Tuesday, July 26, 2011
North to Alaska
We’re now a month into summer, so perhaps it’s time to talk about some vacation ideas for the next few weeks. Since most of North America has been suffering the effects of a heat dome, an Alaska Cruise might seem like a nice comfortable way to spend a week or ten days. Personally, I don’t think the beauty of the Pacific Coast inland passageway to Alaska can be surpassed.
There are a several choices in where you can board your ship. For example, in 2011, ships sail out of Vancouver, B.C. for either a return trip of seven days on Holland America, or a one-way sailing to Anchorage (Seward) on Princess Cruises.
Out of Seattle, return sailings of seven days are offered by Carnival, Norwegian, Holland American, or Princess. In addition, out of San Francisco, Princess offers a return sailing of ten days.
For the very adventurous, there are ferry sailings to Anchorage on the Alaska Ferry Line out of Bellingham, Washington, where one can take their automobile or travel trailer, and wend their way home along the Alaska Highway, through the Yukon Territory and British Columbia.
Most of the sailings offer the three main ports of call in Alaska, outside of Anchorage, these being Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway.
Juneau is the capital of Alaska and is located on the Gastineau Channel midway up the Alaska panhandle. (The Gastineau Channel was named after John Gastineau, an engineer who surveyed the area in the late 1800s, and just happens to be a distant relative of mine. Of course, we never met.) There are some fabulous tours to be taken here including a tram ride up Mt. Roberts or a helicopter ride to the Juneau Icefields, with a landing on one of these glaciers. Or while-away the afternoon in Juneau’s famous Red Dog Saloon, founded during the town’s mining era. For a time, "Ragtime Hattie" played the piano here in white gloves and a silver dollar halter-top.
Ketchikan is at the bottom of the panhandle in the southeast corner of Alaska. It boasts a temperate climate and the highest rainfall of any place in the United States—15 feet per year. Ketchikan is best known for its Alaskan Native culture and great salmon fishing. In addition to native villages where you can experience a smoked salmon barbecue, they have more totem poles than anywhere else in the world. Like most cruise-port towns, there are some great duty free stores near the harbour, where you can buy anything from Gucci handbags to Movado watches.
Next week: Skagway, Anchorage, and cruising Glacier National Park