The Wonders of Alaska
By:Jud or 504-834-7000
There is this moment when the cruise ship comes into Glacier Bay, and all the chatter and laughter on board ceases. It’s a universal reaction. Every single person standing on deck falls silent, struck with awe at the beauty of their surroundings. It’s simply breathtaking, being surrounded by the glaciers in the bay, watching seals on the ice flows, spotting eagles soaring overhead. And if you’re lucky to arrive on an overcast day, the ice takes on a surreal turquoise color like you’ve never seen before. Words can hardly do it justice. It’s something you have to experience firsthand to truly appreciate.
This, for me, is Alaska—a rugged, untamed land that is unspoiled nature at its best. It has a draw that you can’t resist. I’ve been there five times and I’m already planning my next journey. Yet, so many people have this misconception that Alaska is a one-time trip. In the past, you would hear people call it “the final cruise.” I’m here to tell you, it’s anything but.
Alaska is massive, and there is so much there to see and do. You can ride horseback against a backdrop of towering, snow-capped mountains. Go whitewater rafting at 10 o’clock at night because it’s still light out. Spend the morning fishing and then have your guide prepare your catch for your dinner. Try your hand at dogsledding and then tour a musher’s home to pet the pups and see how they train the dogs.There is an Alaska for everybody. Yes, it has a fabulous coastline—one you have to experience byboat. But while you’re kissing the shoreline, imagine how much you’re missing inland. The beauty doesn’tstop where water meets land but rather grows exponentially as you venture farther into theinterior. Go into Denali, spend time in the Yukon, visit Juneau—the only state capital that can only be accessed by boat or plane.
|Don’t fret over the small things. So many people worry about whether they should take a northbound or southbound cruise. One is not necessarily better than another, and either will be an amazing experience. Instead, focus on the details that matter, such as picking your shore excursions carefully. Make sure you pack in the things that are most important to you and don't waste precious time on those that aren’t. The options are constantly evolving and changing, which is why it’s important to have an agent who is knowledgeable about what’s available.|
Take Denali, for example. Never, ever go there for fewer than two nights, and stay longer if you can manage it. To get there from Anchorage, you’re looking at a six and half hour train ride featuring one amazing scene after another. You’ll be pampered, well fed and well informed by the naturalist on board, but it all leads up to the six-million-acre national park lorded over by North America’s tallest peak. Spend a day wildlife viewing. The caribou and Dahl sheep are sights you don’t want to miss, and don’t forget to look for the bears lumbering out of their winter slumber. Sign up for a ranger-led tour or hike to the edge of the pristine wilderness. Whatever you do, though, don’t rush in and out, because I promise you, you will regret it.
The options are endless but nearly impossible to pinpoint and choose from without help. Use an agent that already knows the setup and opportunities, who can navigate the system and help you figure out all the details now so you can maximize your time while you’re there. Perhaps you’ve done Denali and you’re looking for something different. Travel to the Yukon and take a step back into Gold Rush history. Once the capital of the Russian fur trade, the town of Sitka is known for its Russian descendants, temperate winters and historic buildings such as a church featuring Tiffany stained glass windows that were floated aroundthe Cape prior to the PanamaCanal. In Juneau, besure to take in the cultural center on your tour around the city. Cruise the inside passage and marvel at the little islands, book a whale watching trip to take in the sheer enormity of the sea creatures, or visit Seward or Whittier and get a taste of the wild west—Alaskan style.
We’re so lucky to have Alaska to go to. It’s an awe-inspiring experience that will forever change your life. I urge everyone I know to go—go to Alaska, but go smart. Prepare for everything (especially the weather), be flexible and work with an expert beforehand. If you do this, you’ll be able to savor every single minute of your vacation.