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Holly and I have binged various Alaska shows for years. From The Deadliest Catch to Life Below Zero, I think we’ve sampled just about all of them. Heck, we’ve even given Alaskan Bush People a try.
Needless to say, a trip to Alaska has long been on our radar.
As we researched different ways to visit Alaska, cruising the Inside Passage seemed like a must. We really wanted to spend a week on a cruise and a week in Alaska’s interior, but time constraints meant we’d have to choose between the two. So, we decided to hop a flight to Seattle, board a ship, and enjoy a 7-night cruise up Alaska’s Inside Passage.
Here’s an overview of the ports we visited and what we did at each stop.
1) Ketchikan, Alaska
After a few nights at sea, our first stop on the cruise was Ketchikan, Alaska. Billed as “Alaska’s First City,” this quirky town of less than 10,000 residents feels like it was pulled right from the pages of an old dime novel.
Ketchikan actually has two ports at which cruise ships dock. The first is located directly adjacent to downtown while the other is up the road a few miles. Thankfully, we docked at the downtown port, walked right off the ship, and headed into town.
Although the port area is lined with gift shops, restaurants, and bars, Ketchikan still has a decidedly local feel that is steeped in Native Alaskan culture. Totem Bight State Park, located about 10 miles north of Ketchikan, is an 11-acre park that is home to several restored totem poles. If you’d like to check out some totems but would rather stay in town, Totem Heritage Museum is also within walking distance of the port (roughly a mile away).
After doing some shopping, Holly and I hopped joined our excursion for the day – an ATV ride, a short hike to a lake, and a crab feast. Just getting to the area was an adventure, and the bus ride made us realize how sparsely populated the area really is. It was a fun day…and here are some pictures!
2) Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier
The following morning had us waking up at about sunrise to experience the incredibly beautiful Endicott Arm Fjord and Dawes Glacier. We enjoyed breakfast on our balcony as our ship sailed past icebergs floating in the stunning blue waters of the fjord.
The scenic cruise included an up close and personal look at the magnificent 600-foot tall Dawes Glacier. The morning views were absolutely spectacular and compared favorably to our tour of several fjords in Norway. Here are a few photos!
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After leaving the fjord, we sailed directly to Alaska’s capital city of Juneau. We quickly hopped on a minibus and headed out on our afternoon excursion – whale watching and a hike to the Mendenhall Glacier.
The whale watching tour was one of the most amazing tours I’ve ever done. We’ve been whale watching a few times in Hawaii, and it was awesome. However, on this tour, we saw over a dozen humpback whales! That would be incredible (and not normal) for any whale watching tour, but this tour had a young whale who absolutely stole the show. He must have breached about 30 times – it was crazy!
Here’s some video for you to enjoy.
Hot Tip: One thing to keep in mind is that, in Southeast Alaska, it rains a lot – like, a lot a lot. Summer temperatures are relatively pleasant, but the area does get some type of precipitation about 240 days a year. It is literally part of one of the world’s largest rainforests, so be sure to pack some solid rain gear.
With that said, we got poured on during our hike to Mendenhall Glacier. The short hike would have been great if not for the rain. Unfortunately, this endangered beast is receding at lightning speed due to global warming. The glacier used to cover a much larger portion of the lake and the mountains surrounding it.
After the hike, Holly and I peeled off our wet jackets and ate dinner near the port. Juneau is considerably larger than Ketchikan, but the port area is filled with easily navigable. Like most port areas, you’ll find a lot of shopping and dining here. Plus, it is just a short walk back to the ship.
Our final stop in Alaska was at the interesting town of Sitka. After grabbing breakfast, Holly and I boarded a free shuttle from the cruise port to downtown. These buses run about every 15 minutes, are super convenient, and totally free.
Downtown Sitka is situated on the water and is a really cool and beautiful place to check out. Lincoln Street is lined with some delicious restaurants and shopping.
There is also a palpable Russian influence felt on the design and culture here. Alaska was once Russian territory. Castle Hill, which is an easy walk from where the shuttle drops you off, is the site where Russia officially transferred control of Alaska to the United States in 1867.
After spending the morning downtown, we took the shuttle back to the cruise port and boarded a boat for our afternoon wildlife viewing excursion. The tour started with a boat ride to a small island for a salmon and crab feast. We then hopped back on the boat for some fantastic wildlife viewing.
During the tour, we must have saw a dozen bald eagles. We also saw some super cute sea otters, a lone sea lion, and some amazing plant life.
The highlight of the trip (and maybe the entire cruise), however, was finding a pod of orcas hunting for food. Holly desperately wanted to see orcas on this trip, so it really fulfilled a bucket list item for her. Her eyes might have gotten a little sweaty when we found them.
If you get the chance to visit Alaska, do it! Alaska truly is one of the most wild and wonderful places on the planet. From dramatic landscapes to majestic wildlife, it is simply a breathtaking place to explore.
Honestly, I can’t say enough about our trip to Alaska. I can’t wait to go back and discover more of what this incredible place has to offer.
Don’t forget, you can learn more about the ship we sailed in our Discovery Princess review here. Until next time, happy traveling!
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