North To Alaska — Part 1



Kelly Watts photo

This ice cave in the Hubbard Glacier is so huge the bow of our 985-foot long cruise ship would have fit in the opening and it is just a small bit of the glacier.

“North to Alaska, north the rush is on” — so goes a lyric line from the great Johnny Horton song from 1960.

Our 49th state has gained a lot of attention in the national media because of the selection of its governor, Sarah Palin, as the Republican vice presidential candidate.

In the travel business, Alaska is one of our most popular destinations, with a wide variety of things to see and do. Of course this has not gone unnoticed by the many cruise lines we represent, with scores of trips during the short cruise season from May to September. Every major cruise line and several smaller lines operate cruise trips from seven to 14 days, and combination cruise and land trips that range in length from 11 to 14 days, with the opportunity to add even more time with pre- or post-cruise tour stays.

Alaska cruises can be divided into roughly three different itineraries: northbound, southbound or round trip. The question we are asked: Which do you recommend? There is no easy answer to that question as each itinerary has its own strong points.

Northbound cruises typically depart from Seattle, Wash. or Vancouver, B.C. and for the most part, end in Seward where you will be taken by motor coach to either Fairbanks or Anchorage for your flight home.

Southbound is just the reverse. And roundtrip cruises leave from San Francisco, Seattle or Vancouver. The cruises from San Francisco typically are 10 days long and include stops in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.

On any Alaskan cruise adventure you will have the opportunity to take in the view of some of Alaska’s beautiful glaciers. Hubbard Glacier is the biggest, covering an area 25 percent bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

Hubbard Glacier “calves” off icebergs as tall as a 10-story building. You will get an idea of the tremendous size if you look at the ice cave in one of the accompanying pictures. The bow of our 985-foot long cruise ship would easily have fit in the opening.

When a glacier “calves” the sound is like thunder, but because you are, for the most part, one mile away, you do not hear the sound until the iceberg is in the water. However, a careful eye will allow you to catch this awe-inspiring sight, if you are lucky, you may get a picture or video, something you will want to see again and again.

All the cruise lines get you as close as is safe and most will turn the ship 360 degrees to allow you to see this amazing site.

Other cruises will allow viewing of Tracy Arm Fiord and Mendenhall Glaciers, and while I have not seen those personally, our customers tell me they are extremely impressive. In addition to viewing one of Alaska’s “giants,” many itineraries include cruising through the Inside Passage, Alaska’s summertime playground for a wide variety of whales and other aquatic animals.

In addition to the big ships that travel to Alaska, Princess and Cruise West also operate some smaller ships that are able to explore beyond the everyday cruises.

So what trip is right for you? Stop by and see us, we have the 2009 brochures and we will help you decide just what cruise, or cruise tour is right for you.

Next time I will look at some of the ports of call and shore excursions you might want to add to enhance your Alaskan experience.

REPORTED: from a major cruise line call center, a potential cruiser asked, “if all the balcony cabins were above the water line.”

Until next time, remember local travel agencies do more than just sell you a cabin. We help you plan your trip and are here to answer all your questions, for the same price, and sometimes less than you would pay on the Internet.

Happy traveling!


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