Whew! Back from Vancouver and Alaska and I am telling you.... GO. DO IT. You will not regret it. Mother Nature paints the most beautiful and unforgettable backdrops. I have never seen so much untouched nature and wildlife all in one place. But what you want to know are the details so here we go. My family of three cruised the Disney Wonder for a 7 night trip to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. We stayed in Vancouver, B.C. for a few days prior and I highly recommend doing this. As with most larger cities you can see the highlights easily within just a few days.
Vancouver is a booming city filled with history, culture and technology. You can visit Stanley Park to see the totems, the aquarium and walk the sea wall to see the city from multiple angles. Do you have a little one interested in science? Try out Telus World of Science, (we spent four hours there and did not finish the museum!) Another not-to-miss is Granville Island - you can walk to it or take a cab/bus. If you have been to Pike's Market in Seattle, you will feel right at home. You can keep the kids busy in the summer months by letting they play at the FREE waterpark! It is a large splash pad with a twisty slide - but how fun to do all of this under a bridge in the middle of the city. There are many other hot spots in and around town, Gastown with the steam powered clocks, Capitano Suspension Bridge, China town and you could even take a ferry to Victoria. B.C. Keep in mind that the more you walk, the more hidden gems you may find along the way. In fact, one may be Habitat Island or parks with vast green space and sculptures.
Once you get to Canada Place and board your cruise ship you are in for an amazing scenic adventure. Be sure to be on deck when you go under Lions Gate Bridge... It's big and green, you won't miss it ;-) Look for harbor seals, they tend to greet and follow the ships out.
Now all you have to do is relax, enjoy what your cruise line offers on the ship and take in as many endless views as you can. They will be all around you as you make your way north. Summer days are long so there is plenty of daylight. If you want to see the sunrise - set your alarm, in early summer it rises very early!
Different cruise lines go different places but for the most part you are likely to visit the same towns we did. For Disney Cruise Line (DCL) it was Tracy Arm first. This season however, it was not weather safe to get into that arm so we did Endicott Arm instead and visited Dawes Glacier. I don't know if it's the calm waters or the blue of the ice but you quickly realize how majestic the icebergs are and how variant the blue hues are. Dress warm, it is cold.. but then again... it's ice! On our trip we did a separate excursion that had a smaller boat tender to the Wonder and went on ahead to the glacier, with a trip to a cove to see massive waterfall first. On the way in to Endicott, we were able to see seals resting atop the icebergs, dolphin and many birds feeding on what lies in the ice. If you are lucky you will get to see and hear the glacier calve. It sounds like a rolling thunder and you quickly realize how small we actually are and how powerful nature is.
Skagway was our next stop - our first port actually. Skagway is set up like a western town - complete with fake stored wall fronts and wooden plank sidewalks. It's a quaint little town full of proud people. It's not overly commercialized so you will find local shop owners and many hand crafted items here. You can take the train up the White Pass, mush with dogs, or even pan for gold in Liarsville. Skagway is far north so don't be surprised if you get sleeted or snowed on even in summer ;-) Try to catch the salmon on their way to spawn or simply walk the town and enjoy fresh air and mountains surrounding you at every direction you turn. Don't miss the Visitors Center - it's front is made up entirely of driftwood! A sight to see for sure.
Juneau, the capitol is a more bustling town which also means it is more commercialized. If you are docked at AJ dock, be warned, it's a mile walk to town. Busses are available for a ride into the tram area. Don't worry though, because Juneau has many things to offer. Did you know there is a rainforest here? Yep! It is also a great place to whale watch and there are many companies that take you out looking for spouts and diving tails. If you are on DCL you can even partake in a rainforest hike or a science center trip after whale watching - this is a DCL exclusive. It's a great way to see Juneau in another light. If you want to stay in town there are many things to do - a sky tram is close to port or you can stop by the local bakery and enjoy a cup of coffee and danish, indulge in fresh caught/made fish tacos or if you are brave you can have a bit if gelato. One of the big draws here is the Mendenhall Glacier. Like Dawes in Endicott it is wide and simply amazing to see. Did you know, Juneau is the only US capitol that has no roads going to it. In fact, most Alaskan towns are this way. They will tell you there are 3 ways to get to Juneau: 1. By Boat 2. By Plane or 3. By Birth Canal :-) They also only have 2 main roads - one called "the road" and the other called "the bridge." The bridge takes you to Dawson Island - a must see in my opinion to hike the rainforest and see Mendenhall from the beach.
Last was Ketchikan. Salmon capital of the world and I can definitely see why. They even have a building painted the color of salmon - be sure to not call it pink! Ketchikan is an amazing place - it's built up on pylons. The entire port, it's roads, buildings etc are all held up by pylons and can stand a tide rise of up to 20 ft. It is here that if you visit at the right time of year you will see the salmon jumping in the bay finding their way to the creek. You can follow them up the waterfall or salmon ladder all the way to the top where they will spawn. It's a wonderful sight to see them swim upstream. The town is very colorful and like other towns, they are very proud of their culture and ways of life. Here you can catch the Lumberjack show, take a hike or a helicopter ride. We were completely satisfied walking the town and finding the towns hidden gems - like the city park which once was a salmon hatchery. The hatchery is now indoors because of the eagles and bears - they were eating the salmon! Another interesting fact about this town - there is a road that is entirely made up of wooden stairs leading up the side of the mountain. So if you live there, you must climb every day up and down. Your mail is delivered, your trash is picked up, but all by walking up and down the stairs. Pretty amazing!
To sum the trip up, an Alaskan cruise is sure to fulfill your heart with rolling hills, rocky beaches and cliffs, glaciers and snow caps all around, sea life ranging from whales, dolphins, seals and even salmon. If you are lucky you will be able to spot bald eagles and bears as well. The air is crisp, the days are long and the people are genuine. So go ahead, take the trip and be ready to be blown away with natures beauty.