Alaska is full of spectacular scenery and amazing animal life. It is also a wonderful cruise destination with three basic Alaska itineraries provided by cruise ships. Alaska is also one of the most photogenic places you can visit. The 49th state of the United States has magnificent mountains, gorgeous sea and lake views, waterfalls, glaciers, and diverse wildlife. Everyone who visits Alaska can find memorable, unusual things to do and see. These photos provide a look at some of the towns, glaciers, and other places you can see or experience when visiting Alaska on either a large or mid-sized cruise ship or a small expedition cruise ship.
Juneau is a popular port of call on many cruises of the Inside Passage of Alaska. This city is the only state capital in the USA that is accessible only by water or air; it can't be reached in a car! Juneau has many fun activities including hiking or kayaking near the Mendenhall Glacier, a tram/cable car, ziplining, and even a brewery.
Don't let Ketchikan's nickname scare you! Although the historic city gets over 162 inches of rain each year, it's a fun place to visit on an Alaska cruise. Ketchikan has terrific fishing opportunities, along with hiking, ziplining, kayaking, or exploring the downtown historic area.
Many miners seeking their fortune in gold flocked to Skagway in the late 1800's, and the town grew to over 20,000 residents. Today the population is much less, but 14 buildings are on the National Historic Register, and it's great fun to walk around Skagway and picture the way it was during the gold rush days. Many cruise travelers take a ride on the scenic White Pass & Yukon Railway, which follows the trail the gold-seekers took into the mountains.
Many people choose to visit the interior of Alaska before or after their Alaska cruise. These cruise extensions often fly into or out of Anchorage, which is Alaska's largest city with about 300,000 residents. Over 40 percent of those who live in Alaska reside in Anchorage, and the city has many places to stay, eat, and explore.
Sitka - Alaska's First Capital
Sitka is a small historic town on the outside edge of Alaska's Inside Passage. It is celebrated as the site of Alaska's discovery in 1741 and still has buildings that reflect the time it was Russian. After the USA purchased Alaska from Russia, Sitka was the first capital.
Petersburg, Alaska was founded by a Norwegian homesteader, and the small town still has many residents with a Norwegian heritage. However, Petersburg is a big fish canning town, so workers from many foreign countries pack the small town in the summer. It's a fun place to explore, hike, or do whale watching in nearby Frederick Sound.
The Metlakatla Indian Community is the only Native American reservation in Alaska. The Tsimshian Indians who prefer reservation life reside in the community. Metlakatla is a good place to visit to buy superb handicrafts, learn about life on a reservation, and learn about the Tsimshian Indian culture and dances.
If the weather cooperates, Alaska is a great place to ride on a helicopter. The scenery is magnificent, and the views of mountains and glaciers are breathtaking. I did a helicopter ride from Juneau to visit a summer camp for sled dogs training for the famous Iditarod race.
One of the best (and most expensive) shore excursions I've ever done anywhere was a helicopter ride from the airport in Juneau up to a sled dog summer training camp on the Mendenhall icefields. Dogs training for the Iditarod or other races can practice all summer on the icy snow, and visitors are welcome to see the dogs, learn about their training and take a ride on a sled. Of course, the helicopter ride up to the training camp is exhilarating and provides spectacular views.
Almost everyone who visits Alaska sees whales, especially if they are on a small ship or do a whale-watching expedition from a large cruise ship. I've been lucky and have seen dozens of whales and have seen them breach, show their fluke, and even bubble feed, as is shown in this photo.
Like most of the national parks in the United States, Glacier Bay National Park is a memorable place to visit. However, it can best be visited by ship, so a cruise ship is a perfect way to see some of the park's highlights like glaciers, mountains, and wildlife.
Hubbard Glacier is Alaska's largest tidewater glacier and one of over 100,000 glaciers in the 49th state of the USA. Ships sailing between Seward and Vancouver, Victoria, or Seattle often spend part of a day near this spectacular glacier.
The Misty Fjords are near Ketchikan and are only accessible via boat or small plane. In the summer, visitors won't see glaciers or ice and snow, but they will get impressive views of giant fjords. The fjords have been a US National Monument since the late 1970s, and the dramatically carved granite cliffs demonstrate the strength of the glaciers that formed the fjords.
Tracy Arm is a deep fjord that is 23 miles long near Juneau. It is home to the Sawyer Glaciers, and the cruise up the narrow glacial valley is quite spectacular.
If your cruise starts or ends in Seward, you might have a chance to ride the Grandview train between Seward and Anchorage. This is one of Alaska's most scenic train rides and is a perfect way to see some of the interior.
One of the best ways to see wildlife and get an up-close view of glaciers is on a small cruise ship in Alaska. This cruise photo travel journal of a 7-night Alaska Inside Passage cruise from Ketchikan to Juneau on the small adventure ship the Wilderness Discoverer of Un-Cruise Adventures provides a good overview of a small ship cruise in Alaska.
Anyone who loves to fish, kayak, or hike will enjoy an Alaska cruise with The Boat Company. The company has two tiny ships, and I sailed on the Mist Cove, a 24-passenger adventure ship. My husband and I loved the halibut and salmon fishing, along with the unique sightseeing opportunities the tiny ship offered. This cruise journal provides photos of some of the things we did in Alaska with The Boat Company.
Seven Seas Voyager - Large Ship Alaska Cruise Log
Those who love to be pampered on board, enjoy larger cabins, and desire more dining venues can still enjoy much of what Alaska has to offer on a large or mid-sized cruise ship. This photo journal provides a look at a voyage between Seward and Vancouver on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner cruise ship.
Although Cruise West is no longer in business, this cruise log from 2007 provides a good look at many of the places in see in Alaska and the things to do in Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Petersburg, and Haines.