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Seward was originally founded in 1903 as the southern terminus for the Alaska Railroad, a distinction it still holds today. The picturesque harbor with its colorful wood-frame houses and background of soaring cliffs looks out on Resurrection Bay, so named by a band of Russians explorers who found this calm spot along the storm-tossed Gulf of Alaska on Easter Sunday. From downtown Anchorage you can view two active volcanoes, the highest point on the continent of North America (Mount McKinley), and six major mountain ranges.
Viewing the magnificent grandeur of immense glaciers is surely one of the highlights of a journey to Alaska. Sail along a cliff face over six miles wide, 300 to 400 feet from peak to sea level and 300 feet from sea level to the bottom. As Hubbard Glacier advances, listen to the symphony of creaks and groans as it moves and calves. This makes for some exciting moments when the huge chunks of ice crash into the bay creating a wonderful sound called ‘white thunder’ by the Tlingit people. Please be advised that due to the under-developed nature of this destination, organized tours are not available.
Founded by Russian fur traders as New Archangel in 1799, Sitka was the historic center of Russia’s Alaskan empire. The Russian flag was replaced by the Stars and Stripes when the United States purchased the Alaska territory in 1867. Today, picturesque Sitka, is known for its fishing industry, an annual summer classical music festival and, of course, its many historic visitor attractions. On a clear day Sitka, the only city in southeast Alaska that actually fronts the Pacific Ocean, rivals Juneau for the sheer beauty of its surroundings.
In 1880, Joe Juneau and Richard Harris were prospecting for gold with the help of Indian guides. Here they discovered nuggets “as large as beans” at the mouth of the aptly named Gold Creek. Out of their discoveries came three of the largest gold digs in the world where more than $150 million in gold was mined. Juneau’s surrounding beauty and natural wonders have attracted cruise ship travelers for over a century, with steamship companies bringing tourists here since the early 1880’s.
Skagua, as it is known by the Tlingit, means” windy place.” Skagway, a place of many names, and much history is the northern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway. It was known to thousands of hopeful gold rushers as the gateway to the gold fields. Skagway retains the flavor of the gold rush era and the character of such colorful inhabitants as Soapy Smith “King of the Frontier Con Men”; especially on Broadway, with its false-front buildings, and in the Trail of ‘98 Museum, with its outstanding collection of gold fever memorabilia.
Ketchikan, on the southwest side of Revillagigedo Island, grew up around salmon canneries and sawmills. Ketchikan’s name supposedly comes from the native term “Katch Kanna”, which roughly translates: “spread wings of a thundering eagle.” At one time Ketchikan was proclaimed the “Salmon Capital of the World.” An outstanding collection of totem poles make a visit to Ketchikan essential for anyone interested in Native art. Travelers flock to Ketchikan for their first look at the North Country, and are rarely disappointed.
“Gassy Jack” Deighton saw a chance to make money from the miners on their way to the Yukon and the saloon he built became the focus of the shanty town known as Gas Town. From here, modern Vancouver was born – Canada’s third largest city. The government persuaded the settlers to change the name of the town to Vancouver, after Captain George Vancouver, who sailed the area’s waters in 1792. Today Vancouver offers travelers tram rides to the top of Grouse Mountain, the lovely Ming Dynasty Gardens, historic Gas Town and picturesque Stanley Park.
Shore excursions on the first and last day of a cruise are only available for guests who are combining back-to-back voyages to create a longer cruise. Those guests may organize custom tours through the Destination Services Desk on board.
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