Visit Alaska on a Holland America Inside Passage Cruise


Story and photos by Debbra Dunning Brouillette


ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Award-winning travel writer and photographer Debbra Dunning Brouillette shares her Alaska cruising adventures with Holland America. Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on PodBean.

After visiting more than 50 islands and tropical destinations, the time was right for this “tropical travel girl” to visit Alaska. My dad was stationed in Skagway during World War II, so I’d always thought of going there…eventually. After all, I love nature and wildlife and being able to eat fresh Alaskan salmon, halibut, and Dungeness crab is my idea of culinary heaven!

When I began to consider how I wanted to “do Alaska,” I knew it would have to be in the summer to maximize the chances of having warm weather. My husband and I had great memories of sailing with Holland America in 2014 on a Canada/New England cruise, so I quickly settled on Holland America Cruise Line. But there were more decisions to be made. Depart from Seattle or Vancouver?

Since we hadn’t visited Vancouver, we chose it as our departure port. We booked the first week of July on the Koningsdam, one of three Pinnacle Class ships in the cruise line’s 14-ship fleet. The Koningsdam’s multiple specialty dining restaurants and nightly entertainment options in the Music Walk® area of the ship were among the many reasons we chose this mid-sized ship (maximum 2,650 passengers) for our Alaska cruise.

Our Alaska Inside Passage Cruise Itinerary:

July 2 – Depart Vancouver

July 3 – Scenic Cruising the Inside Passage

July 4 – Tracy Arm Inlet  
(Service Call Only, Access to Shore Limited to Shore Excursions)

July 4 – Juneau (1:00-10:00 pm)

July 5 – Skagway (7:00 am-8:00 pm)

July 6 – Glacier Bay (Cruising Only)

July 7 – Ketchikan (10:00 am-6:00 pm)

July 8 – Cruising the Inside Passage

July 9 – Arrive in Vancouver

First Port: Juneau – Mendenhall Glacier & Salmon Bake
After spending a day at sea orienting ourselves to the ship, our first port stop was Juneau, Alaska’s capital city.

Passengers who booked the Tracy Arm Fjord & Glacier Explorer excursion deboarded the ship at Tracy Arm Inlet before we reached Juneau. A high-speed catamaran took them to Twin Sawyer Glaciers, which naturalist John Muir called “one of the most dramatically stunning fjords of Southeast Alaska.”

We chose the Mendenhall Glacier & Salmon Bake excursion, which began with a short drive out of town to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

The Glacier is a 13-mile-long river of ice that ends at the far side of Mendenhall Lake. While some took the trail to Nugget Falls, we chose the shorter Photo Point Trail, a great vantage point for photos. That left us enough time to watch a film in the Visitor’s Center before leaving for Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, where more than 130 million chum, king, and coho salmon are raised. Our last stop was Salmon Creek, near a waterfall in Southeast Alaska’s temperate rainforest, where we feasted on wild salmon, grilled over an open wood fire.

Second Port: Skagway – Following in my Dad’s Footsteps
We started our day in Skagway by boarding the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad for a guided round-trip journey that included points of interest related to the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800s.

Since my Dad was stationed in Skagway during World War II, after our train ride, we walked through town searching out sites formerly used by the military and found a church where my Dad attended services in 1945.

We ended our time in Skagway with an afternoon Streetcar City Tour. A highlight was visiting the Gold Rush Cemetery, where our guide provided an entertaining narrative of a notorious con artist who was buried there after losing a gunfight during Gold Rush days.


Cruising Glacier Bay — A Highlight of the Week!
A major highlight of our week was cruising Glacier Bay. Only two ships a day are granted permission by the National Park Service to cruise it and Holland America is one of them.

One of two cruise lines considered to be “historical Operators under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act,” it offers more opportunities to visit the 3.3-million-acre UNESCO World Heritage site than any other cruise line.

The “star of the show” is Margerie Glacier, a 21-mile-long tidewater glacier. From our Veranda Cabin, we were able to go in and out throughout the day to view and take photos of the ever-changing scenery. Using our binoculars and my zoom lens, we spotted seals on the rocks (but no bears)!

National Park Service Rangers boarded the ship early in the day to answer questions while passengers roamed the outside decks to spot wildlife and watch for incidents of “calving.” That’s when chunks of the glacier break off and fall into the icy waters, causing a cracking or booming sound.

To further enhance our experience, we attended a presentation by National Park Service Rangers in the World Stage Theatre called “The Wonders of Glacier Bay.”

Last Port: Ketchikan – Wilderness Exploration Cruise & Crab Feast
There were so many excursion choices in Ketchikan and in all the ports we visited, it would take many more trips to Alaska to scratch the surface of what is aptly called America’s “Last Frontier.” For us, the opportunity to feast on freshly harvested Dungeness crab at George Inlet Lodge won out. Following a catamaran cruise to check out the crab pots and learn about their life cycle, we returned to the lodge and had our fill of the best crab either of us had ever eaten!

More Inside Passage Cruising back to Vancouver.
It was nice to have a final day of cruising the Inside Passage before arriving in Vancouver for the trip home. We took advantage of several entertainment and educational offerings on the World Stage, including “Ask the Captain,” a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of the ship, and “Origin Story,” a multimedia journey through maritime history, including Holland America line’s 75 years in Alaska.

Later that evening, after dinner in the Pinnacle Grill (our third specialty restaurant of the week), we returned for a “journey through the decades” dance performance.

What a way to end an unforgettable week aboard the Koningsdam!

While Debbra’s travels often take her to tropical destinations, the time was right to go north to Alaska! Choosing a Holland America ship for her Inside Passage cruise, she visited Glacier Bay, as well as three ports — Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. She credits her father, who was stationed in Skagway during World War II, for making her a “tropical girl.” Born and raised in the Midwest, Florida vacations opened her world to sun, sand, and turquoise water. The award-winning writer and photographer is also a self-described “foodie” and seeks out the best local food and wine wherever her travels take her. Follow her adventures on &, and other print and online media.

International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association


No Feedback Received