Alaska: Cruising Down the Inside Passage

What happens if you find a great deal on the perfect luxury cruise down Alaska’s Inside Passage? Well, naturally…you go.  After all, dear readers, science says the ice won’t be with us forever.

«All photos courtesy of Andy Beal»

Andy and Sheila Beal, a Raleigh, North Carolina couple in their (if you average their ages) late thirties, recently celebrated their 10th anniversary…and describe themselves as “travelholics.”  At this writing, it’s been two weeks since their last trip (a beach in the Outer Banks) and they’re in dire need of their next travel fix.

They like finding great deals on luxury travel, but love being outdoors, as well. They’re happiest when they have a king bed with fine linens by night, and by day, miles of remote hiking trails to explore.  They don’t tend to gravitate towards cruises, as their combined wanderlust and Sheila’s detailed approach to itinerary planning have always seemed at odds with the concept of being confined on the water.

However, this past spring they ran across a deal too good to pass up, for a luxury Alaska cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner.  Both had placed the Inside Passage high on their travel wish-list and wanted to see:

  • glaciers calving off into the ocean
  • icebergs floating in the water
  • bald eagles, seals, bears, orca whales, sea otters and more

The Mariner in port at Skagway

The Mariner in port at Skagway

The cruise was seven nights in July, one of the prime months to visit Alaska; it embarked from Vancouver, B.C. and ended in Seward, AK.  Their entire trip was 9 nights total, including an overnight stay in Vancouver and a redeye flight back home to Raleigh.

Very little planning was required – the cruise itinerary is set, after all — so all the Beals had to do was choose excursions when in port.  For two normally type-A vacationers, a cruise proved a welcome, stress-free, relaxing surprise.

Houseboats at Vancouver Wharf

For them, arriving in Vancouver a day early was a fun alternative to travel insurance; for approximately the same amount as Regent’s insurance, they were able to see a little of “The Coov”…and not miss their cruise departure.

This was their second brief stay in this wonderful, walkable city; they’re huge fans of 1,000-acre Stanley Park and the waterfront Carderos Restaurant for excellent local seafood. They stayed in the Pan Pacific Hotel at Canada Place, which they highly recommend for other cruisers headed out of port. The Pan Pacific made it possible to check their luggage straight from their hotel room onto the ship — no schlepping!

Sail-away reception aboard the Mariner

Sail-away reception aboard the Mariner

On board the Mariner, they had one of the least expensive rooms, but this was far from a windowless veal pen. Their lodgings had a balcony, sitting area, walk-in closet, huge bathroom (for cruise ship standards, anyway) and even a vanity mirror.  They would definitely consider sailing on Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner again.

They ate most of their meals on board, and found the food fairly impressive…for a captive audience.  They’re still raving about the freshest salmon they’ve ever eaten, wild-caught in Alaska.

Once out to sea, they were amazed by the jaw-dropping, massive size of Hubbard Glacier and were lucky to see pieces of it calving and splashing into the sea. When this icy behemoth shifted, it resounded like thunder.

Hubbard Glacier, mid-calve

Hubbard Glacier, mid-calve

On a seaplane ride from Ketichan, they landed on the glassy-smooth waters of the Misty Fjords National Monument, surrounded by spruce-covered mountains and perfect silence.

Misty Fjord National Monument

Misty Fjord National Monument

And, since they’ve done quite a bit of humpback whale watching in the winter months in Hawaii, it was fun for them to see what the whales do during their summers in Alaska.  One morning, they stepped out only as far as their balcony and caught a couple of humpbacks breaching.  Hungry for more, they went on a whale-watching excursion near Juneau for some of the best whale activity they’d ever seen, with tons of exhalations and breaches by both orcas and humpbacks.

On an Inside Passage cruise, Sheila and Andy recommend bringing:

Binoculars for each person. They only brought one pair and ended up having to share them as they searched along the shoreline for wildlife and in the water for close-up views of glaciers.

Breathable, waterproof jackets, plus quick drying pants and shoes. They didn’t realize that Southeast Alaska is in a temperate rain forest, steeped in, as they heard many times, “liquid sunshine.”

«All photos courtesy of Andy Beal»


In addition to being a talented photographer,
Andy Beal is the Marketing Pilgrim, an internet marketing consultant.
Sheila Beal‘s incredibly helpful travel blog is GoVisitHawaii.


  1. Wow, having read that I want to go back! 🙂

  2. @ Andy — Book it!! 🙂

  3. Oh my gosh, such gorgeous pictures, I can’t wait to go. 6 weeks and counting.
    Thanks Melanie


  1. […] Enjoy another of Sheila and Andy’s (non-Hawaiian) trips in Alaska: Cruising Down the Inside Passage […]

  2. […] Enjoy another of Sheila and Andy’s (non-Hawaiian) trips in Alaska: Cruising Down the Inside Passage […]

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