It's no secret that October is the month when all the cruise lines begin advertising heavily for the following season, and October, 2013 is no different.
One of the most popular travel destinations for Americans (and others) is still Alaska and every cruise line now offers not only cruises, but cruise/tours: a combination of cruise and land travel, typically to Denali National Park. Holland America line also offers land tours to the Yukon, as well as to Denali, giving the visitor the added option of seeing even more of the "last frontier."
Typically, a cruise tour lasts about 10 days: a seven day cruise either northbound from Vancouver, B.C., or southbound to the same disembarkation point. But you can extend your cruise/tour to twenty days if you have the time and the inclination.
Here are a few of your options, along with starting prices:
Holland America: Departs from either Seattle, Washington, or Vancouver, British Columbia. The Alaskan Adventurer Cruise is a 14-day cruise round-trip to and from Seattle and takes passengers to eight ports of call, including Kodiak, Homer and Anchorage. On the more typical seven-day cruises, you will sail round-trip from Vancouver to Glacier Bay National Park, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. Add three days if you want to make this a cruise/tour, with a visit to Denali for one night, two, or three.
If you choose the Yukon cruise tour, you are apt to step back in history while visiting the famous "Dawson City" known to us from the picture shows of yesterday. In summer of 1896, a small group of gold prospectors stumbled upon huge quantities of gold. Word spread and the Klondike Gold Rush ignited, and the town of Dawson sprang into being to serve the floodtide of prospectors. Located at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike rivers, Dawson is now a National Historic Site that has turned back the clock to preserve a rich living history. Meander the wooden boardwalks with costumed townsfolk ready to share their home and its national historic treasures.
Denali is a park of international significance. It features North America's highest mountain, 20,320-foot tall Mount McKinley, as well as countless other spectacular mountains and many large glaciers. It the largest continually protected natural ecosystem in the world. Watch for moose, sheep, caribou and bear and marvel at massive icefields. Land on a glacier to see ice falls, moraines, ice bridges and glacier streams. Be sure to take the Wildness tour when you are in Denali.
Princess Cruises: offers similar 7 day cruises, up to a longer 14-day round-trip cruise departing from Seattle with visits in Glacier Bay National Park, the Tracy Arm Fjord, Kodiak, Seward, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia.
Celebrity Cruises: also offers a seven-day round-trip cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia. The cruise takes passengers to a number of ports of call, including the Inside Passage, the Icy Straight Point, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau and Ketchikan.
Royal Caribbean: adds a land tour component to the cruise, either at the beginning or the end of the ship journey. This cruise line offers three and four day tours from Anchorage to Denali National Park by motor coach and including an overnight in a rustic vacation lodge.
Norwegian Cruise Line: offers seven day cruises starting at around $549pp plus taxes and fees for an inside stateroom, to a 14 day cruise that will bring you to the Icy Strait Point, where humpback whales and brown bears roam. A stop in Juneau offers the opportunity to see majestic glaciers, and a historical guided tour in Skagway will amaze.
When is the best time to visit Alaska? It depends on what you want: low fares call for May visits. Most people can only visit in summer, when their vacations from work occur. The first two weeks in August are said to be optimum, although you will certainly be among many other visitors to this fair state. In late June and July, you will experience the "midnight sun" you've heard tell about. Whether you cruise, or cruise/tour, getting off the ship and onto land for the many sights and wonders of Alaska is a must. Be sure to add extra into your travel budget for excursions.