When the price is right and the port of embarkation holds the opportunity to visit with grandchildren, another trip to Alaska just feels right. Besides, we needed an opportunity to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary. Alaska is one of our favorite cruise destinations. We have done two previous cruises, one in June and one in August. I prefer August. The colors of the tundra are beautiful much like the autumn colors of the trees in our area of the world.
On previous occasions we have taken a pre-cruise land tour. We prefer doing a land tour before a cruise because it gives us time to rest and relax on board the ship. Each of the land tours started in Fairbanks. There were always several options for exploring the area with the cruise company (for Alaska, we've always gone with Princess).
Our first land tour took us to the Eldorado Gold Mine in Fairbanks where we learned about the Gold Rush and how to pan for gold. We also took a river boat ride which introduced us to some of the local Indian culture and the late four time Iditarod winner Susan Butcher's champion sled dogs that are still raised there.
Upon our return several years later, we opted for a trip to the Arctic Circle. This trip was the one we took in June. Who would have guessed that it would be 88 F at the Arctic Circle! It was a fun trip that included a stop to see the pipeline and of course the opportunity to step across the Circle's line of latitude and say we'd been to the Arctic.
Both land tours included time at Denali National Park--a not to be missed opportunity if you've never been there. The park does not allow vehicles unless you have a special camping permit so you tour the park on an old school bus. Lots to see including caribou, grizzlies, Dahl sheep, eagles, foxes, and a slew of other critters. If you get really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of Mt. McKinley. The mountain, also called Denali, has its own unique weather system and is shrouded in clouds and mist a good part of the time. On our last trip, we were privileged to see it as the clouds parted for a while and the sun shone brightly on the snow capped majesty.
The cruise of course is outstanding as well. It takes you in and out of several places to see glaciers and stops in intriguing places such as Skagway, Ketchikan, and Juneau. This trip we will just be doing the cruise portion since our pre-cruise tour is seeing the grandkids. While I like the wild life in Denali, the hugs and kisses from the grands are sweeter.