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Personal Travel Manager SINEAD PHILLIPS reviews her recent famil to Alaska with Air Canada and Princess Cruises.

EMBARKING ON the Grand Princess from Vancouver to cruise the Inside Passage in Alaska was a journey filled with awe and adventure.

The seamless transition from one captivating destination to another underscored the joy of cruising, waking up in a new place every day.

Nestled in the picturesque Alaskan landscape, some of these hidden gems are accessible only by sea so cruising is really the perfect way to travel.

Sailing from Vancouver on a magical winter day and basking in sunlight set the tone for a remarkable voyage.

After a rejuvenating night’s rest following an extensive journey from Melbourne, we indulged in room service on our balcony, witnessing majestic whales gracing the waters. Beyond the memorable landscapes, the allure of Alaska lies in its aquatic wonders.

Contrary to the misconception of cruising being synonymous with buffets and line dancing, we relished delicious gourmet dinners, embraced morning yoga and savoured juices from the onboard juice bar. Of course, there was also fun at bingo, trivia and late-night dancing.

Our first port was meant to be Ketchikan but unfortunately this was cancelled due to bad weather so on to Juneau we went. The Alaskan capital enchanted us with its charm, salmon fishing and the majestic Mendenhall Glacier.

We enjoyed a walk around town and did some shopping then settled into the Red Dog Saloon with its sawdust covered floor where we enjoyed delightful food and entertainment. It was lots of fun, a real Alaskan experience – especially the Duck Farts (you’ll have to go to know!)

Skagway was our next stop with its snow-capped mountains and a history steeped in the harsh realities of the Gold Rush era. A women-led walking tour illuminated the challenges faced by those seeking their fortune, providing a fascinating insight into the region’s past. The history soaked into this town is truly incredible.

Alaska’s true essence emerged in Glacier Bay and College Fjord, where witnessing glaciers and playful otters felt nothing short of magical.

Watching from the comfort of the deck or our balcony meant you could literally stand and observe the ever-changing landscape for hours…a memory etched for ever even though we didn’t have the perfect weather conditions.

Our journey continued after the seven-night cruise with a 7am train ride from Whittier to Talkeetna, followed by a scenic bus ride to the Denali Wilderness Lodge.

The five-and-a-half-hour train journey unfolded like a visual symphony, showcasing waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, eagles, bears and moose.

Denali National Park offered a captivating history tour, complemented by a talk from an Alaskan native drawing intriguing parallels with indigenous Australian culture and also offering a dusting of snow.

The lodge was a quintessential American retreat and exactly what I had pictured. Even though large and sprawling it provided a cozy ambiance with fire pits, shops and even a Christmas store.

They also had a range of food options from casual to fine dining and the accommodation was fresh and modern. It was an exceptional experience.


Our journey continued to Fairbanks, a surprising blend of hotel-style comfort and culinary excellence.

Exploring on a paddle steam riverboat allowed us to delve into its rich heritage; from watching working dogs to visiting recreated Alaskan communities. I felt immersed in the culture and the journey from bygone eras to the present encapsulated the essence of life in Alaska.

With only one night in each lodge, ours was but a quick taster – another night in Denali especially would be recommended. The biggest question on our last night in Fairbanks was would the sky light up and dance for us?

YES! Just after midnight the night sky revealed the Northern Lights, an enchanting finale to our Alaskan odyssey. It topped off the trip and our expedition was a truly unforgettable experience.

Seeing Alaska is a must and by cruise just makes everything seamless and more enjoyable.