May 08 2012

Travel Wishlist: Alaska

by in Travel Wishlist

One place that has consistently fascinated me, and has been at the top of my travel wishlist for the past few years, is Alaska. Although it has been a state for over 50 years, for many Americans, Alaska still represents the untamed wild frontier that we read about in the Jack London books from our middle school days.

Courtesy Lonely Planet

It now seems even more accessible since I’ve moved to Seattle, long known as the gateway to Alaska. One of the primary reasons for Seattle’s transformation from a small backwater town to thriving center of trade was due to the Alaska and Yukon gold rushes in the late 1800s, when Seattle merchants sold equipment to gullible miners headed north. Although the gold rush is over, in many respects Seattle still serves as the gateway to Alaska. It is the home of Alaskan Airlines, with direct flights to Anchorage several times per day. Further north, in Bellingham, Washington, you can catch one of the Alaska Marine Highway System’s ferries to Ketchikan, Alaska. If you don’t book early enough to reserve a cabin, however, you may find yourself pitching a tent on the ferry’s deck, which could be quite adventurous, albeit cold.

(Courtesy PRWeb)

Another option is to take a cruise. Several cruise lines operate out of Seattle for their Alaska bound cruises, including Princess cruises, Carnival, Holland America, and Celebrity. Now, I am not your typical cruise ship aficionado. In fact, I’ve never been on a cruise ship as none of the typical Caribbean or Greek island hopping itineraries have appealed to me. However, I think I would quite enjoy an Alaskan cruise. Walking onto a ship that is departing from the Seattle waterfront just a few miles from my apartment, and (for once) not having to hassle with airports, the TSA, delayed flights, rental cars, etc sounds ideal. A typical cruise ship itinerary includes Ketchikan, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau (home to one of my favorite breweries – Alaskan Brewing Company), Skagway, and Victoria, British Columbia (a great little city that we previously visited this past New Year’s). The only downside of the cruise is that you wouldn’t see much of the Alaskan interior – I’d like to visit Denali, for instance. So if I could just find a cruise that would let me disembark and wander around Alaska for a few weeks then hitch a ride back to Seattle, then that would be perfect 🙂

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3 Responses to Travel Wishlist: Alaska

  1. From Nick:

    I traveled the Alaska Marine Highway System from Bellingham to Whittier. It is so much better than a cruise ship. The boats are smaller and are able to go between islands and not have to stay out in open sea. Plus the people are the AMHS are very down to Earth and you will meet interesting folks. It was one of the most beautiful trips I have ever taken. The ride up to Juneau is amazing and you will feel like you are in National Geographic. The food on the boat is terrible and expensive. I would highly recommend taking your own. We didn’t book early enough and up to Juneau had to sleep on the deck. Doable and actually kind of fun to experience the outdoors the entire way. However, it does get cold. From Juneau to Whittier we had a cabin. Much better. From Anchorage I would recommend taking the railroad to Denali National Park. We still talk about returning to Alaska and doing the same trip again. It is a place that is truly amazing. It is not a cheap trip. It has been 4 years since we went but I think it was about $3-4000 per person. Hotels in Alaska are unbelievably expensive. Something along the lines of a motel is well over $200 a night. But every single penny is worth it.

    Posted on May 8, 2012 at 11:19 pm #
  2. From Lindsay:

    Thanks for the info, Nick. The more I read about, I think I would find the ferry system preferable, as it does sound a bit more “adventurous”. I think I would need a month to just wander around up there, though (not so doable with only two weeks vacation)! Did you pitch a tent on the deck, or sleep on the deck chairs?

    Posted on May 9, 2012 at 11:23 pm #
  3. From Nick:

    We slept on the desk chairs but found that sleeping on the floor was more comfortable. It was only for a few nights. There were tents on the deck, but a lot of people had issues with them, mainly rain and wind. There is nothing to tie down the tents and rain covers with, so to me, the tents were more trouble than not. If memory serves, in addition to not being able to tie to the boat, you cannot tape anything down. The sleeping bag area is covered and has heat, another advantage.

    We spent 2 weeks on our trip but would have preferred to spend more time, especially in the Whittier area (and Kodiak where we didn’t go). Anchorage is only a stopping point for the train to Denali. Don’t spend any time there. But I would recommend going even if only for 2 weeks. Alaska will change and you should see it as it is now.

    Posted on May 9, 2012 at 11:56 pm #
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