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Remote and vast, Alaska is one of the world’s most spectacular destinations. It's an awe-inspiring landscape of snow-dusted peaks, dense forests, striking wildlife and charming historic towns. With this state’s unique geography, cruising is the perfect way to experience its welcoming villages and icy wonders. You'll glide by dramatic glaciers and breath-taking mountain ranges, all from the comfort of the ship’s decks.
Alaska cruise season runs from May to September, with the warmest and brightest months being July and August. Several cruise lines tour similar routes. Specialty operators offer intimate small-ship experiences that can reach tiny ports in the state’s many islands. These boutique ships feature onboard experts giving lectures on the region. On much larger ships, itineraries are further reaching, covering enormous swaths of the scenic coastline. Onboard experiences are just as diverse: Broadway shows, luxury spas, themed bars, climbing walls and much more.
But it’s what you’ll see on land that will truly amaze you. Here are a few of the places your Alaska cruise may take you:
Framed by Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts, this remote city is only easily accessible by air or sea. As your ship docks, take in the crisp air and majestic views across massive glaciers, snowy peaks and misty emerald rainforests. The historic downtown boasts centuries-old saloons and modern boutique shops along with the Alaska State Museum, home to fascinating artefacts of its turbulent history and diverse peoples. Auke Bay Harbor offers ample whale spotting. For a fantastic view of the town, take the Mount Roberts Tramway to the summit. And the truly adventurous can take up tundra trekking over Mendenhall Glacier. Don’t miss Alaskan Brewing Company’s chocolatey Smoked Porter, a local favourite.
Once the route of Klondike gold rushers, Alaska’s Inside Passage spans hundreds of kilometres of awe-inspiring coastline. Cruise its serene waters and enjoy panoramic views of the Alexander Archipelago, a scattering of more than 1,000 tiny coastal islands that create a shelter from the Pacific. Sail through ice-carved fjords flanked by silent peaks as you approach the stunning Glacier Bay National Park. You’ll feel the pioneer spirit of the early Russian settlers, First Nations people and Gold Rush prospectors whose histories linger in the remote towns of this region. Watch for bald eagles, seals, sea lions, whales and puffins playing in the waves.
Sitting at the southern end of Alaska’s Inside Passage, Ketchikan is a gateway to the striking Misty Fjords National Monument. It’s also home to three Northwest Coast indigenous peoples, making it a perfect place to learn about the local culture and admire the totem poles that dot the town. This is the spot to shop for authentic Alaskan art and jewellery and taste the region’s fresh sockeye salmon. Park your bags and grab some freshly roasted java at Raven’s Brew Coffee, the local favourite, before you return to the ship. Or if adrenaline is more your style, this gateway town boasts amazing ziplining.
This tiny town looks much the way it did 100 years ago in Gold Rush times. Wander bustling Broadway Street to admire its well-preserved buildings and fill up on history in Corrington Museum. If the outdoors is calling, there are plenty of ways to ramp up the adrenaline: Mush a team of huskies on Laughton Glacier or raft the waters of North America’s longest fjord. For a serious challenge, tackle a stretch of the Chilkoot Trail and follow the footsteps of the Gold Rushers to the ghost town of Dyea. Wash down the day with Skagway Brewing Company’s famous Blond Ale – it’s made with Sitka spruce tree tips.
Home to a unique blend of Russian, First Nations and American history, Sitka’s snow-capped ranges and volcanic Mt. Edgecombe make it one of the state’s most striking stops. This is off-the-beaten track Alaska, where you can kayak the Sitka Sound or tramp the trails of Baranof Island. Hear native stories, passed down for generations, when you explore the Sitka National Historical Park, home to fascinating indigenous art and the mile-long Totem Trail. Be sure to visit Baranof Island Brewing Company, where we highly recommend the Silver Bay IPA: It’s perfect for washing down the locally harvested Dungeness crab and freshly made sockeye lox.
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