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Cruising Through Glacial Fields of Alaska

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''A cruise trip helps explore destinations without the hassle of checking into a new hotel every time''

Trip to Alaska is indeed a trip of lifetime. It left an everlasting impression on my mind and soul. Everything in Alaska, from breath-taking scenery and abundant wildlife to massive glaciers, is bold and beautiful. The place is huge and a cruise tour gives an idea of the region and helps cover many destinations too. A week or ten days is minimum one should keep for an Alaskan cruise.

WHAT TO CHOOSE : Choosing the right cruise for self depends on numerous factors, notably the budget, size and style of ship, and the itinerary. First of all, one needs to decide whether to do a round trip or keep it one way. Then, there are innumerable cruises to choose from including The Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Princess and Royal Caribbean. A basic cruise package is of seven days, which covers Juneau, Skagway Ketchikan with Sawyer Glacier and Tracy Arm Fjord.
Cruises, which leave from Seattle, do Canadian port. They usually do Victoria, which is worth a visit. Port excursions purely depends on one's interest and budget. Cruise tours combine a cruise with a land tour, either before or after the cruise. Ship booked excursions are very expensive, so, I recommend booking them from outside the ship.

COMMON ITINERARIES : One is a round-trip that starts and finishes in Vancouver, British Columbia, or Seattle, Washington. The first and last day would go in sailing to and fro Alaska. A day or two is reserved for cruising in or near Glacier Bay National Park or another glacier.

The other is one-way trip. These cruises start from Vancouver or Seattle and finish at Seward or Whittier, up near Anchorage. A good option for those looking to explore interiors of Alaska.

One should also know that landscape changes dramatically during the course of summer. So, while cruising in May and June one may get to see snow-capped mountains and waterfalls, the same may be gone by July and August.

There are also different options for cruising in glacier areas with having access to Glacier Bay National Park, while some going to Hubbard Glacier and Tracy Arm.

Small Ships
Small ships are not loaded with amenities, not much on-board entertainment, but can go more places that larger ships such as such as narrow fjords, bobbing icebergs, cascading waterfalls and uninhabited islands. However, they are no less expensive than big ships.

Big Ships
Big ships are like floating resorts, with capacity of over 2,000 people and loads of on-board activities. The Alaska vessels of the Carnival, Celebrity, Princess, and Royal Caribbean fleets all fit in this category, as do Norwegian Cruise Line and Jewel and Pear. They indeed offer royal treatment but their ability is limited when comes to slowing down or getting into narrow passages.

It’s like a fair inside a big ship. The whole day various activities take place for adults and kids. Self-service ice cream counters have been installed on all the floors. Variety in food is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with mid-morning and evening snacks. One can never fall short of choices.

WHAT TO EXPECT : • Bear population is in plenty here.Capture a mother bear wandering along the shoreline or gorging on a salmon.

• Alaska is best viewed when on top. Get into a small plane or a helicopter to get some of the best aerial views of Fjords and expansive glacial fields which otherwise are inaccessible.

• Though there are thousands of glaciers in Alaska, see if you cruise is touching the Glacier Bay, which is designated as a national park. Wildlife can be spotted here in abundance.

• At Mendelhall glacier (Juneau) it’s worth spending money on the dog sled. They will ride you to a helipad, give ice boots and fly to the middle of the glacier where there are innumerable huskies waiting to be ridden. It’s very easy and safe for elderly people too. The experience will imbibe in your memory forever.

• Misty fjord float plane tour and totem pole village in Ketchikan are also recommended. Pilot usually gives a running narration during the flight and takes closer to points of interest and wildlife.

• White Pass and Yukon Rail Ride in Skagway through the picturesque mountains and high bridges is a must do. Commentary is on during the ride. Keep looking out to spot wildlife.

• Humpback whale sightings are perhaps the most thrilling experience when on a cruise. See them gently rise from the waters and disappear with a dive.

• There are many curio shops on the dockside selling lots of curios and woollens, of which some are genuine. One can indulge in shopping here. However, be wary of stuff you are buying. Seek local advice for the same.

WHEN TO GO : Alaska is open to cruising from April end to September. May is considered to be the best season when temperature rises and is suitable for wildlife viewing too. September is also a good month to visit. Fall comes early in Alaska and this is the month when deciduous trees are blazing yellow and red.

TRAVEL TIPS : • Do carry jackets, sweaters and a rain ticker too.
• Any outside food is not allowed to carry inside the ship. So, finish your food before boarding.
• Warm clothes and walking shoes are necessary.
• Do carry binoculars for a better viewing experience.
• Take care of the boarding cards. Don’t lose them.
• Always be alert for good seats while cruising.
• The earlier you reserve space, the better.

Source / Review By : Aditi Chatterjee


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