1. South to the Sea
Cruising may be one of the most popular options for exploring Alaska, but with companies like Alaska Railroad continuously upping the ante with new offerings, experiencing the state via rail is equally appealing. New for summer 2019, Alaska Railroad is launching South to the Sea, an itinerary traveling from Anchorage to Seward and offering views only available via rail. While on this journey, Alaska Railroad has partnered with Alaska Wildland Adventures allowing guests to hop on a boat tour and experience its unique Kenai Fjord Glacier Lodge. Alaska Railroad is also meeting the increased demand for winter travel with the launch of new itineraries like The Borealis. This 8-day adventure includes dog sledding, a visit to the Chena Hot Springs, and a stay at the remote Borealis Basecamp with its private glass-domed ceiling accommodations perfect for viewing the Northern Lights.
2. Foodie Tours
Alaska isn’t exactly renowned for its culinary prowess (except for the salmon, of course!), but Midgi Moore, president and CEO of Juneau Food Tours (JFT), is on a mission to change that. After years of offering daily tours exploring Juneau’s ever-growing foodie scene, Moore now has her eyes set on a bigger target: Alaska. “We have so many great places to eat and things to do all over the state,” Moore says. “I’ve been very fortunate to tell Juneau’s food story and now I’m trying to get out there and tell Alaska’s food story.” Launching in June 2019, JFT will rebrand as Alaska Culinary Experiences and offer a new 7-day small group tour starting in Juneau and wrapping up in Palmer. Along the way, guests will learn how Alaskans fish and farm, explore impressive landscapes, and, of course, try some delicious dishes.
3. Princess’ 50-Year Celebration
Summer 2019 will mark Princess Cruises’ 50th anniversary of sailing in Alaska, and the cruise line is celebrating the milestone by launching its largest ever deployment of ships in the area. Seven vessels will head to Alaska, including the Royal Princess setting sail for the first time not only in Alaska, but also on the west coast. Other enhancements cruisers can look forward to include new indoor planetariums showcasing a Northern Lights experience and Alaskan dining options at the new Fannie Q’s Saloon restaurant located at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. “I think the differentiator is that we bring the Alaska experience on board for our guests so as they’re experiencing it on land, they can come back and really be immersed in it in a variety of ways,” says Negin Kamali, director of public relations for Princess Cruises.
4. Cunard Returns to Alaska
After a 20-year hiatus, Cunard is returning to Alaska in 2019 with itineraries aboard the Queen Elizabeth. The ship will first sail to Alaska from Japan before embarking on a season that will include four roundtrip Alaska journeys departing from Vancouver and visiting Sitka, Skagway, and Icy Strait Point, as well as other ports along the way. And Cunard is making a big splash for its comeback to Alaska with new Insights Programs bringing experts in Alaskan Native history, fishing, and ecosystems on board to interact with guests, plus 140 shore excursions, extended time in the ports, and local Alaskan food and beverages also served on board.
5. Anchorage: A City of Contrasts
“I get Amazon Prime and glaciers,” jokes Jack Bonney, director of content and engagement for Visit Anchorage, when explaining how Alaska’s largest city offers both nature and the comforts of a large municipality. And recent developments in Anchorage reflect this exact duality. For those looking to get out into nature, Snowhook Adventure Guide, which already offers dog mushing tours, is adding snowmobile and fat tire bike tours for the 2018-2019 winter season, while Lazy Otter Charter’s new boat is now offering glacier and wildlife cruises from Whittier, making for a perfect day trip from Anchorage. Back in the city, visitors can head to the neighborhood of Spenard, which continues to evolve as a hub of literary, culinary and community activity. Recent additions to the area include the Writer’s Block Bookstore and the city’s 12th brewery, Turnagain Brewing. “It’s about budgeting enough time pre- or post-cruise to explore,” says Bonney. “You can knit together a lot of stuff using Anchorage as a base camp.”
6. The Ultimate Adventure
Starting in 2019, Holland America will sail three 21-day Ultimate Alaska & Pacific Northwest Adventurer EXC In-Depth Voyages roundtrip from San Francisco. It will be the luxury line’s first time sailing to Alaska from California, as well as its first time offering an Alaska itinerary longer than 14 days. To give guests a thoroughly Alaskan experience on this journey aboard the Maasdam, Holland America, for the first time ever, is swapping out its usual entertainment options for exclusively destination-focused programming.
7. Alaska Awakening
“Spring in Alaska is a favorite time of year for us,” says Captain Dan Blanchard, CEO of UnCruise Adventures. “Alaska is awakening from winter with longer and dryer days, and surprises abound from warm sun to wildlife.” Adventure enthusiasts will find plenty of new experiences and opportunities to explore southeast Alaska with UnCruise Adventures. In spring 2019, UnCruise will feature 25 Alaska Awakening departures in April and May and will begin spring sailings the earliest in company history. Spring scenery reveals mountaintops covered with snow extending further towards the sea, gushing waterfalls, more solitude and less tourists in port towns, and chances to see migratory gray whales and birds. Nature’s colors start popping and bears are seen shoreside as they emerge from hibernation to feed.