March 02, 2019

Alaska Cruises with Princess

Alaska could have been designed as the perfect cruising venue. Its serrated coastline is characterised by sounds, bays, inlets and coves, and many of its cities can only be reached by sea or air.

Island Princess at the Hubbard Glacier (Supplied)

With more Australians taking a cruise each year, it's no surprise many are heading to Alaska. Indeed, the cruise industry experienced a 14 per cent growth last year - or well over 20,000 passengers - and our enthusiasm is outstripping both the US (4.6 per cent growth) and the UK (11 per cent). While our local Pacific region remains the most popular, followed by Asia, Alaska is ranked equal third with Europe in popularity.

Alaska has always been a popular destination for Americans. It performs the same role as the Outback does for Australians - a wild untamed land of great vastness, few people and an unforgiving nature. And, like Australians, Alaskans cluster along one section of coastline.

At the top of the world, seasons are clear: in Barrow, the sun doesn't set from mid-May to mid-August (nor does it rise during winter) and in Fairbanks, the average temperature ranges from a balmy 17°C in July to -25°C in January

Often cruising can be a fine way to ensure four (to eight) great meals a day with an excuse to spend the remaining hours in the bar or relaxing with a book. However, that's not the case with Alaska - many of the most interesting and historic towns are along the coast. So effectively, the ship becomes a moving hotel with a new destination each morning - or a spectacular glacial vista to fill your stateroom window.

In addition, cruising is simply the best, cheapest and most effective way to see Alaska.

Because Alaska is so popular with North Americans there is a great range of cruises on offer. Princess Cruises has eight different Princess Cruises ships offering 130 sailings from May to September.

Princess Cruises divides its cruises into three categories - the 'Voyage of the Glaciers', 'Inside Passage Voyage' and 'Alaska Connoisseur Voyages'.

The 'Voyage of the Glaciers' offers numerous seven-night departures between Whittier (along with Seward, one of the two ports for Anchorage) and Vancouver, Canada.

'Inside Passage Voyage' - a seven-night round trip from Seattle - heads north, as far as Juneau.

'Alaska Connoisseur Voyages' are 14-night regular round trip departures from Vancouver on Tahitian Princess and from Seattle on Pacific Princess. A highlight of the season will be the launch of a new itinerary on the intimate 680-passenger Pacific Princess, featuring a call at Alaska's newest destination Icy Strait Point, which offers an insight into the native Tlingit culture. The voyage also takes in Alaska's Inside Passage, delivering passengers right out to Kodiak where the world's largest bears live amongst spectacular summer greenery. There are also visits to Valdez and Seward in the Gulf of Alaska and scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. 

Make the most of your cruise to Alaska by taking time to explore the vast interior. The 'must see' excursion is up to Denali National Park where you will find bears and moose as well as - Mount McKinley, North America's highest mountain. Another popular destination is Fairbanks with its gold rush history.

Princess Rail Service (supplied)

Princess Cruises operates Princess Rail Service with glass-domed ceilings and open-air viewing platforms from the port at Whittier to Anchorage then northwards all the way to Fairbanks via Denali. Princess Cruises also has its own wilderness lodges at Mount McKinley, Denali and Fairbanks. Of course, cruise, rail and lodge operations are well integrated so the hassles generally associated with moving are eliminated. Princess Cruises offers a range of cruise tours that bundle up the whole Alaskan experience.

A seven-night cruise from Anchorage (Whittier) to Vancouver, Canada or a US port in the lower 49' takes passengers through the spectacular Inside Passage. There's a port to explore most days - or glaciers and killer whales to observe from the deck.

Anchorage downtown (Eugen Marculescu)

Anchorage is a big city that locals quip "is close to Alaska". The train to Whittier passes along beautiful Turnagain Arm (home to beluga whales). The Panhandle is the thin strip of Alaska that would otherwise be Canadian coastline. Here Sitka was the capital of Russian America until Alaska was sold to the USA in 1867. With salmon in the town's streams and onion domes overhead, it's unlike anywhere else in America.

Juneau is the only US capital with no road access. Instead, it has a spectacular setting - cliffs capped by glaciers rising from the eastern edge of town. Skagway, at the top of the Chilkoot Inlet, was the landing point for adventurers heading up the infamous White Pass route to the Klondike goldfields. A one-day stopover, Skagway requires some degree of choreography to cover its many attractions.

Ketchikan, at the southern end of the Panhandle, is one of the prettiest places in Alaska. Creek Street was the town's red light district until 1954 but gentrified with galleries and coffee shops.

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