People visit Alaska to take in the scenery, and look for exotic creatures in the sea and on the shore. Alaska is a huge place, and much of it can only be seen from the water. Therefore, an Alaskan cruise is an ideal way to see the bays, glaciers, and wildlife. However, because of its size, you will miss much of the state if you only touch on the ports. In addition, there are also cultural and historical experiences to be had in Alaska. You can get a sense of what life was like during gold rush days, or even when the Russians inhabited the area.
Many cruise passengers extend their cruise and explore the inland parts of the state by railroad or by car or bus. After all, while you're there, how can you not see Denali National Park? It features the continent's highest mountain, Mt. McKinley. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have a joint tour company that serves passengers from both sister cruise lines. The tour company features railroad cars pulled through the wilderness by the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The trek between Anchorage and Fairbanks includes a stopover at Denali. Princess also offers pre- and post-cruise opportunities to its extensive Alaska lineup, as does Holland America Line. These cruise lines have their own wilderness lodges in the interior of Alaska.
There are exciting, adventurous things to do in Alaska. Many places in the state cannot be reached by cruise ship, car, bus or railroad. How do you get there? By float plane! If you are a fishing aficionado or want to see some of the back country, a small float plane will take you to a lodge. Or you can "hook up" with a guide for a fishing trip to the back country. A glacier flight-seeing or helicopter trip in Juneau, home of the Mendenhall glacier, are popular excursions. Other adventurous options include ziplining, dog sledding, sea kayaking, mountain biking, and heli-hiking. If you're not "up" on the latest fads, heli-hiking is just what it sounds like--a helicopter takes you to a remote location and drops you off. You go hiking, and then are picked up by the helicopter later. Sounds fun!
Each of the ports along the Inside Passage has a special treat for cruise passengers. Sitka is proud of its Russian heritage and offers tours focusing on its Russian roots. It also has an interesting Eagle Rehabilitation Center. If your cruise stops at Skagway, you might want to take the White Pass & Yukon Route narrow gauge railway. This railroad has been in operation since the 1898 Yukon gold rush. Near the White Pass Summit on the Yukon Highway is the beautiful Yukon Suspension Bridge over the Tutshi River. Valdez is the home of the southern end of the famous 800 mile Trans-Alaskan pipeline. Juneau has the Mendenhall Glacier and the state capital. It also features the Mount Roberts Aerial Tramway, which lifts you 1800 feet above the city. Seward is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park and home of the Annual Silver Salmon Derby, the biggest fishing event in Alaska. Ketchikan has a great waterfront, and cruise passengers love to visit the shops and restaurants along Creek Street.
If all of these options have your head spinning, you're not alone. Each cruise line has many shore excursions, and some offer over 100 different excursions. This can get expensive. One way to save a few dollars is to check out Port Promotions. This is an independent company that has arranged cruise shore excursions in the Caribbean for years. They started offering Alaska excursions in 2000. Sometimes their rates can be as much as 15 percent less than those charged by the cruise line. Note that there's no guarantee that your ship will wait on you if you are delayed on any tour NOT booked through the cruise line.
Alaska is a favorite cruise for many people, and the 49th state will provide lifetime memories for all who travel there. Why not combine your love of cruising with a visit to this beautiful part of North America?