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Alaska

Discovering the Wilderness of Alaska by Cruise

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Alaska is the most monumental of the United States. Covering nearly 1.5 million square kilometers, it consists of over 800 islands. Its extensive snow, ice, mountain ranges and active volcanoes are some of the trademarks of one of the last lands in the world that has not been fully explored yet. Largely wild, its magnificent glaciers, its lush forests and fishing ports provide lasting memories.

From the iconic Mount McKinley (6,194 m) to the blue glaciers flowing into Prince William Sound, from the wild beaches of Kodiak Island to the deep forests of Admiralty Island, home to bears, salmon and bald eagles, this is the kind of wilderness one can only meet in Alaska. An Alaska cruise will allow you to discover a nature of unparalleled virginity, in which you will encounter sounds that have long disappeared from the developed world.

Kenai Peninsula

The Kenai Peninsula is located in southern Alaska, in the Kenai Fjords National Park. If you are interested in spotting a wide range of wild animals during your trip to Alaska, this is one of the best places where you can do it, as the peninsula is packed with penguins, cormorants, seals, sea lions, porpoises and even whales. The scenery is breath-taking, with mountains covered with vegetation and sprinkled with rock outcrops and glaciers lining the horizon.

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Tracy Arm Fjord

Located south of Juneau, the Tracy Arm Fjord is probably the most beautiful fjord in Alaska. Waterfalls cascading down granite boulders, emerald waters, icebergs and glaciers (the most beautiful of them, the Sawyer Glacier, looks like a vague bluish rock suspended in time), give the place an eerie atmosphere. Many cruises that include the Tracy Arm Fjord in their itinerary offer the possibility to admire the whales and seals.

Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier is located in the Juneau Icefield, just15 km away from the capital of Alaska. The site is wonderful, but dangerous; it is therefore advised not to visit it on your own and choose a guided tour instead.

Haines

Located on the shores of Lynn Canal, the city of Haines is nestled at the heart of the natural beauty of Alaska. The site is superb and you will not get tired of its beauty. This is also the place where the annual Bald Eagle Festival takes place, which features wildlife presentations and photography workshops.

These are but a few of the things you may discover during your visit in Alaska. You can also choose to go on a guided land, boat or wilderness tour in order to experience a glimpse of the authentic Alaskan life. Whether you are interested in discovering the flora and fauna or the natural wonders of this land, cruising in Alaska has something rewarding for anyone passionate about wilderness.

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Alaska

Ultimate Alaska Cruise Planning Guide

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Let’s talk about planning and booking an Alaska cruise. When most first-timers begin thinking about a cruise, they picture the ship heading to tropical ports where they will sip margaritas on a beach. But sooner or later, most seasoned travelers turn their eyes toward Alaska and begin considering an entirely different type of cruise vacation. And while Alaskan cruises almost inevitably wind up topping people’s “best trip ever” lists, it’s important to know that this type of voyage is far more involved than one to Bermuda or the Bahamas. It generally will cost more and involve more planning, especially if you want to make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience by taking part in jaw-dropping (but often pricey) excursions.

Planning Your Alaska Cruise

Inside Glacier Bay on my Alaska cruise.

Inside Glacier Bay.

It’s because an Alaska cruise is more complicated than some other vacations that we put together this tip-filled guide which will help you plan the best trip ever.

PART 1: Start By Asking Yourself These Questions

1. Is an Alaskan cruise within our budget?

As we mentioned above, Alaskan vacations can be much more expensive than their more traditional counterparts. Make a list of all of the expenses you can think of before fully committing to the idea.

2. Who will most enjoy this trip?

While we’re big believers that Alaska’s breathtaking beauty is something that everyone should see in their lifetime, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should go on the trip you’re planning. Is it worth taking the youngest of your crew? Will your mom spend the entire trip complaining about the fact that you’re not sailing to the tropics?  Do you want to make this an invite-the-whole-clan trip, or one catered specifically to people who will enjoy it the most?

3. Do you want to include a land tour?

Cruising through fjords and seeing glaciers is going to be awesome on pretty much any level. But if you want to take things to the next level, you can’t beat combining a cruise with a few days on land exploring places like Denali National Park. It’s going to mean taking a longer trip and spending more money, but if it’s the only time you’re going to have the opportunity to travel to Alaska, it might be worth considering.

4. When do you want to go?

While you can jump on a ship to the Caribbean any time of year, the Alaskan cruise season runs from May to September. It’s worth noting that the weather is unpredictable at best, and the chances of you having a completely rain-free week are incredibly low.

PART 2: Doing Your Research

Sailing through Glacier Bay on the Alaska cruise.

Sailing through Glacier Bay.

Do a Google search for the words “Alaska cruise” and you’ll get over 10,200,000 responses. While that’s an incredibly intimidating number, the good news is that it’s really easy to narrow that search down and begin figuring out exactly what type of cruise is right for you. Cruiseline.com is a great place to start as it allows you to get a general idea of how much various itineraries will cost across a variety of cruise lines.

Don’t Book on Price Alone

For example, if you search for 7-night Alaskan cruises available in August of 2018, 29 results come back ranging in price from $564 per person, per week for an inside stateroom to $1,400 per person, per week.

Of course, it would be foolhardy to book simply based on the price, which is why this is only the first step in the research phase of planning. As is true no matter where you’re sailing to, it’s important that you find exactly the right cruise line and ship for you. That means not only looking at your budget, but at what type of cruiser you are. Do you want something more casual or high-end? Are you looking for something very family-friendly (meaning a lot of kids will be onboard), or something geared more toward adults?

Alaska cruise balcony cabin.

Balcony stateroom on deck 6, midship.

Another important question to begin considering is what type of cabin you want to book. Again, the answer to this question might be different than it would be on a cruise to the Bahamas. We know many people who say, “I’ll save money and book an inside room, because the only thing I’ll be using the cabin for is to sleep.”

However, many of those same people make an exception when it comes to planning trips to places like Alaska or Hawaii, because there’s simply so much to see from your oceanview window or, better still, balcony. Sure, the ship will have plenty of public spaces – both inside and out – with great views, but that can’t compare to sitting on your balcony sipping coffee or cocktails and feeling as though Mother Nature is putting on a show just for you.

Read: Spectacular Alaska Family Vacations

Un-Cruise Adventures Alaska cruise.

One of the skiffs at Sawyer Glacier.

Finally, you’ll need to decide how to handle the days leading up to and following the cruise. We highly recommend flying into the city from which you’ll be sailing a day early. The last thing you want is to literally miss the ship because of problems with your flight! While there are numerous options for departure ports, most 7-day cruises are either round-trip from Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, British Columbia or point-to-point between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska. Many people find it easier (and a bit cheaper) to use Seattle as their transportation hub, but no matter which city you choose, we highly suggest arriving at least a day early. 

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Another thing to take into consideration – both in terms of making arrangements and the expense involved – is transfers between the airport and/or hotel and the pier.

Perhaps the most important thing you’ll have to decide at some point is whether you want to book this trip yourself or go through a travel agent. Given the complexities involved in the planning of an Alaskan cruise, we highly recommend using either a travel agent or, at the very least, one of the personal cruise consultants affiliated with whichever line you ultimately wind up sailing with.  

PART 3: Booking Your Alaska Cruise

Downtown Ketchikan, Alaska, a stop on the Alaska cruise.

Downtown Ketchikan, Alaska.

As you get closer to actually booking your voyage, you’ll begin paying more attention to the price. This is the point where you have to look beyond what the websites are telling you and begin doing your own computations. A cruise line’s website might advertise a 7-night sailing as running $799 per person, but that doesn’t take into account a whole plethora of additional costs ranging from the unavoidable (such as port taxes) to the optional (including shore excursions, beverage packages, and more). This is why the research you did earlier is so important. It gives you a better concept of how much you’re actually going to wind up paying as opposed to the initial price quoted.

Two extremely important things to keep in mind once you’ve booked your cruise:

  • The cancellation policy. Make sure to know exactly how much you will be charged if you decide to cancel the cruise. As a general rule, most cruise lines allow you to cancel up to 90 days prior to sailing with either no penalty or just a very small one attached.
  • The final payment date. This might as well be called “the point of no return,” because once you’ve passed it, you’re either going on this cruise or paying for all or most of it.

FIND: SEARCH AN ALASKA CRUISE HERE

Part 4: Shore Excursions

All you can eat Dungeness crab legs on my Alaska cruise.

All you can eat Dungeness crab legs in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Now that you’ve actually booked the cruise, the real fun begins. Between now and when your countdown clock hits zero, you’ll begin planning what to do at each of the ports your cruise will visit. With a few exceptions, Alaska isn’t like other cruises when it comes to shore excursions.

For example, in the Bahamas, you can walk off the ship and find a whole slew of vendors vying to sell you excursions. In Alaska, some of the best and most popular excursions will sell out long before your ship even pulls into port. So it’s important that you plan ahead and book the excursions you know you’re going to want to experience.

Long story short: Yes, you can wing it upon arrival… but doing so could mean missing out on something you really wanted to see or do.

Among the most popular Alaska cruise excursions offered by the various cruise lines?

In a seaplane during my Alaska cruise.

Landing in the lake in the forest.

  • The White Pass Scenic Railway in Skagway, featuring spectacular views. This is often paired with other excursions such as a visit to a camp where dogs are trained to pull iditarod sleds, or panning for gold.
  • Several ports offer passengers the opportunity to get an up-close and personal view of a glacier via a seaplane or helicopter ride. Sure, these can be pricey, but they also offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • Whale watching/photo safari tours are quite popular in Juneau, although visitors are warned to dress for the weather as it can be awful chilly out on the water.
  • If you’ve got fishermen — or women! — in your group, they might enjoy casting their lines while in Ketchikan. There are several excursions on which they’ll actually cook your catch. In fact, some cruise lines will do the same; allowing you to fish during the day, then have what you caught served in the dining room that night.
  • As gorgeous as glaciers are when viewed from a distance, one of the ultimate excursions available offers you the opportunity to actually travel to the Juneau icefield and hike across one.

Remember that when planning shore excursions, it’s important to keep in mind that not all excursions will be right for all members of your travel party. Some will prove difficult or even impossible for those with mobility issues. In other cases, the price alone may be an issue for some. When planning any cruise for a group of people, it’s important to get feedback from everyone involved at each step of the way. When planning an Alaskan cruise in particular, it’s more important than ever.

Do you have any planning tips or advice for people taking an Alaska cruise?


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Alaska

Restaurant Review: Tracy’s Crab Shack Review in Juneau, AK

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Located right off the pier in downtown Juneau, a line wraps around a nearby building, upbeat 80’s music is playing, cameras are snapping, and everyone has a smile on their face. This little shack that tourist flock to is Tracy’s Crab Shack. Known for its locally caught crab legs, bisque, and crab cakes, Tracy’s is the number-one talked about seafood shack in Juneau. Here’s why.

Atmosphere

Orders are placed at a walk-up shack where the big line is. It takes some time to order food and pay, but after you make it through this line it’s only about 10 minutes until food is on your table. There is a separate bar shack next door, so you can get a drink before taking your spot in line.

Dining with a waterfront view, you have your choice of seating. Pick from a heated covered patio, grab a table in the open, or sit at your own risk at the bar where the assembly of all meals happen. Although it is an entertaining experience to watch them constantly dishing out crab legs from the pots, you might find yourself being hit with crab pieces!

Lively music is always playing, and everyone is just having a good time. It’s hard not to when you have great food, a nice view, and good company.

Menu

The star of the menu is, of course, the crab. Starting your meal with Tracy’s King Crab Bisque is a must. This homemade cream bisque is made with fresh ingredients and King Crab, perfect for the cool Alaskan weather.

When it comes to choosing your crab legs, you have the option of snow crab, dungeness crab, or the king crab legs. Crab is ordered by leg or cluster depending on your choice of crab. All are served with butter and garlic rolls. Can’t make up your mind? Then the ultimate Crab Shack Combo #2 is for you. For a whopping $56, this large meal comes with 1 king leg, 1/2 dungeness crab, 1/2 snow crab, and 8 oz Bisque – the perfect combination.

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Crab cakes and crab rolls are also a hit on the menu. The Alaskan Crab Roll features the three species of crab meat, and is topped with coleslaw. It’s a nice and tasty way to sample all the crab meats!

Other Alaskan seafood bites that are available are shrimp and scallops. Sides are limited to coleslaw and jasmine rice. You can view the entire menu here.

Price

Seafood is always pricey, and you won’t find Tracy’s Crab Shack any different – especially when ordering crab legs. Due to supply and demand, price per pound is on the rise everywhere. King Crab legs are the priciest item on the menu because they are considered the most prized species of crab. One king crab leg (12oz) is $24.95. Prices are subject to change based on market price.

Don’t let the long lines and pricey menu scare you away. Grab a drink and take in the atmosphere as you wait to order your food. You can’t go wrong with any item you order, and the fresh taste of the seafood will make it all worth it.

Written by: Jen Martin

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#crabs #seafood #alaska #juneau #cruise #port #cruising #travel #adventure #food #yum

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Alaska

Alaska Cruise Preview for 2017

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It’s no secret that interest in Alaska is seriously growing among travelers in the past few years.  For the first time since 2009, it’s estimated that cruise passengers surpassed the one million marker this year.

Looking ahead, Cruise Lines International Association Alaska is forecasting an even bigger year for Alaska in 2017.  Cruise lines are gearing up to move more ships to The Last Frontier next year, and deploy larger vessels as well.

Holland America

To support the increasing demand for Alaska, Holland America is redeploying Oosterdam from Europe to Alaska for the 2017 summer season, with seven ships and 135 departures total.  The company is also going to be celebrating their 70th year in Alaska, with new experience and events for all guests who are sailing there.

Seabourn

Luxury line Seabourn will be returning to Alaska in June for the first time in 15 years.  Seabourn Sojourn will be operating a series of 11, 12, and 14-day sailings from Vancouver and Anchorage.

Carnival

Carnival will be launching a 14-day itinerary roundtrip from Long Beach, California in September.  The Carnival Miracle sailing will be part of Carnival Journey’s cruise enrichment series, and include the line’s first-ever call at Icy Strait Point.

UnCruise Adventures

UnCruise will launch three wellness-themed cruises this spring, and add a half-day visit to the Tlingit village of Kake to its “Inner Reaches Western Coves” Ketchikan to Juneau itinerary.  The small-ship line will offer 157 departures on 11 itineraries lasting a week or 12 days, with cruises combinable for longer adventures.

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Princess

Looking ahead to 2018, Princess will be increasing their capacity 15 percent to Alaska, carrying more guests there than any other line.  A 12-day roundtrip itinerary  from Los Angeles will also be introduced aboard Emerald Princess and Golden Princess.  Princess will offer 130 departures on seven ships from Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Whittier, and Vancouver.

Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking Ocean Cruises is planning their 2019 debut in Alaska with Viking Spirit.

Norwegian

In 2018, Norwegian Cruise Line will launch their new ship, Norwegian Bliss.  The vessel will be the first of its kind – custom build with features and amenities specifically for Alaska.

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