Nothing is as amazing as an Alaska cruise vacation. Add a spectacular shore excursion or two and you can make it the trip of a lifetime! I’m talking about an expedition that cannot be replicated on other itineraries and is synonymous with the “real Alaska” experience. Here are a few suggestions well worth splurging on:
One of the most scenic excursions you can take out of Ketchikan is a floatplane tour to Misty Fjords. The area is part of a vast coastal rain forest and cloud-shrouded monument, hence, its name. The best way to fully appreciate the dramatic beauty of land is from above. Stunning waterfalls, steep fjords and rock walls jutting 3000 feet straight out of the ocean mark the region. This is a great area for wildlife viewing. Both brown and black bears, mountain goats, black-tailed deer, moose, and wolves roam the land while sea lions, harbor seals, killer whales, and porpoises share the waters. Most tours include an exhilarating water landing which gives you the opportunity to step out on to the plane's floats, where you can delight in the scenery and snap some photos that will make your friends drool with envy!
If you ever sat on the edge of your sofa engrossed in an episode of Discovery Channel's award-winning TV series Deadliest Catch, this is the excursion for you! Set out on the Aleutian Ballad crab boat, the only genuine Bering Sea crab fishing vessel licensed to carry leisure passengers. It was actually a part of season two of the show, (no worries, the boat has been completely remodeled to provide for guests’ comfort and safety)! Be prepared with your camera as the crew hauls up 700 lb. crab pots full of Alaska King crabs, octopus, prawns and sharks, just to name a few, that are placed in the live tank on-deck before being released back into the wild. If you are brave enough you can try your hand at holding one yourself for the perfect photo to share when you get home!
When you cruise between July and early August you have the chance to experience black bears up close and personal! Just hop in a floatplane and fly along the Tongass National Forest to Anan Creek. Anan Creek supports one of the largest salmon runs in Southeast Alaska, and the bears like to congregate at its big, beautiful waterfall. To make viewing and picture taking safe and comfortable, the Forest Service has constructed an observatory near the falls. Being able to observe these mighty creatures scooping up and feeding on salmon in their natural environment is certainly a site to behold!
I bet you didn’t know that the Alaska “state sport” is dog mushing. Really! So what better way to experience the real Alaska than dog sledding on a remote glacier? Of course you must first get to the dog camp. No taxi can make the trip, but that’s ok because this excursion includes a helicopter ride! After a kennel tour and getting to know the dogs you can tuck yourself into a cozy, warm sled and go for the ride of your life! Or, if you think you can handle it, ride on the sled as the musher, standing on the runners with a team of huskies dashing through the snow.
A ride on the White Pass Railway is one of the most scenic train rides in the world and a must-do excursion when in Skagway! This narrow-gauge railroad route was built during the gold-rush era and cab be quite the “white knuckle” ride as the train chugs along hugging sheer granite walls, crossing glacial rivers, passes rushing waterfalls, and traverses cavernous gorges! Now imagine taking the experience “up a notch” by disembarking the train at Glacier Station and continuing on with a wilderness snowshoe trek through a magnificent, snow blanketed, sub-alpine rainforest valley. This spectacular trail winds along the raging Skagway River and toward a smaller valley containing the Laughton Glacier.
The Juneau Ice field, much of which is contained within the Tongass National Forest, is home to 40 large glaciers including Mendenhall Glacier and Taku Glacier, as well as 100 smaller ones. Although not for the faint of heart, helicopter companies offer exhilarating excursions that give an aerial view of spectacular rock formations, rainforests, glaciers, icefalls, ice spires, and vibrant-blue crevasses of the Ice field.
Upon reaching a destination glacier, the pilot/guide will shut down the helicopter and escort guests on an informative, relaxing walk along the glacier’s surface. For those that want to try something a bit more exerting, some tour companies replace the leisurely glacier stroll with a 2-3 mile ice trek. Guides will teach you the proper use of the mountaineering gear so that the remote areas of the glacier can be accessed. All you need to bring is a camera, and a craving for adventure! Now while all this is very cool, if you’re thinking about this excursion, don’t put it off… global warming is causing the glaciers to rapidly recede and you owe it to yourself to experience them in all their magnificent glory!
Be daring…be adventurous…be courageous! Book one of these outrageous shore excursions and make your Alaska cruise vacation a once in a lifetime event!
For more information on Alaska Cruises and shore excursions, visit our new website at http://www.AlaskaCruises.travel.