Yes, it’s true; Alaska should be seen from the water to enjoy the beauty of the rugged landscape, but not all of Alaska’s treasures are on the water. Taking a land tour gives you the chance to explore other riches the state has to offer. Also, by taking a land tour you have the opportunity to take in some of Canada’s beauty and history.
The cruise and land tour I embarked on departed Vancouver on a three day cruise on Holland America's beautiful Volendam through the Inside Passage to Skagway with a stop in Juneau, which gave me Alaska’s perspective from the water. In Juneau I took a float plane excursion and flew over glaciers, which was a highlight of my trip.
After disembarking from the ship in Skagway, I enjoyed the quaint town and learned about its role in the Yukon Gold Rush before boarding the historic White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. It was easy to appreciate the struggles that the men and women endured in their pursuit of gold in the 1890s, as they traveled from Skagway to Dawson City. We traveled by motor coach after the White Pass train for the duration of the Yukon journey and had the comfort of Holland America’s spacious coach.
Dawson City is rich in history, and we stayed there two nights to soak it in. We put in for a wake-up call with the hotel in case the Northern Lights were out, and on our first night there, we were awoken at 2:30 a.m., threw on jackets and shoes and ran out to see the phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, such an amazing sight! On our second morning we rode aboard a paddle wheeler on the Yukon River, and then we were back on our motor coach and headed for the Top of the World Highway and back to the U.S. with Denali National Park as our ultimate destination.
On the way to Denali we stayed in Tok, a tiny town, and Fairbanks where we cruised aboard a sternwheeler on the Chena River. The next morning we were transported to the Fairbanks train depot and anxiously boarded the McKinley Explorer for the four hour train ride to Denali. Holland America has wonderful, big domed cars, and we were very comfortable in our seats. The dining room was below our car, and we enjoyed a hearty breakfast, too. The scenery on the train was breath-taking as we approached Denali National Park. We even had a quick glimpse of the mountain, which turned out to be our only viewing of the elusive peak during our two day stay.
Denali was cold and rainy for the most part while we were there. The colors were starting to change, as it was approaching fall. We bundled up and headed out for a little exploring. We didn’t see any animals on our first day, be we did run across some moose scat on a trail. The next day we took an all-day Tundra Wilderness Tour on a National Park bus in search of wildlife and scenery. We traveled 60 miles into the Park, taking in vast and amazing vistas, and seeing dahl sheep, grizzly bears, a black bear, caribou, a lynx, and a porcupine. The Tundra tour was definitely the highlight of the land tour for me.
The next morning we were back on the McKinley Explorer for the eight hour journey to Anchorage. The time flew by with the beautiful scenery, and we even spotted a moose and caribou.
We stayed one night in Anchorage before flying home. After traveling 1200 miles by land over ten days, our tour was over. We had great Holland America tour guides along the way, all of whom were passionate about Alaska and the Yukon. The hotel accommodations were simple in contrast to the elegant Volendam. The tour I took had 44 people, and we traveled together from Skagway to Anchorage. The same cruise tour is available in the reverse order, starting in Anchorage. When it travels south from Anchorage to Vancouver the cruise includes Glacier Bay, which is a bonus.
All in all, this was a wonderful trip, and I saw all that I wanted to see – glaciers, wildlife, incredible scenery, Northern Lights and Denali. Holland America cruises has been in Alaska for 65 years, and they cover it and the Yukon like no other cruise line. This cruise tour was one of over 100 they offer in Alaska, and I would love to help you find the perfect cruise tour for you. Contact me today via my Nanci Browning profile page!