It’s not too late to escape the high temperatures plaguing Phoenix with a cruise to Alaska. Holland America, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines offer seven night round trip cruises to southeast Alaska through the middle of September when Alaska’s summer tourist season ends. Cruises embark from Seattle, which is easily reached via Alaska Airlines, USAir and Delta from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. If your vacation planning for this year is complete, consider booking a cruise next year; Alaskan cruises resume in May.
Depending on the cruise you choose, shore excursions to two national parks and a Forest Service site are available. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Sitka National Historical Park and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway are all unique sites preserving the natural and historical beauty of America’s last frontier. Klondike Gold Rush is actually a park with two units: one in Skagway and one in Seattle, so if you plan an overnight in Seattle you can see both units. The Tongass National Forest is best known for the Mendenhall Glacier, southeast Alaska's only glacier accessible by vehicle. A visit to the Mendenhall Glacier is offered on many shore excursions departing from the cruise ship docks in downtown Juneau.
Shore excursions can be booked in advance through cruise line websites or you can book a trip upon disembarkation. If you want to skip a planned excursion and explore on your own, that’s an option, too. Sitka National Historical Park, for example, is an easy walk from the dock.
In a future article, we’ll explore the Tongass National Forest near Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka and Klondike Gold Rush.