When people discuss their bucket list, Alaska is a consistent destination to visit. When we went on our Alaskan Cruise in June of 2017, I carefully considered which cruise line would make our trip to Alaska a dream come true. The Crystal Symphony was a fabulous choice.
Going to Alaska checked off several items on our bucket list.
- Remote Log Cabin Experience
- See Anchorage
- Hike Denali Park
- Alaskan Coastal Train Ride
- Alaskan Cruise
- Dog Mushing
- Deep Sea Fishing
- Alaskan Water Rafting
- See Glaciers
- Whale Sighting
We decided on Crystal Cruises because it offered all of the luxury amenities and accommodations we were looking for. Crystal Cruises is considered the Four Seasons of the Sea and for good reason. They offer butler service for every stateroom, every room is a suite, Michelin inspired dining, and once in a lifetime excursions. All of your room cost, taxes, unlimited food & drinks of any kind including alcohol, formal dining, unlimited wifi, and gratuities are included in one price. You just need to pay for any excursions or tours you want to do.
We 7 night cruise itinerary we took departed from Seward, AK and arrived in Vancouver BC. The Crystal Symphony has capacity for less than 850 passengers, another reason we chose this line. It’s smaller and is able to get through smaller canals and closer to glaciers than a huge ship of thousands of passengers.
The port of departure was in Seward, 4 hours away from Anchorage. We took a scenic train ride to Seward which was also on our bucket list, but not before spending 3 nights in Anchorage to explore. The biggest reason why we decided to extend our stay was to see Denali Park.
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Remote Log Cabin Experience
We wanted to explore Anchorage by land before getting on our ship. We stayed 3 nights in the cutest log cabin. It felt remote but wasn’t off the grid. Surrounded by quiet nature, it still had easy access to the city only 20 mins away. The owner of this AirBnB was great to work with. The cabin had everything we needed. I was glad it didn’t have a TV to add to the remote feel.
The first night we arrived, we experienced Midnight Sun. Because it was Summer time, it was never dark!
Anchorage has plenty of natural sites to randomly hike and explore. Seward Highway is right along the coast for some of the most beautiful driving you’ll ever see. When a spot off Seward caught our eye, we’d pull over and explore it.
Driving around Anchorage on Seward Highway, you notice these water pipes coming out of the mountains and locals stop to fill their water jugs right on the street. Although it’s water quality is not monitored by the city, it has been tested by locals and the Alaska Dispatch news team. The results have been reported that the parameters are all comparable with the City standards of drinkable water.
We drank some and it tased cold, very good, and didn’t get sick. Locals would fill large gallons at a time for their home use claiming its much better than the City regulated water. We were told by a local that the water gets naturally filtered by the mountain cracks through its travels.
The food in Anchorage was very good. We visited downtown and found this popular ice cream parlor shop, Wild Scoops Ice Cream. It’s soooo good!
Moose’s Tooth also has nationally acclaimed pizza! We also enjoyed their house made mushroom soup.
If and when you ever go to Alaska, do not miss Denali Park! It was more than worth the extended stay and the long drive to get there from Anchorage. It was so wonderful, I had to write a separate post for it. Read all about the tips and mistakes we made here, and why it should not be missed in Alaska!
Coastal Train Ride to Seward Port
One of the best times of our trip was taking a train ride to our ship in Seward. From the Anchorage train station to Seward is a little over 4 hours. We bought our tickets straight from Alaska Railroad. There are several routes that stop at various destinations. In the Summer time, the Coastal Classic route is open and super popular. This is the route everyone talks about when they take the Alaska Train ride.
It was really crazy seeing wild goats rock climb! I’m too much of a scaredy cat to do it.
We finally reached our ship and our cruise adventure begins.
Crystal Alaskan Cruise
Onboard the Crystal, we checked in and had lunch while our room was still getting prepared. The food made a great first impression.
All of the rooms are suites and comes with Butler Services. We stayed in the Deluxe Stateroom with Verandah. It’s over 250 sqft. When you go on an Alaskan Cruise, getting a stateroom with a balcony or verandah is worth the upgrade. You don’t want to miss the full experience of the majestic sites.
Day 1 Hubbard Glacier, AK
The first site that we saw was Hubbard Glacier. We even got lucky to see and hear it calve or break off. It sounds like a shot gun.
Glaciers are amazing! Our ship was able to get up to a quarter mile close to view Hubbard Glacier. It was incredible watching chunks of ice crumbling down. The chunks of ice that appear randomly on the water look like ice sculptures. From afar it looks like a magnificent blue quartz. The minerals in the glaciers give it its beautiful blue hues. Never seen anything like this. It truly was a work of art.
Day 2 Sitka- AK Whale Sighting and Bird Sanctuary
On Day 2 of our trip we took a tour where we boated around for whales and other water wildlife as well as the preserved bird sanctuary island.
St. Lazaria is a bird sanctuary and a protected island that has beautiful and unique formations. It harbors many species of birds. Saw a lot of wildlife today, including a bunch of lazy sea lions on a buoy. The town of Sitka is a tiny beauty.
We got lucky and Caught a humpback whale fluke right in front our faces!!! Literally 15 feet away. Michael caught this awesome footage! There was a pod around our jet boat. Amazing experience!
Day 3 Skagway, AK- Helicopter Ride and Dog Mushing
Day 3 was a great day to take a helicopter ride to reach the mountain top and dog mush. It’s all one excursion. In June, the temps are rally nice in Alaska. The lower elevations are in the 60’s, so you must take a helicopter to a mountain top where it’s much cooler to mush in the snow with the dogs. Wasn’t bad though, the temps were in the low 40’s. These doggies can withstand temps at -25ƒ with their natural double layered coats.
The dog camp for mushing was located over 5400 feet high in the mountains. The camp had over 250 dogs all excited and willing to sleigh. The dogs were very healthy, and even at 47• degrees up in these mountains, it was like summer to them. Many had the beautiful ice blue eyes.
They let you pet the puppies after your mush tour.
Day 4 Juneau, AK- Water Raft Tour and Lake Mendenhall
Since it rains 80% of the time here in Juneau, we decided to go water rafting and get really wet! Mendenhall Lake where we began has gorgeous views of the famous Mendenhall Glacier and waterfalls. My first time rafting and glad I survived, because that water was cold! Not as wild as white water rafting, but still had to hang on in some spots.
Day 5 Ketchikan, AK Deep Sea Fishing and Glamp Dinner
Victory! My first time deep sea fishing and caught the first and largest rock fish in all the groups today. Mike caught a King Salmon! Then we went to a wilderness spot to camp out while the fishermen cleaned our fresh catches and a chef cooked it up in the rainforest. The gourmet meal was rated best in the world for camp dining in Food and Wine Magazine. It did not disappoint! Michael was so proud of me for roughing it today, but it honestly felt more like glamping!
Day 6 At Sea
After so much adventure, it was great to just relax and enjoy the ship. We cruised the inner passage towards our Vancouver BC destination. The ship has plenty to do but we just loved being on our verandah to take in the sights.
It was nice to always have a dining table with fantastic views. Sometimes you can see pods of whales swimming in the distance. They offer daily tea times to enjoy the snacks and views.
Crystal Cruises have great entertainment with professional musicians and performers onboard. One of the spots we enjoyed was here listening to the pianist and violinist every evening.
Day 7 Vancouver BC, Canada- Extended Stay
We disembarked at 8am on the final day of the cruise. We extended our stay for 1 night to spend a day exploring Vancouver BC. We stayed at the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel because it’s right on the water and has fantastic views. We stayed in the Premier Room which gives you unobstructed views of the mountains and harbor. Request the corner Premier Room for the best views that include the city too.
We took a horse and carriage tour around the city and had some of the best sushi you can find. Don’t miss the sushi at Miku! Make sure you get a reservation as they book up during peak hours.
- Extend your stay a few days or longer to explore Anchorage and Denali Park.
- Get a stateroom on your cruise with a balcony or verandah to really appreciate the sites.
- Take the Coastal Train Ride for breathtaking views of Alaska. Buy tickets direct at Alaska Railroad. Cheaper rates available in May and September.
- The best rates to go to Alaska are in May and September. These months still offer good weather as an added value.
- Smaller ships can access smaller ports and waterways for a more exclusive experience.
- Check your travel credit cards to see if they have any cruise credits they can share with you for booking through them. Amex platinum for example gave us an additional $500 onboard credit in addition to any ship discounts or credits. For our June’17 booking, Crystal was offering $1200 onboard credit and Amex Platinum another $500. We used the $1700 credit all towards our amazing excursions!
- Check out our post for Denali Park do’s and don’ts here.