Alaska is a land of possibilities when it comes to sightseeing. There’s something for history buffs, nature lovers, photo enthusiaists, thrill-seekers and those who simply want to have a look around town.
Many guests opt to take a shore excursion to experience a port of call, and there’s exciting news for guests on Alaska cruises this coming season. Holland America Line is featuring 12 new shore excursions in Alaska that offer a variety of experiences on every activity level.
Are you ready for adventure?
Alaska is an outdoorsman’s dream, and remains one of the most wild and natural territories in the world. If you aren’t afraid of heights then you must take in the view from the top. HAL is now featuring the Grizzly Falls Zip Line Expedition, listed as the number one excursion on Trip Advisor for Skagway! Clip in and fly away through 11 zip lines and four suspension bridges. On this tour you’ll soar over glacially fed waterfalls, rugged mountains and the Alaskan rainforest.
Want to go where no roads go? HAL’s offering a Fly-in Remote Hike shore excursion at Sitka. Guests fly by float plane through Hayward Straits, Neva and Salisbury Sound before making a water-landing at Kruzof Island’s Kalinin Bay. A 2 1/2 mile hike takes you to the gorgeous white-sand beach at Sea Lion Cove for lunch by the Pacific Ocean before heading back to port.
Another great hiking adventure is the Denver Hike & Rail shore excursion, which leaves from Skagway and combines an impressive 27-mile rail journey on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad and a five-mile roundtrip hike to Denver Valley. The railroad, called the ‘Scenic Railway of the World,’ passes by waterfalls, rushing rivers, trestles, and through tunnels as you trace portions of the original Trail of ’98. A guided tour then hikes through the glacially carved valley of the Tongass National Forest. After the hike you’ll head back to Skagway by rail. For those who want to enjoy the railway without the hike, the White Pass Bennet Lake Adventure will take you to an abandoned gold-rush town and Caribou Crossing, or Carcross, a Native village idyllically situated beside Lake Bennett.
The Taku River Helicopter & Airboat Safari at Juneau is a great chance to see Alaska from the water and the air. Take a chopper to and from Taku Point where you’ll board an airboat to take in amazing views of the Taku glacier, the largest glacier of the Juneau Ice cascading mountains and the pristine Taku River. From the helicopter you’ll see miles of rugged wilderness as you fly over America’s largest national forest, ice capped mountains, hanging glaciers and deep crevasses.
What about wildlife?
Whether zip lining or strolling the coast, you’re likely to come across wildlife in Alaska, but some tours offer a better chance to get up close and personal with nature.
Otters, Raptors & Bears – Oh My! is an unforgettable tour that combines all three of Sitka’s most popular wildlife viewing experiences. First you’ll explore from the sea on a deluxe water-jet powered catamaran from which you’ll observe sea otters, whales, sea lions, porpoise, harbor seals, brown-tail deer and a variety of marine birds. After that you’ll head to the Alaska Raptor Center, renowned for treating injured birds of prey, including American bald eagles. The next stop on the tour is the Fortress of the Bear, a rescue facility run by an Alaskan family who dreamed of offering a life-saving alternative for bears caught in conflict with their human neighbors and orphaned cubs. The result is an extraordinary habitat where the bears roam happily and you can see them up-close from the safety of a raised platform.
The Back Country Zodiac Expedition out of Ketchikan is a great chance to see Alaskan animals in the wild. On this tour you have the opportunity to take the helm. Steer your own four-passenger zodiac as the tour guide leads the way through the harbor and points out bears, eagles, whales and seals. Navigate the coves and inlets around Blank Island and visit a seal rookery, then warm up with a hot beverage before heading back to the ship.
Want to leave Alaska better than you found it? Discover Alaska’s Whales is part of Holland America Line’s Cruise with Purpose collection. This excursion not only guarantees whale sightings, it offers guests a chance to travel aboard a fully-permitted research vessel for a closer look into the habitat of humpback whales. The vessel is equipped with a hydrophone so you can listen to the underwater sounds of whales while your guide shares the current understanding of humpback whales from their activities to feeding and family patterns in Alaska. Along the way you’re likely to see other marine animals like seals, sea lions and porpoise.
Art, Culture and Cruising
If you cruise into Ketchikan check out A Tsimishian Island Cultural Celebration, a unique excursion in which you travel to the community of Metlakatla to learn about the heritage of the Tsimshian people in their working village. Learn about the connection between the island and its people and the stories behind the totems that still stand at the site where they were raised. Learn about Northwest Coast Native Art from a Tsimshian teacher, and watch the Metlakatla’s Native Dance Group perform in the Longhouse. Finally, take the jet boat to the Tlingit village of Saxman to see the world’s largest collection of totems.
Step into another era of Alaska with the Days of ’98 Show, a vaudeville style performance that has been running in the city of Skagway since 1923. Here you’ll enjoy song and dance, ragtime piano, the can-can and a dramatic reenactment of the life and death of the town’s most infamous gold-rush outlaw, Jefferson Randolph ‘Soapy’ Smith. The show familiarizes you with Alaska’s not-too-distant wild past.
Another new stop in Skagway is the Secret Garden & Teahouse. The Abkhazi Garden, which is closed to the general public, is listed as one of the Top 100 Gardens in the world. The garden was designed by Prince and Princess Abkhazi and begun in 1946. The Prince and Princess chose to take advantage of the remarkable surroundings, and carefully curated the garden in response to the landscape. The result is a stunning example of West Coast landscape architecture and is not to be missed by garden enthusiasts.
Also out of Skagway, expand your horizons and (maybe) narrow your aperture to take in the beauty of the landscape with the Guide’s Choice Photography Adventure. This tour is designed to assess each guest’s skill level in photography, and advance them to the next. You may impress yourself with your own photos, which can make the most precious keepsakes of all.
Know before you go…
Check the website for details on whether or not an activity will be right for you and your cruising companions.
Which new Alaska tour would be tops on your list? Let us know in the comments below!