Whether you’ve visited Alaska before, are planning to go, or dream of it one day, check out what these HAL Mariners had to say!
See it from above!
From floatplanes to helicopters to mountaintops, one of the best ways to experience the breadth of Alaska’s wilderness is to look down on it.
Rick McCormick said, “Our favorite excursion for the entire Alaska cruise was the Misty Fjord National Monument “flight”-seeing out of Ketchikan. We got to ride in a classic Alaska “bush plane” (DeHavilland Beaver) and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking!!”
Lonnie Durham Hess also took a float plane, and said, “there’s nothing like the takeoffs and landings. It’s like landing on glass. Breakthtaking.”
Other guests chose helicopters over floatplanes, like Janet Myers:
“Spent one day there on top of a glacier. We landed in a private helicopter — the first one to land of the year it was indescribable! No sound, hundreds of feet of snow under foot with ice crevices you could drink from, but sure didn’t want to fall into. Never felt so close to heaven it was the top of the world and will never forget it.”
Christine Schofield and Lori Saelua both mentioned helicopters and huskies.
“Husky dog sledding in Juneau with era helicopters and bear watching in Ketchikan with Alaska seaplanes – both amazing experiences!” said Christine.
Lori said, “Take a helicopter ride in Skagway up to a glacier where they train the Ididarod huskies. The view and the experience of huskies pulling you is amazing!”
The huskies aren’t the only amazing animals in Alaska! Another tip?
Explore the wildlife!
From bald eagles to bears to whales to moose, Alaska is teeming with magnificent wildlife. Holland America Line offers dozens of tours that bring guests up close and personal with these incredible creatures.
Cynthina Ibrahim says you can’t miss whale watching and Tessa Langmead recommends a stop at Denali National Park, “where the animals rule in all their wonder.” Terrence Porter points out that when you stop at the trout hatcheries the black bears are always on show!
No matter what shore excursion you choose, you’re likely to come into contact with these animal inhabitants, but some of the best views can come from the comfort of your own stateroom! Many guests say when you’re cruising in Alaska you’d be wise to…
…Book a verandah cabin.
Kim Franklin: The best tip we can give…get a suite with a balcony on the starboard side of the ship if sailing from Seattle. We had fantastic excursions including a whale watching trip out of Juneau that had whales bubble net fishing and a fantastic experience at the Alaska Cooking experience. But nothing, nothing beat our beautiful balcony. We watched Alaska sail by. We saw so many beautiful landscapes, calving glaciers, charming ports and SO much wildlife right from our balcony. It was worth every penny. If I had to choose between a balcony and an excursion no question I would choose the balcony. Can you imagine tea on your balcony while you watch bears or whales or seals. Truly amazing.
Michele Haccoun agrees that a room with a view is the way to go, “Get a balcony to really enjoy the sites and spend time outdoors even on seadays … it is full of surprises.”
But don’t worry, if you don’t book a balcony there are plenty of other ways to take in the beauty of the frontier.
Take the train.
Along with the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tour and the Panama Canal, the White Pass Railway is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and is not to be missed! A product of the gold rush era, this railway connects the port of Skagway to Whitehorse in the Yukon and beyond to northwest Canada and interior Alaska. Guests remarked on the stunning beauty of the scenery:
Sandy Ivison: Take the full day tour out of Skagway up one side of the White Pass and back down on the train. A great day and phenomenal scenery. Tasty lunch too. Ride outside between the cars coming down for an added thrill.
Sam Charles: take the train from Skagway over White Pass! Stunning beauty….
Liz Becker: White Pass train in skagway is a must…hang out on the rear or front balcony.
Get to the Glaciers!
One of Alaska’s most famous features are the beautiful glaciers. Some mentioned seeing them from the balcony or taking a helicopter to the top, but one guest reminds us that the glaciers are a full sensory experience. Don Horn had this lovely story to share:
I just loved my Alaskan cruise with Holland America. I’ll share my two favorite memories. One was hearing the sound of the glacier! I thought that the glacier would be a purely visual experience and, since I’m blind, I almost skipped it. Fortunately, the onboard naturalist set me straight because it was the most unforgettable part of the cruise; I will never forget that sound. My favorite shore excursion was the one to the Tlinket Village; it was truly fascinating, and my guide, a young boy from the village, did a fabulous job of describing the various totem poles for me. Words can’t express how much I loved that cruise. I’ve done 14 of them and I think that Alaskan one was my very favorite.
Read on for a few more tips to take away:
Lynea Aanderud: My husband and I loved the river rafting trip we booked from the Lodge. It was a calm river so not for the people that love the white water but it was beautiful. We took many pictures of the mountain and got several pictures of eagles. It was so awe inspiring and peaceful as everyone on the raft was so involved in the breathtaking beauty surrounding them that it rendered us all speechless. My one recommendation would be to make sure you take a sleep mask with you if you are light sensitive when trying to sleep. It doesn’t get dark in the summer.
Larry-Marcia McAlpin: Be sure to join the sour toe cocktail club in Dawson City – you can tell that story for years to come – and some just won’t believe you did that!!
Linda Wisniewski Murphy: Zip line!
Liz Rivard: The Ketchikan Crab boat tour. Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour. Best ever excursion.
Laurie Pauling Rosenberg: Pan for gold, it’s truly hard work. I loved all the Klondike gold rush history.
Paula Vinicor Wilcox: My tip would be to do the land part first and then relax aboard the ship.
Colleen Parker: Just experience everything time allows you – everything was brilliant.
So based on our guests’ feedback, a perfect trip to Alaska would involves planes, trains and balconies. The unbridled wilderness is apparent in the calving glaciers and roaming bears. One thing all of these guests have in common is an appreciation for the region.
Photographer Steve Schimmelman cruised Westerdam and snapped these gorgeous photos. To see more of his photos, visit www.steveschimmelman.com/travel.