No Ordinary Vacation: A 4-stop Guide to Sight-Seeing Alaska

No Ordinary Vacation: A 4-stop Guide to Sight-Seeing Alaska (Emmie Wolf-Dubin in Ketchikan)

NashvilleIf Alaska isn’t on your bucket list yet, grab a pen and add it now. From quaint houses and magnificent glaciers to fantastic fudge and extraordinary vistas, an Alaskan cruise is an invaluable opportunity to gather insight, perspective and peace. 

Follow along as two sisters, Julia and Emmie Wolf-Dubin explore Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and the Royal Princess ship. Julia will take a more historical, water-avoidant perspective while Emmie will explore anything from whale-watching (with these folks) to Alaskan window shopping.

Emmie Wolf-Dubin with cruise director Corrine


“The thing people don’t always get to see that they should is the back of the ship, the wake view. Watching the sunset from the back of the ship is something you can never see anywhere else.” – Corrine, Cruise Director of the Royal Princess

Emmie’s perspective: I’ll be the first to say it: I love cruising. Cruises are a special experience, and my time aboard the Royal Princess was nothing to the contrary. For the sake of space, I’ll keep it short: The food was excellent, as was the crew. There were many hot tubs and two heated pools. The entertainment was fantastic and there was no shortage of events. The Royal Princess was impeccable, it was a smooth, pleasant ride, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Julia’s perspective: The cruise ship we rode on was immense, filled top to bottom with rooms and activities, but the one thing I cannot possibly leave out is the FOOD. From French toast that melts in your mouth to the best tiramisu I’ve ever had, the food alone is a perfectly valid reason to hop onboard a cruise ship.

View of glacier in Juneau


“Juneau is … the beating heart of Southeast Alaska.” – Travel Juneau

Emmie’s perspective: In the first half of our day in Juneau, I went into stores and learned that many are cruise-line-owned. If you choose to buy something in tourist towns, it certainly pays to ensure stores are locally-owned. After, we went on a whale-watching trip. It was beautiful, a fun boat ride, and a very cool experience to see whales so close.

Julia’s perspective: The second you step foot into Juneau, Alaska, you’ll be smacked upside the head with a truly incredible vista of towering mountains and bottomless seas. If you’re a mountain-lover like me, you’ll want to get a view unlike any other by taking the tram that soars over a thousand miles up Mt. Roberts and take in the indescribable beauty from the air.

View from train in Skagway

“The thing people should see, but don’t, is the Skagway museum.” – Margie, Skagway native

Emmie’s perspective: Skagway was an extremely unique experience. We went on a wonderful train ride, and I cannot understate how incredible an experience it was. We saw rolling hills and thundering mountains. We saw glaciers, oceans, snow, bears, and old bridges. We journeyed from Alaska to Canada to the Yukon and back again. Given the opportunity, take a train in Skagway. It was beautiful and exactly what I have taken away from this trip: addictively gorgeous vistas.

Julia’s perspective: Skagway is an Alaskan gold rush era ghost town, and you won’t find many of those with such a rich local focus on historical tourism. The Skagway historical museum is beautifully curated and filled with fascinating stories of the town’s residents throughout the eras. Also, as previously mentioned, the train is an absolute must (I saw TWO baby bears!!!!).

“A lot of people don’t take the time to walk to City Park, but should. It’s just beyond where people usually go and is really beautiful.” – Charlotte, owner of Parnassus Book Store

Emmie’s perspective: Ketchikan is a beautiful city of colorful houses and history. It was very walkable, with many maps and trails to show tourists around the city’s center. I enjoyed reading about what buildings used to be, exploring the local cafes, and seeing the Salmon Trail.

Looking down Creek Street, immediately outside of Ketchikan's downtown near the mouth of Ketchikan Creek. Creek Street, along with a block of Fourth Avenue in Fairbanks, were Alaska's two significant red-light districts until the passage of the Anti-Crib Laws in the early 1950s. | Getty Images

Julia’s perspective: Ketchikan is a city so rich with historical sightseeing that I can’t possibly condense everything into a single paragraph, but I’m going to try. First, the local Tongass historical museum is small, but excellent (and cheap!). Wandering through Creek Street, the old red-light district, which cannot be missed, and the colorful characters who once populated it seem to live on at every corner and window.

Long story short, an Alaskan cruise, given the resources, is a can’t-miss item you won’t regret partaking in. We had so much fun, met many interesting people, and saw things of which we couldn’t even dream. An Alaskan cruise aboard the Royal Princess is certainly no ordinary vacation.

Emmie Wolf-Dubin (she/her) is a high school student in Nashville who covers anything from entertainment to politics. Follow her on Instagram: @redheadwd07.

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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