Your Alaska Dream Trip: How to Get the Most Out of the Last Frontier
Whales. Glaciers. Mountains soaring straight from the sea to the clouds. Puffins flying by so fast, you’re better off capturing them with your eye than your camera. That—at a gorgeous minimum—is what you’ll see when you cruise Alaska.
But explore the state’s waterways with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and you’ll experience so much more—from tiny, unexpected arts havens along the Inside Passage to some of the best hidden foodie destinations in the U.S.—all while traveling in small groups, learning from stellar guides and luxuriating both on and off the ship. Read on for the details.
You’ll explore places that most other lines miss.
Gorgeous little Homer on Kachemak Bay is a perfect example. This foodie paradise is home to stellar (if casual) restaurants that serve up sea-to-table and farm-to-fork specialties, plus locally-roasted coffee and fresh-baked everything. On the Spit, head to La Baleine to see how Mandy Dixon—who was raised in Alaska but trained under the likes of Thomas Keller—puts a global spin on local ingredients (you can’t go wrong with the ramen in house-made, deeply flavored broth). Then head to longtime Homer favorite Two Sisters Bakery for chocolate chip cookies—the perfect accompaniment for a walk to Bishop’s Beach, at least after you recoup from going slack-jawed at the sight of the volcanoes that dot the landscape.
Another big draw for nature lovers: the wildflowers, which pop up everywhere, including entire fields of bright pink, human-height fireweed, its color rivaled only by the murals in Homer’s very-walkable Old Town. And for a masterpiece you can actually take home, visit the Bunnell Street Arts Center, where local artists exhibit and sell their work.
But it’s not just while you’re at sea that Regent Seven Seas Cruises will get you to places that few others do. If you book the Denali land program, for example, you’ll experience the locally beloved but often overlooked Girdwood, Alaska’s only ski resort town and a busy playground throughout the summer. For the best views, take the Alyeska Aerial Tram up 2,300 feet to the top of Mt. Alyeska, where you’ll have a good chance of spotting a moose or two, or a bear sauntering around down below, foraging for grub—to say nothing of the seven glaciers on view. Back down at sea level, hike the Winner Creek Trail, where you’ll find a favorite photo opp: a selfie from inside the hand-cranked tram that crosses the creek.
The excursions are next-level.
The 49th State has a long history of adventure travelers. Join them. There’s no better place to test your mettle, especially because Regent Seven Seas Cruises gives you the chance to travel in such small groups—and on such meticulously curated excursions. (Read: You'll have vast swaths of wilderness largely to yourselves, and you'll be extremely well looked after while you're traversing them.) So consider, say, gearing up in shoes and a harness for some epic rock climbing in Skagway, where a range of routes allows newbies and veterans to climb with (or near) each other along the glacially-sculpted granite cliffs. With every inch you move forward, you’re climbing back in time.
Or hey, why not pair some dog sledding on a glacier with a helicopter ride? Here’s a peek at how that would go: You’d jump into a chopper for a "flightseeing" tour of the Southeast Alaskan glaciers, whose deep crevasses, trippy shapes and thousand shades of blue will have you in thrall right until you land on Mendenhall Glacier. There you’d find a dogsled camp, where you can either take a quick course on mushing and then drive a team yourself (okay, with a little help), or just kick back in a sled as some of the state’s most fabled athletes take you on a joyride through your surreal surroundings.
If zip-lining is more your speed, head to Icy Strait Point, where you’ll first take a private whale-watching tour (look out for leaping and plunging humpbacks—or perhaps a pod of playful orcas) before you drive 1550 feet up a mountain. On arrival, you’ll suit up, get a safety lesson and then … zip through the air at speeds up to 60 mph, views of Icy Strait and Glacier Bay ahead. Then you’ll land on a beach, catch your breath and pinch yourself. Repeatedly.
On the other hand, perhaps your idea of adventure involves observing apex predators—from a respectful distance. If so, book the Bear Viewing on Prince of Wales, the fourth largest island in the United States, and home to a huge black bear population. To see for yourself, you'll board a floatplane—an adventure within an adventure—from which you should look out for braided rivers, aqua lakes and, oh yes, glaciers. Once you land on Prince of Wales half an hour later, you'll head onto the beach where, if the viewing gods are with you (and they tend to be), you'll spot bears fishing, or just lazing about. Truly lucky spectators might get to see a sow teaching her cubs the how-tos of fishing (some mamas have two or three cubs in a summer). And if the tidal conditions actually require you to stay on the plane for your bear viewing, well, that's part of the fun in anything-can-happen Alaska.
Regent takes local cuisine to a whole other level, too.
Alaskans hustle all summer long to stock their freezers with salmon, halibut, berries, and other fished and foraged delights. Regent Seven Seas Cruises makes things far easier—but with DIY options if you want them. From Ketchikan, for example, you can head out for a very Alaskan scenic drive (think canneries, totem poles and waterfalls) to the George Inlet Lodge. Next you’ll suit up in a poncho, hop aboard a pontoon boat and take a 90-minute Inside Passage cruise for even more gorgeous scenery: snow-capped peaks, 2,000-foot waterfalls and the world’s largest temperate rain forest. And that last one, the Tongass National Forest, happens to be home to bounteous Dungeness crabs, which you can help pull up in crab pots. Once you’re back at the lodge where you started, you’ll have a quick class on crab-cracking — and an epic Dungeness feast.
You'll be equally awed on board.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises' shipboard experience is renowned wherever you go, thanks to the all-suite (and all water-facing) accommodations, the supremely attentive staff and crew and the estimable Canyon Ranch Spa offerings, just for starters. But the ships will also deepen your sense of place—and when you’re in Alaska, that can mean everything from natural history talks by writer and lecturer Terry Breen (a crowd favorite) to locally-sourced gourmet meals in the dining rooms. Of course, eagle-spectating from the comfort of the heated pool isn’t a bad way to appreciate the nation’s 49th state either.
You’ll have all kinds of extras included.
Though this is not a low-cost ticket, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is still one of the best values out there. From airfare to gourmet meals and top-shelf drinks to the vast majority of excursions, nearly everything is included in your booking price. And for grandparents and parents who want to kick off a lifetime love of discovery in the next generation, many departures offer free or discount fares for children.