Alaska cruising

Alaska Cruise Essentials

Posted July 10th, 2017

If you want to travel to a place where the water is bluer, the grass is greener, the air is fresher, and the space grander –Alaska delivers this in spades and so much more. Holland America Line’s range of Land+Sea Journeys combine an Alaskan cruise with an overland tour of Denali National Park to provide the perfect way to see this untamed, immense and magnificent land. So why not embrace your inner Attenborough and go across both land and sea to experience the incredible wilderness that is Alaska.

Alaska Exploration Highlights

Holland America Line’s range of Denali National Park Land+Sea Journeys have been designed to include all of the best of Alaska’s highlights for guests to experience the cruise of a lifetime – a cruise that is sure to be filled with memories of an amazing landscape, wonderful people and spectacular wildlife.

Denali National Park

The Denali National Park is where North America’s most iconic animals are found. Visitors are likely to see bears, both grizzly and black, moose, caribou, howling wolves and of course, the king of the wild predatory birds, the bald eagle. Observing the Park’s wildlife is enhanced because it remains untouched by inon-native animals or plant life, primarily due to the scarcity of roads and remoteness of the region.

Right at the heart of this untouched country is the newly renovated 60-acre McKinley Chalet Resort with Denali Square at its centre. Travel to the Park on the luxurious McKinley Explorer®, taking in the views through your glass-domed railcar before arriving at McKinley Chalet Resort, providing accommodation and unique amenities specifically for guests on Holland America Line’s Land+Sea Journeys. Denali Square is centrally located between the main part of the property, containing  Karstens Public House, a grand two-story restaurant; the Gold Nugget Saloon with Music of Denali Dinner Theatre; an amphitheatre hosting guest speakers and evening campfires; and an artist-in-residence cabin where you can watch Denali-inspired masterpieces take shape before your eyes

The untouched nature is also assisted by the fact that Denali Park receives far fewer visitors per year than any other park in the country. Smaller visitor numbers afford more opportunities for ranger-led hikes and self-guided on- and off-trail hiking. Alternatively, if you are more comfortable with an escorted tour you can opt for a bus trip through the park with some very knowledgeable guides.

Cruising itinerary ports and excursions

North America’s Inside Passage and Glacier Bay National Park

Outside of the land-based Denali Park part of your itinerary, all of the Denali Land and Sea Journeys include a 7-day Glacier Discovery cruise that takes cruisers through North America’s famed Inside Passage and into Glacier Bay National Park.

The Glacier Bay Park is part of a 24-million-acre World Heritage Site, which also includes Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park in British Columbia. The park incorporates glaciers, mountain peaks, fjords, rivers, and, wet tundra into a very special cruising experience, filled with lasting cherished memories.


From Glacier Bay the next stop is Juneau where access is either by air or water because there are no roads to this area that is squeezed between the Gastineau Channel and Coast Mountains. Juneau offers a lot of variety in a small area with the famous Mendenhall Glacier and the immense Juneau Ice-fields just nearby. Attractions also include the huge Tongass National Forest to the northeast, or shopping in the township, or getting a little more active with activities like kayaking, dogsledding, rafting, hiking, whale watching or fishing, all available and quite reasonably priced.


The next stop on your itinerary takes you to Ketchikan that sits on the shores of the Tongass Narrows. Besides being known as the Salmon Capital of the World, there are some key wilderness and cultural places to see, like the Tongass Historical Museum, Totem Bight State Park and Saxman Village. Be sure to try a flightseeing trip where fjords have been carved out by ancient retreating glaciers.

Hubbard Glacier

A visit to the Hubbard Glacier will give you a proper sense of scale when you come face to face with this gigantic mountain of ice. Hubbard Glacier is advancing faster than any other glacier on the continent. The Glacier is eight kilometres wide and an incredible 40 stories high when it disgorges the ice at Disenchantment Bay. Keep an eye out for the locals, in that there are plenty of seals to see sunbathing and frolicking about the ice floes from the Glacier.


To see some of Alaska’s history, a visit to Skagway provides a comprehensive insight into what life was like in the 19th century. Many gold prospectors seeking their fortune in Klondike, who made it to Skagway, considered the 500-mile journey that still lay ahead of them and then had a rethink of what their future held. Many of them set up shop as providores, to the point that Skagway became the largest city in Alaska by the end of the1800s. There is plenty of evidence of these halcyon days and visitors can ride the antique White Pass and Yukon railway, or step through some real saloon doors or get a sense of what life was like a century ago, with a trip to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

Tracy Arm

In the heart of the sheer rock faces of the Boundary Ranges is Tracy Arm, a narrow, twisting, 30-mile-long fjord that ends at the twin Sawyer glaciers. For this amazing waterway, it is all about the steep vertical cliff rack faces and waterfalls. Then right at the end are the twin Sawyer Glaciers, a reminder of the Ice Age, where onlookers can witness calving icebergs that slip into the blue-green waters of the inland sea.

Guide to Alaskan cruising, Some Tips and Tricks

So when considering a cruise through this region, here are some tips and tricks to think about when planning your trip.

Pack Smart

Packing for Alaska means packing "layers", as the weather particularly in the warmer months can vary wildly but err on the side of packing more layers for warmth. Also pack binoculars to see wildlife up close, insect repellent to keep them far away, hiking boots, sunscreen and rain gear – you will need all of these items and they can be costly on board.

Book Plenty of Excursions

Truly embrace the experiential side of cruising and book excursions where you can land on the top of a glacier; hike the Alaskan tundra; take a helicopter past waterfalls and majestic mountains; and dog sled across snowfields. These are the real souvenirs of this incredible awe-inspiring place.

Best time of year to go?

The Alaska cruise season runs from May to September, with high season typically June through to August which are the warmest months (ranging from 10 degrees to 21 degrees Celsius) but they also can be quite rainy. Note outside of the high season, some excursions, tours and hotels offer "shoulder season" discounts of 10-25%.

Looking for a family holiday - take the kids

Cruising is great for kids and an Alaskan cruise can give them lots of opportunities to learn about and enjoy spotting wildlife plus get to watch calving glaciers – something to boast about to their friends at home. Also there are plenty of kid-friendly programs and activities designed for children that will keep them well and truly occupied.

Those heading to Alaska are usually in search of something they can’t get anywhere else. Whether it’s the landscape and its wilderness, the wildlife, or the chance to savour some solitude in a pristine natural environment - all visitors attest that whatever your Alaskan dreams are, that they will be surpassed by the reality of this place and its jaw-dropping natural beauty and majesty.

To make sure you get to fully experience the best of Alaska, call us on 1300 954 661 to help you find the perfect Holland America Line cruise for you.

Set sail on a dream holiday with CruiseAbout

Images courtesy of Holland America Line and Getty.

Tara Young

The experience of travel changes a person. I see my job as highlighting what amazing travel opportunities there are to broaden your knowledge of that great big world beyond your doorstep and what you may learn about yourself on the way.

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