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Holland America Line
Holland America Line features 31 CruiseTour itineraries in 2016 exploring Alaska and the Yukon Territory. More Info >>
As is to be expected on a cruise, the most popular ms Amsterdam Alaska shore trips concentrate on the incredible natural beauty of the state, as well as its diverse wildlife. A great deal of the wildlife is marine, so any given wildlife tour is quite apt to be by boat. Sitka is the port stop where we booked ours, viewing large rafts of sea otters, bears, breaching whales, bald eagles, and the delightful “Clowns of the Sea” puffins—my personal favorite. The ms Amsterdam offers wildlife tours in many of the ports, from bear encounters in Ketchikan to white-water rafting adventures and guided salmon fishing expeditions in the back of beyond outside Fairbanks.
Also popular are Holland America Alaska shore excursions that highlight the state’s colorful frontier history and rich Native American heritage. We saw the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan, a kind of north-country rodeo with log rolling, axe throwing, and other exciting events. Here, we also visited the Saxman Native Village, where we were welcomed by the Tlingit people with traditional song and dance and walked through the largest collection of towering totems in the world.
Sitka showed us the historic St Michael’s Cathedral, which dates from the time when the territory was a possession of Russia. We donned hardhats to tour underground gold mines in Juneau, where we also tried our hand at some gold panning in Salmon Creek. In Skagway, some passengers even were able to choose golfing expeditions.
At Denali National Park, we visited the kennels of the famed Iditarod musher, Jeff King, where we were able to get an authentic glimpse into the rugged, rural lifestyle of Alaskans. There are many ms Amsterdam Alaska shore trips in Denali, one of the most beautiful and extensive of all the Alaska wild places; many of these are wilderness adventures that concentrate of the area’s large bear population.
Some Holland America Alaska shore excursions are neither on the water nor on land. Flightseeing trips are among the most popular, and regardless of how you feel about light aircraft, everyone who visits Alaska should participate in at least one. We love flying in small planes and helicopters, so we booked as many of these ms Amsterdam Alaska shore trips as we could. There are few roads in the state, and some of the most spectacular sights are accessible only by boat or air.
Glacier Bay National Park with its Hubbard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier on the continent of North America, is one of these largely inaccessible sights. The entrance to the harbor is very restricted, with only a few ships per year receiving permits to enter. We were lucky that the ms Amsterdam is one of those ships, and we sailed almost up to the towering glacier. We could hear the thunderous roar of the glacier calving from onboard the ship’s deck.
As we were able to see this majestic site from the ship, our flightseeing Holland America Alaska shore excursions were done from Juneau. We took a float plane over the majestic glaciers of the 1,500 square miles of the Juneau Icefield. All passengers in the small aircraft had a guaranteed window seat, and we were provided headphones for the narration by an expert. We were also able to book a Mendenhall Glacier helicopter excursion, where we had the opportunity to land and enjoy a guided walk in this magical place.
There are cities as well as wilderness on the ms Amsterdam Alaska itineraries, including beautiful Vancouver in British Columbia and trendy, cosmopolitan Seattle in Washington state. There are ms Amsterdam Alaska shore trips in these cities as well as in the large cities of Juneau and Anchorage, with the Alaska city trips offering a lot of shopping for local souvenirs, locally made jewelry, and other handicrafts. We embarked on our cruise in Seattle and were able to book a tour as part of our arrival transfer to the ship. There is a city tour featuring Pioneer Square and a tour of the vibrant city waterfront.
We had visited Seattle before, so we chose the transfer that just showed some of the city highlights, such as the Space Needle, and then took us into the Woodinville area, known for its wines. Here we could visit a couple of the best-known wineries in the state—the Chateau Ste Michelle or Columbia Winery. We toured the wineries, had a delightful wine tasting experience, and purchased a few bottles to bring home.
In Vancouver, we booked a tour that showed us the lovely city’s historic Gastown District and the second-largest Chinatown in North America, after the one in San Francisco. We also booked the excursion to famous Butchart Gardens, a former barren rock quarry that has been transformed into a floral paradise, in Victoria. This is one of the best known horticultural displays in the world, and it should not be missed.
Many of the Holland America Alaska shore excursions are possible for older people and those with some physical restrictions. There are health and age restrictions on the most adventurous trips, and passengers weighing more than 250 pounds will pay a surcharge for most flightseeing trips. All can be booked in advance—a very good thing for those trips with limited space.