Shore excursions are now available for booking! Visit the Activities page for more information.
We at A Prairie Home Companion are excited to set sail to Alaska with you in August! To help you plan your trip, we’ve put together some information and suggestions for each port of call.
Holland America shore excursions are a convenient option for making the most of your time in Alaska. Experts have handpicked the most popular activities, partnered with reliable tour operators, and will take care of every detail for you, including transporting you to and from your activity. The Holland America excursions are also a great value — it is difficult to find a better bargain, especially when you factor in transportation.
But we know that Prairie Home Companion listeners are adventurous people, and some will want to make their own arrangements. Below you will find suggested activities and helpful information under each port name. A word to the wise: if you do set off on your own, be sure to plan plenty of time to return to the ship as it must set sail at the designated time regardless of stragglers.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
With the exception of our day in Victoria, Canada, all of our ports will be in the United States, so getting around on shore days should be easy and straightforward, leaving cruisers free to focus on having a great time. English will be the main language in every port, and U.S. Dollars the currency (except in Victoria where Canadian Dollars are standard). Your debit and credit cards will be accepted at shops and restaurants. On the ship and in ports you’ll find standard U.S. electric outlets, so there’s no need for adapters. You’ll find ATMs, Wi-Fi, and other amenities at every port.
We will be in the Alaska Standard Time Zone most of the journey, but we will move up an hour into Pacific time when in Seattle and Victoria.
Temperatures will vary along our cruise route, and will also depend on shore activities. In many locations the summer highs usually fall in the mid-60s, with lows in the mid-40s and 50s. The best plan is to layer, wearing a fleece or jacket for cool evenings and on-water activities, and being prepared for things to heat up to the 70s in some locations. Many people find it useful to bring a pair of gloves and a cap, as it can get quite chilly and windy out on the water, especially if you’re doing a whale watching excursion or other boat tour.
August is a rainy month in Alaska, and some of our stops are famously wet locations, so be sure to pack a waterproof jacket and umbrella. If you’re planning to get off the beaten path or do any aquatic activities on port days, you may want to bring more waterproof gear.
Cell phone coverage
In general passengers will not have cell phone coverage on the ship, and international rates will apply when coverage is available on ship, so it’s best to plan your phone calls for port days. On shore, you shouldn’t have a problem with mobile phone service, and regular U.S. rates will apply. (International rates may apply in Canada; check with your provider for information.)
Jump to a port:
Monday, August 15
Depart 4:00 p.m.
Download Holland America’s port guide [PDF]
Before setting sail, take some time to enjoy the Emerald City, which offers a thriving and unique urban scene in its gorgeous natural setting on Puget Sound. It’s a city of contrasts: home to tech industry giants yet completely lacking a uniform, corporate feel. It has high-end restaurants and culture combined with an against-the-grain, quirk vibe that you’ll only find in Seattle. Enjoy a huge variety of cuisine, from oysters at a restaurant on the water to ramen at a cozy noodle shop. Get outside and enjoy the city’s parks and waterside, or take advantage of excellent museums and iconic tourist spots.
Seattle Visitor’s Center
To find maps, schedules, and information about museums, restaurants, tours and more, stop in at one of the Seattle Visitors Center locations. One is located in the Washington State Convention Center at 7th Avenue and Pike Street in the heart of downtown. The other is located in the Pike Place Market on the southwest corner of 1st Avenue and Pike Street. Phone: (866) 732-2695.
Transportation and Tours
Seattle Center Monorail: Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Monorail links downtown Seattle and the Seattle Center. It leaves every ten minutes, going between stations at Westlake Mall and the Seattle Center. The Monorail provides a quick and scenic ride to the Seattle Center where you can visit the Space Needle, EMP museum, and Pacific Science Center and be a few minutes walk from the Chihuly Galleries. The monorail runs between 7:30 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. One-way tickets are $2.25 for adults and $1.00 for youth and seniors, payable in cash only.
Emerald City Trolley is Seattle’s option for a hop-on, hop-off open-air tour of the city, and it’s a nice way to get to the areas where you want to spend extra time sightseeing or shopping — just hop on the next available trolley at the designated stop whenever you’re ready to move on. There are two tour options: the Downtown Seattle Trolley Tour (1 hour) and the Overlook and Locks tour (2 hours). Download the Emerald City Trolley app for an easy way to know when the next trolley is stopping. Be sure to book your tour in advance! The Downtown Seattle Trolley Tour starts at the EMP museum and features 12 stops including Chinatown, Pier 66, the Seattle Art Museum, Pioneer Square, The Space Needle, and more. The Overlook and Locks Tour will take you to some of Seattle’s most unique and scenic sites such as Gasworks Park, Kerry Park Overlook, the Freemont Troll, and the Ballard Locks. See some of Seattle’s oldest and most iconic neighborhoods, including Fremont, Ballard, Queen Anne, and South Lake Union. On your way, you may glimpse the famous houseboat used for the filming of Sleepless in Seattle.
Bus & light rail: If you’re feeling independent and want to get out to see some of Seattle on your own, you could hop on the city bus or light rail. Visit the King County Metro Transit website for bus timetables and fare information. Light rail has been in Seattle since 2009 but increased in popularity among locals with the addition this year of stations at University of Washington and Capitol Hill. Use the Link to get to Chinatown, Pioneer Square, and other locations. Visit the Link Light Rail website for light rail info. You can also buy an all-day pass for $13 at ORCA vending machines (the card is $5, the $8 value added on will last for one day) which can be used for bus and light rail.
Ferry: Get the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island and enjoy magnificent views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and the Seattle Skyline. Check ferry schedules to plan your trip.
Bike Share: Seattle’s new Pronto cycle sharing program is a great way to get some exercise and see the city in one go. Purchase a 24-hour pass at a Pronto kiosk, take a bike, and start riding. Drop the bike off at any other convenient Pronto location. With the 24-hour pass, you get unlimited 30-minute rides. If your ride is longer than 30 minutes, you will be charged $2 for the first half hour, and $5 each additional half hour.
Seattle weather is usually in the 70s and low 80s in August during the daytime. Evenings can cool down quite a bit, especially if you’re near the water, so be sure to bring a sweater or jacket and an umbrella in case of rain.
Pike Place Market: This is what comes to mind for many people when they think of Seattle, whether they’ve seen burly fish mongers throwing fish to each other on a travel show or watched Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner discuss modern dating at the Athenian Inn in Sleepless in Seattle. It opened in the late 1800s and now it’s a lively covered market where you can find everything from fish on beds of ice to pastries fresh out of the oven. Stroll through the market and enjoy the colorful stalls, shop for crafts and collectibles, and find a great spot for lunch. Free to public and open daily Hours vary. Produce and seafood vendors are open between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., the Craft Market opens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and restaurants may be open between 6 a.m. and 1:30 a.m., depending on individual hours.
Seattle Aquarium: Located on Seattle’s waterfront downtown, the aquarium is a fascinating place for people of all ages. Touch sea stars, hermit crabs and more in the tide pool exhibit, watch the daily octopus feeding at noon and 4 p.m., and see more than 800 fish and invertebrates native to the Pacific Northwest’s waters. Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult: $24.95; Children (4-12): $16.95
The Space Needle: An observation tower built for the 1962 World’s Fair, it was designed to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and winds of 200 miles per hour, and it was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. Get a great view of the city from the observation deck. SkyCity, the restaurant at the top specializes in the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest, and rotates 360 degrees each 47 minutes. The observation deck is open daily from 8 a.m. – 12 a.m. (Ticket booth closes 30 minutes before closing time.) Adults (13-64): $22; Seniors: $19; Children (5-12) $14. Special package prices available in combination with Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Chihuly Garden and Glass: A short walk from the Space Needle brings you to this destination. Dale Chihuly’s stunning glass artworks are unmistakable when you spot them around the world—now you can see them in the artist’s home state. The site contains eight galleries, a glasshouse, and a sculpture garden. Daily gallery talks and tours are offered. Adults: $27; Seniors: $22; Children (5-12): $16 (free for kids under 4). Special package prices available in combination with Chihuly Garden and Glass — see website for details. Open Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and Friday-Sunday 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
EMP Museum: Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, this museum is devoted to “the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary popular culture.” You’ll find interactive exhibits on science fiction, rock ‘n’ roll, video games, and more, housed in a funky building designed by Frank Gehry. Right now they’ve got exhibitions on Star Trek, Jimi Hendrix, and horror movies, among others. Open daily 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Adults: $25 (save $3 if you book online); seniors and students: $22; Children (5-17): $16. Pay $5 additional to add admission to the Star Trek exhibition.
Seattle Art Museum: The SAM’s permanent collections include art from Africa, Ancient America, Asia, Europe, Ancient Mediterranean, and more. Their current exhibition on graphic arts includes works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Francisco Goya, and R. Crumb. On Monday, August 15, the museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adults: $19.95; Seniors: $17.95; Students and teens 13-19: $12:95; Children 12 and under: Free.
Olympic Sculpture Park: Located on the water’s edge, the z-shaped park was the winner of an international design competition and offers a great way to get outside and interact with art! Admission is free, and the park is open daily between sunrise and sunset.
South Lake Union: A neighborhood near downtown well worth a visit if you want to see another side of Seattle. Find a restaurant with a patio overlooking Lake Union and watch floatplanes landing and sailboats cutting through the water. The Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union offers a unique opportunity to learn about Seattle’s maritime history and get close to a collection of historical boats. Admission is free, and the boathouse & gallery are open 12:30 p.m to 8 p.m. (closed Tuesdays). At the Museum of History and Industry, right on Lake Union, you’ll find exhibitions on toys from the 1950s-1970s and Maritime Seattle among others. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adults: $19.95; Seniors: $15.95; Students: $13.95; Youth (14 and under): Free. You can get to South Lake Union by bus, taxi, or on the Emerald City Trolley Tour (see Overland and Locks Tour under Transportation above)
Bainbridge Island: A chance to get out of the big city to a picturesque island with a small-town feel. There are beaches and trails to explore, quaint shops and cafés, and a sailboat-studded marina. Rent bikes, browse in art galleries, or walk on the beach. The real highlight may be the 35-minute ferry ride, though: sit up on deck as you sail across Puget Sound, watching seagulls wheel around the prow and getting a view of Seattle’s skyline and the Olympic mountains in the distance. Check out the ferry schedules to plan your trip. Ferry prices are $8.20 for adults, $4.10 for seniors and youth (6-18).
- Seattle was originally built a level lower. After the Great Seattle Fire in 1889 destroyed the business district, city leaders decided that Seattle would be rebuilt of stone and brick, and that the streets would be regarded one to two stories higher than before to avoid flooding. For years after the first floors became the basements when the streets were raised, the underground city was the site of illegal flophouses, speakeasies, opium dens, and other shady enterprises, until fears of bubonic plague led the city to condemn the underground. Now underground tours lead visitors below the city to see relics of the lost city.
- Starbucks originated in Seattle, and the Pike Place Starbucks is the oldest Starbucks still in operation.
- Seattle is second only to Murano, Italy, in it’s number of glass-blowing studios.
- Contrary to its image, Seattle has less annual rainfall than Chicago and New York.
Wednesday, August 7
Arrive 8:00 a.m., depart 5:00 p.m.
Download Holland America’s port guide [PDF]
Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island and surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States. It served as a fish camp for Tlingit groups, then the area’s timber, fishing, and mining resources brought non-Natives. By 1936 there were seven busy salmon canneries in operation. Spruce was in high demand in World War II, and Ketchikan functioned as the region’s supply center. Its economy today still depends on its fishing fleet and timber. The world’s largest collection of totem poles is located in Ketchikan, spread between the Totem Bight State Historical Park, Potlach Park, Saxman Native Village, and the Totem Heritage Center. The town itself is a charming place, much of it built over water. You’ll find local artisans, shops, restaurants, and historical sites within walking distance.
Downtown Ketchikan is compact and walkable, but there is also a free shuttle service that runs along the downtown loop and stops near the cruise landing (look for the bus that says “Downtown Shuttle”). This cozy harbor-side village is ideal for strolling, shopping, and dining.
If you’d like to get outside the immediate town to see sites like Totem Bight State Park or Saxman Native Village, you can take the city bus. Take a look at the bus schedule to plan your route, and note the instructions for flagging the bus by hand outside of the downtown area. Fare is regularly $1; seniors and students pay 50 cents — make sure to have exact change.
You can find Wi-Fi at a number of restaurants and coffee shops in town, free for customers. Internet access is also available at the Ketchikan Public Library is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Ask at circulation desk for guest internet pass.)
Ketchikan has the heaviest rainfall average in the United States, and though summers are less rainy than the rest of the year, cloudy conditions are usual. Summer temperatures vary between the 50s and 70s, so be sure to layer and carry a rain jacket.
Eating in Ketchikan
Hungry? You’ve come to the right place for fresh fish and crab, seafood chowders, and many more delicious options. Crack into Dungeness crab at The Alaska Fish House or try some crab or salmon chowder at Annabelle’s Famous Keg and Chowder House — there are plenty of restaurants to suit every taste. If you are seafood averse, don’t worry, you can find many options including burgers, salads, and Mexican food.
Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show: A block away from the cruise ship docks, this hour-long show is your chance to see competitive axe throwing and log rolling and much more. Shows on August 17th are at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 1 p.m. Adults: $37; Children (3-12): $18.50.
Totem Heritage Center: A twenty-minute-walk from the docks (or a ride on the Downtown Shuttle) will take you to the Totem Heritage Center, a museum housing one of the world’s largest collections of 19th century totem poles as well as contemporary art from the Northwest Coast. Learn about the artistic traditions of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples. Open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adults: $5; Children (12 and under): Free.
Creek Street: An antique boardwalk standing on wooden pilings over a creek, this was originally Ketchikan’s red-light district during the Prohibition era. In the 1920’s there were more than a dozen bordellos with trap doors for smuggling in illegal Canadian whiskey. But now things are calmer and this is the place to see historical buildings and find great places to eat and shop. Where Creek Street terminates, you’ll find Married Man’s Trail (which of course has a story), and you can watch salmon spawning at the salmon ladder.
Cast a line in the “salmon capital of the world”: Fishing for salmon, snapper, rainbow trout, halibut and other fish provide plenty of challenges for fishermen and women. There are several fishing boat charters who will provide fishing gear, rain gear, and an angling expert to drive the boat. Many have ½ day rates for cruise ship passengers. Remember to book in advance to secure your fishing experience! Look online or ask your boat captain for information about getting your fish vacuum packed, smoked, or frozen and sent home. Visit the sport fishing page on the Ketchikan tourism website to find a listing of local charter companies or book a fishing excursion through the cruise ship.
Get into Nature: Get off the beaten path and take a tour through Tongass National Forest, visit the Alaska Raptor Center, enjoy the view from the water in a sea kayak or the view from above in a seaplane. Tours can be booked independently, but getting to and from the sites can be an issue, so choosing from the excursions offered by the cruise ship is a great option. They are also the best values you will find and a great way to combine several activities to make the most of your time in Ketchikan. Visit the Ketchikan tourism website for activity recommendations and links to tour companies, or visit the Holland America Line excursions page for booking.
Saxman Native Village: See a collection of totem poles, an authentic clan house, and other interesting cultural attractions. Book a tour at the village to learn about local Alaskan Native history and customs, watch a traditional dance by the Cape Fox Dance group, and see woodcarvers at their craft. If you want the tour of the village (the only way to see the woodcarving and dance program) they ask that you please choose the excursion your cruise ship offers. For an unguided walk (see the totem poles and exterior of the clan house) admission is $3 and the site is accessibly by city bus.
- The word “Tlingit” is pronounced “KLINK-it”.
- Ketchikan earned the nickname “salmon capital of the world” not only because of the abundance of fish but because of its extensive fish processing operations. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Loring Cannery alone produced more cans of salmon than any other cannery in Alaska.
- The Ketchikan Indian Community is made up of three main indigenous groups: the Haida, Tlingit, and Tshimsian.
Friday, August 18
Arrive 8:00 a.m., depart 10:00 p.m.
Download Holland America’s port guide [PDF]
Juneau, the capital of Alaska, was founded in 1880 by two gold prospectors named Joe Juneau and Richard Harris. A local Tlingit leader, Chief Kowee, alerted them to the presence of gold, and this led to the development of many important mines in the area, including what was for a time the largest gold mine in the world. The gold rush ended, but Juneau’s charms continued to draw people. Juneau is the only U.S capital that isn’t accessibly by road. Because of the water and rough terrain that surround this city, the only way to get to Juneau by car is if you drive onto a ferry. Nestled between the Gastineau Channel and the peaks of Mount Roberts and Mount Juneau, the city affords chances to explore the lively, history-rich city as well as getting out to areas of great natural beauty.
Downtown Juneau is within easy walking distance of the cruise ship docks, and the city is compact and accessible on foot. Seeing the city by walking, you’ll get a great view of Gold Rush-era buildings, historic Russian sites, shops, and galleries. Juneau is quite hilly, though, so it may present walking difficulties for some cruisers. If you want a self-guided walking tour, you can pick up a walking tour map at a visitor’s center for a guide to sites.
Taxis are easy to find at the Cruise Ship Docks and around town.
To get out to the Mendenhall Glacier (12 miles from downtown) or other out-of-the way sites, it is a good idea to book a tour that will include transportation to and from the site. Alternately, the Blue Glacier Express shuttle offered by M&M Tours is a no-frills ride between downtown and the Mendenhall Glacier. Tickets are $30, and the bus leave every 30 minutes.
Rent a bike at Cycle Alaska and they’ll provide you with a map of routes and trails as well as advice. They also offer a Bike and Brew Tour which you can book through Holland America’s excursions website. The tour van drops you in the Mendenhall Valley for scenic cycling, then you visit Juneau’s downtown waterfront for a sampling of beers from Alaska’s award-winning microbreweries.
You can find free Wi-Fi at a variety of spots, including the Juneau Public Library (open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. M-Th) and at downtown restaurants and coffee shops like The Rookery Café or Heritage Coffee Company.
Located in a temperate rainforest zone, Juneau does not get as hot or cold as other parts of Alaska; be prepared for temperatures in the mid 60s during the day dropping to the 40s in the evening. Bring a warmer layer if you plan to spend time on the water or at Mendenhall Glacier. Juneau gets an average of 220 days of rain annually, so be sure to bring an umbrella or rain jacket!
Eating in Juneau
There is no shortage of good food in Juneau, where you’ll find local fish and game, and many varieties of cuisine. Try some crab legs or seafood bisque at Tracy’s King Crab Shack or American food with local ingredients at The Rookery. The Hangar on the Wharf offers panoramic views of the Gastineau Channel. For a drink, why not visit some places from the Gold Rush era, like the Red Dog Saloon or the Alaskan Hotel Bar, where you can enjoy a local brew from the Alaskan Brewing Company.
Juneau is a great place to shop for unique, locally made items. South Franklin Street in downtown is the center of the shopping and restaurant district. To ensure that the item you’re buying was made in Alaska, look for the logo of a polar bear with her cub:
If something is an authentic Alaskan Native handicraft, it will usually have a tag with a logo of a hand, like this:
The City Trolley Tour: For $25, visitors get to tour Juneau for 45-minutes on an antique trolley which winds through historic downtown and offers the chance of a stop at the Hatchery and the State Museum (cost of admission extra). While riding, visitors will get to hear all about the history of this fascinating city and the various landmarks they pass. Trolley tours leave every 30 minutes. Visit the website to book a tour and find more details.
Alaska State Museum: The museum contains more than 32,000 objects including Alaska Native material, historic artifacts, artworks, and natural history specimens, with the Alaska Native materials being the largest part of the collection. The historical collection contains materials from the Russian colonial era and the American period. The museum contains a fascinating collection of items including Eskimo carved ivory, shipwreck artifacts, a medallion presented by Catherine the Great, and a watercolor done during Captain Cook’s exploration. General admission: $12; Seniors: $11; Youth 18 and under: Free. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
The Hatchery: (The Ladd Macaulay Visitor Center at the Douglas Island Pink and Chum, Inc.) Learn about the fascinating life cycle of salmon, their environment, and the workings of a hatchery. This is a fun, educational experience featuring touch tanks (touch sea cucumbers, spiny urchins, crabs, and sea stars!), aquariums (150 species of salt water fish), informational displays, and a viewing window that allows you to see real salmon making their way upstream to spawn! Adults: $5; Children 12 and under: $3. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Mount Roberts Tramway: This is the only aerial tramway in southeast Alaska, and of one the most vertical tramways in the world. It is located right across from the cruise ship docks. The five minute tram ride will take you up Mount Roberts where you can take photos of gorgeous views from the observation deck, eat lunch and shop for gifts at the Mountain House, or go for a hike on one of several well-maintained trails. There are excellent hiking trails for every experience level, including a handicap accessible trail. The Tram is ADA compliant and able to accommodate guests’ accessibility requirements. All day pass costs $33 for adults; $16 for youth 6-12; free for kids 5 and under. Purchase tickets at the Tramway Station, across from the cruise docks.
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church: Established in Juneau in 1894, this church has been in continuous use for more than 120 years and is one of the reminders of Russia’s former colonial presence here.
Mendenhall Glacier: The Mendenhall Glacier is a 13-mile-long river of ice terminating at the pristine iceberg-dotted Mendenhall Lake. This is a beautiful site for taking photos or for hiking one of the many trails for glimpses of waterfalls, salmon streams, and wildlife. The glacier is 14 miles from Juneau’s downtown and so it’s easiest to get here by taxi, shuttle bus, or by booking a tour that includes transportation to and from the site. While some areas are not wheelchair accessible, the Visitor’s Center, Photo Point Trail, and the salmon viewing area are all open to visitors with accessibility concerns. The Blue Glacier Express shuttle runs every 30 minutes between downtown and the glacier and costs $30 per person.
- Juneau used to be called Harrisburg, named after Richard Harris, the man who co-founded the town with Joe Juneau.
- The Alaskan Hotel is the oldest hotel still in operation in Alaska. It was built the same year that Alaska became a territory.
- There are between 15,000 and 30,000 bald eagles in and around Juneau.
- Juneau is only 45-miles-long, but it contains more than 130 miles of hiking trails.
Icy Strait Point, Alaska
Saturday, August 20
Arrive 7:00 a.m., depart 2:00 p.m.
Download Holland America’s port guide [PDF]
Located one mile from the Tlingit village of Hoonah on Chichangof Island, Icy Strait Point is surrounded by rain forest and the waters of Icy Strait and Port Frederick, making it ideal for wildlife sightings (whales and orca just off shore, brown bears and more), fishing, kayaking, and nature hikes. There are opportunities to learn about Alaska Natives’ culture and history in Hoonah and places to eat and shop along the waterfront. Icy Strait Point is home to the longest zipline in the world, if you’re craving an adrenaline rush, or for a more historical visit you can observe traditional carving techniques in Hoonah or tour a restored cannery.
About Icy Strait Point and Hoonah
Icy Strait Point was purchased by Huna Totem Corporation and converted into a destination spot for cruise ships. To preserve the quality of experience for all visitors and diminish the environmental impact, they restrict the number of cruise ships allowed in each year. It is Alaska Native-owned and operated, so a majority of profits from tourism go back to the community, and 85% of the Icy Strait Point employees are from Hoonah. Because of the arrangement with cruise ships, most activities are only available for booking through the cruise line.
Icy Strait Point has worked with Holland America Line to create excellent excursions for experiencing the best of Icy Strait Point and Hoonah, including sea kayaking, bear and whale watching, and tours of cultural and historical points of interest. If you feel like skipping excursions, you may want to walk around Hoonah on your own or explore the restaurants and shops at Icy Strait Point. There is a walking path from Icy Strait Point to downtown Hoonah which affords gorgeous views.
Getting around on foot is easy in Icy Strait Point: the area is compact and the sites are connected by smooth paths and almost all areas are ADA accessible. Many tours are also accessible to all, but it is wise to check the details on each excursion to make sure before you make your choice.
The village of Hoonah is a mile from Icy Strait Point. There is a nice coastal walking trail that will take you there, or you can get a taxi. For taxi contact information, visit this website.
The weather tends to be cooler in Hoonah, with temperatures ranging from the 40s at night to the 60s during the daytime. It rains frequently, and the weather can change fast, so it’s a good idea to come prepared with rain gear and a warmer layer!
Free Wi-Fi is available at the Cookhouse Restaurant on the waterfront.
Hoonah and Icy Strait Point Facts
- Chichagof Island has the largest brown bear population per square mile of any place in the world.
- On July 1st of this year, Hoonah townspeople launched a 40-foot dugout spruce canoe that volunteer apprentices began carving during the spring. It is now the longest active dugout canoe in Alaska. This and other canoes will be paddled to Glacier Bay for the ceremonial dedication of a Tlingit tribal house on August 25th.
- Hoonah has a population of 760 people.
Monday, August 22 – Tuesday, August 23
Arrive 7:00 a.m. August 22, depart 2:00 p.m. August 23
Download Holland America’s port guide [PDF]
Anchorage was founded in 1915, beginning as a tent city during the construction of the Alaska Railroad and growing into a busy hub for businesses and transportation. Anchorage is a vibrant city surrounded by beautiful wilderness. You can find museums, theater, fine dining, and music in the city, or go on a hike or wildlife-spotting tour to make the most of the stunning natural setting. Some visitors may want to take the opportunity to visit Denali National Park, but since it is a five-hour drive, be sure to book your excursion or rent a car in advance of arrival.
Because the ship docks at a commercial pier, taxis are prohibited in the pier area. A free transfer shuttle is provided for passengers going between the ship and Anchorage’s Civic and Convention Center to allow cruisers easy access to downtown and a return to the ship.
Anchorage’s downtown is compact and easy to get around on foot, and there is also a public bus called the People Mover which runs about once every half hour and stops at top sites like the Anchorage Museum. Single bus ride is $2, or purchase an all-day pass for $5. Visit the website for schedules and maps.
Going farther afield: To explore areas outside of downtown, renting a car is a good idea. Enterprise has a convenient rental location in downtown Anchorage. Be sure to book in advance, as there is high demand during the summer season.
Anchorage Trolley Tours: Get a feel for the city and learn about its history on this 15-mile trolley tour guided by a knowledgeable local. See Lake Hood, the busiest floatplane base in the world, and check out Earthquake Park and other interesting sites, all the while keeping an eye out for frequently-sighted urban moose. Adults: $20; Children (3-12): $10. Tours offered hourly beginning at 9 a.m. Pickup is at the Log Cabin Visitor Center at 546 W. 4th Ave. Purchase tickets online, or pay in cash on the trolley. Contact ahead if you need a wheelchair accessible trolley.
Bike Trails: Anchorage Daily News Visitor’s Guide says: “if you don’t spend at least a couple of hours on a bicycle during a stop in Anchorage, you’re missing out on what could be the highlight of your vacation.”
Rent a bike from Lifetime Adventures in Anchorage and take a spin on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail or one of three other paved greenbelt trails ringing the city. You’ll see beautiful ocean and mountains views, and perhaps a moose or two. Choose from a variety of bikes and tandems. $40 for the whole day (less for smaller time periods). Downtown Bicycle Rental offers rentals for nearby trails and also offers shuttles to Flattop Mountain if you want to bike or hike mountain trails. Shuttle cost is $23 round-trip. Flattop mountain is a 15-minute drive from downtown Anchorage.
Free Wi-Fi is available at many of Anchorage’s businesses. Stop in for a latte at Dark Horse Coffee or order pancakes at Snow City Café (voted best breakfast in Anchorage) while you get online.
Eating in Anchorage
As in many of Alaska’s coastal locations, Anchorage boasts some of the best and freshest seafood in the world. Find crab, halibut, salmon and other delicacies at places like the Bridge Seafood Restaurant and the Bubbly Mermaid Champagne and Oyster Bar. Want to try something different? Anchorage has an eclectic variety of restaurants to suit all tastes. Find pasta at Orso, burgers (including a reindeer burger) at Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse, Korean BBQ at Ginger, and more. Enjoy great food and local beers at the Bear Tooth Grill and Glacier Brew House; both establishments serve their own beers on tap.
Log Cabin and Downtown Information Center: Located at 4th Avenue and F Street, this is a great place to find directions, suggestions, maps, and anything else you might need for your Anchorage visit! Open daily 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Alaska Botanical Garden: The 110 acre woodland is a beautiful place to see native plants and learn about northern horticulture, boasting more than 1,600 plant species. Open daily from dawn to dusk. Adults: $12; Seniors, military and students: $10; Children 5-17: $8.
Chugach State Park: Want to see the wilderness but don’t want to drive five hours to Denali? You don’t have to go far to encounter natural wonders around Anchorage. The Chugach State Park, a 22-minute drive from the port of Anchorage, is one of the four largest parks in the United States. There you’ll find rugged topography, the Chugach National Forest, glaciers, ocean shoreline, and lakes. It is bounded on two sides by the Alaska Range and on the east by Prince William Sound and the Wrangell and Chugach Mountains. The park offers over 280 miles of trails: here’s a good website for finding out more about hiking trails that vary in intensity from easily-accessible to challenging.
Another option for Chugach State Park is guided hikes (short, half-day, and all-day) which could take your experience to the next level. The guides will pick you up at your hotel, so you don’t even have to worry about finding transporation to the park. Save money by booking as a pair, or with a group of up to 6 people.
Nature and Wildlife
Anchorage is a great jumping off point for wilderness and wildlife viewing. Many companies offer exciting tours combined with transportation between downtown Anchorage and out-of-town sites. Options exist for various tastes and skill levels, from motor coach tours to challenging outdoor activities; whichever you choose will get up get up close to amazing scenery and wildlife. Major Marine Tours’ offers a Prince William Sound Surprise Glacier Tour that promises up-close glimpses of wildlife and stunning views. ($149/adult, $75/child, including a meal and other amenities.) The Ascending Path company offers several thrilling options including guided glacier and alpine hiking for small groups. $139/person (includes lesson, climbing equipment, and informative commentary by guides during the hike).
Many people come to Alaska hoping to see bears. There are several tour packages that will give you that unforgettable opportunity, but they tend to be pricey because they involve a floatplane ride to a more remote location. Try Rust’s Flying Service for bear-watching tours (or fly-in fishing, dog sled tour, etc.).
To see Alaskan wildlife up close in an educational setting, visit the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center (47 miles south of Anchorage) to see bears, wolves, porcupines, reindeer, and more. Take a guided tour, listen to wildlife experts, or watch an animal feeding. There are some wonderful trails and views near the center, so if you’ve rented a car, you can make a day of it. Adults: $12:50; Youth 13-18: $9; Seniors: $9. Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Anchorage is home to about 40% of Alaska’s population.
- Lake Hood in Anchorage is the world’s busiest floatplane base.
- Six mountain ranges are visible from Anchorage: The Kenai, Talkeetna, Alaska, Aleutian, Tordrillo, and Chugach. Mount McKinley is the tallest peak in North America and is visible from Anchorage on a clear day though it’s 130 miles north from the city.
- The average Anchorage moose weighs around 1,000 pounds.
Arrive 8:00 a.m., depart 3:00 p.m.
Download Holland America’s port guide [PDF]
Kodiak was first inhabited by the Alutiiq people before becoming the capital of Russia’s colony in Alaska. Later, it became an important staging area for Pacific operations during the Second World War. As a result, Fort Abercrombie was built to defend the naval base. Kodiak is now home to the largest Coast Guard base in the U.S.
Kodiak’s downtown and entire fishing fleet were devastated by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, but now Kodiak is one of the top three fishing ports in the United States. The city is located on Kodiak Island and surrounded by beautiful wilderness. You can choose to enjoy the history and charm of the town or explore the rugged natural beauty of surrounding areas. It’s prone to be cloudy and rainy in Kodiak (which held off Japanese bombers during WWII), so bring your umbrella!
The city is two miles long and easily navigated on foot. Taxis are available around the docks and downtown. Rent a vehicle from a Budget Rent a Car location in downtown (428 W. Marine Way) if you want to get out of town, or to make the most of your time book a tour or excursion.
If you need to get online, visit the Kodiak Public Library or stop in for a coffee at Harborside Coffee with your laptop. Some other downtown restaurants may also offer Wi-Fi.
Kodiak’s summer temperatures are often in the 50s, so it’s a good idea to bring a warmer layer as well as rain protection. The city is famously foggy and cloudy, getting fewer than 60 clear days per year.
Eating in Kodiak
You’ll find great seafood in Kodiak (not surprising given its robust fishing industry), but that’s not all. Find steaks and burgers at Henry’s Great Alaskan Restaurant or Japanese food on a patio with a view at the Old Powerhouse. At the Kodiak Island Brewing Company, you can enjoy your meal with a pint of beer brewed on site. The Channel Side Chowder House offers a great view of the boat traffic on the channel while you enjoy your chowder or other seafood dishes.
St. Paul Harbor: The harbor is a picturesque place to stroll along and watch the fishing boats.
The Alutiiq Museum: This is a fascinating place to learn about Kodiak and Alutiiq history. The museum is home to more than 250,000 artifacts, natural history specimens, recordings, and other items. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Tickets are $7 for adults, free for children 16 and under.
The Baranov Museum is housed in the Russian American Magazine. Once used by the Russians for storing pelts, it is the oldest building in Alaska. This is a great place to explore the story of Russians in Alaska, the early American period in Kodiak, and other local history up to the present. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, free for kids 12 and under.
Holy Resurrection Church: This is the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in the United States. It is a fascinating landmark to see while exploring the history of the Russian era in Kodiak.
Check out the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center in downtown — you’ll find fun and informational displays about Alaska’s ecosystems, a gray whale skeleton, hiking maps and birding lists, and more!
St. Herman Harbor: Across a bridge from downtown, this is a favorite hangout for sea lions.
Fort Abercrombie State Park: This state park is about four miles from downtown and is a great place to explore scenic hiking trails and historic WWII fortifications. Mossy spruce forests, ocean-side cliffs, wildflower meadows, and more await you in this beautiful spot.
Bear Watching: Book a tour to view Kodiak brown bears (the largest bears in the world) and other wildlife. Getting the chance to see bears in the wild usually involves being transported by floatplane. Kingfisher Aviation is one company in Kodiak that offers at 4-hour bear viewing tour via floatplane. Seahawk Air offers a 5.5 hour bear-viewing tour via floatplane for $545/person (there is a discount for kids under 12). Kodiak Adventures offers a one-hour trip for $265. There are many more companies if you search online. You’ll want to book in advance, as many companies consist of one pilot, one plane, so you’ll need to find someone with availability!
Note: some company policies warn of postponements due to weather; since we only have 7 hours in Kodiak, if the weather prevents a seaplane or other wildlife viewing trip, you won’t have a chance to reschedule, and depending on company policy you may not receive a refund.
Kayak: A great way to see wildlife and the beautiful surroundings. Kodiak Adventures Unlimited offers half-day or full-day options.
Kodiak Adventures Unlimited. This 3-hour van tour visits Kodiak highlights including Abercrombie State Park and starts at $100/person.
Fishing: Drop a line in with a half-day fishing charter and ship your catch home.
- Because of its lush, green summers, Kodiak is known as Alaska’s “emerald isle.”
- Kodiak bears are a subspecies of brown bears that live exclusively in the Kodiak archipelago.
- The name Kodiak comes from the Alutiiq word kadiak, meaning “island.”
Friday, August 26
Arrive 8:00 a.m., depart 4:00 p.m.
Download Holland America’s port guide [PDF]
Sitka is located on the west shore of Baranof Island, across Sitka Sound from Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano. The area was occupied by the Kiksadi Clan of Tlingit Indians for hundreds of years before the Russians arrived, followed by the Americans, and you can see the layers of history as you explore: Here you’ll find Tlingit dancers and totems, churches and buildings left from when Sitka was the capital of Russian Alaska, and military fortifications from World War II. This unique and beautiful place will captivate you, from its small historical town to the wild beauty surrounding it.
Many of Sitka’s points of interest are within walking distance from each other. Along with historic sites, there are galleries and shops to stop in. Visit the Sitka website for a walking map.
Sitka Tribal Tours offers a hop-on, hop-off visitor’s shuttle that goes around to all of Sitka’s historical points of interests, including the Alaska Raptor Center, Totem Park, the Sheldon Jackson Museum, St. Michael’s Orthodox Church, and the Tlingit Clan House. The tour runs regularly, picking up at the cruise ship docks. Tickets are available for purchase from a representative at the pickup site and are good all day, just hop on and hop off whenever you like.
Avis has a car rental facility in downtown Sitka if you’d like to rent a car to see more sights. Taxis are also available in town.
Bike Rental: The Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop will outfit you to hit the trails and take in some beautiful scenery. The rental will cost $20 to $25. There are plenty of options for routes. For a few suggestions on biking in Sitka, visit this site. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
There are several options for internet while visiting Sitka. The downtown area is entirely covered by Sitka Free Internet Service, so you should be able to get online and enjoy modest speed anywhere downtown. For faster speed, get free Wi-Fi at the Sitka Public Library and at some restaurants and coffee shops, incuding Highliner Coffee Company.
Sitka’s temperatures during August are usually in the mid-50s to mid-60s, and rain is common, with an average precipitation of 255 days annually, so rain protection is a good idea.
Eating in Sitka
Sitka has restaurants to suit everyone. The Bayview Pub offers sandwiches, burgers, and salads. The Larkspur Cafe is a unique spot serving delicious lunches of fresh rockfish tacos, Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches, cheese boards, and more. Ludvig’s Bistro specializes in combining fresh Alaskan seafood with Mediterranean-inspired recipes like paella. Pizza at the Mean Queen overlooking the water, sushi at Little Tokyo, or an upscale meal of crab with a view at the Westmark Sitka Hotel are all good options
Sitka National Historical Park: Located on the site of a battle between Russians and Tlingits, there’s much to see at the park including a number of glorious Tlingit and Haida totem poles which were donated by chiefs of Alaskan villages for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, and then installed in their Sitka home in 1906. The park allows visitors to interact with a variety of habitat types along the Totem Trail — temperate rain forest, open meadow, river estuary, and intertidal zones. A spectacular view of mountains surrounds the park. Along the marine shoreline, visitors may glimpse eagles, mink, otter, sea lions, whales, brown bears, deer, and more. The park is about a 20-minute-walk from downtown Sitka.
Hiking: There are dozens of beautiful trails around Sitka, with three trails readily accessible from town. Visit this website for more information on trails.
The Alaska Raptor Center: The center treats 100 to 200 raptors each year. On your guided tour, you can see and learn about the current raptors in residence: eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons. Open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Admission is $12 for adults, $6 for children (free for kids under 5). The Raptor Center is just over a mile from downtown Sitka — you can find a scenic route through the Sitka National Historical Park.
Sitka Sound Science Center: This museum and research center is devoted to studying and preserving aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and it has a number of exciting educational opportunities for visitors: touch tanks, an aquarium, and a hatchery. There’s also a gift shop and café. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5.
Fortress of the Bear: Five miles from town center, you’ll find this bear sanctuary. See the resident rescue bears (brown and black) from a raised platform over the habitat on a 30-minute tour plus plenty of time to view on your own. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for under-18 (kids under 7 are free). Shuttles run to and from cruise dock ($10 round trip).
Russian Bishop’s House: Built in 1824, his is one of the few remaining examples of Russian architecture from their Alaskan colonial period which lasted for more than 125 years. Restored by the National Park Service, the site offers the chance to learn more about the Russian-American period of Sitka’s history.
St. Michael’s Cathedral: Between 1840 and 1872, Sitka was the seat of the Russian Orthodox Diocese over all of North America, now the seat of the Diocese of Alaska. This beautiful example of Russian colonial church architecture was first built in the 1840s. Destroyed by fire, it was reconstructed and is now a fascinating place to learn about Russian-American history and view a valuable collection of icons and other religious treasures.
New Archangel Dancers: This Sitka dance troupe performs traditional Russian dancers to preserve the history of Russians in Alaska. On Friday, August 26th, they will have a performance at noon at the Performance Arts Center in Sitka. Performances are 30-minutes long and cost $10. Tickets can be purchased at venue a half-hour before the performance.
Castle Hill/Baranof Castle State Historic Site: This park is the site of a Tlingit fortification which was then occupied by the Russians. At this site, Russians transferred control to the United States. History buffs will enjoy the views from the fort and the interpretive panels describing the history of the site.
- The Russians captured control of Sitka after a two-year war with the Tlingit people there. The last battle, in 1804, was known as the Battle of Sitka. The battlefield location is now preserved as the Sitka National Historical Park. On the bicentennial of the battle in 2004, a descendent of the Russian governor of Sitka met with descendants of the Tlingit warriors for a traditional Tlingit ceremony of grief and reconciliation.
- Sitka was originally named New Archangel under the Russians.
- The Alaska Purchase was signed in Sitka on October 18, 1867.
- The Sitka Naval Operating Base and U.S. Army Coastal Defenses on Japonski Island was the Navy’s first air station in Alaska at the beginning of World War II. Patrol planes from the base covered the Gulf of Alaska and all of Southeast Alaska.
Victoria, British Columbia
Sunday, August 28
Arrive 1 p.m., depart 11:00 p.m.
Download Holland America’s port guide [PDF]
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. You may notice a bit of a British feel as you walk around and see double decker buses, tea rooms, and formal gardens. The city was established in the mid-19th century by England’s Hudson Bay Company as a trading post, but when gold was discovered in the Fraser River in 1858 the population exploded. The gold rush led to an influx of immigrants, including large groups of Chinese workers who also came in waves later to construct the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s. Before the British, there were diverse groups of First Nations peoples, which today are loosely grouped within the Saanich Nation of Coast Salish peoples. Victoria’s interesting cultural heritage is evident today in this elegant, thriving city. Walking around the Inner Harbour, you’ll get a glimpse of the parliament buildings, the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel, and many other attractions.
Start your visit off with a trip to the Victoria Visitor Center, where you can purchase tickets, arrange transportation, and get whatever information and suggestions you need to make your time in Victoria special. The center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and is located at 812 Wharf Street. Phone: (800) 663-3883.
The harbor and downtown core of Victoria are easy to walk around, and this is a great way to get a feel for the city, but there are plenty of other options.
Coach: There are several options for hop-on, hop-off coach tours of the city. The Gray Line company takes you around in style on a vintage double-decker bus tour of all of Victoria’s highlights, from Fisherman’s Wharf to Chinatown. Hop off at a stop and take however much time you like before hopping on the next bus. Your pass is good for 24 hours. They also offer a special evening tour here. The Victoria Hop On-Hop Off Tour is another option for sightseeing in Victoria. Big Bus Victoria offers the same hop-on, hop-off tour but also has option to purchase tickets to attractions like Craigdarroch Castle and others.
Horse-Drawn Carriage: See the historic parts of the city in style. Several companies offer unforgettable carriage tours of varying lengths and descriptions. Try Tally-Ho Carriage Tours for a wide variety of tours. They offer a Heritage Tour of historic homes and the waterfront for $100 CAD.
Bicycle or Scooter: Zip around town on bike or scooter to see the sites at your own pace. Rentals are available in town at Cycle BC.
The currency used in Victoria is the Canadian Dollar (CAD), with coins used for $2 and under. American Dollars may be accepted at certain locations, but this may get you a poor exchange rate, and your change will be given in CAD. It is viewed as more courteous to pay in Canadian Dollars or use your credit or debit card (for card purchases, you may be charged a foreign exchange transaction fee, but you’ll get a better rate than using your U.S. dollars). To obtain Canadian Dollars, a good option is to visit an ATM.
Internet access is available at many restaurants, coffee shops, and other businesses with your laptop. The downtown public library is also a good place to get online.
For most of the cruise we’ve been on Alaskan time. While in Victoria, it’s time to turn your watches ahead one hour to Pacific Time.
Victoria’s weather tends to be warm and dry during the summer months, with temperature averages in the 60s and 70s.
Eating in Victoria
Victoria is renowned for its variety of restaurants and international vibe. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding great options for every taste. Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel is on the list for many visitors, but you’ll find everything from authentic Szechuan in Chinatown to casual seafood places on the waterfront.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel: This beautiful and imposing hotel next to Victoria’s harbor opened in 1908. The Edwardian landmark has hosted celebrities like Rita Hayworth and Katharine Hepburn as well as royal visitors including Edward, Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth. The Fairmont Empress Hotel is famous for its Afternoon Tea, complete with house-made preserves, scones, and original tea blends. More than 800 people visit each day to enjoy the tradition. Reservations are recommended for the tea, but walk-ins may be available. Sophisticated casual dress required. The tea menu is $75 for adults, with a “Prince and Princess Tea” available for children at a cost of $37.50.
Butchart Gardens: Developed at the site of a former limestone quarry as a labor of love by the Butchart family in the early 20th century, these beautiful gardens are a pleasure to visit. Walk through the Sunken Garden, the Mediterranean Garden, the tranquil Japanese Garden, the Italian Garden, and the Rose Garden. Dining and a gift store round out the experience. The gardens are located about 14 miles from downtown Victoria, so the best way to get there for cruise passengers is by tour bus. CVS Tours offers a luxury coach shuttle from the Fairmont Empress Hotel to Butchart Gardens that includes the price of garden admission. Move through the gardens at your own pace — you can hop on any bus leaving the garden. They also offer a guided tour of the Gardens which picks up cruise passengers right at the cruise terminal and returns them there.
A walking tour of Victoria will teach you about Victoria’s fascinating past and present as you see the city. Discovery Walks take you to through Victoria’s Old Town, Chinatown, harbor area, and more. Tours start at 2 p.m. from the Victoria Tourist Info center at 812 Wharf St. Tickets are $15 for adults; $13 for students and seniors, $8 for kids 6-11.
Visit a museum: Go to the Royal BC Museum to view the fascinating Natural History Galleries, First Peoples Galleries and other exhibits. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets from $17-$24. Free for kids under 5. Visit the Maritime Museum to see fascinating artifacts including historical navigation tools and even a narwhal tusk! Their current exhibition is focused on exploration and discovery, including an exhibit on Captain Cook and Captain Vancouver. An interactive knot board allows you to learn dozens of knots! Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Craigdarroch Castle: a mansion built in the 1880’s as a residence for the family of coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and now run by a historical society. It contains lavish Victorian-era furnishings, stained-glass windows, and intricately-carved woodwork.
Visit a park: See totem poles at Thunderbird Park in downtown Victoria. Or enjoy Beacon Hill Park right by the Inner Harbour with its exotic trees, rock garden, lakes, bridges, and petting zoo. Peacocks roam in Beacon Hill Park, making another reason to visit.
Trails: Craving some activity? There are bike trails and walking trails spreading out of the city from downtown. Rent a bike for a couple of hours or for the day at The Pedaler and they’ll make sure you’re outfitted with all you need from helmets to panniers and ponchos as well as advice on best cycling routes, including the Galloping Goose Regional Trail.
- Victoria’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America after San Francisco.
- Vancouver Island is known for its excellent cold-water diving, rated second after the Red Sea for clarity and diversity of sea life by the Jacques Cousteau Society.
- Victoria is known as “the city of gardens.”
- Three pods of orca whales (around 80 orcas) live in Victoria’s waters.
A Prairie Home Companion Cruise is produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media. Ship’s registry: The Netherlands.