ANCHORAGE -- If there is a problem with the excursions Princess
offers as part of its cruise tours, it is this: There are too many.
With more than 90 options, it can be difficult to choose.
In eight days, my adventures included flying north of the Arctic
Circle, landing on a glacier in a helicopter and kayaking to Shoup
I could have chosen to soar over Mount McKinley in a small
airplane or mush with sled dogs. Fellow travelers raved about a
Denali Heli-Hiking Adventure, during which they danced with arms
posed like antlers to attract nearby caribou (it worked).
Of course, every excursion can't be a winner. A fellow traveler
complained his horseback riding trip at Denali seemed more like an
amusement park ride. I found the Natural History Tour in Denali
National Park tedious, dominated by lengthy stops without much to
Also, flight tours can be canceled by weather, so have backups
Such disappointments, however, paled in comparison to the joys
of most of the excursions.
For my 14-year-old cousin and me, nothing topped the kayaking
trip to Shoup Glacier with Pangaea Adventures. It's a two-hour ride
from the Copper River lodge to the starting point in Valdez, but
the travel time was worth every minute.
After a quick kayaking lesson, we took a motorboat to our
drop-off point about 2.5 miles from the glacier. From there, we
kayaked by thousands of cacophonous, black-legged kittiwakes (a
type of gull) nesting on the rocks, maneuvered between floating
pieces of ice as we approached the glacier, and heard the
thunderous sound of the glacier calving.
We picnicked on rocks the ice had covered until recently. Shoup
Glacier retreated 400 feet in the past year, Pangaea owner Kenny
Blum told us. The glacier appeared tinged in blue, as it is the
only color of the visible light spectrum the densely packed ice
HOT TIP: On the motorboat trip back to Valdez, four of us jumped
into frigid Shoup Bay. Back on board, a makeshift hot tub awaited,
and we savored an hour enjoying Alaska scenery in 90- to 100-degree
Agents can request the hot tub option for a special client (send
e-mail to [email protected]). Pangaea can't guarantee it,
but it's worth a try.
The helicopter landing at Yanert Glacier was spectacular. The
glacier surged a few years ago -- not many do -- and the movement
caused the surface to buckle and crack, creating peaks and
crevasses unlike most glacial landscapes.
In good weather, the Arctic Circle flight out of Fairbanks
should offer great views of the White Mountains and Yukon Flats.
Travelers fly north to the Athabascan Indian village of Fort Yukon
for a slice-of-real life tour enlivened by the wry humor of Alaska
Yukon Tours owner/guide Richard Carroll.
Our seven-mile Byers Lake Back Country Hiking trip paid off with
a stop at Cascade Falls and an overlook of the Alaska Range. But
serious trekkers beware: An unfit participant could shorten the
With so many options, agents interested in repeat business
should also keep this in mind. There's only one option for visitors
who want to try even more excursions: Come back.
To contact reporter Andrew Compart, send e-mail to [email protected].
For more details on this article, see:
• A 'lodge-ical' trip to Princess' Alaska
• Meanwhile, back at sea...