Alaska Cruises Mean Adventuresome Shore Excursions

Run with the dogs, sail with the whales

Cruise Expert

Here's a must-do on Alaska cruises: find a great Alaska adventure and earn some bragging rights.  The vast Alaskan wilderness, two-and-a-half times the size of Texas, will be happy to oblige.

Want to walk on a glacier and stare into a popsicle-blue crevice? Disney Cruises, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line will get you to that glacier by helicopter.Walking on a glacier is other-worldly, with blue ice glowing like neon. — Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line 

Perhaps you want to go crabbing on the Bering Sea crabbing vessel seen on Discovery Channel's  "The Deadliest Catch?" Holland America and Disney Cruises will help load you aboard to chase down your own giant crab.

Grab a bike in Ketchikan and head out on the highway to gaze at sweeps of the emptiest, loneliest land ever.  Heading out on the highway from Ketchikan to see the real Alaska--now that's a shore excursion! — Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

The takeaway: see the interior or see the sea.   

Grizzly Bears, Oh My!

Grizzly-spotting takes more than a single shore excursion. A land tour prior to your cruise is a good add-on. Budget for two to six nights in the lovely wilderness lodges in Denali National Park, where Princess and Holland America passengers stay.

As for those grizzlies, you are almost certain to see one from the school buses that carry tourists and travel Denali. The bears have completely adapted to the passing buses. No other vehicles are allowed.Get out there and see some bears, preferably grizzlies. — Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Princess, Holland America, Norwegian, Celebrity and Oceania Cruises launch shore excursions in search of brown bears. From Icy Strait Point, head to Spasski River, with three viewing platforms for bear watching. Out of Anchorage, tours head to Redoubt Bay.

Humpback whale excursions, such as Norwegian Cruise Line's jaunt via expedition boat to Auke Bay, almost guarantee a sighting. The crew will refund $100 if you don't see a whale.

Tons of Ice

Everyone who has taken an Alaska cruise brags about "calving" glaciers. It happens when a mammoth chunk of ice cracks like thunder and breaks from the glacier and crashes to the sea.

In Seward, nearby Aialik Glacier is known for its active calving. A day-cruise on a small ship into Kenai Fjords National Park can sail into the small bay and get close to the Aialik Glacier. There's a thunderous crack as a glacier "calves" an enormous chunk of ice. — Photo courtesy of Princess Cruise Lines

A Kenai Fjords boat can sidle right up to killer whales, humpbacks and dolphins.  It can also skim along the shoreline, where puffins huddle in the cliff side and a great golden eagle sits regally in a nest.

Fly fishing and sport fishing, famed in Alaska, are offered as shore excursions from several Alaska ports, including Kenai Fjords National Park.

New ways of getting around

Shore excursions into the wilderness carry passengers by helicopter onto the glaciers.  Float planes deliver fishermen to lakes and rivers.  You can also catch a flightseeing tour over the fjords and inlets of Prince William Sound.  Or catch a float plane heading above the Arctic Circle to an Inuit Village.  Above the Arctic Circle? That's serious bragging rights.

Playing musher with sled dogs is a hilarious Alaskan experience. — Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line Playing musher to a dogsled pulled by huskies is one of the most hilariously fun activities in Alaska. The dogs are so eager to be chosen, they leap with joy practically shouting, "Pick me! Pick me!' As they get strapped into the harness by their trainers, they stand death-still so as not to tangle the straps of fellow Huskies.

Then--wooohoo!-- the dogs are running in sync, running like the wind. You'll get help from the real musher. Princess Cruises offers Dog Mushing with a helicopter ride to get you up to the glacier, as do Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Line.

It's hard to imagine having enough time to do it all.   But just remember--Alaska's 20-hour days will keep you going.

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About Anne Chalfant

Anne Chalfant, former newspaper travel editor, authored app, "Cruise! A Guide to Ships and Trips" (iOS); "Cruise! Hands-on Guide" (Android)

Read more about Anne Chalfant here.

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