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Experience Inside Passage Alaska: 23 Amazing Things To Do While Cruising

Embark on an unforgettable adventure and discover the beauty of Inside Passage Alaska. Located in the breathtaking panorama of Southeast Alaska, the Inside Passage stretches more than 1,000 miles from Seattle, Washington, to Skagway, Alaska, winding past pristine glaciers, wildlife-rich islands, and quaint coastal towns.

On this incredible journey, travelers experience nature’s glory. From the majestic Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau to the whale-filled waterways of Tracy Arm, this region is brimming with postcard-perfect scenery and opportunities for adventure. Add a variety of cruise port cities such as Ketchikan, Sitka, and Juneau, each offering unique experiences to explore during the Inside Passage Alaska experience.

Nature Views During Cruise Ship Day at Sea

For many, their initial glimpse into the majesty of the Inside Passage begins by perusing the meticulously curated itineraries of Alaska cruises. This awe-inspiring route weaves through a maze of forested islands, fjords, and bays, captivating the imaginations of those fortunate enough to embark on this unforgettable journey.

Breathtaking Glaciers

As colossal glaciers come into view, they reveal their icy magnificence and prisms of color. Witness the crackling blue ice of the Hubbard Glacier, marvel at the ethereal beauty of Glacier Bay, or be humbled by the grandeur of the Tracy Arm Fjord. These frozen giants hold an air of mystique while championing the raw power of nature. The sheer walls of ice create a thunderous roar as massive frozen chunks calve into the sea. It’s a mesmerizing combination of science and art.

Wildlife Encounters

Alaska’s Inside Passage is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. As ships glide through these pristine waters, cruisers witness a vibrant tapestry of wildlife. Bring along binoculars to spot a humpback whale breaching in the distance or to glimpse the many playful orcas dancing in the waves. You might encounter adorable sea otters floating effortlessly on their backs or observe bald eagles soaring overhead, their majestic presence a testament to the region’s rich biodiversity.

Nature’s symphony awaits, with surprises at every turn.

Stunning Scenery and Serenity

Verdant forests, snow-capped mountains, and emerald-hued waters merge seamlessly, creating a visual feast for the senses. Picturesque coastal towns are nestled amidst breathtaking landscapes, their charm and character reflecting the region’s spirit.

What Is A Day at Sea?

During an Alaskan cruise, a “Day at Sea” offers a unique opportunity to revel in the splendor of the Inside Passage without docking at a specific port. It’s a day dedicated to embracing the serenity of the open ocean while savoring the luxurious amenities and activities provided onboard the cruise ship.

A day at sea is the perfect time to relax and enjoy all that your cruise ship has to offer. Enjoy a leisurely morning on your private balcony, taking in the breathtaking Inside Passage vistas as you indulge in a delectable breakfast.

Some ships may offer informative lectures about the region’s natural wonders, and these educational sessions are often offered in areas of the ship with premium sightseeing opportunities and expert guides.

For an experience that transcends the ordinary, an Alaska cruise through the Inside Passage delivers precisely that. From the first glimpse of the itinerary to the awe-inspiring encounters with glaciers, wildlife, and stunning scenery, each moment promises to be a symphony of exploration and tranquility.

Coastal Culture

Exploring the charming coastal towns of the Inside Passage is a must for any Alaska cruise. Each port of call offers a unique exploration of the region’s diverse culture.

Skagway

The gold rush days of the late 1800s come alive in Skagway, Alaska. This charming town offers a glimpse into the region’s rugged past with its colorful history and authentic charm. Visit local museums to learn about the Klondike Gold Rush or take a scenic railway ride through glacier-filled mountains to the summit of the White Pass.

The National Park Service Visitor’s Center is located near the cruise port dock. It’s a great place to get acclimated to the town and pick up a free walking tour brochure. With a map in hand, stroll through local shops for souvenirs or gifts and learn more about the local history.

Juneau

The state capital of Alaska, Juneau, is one of the most popular ports in the Inside Passage. Spend the day amidst its picturesque harbor or take an unforgettable tour of Mendenhall Glacier for an up-close glimpse of one of Alaska’s most iconic attractions.

Glacier Gardens in Juneau Alaska
Glacier Gardens in Juneau Alaska – Photo © Gwyn Goodrow

Glacier Gardens Rainforest is a spectacular sight, with trails through lush forests adorned with cascading waterfalls and vibrant gardens. Flowers grow and drape from uprooted trees. Literally, the tree roots are on top! Tours on carts include a guide and an educational excursion deep into the mountainous forests.

Visit the Mount Roberts Tramway for stunning views of the city from above. You can also explore the bustling downtown area to experience Juneau’s unique blend of small-town charm and big-city sophistication. The local shops, restaurants, and galleries offer a rich experience, making it the perfect place to explore culture and beauty in its purest form.

Ketchikan

Ketchikan is the quintessential Southeast Alaska fishing village, with charming cedar homes and stunning views of snow-capped mountains. Visit Creek Street, a historic district featuring boardwalks along Ketchikan Creek. This former red light district is now home to several art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants.

Statue at port entry to Ketchikan Alaska
Statue at port entry to Ketchikan Alaska Photo © John Goodrow

Ketchikan is also home to several museums that give visitors a glimpse into the region’s fascinating past. The Tongass Historical Museum details Ketchikan’s rich history, from its early Native American settlement to the development of the city as an integral port for trade and industry. The Totem Heritage Center is another must-see, offering insight into the indigenous culture and impressive displays of traditional totem poles. The Salmon Hatchery is an educational stop for all ages, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the salmon life cycle and the importance of wild salmon to the local ecosystem.

Sitka

Sitka is the Alaska of your dreams. With its majestic mountains, abundant wildlife, and lush forests, it’s easy to lose yourself in its beauty. Explore downtown Sitka to discover unique shops and restaurants or visit historic churches such as St. Michael’s Cathedral.

Take a guided tour of Castle Hill for an up-close look at Tlingit totem poles and the gorgeous views of Sitka Bay. Another popular destination is the Alaska Raptor Center, where you can learn about birds of prey and get up close and personal with rehabilitated raptors. The Sheldon Jackson Museum is also worth a visit for its captivating exhibits on Native Alaskan culture.

Tips for Touring the Inside Passage Alaska

Exploring the Inside Passage Alaska on a cruise is an incredible experience, but it’s important to plan ahead. Pack for the weather–the region can be quite chilly, even in the summer months.

While planning your adventures, read up on activities you would like to do while in each port. Consider budgeting for tours and excursions before you leave and book them in advance, as they tend to fill up quickly.

Finally, be sure to make the most of your time aboard your cruise ship. Enjoy the onboard amenities such as spas, pools, and restaurants while taking in the breathtaking views of Inside Passage Alaska.

Summary

The Alaskan cruise experience is an unforgettable journey through one of nature’s most pristine environments. Every port offers the opportunity to explore the unique culture, beautiful scenery, and abundant wildlife.

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