Its location at the northwest extremity of North America provides Alaska with a unique climate. The region also offers one-of-a-kind scenery and wildlife that cannot be found in many other parts of the United States. US bought Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in 1867, but long before that the region was inhabited by a variety of indigenous people. These included the Tringit people, the Haida, who are renowned today for their unique art, and the Thimshian.
Reasons To Cruise Alaska
Alaska cruises are a great way to experience something totally different. The stunning icy scenery provides a wondrous backdrop to a relaxing voyage, with mountain ranges, glacial fields and huge white and blue glaciers that can be viewed from a private balcony or from the cruise ship’s deck.
A lot of cruises to Alaska pass the magnificent Hubbard Glacier, the biggest tidewater glacier in the state, composed of an almost unbelievable 1,350 square miles of solid ice. The majestic ice giants are an amazing sight in their own right, but they’ve also played a vital role in shaping the landscape, channeling out areas of remarkable natural beauty such as the bays, fjords and islands of Alaska’s Inside Passage.
An Alaska cruise is not only about viewing the magnificent scenery, however. The unique wildlife is also an important reason to go. You might pay a few hundred dollars for a bear-viewing day trip via floatplane or an excursion to an eagle preserve, or you could just simply look over the side of your cruise ship to see bald eagles, whales, and even bears and moose, without paying a cent for the experience.
The state also has some very interesting towns and cities. The capital city – Juneau, offers narrow winding streets, numerous restaurants and an array of shops to satisfy any shopaholic. The largest city – Anchorage, also features excellent shopping opportunities, great entertainment and dining options.
Types of Alaska Cruises
There are three main types of Alaska cruises: Inside Passage, Gulf of Alaska and expedition cruise.
Inside Passage Cruises
These usually last about a week and depart from Vancouver or Seattle. They follow a sheltered waterway between a number of Pacific Coast Islands. Main ports of call usually include Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau.
Gulf of Alaska Cruises
These are one-way journeys between Vancouver/Seattle and Whittier/Seward. Most of these cruises will also visit Skagway, Kethikan and Juneau, as it’s necessary to pass along the Inside Passage to get between the gateway ports for Anchorage.
These are usually offered on relatively small ships, which can reach off-the-beaten track destinations. The focus here is less on city life and more on wildlife and nature. On more than one of these cruises, passengers will use kayaks and Zodiac rafts, and go on hiking trips to get closer to wildlife and glaciers.
Best Time To Cruise Alaska
The best time to go to Alaska is between June and August, when daytime temperatures are at their highest and it normally rains less. This is also the best period to spot wildlife and to go on excursions. May and September, however, are also good months to go, especially for those who want to enjoy significant savings on the cost of the journey. September is also a great time to view the northern lights and souvenir hunters will find great end-of-season discounts.
Have you been on a cruise to Alaska?
This is a guest post by Aimee Claire.