Ketchikan – Snorkeling… in Alaska?!?

June 1, 2016

Today was the first day of summer! (Well, meteorological summer at least). What better way to celebrate than by going for a swim? Yes, even though we’re on an Alaska cruise. Not only did we decide to go swimming (and not in one of the ship’s heated pools), we went snorkeling. You heard that right, you can snorkel in Alaska. How’s that for a bucket list item?

The water is cold, but this excursion is HOT! Brag to all your friends you got to snorkel in Alaska.

Snorkel Alaska, as the name implies, is a company that specializes in snorkeling in Alaska. I have to say, it’s a whole different experience compared to snorkeling in Hawaii, the Caribbean, Florida, or anywhere else warm and tropical. The average water surface temperature fluctuates from 45-65 degrees from spring to summer. On the day that we went snorkeling in Alaska, the water was a brisk 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The first thing we needed to do when we arrived was to get suited up. Snorkel Alaska provides 7mm neoprene wet suits which serve to keep you fairly warm while in the water. After getting our wet suits on we took a bus to the snorkeling area and hopped right in the water.

Just your friendly neighborhood sea urchin.

The tour itself was a guided, hour long tour. The guide would occasionally free dive and bring up starfish and other animals for the rest of the group to get a good look at. We wound up seeing a large number of different starfish, crustaceans, shellfish, and jellyfish. We also had a number of bald eagles perch overhead and were even able to watch a few swoop to the water for a meal. 

After we finished the snorkeling portion of the tour, we were given hot drinks and access to hot showers which made getting out of the wet suits much easier. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Ketchikan proper and do a bit of exploring before heading back to the ship.

There is so much to see in Ketchikan, but we always enjoy walking along Creek Street, the historic red light district. There are also a large number of fisheries and salmon ladders that can make for some really good photo opportunities. 

Tomorrow, the ship will be sailing through the inside passage. I don’t have much to add to what I talked about the last time, so I’ll just let you read about it there.

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suggested Excursions in Ketchikan from our partners

Skagway – Alaskan Hikes

May 30, 2016

Today was our second port day in Alaska as we docked in Skagway. Skagway is famous for the role that the port city played in the Alaska gold rush. The city is filled with free museums and old shops and it really is like taking a step back in time. Probably the most famous activity in Skagway is the White Pass railway, although it is rather pricey.

We were traveling on a bit of a budget, and Skagway also has a lot of great activities that are completely free. One of our favorite things to do here is to hike along any number of the great nature trails. On our first Alaskan cruise we did the Lower Dewey Lake trail, so this time we wanted to do something different. First, we did the hike to Yakutania Point with a slight detour to Smuggler’s Cove. Once we finished that hike we had plenty of time left in port so we decided to do the Lower Reid Falls and Gold Rush Cemetery as well.

Yakutania Point and Smuggler’s Cove

Rock Outcroppings at Yakutania Point

Our first hike was to Yakutania Point which offers some excellent views of the water and the docked cruise ships. The hike itself was relatively easy, although it did have some narrow paths and uneven rock steps. The trail head starts just behind the Skagway airport with a footbridge across the Skagway River. We were feeling a little adventurous, so we also climbed on the rock outcroppings at the end of the trail. These gave us an excellent vantage point to see the Lynn Canal and the Chilkat Mountains.

Just past the halfway mark for the Yakutania Point trail is the turnoff for the Smugglers Cove trail. While we were on our way back we decided to take the turn off and hike out to Smugglers Cove. This added an additional 2-3 miles round trip, but the trail itself was easy with almost no elevation gain. The Smuggler’s Cove trail winds through mixed coastal forests before opening up to a sheltered tidal inlet. This appeared to be a bit less well known than Yakutania point, but the views were absolutely breathtaking.

Gold Rush Cemetery and Lower Reid Falls

At the base of Lower Reid Falls

After we hiked back to the airport we walked through the city to see some of the shops and then continued along the main road until we reached the railroad tracks. Here was the start of the trail to Lower Reid Falls which also goes through the Gold Rush Cemetery. The cemetery itself is just past the parking lot, so much of the walking to reach it is paved and smooth. This is the oldest cemetery in Skagway and is the final resting place for a number of the most famous gold prospectors to come to Skagway in search of their fortune.

From the cemetery it’s just a short forest hike to Reid Falls. The falls are about 300 feet in total and cascade down the mountain in an absolutely picturesque scene. These hikes are amazing because they provide a great contrast to each other. You can see the ocean and the forests, waterfalls and gravestones, history and nature. And best of all? We did it all for free.

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selected excursions in skagway from our partners

Popular Excursions on Alaska Cruises

Alaska has a lot of great sights and experiences to enjoy

The Alaska Cruising season is in full swing, and here at Adventures With Anthony we are celebrating Alaska Week. Come back everyday this week for a new article about Alaska Cruises, and find out why Alaska is not only our personal favorite cruise destination, but also the most popular cruise destination for our clients.

Today’s post is all about the excursions available when cruising Alaska. Read on for some of the best experiences you can look forward to in Alaska.

Seward

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier is a popular hiking destination in Seward. Know what to do if you run into a bear!

Exit Glacier is a very popular glacial hike in Seward. It is considered a “drive-up” glacier and has several miles of hiking trails, ultimately leading to the Harding Icefield. The Icefield itself is a bit of a strenuous hike, but there are several paths along Exit Glacier that are viable for hiker’s of any skill.

Alaska SeaLife Center

The Alaska SeaLife Center has a wide variety of fish, seabirds, and marine mammals.

The SeaLife Center in Seward is a combination marine sanctuary and aquarium. It is Alaska’s only permanent marine mammal rehabilitation facility and the entrance fee goes to help their rehabilitation efforts. Admission rates for adults are $25 a person, and you should plan on spending 2-3 hours at the center.

Juneau

Mendenhall Glacier

Nugget Falls is a popular and easy hike at Mendenhall Glacier.

By far the most popular attraction in Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier is a drive-up glacier with a number of great hikes. There are several shuttle buses that run between the cruise port and Mendenhall. You can also get a taxi or a private shuttle if you would prefer. At Mendenhall, you can see Nugget Falls on a very short and paved hike, or take the slightly rougher East and West Glacier Trails. You can also take a tour to the Ice Caves if you want something a bit more unique. To get to the ice caves you have to kayak and then climb to the entrance, but if you have the time and the ability, it is well worth it.

Whale Watching

Juneau is one of the top ports in Alaska for whale watching. You can expect to see a number of humpback whales; in fact, in Alaska most whale watching tours offer a money back guarantee. If you do not see any whales you will get your money back.

Skagway

White Pass & Yukon Route Railway

The White Pass Railway is probably the most popular excursion in Skagway.

By far the most popular excursion in Skagway is the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. The railway makes a 40 mile trip to the White Pass summit, lasting 3 to 3 and a half hours. If you book the excursion directly through the cruise company, you can be picked up by the train right at the port.

Hiking

Yakutania Point is a simple hike that offers some of the best views in Skagway

Skagway has a large number of hikes available very close to the downtown area. There are a large number of shorter hikes available for hikers of all skill levels. Yakutania Point and Lower Reid Falls are two of the top hikes available.

Icy Strait Point/Hoonah

Whale Watching

Whale watching is very popular in Hoonah

If Juneau is the most well known whale watching spot, Icy Strait Point is arguably the best. Point Adolphus is commonly called the best whale watching area in all of North America, and sightings are guaranteed by most, if not all, companies.

Zipline

The zipline in Icy Strait Point is the world’s longest and highest. The ZipRider has a total length of 5,330 feet with a total drop of 1,300 feet and a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour.

Ketchikan

Creek Street

Historic Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska

Creek Street is Ketchikan’s historic red light district, and has a number of shops. It’s well worth a walk, either for the modern shopping, the views, or the history. The slogan of the area is “Where men and salmon come upstream to spawn.”

Snorkeling

The water is cold, but this excursion is HOT! Brag to all your friends you got to snorkel in Alaska.

Snorkeling in Alaska? That’s right. Ketchikan has a great snorkeling excursion complete with thick, cold-water wet suits. It’s cold, but once you’re in the water it’s not super noticeable.

Make sure you come back tomorrow for our next entry in Alaska Cruise Week. And if you’re already ready to book your next Alaska adventure, reach out and let us help you plan your new favorite cruise.

Closed Loop or One Way Alaska Cruises

Seward has some amazing views, but they aren’t available on most Seattle based cruises

The Alaska Cruising season is in full swing, and here at Adventures With Anthony we are celebrating Alaska Week. Come back everyday this week for a new article about Alaska Cruises, and find out why Alaska is not only our personal favorite cruise destination, but also the most popular cruise destination for our clients.

Today’s post is all about the differences between round-trip and one way Alaska cruises. Read on to learn which cruise is right for you.

Why the different types of cruises?

Simply put, cruise lines have to abide by the Passenger Vessel Service Act, sometimes erroneously called the Jones Act. We touched briefly on the PVSA in our post on Hawaii cruises, but essentially the PVSA means that cruise lines have to visit a “distant foreign port” if doing a closed loop cruise. Closed loop is just a fancy term for a round trip cruise; the cruise starts and ends at the same port making a full loop.

Seattle is much closer to Canada than Anchorage is, so ships can easily leave Seattle, visit a port in Canada (often Victoria, British Columbia), and return to Seattle on a 7 night cruise. Cruises departing from Seward (or Whittier) Alaska, on the other hand, cannot. Therefore, these cruises have to either be 14 nights, or a one way cruise that does not start and end in a US port.

What are the differences?

The main difference right off the bat is of course the departure and arrival ports. One way Alaska cruises also often visit more ports than their closed loop counterparts, in part because they don’t have to budget time for the return trip. The two cruises also share many ports of call, but also have a few different stops, and the prices can be quite different on the two cruises as well.

Common Ports

Whale watching is very popular in Hoonah, but Seattle based cruises often miss this port

Both closed loop and one way Alaska cruises often stop at Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway and include a “glacier experience”. Cruises from Seattle often visit Glacier Bay, although some will visit Tracy Arm Fjord, Sawyer Glacier, or Hubbard Glacier. Seattle cruises also typically visit Victoria, British Columbia, often for a very short stop. This stop is pretty much just to meet the PVSA requirements, and it isn’t unheard of for a ship to only be in Victoria for a couple hours.

One way Alaska cruises can often visit Icy Strait Point, also called Hoonah. This native village has arguably the best whale watching of the typical Alaska ports, but is rarely visited by Seattle based cruises. The departure/arrival towns of Seward or Whittier are also not often visited by Seattle cruises.

Different Ships

Like we mentioned yesterday, both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have big ships coming to Alaska. Both of these new ships will be sailing round trip from Seattle. Seattle is just able to handle much larger ships, so this will likely be a trend we see continuing. This is not necessarily a good or a bad thing. We absolutely love sailing Alaska on the Radiance of the Seas, a much smaller ship with a lot of viewing space.

Cruise Tours

We will discuss cruise tours in more detail on Friday, but only the one way Alaska cruises offer a land portion option. These cruise tours add a few extra days onto the Alaska end of your cruise for a guided land tour. The exact tours vary, but often they take time to visit Denali National Park and a few other areas around Alaska that can’t be reached by ship.

Cost

This is always a concern of cruisers, but is the hardest to really pin down. The one way cruises are often quite a bit cheaper than their closed loop cousins, but at the same time airfare is often cheaper for a round trip flight to Seattle. On the one way Alaska cruises, you have to purchase two one way plane tickets since your cruise does not start and end at the same place. Flights to Anchorage are often more expensive than flights to Seattle, and since the port is not actually in Anchorage, you also have to pay for transportation between Anchorage and Seward or Whittier. Our personal favorite method of transportation to the port is the Alaska Railroad, and in my opinion that is well worth any additional cost.

Mirror Lake is one of the highlights of the train ride between Anchorage and Seward

The exact costs of cruise and airfare can vary widely from cruise to cruise, so make sure you reach out to us to figure out what your best bet would be.

Cruises to Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii shoreline
There’s no better tropical escape than a cruise to paradise

Hawaii is one of the most popular destinations in the world, and for good reason. We went to Honolulu ourselves in 2016, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our time on the island. It is a tropical island paradise that can compete with any destination in the Caribbean, yet finding a cruise to Hawaii is surprisingly difficult. Part of the reason for this is Hawaii’s distance from the continental United States; over 2,600 miles as the crow flies from Southern California. This comes out to about 2,250 nautical miles, which will take an average cruise ship between 100 and 120 hours to cross. That comes out to 5 full days at sea to get to Hawaii, and another 5 to return to California.

Distance is not the only problem facing cruise companies that want to visit Hawaii. For various legal, financial, and logistical reasons most cruise ships are foreign flagged vessels. This means that they are restricted by the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886. This law bans any vessel that isn’t built in the US and owned by a US based company from transporting passengers between two different US ports. This act also says that a cruise that leaves from and returns to the same US port must visit a foreign port, so even if a ship were to make a round trip cruise from Honolulu, it would have to visit a port outside the United States. The closest such port is Tabuaeran on the Fanning Atoll, a full 4 days away from Honolulu.

Options for Cruises to Hawaii

Despite these difficulties, many cruise lines do offer cruises to Hawaii. If you want to take one of these magical adventures, you have four main options. A world cruise, a re-positioning cruise, a multi-week California to Hawaii cruise, or a 7 night round trip Honolulu cruise on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America.

World Cruises

The most expensive and lengthy option for a cruise to Hawaii is a world cruise. These cruises are measured in months, not days and range from a 59 nights to 161 nights. The price of these cruises range from $22,000 to $80,000 per person. On these cruises, Hawaii is just another port, but what a way to see the islands.

Oceania 85 day Around the World Cruise Itinerary

Re-positioning Cruises

Some cruises are only able to run part of the year, so cruise lines need to move their ships. Alaska cruises are one of the most popular seasonal cruises and can only sail from May through September. When Alaska gets too cold, the ships relocate, often to Asia or Australia. This path across the Pacific takes them right past Hawaii, so it is a natural stop to break up the long cruise. It takes about 6 or 7 days for a cruise to reach Hawaii from Seattle, Vancouver, or Anchorage, and another 7 or 8 days to reach the South Pacific.

These cruises can be run in one of two ways. The first option is a longer cruise, often at least 21 nights with Hawaii as a mid-point stop. The second option is to split the cruise into two separate cruises. The first cruise would end in Honolulu and the second cruise would begin there. Often at least one of these cruises would island hop to multiple cities in Hawaii.

Round Trip California Cruises to Hawaii

These cruises are offered on Princess, Holland America, Oceania, Crystal, and occasionally Celebrity. There are two main itineraries available; a 15-17 night cruise from California to Hawaii, with a stop in Mexico, or a 28+ night cruise to Hawaii, Tahiti, and the South Pacific. Most of these cruises depart from Los Angeles, while a few leave from San Francisco or San Diego. The shorter cruises stop at Ensenada, Mexico, a city known locally as La Cenicienta del Pacifico, or “The Cinderella of the Pacific”. Ensenada is not a particularly popular destination, but it does have its charms. The city is working hard to improve their offerings, and they have some of the best street food in Mexico.

Ensenada, Mexico. Image Credit: By Isaacmoon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Round Trip Honolulu Cruises

There is one, and only one, cruise line that offers regular round trip cruises from Hawaii. If you want to take a typical 7 night cruise from Honolulu to the other islands, Norwegian is it. In order to get around the regulations of the Passenger Vessel Service Act, NCL had to take several steps. First, they had to create a new company, NCL America, that was headquartered in the United States. Second, they had to have a ship that was US built, US flagged, and manned with US crew. Ultimately this ship became the Pride of America. Construction was finished in 2005, and she has been sailing the Hawaiian Islands for the past 13 years.

NCL Cruise Line, Pride of America, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Pride of America runs the same itinerary year round, leaving Honolulu every Saturday. The cruise overnights in Kahului, Maui, then visits Hilo and Kona on the Big Island, and finally overnights in Nawiliwili, Kauai. Since there is no competition, these cruises can be a little more expensive than other 7 night sailings. At the lowest end you are looking at about $2,500 for two people in an interior room. A balcony room will start at closer to $5,000 for two people.

The Best Time for a Hawaii Cruise

If you are planning on taking a re-positioning cruise to Hawaii you will be severely limited. These cruises are set based on the Alaska cruising season, so your choices are typically March/April or September/October. These months also have the benefit of being in Hawaii’s low season, so flights and hotels will typically be cheaper. If your cruise is one of the ones that ends or begins in Hawaii, this can be really helpful.

If you are planning on taking the Norwegian cruise, these months can still be a great choice. Since airfare is often cheaper in the shoulder months, the higher cost of the cruise can be offset a bit. The rest of winter can be another great choice to escape to a warm tropical paradise. January through March is Hawaii’s high season, so it may be more expensive and more crowded, but it can be a great respite from the cold.

Christmas is a Wonderful time to visit Hawaii

If you’d like to plan your own adventure to Hawaii, send me a request. I’d be happy to find the perfect Hawaiian cruise for you and your family.

Cocktails from Around the World

Traveling the world can give you a wide variety of unique experiences. While many of these experiences can come home with you only in the form of memories and photographs, there are some experiences that you can recreate from the comfort of your home. Food and drinks from around the world can be an excellent way to relive past adventures or have a mini adventure right at home. We’ve gathered up 5 of the best cocktails from around the world that you can enjoy no matter where you are.

Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling Cocktail
Singapore Sling from Santosa | Courtesy Wikipedia

The Singapore Sling is a gin and cherry mixed drink that was invented in the early 1900s at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The exact original recipe is lost to time, but is generally agreed to be comprised of gin, cherry liqueur, and orange, pineapple, and lime juices. The modern recipe varies at various venues across Singapore, but the standard ingredients of gin, cherry liqeur, and pineapple juice always stay the same. If you want to try your hand at it, the official recipe from the International Bartenders Association is below.

  • 2 Parts Gin
  • 1 Part Cherry Liqeur or Cherry Brandy
  • ½ Part Benedictine
  • ½ Part Cointreau
  • 1 Part Lime Juice
  • Dash of Bitters
  • Dash of Grenadine
  • 8 Parts Pineapple Juice

Combine all ingredients and mix with ice. Strain and serve straight up in a highball or hurricane glass. Garnish with cherry and pineapple.

10 Amazing Animal Encounters


One of the wildest experiences you can have when travelling the world is getting to see local wildlife up close and personal. Zoos and aquariums can be a great way to see a wide variety of animals, but sometimes there is an even greater adventure out there waiting. We have gathered together 10 of the best animal encounter vacations you can plan today. It is very important to note that some tour companies who offer animal encounters do not care for the welfare of the animals. All of the excursions we feature are responsible, and this list will be updated if any of these activities no longer meet that criteria.

Animal Encounters in North America

1. Polar Bears Under the Northern Lights – Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Polar Bear Mom and Cubs
Churchill Wild | Great Ice Bear Adventure

Churchill Wild operates four remote, fly-in ecolodges in Manitoba, Canada. Two of their lodges, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and Seal River Heritage Lodge are members of the esteemed National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection. All four of their lodges are remote and their tour packages include transportation to Winnipeg, then Churchill, and finally a scenic flight to the lodge.

Between the four lodges, Churchill Wild offers 9 unique polar bear safaris. All have a chance to see the Northern Lights and many polar bears, as well as a wide variety of arctic wildlife. Aside from polar bears you can see Beluga whales, wolves, black bears, moose, caribou, foxes, and hares. Tour packages range from 7 to 11 days, and start at $10,000 CAD per person, although that is almost all inclusive. The season lasts from July to November each year.

2. Salmon Fishing with Brown Bears – Katmai National Park, Alaska

Grizzly Bear with Salmon
Dmitry Azovtsev | Wikimedia | daphoto.info

Katmai National Park and Preserve is a 4 million acre park filled with volcanoes and a wide variety of Alaskan wildlife. Most famous of all the wildlife in the park is the Alaskan Brown Bear. Every year in July and September hundreds of bears flock to the Brooks River to feed on Sockeye salmon.

The park is only accessible by float plane, landing at Lake Brooks Seaplane Base. Flights are available from Anchorage, Homer, King Salmon, Kodiak, and a few other towns in Alaska. Lodging options in the park are limited to a few lodges or camping. Brooks Lodge is the most popular destination in the park, and the best place to bear watch. The National Park Service even has a number of webcams setup, so you can bear watch from your home.

For more Alaska adventure ideas, check out our review of our first Alaskan cruise.

3. Bike with Gators – Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, Florida

Alligator at Shark Valley
Shark Valley | January 13, 2017

When visiting the Everglades one of the most popular wildlife tours is taking an airboat ride. Unfortunately, the loud and rough airboats can have negative impacts on the local wildlife. As a result, the National Park Service has been instituting restrictions on the number of airboats and where in the park they can go. If you want a chance to see the famous alligators of the everglades up close while maintaining the peaceful atmosphere, your best bet is the Shark Valley Trail.

Shark Valley Trail is a 15 mile paved loop with a number of walking trails and an observation tower. You can take a tram ride, rent a bike, or walk the trail, all while in the company of hundreds of alligators and a wide variety of birds. The trail is flat, and a very enjoyable experience no matter how you choose to see it.