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in the Pacific Northwest. But it wasn't
long before tales about this most agreeable
land and the favourable passage became
widespread in maritime circles.
Alaska’s portion of the passage
encompasses over 1,000 islands, 24,000
kilometres of shoreline and thousands of
coves and bays, while British Columbia’s
share is a similar size.
During the northern summer tourist
season (mid-May to mid-September)
the traffic through the passage gets pretty
hectic. Big cruise ships from lines such as
Princess Cruises, Holland America Line
and Norwegian Cruise Line, each carrying
around 2,000 passengers, slip through the
tranquil waters, soaking up the crisp air
and eye-popping scenery. When the ships
stop at little villages and towns along the
way, enterprising locals come out in force to
embrace the cashed-up tourists.
Inside Passage cruises are overwhelmingly
popular, easy on the motion-sensitive tummy,
and overflowing with magnificent scenery
and fun shore excursions. But the big-ship
experience barely scratches the surface of the
wondrous nature and wilderness possibilities
These magnificent raptors
can be found all over Alaska,
especially around salmon time.
You’ll squeal with delight the
first time you see one, but after
100 or more you’ll feel like a
local and barely notice them.
Most commonly seen around
rivers, waterways and streams,
these birds often perch high in
the trees to watch for prey.
They’re either brown or black
and the two are rarely found
together. Brown and grizzly
bears are now known to be
the same animal; they’re just
bigger on the coast where
there is more food. Bear
viewing is best done with
an experienced guide who
can educate you about their
behaviour and keep you safe.
There are plenty of places
around Alaska where you can
see the spawning salmon or
even catch these exciting and
tasty fish. Besides the natural
streams and rivers, several
hatcheries have been set
up to reinforce breeding
populations, and most
welcome visitors. Bears
and salmon are often seen
together and it’s a delight
to see bears fishing.
Moose and caribou
Until you’ve seen a moose
up close, you don’t fully
appreciate how big these
guys are. Hopefully you’ll see
one from a car or position of
that are hidden away in the region.
Small-ship voyages are a fascinating
way to explore the truly wild Alaska.
Adventure cruise options from operators
including Lindblad Expeditions, Un-
Cruise Adventures, Alaskan Dream
Cruises and others allow a much more
intimate exploration of these glorious
waters. Excursion by Zodiac is the preferred
method, when a dozen passengers and a
guide can investigate wildlife sightings, birds,
plants and geographical features at leisure.
These vessels typically carry fewer than 50
passengers into some of the most remote
and secluded nooks and crannies along the
passage where you can get up close (but not
too close) to calving glaciers while escorted
by pods of orcas and inquisitive seals.
The iconic tourist attractions such as
the glaciers in Prince William Sound, the
delightful Alaska Railroad and the awe-
inspiring Denali National Park should all be
considered, but remember that everyone else
wants to see them too. This is why booking
with an experienced agent is important.
Don’t let a rookie mistake spoil your
NEW CRUISERS’ GUIDE ALASKA
safety, as moose and caribou
can be unpredictable. If you
stumble across one while
hiking, give it plenty of space.
These animals can wander
into town, too, and if driving,
always be prepared for one.
Alaska is a haven for whales
of many species. Humpback,
grey and orcas are the most
common and guests on
small-ship cruises have the
best chance of seeing them up
close. Humpbacks just love to
breach and it’s a gold-medal
event to see one of these great
animals leap out of the water.
Otters, seals and weasels
The rivers, lakes and streams
are also home to these cute
and fun-loving creatures. River
otters are particularly amusing
to watch as they scurry about
feeding. Weasels and mink can
sometimes be found along
quiet streams, while harbour
seals are a common sight in
almost every port and even
among the glaciers.
For more information
about Alaska’s wildlife,
Apart from the enormous variety and
scope of natural attractions, there is a
refreshing perspective on indigenous tourism
in Alaska. “First nation” families run many of
the museums and guided tours in and around
the little towns like Petersburg, Ketchikan
and Wrangell. An exquisite piece of Alaskan
native artwork is a magnificent souvenir.
Other activities to consider include guided
trekking, kayaking, flightseeing and camping.
Experienced kayakers can enjoy some of the
best open-water and river kayaking in the
world, but wilderness paddling and camping
need to be taken seriously – the water is cold
and the wildlife can be, well, wild.
Many visitors take the self-drive
alternative. Using a regular car or self-
contained campervan/motorhome, Alaska
is the ideal destination for experienced road
warriors, with excellent roads, camping
grounds and planning material.
Tourism in Alaska is a major business and
everyone from local “mom and pop”stores to
government bodies are fully tuned in to deliver
the most rewarding experiences possible.
'You can get up close to calving glaciers while
escorted by pods of orcas and inquisitive seals.'
The official state website for travellers, TravelAlaska.
com, is packed with tips, guides, maps and planning
tools for both the experienced and novice traveller.
The hard-copy, 106-page vacation planner is a virtual
encyclopaedia of holiday options and can be obtained
from most travel agents.
Meet the locals
One of the greatest attractions of any visit to Alaska
is the wildlife. Big, small, furry, feathery, slimy and
cute... they’re all there. Here's a guide to some of the
most commonly sighted species.
ALASKA NEW CRUISERS’GUIDE
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