Research shows that most people planning a trip to Alaska want to see two places: Glacier Bay National Park and Denali National Park. You can get to Glacier Bay aboard a cruise ship and admire the national park’s stunning scenery from the comfort of your balcony stateroom. But to get to Denali (a.k.a. Mt. McKinley), you’ll have to get off the ship, lace up your hiking boots, and trek inland. That’s where a cruisetour comes in.
Cruisetours combine a cruise voyage with a fully escorted stay on land. The cruise lines have streamlined their product so that you’ll pay one price in exchange for two vacations ‘“ one at sea, and the other on land in the Alaskan interior.
You’ll also enjoy two completely different travel experiences. While at sea, you’ll gaze out at glaciers, fjords, and lots of marine life. While in the interior, you’ll see snow-capped mountains (on a clear day, you may want to “fly by” Denali, North America’s tallest peak), wildlife, and what some have called “the real Alaska.”
While a cruise offers travelers an excellent taste of Alaska, a cruisetour serves up the complete five-course dinner — the total Alaska experience.
Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International are all among the major cruise lines offering cruisetours. Each line employs their own tour guides, owns their own fleet of comfortable buses, and operates private glass-domed railcars that hitch up to the Alaska Railroad for the journey between Anchorage and Denali. The rail journey alone is spectacular — on a clear day, you’ll spot Denali’s dome several times from along the rails.
In total, a cruisetour will last anywhere from 10 days to three weeks. That includes the cruise portion of your trip, and you can choose to add your land stay either before or after you sail. Some cruisetours include two full days in Denali National Park, allowing you plenty of time to spot grizzly bears and admire the mountain scenery.
Travelers can explore Denali via 90 miles of semi-paved road that reaches deep into the park, or take to the skies and see Denali from an aerial perspective. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stay in back country lodges or mountain chateaus, and you’ll likely spend at least one night in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.
Some cruise lines offer close to thirty different cruisetour options. With so many variations available, it’s always advisable to speak to your cruise consultant about which option is best for you. Cruisetours also fill up quickly, so plan as far in advance as possible. The greatest number of cruisetour bookings occur in October and November — for the following year’s peak season — but it’s never too late to see what’s available.
Alaska is enormous. At 586,412 square miles, it’s more than twice the size of Texas, and cruise lines skirt only a small portion of the state’s 33,904 combined miles of coastline. For many, the real Alaska lies in the vast wilderness beyond the shorelines — and a cruisetour can take you there.
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