Escaping The Heat and Exploring Alaska’s Beauty With an Alaskan Cruise

Rachel K. Belkin posing near glacier during her Alaskan Cruise.

Southwestern states in the U.S. saw an unprecedented streak of extreme temperatures in 2023. However, these states are not the only areas affected by this heat. According to NASA, globally, summer 2023 was Earth’s hottest since global records began in 1880. These high temperatures led to deadly wildfires and heat-related deaths.

An Alaskan cruise offers a unique opportunity for those looking to escape the record-high temperatures.

Why Choose an Alaska Vacation?

Not only does the largest U.S. state allow travelers to enjoy milder temperatures, crisp mountain air, and coastal breezes, but Alaska also offers these unique opportunities.

Wildlife

Visitors come from around the world to see Alaska’s Big 5: bears, moose, caribou, wolves, and Dall sheep. Alaska also has other impressive wildlife, such as whales, otters, seals, salmon, puffins, and even the prehistoric-looking muskoxen.

Scenery

Alaska has eight national parks, including Denali National Park, with North America’s tallest peak, rugged terrain, and pristine wilderness. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve covers 3.3 million acres and is home to wildlife and natural wonders such as glaciers, fjords, and a temperate rainforest. The only way to get to Glacier Bay is by boat or airplane.

Alaska’s fjords, such as Tracy Arm and Kenai Fjords, offer lush forests, incredible wildlife, and stunning scenery.

Alaska borders Canada to its east, the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean on the north, the Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea on the west, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With 39 mountain ranges, over 3,000 rivers, more than three million lakes, and approximately 664 named glaciers, Alaska has magnificent scenery terrific for photographers, influencers, and nature lovers.

Visitors have the chance to witness the mesmerizing northern lights while in Alaska. Typically viewable during winter, some summer travelers have also seen the highly sought-after aurora borealis with colorful bands and curtains of pulsating colorful lights.

History and Culture

Alaska became the 49th state in 1959, but people have inhabited Alaska since 10,000 BCE when a land bridge connected Siberia to eastern Alaska. Herds of animals and migrant groups came by the land bridge. The Athabaskans, Unangan, Inuit, Yupiit, Tlingit, and Haida groups remain in Alaska. In Ketchikan, visitors can see the largest collection of Native American totem poles that tell the stories of people and significant events.

Thousands of miners and settlers arrived during the gold rush in the 1800s, which led to the development of several new towns. Railroads, including the 500-mile Alaska Railroad in 1923, were built, connecting Seward with Anchorage and Fairbanks. The road still exists.

Visitors can experience a railroad that symbolizes the accomplishments in adventure and pioneering on the White Pass Summit.

Food

Alaska is known for its abundant fresh seafood, such as salmon, halibut, and king crab. Traditional Alaskan foods include wild game meat such as reindeer sausage, marine mammals, plants, and berries.

Kaladi Brothers, serving its first cup of coffee in 1984, is a favorite local coffee roaster in Anchorage. Travelers have called it their go-to coffee shop with the best hot or iced coffee around.

For All Ages

Alaska is an ideal vacation destination for retirees, families, couples, and multigenerational trips. There are many types of activities ranging from relaxation to adventure.

Excursions

In addition to strolling the towns or taking nature hikes, visitors can choose activities such as helicopter tours, dog sledding experiences, kayaking, wildlife tours, railroad rides, fishing, and glacier tours.

There are many options for wheelchair-accessible excursions. For example, the White Pass Summit Excursion allows passengers to enjoy breathtaking panoramic mountain views as they retrace the original route to the White Pass Summit. This excursion is wheelchair-accessible; however, space is limited.

Why Go on an Alaskan Cruise

More than half of the visitors to Alaska come by cruise ship. So, why are so many tourists choosing Alaskan cruises over traveling the state by other means?

Access To Remote Areas

Several areas in Alaska can only be reached by boat or plane. Only 20% of Alaska is accessible by roads and there are only 12 numbered highways in the state.

Cruise ships can reach wildlife areas, glaciers, fjords, and remote coastal towns that would be hard to reach otherwise.

The National Parks Service restricts Glacier Bay National Park access to only a few cruise ships each day, and only certain lines, including Holland America, which is perfectly sized for an optimal Glacier Bay experience.

Visitors can take in the sights and sounds from a Holland America ship, witnessing ice calving and wildlife sightings. This cruise line also partners with National Park Service Rangers, who come on board to provide insights about the park.

Wildlife Viewing

A cruise ship provides an excellent way to view sea and land wildlife. Experts on board help passengers spot the animals.

An All-Inclusive Experience

Many Alaska cruises are all-inclusive, making planning and budgeting easier. Accommodations, meals, entertainment, and often drinks are all included, and transport and activities are arranged ahead of time, many of which are also included.

Comfort and Amenities

Passengers can travel in comfort and style on a cruise ship. Holland America Line, for example, provides modern amenities in all rooms, such as hair dryers and mini-fridges, but there is also a pillow menu, 24-hour room service, high-quality Elemis toiletries, bathrobes, plush Euro-Top mattresses, and premium massage shower heads. In the largest suite, passengers can enjoy the dual-sink vanity, whirlpool bath and shower, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a private verandah.

Diverse Activities

In addition to offering various excursions, Holland America Line has daily onboard activities such as dance and comedy shows, live music, bars, sports activities, trivia, lectures, lessons, gambling, wine tasting, and more. Visitors can choose to relax in the spa, lounge on the promenade deck overlooking the water, or stay active with a game of pickleball.

Planning an Alaskan Cruise

When To Go

According to Alaska.org, the best time to visit is during the summer from May 10 to September 15. During this time, there are 16-24 hours of daylight, temperatures in the 60s to 70s, blooming flowers, and optimal wildlife viewing.

However, choose to go early or late in the season for lower prices and fewer crowds.

The best time to see the aurora borealis in Alaska is from August 21 to April 21, also known as the Aurora Season. Some cruise passengers have seen the northern lights in the late summer.

Selecting an Itinerary

For combination land and sea packages, many travelers first do a land portion of the tour. The land tours usually require early morning wake-up and many transitions between hotels, shuttles, and trains. Passengers enjoy doing the more rigorous part of the trip first. For this reason, starting in northern Alaska with a land tour where Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Anchorage, and Fairbanks is advisable, and then travel south by cruise ship.

Travel Insurance

Cruise insurance plans may cover medical emergencies and lost, damaged, or stolen luggage. Depending on the plan, it may also cover pre-existing conditions and certain trip interruptions. Some credit cards offer trip insurance if travelers purchase the vacation with the credit card. Since the travel to and from the cruise and the cruise itself can be expensive, getting travel insurance is advisable to protect your investment.

Packing for a Cruise

Bring layers, waterproof gear, comfortable walking shoes, and an excursion backpack when packing for your cruise. Remember to bring sunscreen, insect repellent, first-aid items, and any vitamins or medications.

Older travelers or those with limited mobility may want to bring collapsible hiking poles.

Many cruise lines have optional formal nights and other themed nights. If you’d like to participate in those, be sure to bring the suggested attire. The main dining room on most ships has a casual attire dress code but does not permit tank tops, bathing suits, caps, or torn jeans. Often, shorts are not allowed during dinner.

Internet and Phone

Check with your phone carrier to understand your cell phone’s coverage in Alaska. For instance, most Verizon plans include coverage in Alaska.

Onboard Wi-Fi varies during the cruise depending on the ship and the location. When in more remote areas, the internet may be spotty. For those working remotely who need access to video conferences and other software programs, Holland America Line offers two levels of internet packages depending on the access required.

Travel Documents

Ensure you have all necessary travel documents, such as your passport, boarding pass, and any visas required for Canada if the ship stops at Canadian ports.

Alaska has a wide range of attractions and landscapes with numerous ways to explore them. An Alaskan cruise provides visitors up-close access to Alaska’s wonders, comfortable accommodations, and a worry-free all-inclusive experience for optimal enjoyment of this magnificent destination.

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