Image source: Rocky Mountaineer
There are so many ways to explore Canada and each one can offer you a once in a lifetime experience, but none more so than an Alaska cruise and a trip on Rocky Mountaineer train. Both of these awe-inspiring ways to travel are popular due to their outstanding views, unique on-board experiences and excellent service, so why not combine them to create the ultimate western Canada adventure?
In this article, we will take a look at some of the reasons these types of Canada holidays are so popular, from the stunning food and onboard services to the relaxed nature of the experiences, with comments and quotes from travellers who have experienced both Alaska and Rocky Mountaineer.
Why is a combined Rocky Mountaineer and Alaska holiday so popular?
A combined holiday offers you the best of both worlds. There are so many popular Canadian Affair holidays that it can often be tricky to know which holiday is going to suit you. Especially if you are visiting Canada for the first time. The beauty of a combined Rocky Mountaineer and Alaska cruise holiday means you don’t have to make a choice and can enjoy a multitude of experiences in one jam-packed adventure.
If you’re a lover of wildlife but also want to see some of the best sights Western Canada and Alaska has to offer, then a cruise and rail holiday is the perfect option for you.
Experience the beauty of Western Canada and Alaska
Image source: Rocky Mountaineer
One of the best things and often the main reason why these types of holidays are so sought after by travellers is the vast amount you get to experience on the journey. Western Canada and Alaska are home to some beautiful locations and a cruise and rail holiday is the perfect way to see some of these sights from the comfort of your cruise cabin or train seat.
Colleen McDaniel, Editor-in-Chief of Cruise Critic explains how choosing a cruise as part of your holiday can allow you to see the state from a whole new perspective: “Cruising to Alaska is one of the most incredible ways to visit. On a ship, you’re able to view the state from a completely different perspective than you would on land – taking in the experience from the sea, then disembarking in various towns to get a true taste of the state and its people. It’s also a very convenient way of visiting Alaska – you’re able to travel throughout the region, only unpacking once while onboard.”
Not only are stunning sites available to you on your entire journey, but Canada and Alaska are also filled with an abundance of unique wildlife that can often be spotted from your train or ship. The beauty of a combined trip means you’ll be able to spot large whales as well as brown bears and moose.
“Our Alaskan cruise was an absolutely magical experience,” says Jill from Finding Jillian. She continues to tell us how Alaska offers you majestic views, abundant wildlife and crisp air: “Unlike the typical Caribbean cruise, an Alaskan cruise is filled with crisp air, abundant wildlife and majestic views. The glaciers, the whales, the snowcapped mountains, all breathtakingly beautiful! As a travel blogger who has sailed on 20+ cruises, I can honestly say that our Alaskan sailing was one of my most unique and memorable family vacations.”
Top sights you can experience on your Alaska cruise holiday
Image source: Holland American Line
The Last Frontier has been always intriguing and attracting travellers from all over the world. And no wonder why, as Alaska’s West Coast is home to striking natural wonders, an abundance of wildlife and towns rich in history and culture, you can best experience on an Alaskan cruise.
Cruise ship companies offer different itineraries and ports of call, as well as a great variety of shore excursions. Below are the top sights you can choose from when booking your Alaska cruise and Rocky Mountaineer train holiday.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park comprises of 3.3 million acres of area of magnificent snow-capped mountains and glaciers near Juneau, Alaska. Cruise ships usually spend a full day cruising the bay which allows plenty of time to gaze at the beauty of this magnificent waterworld, listen to Alaska stories and take pictures. Glacier Bay has seven tidewater glaciers with the 21 miles long and 350 feet tall Margerie Glacier being the highlight of this scenic cruising. It is the most frequently calving glacier of them all, so make sure not to miss this experience.
Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Caroline Maryan Photography explains how she loves travelling through Glacier Bay when on an Alaskan cruise, a truly magical experience: “The best part of an Alaskan cruise is experiencing parts of North America that you can only see from a ship, all while cruising in comfort and style.
The highlight is a slow cruise through Glacier Bay, where you gaze up at towering and surprisingly colourful glaciers and wait for one to calve. If you look down, you’re likely to see whales and sea otters swimming by.”
Hubbard Glacier is a glacier located in Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and is the biggest glacier that can be visited by cruise ships. Named after the founder of the National Geographic Society, Hubbard Glacier is the longest tidewater glacier in the world. The best time to see it calving is August-September when temperatures rise.
Hubbard Glacier, Alaska
As the capital city of Alaska, Juneau is a must stop for all cruise ships. The town is accessible only by air and sea and shares no common features with typical bustling capital cities. Rather it blends with the surrounding nature and is a synonym of stunning scenery, glacier views and thriving local culture. Juneau has a lot to offer to its visitors. Take a wildlife watching excursions into the Tongass National Forest or along its shorelines or enjoy spectacular views from the Mount Roberts Tramway. Do some souvenir shopping whiles strawing downtown and have a pint of the famous Alaskan Brewing, a brewery that has been around since the mid-80s. Whatever your preferences, a must-see natural wonder in Juneau though is the Mendenhall Glacier.
Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska
Skagway is the best-preserved Gold Rush town. It is home to beautiful historic buildings and wooden sidewalks from the Gold Rush Era. Locals dressed in period costumes bring the era back to life along a seven-block stretch of Skagway’s Broadway. The town is part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
A scenic railroad using vintage locomotives and linking Skagway, Alaska with Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon is another gem of this charming town. If you get the chance, you must try The White Pass and Yukon Route railroad.
The White Pass and Yukon Route, Skagway, Alaska
Other top ports of call in Alaska on a combined rail and cruise holiday are:
- Tracy Arm Fjord
- Icy Strait Point
Image source: Celebrity Cruises
“Without question, an Alaskan cruise is a trip of a lifetime,” Nicole from Go Far Grow Close explains. She continues to explain why she loves the beauty of an Alaskan cruise: “You will see breathtaking scenery unlike anywhere else in the world. You glide along the Pacific Ocean next to enormous snow-capped mountains awash in deep emerald evergreen trees that you know are filled with bears, eagles and other wildlife. Chances are, you will spot some either from the cruise ship or onshore when you explore the different ports. Of course, we can’t forget the sea life – orca whales, seals, porpoises and sea lions – who will sometimes be playfully riding beside you. In the different ports, you can explore the wildlife more deeply with guides, or learn about indigenous cultures who have been living on the land for thousands of years. They are eager to share their history and to help you understand the importance of living with nature.”
READ MORE: Snap Alaska
Top sights in Western Canada
Rocky Mountaineer offers various unforgettable routes through the majestic Canadian Rockies. The train is equipped with single- or bi-level glass coaches with full or oversized glass-dome windows and outdoor viewing platform or area, depending on the level of service booked, thus providing the ultimate viewing experience for its guests.
Image source: Rocky Mountaineer
While carving through unparalleled landscapes, towering mountains, deep canyons and rivers, here are only some of the top sights you can experience while aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train.
The Spiral Tunnels
The Spiral Tunnels or ‘Big Hill’ as it is also known was the most difficult piece of railway track on the Canadian Pacific Railway’s route. Renamed The Spiral Tunnels in 1909.
Hell’s Gate in Fraser Canyon
Hell’s Gate is an abrupt narrowing of British Columbia’s Fraser River caused by narrowing rock walls that force the water through the small opening.
A Provincial Park in western Canada that is home to the Pyramid Falls, caused by glacier-fed falls falling out of hanging valleys.
As part of your combined rail and cruise holiday, your itinerary will include few days at different towns before or after you get onboard Rocky Mountaineer or your cruise, so you can make the best out of your holiday. The top highlights of Western Canada while on a rail and cruise holiday are:
Banff, Lake Louise and Banff National Park
There really is no better place to start than Banff and the surrounding Banff National Park, home to the Rocky Mountains and the oldest National Park in Canada. Your options in Banff are endless from taking a scenic gondola ride up the Sulphur Mountain, relaxing in the mineral pools of the Upper Hot Springs, play golf at the Fairmont Banff Springs or go hiking, wildlife watching or canoeing. The park is huge and home to some of Canadas largest lakes, glaciers, ice fields and forests. A must-see lake is Lake Louise called “The crown jewel of the Rockies”.
Lake Louise and Fairmont Chateau Hotel, Alberta, Canada
Jasper and Jasper National Park
This charming little alpine town is the heart of Jasper National Park and home to Maligne Lake and the Spirit Island, one of the most photographed places in the Canadian Rockies.
Maligne Lake and the Spirit Island, Alberta, Canada
Connecting Banff to Jasper, the Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in Canada. Along the way must-see natural wonders are Peyto Lake and the Athabasca Glacier, a 4-mile glacier and the most accessible glacier in Canada.
Icefield Parkway, Alberta, Canada
Walk the Seawall along English Bay on your way to the famous Stanley Park, explore the downtown from Gastown to Chinatown or head over to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, this massive construction is 137 m long and hangs 70 m above Capilano River, making it one of Vancouver’s most popular attractions.
Photo credit: Tourism Vancouver/Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
You can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride
Image source: Rocky Mountaineer
One thing that makes a cruise and rail holiday so special is that you don’t have to lift a finger! There is nothing better than actually being able to sit back, relax and enjoy your surroundings knowing everything is already planned in advance. Everything from service to food and sleeping quarters, your trip is planned to the highest of standards and the onboard crew are there to make it one to remember.
Susan from Wander With Wonder has been on a Rocky Mountaineer holiday and couldn’t fault the service and staff on board: “I have been fortunate to take three journeys with Rocky Mountaineer through Western Canada. Every trip is filled with what I call ‘wow moments’. Not only is the scenery breathtaking, but the staff make the experience above and beyond. The onboard hosts have a passion for what they do and no guest demand is too extreme. I love the local lore and stories they share as you ride the rails. The hosts make you feel as if you’re a part of the family. And the simplicity of being able to get on the train, forget the world for the day, eat wonderful meals, have someone serve you all day, and to then get off and have your luggage waiting in your hotel room. It feels a bit magical.”
Carol travel blogger at Wandering Carol agrees with Susan and thinks the unique destinations make Rocky Mountaineer experience extra special, especially for those who find planning their own route stressful:
“Rocky Mountaineer is a bucket list train trip that has amazing scenery, cuisine and comfort. What made it special to me were the unique destinations. The coastal city of Vancouver has urban chic and great nature spots like Stanley Park and the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. The mountain town of Banff in Alberta has hot springs, a historic grand hotel, and a wide array of shops. Also lovely is Lake Louise with its pristine lake of gemstone blue. Another unique destination is Jasper, a small town in the Canadian Rockies that retains its rustic charm.”
READ MORE: An in-depth guide to Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer
Benefits of a combined holiday:
- Excellent service – The service onboard Rocky Mountaineer and your Alaskan cruise are second to none. Their sole purpose is to make your trip as spectacular as possible, so no stone is left unturned in their efforts.
- Delicious food – The food on offer on both journeys are exquisite. Rocky Mountaineer prides itself on serving some of the most delicious food with a range of options to suit everyone’s needs. Whilst your Alaskan cruise will offer fresh seafood, right from beneath your boat, delicious!
- Wildlife – Whilst on your trip there is no better place to try and spot some of Canada’s native wildlife. Keep your eye out for whales, moose, bears, eagles and many more unique Canadian species.
- Time to sit back and relax – What we believe to be one of the best perks is that you don’t have to do anything. You can spend your time enjoying your surroundings, catching snaps of your experiences or just sitting back and reading a book.
- The stunning sites – As you will have just read, a cruise rail holiday offers you a glimpse at some of the most amazing sites across the globe.
All in all, if you’re looking for a once in a lifetime holiday once restrictions allow and want to experience the beauty of Western Canada then there is no better holiday than a cruise and rail holiday. Offering you some of the world’s most outstanding views, service and food, what more could you want? Get in touch with our team to plan your unique and life-changing holiday.