Alaska: The Last Frontier

A celebratory aura awaits luxury travelers heading to the Last Frontier this year and next. First, this month marks the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s Iditarod, the famed 1,000-mile sled dog race between Anchorage and Nome. Second, 2022 is the 75th anniversary year for Holland America Line’s cruise operations in Alaskan waters. Third, next year signifies the 100th anniversary of U.S. President Warren G. Harding driving in a ceremonial golden spike to signal completion of the Alaska Railroad. 

For luxury travelers seeking to make their own lifetime of memories in summer 2022, what’s up for Alaskan cruising? Here’s a sampling of the many ways that luxury travelers can explore America’s Last Frontier via the waters of the Inside Passage, Outside Passage, Bering Sea and Beaufort Sea. 

Ultra-Luxury in Alaska

Between May and September, ultra-luxury Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 684-passenger Seven Seas Mariner and 732-passenger Seven Seas Explorer will sail Alaska and British Columbia waters, mostly on seven-night voyages between Vancouver, BC, and Seward, AK. Certainly, cruisers can sail in style in Seven Seas Mariner’s 2,002-square-foot Master Suite, or Seven Seas Explorer’s 4,443-square-foot Regent Suite, which has its own in-suite spa retreat and a Steinway piano. 

On the seven-night northbound Alaska voyages, guests will head ashore in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Icy Strait Point, plus enjoy a day of cruising the Inside Passage and another day cruising to the Hubbard Glacier. Sailing southward, the ship’s port calls include Sitka, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, plus Hubbard Glacier cruising and a day of scenic cruising within the Inside Passage.  

With Regent Seven Seas’ two-for-one, all-inclusive fares, guests receive the following complimentary items: roundtrip air with free transfers between the airport and ship; unlimited shore excursions; unlimited beverages including fine wines and spirits; open bars and lounges plus in-suite minibar replenishment; pre-paid gratuities; specialty dining; and unlimited Wi-Fi. Guests staying in Concierge Suites and higher category accommodations also receive a free one-night pre-cruise hotel package. Those staying in Penthouse Suites or higher category accommodations also enjoy the services of a personal butler. 

Mount Denali in Alaska
Caribou Bulls seen in front of Mount Denali in Alaska. (Getty Images)

To further elevate an Alaska vacation, Luxury Travel Advisor would suggest booking Regent Seven Seas’ five-day, pre-cruise “Discover Denali” package, which takes travelers deep into Alaska’s interior. Guests will be met at Anchorage’s airport, transferred to a local hotel for one night and on day two, head north via motorcoach along the scenic George Parks Highway—winding through the heart of Alaska’s interior. 

Upon reaching Talkeetna, they can briefly explore this U.S. National Historic Site, before boarding the Alaska Railroad for the four-and-a-half-hour train ride to the Denali area. Comfortably seated upstairs in “The Dome,” they’ll enjoy gorgeous views of rugged Alaska terrain from all sides of the railcar, prior to heading downstairs for lunch.  

Once reaching Denali, they’ll transfer to the Grande Denali Lodge (or a similar property) for a two-night stay near Denali National Park. On Day 3, guests will enjoy an included “Denali Natural History Tour” with several interpretive stops and an off-bus experience. On Day 4, they’ll go to the dogs—literally. They’ll visit an Iditarod sled dog kennel and meet the resident pups. 

Next, it’s on to the scenic beauty of the Chugach Mountains and Turnagain Arm waters and a one-night stay at Girdwood’s Alyeska Resort (or a similar property). That resort is now in the final stages of constructing the state’s first Nordic spa, so when it’s finished, guests will discover new indoor and outdoor spa spaces and a wellness bistro. 

On Day 5, there’s time for Regent Seven Seas’ guests to ride the nearby aerial tramway for spectacular eco-views before guests are transferred to Seward, where they embark their ultra-luxury ship. 

Also plying Alaska and British Columbia waters this summer are Silversea Cruises’ 596-passenger Silver Muse and 388-passenger Silver Shadow. They both sail an extensive series of seven-day voyages between Seward, AK, and Vancouver, B.C., among other voyages. On the week-long cruises, travelers can explore Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, plus go ashore at Sitka, famed for its Russian heritage and wildlife sites. These voyages also sail to the Hubbard Glacier. 

As an example of “top digs,” we’d opt for Silver Muse’s Owner’s Suite in the two-bedroom configuration. It’s a great way for two couples or parents and their adult children to travel in style in their own private enclave. With dedicated butler service, cruisers can spread out in up to 1,970 square feet of space including the veranda. Resembling a stylish apartment, the two-bedroom configuration has two marbled baths—one with separate shower and full-sized bath, the other with a full-sized bath/shower combination—plus a guest powder room. 

New for 2022? From summer 2022 onward, all Silversea guests can choose one “included shore excursion” per port (included in their cruise fare). For example, Silversea plans 15 different shore excursions during its day in Sitka, and of those, nine are offered on the “included” tour list. 

Seabourn will return to Alaska, sailing a series of seven-day voyages between Vancouver and Juneau, or 10-, 11- and 14-day roundtrip cruises from Vancouver.  (Seabourn)

One of the included tours is the “Taste of Sitka,” which begins with a visit to the Sitka National Historical Park’s cultural (both Russian and Tlingit) and totem exhibits. This park was the site of the 1804 Battle of Alaska, the last major armed conflict between Alaska’s indigenous people and the area’s Russian occupiers. Outside, cruisers will discover totem-lined trails, while inside the park center, they can visit carving rooms where native Alaskan artisans are demonstrating totem art.  

Then, the tour heads for the Sitka Sound Science Center’s incubation and nursery area where cruisers will learn about Sitka’s commercial fishing industry and see and touch marine life. Then it’s on to the Channel Club Restaurant, where cruisers can sample two locally produced microbrews and wild Alaskan salmon. Participants will have free time in Sitka for shopping or strolling, while a shuttle running every 10 minutes will provide transport back to the ship.  

In Juneau, one new Silversea shore excursion this year is an optional five-and-a-half-hour “Extended Helicopter Glacier Trek” excursion. Designed for physically fit guests, it’s a strenuous but rewarding eco-outing as participants will both hike and go ice climbing on the Mendenhall Glacier. Expert guides will equip participants with state-of-the-art trekking and climbing equipment and demonstrate the basics of glacier travel, ice climbing and belaying (a safe climbing technique). While no experience is required, guests must be able to hike unassisted on uneven, rolling, and sometimes steep terrain for up to three hours. 

One way to extend the Silversea Alaska cruise experience is to book the line’s six-day, pre-cruise “Majestic Canadian Rockies” land package, available for Vancouver embarkations. Guests will fly into Calgary, Alberta, Canada, be met by a Silversea representative at the airport and transfer to Banff, a 70-mile drive, for two nights at the luxurious Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Included is a sightseeing tour of Lake Louise; along with Moraine Lake, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Guests then transfer to the Banff train station to board the Rocky Mountaineer for a trip to Kamloops within British Columbia’s interior. Traveling through tunnels and over mountain passes, guests will gaze at Canadian Rockies and Fraser River scenery as well as lakeshores and ranchlands. In Kamloops, they’ll transfer to the Thompson Hotel (or a similar property) for one night, and then the next morning re-board the Rocky Mountaineer for the trip west to Vancouver, where they’ll stay two nights at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. A three-hour Vancouver sightseeing tour is included. 

Also returning to Alaska and British Columbia waters this summer is ultra-luxury Seabourn. Starting May 27, 2022, the 458-passenger Seabourn Odyssey will sail to Alaska and British Columbia. A series of seven-day voyages will operate between Vancouver and Juneau, AK, or guests can choose 10- and 11-day roundtrip cruises from Vancouver, as well as several 14-day roundtrips. Among the ports of call are Sitka, Ketchikan and Wrangell, to name a few. 

Guests will stay in 229 suites, and top suites have butler service. Seeking the best? Then opt for the Owner’s Suite, which offers between 526 square feet and 593 square feet of inside space plus a large veranda. Perks include forward-facing windows, dining for four to six, a bathroom with a whirlpool bathtub, guest bath, pantry with wet bar and two, flat-screen TVs, and complimentary Internet/Wi-Fi service. 

Seabourn Odyssey’s “Glaciers and Alaska Inside Passage” itinerary, sails one-way northward from Vancouver to Ketchikan, Sitka, Hubbard Glacier and the Inian Islands. In contrast, the one-way southward “Alaska Fjords and Canadian Inside Passage” itinerary includes calls at Wrangell, AK, and Prince Rupert, BC, as well as sailing to Tracy Arm/Endicott Arm and Misty Fjords. For the ultimate Alaska vacation, we’d suggest guests combine those two itineraries into a 14-day vacation with no repeating ports.

One appealing perk of a Seabourn Alaska cruise is the line’s optional Seabourn Ventures expedition-style programming and shore excursions. While Seabourn Odyssey isn’t an expedition ship, guests enjoy the appeal of both ultra-luxury comfort/service and adventurous options ashore. For example, a full expedition team will sail with guests, organizing enrichment lectures within the Seabourn Conversations program, plus leading shoreside expedition-style outings. 

For Alaska sailings, Seabourn’s expedition team will include a marine biologist, ornithologist, geologist, historian, photographer/videographer, kayak guide and naturalist. So, for example, at Rudyerd Bay, deglaciated bay in Misty Fjords National Monument, guests participating in the Seabourn Ventures program can head out kayaking, take Zodiac rides or go hiking. 

Seabourn Odyssey guests will get a closer look at sea lions while kayaking at the Inian Islands.  (Seabourn)

Oceania Cruises’ 684-passenger Regatta will sail a series of seven- to 11-day voyages, mostly roundtrip from Seattle but some between Vancouver and Seattle as well. On July 22, 2022, its 10-day “Vistas and Glaciers” voyage sails to Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Haines, Sitka, and Victoria, BC, also with a day sailing the Inside Passage, a day cruising to the Hubbard Glacier, and a day sailing the Outside Passage. 

The top suites on board are six Owner’s Suites, each spanning nearly 1,000 square feet, with lavish new fabrics and designer furnishings. These suites also have redesigned bathrooms with an oversized shower. Among the many perks are 24-hour butler service and free laundry service. We like the option too of a private in-suite lunch on embarkation day between noon and 2 p.m. 

So, what’s to do on this Alaska cruise? Well, in Juneau, for example, Oceania’s guests can head out for a river float at the Mendenhall Glacier; self-guided Jeep tour; Mendenhall Lake kayak adventure and salmon bake; historic gold mining and panning adventure, Alpine zip line excursion; helicopter exploration; whale watching and wildlife quest and much more. 

To celebrate the 50th year anniversary of the Iditarod, we’d opt for one of Oceania’s Juneau area sled-dog adventures. For instance, during the “Sled Dog Discovery and Mushers’ Camp” excursion, travelers will head to a forested trail for dog sledding behind a team of Alaska huskies. They’ll hear tales of mushing and the Iditarod competition, and also learn how huskies are trained for mushing. 

Upscale Sailings

In summer 2022, Cunard Line’s 2,081-passenger Queen Elizabeth will operate seven-, 10- and 11-night Alaska and British Columbia voyages roundtrip from Vancouver. For example, on June 4, 2022, Queen Elizabeth will depart on a 10-night cruise roundtrip from Vancouver, BC. The itinerary includes a “cruise by” of Glacier Bay National Park, a call at Haines, cruising by the Hubbard Glacier, calls at Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, AK, and, Victoria BC. Several longer voyages also either embark or disembark guests in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

What’s nifty? This summer, depending on sailing date, cruisers will hear tales of exploration from some incredible guest lecturers. They include: Sir Ranulph Fiennes, famed for completely circumnavigating the Earth’s polar surface; Peter Hillary, who’s completed the Seven Summits of mountain climbing, and is the son of Sir Edmund Hillary; Felicity Aston, a polar scientist who has skied solo across the Antarctic continent, becoming the first woman to complete that journey; or Kenton Cool who’s summited Mount Everest not once, not twice, but a grand total of 14 times.

Travelers interested in sailing on Viking have a choice of 14 one-way “Alaska and the Inside Passage” voyages by the upscale line’s 930-passenger Viking Orion. These 11-day sailings will operate one way between Vancouver, BC, and Seward, AK. One perk is that seven guided tours are included within the cruise fare. 

During Viking Orion’s call at Icy Strait Point, near Hoonah, AK, cruisers will eyeball an old canning station. It’s a “time capsule” of sorts, now fully restored by the native Tlingit community. Cruisers will learn about how the locals once made their living from fishing and canning operations. Plus, Icy Strait Point brims with eco-activity options and native Alaskan cultural programs. 

Silver Muse
Silver Muse’s week-long voyages between Seward, AK, and Vancouver, B.C., will visit Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka. (Silversea)

Windstar Cruises’ recently updated and “stretched” Star Breeze will ply the waters of the "Great Land," too, during multiple summer 2022 departures. While the line will offer many Alaska itineraries of 10 to 16 days, cruisers will also discover some shorter itineraries too. For example, on multiple summer 2022 dates, Star Breeze will operate a new seven-day “Scenic Alaska” itinerary between Juneau and Vancouver, with Haines as a new port of call. Other port calls include Tracy Arm/Endicott Arm, Misty Fjords, Sitka and Ketchikan. Each sailing has eight onboard expedition experts to lead guests in activities ashore and lecture aboard.  

One enticing shore option for Haines is Windstar’s four-hour “Concierge Collection: Guide’s Choice Photography Discovery,” a moderate activity that involves walking in the Chilkat Valley’s great outdoors and photography of flora and wildlife. The guide will select his or her top spots for the best photos. In May, June and July, cruisers can photograph wildflowers and bald eagles, and in August, the pink salmon begin their run up the Chilkoot River to spawn, often bringing brown bears eager for a tasty meal.  

If travelers on any cruise line are visiting Juneau between June 8 to 11, 2022, they’ll likely encounter Sealaska Heritage Institute’s “Celebrating 10,000 Years of Cultural Survival” festivities, now in their 40th year. We hear that thousands of indigenous Alaskans from native Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribes will circulate throughout downtown Juneau, many attired in traditional ceremonial regalia. Cruisers can expect cultural programs, dance performances and food tasting opportunities.  

In 2022, the 230-passenger, luxurious Hanseatic Inspiration, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ international expedition ship, will sail exotic voyages that include both Alaska and the Russian Far East. For example, on July 1, 2022, that ship will sail on a 21-day voyage from Otaru (Sapporo), Japan to Seward, AK, with exploration of Russia’s Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands, as well as multiple stops within the U.S.’ remote Aleutian Islands. 

In addition, the ship will sail 15-day, point-to-point voyages from Seward to Vancouver (and in reverse) along the Inside Passage. One highlight is that these are billed as “Voyages for Young Explorers,” so designed to particularly appeal to families with kids 10 to 17. During the day-and-a-half stay at Kodiak Island, cruisers can go bear spotting by seaplane or hike in Fort Abercrombie State Park. Hanseatic Inspiration is the line’s international expedition ship so both English and German are the official languages spoken aboard.

Also on the expeditionary side, Scenic’s 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse is a relatively new ship and a new Alaska player this summer. The vessel will operate a 13-day “Alaska and the Inside Passage” itinerary between Vancouver and Fairbanks. Highlights include an Inside Passage transit with port calls at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, scenic cruising of Glacier Bay and College Fjord, plus land travel that includes Anchorage/Talkeetna, three days in Denali National Park, time in Fairbanks and a chance to “cross the Arctic Circle” (and receive a certificate for that) with a flight north of Fairbanks, where cruisers will explore a wilderness village. 

If cruisers are planning to hike on trails in the area around Skagway, it’s good to know that the Skagway Visitors Department plans to make some improvements to the local trail system this year. 

Some luxurious journeys don’t focus solely on Alaska but still touch the "Great Land." Among those is a “Northwest Passage” voyage on Ponant’s new hybrid-electric polar expedition ship, Le Commandant Charcot, which carries its own fleet of 16 Zodiacs for guest exploration. Sailing in the remote polar regions across the top of Canada and Alaska, the 24-day voyage also visits Iceland and Greenland. Departing from Reykjavik, Iceland on both September 7, 2022, and also September 11, 2023, the trans-polar sailing will end with a sailing through the Beaufort Sea. Disembarkation will be in Nome, Alaska. 

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Mariner will sail mostly seven-night voyages to Alaska. Shown here is the ship’s library.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Mariner will sail mostly seven-night voyages to Alaska. Shown here is the ship’s library. (Regent Seven Seas Cruises)

More around Alaska 

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in Alaska, Holland America Line will also be back in the "Great Land" in force in 2022. Voyages of diverse lengths from Seattle and Vancouver will be operated by Eurodam, Noordam, Westerdam, Zuiderdam, Nieuw Amsterdam and Koningsdam. One unique aspect of Holland America Line’s cruisetour offerings is that it can take cruisers into Canada’s Yukon region in combination with a cruise. Among the many Yukon options, we’d suggest the 13-day “Yukon+Triple Denali” itinerary, operated by Zuiderdam on multiple dates. Guests will stay three nights in the Denali area and also head into Dawson City in the Yukon where they can relive the Klondike Gold Rush history.

Princess Cruises, another veteran Alaska operator, also returns this summer to Alaska with multiple ships operating diverse seven- to 17-night itineraries. Every Princess cruisetour includes a visit to Denali National Park and Preserve. Most notable, the line’s newly delivered, 3,660-passenger Discovery Princess, the line’s fifth and final Royal-class ship, will sail seven-day “Inside Passage” cruises from Seattle and offer a new production show, “Spotlight Bar,” on every sailing.

Many other big ship lines also will return to Alaska this summer including Celebrity Cruises with three ships. Families will have a new option as, for the first time, Royal Caribbean International will bring its 4,905-passenger Quantum of the Seas to Alaska; the ship will sail from Seattle. It’s big and innovative. Cruisers will gaze at Alaska scenery from the “highest” viewing deck of any Alaska cruise ship and even interior staterooms will allow admiration of the views “in real time” from a Virtual Balcony.

After seeing robust bookings for the upcoming summer season, earlier this year small-ship Lindblad Expeditions added two more ships—the 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Lion and the 102-guest, ice-class National Geographic Orion to its summer 2022 Alaska line-up.

Sawyer Glacier
The Sawyer Glacier is one of the top draws for cruisers visiting Juneau. (Travel Juneau)

In particular, the National Geographic Orion’s two new 13- to 15-day adventures should appeal to luxury travelers who really want to dive deeper into the Alaska experience. For example, that ship’s 13-day “Pribilofs, Katmai and Kodiak” itinerary will visit coastal Katmai National Park, one of the world’s premier brown bear viewing areas, as well as seldom-visited Lake Clark National Park in the shadow of a steaming, 10,000-foot-high volcano. Cruisers will explore remote and rugged islands dotting the Kenai Peninsula, including the Pribilofs, a breeding ground for millions of seabirds and marine mammals. They’ll also visit Unalaska, the site of a fierce World War II battle, and Unga with scattered petrified forest remains. In addition, they’ll cross the Bering Strait. Departures are July 24, 2022, and August 5, 2022.

Another small ship line, American Queen Voyages (AQV) will debut the new, expeditionary, 186-passenger Ocean Victory, this spring. For its 12- and 13-day Alaska itineraries, AQV has partnered with Rocky Mountaineer to offer new, pre- and post-cruise Canadian Rockies rail experiences between Calgary and Vancouver. 

Highlights include a two-day Rocky Mountaineer train experience with GoldLeaf Service; hotel stays at Banff (one night), Kamloops (one night) and Vancouver (two nights); either one or two half-day tours in Vancouver; a National Parks pass; luggage handling at hotels; and train station and airport transfers. The pre-cruise package includes an additional Calgary hotel night and a day-long sightseeing tour from Calgary to Banff.   

American Constellation
American Cruise Lines will offer three summer 2022 itineraries on its175-passenger American Constellation. (American Cruise Lines)

Small-ship American Cruise Lines will offer three summer 2022 itineraries on its 175-passenger American Constellation. All cruises from Juneau will include a complimentary pre-cruise hotel stay, ACL offers flat-rate airfare, and on select itineraries, the ship will overnight in Glacier Bay. 

More is on the horizon for Alaska in future years too. Starting in 2023, ACL will launch its first two new “Project Blue” coastal hybrid catamarans, and Alaska is one region in which they’re expected to sail.

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