Cruising Through Alaska
This month I had the absolutely amazing opportunity to do a two week land and sea cruise through Alaska. It's not a summer destination I think pops into many people's minds. While everyone is busy tanning on the beach, I was bundled up in sweaters and getting breathtakingly close to glaciers. But I honestly think that's what is part of what made this trip so special. Being in Alaska is like being thrown into the middle of a nature show - one that really ought to be taken advantage of when the weather is mild enough to enjoy.
Two weeks and seven destinations is a lot of ground to cover, so I thought I'd just share some of my favorite bits and photos with you. Let's go!
I only spent one night in Anchorage, so I don't have too much to say about it. It's Alaska's biggest city, but don't be fooled by that fact, the downtown area was tiny and super walkable. We heard along the way that the best time to be there is when the famous Iditarod dog sled race starts in March - apparently the whole city joins in on the celebrations!
Denali National Park
Denali is at the top of my list of places you should definitely go to if you head to Alaska. Not only is the landscape absolutely incredible, there is ample opportunity to see wildlife and about 1001 activities to do. We stayed in two of the Princess Cruise Line's lodges in the park. Both were like little towns and gave us easy access to the various opportunities available. Just outside the park, we got to do an incredible ATV ride one afternoon. It was an exciting way to see some of the crazy beautiful scenery - and get pretty up close and personal with some moose.
Maybe my favorite part of the entire trip was getting to visit the Husky Homestead. Owned and run by a four-time Iditarod champion, it's home to dozens of dogs who both live and train there. They literally hand you a puppy as soon as you get off the bus y'all. It doesn't get better than that! But, I must say, it was super interesting to see what real sled dogs (not the picture-perfect Snow Dogs dogs) look like and learn what it takes to race with them. And again, puppies!
Again, didn't see a ton of the actual town of Skagway, but we did take a historical and beautiful train tour of the surrounding landscape. It was a long, but breathtaking ride past dramatic waterfalls, scary cliffs, and stunning views.
The one thing I want to make clear about Juneau is that you really should go past the touristy part of town. Where the cruise ships dock is surrounded by stores with people trying to convince you to come in, which can be a bit overwhelming. We did manage to have a tasty, cozy lunch away from the rain at the Twisted Fish Company. If you like seafood, Alaska is one of the best places to eat it. I had the best fish and chips of my life at Twisted Fish!
Ketchikan was my favorite of all of the cities we visited! Again, you have to get a bit past the main touristy area though. Do yourself a favor and start off your day with an iced coffee and blondie from Polar Treats - so good and the staff was so friendly! The Creek Street boardwalk was more than worth the walk. It's filled with historical buildings and the coolest little shops. My favorite was the very eclectic Sam McGee's, where I picked up a couple their large collection of Gold Rush era glass bottles. Last, but not least, I'd highly recommend visiting the Tongass Historical Museum. It's a short walk from the boardwalk and is a great way to learn about all of the people who have settled in the area over the years.
I feel like cruising isn't a particularly popular vacation method amongst younger people - that could be because of the often fairly high price though. We took a land and sea cruise, which means we spent one week on land in Denali, and the second week cruising to all of the other sights. I personally love cruising. There are endless activities, usually a super fun and nice staff that you have the chance to get to know, and you can literally eat a pretty fancy meal three times a day. With a place as spread out as Alaska, it also felt like a super efficient way to see everything. We got to cruise through Glacier Bay (which I believe you can only see via boat or helicopter), stop by a shore to watch a mama bear and her three cubs, and watch whales from the balconies. It's definitely a unique way to travel!
John Muir said, "To the lover of pure wildness Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world." I can't agree more. I wouldn't call myself an outdoorsy person really, but the entire trip was like constantly being surrounded by such wild and dramatic beauty. It may not be the beach, but I can't recommended it highly enough as a unique summer destination.