I flew with Air Canada to Vancouver, and then on to Anchorage. Be sure to pre-book seating as they don’t like to change it at check in!
Anchorage is a fantastic little town surrounded by mountains & every second car is a large pickup ute. I was expecting to see a Moose walk across the street at any point!
McKinley Explorer to Denali National Park. This journey takes approx. 8 hours. The McKinley Explorer has full panoramic windows and very spacious seats. Beverages are served in your seats & you can dine for Breakfast &/or Lunch downstairs. The food was excellent. Denali National Park is 400miles from Russia, and Alaska has a larger coastline than the whole of the USA.
Here we stayed at McKinley lodge, as all Holland America guests do. This is right next door to the Princess Lodge (where the Princess passengers stay). You can dine at either lodge and both offer a wakeup call system if they northern lights are visible.
We did an 8 hour Tundra Wilderness tour from Denali. It was beautiful untouched mountainous countryside which was covered in snow! We saw a few Moose and 2 bears from a distance.
Holland America Lines– Ms Zandaam is an older style ship, with timber finishes. The average age on board was 60 plus. We had a midship Balcony cabin on Deck 6 – which was just beautiful. Very spacious cabins, comfortable bed & bathroom had a spa bath in it. Although the ship was at full passenger capacity, it really didn’t feel like that as it was very spacious.
Glacier Bay: We cruise into spectacular Glacier Bay which is truly amazing. HAL have the ‘grandfather rights” in Glacier Bay – they are permitted to go right up to the land/glaciers. In Glacier Bay – they turn the main engines off & slowly turn for 2 hours – just magic! You can do a “Polar Bear Plunge” - in Glacier Bay – where you jump into the freezing water & have your picture taken with the glaciers behind you.
Haines/Skagway. I would recommend to book a tour to here. Or if you are going to go over to Skagway (which has more to see and do) you need to book the ferry as soon as you get off the ship. Some people did the “Twilight Bear Tour” and had very close encounters with a Mother bear & her cubs. Dog sledding can be done here at certain times of year.
Juneau: We took a day tour from Juneau to Mendenhall Glacier which was very beautiful, plus wilderness walks & a whale watching tour. We were lucky enough to see 20 or so whales which was unusual for September as they are usually already on their way to Hawaii!
Your Alaskan experience varies greatly depending on the season you travel; Sept – which is the end of the season: offers all the beautiful fall colours, is getting very cold, not as busy but is quite wet.
May - Start of the season is still very cold, lakes are still iced over & the animals are a lot more active as they are coming out of the winter months. Everything in between is the peak season – long daylight hours, less rain, very busy!