By Mandy Karlik
Sometimes I think that even if nobody new ever went on a first-ever cruise to Alaska, the cruise industry would stay busy with Alaskan cruises just taking people who’ve already been there back again…and again.
The largest state in a very large country, Alaska is probably not the place you think it is. First, it is a vast land where civilization exists in outposts against a wilderness background. There are many parts of Alaska where animals outnumber people.
The wilderness theme crops up where you would least expect it. Try to get in and out of the state’s capital city, Juneau, and you find that you need to do it by boat or plane. The place is not accessible by car.
Flying is altogether a normal way of going from point A to point B in Alaska. The state has made flight-seeing popular since so many great natural attractions were best accessed from the air.
Alaska also has a railroad system that was built specifically to show off the state’s enthralling natural beauty. Though not extensive, you can travel by rail in Alaska in dome-topped luxury club cars and see the mountains, valleys, and wildlife from the comfort of a luxury vehicle.
That’s not such a very different concept from cruising, where you can sail by glaciers, mountains, wildlife, and postcard-perfect scenery all without leaving the comfort of the balcony of your stateroom. (If you like to travel inside stateroom to save money, you can watch this from the many public rooms on the ship.)
If you cruise to Alaska, expect to find chilly temperatures, even in summer. Factor in the breeze off the water and the chill when the sun sets and you can see why a cruise to Alaska requires you to take what passes for winter wear in some of our more southern states.
Of course, that has never stopped adventurous souls from appreciating Alaska. The state has a very diverse history. First, it’s the only part of the United States that was ever once part of Russia. You may find Russian artifacts, habits, and even souvenirs in some places. When Seward bought Alaska for the U.S. in the 19th century, the deal was negotiated with Russia.
Early in its American history, Alaska became the sight of a gold stampede as lots of miners headed north to make their fortunes. A few even planned to pan for gold.
Today, Alaska is more concerned with “black gold,” or its native oil reserves. Despite abundant natural wealth and beauty, life and even tourism in Alaska isn’t always easy. Many products and services in Alaska are expensive, at least by lower-48 standards. The climate is cold and can be hostile, so travel requires a lot of advanced preparation and some physical hardiness.
That’s why an Alaskan cruise makes sense, particularly for those modern-day adventurers who aren’t so sure they want to climb a mountain of ice to see a glacier or struggle along an unpaved road in an off-road vehicle in the snow to get to the next town.
When shopping for an Alaskan cruise, look at the excursions that are offered. Most cruise ships offer plenty of time for you to soak up on-board activities, so you should take advantage of whatever shore excursions best match your interests.
Want to see polar bears? Go whale watching? Go fly fishing? Flight-see around a glacier? Shop for native art? Drive a dog sled? Most Alaskan cruises offer great excursions like these.
Some cruise shoppers penny pinch for excursions, but it is usually a better deal to penny pinch on a stateroom. Here’s why. The biggest part of your bill in seeing Alaska is getting there. That’s your cruise fare. Once you’re there, you may be able to flight-see or whale watch or do other once-in-a-lifetime thing for a few hundred dollars.
Think of it this way. If you wanted to go fishing for Alaskan king salmon, right this minute, you’d have to get to Alaska and then charter a fishing trip.
If you wanted to whale watch today, you’d have to get to Alaska and then book passage on a whale-watching expedition.
On the cruise, you’re already there. You’re just paying a supplement or up – charge for these incredible experiences. If you have to economize, you’re better off making do with a smaller or inside stateroom and getting the excursions.
Years from now, you won’t remember your cruise so much from what your room was like but rather the excursions you had.
Mandy Karlik loves to travel and wishes she was on a cruise ship to Alaska right now. If you’re not on an Alaskan cruise, either, find out how to get there by going to http://www.thecruise-shopper.com
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