I’ve fallen in love with Alaska.
In fact, I loved it so much – I’ve already started planning a camping road trip so we can hit a few National Parks and see more of this gorgeous state. For our first visit, we chose a cruise to Alaska because I really wanted to see icebergs and glaciers. I also wanted an introduction to the state and to see things not accessible by a road or car.
Here’s a little look at our trip + ideas for your future vacay to Alaska:
I’ve also never been on a cruise before and an Alaskan cruise is something I’ve dreamed of doing. Paul’s parents wanted to join as well, so this was a really great way to enjoy a trip together with a little something for everyone. It was also so simple to unpack once and wake up somewhere new everyday.
When we initially booked this cruise, we were living in Portland and wanted to take advantage of how easy it would be to fly up to Vancouver and cruise from there. Instead, we ended up moving to Los Angeles – but it was still pretty easy to fly from here to Vancouver.
We chose a one-way cruise along the Inside Passage that stopped in Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, and Anchorage. Since it was my first time cruising, I was really worried about getting seasick and this was the perfect starter cruise because we sailed along the shore, usually protected from rough seas because we were in a channel most of the time. I brought these ginger chews with me and it helped!
I also opted to go with a cruise line that offered an all-inclusive option, which meant we paid a lot more upfront – but once we got on board, everything including WiFi, meals, alcohol, gratuity, entertainment, beverages were all included. It really made our vacation that much more relaxing. I definitely recommend it if you can afford it – this was a definite splurge for us, but since it was our first cruise – it almost guaranteed us a great experience.
Our first port of call was Ketchikan, Alaska – a super cute fishing town and the Salmon Capital of the World! I really enjoyed all the cute little boutiques, places to buy smoked salmon, and the historical little buildings on Creek Street (above).
Do take a walk over to the Salmon Ladder. If it’s raining, duck into the Southeast Alaska Discover Centre – they had some great exhibits and it’s very well put together. Another point of interest is the Funicular from Creek Street where you can get a view of the whole town.
We didn’t book any excursions, but I would suggest looking into a day trip that leads you to The Totem Bight State Historical Park to see local Native art and totem poles. To be honest with you, the cruise was already a stretch for our budget, so we opted out of any pricey excursions this time around.
I really enjoyed Juneau, Alaska and it was actually my favourite stop out of all the ports of call. It reminded me of a smaller version of Portland, Oregon. We enjoyed a Gin cocktail at the new Amalga Distillery – where we found all the young people! We followed that up with a flight of beers with a tasting at Devil’s Club Brewing Company just around the corner.
A word on prices. I’ve heard people say how expensive things are in Alaska and yes, there were definitely things that were expensive. I can’t say for sure if it was because we were in a touristy area, but for dinners, drinks and meals out – I found it all comparable to LA, because LA is an expensive city compared to most.
From Juneau, we took a quick 25-minute shuttle bus ride to Mendenhall Glacier and it was simply stunning. The bus drivers are pretty entertaining and will point things out to you along the way. There are lots of trails to explore including a shorter one that leads to Nugget Falls along the lake. There’s a visitors centre with exhibits, a short film and park rangers to answer your questions.
We also paired our shuttle bus ticket with a Mt. Roberts Tramway ticket and took a tram to the top, got a great view of the city, and met a bald eagle. It’s worth the trip up if you love taking photos and can tack it on to your shuttle ticket. The tram runs right from the cruise dock – so super easy to get to.
TRACY’S KING CRAB SHACK
Thinking of trying some Alaskan king crab during your visit while in Juneau? Tracy’s King Crab Shack is a fun little place to stop in and share a crab leg. It’s pricey, so we didn’t do a whole meal there – just a snack. One leg will cost you around $26 USD.
ALASKA FISH & CHIPS
We saved our appetite for the fish & chips at Alaska Fish & Chips at The Flight Deck. There’s a pretty view of the harbor and the halibut fish & chips were just perfect. The halibut is local and served with fries, coleslaw, tarter sauce and a big wedge of lemon. This place came highly recommended by our bus driver and we weren’t disappointed.
Every time we got close to a glacier that was millions of years old, this beautiful turquoise water appeared just before we got close. We cruised by some beautiful scenery, lush forests, icebergs, and wildlife – it was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. I literally saw an otter sunning himself on a broken piece of ice!
Now we did NOT book a balcony room on our Alaskan cruise, however we did opt to be on the promenade level so we could hop out quickly outside and have views of the glaciers and the water. It was about $1000 more per person for a balcony, so we opted out of the convenience and it was totally fine. It’s a ‘would be nice’ option, but it will not ruin your trip.
Souvenir Shops – At some point, you will get sick of seeing all the same things in all the souvenir shops. By the time we got to Skagway, it just felt like one souvenir shop after the next. This is where I see the benefit of doing an excursion. Paul and his parents did The White Pass Train in Skagway, while I went to the spa.
Our cruise ship actually docked in Whittier, Alaska and I opted to rent us car instead of taking the shuttle so we could take our time and explore. We took a quick hike to Horsetail Falls in Whittier with a height of 200 ft, flowing into a rushing river below.
The drive into Anchorage is about 90 minutes, but I recommend taking your time and not rushing it because the drive is so beautiful. We pulled over many times to take photos. Do stop at The Portage Glacier and take the mini cruise to get up close to the glacier.
From Portage, head to Alyeska Resort for lunch. There are lots of trails here to choose from. If you do one hike, make sure it’s The Winner Creek Trail with the hand tram to pull you across the river! We chose to do the tram and lunch package. Where we took the scenic tram to the top, ate lunch at the deli and walked around the top of mountain. Great views from up here!
I think an Alaskan cruise just scratched the surface for me, I really do want to go back and see more then the little tourist towns we stopped at along the coast. It would also be great to stay in one place for a few days and plan a couple hikes and longer day trips – which is why I would love to go back.
Have you been to Alaska or on an Alaskan cruise? What did you think?