Seemingly hundreds of excursions, multiple dining options, and beautiful scenery were just a few of the many perks we enjoyed on the Noordam Cruise Ship (Holland America) on our Alaskan cruise. My husband, Randy, and I chose to start the tour with the pre-extension to Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) from Fairbanks then catch the scenic train McKinley Explorer to Seward where we boarded the ship.
To be honest, our choice of cruise line was limited because we traveled in mid-September and booked rather last minute, but the cruise was excellent! My suggestion would be to travel earlier in the season because many of the restaurants in the Denali area were closing the next week so there were sometimes limited food options. On the other hand, many of the souvenir shops had great discounts because they were at the end of their season!
The ship itself offered so many options that we could have stayed on the ship all day. The on-board options were provided daily in a brochure when our wonderful cabin steward turned down the bed and left us the towel animal of the day. My husband took advantage of several of the local wine and liquor tastings. We both participated in the many trivia games and dancing opportunities. I went to several of the talks on local history and gems. There were also technology classes, hair shows, craft workshops, and fitness classes. (I was too busy eating all the wonderful food to attend a fitness class!)
But my reason to travel is always to see as much as possible, so we took excursions or at least left the ship to explore as much as possible. We enlisted the help of friends who had made the trip before to choose excursions because there were so many options. We booked most of our excursions directly with the ship, but we also booked some directly with tour companies which does save money and often provides additional options.
You do have to be flexible and it pays off. Our helicopter trip to Mendenhall Glacier was cancelled due to inclement weather, but our last-minute bus trip to the foot of the glacier provided us with an up-close view of a brown bear with her two cubs. One of our other favorite excursions was the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari while we were at Haines during which we boarded an expedition boat and traveled through the fjord to Glacier point where we donned waders and heavy raincoats (provided by the cruise line) and carefully boarded canoes to paddle out to the glacier itself. The hike to the glacier was magnificent and the beauty of the entire area was breathtaking.
We cruised from Seward to Glacier Bay to Haines, then Juneau, Ketchikan, through the Inside Passage and landed in Vancouver. The cruise and land tour gave us opportunities to see brown bears, moose, eagles, whales and other assorted animals. The Alaskan scenery was breathtaking. At every turn there was something new to discover, whether it was cuddly husky puppies, calving glaciers, or booming towns.
I had doubted friends when they said they could go back and never see all Alaska has to offer, but this cruise made me a believer.