Perhaps you’ve had the pleasure of cruising to Alaska before. But I’ll bet there are still some ports of call that you haven’t experienced. I’m thinking of the ports of Kodiak, Homer, Anchorage and Sitka.
Holland America is now the only cruise line visiting these ports on a 14-day round trip sailing from Seattle. That means no long air flights to Anchorage, and less expensive flights, especially if you fly Southwest.
Of course, this cruise also visits the main Inside Passage ports of call: Ketchikan and Juneau, as well as cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord and Hubbard Glacier. There is a full day stop in Victoria as well.
Sailings start on May 13, 2011 and continue through Sept. 2, 2011. Cruise Port Travel has arranged a group sailing for June 10 through June 24, 2011. Not only can you expect a reduced group rate on cabin fares (up to $360 on an ocean view cabin), but you will also benefit from the following group amenities: $100 on board credit and a dinner in Holland’s specialty restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill. A category E ocean view cabin fare is $2,299 per person based on double occupancy. Cabin fares for third and fourth passengers in a room are substantially less, however, the amenities apply only to the first and second passenger in a room. Additional charges are $157.27 government taxes and fees and $56 airport to pier transfers. Deposit is $600 per person. Not included in the above prices are air transportation to Seattle, gratuities, shore excursions, alcoholic and carbonated beverages, and travel insurance.
Now that all the boring stuff is out of the way, lets look at the fun stuff — i.e. what can you see and do in these unique ports of call.
Alaska offers opportunities for adventure, nature, cultural, historical, and wildlife excursions in every port of call. Kodiak Island shore excursions range from deep sea to river fishing, marine wildlife cruises, nature hikes, historical and city tours. Kodiak Island was the site of a Russian settlement in the late 1700s and a city tour offers visits to the Baranov Museum, with its Russian exhibits, the Alutiiq Museum with its Native American exhibits, Fort Abercrombie State Park, a World War II historical site, and a cultural performance of the Kodiak Island Drummers. The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge offers a protected habitat for Kodiak brown bears, and can be easily reached by boat. Kodiak’s Russian Orthodox Church is the oldest Alaska parish.
Sitka, once called New Archangel, was the Russian capital of Alaska from 1808-1867. The waters surrounding Sitka teem with sea birds, and wildlife viewing opportunities for humpback whales, sea otters, eagles, harbor seals, and sea lions abound. Shore excursions offer salmon and halibut fishing, rainforest hikes, Russian history and native cultural tours. Sitka is the site of two wildlife rescue centers. The Alaska Raptor Center is a rehab facility for bald eagles and other raptors. Fortress of the Bear rescue facility is a created habitat for bears caught in conflict with humans, and it offers up-close bear viewing. If you crave adventure, you can explore a volcano by 4x4 and ocean raft, or go ocean kayaking. Russian history abounds, with St. Michael’s Cathedral, the first Russian church built in America; the Russian Bishop’s House, once the residence of the Bishop with refurbished living quarters and Chapel of the Annunciation with its lavish icons; and Castle Hill, where the Russian flag was lowered and the American flag raised in 1867. The Sheldon Jackson Museum is the largest collection of Native artifacts in the state. The New Archangel Dancers, an all-female troupe, perform throughout the summer.
Homer is known as the halibut fishing capital of the world, and is a unique combination of location, commerce, natural resources and wilderness. Located on Kachemak Bay on the southwestern tip of the Kenai Peninsula, Homer’s most notable landmark is the Homer Spit, a 4.5-mile long gravel bar that can be seen from space. The natural beauty of the area has inspired many artists to make Homer an arts center for painters, potters, jewelers, weavers and woodcarvers. A must see attraction is the Pratt Museum with its varied exhibits and artwork. One exhibit called “Darkened Waters’’ is a pictorial of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and its effects on the environment. Native artifacts as well as those from 1930s and 40s homesteaders are on display. Many species of Alaskan birds and mammals, including several full skeletons, are on display. Visitors can stroll through the botanical garden featuring over 150 native plants. The museum also houses one of the finest quilt collections in Alaska. A little ways from town is the Norman Lowell Gallery with its impressive collection of paintings done over the artist’s 50 years of Alaska residence. The Islands and Oceans Visitors Center offers the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge exhibit.
Ketchikan and Juneau have already been discussed in this column, and those articles can be found in “the blog spot” on our Web site, www.travelpayson.com. Attractions in Anchorage will be featured in a future article.
It’s not too early to plan your Alaskan vacation, whether it be a cruise, combination cruise and land tour, or independent travel. Brochures are arriving daily at Cruise Port Travel, 900 W. Driftwood Dr. in Payson. Contact us at (928) 472-7878 to set up a consultation. We are your certified Alaska experts.