Many people dream of exploring Alaska, with the Last Frontier being home to some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere on Earth. Unfortunately, the complexities of organizing an Alaska vacation and finding the right tour guides, accommodation, and activities can discourage many people from actually going ahead with the trip.
That’s why a cruise is one of the best ways to experience Alaska. With an Alaska cruise, you’ll be able to visit key locations around the state like Juneau and Skagway without needing to actually be in charge of the travel yourself.
The ship will take you wherever you need to go, and you won’t even have to worry about being cold as you’ll be able to enjoy all the warmth and comfort of your ship whenever you need it. See below for full details on a few of the best Alaska cruises you might like to book. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Norwegian Cruise Line - 7 Night Awe of Alaska with Glacier Bay - Norwegian Joy
2.Carnival - 10 Night Alaska - Carnival Miracle
3.Princess Cruises - 7 Night Alaska Inside Passage with Tracy Arm Fjord - Star Princess
3 Best Alaska Cruises
- Norwegian Cruise Line - 7 Night Awe of Alaska with Glacier Bay - Norwegian Joy, Photo: PixieMe/stock.adobe.com
- Carnival - 10 Night Alaska - Carnival Miracle, Photo: Scott Griessel/stock.adobe.com
- Princess Cruises - 7 Night Alaska Inside Passage with Tracy Arm Fjord - Star Princess, Photo: JW_PNW/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: MAXFX/stock.adobe.com
Attraction Spotlight: Aurora Ice Museum
Located within Chena Hot Springs Resort approximately 56 miles from Fairbanks, Alaska, the Aurora Ice Museum is the largest year-round ice display in the world, featuring sculptures created by world champion ice carvers Steve and Heather Brice. Though the waters of Chena Hot Springs have been used by the indigenous people of Alaska for centuries, recorded use of the area’s hot springs dates back to 1904, when a United States Geological Survey crew noted an incidence of rising steam from a valley near the Chena River.
Though it was assumed that the steam was from a natural geothermal hot springs, the surveyors did not pursue further investigation, but in July of the following year, gold miners Robert and Thomas Swan learned of the findings and set out to investigate, hoping to find a way to alleviate Robert’s rheumatism pain. After a month of searching, the Swan brothers located the hot springs area on August 5. Over the following years, they developed a small resort property on the area, including a bathhouse, stable, and 12 visitor cabins. Throughout the 20th century, the hot springs grew to become one of the most popular resort areas in interior Alaska, developing such a reputation for its unique waters that chemists from the United States Department of Agriculture was sent to study its properties. Conclusions from the study showed that the waters were markedly different in chemical makeup than other American hot springs, showing similarities to famed hot springs areas in the Czech Republic due to its high content of sulfate, chloride, and sodium bicarbonate.
Steve Brice was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, though his family moved to Clarksville, Georgia when he was a small child. As a self-taught sculptor, Steve originally worked with plasticine sculpting but developed an interest in ice sculpting after assisting with a project for Ice Alaska in 1990. Heather Brice, a Fairbanks native, was a student of Wendy Croskey when she reached out to Steve to assist him on his World Ice Art Championship team in 1998. As a married couple, Steve and Heather have won a combined total of 23 world ice art championships and have designed prominent ice sculptures for cities and events around the world. Following their work at the 1996 World Ice Art Championships, Steve was approached by Chena Hot Springs Resort owner Bernie Karl, who proposed the idea of creating an ice museum for the resort. A temporary facility, designed by Steve and Heather, was created in 2003, but melted with spring weather the following year. The first ice museum facility was rebuilt as a permanent structure in 2004 and opened in January 2005 as the Aurora Ice Museum.
Today, the Aurora Ice Museum is the largest permanent ice museum in the world, temperature controlled at 25 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. More than 1,000 tons of ice were used in the museum’s creation, harvested from other areas of the resort. An original patented absorption chiller cools the ice throughout the summer months. All sculptures within the museum’s gallery, including a two-story observation tower with a circular staircase and polar bear, Christmas tree, and children’s fort bedroom areas, were created by Steve and Heather Brice. Colored ice crystal chandeliers suspended from the building’s ceiling depict the area’s famous Aurora Borealis lights. An Aurora Ice Bar area, furnished with caribou fur stools and an ice sculpted fireplace, offers custom appletini adult beverages served in an ice-carved martini glass.
The Aurora Ice Museum is open 365 days a year, with tours embarking every two hours throughout the operating day. Tickets for tours must be purchased more than 15 minutes in advance at the Chena Hot Springs Activity Center Desk, including special tickets for appletinis at the Aurora Ice Bar. Tour admission for children under five is free with admission of a paying adult. Complimentary parkas are available for all tour participants during their exploration of the museum.
Ongoing Programming and Tour Packages
As the museum’s resident ice sculpting artists, Steve and Heather Brice conduct regular ice sculpting and ice carving classes, held as two hour sessions for up to three students at a time. A two-night Ice Sculpting Extravaganza package is also offered by Chena Hot Springs Resort, subject to availability. All extravaganza tours include transportation to and from Fairbanks, a two night stay at the resort’s Moose Lodge, a swimming pass for the resort’s pools, and five complimentary meals. Seven hours of ice sculpting lessons with Steve and Heather are also incorporated throughout the schedule of the three-day tour at instructor availability. All extravaganza packages must be booked at least 72 hours in advance through Chena Hot Springs Resort, and all activities are weather-permitting.
56.5 Chena Hot Springs Road, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99711, Phone: 907-451-8104
More Alaska things to do
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Attraction Spotlight: Kroschel Wildlife Center
Kroschel Wildlife Center is owned and operated by independent filmmaker, Steve Kroschel. He has been a naturalist for the majority of his life and has been making films for the last thirty-four years. His wildlife park was created to help mostly orphaned animals native to Alaska and Canada. Steve takes care of wolverines, grizzly bears, wolves, moose, and several other species of wildlife, as well as opens his park to people from across the globe to experience these creatures up-close. The message that he presents to visitors during his educational programs is one the fragility and interdependence of life on Earth.
Kroschel Wildlife Center is located about twenty-eight miles north of Haines, Alaska. It is situated on Mosquito Lake Road, which can be reached from Haines Highway. The sign for the center is on the left side of the road. Most of the items found in the Wildlife Center's gift shop are unique and handmade in Alaska.
Tours at the Kroschel Wildlife Center feature unique opportunities for visitors to experience more than fifteen species of wildlife found in Alaska up-close and personal. These species include wolverines, snowy owls, foxes, lynxes, porcupines, reindeer, moose wolves, and even grizzly bears. Visitors have an unparalleled chance to photograph Alaskan wildlife in their natural habitats during one of Kroschel Wildlife Center's guided tours. These tours feature an easy walk along 600 yards of well-maintained trails, so visitors of all ages can enjoy the walk.
Among the personal and up-close experiences possible for visitors to Kroschel Wildlife Center are the chances to pet a baby moose; feed porcupines, reindeer, and moose; and maybe even kiss a moose. The guides are extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and have huge personalities. Steve Kroschel is able to attract the wildlife at the park to him by using a range of realistic sound effects just from his own voice.
If visitors to Kroschel Wildlife Center are looking for more to do nearby, the well-known Glacier Bay National Park is only a short ferry ride away from Haines, Alaska. The park features deep fjords, freshwater streams, tidewater glaciers, and snow-capped mountains. Glacier Bay National Park is a land of contrast. Visitors will also discover a dynamic land and seascape that is able to support an amazing array of fauna and flora. Those exploring the park will realize nature's ability to adapt as they see life returning to areas of Glacier Bay National Park that have only recently been surrendered by spectacular glaciers.
There are several other attraction in nearby Haines, Alaska that visitors to Kroschel Wildlife Center can enjoy. From October to February, the greatest concentration in the world of bald eagles can be seen at the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Orcas, seals, and many sea lions can often be seen at Lutak Inlet. Hiking, rafting, and winter sports activities are all available nearby as well. Haines has also become a popular area for heli-skiing. Visitors wanting to do some fishing should spend some time at Chilkoot Lake or Lutak Inlet.
Back to: Things to Do in Alaska
1.8 Mile Mosquito Lake Road, Haines, Alaska, Phone: 907-767-5464
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Attraction Spotlight: Aniakchak
Alaska’s Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve is among the nation’s most remote, wild, and least visited National Parks, making it the perfect destination for wildlife viewing and quiet exploration of the Ring of Fire landscape, formed by a volcanic eruption over 3,500 years ago.
Outdoor activities include fishing and hunting. Both are regulated by a licensing and permit process, and hunting within the National Monument is not allowed, only in the greater National Preserve. King Salmon is bountiful within the parks boundaries, and is one of five species of Pacific Salmon found within the preserve.
For hikers, there are no formal trails within the park, but following along wildlife trails makes for easy access through the ashen caldera floor, and dense patches of vegetation. Visitors are encouraged to warn wildlife of their approach, especially bears, who live in all areas of the National Park. Aniakchak is the ideal bear habitat for the same reason it’s appealing to humans, ample King Salmon and excellent forage conditions. All of the park’s camping is primitive, and hikers may set up camp anywhere, no permit needed. Bear-proof food storage is essential. Hanging food in trees is not a viable option due to the low height of trees in the tundra landscape.
The Aniakchak River not only provides excellent fishing conditions, but is enjoyed by recreational white water rafters. Deemed by Congress as a National Wild River in 1980, the “Big” river offers extreme conditions and extraordinary adventure for the skilled oarsman who is prepared. Those who complete the entire length can travel from inside the volcano to the Pacific Ocean, a distance of over 25 miles, which takes approximately 3-4 days. Low water temperatures mean dry suits are recommended, even in July when most parties choose to make the journey. Ample repair materials are suggested, as rafters will pass through extreme conditions, car-sized boulders, and fast drops of over 75 feet per mile.
For those who choose to journey into these challenging conditions, the reward is the landscape and the wildlife. The Aniakchak caldera is the interior of a volcano, the caldera floor is surrounded on all sides by the volcanic ridge. Vent Mountain and Half Cone are two smaller volcanic peaks inside the larger ridge. Surprise Lake is located within the volcano, and drifts from there to the Pacific Ocean through The Gates, a narrow passageway through the volcanic ridge. Wind conditions through the Gates are notorious, and will shred tents and make emergency airlifts in the area impossible. As the Aniakchak, or Big, River flows to the Aniakchak Bay, it merges with the smaller, Hidden Creek. Wildlife in the area includes bald eagles and sea birds, seals, sea lions and sea otters. Through the Alaskan tundra, visitors see moose and caribou, wolverine, wolves, fox and smaller animals such as rabbits and ground squirrels.
Historic structures within the preserve include The Columbia River Packer’s Cabin, located towards the mouth of the Aniakchak River, surrounded by remnants of 9 other structures. The cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
History: The Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve was established to preserve the unique landscape surrounding the volcano. Although it last erupted in 1931, springs and hot spots on the caldera floor provide evidence that the volcano may erupt again at any time. Since the preservation of the land, archeologists funded by the National Parks Service have discovered evidence of human culture dating back over 2,000 years. It’s theorized that after the last massive volcanic eruption, lava flow created a dead-zone that left the land uninhabitable for several generations. The area was re-colonized three hundred years later. By the 12th century, the population had grown and it’s these remains that offer us archeological history of the region today.
Russian explorers and fur traders arrived to the area in the 18th century. Towards the early 19th century, local residents had moved from a culture primarily based in hunting, fishing and gathering, to commercial operations, running several canneries and commercial fishing businesses. By the 20th century the Aniakchak Bay was being explored for oil production, and was among the areas affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Due to the area’s remote nature, many travelers choose to partner with third party fishing, hunting, and rafting providers, for the equipment, safety and expertise they bring. The park is not accessible by road, and visitors should expect delays flying in and out due to year-round wind and fog, which can be unpredictable.
1000 Silver St. King Salmon, AK 99613, Phone: 907-246-3305
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