Alaska cruisers have three basic choices
of itineraries and many different sizes and categories
Cruising on the beautiful Seven Seas Mariner luxury ship can add much to the magnificent experiences you will have in Alaska. I sailed on the Seven Seas Mariner from Seward, Alaska southward down Alaska's Gulf Coast and through the Inside Passage of Alaska before disembarking in Vancouver. This seven-day itinerary was a combination of wonderful "upscale but not uptight" service and amenities onboard along with remarkable adventures and sights ashore in Alaska.
Click on each section header to read about our cruise.
Anchorage Photo (c) Linda Garrison
Cruises along Alaska's Gulf Coast often embark or disembark in Seward, which requires a flight into Anchorage. The good news is that Anchorage has a modern airport and is a perfect city to base your Alaska adventure. Cruise travelers with extra time can add-on tours from Anchorage to many exciting inland places in Alaska like Denali National Park.
If you just have a few hours in Anchorage, you might want to explore the downtown area. Although surrounded by mountains, downtown Anchorage is fairly flat and perfect for walking or browsing in the numerous shops.
We arrived in Anchorage in the afternoon, spent the night at a hotel, and returned to the airport late the next morning in order to catch the Alaska Railroad Grandview Train to Seward.
Alaska Railroad Train Photo (c) Linda Garrison
The Alaska Railroad train route from Anchorage to Seward is a wonderful introduction to the variety of beauty of Alaska, and a relaxing way to begin your cruise. Seven Seas Mariner
staff met us in the train station across the street from the airport about noon. We checked our luggage, received our tickets and seating assignments for the train, and relaxed with a book until the 400+ of us on the train boarded about 1:00 pm. While on the train, we took turns walking to the club car to check in for the cruise.
The domed-car train passed along the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet before heading up and over the mountains to Seward. The glaciers, meadows, rivers, and mountain views were spectacular.
We arrived in Seward about 5:30 pm.
Seward, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison
Since we had checked in for the cruise on the Alaska Railroad Grandview Train, we were able to move directly to the Seven Seas Mariner
when we arrived in Seward. How nice to have the train stop next to the ship! Unfortunately, having 400 train passengers board simultaneously meant we had a line at security, but it was the only line experienced on the 7-day cruise.
We boarded the Seven Seas Mariner, were welcomed with a glass of champagne, and were delighted to see our bags already in the suite, having arrived via truck from Anchorage.
We delayed unpacking to enjoy the view from our balcony. While sipping champagne, we "took in" lovely Seward and its environment. The next morning we would be at sea, followed by a visit to Hubbard Glacier.
Hubbard Glacier Photo (c) Linda Garrison
After a delicious first-night dinner at La Verandah, we had a restful night, thanks to all the dinner wine and the smooth humming of the ship. The next morning we explored the ship and enjoyed the casual elegance of the Seven Seas Mariner
. The staff were very friendly and accommodating, without being even the least bit too attentive.
Early in the afternoon we arrived at Yakutat Bay. Anthropologist/story teller Terry Breen, who is one of the most enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and best destination specialists I've ever seen, provided commentary from the bridge. Terry contributed much to our cruise throughout the week, providing information about the region and its native people. This day she started with the spectacular Hubbard Glacier.
Sitka Photo (c) Linda Garrison
The Tlingit Indians settled the Sitka area first, followed by the Russians in 1799. The Russian Trading Company used the rich wildlife resources in the area to become the most profitable fur trader in the world. The Americans bought Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million, and the transfer ceremony took place in Sitka, the capital of Alaska at the time.
The Seven Seas Mariner
anchored in the harbor of Sitka in the early morning, and most passengers took off on one of the 15 optional shore excursions to see historic Sitka, kayak, hike, bike, or view sea otters and other wildlife. We took the tender into town and explored the city on our own, enjoying the end-of-season sales in the shops and the various historic sites in Sitka.
Tracy Arm Photo (c) Linda Garrison
Early the next morning, the Seven Seas Mariner entered Tracy Arm, a 30-mile long dramatic fjord near Juneau. We marveled at the spectacular granite cliffs and the brilliant blue icebergs for a couple of hours before leaving Tracy Arm for Juneau. We were hoping to see bears, but they didn't make an appearance. That's one problem with WILDlife -- they are not always cooperative!
Some passengers did an optional excursion from the ship. They were picked up by a small boat and went further up into the narrow fjord to view Sawyer Glacier. They rejoined the Seven Seas Mariner in the afternoon while we were docked in Juneau.
I had visited Sawyer Glacier previously, so we opted to stay on the Seven Seas Mariner
and have more time in Juneau.
Juneau Photo (c) Linda Garrison
Juneau is Alaska's capital and the third largest city in the state. The city stretches along the narrow coastline of the Gastineau Channel and features plenty of shopping, dining, and drinking opportunities for visitors. The Seven Seas Mariner arrived in Juneau about 1 pm, and we did not sail until 11 pm, allowing plenty of time for exploring the city and/or taking part in one of the 20+ optional shore excursions offered by the ship.
I had been to Juneau before, but my mom had not, so we explored the very steep streets and got our exercise.
In the late afternoon, I did a combination helicopter flight seeing tour and dog sledding excursion, one of the best (and most expensive) shore excursions I've ever had anywhere.
Helicopter Flightseeing Photo (c) Linda Garrison
At the helicopter company, I was surprised to find more than half of the dozen of us participating had been on a helicopter before--in Alaska, Hawaii, or the Grand Canyon. At least I wasn't the only newbie to helicopters, and some had chosen a second trip!
We had a safety briefing, put on our glacier-walking shoes, and boarded the two helicopters, with six passengers in each. Before donning our earphones, we agreed to switch seats on the return trip so that everyone could sit by a window.
The helicopter gently lifted off the pad, and we were off. I couldn't believe how smooth it was. The skies were crystal clear, and the sunny, warm mountains near Juneau were quickly replaced by the brilliant, icy glacier below. It was an amazing experience.
Sled Dog Photo (c) Linda Garrison
The helicopter arrived way too quickly at the dog sled camp. I was amazed to see over 200 dogs, each with their own private dog house on the snow. The 10 mushers/handlers lived in several quonset hut-type shelters, and they even have a bed-and-breakfast hut for those who want to spend the night on a glacier.
We learned a little about the dog camp and met the dogs. They were all very friendly and could have been just regular pets. Most were not pure bred huskies since hybrid dogs seem to run better. Sean, our musher, hooked up the dogs, and the excited dogs pulled us along the trail. Sean used "gee" and "haw" to direct the dogs, but never said "mush". It was great fun, followed by time to play with the puppies before the helicopters returned.
Skagway Photo (c) Linda Garrison
Skagway was a boomtown during the days of the Yukon gold rush. Today, many of the charming buildings from those days either still remain or have been renovated. Cruise ship passengers love Skagway because the town has such a fascinating history and has many interesting shore excursions. Skagway is one of only two towns (the other is Haines) on the Inside Passage of Alaska with road access to the rest of the world, so Skagway also has many tourists who have driven their campers or cars into town.
We rode the White Pass and Yukon Railway to Fraser, BC and took a bus back, stopping to visit the nearby Yukon Suspension Bridge before our return to Skagway. We had enough time to stroll around town before walking back to the Seven Seas Mariner