For many people, the travel craving is profound, but the way we want to travel has changed as we spent hours searching the web, looking at potential destinations and experiences. As we consider future vacation plans, our travel aspirations have become grander, and we seek opportunities to discover new places and cultures even more than revisiting old favorites.
That’s why an Alaskan cruise should definitely be on your radar. And if you’re going to invest the time and effort to travel all the way to The Last Frontier, you should also explore extending your time with a cruisetour option that will reveal the magnificent inland opportunities of the state. Think about it, Alaska is huge — bigger than Texas, California and Montana combined! And while it does offer more coastline than all of the East and West Coast of the continental U.S., if you limit yourself to only sightseeing from onboard a ship, you’re missing out on so many of the treasures Alaska and its people have to offer.
That’s where Celebrity Cruises comes in — one of the largest players in the Alaskan cruise game with years of experience piloting multiple itineraries aboard three ships cruising the Inside Passage and along the coast from departure ports in Seattle, Vancouver and Seward. Celebrity offers luxurious accommodations, premium meals and unforgettable experiences both on the ship and as part of once-in-a-lifetime excursions during stops at ports of call along your trip. Even more desirable are their special Cruisetours, which guests can schedule either at the beginning or end of their itinerary to extend their vacations by two to six nights for the opportunity to explore the beauty and history of the interior of the state.
We spoke to Celebrity Cruises Manager of Cruisetours Brendan Halcomb about why adding an overland option to your cruise is so valuable and what you should expect on your adventure. “On a scenic Alaskan cruise, you can see and do so many things,” he explains. “You’ll enjoy great meals and accommodations at night, but it’s even more about what you can do outside, from admiring the mountains and the glaciers as you sail by, to getting off the ship to explore historic ports like Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau and Skagway. Off the ship, you’ll discover misty fjords in Ketchikan that are surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, the biggest of all U.S. National Forests and the largest remaining temperate rainforest on Earth. Juneau has fantastic opportunities for whale watching, as does Icy Strait. And Skagway offers a glimpse into Alaska’s gold rush history, with the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad still in operation to carry you through the magnificent scenery.”
While those might seem like plenty of reasons to book your Alaskan cruise today, Brendan suggests that adding a pre or post land tour is the way to go. “Think about it,” he explains. “Most people have four desired experiences on a trip to Alaska: wilderness, wildlife, mountains and glaciers. To elevate all of those, you really need to travel inland.” If you’d like the opportunity to encounter Alaska’s “Big Five” animals: moose, caribous, wolves, grizzly bears and Dall sheep, you’re going to have to head into the interior. In fact, all five of those animals and America’s tallest peak, Denali mountain, are in Denali National Park, which is nearly 300 miles from the port at Seward. So, it’s not like you’ll really be able to visit as part of a one-day cruise excursion.
For that, you’ll need to carve out the time to be a part of an organized Cruisetour, not like that’s a huge sacrifice since you’ll be pampered, entertained and educated throughout the duration of your trip. All Celebrity Alaska Cruisetours are fully escorted by local tour guides who offer their own personal insights into the experience of living in Alaska. They are great to ask advice about what to see or where to eat in each town you stop in, and they are very well-versed in the history and culture of the regions you pass through.
Cruisetours take advantage of luxury motorcoaches to transport you from town to town every day, with typically no more than four- to six-hour travel segments. Each leg of the trip is broken up by an extended lunch break where you can take advantage of your guide’s insider knowledge to grab the best fresh halibut sandwich or stretch your legs while you explore the charming communities.
“The perseverance it took to settle Alaska is real,” shares Brendan. “These are very strong people, and it comes through on land tours when you spend time actually meeting the locals.” The daily schedule on a Cruisetour is thoughtfully designed to allow for plenty of time to explore on your own in addition to organized excursions. Optional excursions offer a plethora of experiences to choose from, ranging from fly fishing, touring local craft beer spots, dog sled rides or a hike through nature. Through each experience and interaction with native Alaskans, guests learn of the state’s amazing history that stretches back thousands of years, the perseverance of early settlers, and the incredible people who reside in Alaska today.
Keep in mind that during the summer cruising season, from May until September, the weather is often beautiful, and you might have as much as 20 hours of sunlight to see the sights and sites. From the time you put your bags outside your door in the morning to be loaded on the bus for you until you arrive at the day’s stopping point in the mid-afternoon for a planned excursion, you’ll be traveling in comfort.
Lodging each night is at the finest available accommodations in each town, and each property has something unique to offer. In Denali, you can sit by a roaring fire pit and overlook a glacier-fed river flowing right by the front door of the national park. At the chateau-style Alyeska Resort, take advantage of a heated pool that opens onto lush valleys, dine in mountain-top restaurants, or take in the view of Denali mountain (formerly Mt. McKinley) from Talkeetna Alaska Lodge’s surrounding walking and hiking trails.
Dinner is available at each night’s accommodations, or you are welcome to go into town and experience some local flavors. “Much of what you want to experience is right where you are,” explains Brendan. “We believe that free time is essential, and we make sure to build it into every Cruisetour schedule.”
Every Celebrity Alaska Cruisetour includes a rail component, so you’ll get to experience the primary mode of transit for long trips throughout Alaska’s history. These rail cars feature wide, luxurious reclining leather seats, full bar and bistro service, and modern domed observation cars where you can marvel in 360 degrees of natural beauty while traveling through the wilderness on rails. There’s really no better way to discover the unspoiled natural beauty of Alaska’s interior.
Whether you choose to start your Cruisetour experience on land or at sea, Celebrity Cruises can help you book every element of your travel, including arrival and departure from each end of your trip. Celebrity is accepting bookings for 2022 and beyond, and it’s shaping up to be a busy season, so click here and start planning today. Each itinerary focuses on different aspects of Alaska’s magnificent interior, from wildlife to national parks with varying durations and stops along the way, but all of them showcase the beauty and culture of the 49th state. You can also investigate special packages and available upgrades, and remember onboard drinks, WiFi and tips are always included with a Celebrity cruise.
Brendan has one final recommendation for you. “You should definitely take a cruise to Alaska! You’ll enjoy an amazing luxury cruise experience onboard, go to unique destinations and have the experiences of a lifetime. But the interior experiences are also very special, and the best way to explore Alaska is by combining land and sea with a Cruisetour!”
This article is sponsored by Celebrity Cruises. All photography provided by Celebrity Cruises.