Books tell a story, carvings on a wall tell a story, and in Saxman Native Village in Ketchikan, Alaska, totem poles tell a story documented by the early Native Americans.
When Skookum Jim Mason, Dawson Charlie and George Washington Carmack discovered gold deposits in tributary of the Klondike River in August 1896, they triggered one of the world’s greatest gold rushes in history. The following year, a stampede of gold diggers arrived from all over the country, arriving in droves to the small towns of Skagway and Dyea, which served as gateways for the arduous trek to the goldfields. During the first year of the gold rush, around 20,000 to 30,000 prospectors flocked to region in hopes of finding gold. Only a small percentage did, but enough to spark rumors of limitless gold in the area – and a migration totaling to around 100,000 to an extremely harsh and remote region. By 1899, claims of gold in Nome, Alaska all but ended the great Klondike Gold Rush.
Alaska is one of my favorite cruise destinations because I can spend hours on deck, mouth agape, as I marvel at one spectacular landscape after another. And the experience is even more thrilling when you venture inland. I had the chance to do just that on an unforgettable five-day land tour with Oceania Cruises prior to an Alaskan voyage on Regatta.
Arriving in Anchorage, I had plenty of time to relax and explore the city before boarding a deluxe motorcoach the next day for a stunning drive north on the famous George Parks Highway. The unbelievably scenic road winds through the tundra, soaring mountain peaks, glaciers, forests and wild rivers that define the Alaskan interior.
Upon reaching the town of Talkeetna, a National Historic Site, I enjoyed a lovely stroll along the charming streets before boarding a luxury dome railcar. From the upper-level dome, the scenery became more breathtaking by the mile and culminated with our arrival at Grande Denali Lodge, perched on the edge of a bluff less than a mile from the entrance to Denali National Park. Dinner that night was accompanied by an enlightening lecture that left me eager to discover the park’s many wonders.
The next morning I experienced the staggering beauty of Denali National Park, which encompasses the tallest mountain in North America, Mount McKinley, soaring 20,237 feet into the heavens. Along with my fellow guests, I explored a subarctic wilderness that supports more than 650 species of plants, including blue forget-me-nots – Alaska’s state flower – that add dramatic splashes of color.
Like most visitors, I’d come to Denali hoping to see the rich diversity of animals, and I was not disappointed. Watching a bear frolic near a salmon stream was a sight I won’t soon forget. I also saw a herd of sure-footed Dall sheep, known for their curling horns, happily munching on grass in a meadow. And soaring over it all as if to add an exclamation point to the day was a pair of majestic bald eagles.
The following day we awoke to a cloudless blue sky that allowed postcard-perfect views of Mount McKinley as we drove toward the Iditarod Sled Dog Kennel. Here we learned about the amazing dogs that cover 1,150 miles of Alaska’s rugged terrain on what is called the “Last Great Race on Earth.”
Our journey continued along the scenic shoreline between the Chugach Mountains and the waters of Turnagain Arm until we arrived back in Anchorage for the evening. The next day we boarded Regatta for a cruise along Alaska’s fabled Inside Passage. Reminiscing about the past few days inland and looking forward to new discoveries by sea, I knew that with Oceania Cruises I would truly experience all the wonders of the Last Frontier.
By Jason Lasecki, Senior Director of Public Relations
The hottest thing on cable television these days seems to be America’s 49th state. With shows ranging from Alaska State Troopers and Deadliest Catch to Buying Alaska and Wild Alaska, there is a never-ending fascination with America’s last frontier, and with good reason. Alaska offers some of the most picturesque and pristine natural settings in the world, and there’s no better way to experience the wonderment of Alaska than on board the newly refurbished Regatta.
Having recently sailed on the 10-night Majesty of Alaska voyage, it’s clear to me that the beauty and splendor of Alaska coupled with the elegance and style of Regatta create a magical and memorable combination.
The ship itself was immaculate, and the additions made during the refurbishment, such as Baristas coffee bar and the cook-to-order grill at Terrace Café, were a huge hit with guests sailing on Regatta. Many guests congregated at the redesigned Horizons bar to soak in some musical entertainment and incredible Alaskan vistas, while others enjoyed sipping a cocktail at the restyled Martinis.
Oceania Cruises is well known for having the finest cuisine at sea, and when it’s paired with one of Alaska’s stunning late evening sunsets, you’re assured an amazing dining experience. While enjoying an exquisite dinner one particular evening at Toscana, we were treated to a painted sky sunset as the ship sailed a scenic fjord, passing by glimmering waterfalls and soaring bald eagles.
The intimate nature of Oceania Cruises’ mid-size ships allows the staff to provide attentive personalized service to each guest, and the ideally sized ships offer an additional advantage when cruising Alaska because the captain can provide closer and more breathtaking views of one of Alaska’s premier attractions—the glaciers! During our visit to Hubbard Glacier, we were so close we could hear popping sounds as sheets of ice calved into the ocean.
One of the highlights of any Alaska cruise is the wildlife. Whales, bears, eagles, otters and seals are abundant, and Oceania Cruises offers a wide array of shore excursions that provide you the best opportunities to see these majestic animals. Definitely a sight to remember was a pod of orcas that paid our boat a visit during a whale-watching tour in Juneau. Wildlife is everywhere and it’s common to spot whales, eagles, seals and sea lions from the comfort of Regatta.
Speaking of wildlife, we came across this guy while on a nature hike in Hoonah. Readers, any clue on what species of bird this is?
Oceania Cruises guests continue to explore majestic Alaska onboard Regatta. The ship recently visited Juneau and will return for an encore in just a few days. Today’s featured excursion, the Taku Glacier Lodge Flight and Feast, began in Juneau with our explorers boarding a nostalgic floatplane near the ship at anchor. Once in the air, the plane buzzed by Regatta, soared over the tree lines, and ultimately reached the glaciers.
The group flew over both advancing and receding glaciers for roughly 30 minutes before landing on the Taku River and settling in at the lodge for a ground-level view of the glacier.
And a post from Alaska would not be complete without pictures of salmon on the grill and the friendly neighborhood black bear.
As they bid adieu to their newest black bear friend and another day of exploring the magnificent Alaskan wilderness, Regatta‘s guests return to the Juneau “airstrip” where the floatplane docks. It is now time to enjoy some pampering onboard the ship as the anticipation builds for the next adventure.