Monthly Archives: July 2013

Perfect time for Alaska

Here we are in the middle of summer and a lot of us are feeling the HEAT of it.  People that live in areas of the country that face temps in the
90’s or 100’s on a daily basis throughout the summer really want a nice cool down.  What better place to go in the summer and see
beautiful scenery, nature & wildlife as well as have cooler temperatures?  ALASKA is the place to be!

A lot of 1st time visitors to Alaska will take the standard 7 day Inside Passage Cruise to Alaska.  What is an Inside Passage Cruise you ask?
Well, an inside passage cruise is a sailing that goes round-trip in & out of either Seattle Washington or Vancouver BC and will travel up through
the inside passage area of Alaska ( a coastal route for ocean going vessels along a network of passages which weave through the islands on
the Pacific Coast of North America) then visits ports such as – Juneau Alaska, Ketchikan Alaska, and Skagway Alaska before heading back down
and returning to the original departure port of Seattle or Vancouver.

The benefits of doing an inside passage cruise is that it is a quick way to give people a look into Alaska with the ease of packing & unpacking
1 time.  It tends to offer the passengers the best of airfare because you are not flying as far North as Fairbanks Alaska or Anchorage Alaska.
It also works well for those passengers that are on tighter time restraints due to work schedules or school schedules.  People still in the
work force here in the U.S. sometimes find it harder to take of 10+ days for vacation.  The 7-Night inside passage cruise of Alaska can be the
perfect match for them.

If you only have time for the 7-night Inside Passage Cruise of Alaska then you will want to make the most of it.  People always ask, “Do I really
want or need a balcony cabin while on an Alaska Cruise?” The answer is this – If you can afford a balcony cabin without cutting into your
sightseeing budget, then by all means take the balcony cabin!  It’s not like having a balcony cabin while cruising in the Caribbean where a
person will sit out on their balcony enjoying their morning breakfast or sipping cocktails before dinner.  Alaska waters are COLD! You will
enjoy your balcony at a different level in Alaska.  Being able to step out onto your balcony to watch the scenery go by, watch for whales
off the side of the ship as you are cruising, or taking a hot cup of cocoa or coffee out there for some fresh clean air in the morning to watch the
sunrise or sunset…,either way, you need to be dressed warmly.

The reason I say only take a balcony if it doesn’t take from your sight-seeing budget is this…. You travel all the way to Alaska, you want to be
able to get off the ship and see the sights and beautiful attractions that the towns have to offer.  If you have spent all of  your vacation dollars
on your cabin accommodations, then you will not be able to get the most out of your cruise vacation!  It’s one thing to say “I went on an
Alaskan Cruise” but it’s a completely different story when you can say ” I went on a bear watching tour in Alaska” or “I took a helicopter
ride and landed on a glacier while I was in Alaska”.  It’s the adventures of the trip that make the trip so spend the money on the adventures if
you have to choose between them and the accommodations.

So, what are some of the sights to see while in Alaska?  Each port has different things to see or do in them.  Ask any travel agent or person
that has been to Alaska what they recommend and they will probably all have a different “favorite”.

In Juneau I personally think that no matter what you don in Juneau, you should always include a stop/visit to the Mendenhall Glacier. This
is the top highlight in Juneau to see.  Juneau is also one of my favorite places to go whale-watching.  So, for a person like myself I will do a
sightseeing tour that combines both of these activities, making for a full day of touring.

In Skagway, one of the highlights there is the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.  Now, to take this particular excursion, you will need to take
along your passport because the train ride from Skagway ends in Canada where the mounties board and check everyone’s I.D.’s. This railroad
was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush.  It climbs to 3000 feet in just 20 minutes and has steep turns, 2 tunnels and numerous
bridges.  Its one of the best tours to see some of the inland portion of Alaska if you are on a 7-night inside passage cruise. From the train you
can see beautiful mountains, waterfalls, breathtaking gorges and glaciers.  It’s an old fashioned train, not like the Amtrak trains of today or
even the glass dome trains that are well known throughout the Alaska interiors.  This train offers fabulous views from your seat and allows you
the opportunity to go stand outside on the back of the car and feel the rush of the cool air  as you pass all the beauty that Alaska has to offer.
If you are booking your cruise with a truly experienced travel agent, we can even help advise you as to what side of the train car to sit on,
during your journey up the mountain so that you get the best of the views from your seat.  But, what is there to do after you get to the top?
well, this again is where an experienced agent is going to come in handy…. we are going to help give you recommendations so that you make
the most of your railroad journey by pairing the train ride up with another fabulous journey on the way back down the mountain.

And what about Ketchikan?  One of the towns highlights is the Totem Pole Park.  This is a great place to see lots of totem poles but better yet,
to learn about what the carvings on the totem poles mean.  And, if you want to, you too can actually be the “lowest man on the totem pole”.
A quick visit and you will know exactly what I mean.  Ketchikan is a great place to take a float plane sight-seeing tour or even go
on a fishing excursion or  if your pocket book allows, a bear watching excursion.  Not always is a person required to take a tour to see bears…
they have a tendency to pop up where you might least expect one.  Ask the residents of Ketchikan and they will tell you the tales of how the
bears come up onto their front porches to dig into the trash bins.  Oh and lets not forget about the Bald Eagles!  Alaska is the place to see them.

Now, for those that have more than 7 days to spend on their vacations, I really do recommend a Cruise/Tour package.  What is a Cruise/Tour
package?  This is a land package in Alaska that can range from 3 days to 20 days with a 7-night Alaska Cruise packaged with it.  You can do the
land package before or after the cruise, although most travel agents have their preference as to which way a client should do their trip. And
with the land portion of the package, you can choose what highlights in Alaska you want to see.  Some people want to see Fairbanks while
others want to see Anchorage.  I personally always recommend you see Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley.  When planning to do
an Alaska Cruise/Tour package I HIGHLY recommend the use of an experienced travel agent.  Some cruise lines can offer up to 35+
different land package options, an experienced travel agent should be able to help you narrow that list down to 2-3 to choose from just
by speaking with you and getting a feel as to what is most important for you to see.

One of the things that I always recommend to my clients visiting Alaska and doing a Cruise/Tour package is to always pick a tour that includes
a ride on the glass dome train.  These trains are a true highlight when visiting the interior areas of Alaska.  These trains have dining available
and offer some fabulous dining menus.  With the quality of the food being served on these trains you’d think you were sitting in a 5-Star
restaurant. The difference being that on the glass dome trains you have a moving view with your meal.  Be on the lookout for a moose or
bear hanging around on the side of the tracks as the trains come through.  The glass dome trains also offer a full service bar.  I had one of the
BEST chocolate drinks ever in my life aboard one of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines glass dome train cars. Great Food, Great Drinks, Great
Views…who could ask for anything better during their vacation!

While visiting the interior sections of Alaska you will have the opportunity to do all types of tours or excursions.  There is always something
for everyone to do.  Don’t feel like going on an excursion?  No problem, the lodges in Alaska offer comfortable accommodations and great
views.  Taking a stroll around the lodge or just sitting in front of the fireplace with other guests is a joy all its own.

When it comes to picking out excursions to do during your land vacation, again, I cannot stress enough the importance of using an
experienced travel agent.  A good honest TA will be more than happy to help you choose things that are to your liking.  There are also
some very adventurous tours that a person can do like white water rafting !  Yep, that’s right I said White Water Rafting in ALASKA!  No
worries, the people that run that tour will get you all suited up in waterproof outfits and boots so that your journey will be enjoyable. Not
into white water rafting, no problem, what about taking a 6 passenger flight seeing trip through Mt. McKinley.  If you choose to do this tour
my recommendation is don’t even  try to capture the beauty you will see on film because pictures will never do it justice to the actual
beauty you will see in person and later try to describe to your friends or family.  This is a MUST SEE for yourself type of tour!

Whens the best time to visit Alaska? Well, the Alaska cruise season runs from the middle of May through the middle of September.  That’s it
folks, it’s a very short window of opportunity to do the Alaska Cruise each year.  The beginning of the season (May), the temps can tend to be
a bit cooler but you might see heavy animal activity along the shore lines as the animals come out of hibernation and bring their babies down
to the waterfront for a quick drink or snack.   Some will tell you that the last week in July is the best week for whale watching.  I don’t
know if that’s really true or not as I haven’t had an issue seeing whales on any trip to Alaska.  If you are a shopper then I recommend you
make your trip at the end of the season (September) because all the stores get ready to close down for the year and they have the best
sales of the season going on.  Close-out sales from 50-80% off inventory!  That’s a great time to buy lots of gifts for those stuck at home
collecting your mail or watering your flowers. You will pay less for your cruise if you go at the beginning or end of the Alaska season, and
traveling  mid June through the later part of August tends to run the higher prices for your Alaska cruise.

One thing that I have stressed a lot in this blog is the use of experienced travel agents when planning your Alaska trip.  If you want your
trip to be the best trip possible then please use an experienced agent.  There are so many vacation choices for Alaska out there and unless
you have endless amounts of time to do your own research in planning your own trip, why not let a professional help you?

I wish you a summer filled with adventure and fun!  And remember, if you can’t stand the heat, take an ALASKA Cruise Vacation!!!!

Sending you Sunshine & Smiles,
Diane