Rugged Alaska is truly the last frontier, where wide open spaces abound and wild animals still outnumber people. For me its appeal is in a topography that is so unlike Hawaii’s. The extreme cold requires hearty vegetation. Evergreens do not flourish as they do in the Pacific Northwest, the barrier of ice beneath the soil preventing the penetration of tree roots. Most of Denali National Park is comprised of craggy, barren hills dotted with low lying bushes and rivulets formed by melting snow. There it’s possible to see bears, in clear view, ambling up hillsides or wandering alongside the road in search of food. Some with cubs trailing behind, others meandering in solitude. Moose or elk might be seen, if one looks really hard, standing like statues behind patches of tall trees and brush. They wisely remain safely ensconced, out of range of hunters and their guns. Bears don’t seem to have that same innate dread, sidling up to tour buses sniffing the air hoping for a tasty morsel. Perhaps a “tourist-Mcmuffin?”
A number of years ago, my husband and one of his sisters organized a family cruise to Alaska. Twenty five of us sailed from Vancouver, BC, for a week of fun at sea. We all agreed it was the best vacation ever. Traveling with relatives on a ship meant having companions close by, with “elbow room” to do our own thing when we wanted. We shared formal evening meals in the main dining room. We celebrated our daughter’s high school graduation in the Pinnacle Grill, a very special gathering. My husband hosted a cocktail hour for the entire group in the Crow’s Nest lounge. Other than these get-togethers, everyone ate breakfast and lunch where they chose, in the Lido Restaurant or around the pool. Ship board activities were also left to everyone’s discretion, which included relaxing, shopping, swimming and gambling. Evenings we lounged together in the Piano Bar, the Sports Bar, the Crow’s Nest, the Lido Lounge or the disco. After dinner, most of us strolled to the rear of the ship for a musical extravaganza or a magic act. Some of the men got sidetracked, settling at gaming tables where we found them later, still gambling. A couple might have been big winners, although I’m not sure if they “broke even,” having invested a good amount. What’s certain is that they had a fabulous time.
Shore excursions were a “free-for-all.” A few of the men went fishing, some toured Mendenhal Glacier by helicopter where they landed for a dog sled ride, others walked the ports poking around in museums and shops. My husband, daughter, a friend of hers, and I, joined a tour to see black bears. We flew a prop plane to a small island, where we stood a short distance from bears feeding at a salmon hatchery. Thank goodness the river overflowed with fish for we never felt threatened, never worried that we were a backup food supply. One outing the entire group enjoyed was whale watching. Other attempts made by my family in years past while living in New England, proved fruitless. Alaskan whales showed up on cue, swimming beneath our boat, breaching alongside, feeding in groups, and displaying their calves proudly. I’m positive everyone took enough pictures to fill 50 albums.
My husband, daughter and I had cruised Alaska a few years before the aforementioned one with family. That trip too was wonderful because it was our first to the “last frontier.” I remained as enamored of Alaska, the second time around. Perhaps there’s a third trip in our future, with family members who weren’t able to make the first oceanic reunion.
Holland America casts its “line” in the hopes that it will reel you in “Imagine giant glacial peaks and massive snowcapped mountains that glisten in the sun. Such is the view from the spacious deck of your five-star ship. Watch for breaching whales, soaring eagles and resting seals as you pass by. In as little as seven days, you’ll have a chance to pan for gold in Juneau and fish for king salmon in Ketchikan.”
With our family we took the 7-Day Inside Passage, Roundtrip Vancouver. We sailed to Juneau, Skagway and Glacier Bay National Park. Watching the glacier “calve” (break off) into the icy, blue waters below, magnificently displayed the power of Mother Nature. The sight was awesome, and humbling.
- In 2011, the ms Zuiderdam sails Saturdays: May 14-Sep 17
- In 2011, the ms Volendam sails Wednesdays: May 18-Aug 31
- In 2011, the ms Zaandam sails Sep 18
My husband, daughter and I took the 7-Day Explorer, Roundtrip Seattle (originally Vancouver, BC). It sails to Juneau, Hubbard Glacier or Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria.
- In 2011, the ms Oosterdam via Glacier Bay sails Sundays: May 8-Sep 18
- In 2011, the ms Westerdam via Hubbard Glacier sails Saturdays: May 7-Sep 17
- In 2011, the ms Amsterdam via Glacier Bay sails Sep 16
“The pleasure of mid-sized cruising – Our fleet of spacious, mid-sized ships makes a big difference in your onboard experience. You’ll feel it in generously proportioned public rooms, elegant staterooms and airy open decks–with plenty of room at the rail to see glorious Glacier Bay. Our ships are large enough to offer the amenities sophisticated travelers expect while preserving a refined ambiance.”
So give your travel professional a call to discuss a one-of-a-kind trip to see the “last frontier.” Or call 1-877-SAIL HAL (1-877-724-5425), or visit www.hollandamerica.com for more information. And tell them hugmamma sent you. You won’t be disappointed. Others I know have given the same “thumbs up” review.
hugs for the great outdoors, on a HAL cruise…hugmamma.