by Sid Kaplan
One of the most overlooked cruise holidays is along the coast of Alaska. There are no palm trees, white sand beaches, or summer-like breezes to blow through your hair, but there is so much more. Only in Alaska can you see humpback and Orca whales, sea lions, sea otters, American bald eagles, glaciers, Native American culture and mountains that rise thousands of feet above the deck of your cruise ship.
There are currently seventeen cruise outfits that can take you along the shores of Alaska, including Princess Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruises. The choice comes down to when you would like to book your cruise and where you would like to go.
Typically, there are three main Alaska cruise routes from which to choose. The first two are the Southbound and Northbound routes. The first may include a pre-cruise tour of inland south-central Alaska with a rail tour to Denali and tours of Anchorage and Fairbanks. After your inland tour, you embark in either Anchorage or Seward and head south with stops in Glacier Bay, Juneau or Ketchikan and end in either Victoria or Vancouver, British Columbia. The Northbound is just the opposite of the Southbound, with a land excursion at the end of the cruise. These two routes are popular at each end of the cruise season - May or October, as the weather is more amenable to inland excursions.
The most popular Alaska cruise is the inland cruise. The inland is what is considered the panhandle of Alaska and runs from Ketchikan to Glacier Bay. Most inland cruises start in Vancouver, make their way north to the Glacier Bay area and turn around. An inland cruise is a remarkable experience, because it is in the smaller fjords of
Alaska that the ship passenger can truly take in all that Alaska has to offer.
Southeast Alaska is home to three Native American Tribes: the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian. You will see evidence of these tribal cultures in coastal totem poles - huge carved pines representing area wildlife, family crests and tribal stories. Not only will you see beautiful wildlife art, but you will get to witness these animals for yourself.
The summer months are popular cruise times because this is when the humpback whales can be seen breaching. You will have plenty of opportunity for photos when these magnificent creatures wave their tails in the air as if in hello. Orcas can also be seen at any time in the Alaskan inlets. Other wonderful sites may include grizzly bears fishing for salmon on the shore, bald eagles flying to and from their high nests in the trees and the occasional moose.
Towards Glacier Bay, the passenger will get to witness glacial "calving," when a large chunk of ice cracks and falls off the ice shelf and into the water. Cruise ships can get within about ¼ mile of these glaciers and still maintain passenger safety and the site is simply breathtaking. Along the glacial areas is where visitors will get to catch a glimpse of Harbor seals in the month of June when they give birth. The difference between the Harbor seal and the Steller sea lions is that sea lions can weigh over a thousand pounds and their long flippers give them mobility on land.
Come to Alaska and take in the fresh mountain air as it wafts down along the glaciers to the ocean. Do your research, compare holidays
and then decide on your cruise options. You won`t be disappointed with an Alaskan cruise. The scenery is unforgettable.