Monday, April 14, 2014

Consider an Alaska Cruise Tour

A seven-night Alaska cruise is one of the most spectacular vacations you can take! Exploring Alaska by sea allows passengers to behold the stunning coastal region of the Inside Passage, as well as the quaint port towns that dot the area, most of which aren't accessible by road. On an Alaska cruise the ship glides through icy blue waters as passengers look and listen for calving glaciers and scout the shoreline for Alaska's wildlife in its natural habitat. Guests have the opportunity to learn about Alaska's Native history through totem carving, traditional dancing, music, and crafts. And nothing is better than feasting on freshest seafood available…salmon, halibut and of course those famous Alaskan crab legs!

It’s hard to imagine that anything can surpass the experience of an Alaska cruise. However, for an even more comprehensive Alaska expedition, you must journey further than a cruise ship can take you. Alaska's largest cities, highest mountains, and grandest National Parks are all inland. The best way to see more of Alaska’s magnificence is to add a land tour, either before or after your cruise.

Itineraries that include an option for a land tour are sometimes called Gulf of Alaska cruises. The northbound cruises depart from either Seattle or Vancouver and end in Seward, Alaska.  The southbound cruises begin in Seward and end in Vancouver or Seattle. Ports of call are generally the same as the Inside Passage cruise.  The difference regarding this itinerary is the opportunity to explore the interior of Alaska.

Seward, Alaska is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, home to some of most breathtaking vistas in North America. Surrounded by steep mountain walls, the Kenai Fjords provides the perfect habitat for Steller sea lions, sea otters, orcas, humpback whales, mountain goats, bald eagles and a vast number of sea birds. The colossal Harding Ice field feeds the 38 glaciers of the Park. There are many half and full-day glacier and wildlife cruises that explore Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park, a trip that is not possible if you choose the Inside Passage only.

Mention Alaska and the first thing most people think of is Denali National Park. A visit to the park and its crown jewel, Mount McKinley, is at the top of many Alaska visitors' ""must-do"" lists.  But most people do not realize that Denali National Park is not an excursion option on an Inside Passage cruise itinerary.  It’s just too far away!  Denali National Park is a stop on almost every cruise tour itinerary, many including a 2-night stay!  But it’s not just the mountain that makes the park such a special place. Denali is home to a variety of wildlife, with moose, caribou, wolves and bears being sought out by anyone with a camera!

The Alaska Railroad has been part of Alaska history for over 90 years and riding the rails, even for a short distance, is a must-do! The tracks span between Seward and Whittier in South Central Alaska, through Anchorage and Denali National Park, and up to Fairbanks. From inside the glass domed cars travelers are given a unique perspective for viewing the countryside, as the train rambles over rushing rivers and through the pristine wilderness. Many Alaska cruise tours include a spectacular rail journey through the heart of Alaska that you would otherwise miss if you opt for a cruise-only Alaska vacation.

Anchorage and Fairbanks are the two largest cities in Alaska. A visit to either or both is available on most Alaska cruise tours. There is no other urban area like Anchorage. It’s a city nestled between the mountains and the sea with the wilderness in its backyard. Fairbanks is a city of unique experiences. There are summer months in Fairbanks when the sun shines nearly 24 hours a day! However, if you hold off your visit until late August there’s a great chance to see the magical and mysterious light of the aurora borealis!  In addition, Fairbanks is only 198 miles from the Arctic Circle.  Make the trip by plane or car and you will receive an official Arctic Circle certificate presented in ceremonious fashion. Now that’s something not everyone will be able to check off on their bucket list!

To really appreciate all that Alaska has to offer, savvy travelers head inland, to places that cruise ships cannot go.  The beauty of interior Alaska is breathtaking, and there is so much to see and do!  Consider an Alaska cruise tour, as it can turn a great cruise into an extraordinary trip of a lifetime."

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