My first trip to Alaska was a business trip around 1978. I enjoyed a few of the opportunities to see some of the sights in the Anchorage area - Mt. Alyeska, Whittier via the train, and Portage Glacier. I stayed 1 week at the Anchorage Hilton and enjoyed the accommodations, food and ambiance. The views from my room of Mt. McKinley, on the few days it was visible, were spectacular! I fell in love with Alaska.
My next trip was a cruise in 2001 on Holland America's Veendam from Vancouver to Seward and then to Anchorage via train. The sights of Alaska are refreshingly "nature on a grand scale". The air is fresh and clean smelling, the vistas are expansive and deceptive (it is difficult to tell sizes and distances). We arrived in Vancouver a day before sailing and spent a very relaxing and friendly evening at the airport Hilton; the food and service were excellent. I heartily recommend this for anyone cruising since weather conditions and other unforseen "things" can occur. The following morning we shuttled back to Vancouver airport to get the Holland America bus. The route from the airport to the cruise ship terminal was like a mini tour of the greater Vancouver area.
This trip included visits to Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Valdez, College Fjords, and Misty Fjords. The highlights were the visits from Juneau to Mendenhall Glacier; the wild life cruise on a high speed catamaran (we saw about 20 humpback whales doing there thing - broaching, tail and fluke waving, mother's with young calves, porpoises, eagles - it was absolutely amazing; the tram trip to the top of the mountain with spectacular vistas of the ships in the harbor below. We finished the day at the salmon bake and enjoyed the salmon, BBQ and other goodies.
In Ketchikan we took a seaplane tour of the Tongass (National Forest) preserve. After overflying a portion of the preserve, the pilot landed and we were able to stand on the floats to take picture of the pristine beauty and nature of the area with its many waterfalls and scenic beauty.
In Valdez we went on the white water (rafting) tour. The water was 36' and class 3; it was fantastic - behind me in the raft was an 81 year old woman who at times held on to me to stay in the boat. At the end of the run she said it was one of the most fun things she had ever done in her life!!
In Sitka, we enjoyed the Russian flavor of the town, the church, buildings, waterfront, and a tour of a salmon hatchery - we missed the release of the young salmon by about a week. The cruising of the Fjords was awesome; we saw ice flow, calved icebergs in their royal blue colors, icebergs were mother seals had given birth to their young, spectacular vistas of the glaciers and their incredible size, waterfalls everywhere - a tribute to God's masterful touch.
Our last day had us docking in Seward and catching an early train (ugh!) and going to Anchorage. The views from the train are beautiful as it goes through canyons, mountains, valleys, and curves on its meanderway to Anchorage. From the train we saw moose, black bear, mountain goats, and of course eagles. Our brief stay in Anchorage was too short since we had to go to the airport in the afternoon for a long flight back to the Philadelphia area. I would strongly suggest adding an extra day or more to relax before flying home. All too soon our trip to Alaska was over.