Once the summer months hit—and you know that they’re coming—sometimes the best thing you can do is get far away from Houston. Far, far away. If you’re looking for the ideal summer getaway for temperatures closer to 0 than 100, an Alaskan cruise may be just what you need to plan this year.
The ports in Galveston are bustling from June to August, but if you’ve had enough of the heat and the blistering sun, hop a flight to Seattle and take the cab ride from the airport to the docks for a week-long getaway to the largest state in the USA.
Still doubtful if a trip to Alaska is the one for you? Here’s a list of some of the best reasons to take advantage of one of the most underrated vacation options available:
Quite the sights to see
One thing that’s immediately noticeable in contrast to the usual views of Houston is the natural landscape that surrounds you. Most of the cruise routes travel through channels along the Alaskan coast, offering beautiful views of snow-capped mountains and dense forests. Many cruise itineraries offer a day in Glacier Bay, a truly unique and beautiful experience.
Glacier Bay is a large area resembling a cul-de-sac where cruise ships will sail into and then rotate, offering passengers the ability to stand on deck and witness massive glaciers up-close and personal. If you’re really lucky, you’ll see calving, where large chunks of the glaciers break off and drop into the water.
Another great option for sightseeing is in Juneau, and the opportunity to walk on the nearby Mendenhall Glacier. The 13.6-mile-long glacier is a short helicopter ride from the city. Once there, visitors can take a short guided tour atop the ice. Make sure you bundle up, as the cutting wind can be quite cold on an overcast afternoon.
Nothing can make you feel smaller or more in awe of the enormity of nature faster than tons of ice crashing into the freezing cold water, breaking the deafening silence of the natural beauty of the Alaskan channels, or standing atop a glacier with nothing but ice and snow-topped mountains and trees to see for miles.
Absorb the culture
While Alaska is still part of the United States, the culture and people you find in any of your ports can offer quite a different experience from the everyday life of Houston. Juneau is arguably the most popular port of call for Alaskan cruises, where visitors can take the opportunity to tour the Alaskan Brewing Company’s distillery and taste their offerings straight from the source.
The city also offers great options when it comes to shopping, whether you’re looking for some souvenirs for friends or something more lasting to carry a piece of Alaska home with you.
Another popular spot that offers a variety of options for travelers is Ketchikan. From Ketchikan, visitors can take a sea plane ride to Neets Bay in the Tongass National Forest, which offers one of the largest concentrations of black bears in the area. Whether it’s your goal to photograph the bears or just to observe them in their natural habitat, Neets Bay is a great option for fans of nature.
Saxman Native Village also offers the chance to observe Native American Totem Poles, heralded as the largest collection of standing totem poles in the U.S. Visitors can also take a walk through the nearby rainforest to get their fill of the nature and history in and around Ketchikan.
On and off-board dining
Keep in mind, you’re on an Alaskan cruise, which means the luxury and fine dining offered will be on par, if not better, than that offered on any of the ships you will sail on out of Galveston. That, combined with the quality of fresh-caught seafood brought on-board, results in a fish-lovers dream.
But on the days when in port, take advantage of the local offerings. When stopped in Juneau, you have a number of options that offer the taste of the town. Tracy’s King Crab Shack is a favorite among travelers. Tracy’s offers just about every twist on crab you could want, with a delicious homemade crab bisque and King Crab legs as menu highlights.
The Sandpiper Café is also a great option for those looking to sample the local breakfast offerings, but make sure you get there before they close at 2 p.m. or you’ll miss your shot for a real Alaskan breakfast.
On many Alaskan cruises, your final stop will be in Victoria, British Columbia, a great destination for food all its own. Il Terrazzo is one of the top local choices and offers savory Italian options, such as melanzane al forno, fresh pasta folded over breaded eggplant, served with roasted mushrooms, a garlic confit, asiago and Gruyere cheese, all baked in a tomato basil sauce and topped with spinach. If you’re looking for something a bit heartier, the cannelloni di maiale is a pulled-pork stuffed pasta with mozzarella, baked with savoy cabbage and bacon cream and all topped off with a balsamic-Granny Smith apple compote.
Fishhook, one of the top local eateries, offers a number of diverse options, such as fish curries, delicious soups and their signature tartines. The featured tartine is always a delicious option, but you can also go with a classic like The Belly: a broil-seared wild salmon belly dog and smoked salmon belly “bacon” with spicy sauerkraut, herbed chive-mustard and shaved pickles. For an additional 50 cents, they'll make it extra-spicy.
A vacation to Alaska offers so much more than just a chance to get away from the heat and into some cooler climates. The beautiful scenery, the Alaskan culture and the local taste are all great reasons to book a trip to the northernmost state and see just what makes it so unique.