retreat.
Not every ship can call on Glacier Bay: Only a select number of permits are available, and these tend to go to the lines that have been operating in the region the longest like Holland America Line.
What else do you need to know to get the most out of your trip?
Finally, know this: It is going to rain.
Sure, some sailings will be so hot and sunny that you may need to run out and buy extra t-shirts and sunscreen, but those sailings are few and far between. You can take some solace in the fact that for many travelers, Alaska can be prettier in the rain than in sunshine.
The most important tip we can give? Go.
Many cruisers wait so long before experiencing Alaska for the first time, and they all have the same thing to say after: “I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner.”