It’s one of the more easily accessible Bucket List destinations promising adventure and wilderness that so many of us dream about. Michelle, one of our Travel Solution Specialists, has just returned from a group trip to Alaska and she is absolutely buzzing!
Below we share Michelle’s unique experiences, memories and a discovery of pristine glaciers, fascinating wildlife and remote frontier towns set alongside some of the world’s most spectacular scenery.
“This was my first time visiting Alaska – it has always been on my bucket list. I just never imagined how amazing it would be. I’m a big fan of seeing animals in their natural environments, and let me say up front, that this is the best way to get up close to the most amazing Glaciers in the World, Seals, Orca Whales and low-flying Bald Eagles. But I am getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning of the trip…
After a long-haul flight from Brisbane a group of us landed in Seattle USA – this is where our trip began. A good night’s sleep in the Homeward Hilton Suites helped to keep the jetlag at bay, so we were all set.
Seattle is great, not too cold for June either (ha ha I keep forgetting its summer in the northern hemisphere). We all jumped onboard Segway’s to scoot around the city (For those who have never seen them before, a Segway is a motorised two-wheel standup cross between a scooter and a bike). It’s easy to ride… once you get the hang of it. Hey, beats walking! Up and down footpaths, all around Pike Place and the waterfront, it was the best way to see some sights, and great opportunities for fun photo’s with friends and a few laughs too.
The next morning was pure excitement for all of us. We boarded the Celebrity Solstice for a 7 day Glacier Bay cruise. What a gorgeous ship, so large, fresh and spacious. We soon found our beautiful balcony cabin. It was a lot larger than I expected, comfy bed, huge balcony, lovely amenities and decent sized bathroom. The cabin was pretty impressive all round. We unpacked, freshened up then headed out to explore the ship… and met up again in the ICE bar for a cocktail (or two).
Although we were on board the luxurious Celebrity Solstice, because we are all in the cruise and travel industry, the group were interested to see so many other ships cruising Alaskan waters too. From Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Cunard, Holland America and more. During the summer season, they all head north to cruise through spectacular Glacier Bay, Alaska’s Inside Passage, Hubbard and Tracey Arm Glacier’s. With optional extensions available into the beautiful Denali National Park and further afield to Banff and Jasper in Canada. We were all about to find out why this region is so popular.
Our first port of call was Ketchikan, an Alaskan City facing the Inside Passage. I liked Ketchikan city itself, the salmon market and creek street – that was fun to look at. We had our first meeting with First Nation’s people (Native American’s), saw how their monumental totem poles were made and why, and listened as we discovered this region’s cultural history. Ketchikan is beautiful. It is surrounded by a thick forest of green, misty fjords, waterfalls, salmon spawning streams, and is a haven for wildlife including black bears, wolves and bald eagles.
I also had my first taste of fresh-off-the-boat Alaskan crab! Loved it! I have never eaten crab on its own and certainly never peeled a crab myself (not sure if that’s the right word – maybe de-shelled and devoured?) The crab was just to die for, succulent, mouth watering, so yum. If you are a seafood lover, this is definitely the place to be.
Next it was Juneau, the Capital of Alaska, quietly sitting at the base of Mount Roberts. The excitement was about to ramp up a notch when we were whisked away to spend the morning whale watching. Our tour guides were so passionate about what they do and how the environment is conserved. It made the experience all the more special. We found the whales just off the coast, and to see one breach right in front of us, that was just … I was speechless. All I can say is make sure you take the best camera you own, or get a new one, because your going to need it. What an experience! You just don’t realise how big these beautiful creatures are and so, so close – just incredible.
We had a few hours wandering through Skagway – it was like we had stepped back to the Gold Rush days. Most of the buildings have been preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad runs vintage locomotives past the famously steep Chilkoot trail, offering sweeping mountain views during its climb towards Canada.
Next up… a helicopter flight over the top of the Glacier. It was simply spectacular. This is really turning into my trip of a lifetime. We landed amongst sun-kissed snow-covered mountains. There was white everywhere.
And then… we saw them. 240 Alaskan Huskies, dogs, pups, mushers and sleds. We were about to go on a DOG-SLED!! This day was like a dream come true.
Our Musher showed us what to do and how to stop, then it was all aboard the sled, and let me tell you those pups are eager to go. MUSH! After this all-too-short thrill it was back to see the kennels, and the way too cute puppies that were happy to be patted and cuddled.
All I can say is WOW. This particular excursion was absolutely out of this world. It’s an absolutely amazing memory I will never forget. I was looking at the photo’s just now and they bought tears to my eyes – wishing I was back there now.
Our days at sea were full on fun and laughter, and there was something different to do every day. You could just lounge around one of the many areas on the ship and relax, sit on the balcony and watch the scenery go by, take photos that are out of this world or eat your fill at any number of dining options.
This is where our balcony came in handy to spend a little time to ourselves. We were able to relax with a hot chocolate, watch the Hubbard Glacier come into view – you could almost reach out and touch it! The pictures I have seen really don’t do it justice, fabulous as they are, you have to be here, live to really experience its impressiveness. Our ship seemed massive, however the glacier towered over us. It’s strange. You think of glaciers as snowy white, yet here it was all shades of blues, greys, greens and aquamarines sparkling in the sun. Lovely.
Victoria, the capital of British Columbia was our final port and one of the prettiest cities I have had the pleasure to visit. The famous Butchart Gardens with 55 acres of vivid floral displays, Victorian architecture and really friendly people – it was a great way to finish the cruise and get our sea-legs back.
Next time I visit Alaska and Canada, I’ve decided to extend for a few more days to visit Denali National Park. This is over 6 million acres of pure wilderness filled with wildlife like caribou, wolves, bald eagles and bear. Or maybe a Rocky Mountaineer Rail journey from Calgary and Banff, via Lake Louise and Jasper to Vancouver – what a great way to begin or end. Definitely, another must see-must do experience.
I would have to say though, that this was one of the best adventures I have been on – and I have pretty much travelled the world. The creeks, valleys & hills, majestic mountains, American bald eagles, grizzly bears, whales & huskies – all these I can now tick off from my bucket list. What about yours?
If you looking for a WOW Holiday, a place to get beyond excited, then you must absolutely see ALASKA!”
If Michelle’s Alaska trip has inspired you to tick Alaska off your bucket list, or given you a taste for adventure.
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