I reckon Alaska is best seen by sea. But I would say that because I’ve only seen it that way. However since the capital city – Juneau – is only reached by sea I might just be right!
This amazing state of America was owned by Russia until 1867 but didn’t become an official United State until 1959. It is very different from any other state in the US. I mean you’re hardly likely to see bears wandering out of the forest to catch a salmon in a Californian river. And if you do you should call a policeman.
I did a 7-day cruise onboard Holland America Line and saw some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. We did a slow cruise up the Inside Passage (no I’m not going to labour the gag) which includes the towns of Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Skagway as well as Glacier Bay National Park. This was a real highlight.
The 104 km fjord meets in a cul-de-sac of glaciers and is also unreachable by road – although you can fly there.
We didn’t get off the ship to join the hikers or kayakers, rather did a half-hour slow donut, taking photos and listening to the cracks that echo like rifle shots across the water just before the blue-tinged ice calves into the sea with a roar. Margerie Glacier is the main one that comes down to the water’s edge – actually it reaches 30m below sea level. It’s also 76 m above sea level – about 25 stories high! Whales also play in this area and we nearly capsized the ship rushing to one side just in time to see one breach, which I’m told is rare in cooler waters. Mind you, after a few days at sea seeing whales all around us we got very blaze. Poor things. Try as they might to show off rounding up fish and gulping up through the middle of the frenzy.
As with all cruises, shore excursions should be booked as soon as possible once you get onboard, or better yet, add them at the time of booking so you don’t miss out on something as remarkable as dog sledding or taking a ski plane to see those bears in the river catching their own sashimi as American Bald Eagles sit beady-eyed hoping for a morsel. Only limited numbers can hop on these planes and sleds.
Onboard there is loads of very good food. Several dining options from posh restaurants with a couple of dress-up nights to pizza bars. On the deck the kiwis took on the Belgians at a game of cut throat shuffleboard and after losing the 1st (warm up) game, we whipped them soundly. Of course a mighty shuffleboard win should be celebrated by a drink with an umbrella in it on the deck, but even though it was summer in Alaska, you can only expect temperatures in the mid to high teens celcius. And d’you know that Juneau is officially the wettest city in the United States? (Say that outloud. It’s my terribly funny d’you know/Juneau gag.)
Well it is, so bring your coat, a beanie and your hiking boots so you can spend the day pottering through the towns, patting husky dogs, buying Russian dolls (and there are gazillions of them here), trying on Daniel Boone hats and popping in for a beer at the local before dinner is served onboard.