Alaska, one of the last true frontiers of human exploration. Its name conjures up images of undulating Arctic tundra, unspoiled rainforests, pristine glacial waterways and a wealth of native wildlife rarely seen anywhere else. That Alaska’s scenery and wildlife are its most alluring features is no surprise considering the state’s dedication to their preservation. Given its countless miles of shoreline, a cruise is the perfect showcase of Alaska’s wonders.
The ideal time to take a cruise to Alaska is between the months of May and September, before the colder season sets in. Waiting till September means having to brave lower temperatures but, for most cruisers, it is balanced by the increased possibility of experiencing the exquisite, ethereal beauty of the Northern Lights first hand.
The typical Alaskan cruise is between seven and fourteen days’ duration. They touch all the major ports of Juneau, Skagway, Sitka and Ketchikan and allow a glimpse into a history rich. Both the Alaskan Native peoples and the Russians who occupied areas briefly have left enduring marks; totem poles and clan houses in the case of the former and cathedrals in that of the latter.
Between ports of call, the seemingly boundless stretch of Alaska thrills with glimpses of snowy peaks, shimmering glaciers and a kaleidoscopic spectrum of flora that the uninitiated would not imagine of associating with the frigid connotations Alaska embodies. Black bears and wolves roam the wild as bald eagles soar majestically above. Beneath the waves, thirty ton whales glide through the chill, and just might follow your ship for an inquisitive caper.
Several of the largest cruise companies operate in Alaskan waters; Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival and Princess offer a variety of cruise options that cater to the needs of the standard cruise vacationer. However, Expedition Cruises are increasingly piquing the interest of those that want an Alaskan experience beyond the normal.
Eschewing the glitz and comfort of a standard megacruiser and embracing instead a return to basics and intimacy with the environment, Expedition cruisers are an invitation to discover the real Alaska as people have done for centuries. An Expedition cruise is conducted on a ship considerably smaller than those of the main cruise lines – which means no casinos and fine dining – but it allows them to ply waterways too small for their larger cousins. If wet landings on skiffs, zodiac journeys through iceberg fields and anchoring in quiet coves take your fancy, this is the way to go.
Alaska has always called to the adventurer, to the intrepid, to the inquisitive. Answer her.