Sign Up for Our Daily Newsletter
Alaska’s busiest travel season is going to look different this year, as large-ship cruise lines in the region have canceled their sailings. The decision comes after Canadian travel regulations have restricted access to the country’s ports, leaving only smaller, U.S.-based cruise lines — such as Alaskan Dream Cruises, UnCruise Adventures, Lindblad Expeditions and American Cruise Lines — to service travelers in the area. Cruising may be one of the most popular ways to visit Alaska, but Sarah Leonard, CEO and president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, says the limited options should not dissuade travelers from visiting on a land-based vacation.
“What makes Alaska special — our glaciers, wildlife, culture and outdoor adventures — are just as accessible whether you come by cruise or as an independent traveler, so don’t put off a trip you have been dreaming about,” Leonard said.
To help clients discover the Last Frontier via land, Leonard says road trips — often overlooked due to the state’s lack of highways — are a great starting place, also noting that several operators offer self-guided road trip packages.
There are huge sections of the state that are not accessible by road or boat, and that’s part of what makes them so special.
But the best way to explore is to combine various modes of transportation.
“Travelers really have to explore by plane, train, automobile and boat — whether it’s a cruise or ferry or catamaran — to see as much of Alaska as possible,” Leonard said. “There are huge sections of the state that are not accessible by road or boat, and that’s part of what makes them so special.”
For those specifically looking to experience the usual highlights of an Alaska cruise, Leonard recommends Southeast Alaska, where travelers can take sightseeing tours that explore the Inside Passage or a day boat that cruises into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
David Kasser, senior vice president of sales for Visit Anchorage, also notes that several companies spent 2020 creating new experiences for travelers. For example, there is now a Nordic-style spa at Alyeska Resort, while Backcountry Eats and Foraging Treats — a new tour just outside of Anchorage — combines hiking with preparing a meal using locally harvested ingredients.
“A land program fully immerses travelers in the destination with tremendous opportunities to customize for niche interests,” Kasser said. “This will be one of the best years to be in Alaska. The cruise will still be a great vacation when [your clients] come back, and everyone wants to come back.”