Alaska 2012 - Skip and Cathie Brandon
by Cathie Brandon
(Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
We chose this trip for our 30th Anniversary. We booked with Holland America, starting with a flight to Fairbanks for a 5 day land tour, followed by a 7 day southbound cruise from Seward to Vancouver. We figured if we were going all the way to Alaska, we had better have a good look around while we were up there and we certainly did!
While in Fairbanks, we went on a riverboat cruise on the Chena river, which included a visit to Susan Butcher's mush camp and a tour of a traditional Athabaskan Fish Camp. It was very well organized and informative. The next day we toured an old gold mine operation and panned for gold!
From Fairbanks, we took the McKinley Explorer (rail) to Denali National Park and Preserve. What a beautiful place! I was amazed at how differently this park is managed, compared to our National Parks in Alberta. Vehicular traffic is severely restricted in the Park. We took the Tundra Wilderness Tour which, for me, was one of the highlights of the trip. We toured in an old school bus. We saw Mount Denali early in the morning, unobstructed by clouds, then drove through some gorgeous valleys until we were well above the tree line. Our driver/tour guide was fabulous and we managed to see moose, Dall's sheep and even a pair of grizzlies! So beautiful!
From Denali, we took the McKinley Explorer to Anchorage, then bused along the Cook Inlet to Seward. We took a side trip to Portage Glacier, where we were able to take a cruise on an icebreaker. Although it was June, there was still ice on the lake in front of the glacier, Again, the scenery was stunning and we had lots of opportunities for pictures.
We boarded the Zaandam in Seward, and headed through the night across the Gulf of Alaska. Our first day at sea was very foggy, but it cleared up the next day just in time for our trip to Glacier Bay. Again, the spectacular scenery was a highlight of the trip. In Haines, we toured Fort Seward and took an Alaska Wildlife Excursion. We went whale watching in Juneau, and shopped in Ketchican and toured the Creek Street district. On board the Zaandam, the meals were fabulous and our room with the veranda was very comfortable. The stewards were great. We were well treated! It was a very relaxing trip for our first cruise and we would recommend it! We would book with Holland America again.