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Alaska Land Tour Cruise – Holland America

AlaskaLandTour0810

If you want to see Alaska, by land and sea a Land/Cruise Tour is the perfect way to accomplish this. A few years back, I convinced my hubby that he wanted to go on a Land/Cruise Tour. I was initially worried that it may be too strenuous for him with his previous medical conditions, but it worked out very well.
I choice the Holland America Land Cruise Tour because Hubby is partial to smaller ships and HAL seemed like a nice fit for him and the itinerary appeared to offer the most bang for your buck.

HAL has numerous Land/Cruise tour packages available. It also offers just the cruise portion of the tour. For our adventure I choice the 11 day Southbound tour. Turns out this was a great choice. If you do the Northbound, you are on the ship for the first part of your tour, then you do all the land activities. Southbound made more sense, because after traveling the Alaska highways, Rivers, and Rails, a cruise was the perfect end to relax totally before the flight home.

Upon arrival at the Anchorage airport, there is a team of people there from HAL to help give you information and packages about your tour and guide you to the bus that will take you to the hotel. At the hotel, HAL had their own check-in desk. Most the hotels we stayed at are owned and operated by the cruise lines. You have to attend about an hour long briefing about what to expect for the next 11 days, meet your land tour guide then you are free to explore Anchorage at your leisure. Meals were included if you ate at the hotel, but if you ventured out to a local eatery, you had to pay.
We elected to go to a local brewery across the street from the hotel and were not disapointed. Food,drinks and service were wonderful.

The land part of the tour breezes by very fast. You cover a lot of territory and use numerous modes of transportation. On the first day, we left the hotel and drove to board the McKinley Express train. Again, most cruise lines have their own rail cars, so you are always amongst friends. We traveled up to Denali State Park. Meals were served on the train, and you are able to meet people you are touring with. The scenery along the way was amazing

Denali Park was teaming with wildlife and beautiful views. We stayed at a lodge with quaint cabin style rooms that was located just outside the “entrance” to the park in a wooded area that almost gave you the feeling you were camping out.

We took a bus ride tour through the park and actually got an elusive view of Denali (Mt. McKinley). The following day we boarded our motor coaches which were extremly roomy and comfortable and headed for Fairbanks. We had many stops visiting scenic areas or small towns, so you never once felt like you were trapped on a long bus ride.
Leaving Fairbanks we stopped at an old Gold Dredge #8 where we had a nice lunch and panned for gold.

We headed to such quaint towns such as Tok, Chicken, and Eagle Alaska, and then into the Yukon Territory to Dawson City. During the motor coach tours we got information for the areas we would be visiting, plus at times videos played with movie or news clips from the local areas.
Land tour highlights –
– Gold Dredge #8 outside of Fairbanks.
– Alaska Pipeline pump house –
– Tok Alaska – Good food
– Chicken Alaska – stop in and get a brownie.
– Dawson City Yukon Territory – get your membership in the Sour Toe
– Braeburn Yukon – Cinnamon buns are huge.
– Whitehorse – The Follies – a funny stage show
– Carcross Desert – labeled the smallest desert in the world

After all the wonderful sightseeing on land we boarded the Yukon Queen for a river cruise from Dawson to Whitehorse. It was amazing that all along the way the motor coaches would separate then meet up with us when we took the trains or the river cruise. The timing and coordination with the land tour guides seemed effortless.

After Whitehorse and a few more stops we arrived in Fraser and boarded the Whitepass train into Skagway. The train ride was rewarding, and scenic. They had areas outside of the car where you could go and take pictures as you chugged along the tracks.

The arrival in Skagway was bitter sweet as it meant we were done with the land portion of our tour. We had one last drink with our tour directors at the Red Onion Saloon, and headed to our ship which would be home for the next few days.

Boarding the ship was a breeze as our land tour director walked us right up to the gangway with pre-filled out paperwork, and in less than 15 minutes we were in our cabin. The ship was beautiful. Our cabin and balcony were spacious.

We had a VIP/Past guest party with the Captain and crew the first night on board that offered free drinks and Hors D’oeuvres. We ate most meals on the Lido deck or from the full room service menu. Our balcony was the perfect spot to watch the Alaskan coastline and eat a fine meal.

We spent a day in Ketchikan shopping, walking around the city and even took a horse drawn carriage through town. Some folks went off on fishing expeditions and had a blast. You could also take a plane to the top of a glacier or go dog sledding or even go on one of the boats from The Deadliest Catch TV show.

Words cannot describe the beauty of Alaska. As we sailed along the coast you could see the wildlife, bears, moose, bald eagles, golden eagles, whales, seals and otters. It was nature at it’s best.

With our cabin we also had access to a private bar, concierge and an area with computers, daily breakfasts, afternoon tea and early evening drinks. We also had a intimate meeting with the Captain and staff. The Captain and hubby probably spent 20 minutes talking about the ship, the engines, and the daily operations.

Being a smaller ship we were able to sail further into the Glacier Bay area. Here you could get off on one of the tender ships and really get close to the wildlife and icebergs.

After some fun-filled relaxing days at sea, our Land/Cruise tour comes to an end as we pull into the Vancouver port.

I would love to do this tour again. We went during the spring and I think a nice contrast would be do do it in the fall before the ships re-position to the warmer climates. Although we didn’t partake, during the Land part of the tour there are numerous excursions offered for the places you stay over night in. There is dog-sledding, river rafting, and jeep tours just to name a few. I highly recommend if you have never been to Alaska, you consider taking a Land/Cruise tour.

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