An Unforgettable Cruise to Alaska

A cruise to Alaska provides perfect access to the Last Frontier’s amazing at-sea and land adventures.

Exit Glacier near Seward

Photo: eStock

A cruise to Alaska lets you go really big with an incredible selection of mind-blowing experiences and breathtaking sights—from exploring remote areas of the Inside Passage and Denali National Park to getting an up-close view of wild orcas at play. Much more than a simple tour, a cruise to Alaska facilitates deeper exploration of the 49th state, beginning with its undeniably gorgeous coastline.

Voyages sail either the Inside Passage or the Gulf of Alaska en route to extraordinary off-the-boat excursions. An Inside Passage cruise to Alaska usually travels roundtrip, stopping in a few charming ports steeped in Gold Rush history and delighting with scenic landscapes, abundant wildlife and prominent native culture. Gulf of Alaska journeys offer much of the same on a northbound or southbound route, but they add glittering glacier views, pristine national parks and more port stops. On either itinerary, cruise lines pair remarkable at-sea activities with tremendous land excursions, ensuring cruisers go home with memorable experiences from all of Alaska.

Steller sea lions

Photo: Gallery Stock

No vacation to the Last Frontier would be complete without witnessing both its rugged coasts and unspoiled interior. A cruise to Alaska facilitates easy access to all its splendors. It’s also relaxing. In between port stops, which some ships slip into at times when you feel like you have Ketchikan or Anchorage to yourself, you can simply bask in the beauty of scenic Alaska. Kick back on an upper deck or your room’s balcony and marvel at verdant fjords and coastal outcroppings draped by sunning sea lions. It doesn’t matter the size of your ship—the scenery is extraordinary from any angle. Small ships may cozy up to tidewater glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park, situated near Seward at the edge of the Kenai Peninsula, but larger cruise ships offer shore excursions by kayak or canoe so their passengers also can experience the humpback whale-rich waters and see gigantic glaciers as they calve from the park’s iconic Harding Icefield.

Historical Nagley’s Store in Talkeetna

Photo: Gallery Stock

These on-water experiences—which may also extend to Glacier Bay National Park or intimate inlets of the Inside Passage, depending on the itinerary for your cruise to Alaska—complement land excursions that often highlight the state’s larger-than-life outdoor adventures, history, culture and lifestyle. For your cruise to Alaska, it’s important to book port excursions in advance, particularly popular ones such as a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route’s scenic, narrow-gauge railroad. The “White Pass Summit Excursion” begins in Skagway and chugs to the 2,865-foot summit of White Pass, offering passengers majestic views as onboard narrators illuminate the history of the railroad, the Klondike Gold Rush and landmarks seen along the way.

Excursions into Denali National Park are widely enjoyed as well. But after a day of flightseeing above the highest peak in North America, 20,320-foot-tall Denali, or hiking the park’s trails in search of bears, moose and spectacular views, it’s nice to retire to the cruise ship knowing that you have to do little but choose your bedtime.

Fisherman with wild Alaskan Dungeness

Photo: Aurora Photos

Indeed, days on the ship provide a welcome respite, particularly after busy adventures ashore. You’re on vacation, after all; you should enjoy some time to relax, some unscheduled moments. Or if you’re the type who recharges with activity, look no further than the ship’s onboard activities. As with the shore excursions, on your cruise to Alaska it’s helpful to book spa treatments, dance classes and other special programs early. The best part of these onboard offerings? Cruise lines often infuse them with aspects integral to the wilderness and culture of the Last Frontier, meaning you may learn to cook Alaskan salmon as part of a culinary class or listen to an authentic lumberjack recount stories from his job among the state’s towering trees.

Even though you’re surrounded by ocean, you’re still engaging with pure Alaska—and that’s a big deal. This dream destination inspires, especially when experienced via ship. A cruise to Alaska makes natures gifts yours to enjoy, both on shore and at sea.

Get to Know the Alaska Natives

By Lynn & Cele Seldon

The history of Alaska Native people and culture dates back thousands of years to when the first migrants crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Asia to North America. Today, Alaska Natives are divided into 11 distinct cultures, with 11 different languages and 22 unique dialects.

Visitors to Alaska can learn more at Anchorage’s Alaska Native Heritage Center, on a Riverboat Discovery tour to a recreated Athabascan village in Fairbanks, at Alaska Native-owned and -operated Icy Strait Point cruise ship port and at Juneau’s Sealaska Heritage Institute, or by viewing Sitka National Historical Park’s colorful totem pole collection. These incredible works of art have been carved and created in Alaska for centuries and each one tells a different story—often to honor the deceased or commemorate an event. They are a testimony to the visual preservation of Alaska Native culture, connecting visitors to the long lineage of Alaska’s first people.

Browse our cruise packages and book your cruise to Alaska online today. Or call 877-396-7159 for assistance from a AAA Travel Counselor.

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Janice Yip-Hudson, AAA Travel Counselor, Daly City, Calif.

Today, people's lives are so busy. We're thinking three days ahead just to get through our to-do lists. I love helping my clients plan vacations where they have nothing to do but relax; where time stands still, and you're just on vacation.

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