Alaska, America’s 49th State, is still a land of unspoiled beauty, despite the huge amount of tourist traffic it receives year after year.
Unlike most other regions that the cruise ships sail to, Alaska is
unique in that people visit the area not for its man-made tourist
attractions but for its natural beauty that has been luring travellers
here for many years. Majestic glaciers abound and most cruise
itineraries include a day of cruising to view them. Wildlife sightings
are commonplace here and there is nothing as wonderful as standing at
the rail of the ship, watching a group of humpback whales breaching not
more than 50 yards away. As you sail close to the shoreline, sightings
of bear are not uncommon. The sight of a bald eagle, with its huge
wingspan, circling overhead makes Alaska a truly magical place.
Why visit Alaska?
THE 49TH AMERICAN STATE
Take a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad
There are several ports in Alaska that cruise ships will make day
stops to. There’s Juneau, which boasts the Mount Robert’s Tramway, which
provides a unique six minute ride 1,800 feet up the mountain. From
there you can enjoy amazing views of the city and of the Gastineau
Channel. Don’t forget to make a stop at the Red Dog Saloon, which has to
be the most talked-about pub in the United States, complete with
honky-tonk music and good wholesome fun and wonderful food.
Sitka is probably most famous for its Alaska Raptor Centre. This
non-profit facility dedicates itself to restoring the health of various
birds of prey, primarily eagles, who have been injured or stricken with
various illnesses, many unique to the birds in this region. The goal is
to restore these birds to health and then return them to the wild,
though some who are too badly injured are housed in the Centre’s
permanent facility. Comprehensive tours are offered of the Centre, with
all proceeds raised going toward the vital work of this organisation and
its many volunteer workers. Sitka contains many remnants of Alaska’s
Russian heritage, including St. Michael’s Cathedral. The Russian
Bishop’s House, containing a historic park in which can be found totem
poles and story boards detailing the past of the region’s Tlingit
Indians, can also be found in Sitka.
There are also many smaller towns in America’s 49th state,
though many of them are too small for the larger cruise ships to
access. However, some of the smaller lines routinely visit these ports
(such as Haines) and provide tourists with some unique perspectives of
the region not available to the big ship passengers.
Weather in Alaska is generally mild all spring and summer, though it
is best to always dress with several layers. Visit in early spring or
late summer if you want to experience Alaska in less crowded conditions,
though you will have a greater chance of colder weather or rainy
conditions at these times. But even at the beginning and end of the
Alaska season, it is not unusual to have very, very mild weather, and
cruisers have reported touring Alaska towns in shirtsleeves and
sunglasses at these times.
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