Pre- or post-cruise time on land in Alaska, before or after a cruise can bring some of the best parts of the entire travel experience. Commonly combined with a North- or Southbound cruise itinerary bookended with interesting places like Seattle, Fairbanks, Vancouver and others Holland America Line land options are plentiful. Their Land + Sea Journeys are more than a place to stay the night before or after a cruise as we are finding out, investigating only the land options and skipping the cruise this time.
We began at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel. Westmark is a name we would become quite familiar with over the next week. Westmark runs the properties used exclusively by Holland America Line as well as sister-line Princess Cruises. It took most of the day to get here, starting in Orlando about Noon then arriving in Fairbanks via Minneapolis about 5 in the afternoon. That’s taking into account a four hour time difference too. Any way you look at it, going to Alaska from Florida takes longer than flying to Europe.
TIP: That long flying time makes good reason to break up the trip if time permits, in my case perhaps stopping somewhere between Florida and Alaska where friends or family might be visited along the way. Look for air savings possible with a creative itinerary that requires more of our time to stay on top of but yields lower fare.
See more of Fairbanks in our Fairbanks, Alaska Flickr Photo Album
Arriving in Fairbanks and connecting with Holland America Line representatives was easy: it seems most people we see are indeed one of those people. Everyone knows the drill and off we went to the wilderness hotel moments after landing.
First Time Long Haul Travelers: This Is Like Boot Camp
If the word “cruise” seemed permanently attached behind “Caribbean” in your travel history, that’s not an entirely bad thing. There are a lot of wonderful travel memories waiting to be made there. Still, looking North we have magnificent Alaska; surely a place every American should see at least once in a lifetime.
Experiencing Alaska with Holland America Line brings a number of advantages. In it to win it, Holland America Line has a massive infrastructure in place to make travel easy.
Their process for seamless travel requires a bit of forward thinking on the part of the traveler. For example, cruise passengers doing a Holland America Line Land + Sea Tour are told upon arrival they will have one bag that is with them the entire time. Another bag, they put all the stuff they will need on the cruise ship but not so much on land. Formal wear goes in the ship bag. Comfortable clothes go in the bag they keep.
Interestingly, by the time they make it to the ship if doing the land part first, they may wonder why they brought formal wear at all. Alaska, by nature, is simply a far less formal cruise travel experience. Here, we pan for gold on a 3.5 hour tour. Sailing somewhere else, we just lock it in the safe to drag out on formal night.
Regardless of where you go in Alaska, it takes a while to get there, and rightfully so. The place is huge and often requires a variety of transportation options to travel efficiently within. We began in a (very nice) Holland America Line motorcoach. An SUV was the preferred method of transport from Fairbanks to Denali. Along the way, Holland America Line guests can choose a variety of ground and air options to expand the Alaska experience as well. Planes, trains and boats are also used.
See more at our Alaska RoadTrip Flickr Photo Album, updated in the future as additional images become available.
On tour the first day in Denali, we took the exact same school bus like vehicle through the park as dictated by law, that we did 6 years ago. That was for sister line Princess Cruises and their ground-breaking #FollowMeAtSea Alaska Twitter cruise in 2012.
The Thing About Wildlife In Alaska
They don’t appear on command. I saw more wildlife on this trip with Holland America Line than on six previous sailings in Alaskan waters. Still, there is an overwhelming genuine grandeur to this part of the world and the people who currently live their lives here. Now in Canada at the Westmark Dawson City hotel we’re going on tour later today. The plan is to go panning for gold, walk through a bit of history and see more of the Yukon.
More coming. First, a quick look around Dawson City