Southeast Alaska cruises are wonderful travel experiences; one wish The Vacation Gals have for the New Year is that everybody who wants to explore Alaska this way, can do so. The funniest coincidence that The Vacation Gals as a whole experienced this past year was that the three of us, independently, were invited on Alaska cruise travel press trips. Sure, we had an absolute blast when the three of us were treated to a ski vacation in Park City, Utah. TwinCitiesGal Beth and ColoradoGal Kara were able to introduce their families to each other in Minnesota, and Kara and I loved going to the TBEX conference in NYC together. But the hilarity that Alaska was on the top of each of our bucket lists, and then the three of us were each invited on different Southeast Alaska cruise trips, has to be the most remarkable event of the year for The Vacation Gals.
My Alaska cruise trip was via small ship cruising; less than 30 people were on our ship, and the “greener” travel this small ship made possible enabled us to experience Alaska in a more authentic way (albeit while still on a boat). The captain turned off the engine at night, so we slept in silence and woke to the sounds of the water lapping against the sides of the ship and other muted sounds from the Alaskan wilderness. Because the cruise ship was a small craft, we were able to drop anchor in remote bays and inlets — imagine waking up to the faint sounds of eagles and sea birds, surrounded by mountains and water, and no other ships in sight. It’s a remarkable, timeless travel experience, and one that will stay with me forever. My favorite travel moment is hard to pin down, but the sheer delight at seeing orcas teaching their calves to jump out of the water might take the cake. That we were able to witness this up close is testament to the more intimate travel experience that small ship cruising in Alaska makes possible.
Kara Williams was on a large cruise ship for her Alaska cruise vacation. While her Alaska experience was less intimate than mine, it was vastly more family-friendly. In fact, her whole family traveled with her to Alaska, including her mom, mother-in-law, and her children, who were entertained onboard with kid-friendly activities. She says, “If I had to pick just one ‘favorite part’ of our entire Holland America Alaska cruise, it would probably be on our final night, when I was seated for dinner in the main dining room with my family and new friends we’d met on board. The last night on board is such an upbeat affair, with a celebratory atmosphere. The waitstaff pulls out all the stops with their service, jokes and magic tricks for the kids, and even sing and dance, waving napkins festively. It was fun to sit back, watch the scene and reflect on a great trip — filled with bingo games, massages, bear sightings, zipline rides, glacier helicopter landings, piano bar sing-a-longs, jellyfish spotting and so much more.”
Beth Blair had a blast on her Alaska trip: She was able to travel with her beloved mother, and this mom-daughter pair became somewhat legendary onboard the Princess Cruises Alaska “Cruisetour” (part on land, part at sea). Beth writes, “It’s hard to pinpoint the highlight of my Princess Cruises Alaska Cruisetour. There were so many memorable moments. Some highlights were riding the luxury Princess rail cars across Alaska’s vast and ever changing landscape, the thrill of ziplining in Ketchikan, a marvelous whale watching and salmon bake in rainy Juneau, ATVing in the rural community of Sunshine, and seeing Mt. McKinley from the air and, of course, seeing the most breathtaking scenery as we cruised Glacier Bay. I think the ultimate experience was landing on Yanert Glacier via helicopter. Not only was it my first time in a chopper, it was my first time on a glacier and I didn’t expect the experience to be as beautiful and serene as it was. But I have to say what made the trip the most spectacular was having my mom by my side every moment. Since we haven’t lived in the same city for years, this two-week adventure gave us the opportunity to laugh and reconnect. It truly was the opportunity of a lifetime.”
And there you have it: Three different press invites to Alaska, three different experiences. Now, Alaska is so big, two and a half Californias can fit in it (and over 400 Rhode Islands!) — clearly, anyone who travels to Alaska can have virtually any sort of travel experience he or she wants there. If an Alaska cruise vacation is on your travel list for the New Year, we wholeheartedly hope your trip wish will come true.