If you're shopping for unique Alaska souvenirs, this itinerary is for you. It identifies the best ports of call in Southeast Alaska for purchasing authentic local arts and crafts, then takes you through the highlights of a cross-gulf cruise to Anchorage, which also offers excellent shopping.
Day 1 Seattle or Vancouver, British Columbia
Depending on the line you cruise with and the itinerary you choose, you’ll likely either depart from Vancouver, B.C. or Seattle, Washington. If you're traveling on your own, you can mimic this trip by taking the Alaska Marine Highway ferry that departs from Bellingham, Washington, and follows a similar route up the Inside Passage.
Day 2 At sea
Regardless of which port you leave from, you’ll spend your first day cruising calmly through northern coastal British Columbia toward Alaska. It’s a good day to explore the cruise ship’s many shopping, dining and entertainment options.
Day 3 Ketchikan
Today will be spent in Ketchikan, which features an abundance of land excursions and excellent shopping. Consider taking a day trip to flightsee Misty Fiords National Monument, going sport-fishing, or visiting the Alaska Native village of Saxman, where you can watch artisans at work carving totem poles. Whatever activity you choose, be sure to save a couple of hours to wander downtown Ketchikan and its famous Creek Street. Creek Street is a boardwalk on pilings over Ketchikan Creek, the town’s gold-rush era red-light district. The charming historic district features shops, galleries, restaurants and coffee shops along with Dolly’s House Museum, which showcases the life of a well-known local madam.
When you do your shopping in this and every other Alaska port, look for the “Silver Hand” and “Made in Alaska” logos to help guarantee you're getting authentic goods. The Silver Hand logo signifies items made by an artist with Alaska Native blood; the Made in Alaska logo doesn't tell you anything about the artist's ancestry, but does guarantee that the item was made in Alaska.
Day 4 Sitka
Sitka is an enormously popular stop on cruise itineraries. Visitors love the combination of fun tours, deep local history, and the authentic feel of a small town where everything is still locally owned. Fishing, whale watching, a visit to the local bear sanctuary, and guided city tours that highlight local Russian and Tlingit history are the biggest attractions here, but make sure you leave time to explore the downtown gift shops, which include everything from locally made soap to intricate carvings and fine art in the Alaska Native tradition.
Day 5 Juneau
Alaska’s capital city also offers plenty of activities to entertain visitors, including a visit to Mendenhall Glacier, a bear-viewing excursion, a salmon bake or maybe a kayak tour. Its downtown is also a fun and entertaining place to shop, with several shops that feature authentic formline designs by Alaska Native artists. (This is the type of iconic, stylized art that many people associated with Southeast Alaska Native tribes.) You only have to walk a few blocks from the cruise ship terminal to reach the locally owned gift ships. There are also a few shops at the top of the Mount Roberts Tramway, which is itself a popular attraction for sightseers.
Days 6 and 7 Scenic cruising en route to Anchorage
Depending on your itinerary’s specifics, you’ll wind your way toward Southcentral Alaska with sea days that include Glacier Bay National Park or the College Fjords. Ships usually disembark in either Whittier or Seward and shuttle their passengers north to Anchorage by either rail or motorcoach. In Anchorage, you’ll want to spend a few days exploring the excellent museums and cultural facilities, including the Alaska Native Heritage Center and Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center; taking a bike ride on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which hugs Anchorage's western coastline and sometimes offers views of beluga whales, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, moose and even bears; hiking in Chugach State Park; eating in excellent local restaurants; and of course browsing the excellent no-sales-tax gift shops, most of which are concentrated in the downtown area.