ALASKA’s cruise season is now underway with many first-time cruisers testing those icy waters.
Interestingly, australiancruisingnews.com notes that first-timers are now an adventurous bunch, and many are opting to explore Alaska – America’s 49th state – by land before, or after their cruise of the celebrated Inside Passage.
Over 1-million guests cruised through Alaskan waters from May to October last year, and at least a 3-per cent increase is expected this season.
Instead of flying to join a cruise of Alaska’s Inside Passage, and flying home again as soon as the cruise is over, many sail into Seward or Whittier port to disembark for an Alaskan land adventure. Others are exploring by land before joining their cruise.
Both Seward and Whittier are gateways to Anchorage, which is Alaska’s largest city, with a highway to the state’s vast inland wilderness, including wildlife in Denali National Park where Princess Cruises and Holland America – both major player in Alaskan waters – have comfortable lodges.
Once on land many cruise passengers opt for a self-drive journey in Alaska, while others take a train or bus, or join an organised tour.
Of late, the city of Fairbanks, a 7-hour drive north of Anchorage, has become a popular base to see the dazzling Northern Lights or to head north to the Arctic Circle.
It is not just small expedition vessels in these waters as Alaska hosted its largest cruise ship last year when Princess Cruises’ Crown Princess sailed there with 3,000 passengers on board, princess.com.au
This year the even larger Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, (3800 passengers), sailed north to Alaska after her season in Australian waters. She expects to dock at all ports along the celebrated Inside Passage, apart from Ketchikan where she will anchor in the harbour and passengers will be tendered into port, royalcaribbean.com.au
Alaska’s Inside Passage is always the major drawcard for cruise passengers for dazzling glaciers, plentiful wildlife, breathtaking landscapes, and quirky ports such as Juneau, the landlocked state capital; the gold rush town of Skagway, where the main street looks as it did in the 18th century; and Sitka which still has an authentic Russian feel. It was there that Russia sealed the agreement to sell Alaska to the USA in 1867, alaskatravel.com