I normally don’t get self-promotional with my other travel business, Cruise Planners. But I would love to share this short post with you and have you come along with me to Alaska next September.

Alaska is one of those places that people in my local area would love to visit, even with the Rocky Mountains in our backyard. The difference is you have ocean and inlets flush against mountains, which looks slightly different from what we have here. It creates quite a scenic impression, and I should know. I’ve been there twice and am planning to return in the fall.

The cruise line we’ll go on is Royal Caribbean. Now, before you think, “Oh no – not that gigantic cruise ship,” let me just tell you that the ship with this cruise, Ovation of the Seas, isn’t one of their largest ships. Even at its fullest capacity at 4900 passengers, it likely won’t be at that maximum, as the sailing will be in September, closer to the end of the Alaska cruise season. Another reason for the later cruise is that the prices will be lower. Plus, most kids will be in school and not onboard, a bonus if you’d like to have a more adult cruise experience

Here are the ports we’ll visit on this cruise:

An iconic scene from Seattle, with the Space Needle and downtown


This is where we sail from and return to, and if you’ve read my blog, you know that I’ve written quite a bit about this popular Pacific Northwest destination. I haven’t gone there as much in the past three years since my kids decided not to go here for college (both were accepted to Seattle University). But I would love to have time for pre-cruise activities or some options. 

Some of the favorite things I like to do in Seattle are exploring the area around Pike Place Market, walking around the Olympic Sculpture Park and the waterfront, taking in views from Alki Beach, and enjoying Asian food in the International District. I’d recommend seeing the Chihuly Gardens and the Space Needle if they’re not too crowded. If you go on the cruise with me, I’ll suggest some fun things to do here.

An aerial view of the Juneau, Alaska and the Gatstineau Channel (photo courtesy of ID 109416357 © Gregory Browning| Dreamstime.com)


As Alaska's state capital, Juneau is already considered one of its major cities. But it’s more known for its many activities for visitors. I’ve been here twice and have visited its arguably most popular attraction, Mendenhall Glacier. My first trip involved that and a whale-watching sail; the second was a rained-soaked bike ride. Both were different but equally fun, even that soggy cycling trip.

However, there’s a lot more to Juneau. You can go big and take a helicopter ride to see the backcountry glaciers, see historic museums, take a dogsledding tour, or go for a scenic hike. Or keep it simple and explore the town, including the Mt. Roberts tram and its spectacular views of the city and surrounding area.

On the White Pass & Yukon Railway, Skagway, Alaska


As one of the few Inside Passage towns accessible by road (albeit through Canada) and having a protected natural port, Skagway also has one of the most colorful histories in a state full of them.  Once the main gateway to the Yukon Territory and its late nineteenth-century gold rush, the town population exponentially grew. The lodes eventually tapped out, and people left. Now, the year-round population is just around 1500.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t find things to do in Skagway. The White Pass & Yukon Railway is the most popular attraction, which makes a breathtaking ascent from sea level to the passage into the gold rush territory. You can also pan for gold, take a kayak tour, or do a guided hike. Staying in town also provides fascinating historical exploration, especially if you visit the infamous Red Onion saloon.

The historic town of Sitka, Alaska (photo courtesy of ID 35032635 © Czuber|Dreamstime.com)


There are several common cruise ports in Alaska that I haven’t been to yet. Sitka is one of them, so I am naturally looking forward to visiting here. I just went to Ketchikan last year, and from pictures I’ve seen, it looks similar.

If I have time, I would love to visit the Sitka National Historical Park to learn more about the indigenous culture of the Alaska Native people, or the Alaska Raptor Center, a sanctuary for birds of prey. Another thing that makes Sitka unique is its Russian heritage. The town was a major settlement for explorers, and you can see the evidence in its architecture and sites, like St. Michael’s Cathedral.

The Empress Hotel in Victoria Harbour (photo courtesy of ID 31899606 © Leo Bruce Hempell|Dreamstime.com)

Victoria, BC

Unlike Sitka, I’ve been to Victoria at least a half dozen times over my lifetime. It’s a beautiful city, sitting at the southern end of Vancouver Island and framed by a natural harbor. When you enter the central area, you’ll recognize the provincial capital government buildings and the Empress Hotel, constructed in a grand architectural style.

The one must-do in Victoria is Butchart Gardens, a former rock quarry transformed into an extensive and stunning floral garden. But there are plenty of other things to do here. I recommend going to the Royal BC Museum, Chinatown (with Fan Tan Alley, one of the narrowest commercial passageways anywhere), or a proper British tea.  Another fantastic activity I haven’t done but others recommend is whale watching, where you’ll see pods of orcas.