Why You Should Cruise Alaska in Springtime

Carol Atkins has been traveling the globe for much of her life. She currently writes about her travels and adventures at YMT Vacations and other travel blogs. She loves of all types of travel expeditions, including island-hopping, hiking, cruising, and being lazy on the beach. Follow her on twitter @atkins_carol.

I recently found out that to the people of Alaska, breakup can mean not only letting go of a relationship—for them it refers to the changing of seasons. Springtime in Alaska is when snow and ice are melting everywhere, and people are bidding goodbye to the winter season with celebrations such as outrageously dressed skiers competing to ski across a large puddle at the foot of a slope. Alaskans have contests to predict when the ice will completely disappear from rivers. Animals are on the move, as birds and whales begin to migrate. There is movement and vibrancy in the air, which makes it a perfect time to take that Alaska boat cruise!

After boarding our ship, I was delighted when I was shown to our cabin—my husband and I were going to enjoy looking out from our private balcony as we cruised along the Alaskan coast. We explored the ship that would be home for our Alaskan cruise tour, and I dragged my husband all over to see the different areas of the ship. That made us both hungry, and we were very impressed by the elegant meal set before us at dinner. We had cruised the Caribbean, but this was our first Alaskan experience, and we were like little kids let out at the amusement park—we wanted to take it all in. A member of the ship's crew suggested we be out on the railing the next morning early, as we passed the Hubbard Glacier. He said it would take a while to float past it—the glacier is more than 70 miles long. We wanted to be alert for calving—when icebergs as high as 10 story buildings break off from the glacier. What a great suggestion—we first stood at the rail just trying to absorb the sheer size of the glacier—pictures just don't do them justice. Then an experienced traveler pointed to an area we should watch, and we saw the first berg break off into the water. What an amazing experience to see and hear—we were safely offshore from the glacier, but still could appreciate the thunderous noise and commotion, and felt a little rocking as the waves from the calving passed the cruise ship. It was an amazing moment on our cruise.

The stops along the way were each unique and enjoyable. The history of Skagway appealed to me—I felt like I was walking in the gold rush era as I strolled the weathered boardwalks and stopped in at an old-time saloon. Icy Strait Point made me think in terms of fishing, and how important that been in the history of Alaska. My husband really enjoyed the Tlingit Indian performers at the Native Heritage Center and laughed delightedly when she got me to jump into the traditional dance celebration. Ketchikan was a fascinating stop on our Alaska vacation—it seemed like a town 3 blocks wide and about 10 miles long, built out over the water because of the terrain. It was all connected by weathered stairways and a lengthy boardwalk. Ketchikan is home of the world's largest collection of totem poles, and we found it entertaining to discover totem poles in front of local residences.

I discovered that cruising Alaska along the waters of the Inside Passage was quite different than floating through the open ocean of the Caribbean. We moved at a very stately pace, and the whole experience was very soothing, but there was such constant and changing scenery that my husband had to pull me away from the railing to go have a meal. I was mesmerized by the tranquil waters and seemingly endless forests that slowly moved by. Sometimes we were so close to steep mountain walls that I could spot the occasional wild animal peeking out of the woods. The varying shades of green of the forests were a constant delight. Since there was minimal noise from the ship's engines, it was a very quiet and restful way to experience an Alaska vacation. I was reminded of the comment by explorer John Muir when he said "Never before, have I been embosomed in scenery so hopelessly beyond description tracing shining waves through fjord and sound, past forest and waterfall, islands and mountains." When I read that sitting in my office at home, I thought he was a bit flowery—but standing at the railing—I completely understood what he was saying. Our Alaskan cruise tour was a special experience, and going in springtime was an excellent choice! We're making plans now for our 2013 Alaska cruise, and yes, it will be in the spring!

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