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Remember the startled look on Sandra Bullock’s face in last year’s movie The Proposal as she realizes she must make a trip to Alaska? Bullock must convince her employer that her hastily-announced engagement to her assistant is genuine, all to avoid being deported to Canada. She stumbles over the name A-L-A-S-K-A in utter disbelief. That scene makes me laugh because she makes it sound like Alaska an undesirable, chilly, wilderness far, far, away. But she’s supposed to be a Canadian, and when you look at the map, really how very different can it be?
Well, Alaska is different and, as it turns out, it is a very desirable and historically significant destination.
Alaska earned statehood just 51 years ago. Alaskan history includes seal fur traders, the Gold Rush, the WWII Pacific Arena, The ALCAN (Alaska-Canada Highway), the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, an earthquake more powerful than the 1906 San Francisco quake and the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill.
So what’s the big deal about Alaska? Alaska is a very big deal. It’s a top tourist destination and continues to lure visitors year after year. Alaska is the last frontier.
Alaska is nothing but extremes: nine out of 10 of the tallest peaks in North America, the most national parks, the largest state, the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), the least-densely populated state, the longest days of summer, and the longest nights of winter.
I’m a travel agent. Many people I meet ask about a vacation to Alaska and they get that far away look when they imagine the beauty and grandeur of the beautiful state. The main tourist season is short, from May through September, so planning is the key to be sure you get the right Alaska vacation.
What is the best way to visit Alaska? When is the best time to go? How much time should one allow to see it all? How far in advance should I book? Do I really need a passport? Will I see whales? What is the weather like in Alaska? What time does it get dark? What time is the midnight buffet? Except for the last one, these are very good questions.
To get the best, most complete itinerary that will include everything you must see, I recommend a cruise tour of 11-15 days in length. This is the best of both worlds and comes with many options but is basically a 7-night cruise tied together with a 4-8 day land package.
The cruise will take you on a northbound journey from Vancouver, Canada to Whittier, Alaska near Anchorage or a southbound cruise in reverse. From the comfort of your ship you will see calving glaciers (when massive chunks of ice break away and plunge into the water) in Glacier Bay, whales and other marine mammals, and stunning coastlines that change daily.
Visit three to five ports of call for unique shore excursions: in Ketchikan, experience the Rainforest Canopy via zip line, take a guided fly-fishing excursion, or visit the totem poles of Saxman Native Village; in Skagway, travel on the White Pass Scenic Railway to Canada’s Yukon, or visit an authentic Alaskan Sled Dog & Mushers camp; in Juneau, tour Mendenhall Glacier by canoe or take a Glacier Flightseeing Adventure. Every night return to the comfort of your own cruise cabin and enjoy delicious food and exciting onboard entertainment.
The land package, which can be taken either before or after your cruise can include Denali National Park, Mt. McKinley, Talkeetna, Anchorage, Kenai, Fairbanks, Wrangell, and Prudhoe Bay. This part of your journey takes you deep into the interior or heart of Alaska to round out your visit.
Imagine the day your cruise ends in Whittier. You arrive at the port to find a train, your train, waiting to whisk you away for the land portion of your trip. Sit back, relax and take in the scenery as you make your way to Denali National Park for your stay at a contemporary lodge with all the comforts of home. Denali offers breathtaking views, wildlife viewing and the venerable Mt. McKinley, one of Alaska’s most popular attractions. See Anchorage, a modern city rich in Native American history with untamed wilderness just minutes from downtown. And Fairbanks, for frontier-style hospitality and Gold Rush history deep in the heart of Alaska’s interior.
The movie had a happy ending. Is a trip to Alaska your happy ending?
For local information about an upcoming Alaska cruise, click here.
Meredith Fisher has 21 years of experience in the travel industry. When she graduated from Chico State she took a job at a small travel agency thinking it would be her “fun job” for a few years. Since then she’s done corporate travel, training, incentive and group travel, and everything in between, but now finds herself back where she started, living vicariously through her clients’ vacations. Meredith is still having fun and finally putting her journalism background to work. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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