Wanderlust {Alaska}

My parents celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago and it has us already looking ahead to their big 50th next year because we are ALL going to Alaska to celebrate that along with Whit and Jay’s 10th birthdays!!!

This all started with John at age 3 wanting to go to Atlantis because he saw a commercial for it.  Not really knowing much about kids and their memories, we promised him then that he could pick somewhere IN the USA to go and celebrate when he was 10.  He never forgot that promise and eventually chose California because it was “as far away as you can go in the USA” (we didn’t correct him).  Well, the little brother supremely outsmarted the big when he picked Alaska “because it is, actually, WAY farther than California.”  (Please imagine him saying that exactly like that.  “Actually” and all.  LOL)  Whit has been watching you tube videos and reading books about this trip for years.  He talks about it so much that Mother and Daddy-O decided they wanted to go to Alaska too. Not to be “left out in the cold” (quite literally), Sister and her family are coming as well!!!

After much soul searching (haha) and research, we decided not to take a Disney Cruise, but Holland America instead.  This will be our big trip of 2019 and we will visit Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway on the sea portion and end on land with three days in Denali.

We are a year out, but are already thinking about booking port excursions.  While I have a list in mind already, I would LOVE to know your favorites!!  We will likely split up as families during the day, with my crew being BIG adventure seekers, my parents absolutely NOT adventure seekers, and Sister’s family somewhere in between.  So, comment with anything and everything you loved in Alaska – experiences, excursions, dining, cultural, etc.!!

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17 thoughts on “Wanderlust {Alaska}

  1. We did the same trip about a decade ago. Ketchikan is just fun to walk around – we went to the totems park, lumberjack show, and then enjoyed some Alaskan Amber before boarding the ship. In Juneau we did the helicopter ride up to the glacier and went glacier trekking and rappelling for the day. Amazing, adventurous experience! In skagway, we took the train to the yukon and back and also went to a dog sled camp to visit the cute pups and took a ride. Some of the best views will be from your ship. Most cruises have a national park ranger on board hosting nature talks and pointing out wildlife throughout your trip.
    We did this pre-kids, but hope to take our children when they are a bit older and have a chance to visit the interior as well. Enjoy!

    1. Holland America was one that pioneered cruising in Alaska. They can sail places like Glacier Bay that Disney (and most others) can’t. They also have a resort at the base of Denali and we really wanted to combine a land and sea. My clients that have done Holland America ALL come back with wonderful feedback as well. Finally, since all but CeeCee will be over age 10, we weren’t super concerned about kids clubs.

  2. Our whole family went too, for my parents 50th which coincided with eldest high school graduation. We did the train( which everyone does) in Skagway. It is not adventurous, but my youngest son and gf just got back on Friday from a new Norwegian ship and they chose to bike down from the train instead of riding the train back down. They saw a bear. They also went to the Mendenhall glacier. They did a canoe trip over for a clam chowder bake somewhere. You have to ride those rubber boats to Sitka which kind of freaked me out. They saw whales, seals, etc from their balcony. You can rent kayaks someplace too.
    That’s all I remember for now. Have fun!

  3. OMGOSH!!! How fantastic is that!!!!???!!! I think that is so smart to split up and do things that appeal to each family. It will make the trip much more enjoyable for everyone. I can’t wait to hear more as you get closer to the departure. Smart kid—-ACTUALLY it IS further. lol xo Diana

  4. Hey Amanda! We took this cruise 2 years ago for our 40th anniversary. We did some amazing things that I want to recommend and something we wished we had done. What we wished we had done was take the train both to and from Denali. It’s an upgrade but so worth it! The bus to Denali takes nearly all day and was no fun. The train is so much better!

    We booked excursions in each port and felt that it made the trip really special. Our favorite was helicopter ride followed by walking on a glacier! Other fun excursions were a narrow gauge train ride up a mountain with a bike ride down and zip lining. All excursions were booked thru Holland America. The day in glacier bay was amazing! And yes, book the excursions as soon as they are available since sometimes they sell out. I know you’ll have a great trip!

  5. I went on a similar trip with Royal Caribbean about a decade ago. The time of the year you go is crucial and you need to make sure you have a Plan B because the weather will impact your excursions. We went in late September and the weather wrecked havoc with several plans. We had planned on going on the helicopter ride to the glacier where we are going to dog sled. It was cancelled due to weather. We had also planned to sail on the Deadliest Catch ship but again, weather conditions cancelled that excursion as well. The train along the Yukon Territory is great. We went whale watching but booked through a private service rather than the cruise ship which was much more intimate. Ketchikan and Skagway are really unique. I was not very impressed with Juneau. Enjoy your trip! Alaska is beautiful.

  6. This trip sounds awesome. Exactly what we are looking to do next summer. I’ll be contacting your travel business. I know you are on vacation this week. Thanks for sharing.

  7. We did the same trip 9years ago with holland America.
    Our absolute favorite excursion was dog sledding on a glacier in Juneau. We took a helicopter ride up to the glacier. Your boys would LOVE the dog sledding camp and they let you take turns driving the dog sled.
    In Skagway and Ketchikan we did a train ride that was hours long and it was awful. I think that was Skagway but can’t remember for sure. In the other city we took a float plane to the misty fijords. I look back at my pics and they are gorgeous but I was so nauseated from the float plane that all I can remember is praying I would make it back to the dock before I threw up (I did for the record). I think there is a boat ride to the misty fijords which would prob be a lot more enjoyable if anyone gets motion sickness!
    I know whale watching was one of our options and it was what I wanted to do but got vetoed. I still wish we had done that!
    I don’t recommend the 8hr bus ride through denali National Park. We saw very few wild animals and the bus was really uncomfortable. I know there were lots of fun outdoor activities offered..I couldn’t do any of them bc I was pregnant but I know things like white water rafting were offered!
    The train ride to Denali in the dome train car is actually really great. I was dreading the long ride but the guides were really funny and the train was very comfortable and the views were breathtaking!

  8. Hi Amanda~
    My husband and I just got back Sunday from a 10 day cruise out of San Francisco with Princess to celebrate our 40th anniversary. The weather was amazing – no rain at all! We did a wonderful whale watching tour with Gastineau Gliding in Juneau, which also included a hike to the Mendenhall Glacier. In Skagway we took the train up to Carcross in the Yukon Territory and saw a simulated dog sled ride, ate lunch and went in the museum. We went to Totem Bight Park in Ketchikan as well as the Lumberjack show (I think the boys would enjoy that-kind of cheesy, but fun). Nothing too exciting/adventurous, but we did have a good trip! I think you should try zip lining, and if you can afford it, either (or both) a float plane or helicopter excursion. I wish I did!!

  9. We did this a couple years ago, though through Norwegian. We had an absolute blast! Our main excursion was in Juneau – the helicopter ride up to Mendenhall Glacier. In Skagway we took the bus out to the outskirts and did some hiking to waterfalls back up behind an old mining cemetery. The town was fun to walk around, too. Next time I’m there, would love to take the train trip. In Ketchikan there is the lumberjack show, but we chose to just walk around and wound up at the Discovery Center for the Tongass National Forest and also the town museum. So interesting and cute! The Glacier Bay day was great too – on our ship they opened up the front deck at the captain level and we were able to go out there to view. You’re going to have so much fun!

  10. We did the Disney Wonder in June. It was amazing… Stopped in same ports. The weather was great. We did the dog sledding and the Glacier adventure in Juneau . We were suppose to do train in Ketchikan but there was a rock slide so we took a bus. The bus was probably better, we got to stop and explore. We saw a momma & 2 baby bears up close. It rained just a little in Skagway but we’re still able to explore . Hope y’all enjoy it as much as we did !

  11. We’ve cruised to Alaska 4 Times and always with Holland America. We’ve travelled on other lines extensively but have always used HA for Alaska. Highly recommend a domed train ride to Denali, and the dog sled training camp of a former Iditarod champion. We were able to hold 6 week old pups and had a ball! The lumberjack show was fun too. However the highlight was watching the glacier calve while sipping split pea soup (on board). Our captain even detoured a little off course on our way out because he heard there was a pod of whales. That was an unexpected bonus to an already great day.

  12. Amanda – My husband and I were tour guides in Alaska at one point in our life. Holland America is a GREAT cruse line. You will really enjoy it. We were tour guides on the train that went from Anchorage to Fairbanks. I want to encourage you to participate in the land tour if you can. While the cruses are great, the land tour provides so much more. The scenery from Anchorage to Denali is every changing and depending on when you are booked, the animals you will see are everywhere. Of course seeing Mt. McKinley is a must!

    On the cruse – try to do a helicopter ride and land on a glacier, participate in a dog sled ride (these can be completed in Juneau). They also have a zip line there that is fun. Also, if you can catch a glacier calving – that is a sight to see!

    I know that your family will enjoy every moment! Ask any questions and I’ll be glad to help.

  13. We just went on this HA cruise for our ten year anniversary this summer. We didn’t have have kids with us but our absolute favorite excursion hands down was a seaplane ride with Island Wings in Ketchikan. I am a super nervous flier but this was absolutely amazing and unforgettable! http://www.islandwings.com

    We also loved a paddle and hiking trek on MEndenhall glacier in Juneau. Glacier Bay and Alaska in general are just stunning!

  14. My father in law and his wife (step-mother-in-law? i don’t know, I call her Gayle, she’s great) just got back a few weeks ago from this cruise I think.. or maybe it was Norwegian? Regardless, I will ask Gayle what her favorite things were to do, etc. Perhaps I’ll send her to your blog or your travel facebook for her to go and give you suggestions of what they liked as retirees.

    by the way, this is like their 3rd cruise vacation this year, along with going to Hawaii a year ago, several beach trips, camping trips, and going to Colorado for a week this summer. Ohhhh the life of being retired! HAHAHAHAHA

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