Other Alaska Cruise Packing Tips
Before you grab your bag and head out the door, here are some final tips on what to pack for a cruise to Alaska:
Have any other questions about what to pack for an Alaska cruise? Let me know in the commentsor !
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Totem Bight State Historical Park
Totem Bight State Historical Park is one place you can see them. Its located about twenty minutes north of town in a beautiful spot on the shore in Potlatch Totem Park.
In 1938, long before Alaska was a state, the US Forest Service started a program to restore totem poles that were abandoned when native people relocated to cities for work. They also hired skilled carvers to pass the totem pole tradition on to artisans of the next generation.
Shore Excursions Will Be Costly But Worth It
What gives many cruisers sticker shock are the costs of the shore excursions. Part of the experience is getting to do and see all that Alaska has to offer. Why go all that way and not walk on top of a glacier or take a trip down the historic White Pass Rail? These popular excursions easily run $100+ per port of call, often times up to $300-$500 a person. Do know your budget for the entire vacation and then pick your tours and excursions wisely.
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Ride The Alaska Railroad
One aspect of Alaska that surprises many first-time visitors is how little travel infrastructure there is: the Alaska highway system has just four routes, and theres only one railway line in the whole state. It pays to plan ahead for the best ways to get around.
The Alaska Railroad was built in the early 20th century and was one of few federally funded railroad lines in the country. Today it is operated by the state of Alaska, and it shuttles visitors between a handful of stops along the 400-mile route. Seward, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali and Fairbanks are the most common stops visited.
The best way to experience the Alaska Railroad is by tying it into other travel plans. Wherever possible, splurge for the upper-class seats that often include a glass-domed train car where you can watch the splendor of Alaska pass by unobstructed. You can take the train to and from Denali National Park or ride it down to Seward to explore Kenai Fjords National Park.
Glacier Bay National Park
Some Alaska cruises spend their entire itinerary at Glacier Bay National Park and understandably so. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is the largest in the world, home to dramatic glacier scenery and wildlife watching opportunities.
Cruise there and you can enjoy kayaking, visiting local villages or just admire the non-stop parade of glaciers passing by. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for calving glaciers and have your camera ready.
Summer is the best time to visit for warmth, with April to June being the driest months. That said, a visit in winter gives you the chance to capture fog-shrouded landscapes ideal for moody photography.
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Learn About The Best Excursions At Alaska Cruise Ports Before Heading On Your Next Cruise
Are you getting ready to head to the Last Frontier? If so, you wont want to miss part two of our Alaska cruise ports highlights showcasing a variety of shore excursions suitable for every personality type. Alaska cruises are highly favored in the cruise community, and often top a cruise-lovers wish list. While they offer a range of exhilarating activity options, Alaska is truly one of the last wild regions in the United States. With vast open spaces and an opportunity to see nature and wildlife in all of its glory, our tips can help you have the best Alaska cruise experience possible!
In part one of our guide to Alaska cruise ports, we took a closer look at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. Today, we will highlight some of the best Alaska cruise shore excursion options for Anchorage, Denali National Park, Glacier Bay and Fairbanks. From adventurous to low-key and relaxing, you are sure to find shore excursions that speak to you on the following list:
What To See In Alaska: 8 Must
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Cruise passenger Steve Trabun has sailed through Alaskas Inside Passage three times. And he cant wait to go again.
The scenery is spectacular, and the wildlife is amazing, said Trabun, who lives in Spokane, Wash., and enjoys sailing with Princess Cruises. Alaska is absolutely incredible. This is once-in-a-lifetime stuff.
Nearly a million people explore Alaskas waters each year by cruise ship. Many, like Trabun, are so captivated by the scenery within the famous Inside Passage that they cruise again.
Barry Shulman, a cruise veteran with 89 trips under his belt, has been to Alaska four times on a variety of ships. Alaska has the prettiest glaciers in the world, says Shulman, who lives in Las Vegas. And you can only see them by ship.
The first time I visited Alaska, I thought I would be able to see more by land. I flew into Anchorage and took bus tours everywhere. Big mistake. Alaska is as wide as the Lower 48 and larger than Texas, California and Montana combined. Not only was my trip tedious, but I also missed the big show on the water. I didnt have the experience of sailing on icy seas and trying to wrap my head around the enormous size of Alaskas glaciers, which dwarf huge cruise ships.
And as Trabun put it, Its really great to see all this from the comfort of a cruise ship.
The Inside Passage
Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau
Mt. Roberts Tramway, Juneau
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad
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The Best Alaska Cruise Ports And Choosing The Right Itinerary For You
Thinking about setting sail for Alaska? Not sure which itinerary to choose? This article is all about the highlights and best Alaska cruise ports to help you !
This article doesnt include a review of different cruise ship companies, rather it is information about the ports you may visit and how to decide based on whats most important to you. Great news to get started you really cant go wrong here as all the Alaska ports of call are interesting and different in their own ways and all are surrounded by life affirming natural beauty!
Ill also talk about how to decide between a cross gulf cruise or inside passage only , a big ship or small ship and options for scenic cruising around glaciers. I spent seven seasons working in the Alaska cruise industry and have visited all of these ports multiple times and even lived in two of them, so Im excited to share my insider knowledge with you!
- Other ports and Disembarkation ports
- What to pack for an Alaskan Cruise
Taku Lodge With Salmon Bake
This long-running favorite tour combines a number of appealing activities into one trip: a scenic glacier flight with Wings Airways, a float plane landing, a visit to a remote lodge with a chance for a guided nature walk, and a barbecue of king salmon .
That remote lodge is the Taku Lodge, built in 1923 and located just across the river from the advancing Taku Glacier . Get out and enjoy the lodge and its wilderness ambience. Local guides offer a short nature walk on a wilderness trail, or you may choose to relax. Then enjoy a time-honored Alaskan traditionthe salmon bake. The succulent grilled salmon attracts bears, of course, and you may be lucky enough to spot one!
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Sailing From Vancouver Fly Into Seattle & Take The Train
While Seattle is the big departure port for Alaskan cruises, a fair number also sail from Vancouver, Canada. The issue here is that for many in the United States, a plane ticket to Vancouver can be hundreds more than the same ticket to Seattle. This is despite the fact that the two cities are just a couple of hundred miles apart. If you find this situation, its much cheaper to book the flight to Alaska and then take one of the many services between the two cities. For example, the four-hour train ride from Seattle to Vancouver only costs about $40.
Explore Alaskas Coastline Up
Although the views from your balcony room are no doubt amazing, the experience of paddling along these rugged coasts at your own pace is even better. Youll find sea kayaking providers all virtually all tourist towns along the southeastern coast of Alaska, from Ketchikan, Sitka and Skagway to Juneau and Anchorage.
Typical outings are 3-4 hours, but its also possible to rent kayaks for multiple days if youre into that sort of adventures.
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Take A Ride On One Of The Street Cars Of Skagway
- Office Location: 270 2nd Street
- Departs: from the Pier by the Cruise Ships
- Times: the tour runs several time each day between 8:30am and 3:15pm
If you want a fun and easy way to explore the town you can take a ride on the street car. This is a 90-minute tour led by some fast-talking guides that are all dolled up in period costumes.
This is a great alternative to the walking tours that you can take. It will give you all of the history and a way to see the sights and get a lay of the land.
You can take this tour and still have plenty of time to hang out on your own around time before heading back to the ship. Learn more about the Skagway Streetcar here.
Embark On A Dog Sledding Ride
Looking for thrilling adventure that is unique, try out being a musher on a dog sledding ride. On this excursion will enjoy a scenic helicopter ride up to the glacier to visit the dog sledding camp.
You will get to meet professional mushers and their dogs. Afterwards, you will experience flying across the glacier on a dog sled ride.
You can choose to try your hand at mushing or just sit back and relax on the ride. No matter which you choose, this is an experience you will remember for a lifetime.
Pro Tip: There are two different versions for the dog sledding rides. One is up on the glacier and the other is at the dog training camp where the ride is on a dirt path. Make sure the one you choose is for the experience you want.
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See The Days Of 98 Show
- Address: 590 Broadway
The Days of 98 is the longest running show in Alaska. It began in 1923 and has been going ever since. The show is pretty much unchanged, so what you see now is the same as what the first patrons experienced when it debuted.
This is a vaudeville-style musical revue that features ragtime music, Can-Can dancers, and is a very humorous and funny show to enjoy.
It tells you the story of the birth of Skagway and the rise, and fall, of its most notorious outlaw Jefferson Randolph Smith .
The show runs several times throughout the day, so you can choose the one that works best for your schedule. It is about an hour long so it wont take up a lot of your day.
You can definitely see it and still have time to enjoy the other sights in town. Whether you decide to see this show or not you will be able to get a sneak-peek just by walking down the street in town.
In the second story windows of the theater building you will get to enjoy the lovely ladies as they beckon you to come and join them inside.
You dont have to worry it you have kids because it is a family-friendly show that you can all enjoy together. Visit their website to learn more here.
Popular Alaska Cruise Ports
Most Alaska ports offer a mix of history, culture, scenery, and outdoor activities. If the best Alaska cruise ports are the most popular ones, then the top options are the main Inside Passage ports of Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.
Cruise ships sailing one-way voyages often visit Sitka, a former Russian outpost in North America and home to many native Alaskans. Some ships visit Haines instead of Skagway. Icy Strait Point is a native owned and operated port set on a former fish cannery, which has been expanding and growing in popularity. Less common are the ports of Petersburg and Wrangell, located between Ketchikan and Juneau you can find these smaller ports on select itineraries.
For more information on our favorite destinations, read our post on the best Alaska cruise ports.
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See Spectacular Glacier Bay
One of the star attractions of basically all cruises to Alaska is Glacier Bay. The centerpiece of a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, this breathtaking bay features several calving glaciers, countless icebergs and huge mountains.
Its also a great place to see all kinds of wildlife, from whales to eagles and even bears.
Overview & History Of Skagway Alaska:
The area had not been settled and was still part of the untouched wilderness in the west. There were a few native American tribes in the region, but for the most part nobody lived there.
That is until gold was discovered in the area in 1896. Once gold was discovered, all bets were off and people flocked to the area.
The gold was actually discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon Territory, which is about 600 miles from Skagway.
However, you had to travel through Skagway in order to get up to the area where gold was discovered. This made Skagway a very popular stopping point on the way up.
This caused demand for growth and necessities such as stores, homes, saloons, and, of course, bordellos. By 1898, just two years later, the town of Skagway had a population of over 30,000 people.
During this time, it was like most of the old west, a lawless town. One of the members of the mounted police described it as, little better than a hell on Earth.
Due to the fact that the gold was so far away they started building the railroad. This is known as the White Pass Yukon Railway, which is still there for us to see and ride on.
Unfortunately, by the time the railroad was finished all of the gold was gone. People started leaving the area because there was no point in staying.
For example, John Nordstrom arrived towards the end of the gold rush and actually did find gold.
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What To Pack For An Alaskan Cruise
I have a whole post about what to pack for Alaska, including if youre taking a cruise! Head over there for all the details, but the MOST important things to have and bring from home are an excellent rain jacket and waterproof comfortable walking shoesor boots!
If you are coming from a hot climate, make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes. Temperatures in Southeast Alaska and along the Inside Passage are generally in the 50s and 60s in the summer. It is possible to have much hotter days but definitely be ready for some chilly and damp days, even in the middle of summer!
Youll also want to make sure you have sunscreen because when the sun does come out its INTENSE during Alaskas long summer days. You can find sunscreen everywhere, but if you like a particular brand definitely bring it with you.
What To Do In Port On Alaska Cruise
Our family of 5 , 3 chn 10, 9 and 6 are doing a Princess crusie northbound to Alaska leaving on the 10th May. After browsing all the various excursions that are available I am overwhelmed with the choices and the budget!
Can anyone suggest the must do’s for a family in Ketchikan, , and Skagway. Obviously the weather at this time of the year may be not so predictable but we are being optimistic. We are interested in wildlife, nature and culture and things that will keep the kids intersted…afterall if they are happy, we are all happy!! You will understand if you have kids. 🙂
Also is it necessary to prebook these excursions now or wait til you are on the cruise. has anyone found it better to book privately?? Thanks so much, so many questions…so excited!
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Great help kara thank you. All your ideas sound like fun! Karen 🙂
We will also have time in each port to do more local things as well, like the lumberjack show.
Try these links for ideas of inexpensive things to do in the ports:
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