I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have had clients call me up and say “we want to go to Alaska, and we thought it would be easy to find what we wanted. We got out our laptop and were immediately overwhelmed by the choices of cruise lines and itineraries. And why does the word Alaska Cruisetour mean?” It quickly went from fun to frustration in less than 5 minutes.
From the exceedingly growing amount of room categories on cruise ships, to the subtle and not so subtle differences between cruise lines, to just the fear of making the wrong decision on which cruisetour fits their travel personality best, it takes the “happy” right out of it. Of course, the first thing I say is “Why didn’t you call me first? That is what I am here for.” We have a laugh, a chat and then all that stress melts away because they know that I got this.
When planning travel for my clients, one of the first things I do is find out the basics; the who, what, when, where, why and how. Those 6 answers will never be the same for everyone since travel is far from a one-size-fits-all situation. Large, medium, or small ship. Ala Carte to all-inclusive. Luxury to expedition, it is enough to make your head spin. Let’s take this approach for a spin with our longtime client Melissa.
Melissa and her sister want to take their parents to Alaska for their 50th wedding anniversary next year in July. Their dad was a Geology professor but never made it to Alaska to explore Denali. They are thinking 4-6 nights for their cruise tour before sailing south. Their spouses are sailing with them, and their college ages kids will be staying home as the “official dog sitters”. What Melissa’s parents don’t know is they have invited a ton of their parents’ friends, all of whom are very active retirees, to join them on this cruise and won’t know it until they just so happen to run into them on the cruisetour or at embarkation. The want to sprinkle the surprises in there for their parents.
There was of course a lot more information exchanged but when all is said and done, we decided on an Alaska Cruisetour with Princess. From over 100 land extension options to choose from, numerous active excursions, to the many options for accommodations from interior cabins to luxurious suite to fit everyone’s budget, it was a great fit. For the land portion of the Alaska cruisetour we landed on that 5-night sweet spot so they could spend 2 nights in each of the lodges.
So, read on and let’s dig more deeply into what you could experience if your perfect Alaska adventure was the same as Melissa’s.
After your comfortable flight into Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska, you will settle into your accommodations, Hotel Captain Hook (No, this is NOT a pirate hotel), for an overnight stay. The Captain Hook is Alaska’s only member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts Worldwide as well as they were recently inducted into the Historic Hotels of America which is the official travel organization of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. You can take in views of the neighboring Cook Inlet and the Chugach mountains from any one of their 546 rooms and suites. Be sure to head out and explore the local shops and cultural attractions with a shore excursion or on your own before taking in some local Alaskan cuisine.
Your adventure officially beings when you set off from Anchorage and enjoy a scenic motorcoach drive to the Mt McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. What will strike you instantly is the incredible views of Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America and the tallest mountain in the world from base to peak measuring 18,000ft! If you want the best view, head to the lodge’s Treehouse. There is so much to enjoy here and a great place to unwind and get yourself into full vacation mode. You can listen to stories of the native Alaskans, head to the Hudson theater to roast marshmallows, or maybe lounge and read a book in this stunning environment. There are also optional tours from gold panning to sportfishing, to trail riding that you can take part in if you want to get the adventure rolling.
Get ready for a closer look of Denali and you travel via motorcoach to the Denali Princess Wilderness lodge which is located just steps from the Denali National Park. After you check in, opt for a walk on the grounds or speak to guest services for assistance in planning your own adventure. From rafting to hiking to glacier flightseeing, it is an adventurer’s paradise. The popular Christmas Cottage and the Sugar Shack are also not to be missed.
The following day, wake up and get ready to explore Denali National Park on a Tundra Wilderness Tour. African Safaris have their big five and guess what….so does Denali. Try to see how many you can glimpse of the 5: moose, bears, caribou, Dall sheep and wolves. After your tour I suggest grabbing your favorite beverage and relaxing on the deck overlooking the Nenana River. Chat up some other guests and make new friends.
Say goodbye to Denali National Park and hello to the “Cruise” part of the Alaska Cruisetour. You will travel in style via scenic railway as you hop onboard Princess’s exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness rail service. You will spend the day enjoying these jaw dropping views and arrive in Whittier to board the ship in late afternoon. Once onboard unpack and get settled yourself settled in for an amazing week. Tip: Book your spa experiences today so your preferred time slots don’t fill up.
Get up on deck while you enjoy scenic cruising in Hubbard Glacier. Hubbard has been monitored by scientists since 1895. It is also a bit of an anomaly as Alaska’s Hubbard Glacier has surprisingly been thickening and steadily advancing into Disenchantment Bay. The advance runs counter to so many thinning and retreating glaciers nearby in Alaska and around the world. Nature truly is a wild and unpredictable thing.
Grab a seat by the window at breakfast so you do not miss any moment of the views of Glacier Bay National Park which covers 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines, and deep sheltered fjords. It is also a part of a 25-million-acre World Heritage Site—one of the world’s largest international protected areas.
With 40 excursions to choose from, there is no shortage of things to do in Skagway. Ride the rails of the White Pass & Yukon Route, learn about the history of the Alaskan Goldrush or head out on a huge array of epic adventures like rafting, hiking, and cycling.
Can you believe that only 30,000 people live in Juneau, but Its total area makes it one of the biggest towns, in size, in the world. Only Kiruna, Sweden, and Sitka, Alaska, exceed Juneau’s 3,248 square miles.
In Juneau you will have your choice of 50, yes, I said 50, excursions. Some of the highlights to see are the Glacier Gardens, Macaulay Salmon Hatchery and Mendenhall Glacier. It is also a perfect time to head out on a whale watching tour.
You have another big day of choices with 47 excursions to pick from. The Great Alaskan Lumberjack show is a must for those traveling with young ones or just the young at heart. You can head to Saxman Native Village, a Discovery recommended excursion, or head to the Rainforest, yes, you read that correct, for a hike. Try your hand at salmon or halibut fishing, take part in a bear encounter, or one of my favorites, do a sea to table culinary experience.
Today is a great day to meet up with all your newfound friends you have met along the way and swap stories and for sure lots and lots of laughs. It is also a great day to learn from others where they have gone that maybe you want to explore or share some of your favorite destinations to inspire another traveler. It is also a great day to recognize that super star onboard. The waiter that remembered you from day one and had your favorite beverage before you sat down. Or maybe your room attendant that went the extra mile for you.
The day has finally come to disembark and head out. For those with late flights, there are a few optional tours for you to take in Vancouver that also will transfer you to the airport when they are over as well as 2 for those that will be transferring to hotel.
For those that want to explore more or did not do the 5-night land extension, Vancouver is the perfect jumping off point for a Rocky Mountaineer Train experience or even a self-driving trip to Victoria or into the Canadian Rockies to view the amazing Glacial Lakes like Lake Moraine and Lake Louise. I have been to both gorgeous lakes as you can see by the rare picture of me below and I can attest to them being a must see.
Now you may be saying, “Erika, this all sounds awesome, but I want a more intimate experience with fewer passengers”. Or “I want a High Adventure with hands-on experiences like a true explorer”. Or “I want the ultimate luxury adventure with everything included” or “Our family wants a cruise that will have lots of onboard activities for your children.” Whatever you are looking to experience in Alaska, send me an email, book an appointment, or shout in the comments and let’s find you that best fit Alaska Cruisetour. I got you.
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