Great Alaskan Explorer


Board this convenient Seattle roundtrip cruise and experience nature's awesome sculpting power at Tracy Arm and Hubbard Glacier. Visit Homer, the "Halibut Capital of the World.

Members from: $2,944 P.P Twin ShareNon-members from: $2,959 P.P Twin Share

  • Type

    Ocean Cruising

  • Destination

    Canada, Alaska & USA

  • Cruise Line

    Holland America

  • Supplier

    Holland America

  • Booking Code

    A938

  • Departs

    6 September 2021



Itinerary


Day 1 Vancouver, B.C., CA

Once a trading post and a rough-and-tumble sawmilling settlement, today modern Vancouver, Canada is many things. It’s a bustling seaport, a hub for outdoor enthusiasts looking for active things to do in Vancouver, an ethnically diverse metropolis and Hollywood of the North. Hemmed in by mountains and sea, Vancouver seduces visitors with its combination of urban sophistication and laid-back attitude against a backdrop of glass towers and modern sights and plentiful green spaces.

Vancouver's culinary and cocktail scene is on the rise—and its excellent restaurants and hopping bars have a distinctively local stamp on them. If you are looking for where to go in Vancouver for music, theater and the arts, they are thriving in the city’s many museums, galleries and performance venues. Beyond the downtown attractions in Vancouver, days of exploration and sightseeing await among the colorful suburbs, unspoiled islands and the vast, rugged wilderness.

Day 2 Scenic Cruising The Inside Passage

Alaska’s Inside Passage is a protected network of waterways that wind through glacier-cut fjords and lush temperate rain forests along the rugged coast of Southeast Alaska. Arguably one of the greatest cruising routes in the world, the Inside Passage stretches through stunning landscapes, from Misty Fjords National Monument to famed Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.

Sailing the Inside Passage offers opportunities to spot some of Alaska’s most iconic wildlife, with humpback whales and orca plying the bountiful waters alongside the ships, bald eagles soaring overhead and brown bears lumbering on the shoreline.

Numerous ports along the way recount Alaska’s colorful history. In Sitka, an onion-domed church marks Russia’s onetime foothold in the Americas; Ketchikan provides a glimpse of the Native Alaskan experience, with historic totem poles and native-arts galleries; and the legendary town center of Skagway bustles as it did at the turn of the 19th century, when it served as the rowdy Wild West gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush.

Day 3 Ketchikan, Alaska, US

Alaska’s “First City” of Ketchikan is so named because it’s the first major landfall for most cruisers as they enter the picturesque fjords of the Inside Passage, where the town clings to the banks of the Tongass Narrows, flanked by green forests nurtured by abundant rain.

Ketchikan has long been an important hub of the salmon-fishing and -packing industries—visitors can try their luck on a sportfishing excursion or simply savor the fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants. It is also one of the best spots along the Inside Passage to explore the rich cultural sights of Native Alaskan nations like the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. You can see intricately carved totem poles at the Totem Heritage Center and Totem Bight State Park, while the attractions of Saxman Village just outside of Ketchikan offers the chance to see Tlingit culture in action, with working carvers and a dance show in the clan house. And leave time to explore the sights in the town itself, including historic Creek Street, a boardwalk built over the Ketchikan Creek, where you can shop for souvenirs, smoked salmon and local art, while exploring gold rush­–era tourist attractions like Dolly’s House Museum.

Day 4 Scenic Cruising Tracy Arm

Steep cliffs and glacier-covered mountains flank this fjord, fringed by the largest intact coastal temperate rain forest in the United States. Old-growth trees colonized Tracy Arm’s mouth long ago as the Ice Age retreated. But further up the sinuous 48-kilometer (30-mile) waterway, its icy grip lingers a little. There, the twin Sawyer Glaciers flow from the peaks down to the sea, sloughing off stories-high chunks of water frozen decades or even centuries before. Even more glorious than nearby Glacier Bay, Tracy Arm is part of the 5.7 million acres (or around 23,000 square kilometers) of pure wilderness sheltered by the Tongass National Forest (America’s biggest). Visitors often see bears, whales and mountain goats roaming across various corners of this pristine area—not to mention chubby baby seals resting on the ice floes.Summer temperatures average 35 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 16 degrees Celsius), so pack warm clothing. And don’t forget waterproof gear, even when traveling by cruise ship: More than a meter and a half of rain falls here each year! We also recommend a water bottle, thermos or reusable coffee cup: On scenic cruising days, cruise ships ban paper and disposable plastic products that could litter this unsullied environment.

Day 5 Haines (Skagway), Alaska, US

There’s a reason Haines is known as the adventure capital of Alaska. Although many cities in Alaska feel different than those in “the lower 48,” Haines is more unusual than most with its unique rustic feel. It’s almost as if time has stopped and chain stores, and even stoplights, haven’t infiltrated this town of 1,300 that once topped Outside magazine’s list of “20 Best Places to Live and Play.”

In the late 1890s, when Jack Dalton turned an Indian trail into a tollway ($10 for four horses with an unloaded sled or wagon), the town emerged as a stop for prospectors headed to the Yukon for the Klondike Gold Rush. Decades later it became a logging town, before turning to tourism beginning in the 1970s. These days, Haines is known as a haven for artists and nature lovers and is visited by far fewer cruise ships than other Alaskan coastal cities.

Haines is a hotspot for rafting and hiking, salmon-, halibut- and trout-fishing in the Chilkat River or kayaking on Chilkoot Lake—as well as heli-skiing in the winter. During the late fall and early winter, thousands of bald eagles migrate through this area to feed on the salmon, an event celebrated by the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival in November. The memory of prospector days lingers on with opportunities to pan for gold, while the Indian Arts gallery, with its totem pole carving studio, offers a glimpse of an even older Haines.

Day 7 Icy Strait Point, Alaska, US

Back in the old days when a freezer was a piece of ice, fishermen in Alaska had two problems. The first one was finding the fish, although that wasn’t too complicated, the ocean was chock-full of fins; but the second problem was a little harder. The government regulated how long you could keep your catch on the boat, and it wasn’t very long.

Canneries were the answer. Owning a cannery was having a license to print money. Really. As operations spread up and down Southeast Alaska, each cannery had its own currency. True company towns, canneries had their own workforce, their own laws. A big cannery needed a couple hundred workers, for everything from keeping books to making the millions of cans needed to ship all that fish, as well as the actual cleaning and prepping of fish on the line, called "slime row."


Canneries were usually somewhere beautiful, someplace you could see from far off and aim your boat towards. But canneries didn’t survive the advent of refrigeration. Most were taken back by the forest or simply left to rot. With one exception: Icy Strait Point, beautifully restored. Just opposite Glacier Bay, Icy Strait Point stretches for a few hundred meters along the beach; the old wooden buildings, bright red in the endless green of the Tongass, now offer a museum and a cannery demo. But more interesting is simply the madness of scale. Icy Strait Point gives a chance to look into history to see where Alaska’s money came from, all in a ghost town of millions of fish.

Day 8 Anchorage, Alaska, US

After long and dark winters, Alaskans love their summers and the residents of Anchorage, Alaska are no exception. The city plants thousands of flowers to celebrate the arrival of warmer months and days that last as long as 19 hours from dawn to dusk.

Approximately 40 percent of Alaska’s population lives in Anchorage. This diverse city of 300,000 includes a large military population, Native Alaskans, individuals who work for the oil industry and adventure-seeking types who want to get away from “the Lower 48.” Much like Seattle, Anchorage is a place where you can find a coffee shop (or espresso shack) anywhere. Locals enjoy skijoring, a winter sport where a person is pulled on skis by one or more dogs or sometimes a horse. While some cities have deer, Anchorage has lots of moose, known for being a bit rambunctious (and should be steered clear of if seen wandering down a street).

Anchorage is a city where you can see the northern lights—the aurora borealis—on a clear dark night, typically during colder months. There are also plenty of active things to do and attractions to hike, bike and see wildlife such as the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail or Flattop Mountain Trail inside Chugach State Park.

Day 9 Homer, Alaska, US

This plucky little town sells End of the Road certificates to visitors who’ve motored here to the furthest reach of the Kenai Peninsula. It’s something worth celebrating: a drive down the world’s longest street that protrudes into the ocean! But walkers, bikers and in-line skaters can also experience the thrill, thanks to a 6.5-kilometer-long (four-mile-long) paved multiuse trail.

The rich fishing grounds here attracted Native Alaskans centuries before Captain James Cook claimed the Kenai Peninsula for Britain in 1778. After some Russian tyranny—fur traders forced Native Alaskans to hunt sea-otter pelts for them—Homer got a proper start as an English-settled coal-mining town in the 1890s.

Today the area’s known as the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World, and it captivates audiences around the globe as the home of the Discovery Channel’s Kilcher family, made famous by Alaska: The Last Frontier. Homer’s port also anchors the F/V Time Bandit, which swashbuckled into TV viewers’ hearts via Deadliest Catch. Top Homer attractions include the Pratt Museum, the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center and hikes at Grewingk Glacier Lake.

Day 10 Valdez, Alaska, USA

A paradise for fishing enthusiasts, Valdez offers every kind of salmon, huge halibut and ample opportunity to reel them in. Rivers and streams spill into the Sound here and are ideal for kayaking.

Day 11 Hubbard Glacier

Sailors used to worry about falling off the edge of the world. Surely somewhere out there, it all simply stopped, and the only thing left to do would be to fall. But what if you discover that you’ve already fallen, and now you’re trying to get back up? That’s what sailing towards Hubbard Glacier feels like.

The glacier is up to 65 meters (213 feet) wide at its face and 50 meters (164 feet) tall, but that’s only the tiniest piece of the ice: The main channel of this frozen river begins 122 kilometers (76 miles) back, pouring down from around the 3,400-meter (11,100-foot) mark off the shoulder of Mt. Walsh.

Hubbard is the longest tidewater glacier (meaning it ends at the ocean) in North America. But unlike nearly every other tidewater glacier on the continent, Hubbard is advancing, not retreating; it’s forever pushing a little further into the bay. Chunks of ice that break off become floaties for seals, who like the bergs because orca sonar doesn’t work well among them.

The deep blue of the face of the glacier on a sunny day—the color made by compression of ice crystals that can be a foot or more long—is the blue of the furthest stars. The glacier is on the move.

Day 12 Juneau, Alaska, US

Juneau, Alaska may well be the most remote, most beautiful and strangest state capital in the United States. Surrounded by water, forest and mountain sights, visitors seeking things to do in Juneau indoors and outdoors can hike a glacier, eat fresh-caught fish on a seaside patio and tour a grand capitol building all in one day.

The city itself is pleasant, but the real highlight of a visit to Juneau is tracking down some wildlife. You can hike up Mount Roberts to chance upon wild deer and bald eagles. Most sightseeing and whale-watching tours head north to Auke Bay—bring a good pair of binoculars to get the best view of these majestic and surprisingly graceful creatures. If you prefer land mammals, catch a floatplane to a nearby wildlife reserve such as Chichagof or Admiralty Island to spy some bears lolling around.

The sleepy, misty city of around 32,000—mostly fishermen and small-business owners—has a frontier town vibe, but welcomes more than a million visitors each summer to its natural attractions, cementing Juneau as Alaska’s number-one tourist destination.

Day 13 Misty Fiords, US

Sculpted by glaciers over millions of years, Misty Fjords’ u-shaped “canals” wind through steep canyons of granite, shrouded in western hemlock, Sitka spruce and western red cedar. Misty Fjords is a part of Tongass National Forest and home to grizzlies, salmon, whales, mountain goats and deer.

Day 14 Scenic Cruising The Inside Passage

Alaska’s Inside Passage is a protected network of waterways that wind through glacier-cut fjords and lush temperate rain forests along the rugged coast of Southeast Alaska. Arguably one of the greatest cruising routes in the world, the Inside Passage stretches through stunning landscapes, from Misty Fjords National Monument to famed Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.

Sailing the Inside Passage offers opportunities to spot some of Alaska’s most iconic wildlife, with humpback whales and orca plying the bountiful waters alongside the ships, bald eagles soaring overhead and brown bears lumbering on the shoreline.

Numerous ports along the way recount Alaska’s colorful history. In Sitka, an onion-domed church marks Russia’s onetime foothold in the Americas; Ketchikan provides a glimpse of the Native Alaskan experience, with historic totem poles and native-arts galleries; and the legendary town center of Skagway bustles as it did at the turn of the 19th century, when it served as the rowdy Wild West gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush.

Day 15 Vancouver, B.C., CA

Once a trading post and a rough-and-tumble sawmilling settlement, today modern Vancouver, Canada is many things. It’s a bustling seaport, a hub for outdoor enthusiasts looking for active things to do in Vancouver, an ethnically diverse metropolis and Hollywood of the North. Hemmed in by mountains and sea, Vancouver seduces visitors with its combination of urban sophistication and laid-back attitude against a backdrop of glass towers and modern sights and plentiful green spaces.

Vancouver's culinary and cocktail scene is on the rise—and its excellent restaurants and hopping bars have a distinctively local stamp on them. If you are looking for where to go in Vancouver for music, theater and the arts, they are thriving in the city’s many museums, galleries and performance venues. Beyond the downtown attractions in Vancouver, days of exploration and sightseeing await among the colorful suburbs, unspoiled islands and the vast, rugged wilderness.


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