Alaska, I've been dreaming of her for years. The legendary beauty...a place where there is wildlife, glaciers and mountains in epic proportions. Unspoiled, unobstructed, unlike anything I’ve experienced before.... finally I had a chance to turn my own travel dream into a reality.
In August of 2009 I took a Princess cruise up the inside Passage which offered an amazing look at Alaska's coastline and extended my cruise by adding a rail tour to Denali. My voyage of the Glacier itinerary originated in Vancouver, British Columbia and would carry me through the Inside Passage, terminating at Whittier. My trip included a train trip along Alaska's frontier land and terminated on board the Diamond Princess.
Once aboard the ship I quickly settled into cruise ship life filled with a bustling casino, on board entertainment; a spa, swimming pools and, of course a number of bars and restaurants. Although the cruise ship experience was familiar to other ships, the breathtaking views were unlike anything I have ever seen before. Standing on the deck of the ship overlooking the wall of blue-gray ice and rock of Glacier Bay made me wonder if this was what Heaven might be like. There was a sudden "stillness" that settled over the land and suddenly it was followed by a muffled "boom!" as a grinding, sliding piece of ice poured in a mammoth avalanche which slammed into the water below I watched as the ship plowed through the frigid waters of Glacier Bay National Park and Gulls wheeled through the air, while chunks of glittering ice littered the water of the narrow passage, giving the entire scene a wild and artic look.
Gray skies and a light mist welcomed us as we toured the towns of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway where we had the chance to tour, shop and explore each ports' Historic Districts. Each port is an easy walk from where the ship was docked.
A few minutes north of Juneau, the capital city, was Mendenhall Glacier, a 13-mile river of ice that ended at Mendenhall Lake. A tour of Mendenhall Lake consisted of a visit to the visitors' center, hiking trails and a view of the most beautiful bluish wall of glaciers I have ever seen.
The tour of Skagway was a combination of history and tourism. It is the gateway city to the Klondike, a visual treat of frontier architecture. With streets filled with souvenir and gift shops, selling everything from tacky T-shirts to high-end jewelry and furs.
Alaska, the experience was priceless! To find out more about this destination, Princess cruises and Alaska's itineraries and land-based cruise tours, log on to www.ahymantravelnetwork.com
Audrey Hyman is the owner and CEO of the Hyman Travel Network, a full service travel agency located in the suburbs of Washington, that specializes in cruises and all inclusive vacations