Home to the tallest North American peak and the world’s largest bears, exploring this extraordinary region will see you step into untamed, untouched wilderness.
While many envision eskimos and igloos, Alaska is a pristine and beautiful state providing the perfect setting for an outdoor holiday.
Despite a landmass of over 500,000 square miles, only 20 per cent of the state is accessible by road, meaning Alaska lends itself naturally to exploration by combining a cruise with an overland adventure.
I was fortunate to spend an entire season in Alaska whilst at sea, getting to take an overland trip to Denali and up to Anchorage and Fairbanks too.
An Alaskan cruise understandably features on many a bucket list, often added on to the beginning or end of an exciting Western Canada adventure.
The great expanse that Alaska offers is exhilarating and, if time and budget allow, I would certainly consider adding a few nights on land either pre or post-cruise.
There are various cruise lines that sail in Alaska. The 'Ultimate Alaska Cruise Experience' offered by Holland America Line is a firm client favourite and with several ships operating, convenient options from multiple ports of embarkation are available.
Guiding guests for over 70 years, they have mapped out the entire region - from its rugged glacier-carved Inside Passage to the Yukon’s rich Klondike Gold Rush history.
Their spacious, elegant mid-sized ships are the perfect size to get closer to Alaska’s natural wonders and the legendary service compliments perfectly their unique ability to combine the Great Land’s must-see highlights with its seldom-seen and off-the-beaten-path wonders.
You get to simply relax and enjoy scenes of unimaginable grandeur from the ship’s expansive wide-open decks or from your suite’s private verandah.
Every cruise includes at least one of the majestic glaciers — Glacier Bay National Park, Hubbard Glacier, the twin Sawyer Glaciers of Tracy Arm or the glaciers of College Fjord.
The Explorations Central™ destination programming, onboard naturalists and award-winning shore excursions enhance the authentic and immersive experience along with locally themed onboard entertainment and regionally focused culinary excellence.
Must-see sights include a voyage through the scenic Inside Passage, up to three days exploring wonderful Denali, the largest continually protected ecosystem in the world, Gold Rush and Klondike heritage at Dawson City, Fairbanks and Whitehorse, travelling by glass-domed railcar through miles of spectacular terrain, Alyeska – Alaska’s only luxury spa resort at which I had the pleasure to stay at and Anchorage – the major metropolis at the edge of the wilderness.
The city of Anchorage plants thousands of flowers to celebrate the arrival of the warmer months and days that last up to 19 hours from dawn to dusk. Approximately 40 per cent of Alaska’s population lives here, and the diverse city includes a large military population, Native Alaskans and adventure-seeking types and much like Seattle, you can find a coffee shop just about anywhere.
Denali National Park & Overland Choices
As far from civilisation as may be possible and a vast animal community that far outnumbers the sparse human population, this unique and rare tranquil haven promises remote wilderness adventure and untamed nature as far as the eye can see.
Having the opportunity to spend a few days here increases the chances of witnessing the majestic Mount Denali without cloud cover on a Tundra Wilderness Tour, a wonderful and diverse experience for park visitors.
Incredible scenery, a narrated history of Park Road, and some of the best opportunities to view the wildlife inhabitants await, which include Dall sheep, moose, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears.
Holland America’s McKinley Chalet Resort, located near the gates of Denali National Park is a magnificent 68-acre hotel set on the scenic Nenana River offering guests a stylish wilderness retreat, featuring seamless hospitality and sustainable Alaskan cuisine, including dining options in a two-storey restaurant with panoramic views of the neighbouring mountains.
The hotel provides a comfortable base for adventures within the park, from river rafting to hiking trails, guided walks and forest paths.
Denali Square nestled within the resort is the perfect place to soak up the Alaska experience.
At its centre is the amphitheatre with a covered performance stage and bench seating for guests to enjoy a variety of local shows, ranger talks and demonstrations.
One of the more dramatic ways to tour Denali National Park and Preserve is as a flightseer, from the window of a small aircraft or helicopter.
From the air, you can take in the enormity and diversity of the park landscape - soaring over gentle foothills, along meandering glaciers and up to the rugged peaks of the Alaska Range.
Alternatively, you can journey to the park on Holland America’s own McKinley Explorer® luxury domed railcars, combining the romance of train travel with relaxing and absorbing the breathtaking landscapes.
Whatever way you choose, prearranged land transportation and luggage transfers enable you to simply focus on the adventure.
Seven Day Return Cruise Options from Vancouver
In addition to the seven day north and southbound cruises that include an overland trip in Alaska, there are seven day Inside Passage cruise options that sail in and out of Vancouver, Canada.
Boarding in Vancouver, you’ll also have the opportunity to soak up this fabulous city’s majestic mountains, sparkling ocean and beautiful foliage.
The Inside Passage routes offer opportunities to spot some of Alaska’s iconic wildlife, with humpback whales and orca plying the bountiful waters alongside the ships, bald eagles soaring overhead and brown bears lumbering on the shoreline.
The itinerary will include ports of call at fascinating towns such as Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, plus two days of scenic cruising at Tracy Arm Fjord or Glacier Bay, where I strongly suggest being out on the open deck to view the spectacular glaciers and look out for wildlife.
The ships have rangers that come on board to share their knowledge of the local area.
Holland America Line is also the only cruise company that ventures beyond Alaska to showcase the Yukon Territory, rich in Klondike Gold Rush history.
Yukon itineraries also include two or three nights at Denali, a Tundra Wilderness Tour and a Journey Host providing detailed insights and information. And for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you can consider flying over the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle.
America’s 49th state is one of my favourite parts of the world, offering a myriad of adventures, history and unforgettable scenery. I am passionate about tailor-making the perfect trip for clients who want to visit Alaska.
For more information, please get in touch.