A couple of summers ago my family and I went on a 2-week adventure to Alaska.
Sprouting from an idea to remember my recently departed grandfather, this journey consisted of 2 separate expeditions — an Alaskan cruise and an Alaskan land tour.
We had over 20 members of my family joining us for the first journey at sea with 7 of us continuing onto the following land segment.
After reading other blogs on traveling to Alaska, this, in my opinion, is by far the best way to see the vast territory and beauty.
We chose to cruise through Norwegian Cruise Line for this vacation as their itineraries and accommodations matched exactly what we were trying to find.
Leaving out of Seattle, Washington, we were able to keep both costs of flights low and accommodate those in our family without a passport. Exploring Seattle the first night was amazing as we visited the famous gum wall, local aquarium, Pike’s Market, and outstanding Ferris wheel.
Once on the cruise, we all enjoyed each other’s company through Norwegian’s numerous areas and events onboard.
We found laying by the pool, watching Broadway-caliber performances, eating to our hearts’ desire, and playing cards in the lounge to be our best ways to spend time together on the cruise ship.
Our first stop was in Juneau, Alaska. This port was beautiful. Our travel party decided to split into multiple groups in order to satisfy everyone’s idea of fun.
While some people decided to go on a tour of the majestic Mendenhall Glacier through a hike, others decided to go on one of Norwegian’s downtown shore excursion.
The group I was in was a little more adventurous and decided to go rafting by a glacier. We were freezing practically the whole time but I loved being so up close with nature. We even saw a couple of grizzly bears on the shore line ( don’t worry, we didn’t let them get too close). I would not change choosing this excursion in a million years.
Next, we stopped in Skagway, Alaska. For this stop, our group (which included both young children and a person in a wheelchair) decided to ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.
We found that choosing this port excursion for our group was ideal for both seeing to beautiful scenery of Skagway and creating an atmosphere to honor my grandfather.
This railway was surrounded by a lot of history and brought us through the vast Alaskan forest and mountains.
Another perk of choosing a cruise to visit Alaska is seeing the beautiful glaciers up close.
Glacier Bay was stunning. Honestly, pictures did not do these glaciers justice.
Thankfully, Norwegian brought our cruise ship up close to the glaciers and let everyone observe and take in the beauty. They even had an expert speak on what glaciers were and how they formed into massive landmarks.
This port was definitely my favorite. The town of Ketchikan may be overrun with tourism in the heat of summer, but if you look closely, you can find instances of local charm.
For this port we decided to meander around the town. There were a lot of cute local shops and boutiques where we talked to the locals.
We also made sure to eat salmon as Ketchikan is the Salmon Capital of the World!
While Victoria is not necessarily going to add to your Alaskan experience, seeing beautiful Victoria in summer was absolutely beautiful.
There is so much history in this town that we did not truly understand until we visited.
Also, the stunning gardens throughout the city were perfect for photo ops!
Returning back to Seattle was bitter sweet.
To the majority of our group we were saying goodbye; however, the final 7 of us were ecstatic to go back up to Alaska after having a small taste.
Before I get too far into this segment, I want to explain why we decided to add this part onto our trip.
The reason why we were traveling to Alaska in the first place was to celebrate my grandfather’s life.
What better way to do this than visiting the very place his life began, Alaska.
During this part of the trip, we drove to see the town he was born in with his sister, two daughters, one of his sister’s daughters, and 3 of his grandchildren.
We decided to fly to Anchorage from Seattle for this portion of the trip as this was closest city with an airport to my grandfather’s hometown.
Once landing, we quickly packed up the car and headed to our final destination— Kennicott.
Throughout our road trip to Kennicott we made sure to watch for any scenic areas or fascinating wild life.
To no surprise, we ended up stopping… a lot.
In Alaska, there are glaciers pretty much everywhere. Even though we had already seen glaciers while on the cruise, during this part of our trip, we could actually walk on the massive ice blocks.
We also ended up staying in a small town along the way and kayaked with porpoises. This experience was truly magical.
We kayaked over 5 miles to see a local historic army base and then returned back to get on the road.
Our final destination. Our entire vacation had been leading up to this exact place.
Now I, not knowing that most towns in Alaska only had a few dozen residents, was shocked to find this ‘town’ looked more like what I would call a ‘village’.
This destination was so secluded that we had to wheel our luggage across a bridge, board another van, and only then could we continue our trek.
Nonetheless, Kennicott exceeded all expectations.
We stayed at a quaint inn, the only inn the town had, and visited peacefully for 4 nights exploring the historic town and discussing the history with the locals.
Who would have known they had coined a phrase they gave my great-aunt and grandfather— “The Kennicott Kids”. The locals here were fascinated by our family history and put a personal touch to the ending of our perfect family vacation.
While our family’s vacation may not be word-for-word what you are wanting for your Alaskan journey, I hope you can see the benefits of visiting Alaska by both land and sea.
The Bridge and River tour is a scenic 3-hour bicycle tour will take you from the Upper West Side of New York City up and over the George Washington Bridge for a ride along the river on Route 9W. Get the full touring experience and leave New York City for a few hours. During the ride, we make stops at Grants Tomb Memorial on the Upper West Side.