Anchorage

The northernmost city in the United States and the second most populous city in Alaska, Anchorage has fantastic wildlife with numerous parks, gardens and wildlife refuges, such as the Denali National Park and Preserve (especially popular in winter for dog-sledding, cross-country skiing, and snow-machining), and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre for orphaned or wildlife animals. Anchorage is served by two alternative ports where most cruise ships dock instead: Seward (near to the Alaska SeaLife Centre, Kenai Fjords National Park and Exit Glacier) and Whittier, which is situated at the head of Passage Canal, a fjord of western Prince William Sound and also near to the Columbia Glacier.

With mountains, glaciers, mirror-like lakes, and fjords, and a sub-arctic climate (although due to maritime influences, the climate is relatively moderate), Anchorage has a rugged, natural beauty. In the winter months it is possible to see the Northern Lights. Mount McKinley is only 4-5 hours’ drive or an 8-hour train journey away if you are staying a little longer at Anchorage as part of a pre- or post-cruise programme. Amongst the natural splendour, there is a diverse wildlife to be found: black and grizzly bears, moose, mountain goats, wolves and beavers. Some of Anchorage’s annual events reflect its close relationship with animals: the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race starts the first weekend of March, and the annual Running of the Reindeer, part of the Fur Rendezvous (or Fur Rondy) at the end of February and beginning of March. A part of the Anchorage tradition since the 1930s, the ‘Fur Rondy’ involves a fur auction as well as fun activities such as a carnival, Frostbite Footrace (and costume fun run), snow sculptured competition, snowshoe softball, and the Blanket Toss (an ancient Native Alaskan tradition).

With longer daylight hours in summer to pack in lots of activities such as fishing fresh Alaska king salmon, hiking across the beautiful countryside, getting close to glaciers, flying over vast snow-covered mountains, camping in Chugach State Park, Anchorage is fun all year round – not just winter! Throughout the year, Anchorage provides delights for its visitors, including absolutely mouth-watering food: plump, cold-water Kachemak Bay oysters, Alaska king crab, fresh-caught halibut and the famed wild Alaska salmon. An ideal destination for food and nature lovers! As an embarkation port, it would be great to combine a cruise with a short stay to further explore Anchorage and its magnificent nature.