Tag Archives: Holland America Line

ALASKA by Air, Rail, and Cruise Ship with Holland America Line

View from the McKinley Explorer. Photo by Richard Varr

View from the McKinley Explorer. Photo by Richard Varr

My August trip to Alaska and the Yukon was one of my best yet!  It was a 12-day Land+Sea Journey with Holland America Line offered in the spring and summer. My adventure started in Anchorage and included stops at Denali National Park and Preserve (with Mt. McKinley), Fairbanks, and then on to Dawson City and Whitehorse in the Yukon. The trip continued by boarding the ms Zuiderdam in Skagway for a four day cruise through the fjords and Glacier Bay National Park, and then onto Ketchikan before sailing along the Inside Passage to Vancouver.   A few highlights of this wonderful adventure follow!

Alaska’s Mighty Glaciers

Marjerie Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park. Photo by Richard Varr

Marjerie Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park. Photo by Richard Varr

I awoke one morning aboard the ms Zuiderdam to the calm waters and scenic, glacier-capped vistas right outside my stateroom. We had arrived in Glacier Bay National Park passing several glaciers until stopping for a couple of hours to behold the massive Margerie Glacier – a tidewater glacier with bits of its leading edge cracking off the ice mass and plunging into the bay.

On the Meade Glacier. Photo by Richard Varr

On the Meade Glacier. Photo by Richard Varr

The day before in Skagway, I took a shore excursion to the Meade Glacier by helicopter, and then hiked the 900-foot-deep glacier with studded ice boots and a walking pole. What I found most interesting there were the many fissures called moulins – deep holes in the glacial floor exposing blue ice. And I dared not get to close!

Alaska by Rail: New Meaning to Train Travel

McKinley Explorer. Photo by Richard Varr

McKinley Explorer. Photo by Richard Varr

Alaska’s sharp mountain peaks, gushing streams and deep valleys give new meaning to train travel. The clear-glass domes of Holland America Line’s McKinley Explorer offer wide-ranging views of the rugged wilderness all around us. The train chugs through the countryside from ocean-side Seward to the

McKinley Explorer. Photo by Richard Varr

high mountains of Denali National Park. I got on in Anchorage for the six hour trip to Denali, paralleling rivers and passing over the 914-foot long bridge over Hurricane Gulch that drops nearly 300 feet.

The White Pass and Yukon Route Train. Photo by Richard Varr

The White Pass and Yukon Route Train. Photo by Richard Varr

What I thought was an even more dramatic ride was the White Pass and Yukon Route train, a shore excursion out of Skagway. This train ride, just under two hours, leads one way from Skagway to Fraser, British Columbia (or reverse), with motor coaches taking passengers on the return trip. This ride reaches more than 2,800 feet and parallels the South Klondike Highway along the Coast Mountains and the Tongass National Forest, dropping deep into the valley. It ends (or starts) at sea level in Skagway.

For more information: http://www.HollandAmerica.com

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Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve

Behemoth peaks in the clouds

Flightseeing over Denali. Photo by Richard Varr

Flightseeing over Denali. Photo by Richard Varr

Sunbeams shot through the plane window, reflected from the snow covered mountain peaks of Denali National Park. I was in a small, twin engine 12-seater flying over Denali’s craggy terrain with the goal of seeing the mountain – Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest. The question was, would we see it through the clouds or would it be lost in a white mist?

Mt. McKinley from the air. Photo by Richard Varr

Mt. McKinley from the air. Photo by Richard Varr

I was mesmerized by the views below – jagged mountain peaks and mountainsides, some draped in snow maybe 30 feet or more deep, and views of the elongated Eldridge Glacier on the valley floor. The glacier looks like a two-lane superhighway from our vantage point.   All of a sudden, our pilot yells, “there it is!” We see Mount McKinley – just the tip of the taller, snow covered South Peak – shooting out above the clouds.

Denali by the Savage River. Photo by Richard Varr

Denali by the Savage River. Photo by Richard Varr

Denali is one of North America’s most dramatic, mountain-filled national parks with grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, moose and caribou. Six and eight-hour park tours take passengers deep into the park where private cars are not allowed.

For more information:  http://www.HollandAmerica.com

Hike through Denali. Photo by Richard Varr

Hike through Denali. Photo by Richard Varr