By – D.J. Wilson
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru
Adventurous television shows thrive on drama and excitement. One series features survivalists battling head-to-head in competition while fighting the forces of nature in wilderness-rich Alaska. While action television exposes us to beautiful sceneries, these nail-biting adventures are staged and your field of vision is entirely controlled by camera. It’s impossible to get 3-D and 360º views of Alaska’s stunning landscapes on screen. To travel through Alaska’s rugged terrain on one’s own may be difficult as vast areas remain unmodified by human activity. Alaska has a longer coastline than all other U.S. states combined, thus a cruise is an optimal way to visit The Great Land. With knowledge of various ports, and geared toward providing on-board comfort and entertainment, cruising provides a safe way to observe Alaska’s pristine landscape. Let the expert Princess Cruise Lines do the navigating for you, leading your way to the perfect vacation aboard a luxury ship. May through September is considered the best time to go. Visitors will find Alaska’s daylight schedules and temperatures most favorable. May is usually a dry month and during spring season wildflowers are in full bloom. Early fall season is a great time to witness Alaska’s breathtaking fall foliage. Temperatures in Alaska during the summer range from 60°F-80°F. Nighttime and early mornings are cooler, from the 40s to 50s. Late summer and early fall departures may encounter cooler temps and slightly fewer hours of sunlight. Those visiting Denali often travel from mid-June to end of August.
Climb aboard The Crown Princess, one of the line’s largest ships with room for over 3,000 passengers and with nearly 900 balconies. Throughout your experience, enjoy sweeping views from the deck and a wide variety of activities, entertainment and dining on board. Princess offers many options, including round-trips to and from the first port. These are commonly referred to as Inside Passage Cruises. The benefits include ability to visit ports along the way and partake in excursions offered by the ship. One-way cruises provide a way to extend your vacation onto land. Most begin with a 7-day cruise from Anchorage or Vancouver and are typically followed by a delightful three to 8-night stay on land. This provides a unique opportunity to explore Alaska by sea and land and discover exciting new places.
The 12-day Denali Explorer Cruise begins with a seven-day cruise, followed by a five-day land tour. Climb aboard the Crown Princess, or the Island Princess which offers 90% ocean-view staterooms with over 700 balconies. During your trip, visit these exciting Cruise Ports:
Vancouver, British Columbia: Set your sail to one of the most beautiful cities in the continent. As Canada’s third-largest city, visitors will enjoy the cosmopolitan vibe with rich European feel. Feel the ethnic mix as you visit the second largest Chinatown in North America. See stunning parks, historic homes, shops, restaurants and historic government sights and much more on your tour of this premium city.
Ketchikan, Alaska: Known as Alaska’s “First City”, it serves an important role as the city which visitors first encounter when journeying north. The island began as an Indian fishing camp. The growth of industry helped make the port Alaska’s fourth-largest city. Enjoy Native Heritage and see the world’s oldest collection of totem poles at Totem Heritage Center. Sightseers will enjoy the scenic town, its Rainfall Reserve and the surrounding Misty Fjords National Monument.
Juneau, Alaska: This famous city is noted for its gold mining and government history, plus breathtaking views of glaciers, water and mountains. Visit the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery and Aquarium which showcases local marine life in natural saltwater environments. Explore the 50-acre Glacier Gardens featuring native species and enjoy the look-out point from Thunder Mountains. See Mendenhall Glacier and enjoy a panoramic bird’s eye view from Mount Roberts Tramway.
Skagway, Alaska: Considered a gateway to gold fields, Skagway attracted thousands to Alaska in search of striking it rich. When gold yield subsided, the population of miners relocated. Skagway currently has less than 1,000 residents. Today, visitors may tour camps, pan for gold and relive its colorful history. Some important sights are the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad offering an unforgettable trip to the summit of the White Pass. Check out abundant wildlife in Haines or meet professional mushers and their canine companions at the Klondike Summit.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska (Scenic Cruising): Princess is one of the select lines able to cruise the waters of Glacier Bay. Located west of Juneau, this breathtaking national park and preserve provides exposure to the world’s most pristine and spectacular tidewater glaciers, like Margerie Glacier, which regularly drops colossal chunks of ice into the sea. Park Rangers will come on board to share their knowledge with passengers of all ages. Glide along emerald waters and witness calving icebergs while inhaling clean, fresh air.
College Fjord, Alaska (Scenic Cruising): Located on the northwest corner of Prince William Sound, and stretching for miles, are massive rivers of ice which tumble down from mountains and valleys, and dip into the waters of the fjord. Watch awe-inspiring glaciers drop thunderous pieces of ice into the sea. College Fjord boasts the world’s largest collection of tidewater glaciers and is surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains which extend as far as the eyes can see.
Anchorage (Whittier), Alaska: Located 65 miles southeast of Anchorage is the town of Whittier. It was established as a World War II port for cargo and troops and remained active until 1960. With only 290 residents, it is largely a fishing town which relies heavily on tourism. Guests ending their cruise in Whittier may choose a flight out of Anchorage or transfer to their next land destination.
The exciting Alaskan land tour continues to the following destinations:
Whittier/Denali: Fall in love with awe-inspiring views of the Alaskan wilderness from your luxury railcar via Princess Cruise’s exclusive Direct-to-the Wilderness Rail Service. You’ll be whisked straight from Whittier to your Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. Along the way, you’ll observe wildlife, picturesque sceneries and the diverse beauty of Alaska from glass-domed railcars. Sit back and relax in luxury as you journey toward the lodge. The Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is a premier riverside hotel located one mile from the entrance to Denali National Park. Featuring an expansive deck overlooking the park, it is a wonderful place to relax with friends and family and view the stunning landscape. Hotel guest rooms are comfortably appointed. Outdoor hot tubs with stunning views allow you to unwind in a unique environment. Enjoy a variety of dining choices, including authentic cuisine, specialty dishes, spirits, Denali’s microbrew and casual fare. Entertainment abounds with dinner theatre and featuring a musical comedy which recounts the first ascent of Mt. McKinley.
Denali/McKinley: Your unique location allows you to enjoy an abundance of excursions like taking a jet-boat safari or a scenic float down the Nenana River. Hike in the backcountry or play a round of golf in the Midnight Sun. Take a thrilling flight-seeing tour to gain new perspective of the vast wonderland. Be sure to visit the Iditarod champion’s dog kennel where you can hold the puppies. Explore Denali National Park whose boundaries encompass an impressive six million acres. It is home to Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak which towers 20,320 feet in the sky. It is considered one of the most challenging mountains to climb, even for the most experienced, as it is perhaps the coldest mountain in the world outside of Antarctica. The park hosts a variety of wildlife, like moose, caribou, Dall sheep, bald eagles, grizzly bears, wolves, foxes and more! Glaciers cover one million acres of Denali National Park and the most massive glaciers in the park drain snow and ice from the flanks of Mt. McKinley. Ride aboard a luxury motor coach from Denali to Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, located south of the National Park near the Chulitna River and one hour from the Mt. McKinley based town of Talkeetna. The comfy lodge features a large great room with an impressive stone fireplace and enormous floor-to-ceiling windows which look out on Mt. McKinley and the Alaska Range. Guest rooms are nestled peacefully on the hillside and there is a tour desk staffed with hosts to help you get an insider’s view of Alaska. Dining at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge features signature Alaskan Cuisine amidst panoramic mountain views.
Anchorage: Take in the views from your motor coach as you’re whisked off to Anchorage, located in south-central Alaska, nestled between the Chugach Mountains and the shoreline of the Cook Inlet. The town, originally settled in 1915, has grown into a business and cultural distribution center of Alaska and features an abundance of museums, restaurants, shopping and lodging. The town is also home to the largest float or sea plane base in the world. Your tour ends with an overnight stay in Anchorage, leaving you with exhilarating memories to last a lifetime. Bon Voyage!