Ask The Expert: Alaska, Cruise or Cruisetour?

Princess Cruise Ship

Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

Ask anyone who’s been to Alaska and they’ll tell you the best way to see magnificent scenery is from the water. To cruise Alaska’s dramatic coastline is to wander in the company of whales, to gasp at glaciers and to stand in awe of soaring, craggy peaks draped in forested green.   

When you start considering your options, you’ll quickly discover there’s more to cruising Alaska than simply stepping aboard and setting sail. What exactly distinguishes cruisetours? How is a traveler to decide which is the best option? Carefree Vacations has Alaska experts and here’s what they had to say:   

What is a cruisetour?   

In simple terms, a cruisetour is a seamless vacation that combines the best of both sea and land travel.   

How is this different from a cruise and its shore excursions?   

Cruisetours take a cruise’s shore excursions a step further. Alaska is a state of superlatives. It’s not only the biggest state, with its thousands of miles of shoreline, but also 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the United States are in Alaska, including Mt. McKinley, known as Denali, which is the highest peak in North America, at 20,320 feet. Looking at a map of Alaska it’s clear that Denali is inaccessible by water. The same is true of Fairbanks, the Yukon and much of the Arctic. To see those places requires more than a day’s shore excursion.   

How do cruisetours work exactly?   

Alaska Princess Cruisetour

Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

Cruises and cruisetours operate from the same ships. So, for example, the ship might sail from Vancouver and cruise up the Inside Passage to Anchorage. On the way, the ship calls in Ketchikan, Juneau and Glacier Bay, among other stops, with shore excursions available at each of those ports.   

When the ship arrives in Anchorage, some travelers might fly home from there, but the cruisetour passengers spend the night in Anchorage then board direct rail service for Denali. Over the next three to five days, they visit Denali National Park, stay in gorgeous lodges, hike, walk or take sightseeing and wildlife-viewing tours and then return to Anchorage by train for their trip home.   

For travelers on Princess Cruises cruisetour, they are able to bypass Anchorage and end their cruise in Whittier where they can walk to the train and head out to Denali, thus saving time and leaving more time for exploration.   

What are some favorite cruisetour opportunities?   

With more than 3,000 rivers, 3 million lakes and over 100,000 glaciers, Alaska is a naturalists dream! For travelers who are interested in fishing, wildlife, adventure travel, photography, riverboat cruising or natural history, there’s really nothing like this amazing place.   

What else can I see on my vacation to Alaska?   

Fairbanks still retains the gold rush frontier feeling, with a lot of amazing history. Dawson City, where the Klondike and the Yukon Rivers come together, is the heart of gold rush country. Cruisetours will take you into fascinating territory, with tremendously knowledgeable guides who can really bring the past to life.   

So how does a traveler decide whether to cruise or cruisetour?   

It depends on the traveler’s interests, time and energy. Many people like the “unpack just once” aspect of cruise travel. They really settle in on the ship, soak up the scenery, relax and make themselves at home. Shore excursions provide the right amount of touring and when they reach the cruise destination, they’re ready to return home. Other travelers feel their vacation isn’t complete if they haven’t explored some of the more inland scenery — they’ve come so far to reach Alaska that they want to see everything they possibly can. Those are the people who will love a cruisetour!   

Any final advice?   

With myriad activities and gorgeous landscapes, Alaska provides the perfect setting for a family or group vacation — three or even four generations can enjoy the experience together. Many cruise lines offer group rates with added amenities. Consulting an Alaska expert at Carefree Vacations is the first step to a vacation to remember!   

Our travel expert pages can help you find more information about Alaska.   

JetSet Jen for Carefree Vacations

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