1. Three bears, five regions, 17 days of adventure
John Hallâ€™s Alaska Cruises and Tours is offering a new 17-day land, rail, cruise and flight package spanning from the itineraryâ€™s most southern point in Vancouver, B.C., to its most northern point in Kaktovik, Alaska. â€œThree Bears of Alaskaâ€ highlights all five regions in the state and includes three special guided trips to view Alaskaâ€™s bears in their natural habitat. The itinerary begins with a seven-day cruise through the Inside Passage, traveling to ports of call including Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway and Hubbard Glacier. Cruisers then disembark on the Kenai Peninsula and make their way via the Alaska Railroad to Anchorage before departing on a flight to Kodiak. Guests will travel in groups of 4-6 on the floatplanes and circle the Katmai National Park and Kodiak coast in search of the coastal brown bear, the first of the three bear species. The next leg of the journey is a flight back to Anchorage for a motor coach ride to Alaskaâ€™s Interior. After spending time in Talkeetna, the tour heads to Denali National Park and Preserve in search of the second bear variety, the grizzly bear. After spending two nights at backcountry lodge, Chena Hot Springs is the next stop on the tour, where passengers will have the opportunity to relax in the natural hot springs and look for early signs of the aurora borealis. Groups will then travel via plane to the native village of Kaktovik, an area that requires special permits and invitations by local villagers. It is here that guests are provided the unique experience of viewing the third bear, the polar bear. Upon returning from the Far North, guests tour the town of Fairbanks, learning about the history of the area and even visit the home of Iditarod champion Susan Butcher.
Contact: Lauren Hall, John Hallâ€™s Alaska Cruises and Tours
Phone: (512) 608-8272
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2. Experience Southeast Alaskaâ€™s Tlingit culture firsthand
Understand the history of Alaskaâ€™s first people, learn about subsistence living and interact with Alaska Native culture in the village of Klukwan through Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Tours. Klukwan, located 25 miles north of Haines and often referred to as the capital of the Tlingit nation, is home to the Chilkat people, who still lead a subsistence lifestyle carried on through generations. Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Tours offers guests the opportunity to take an Alaska Native guided tour around their traditional knowledge camp, visit wood carving artists and a traditional dug-out canoe, see a fish processing demo and visit Kaaya Haayi Hit, the campâ€™s clan house. At the clan house, experience centuries-old story telling and a traditional cultural dance performance, followed by local cuisine for lunch. When in season, guests can also watch locals process salmon using centuries old techniques that have been carried on for countless generations and some more modern. This tour is offered for groups of 12-27 and costs $104 per person. This includes pick up and drop off in Haines at either the cruise ship dock or the visitor center. This tour typically lasts around four hours, but a shorter version is available upon request for individuals, families, small groups or those on a tight schedule.
Contact: Lani Hotch, Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Tours
Phone: (907) 303-1980
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3. Holland America Line rebrands CruiseTours to Land + Sea Journeys, acquires Denali property
Holland America Line has rebranded its popular Alaska CruiseTour program with the new name Land+Sea Journeys. With more time in the destinations and less overland travel time, guests will have more opportunities than ever to explore and personalize their vacations. During the 2014 season, running May through September, 12 different Land + Sea Journeys itineraries will be offered, ranging from 10 to 20 days in length. Among the most significant program enhancements is a convenient one-hour flight between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Dawson City, Yukon â€” replacing up to two days of motorcoach travel and a hotel overnight. Additionally, revised departures for the McKinley Explorer dome rail schedule between Anchorage and Denali will allow guests to maximize time in both locations. Luxury motorcoaches will also be introduced for travel between Denali and Fairbanks to increase guest time in both destinations. Holland America Line has also reached an agreement to acquire the McKinley Chalets Hotel in Denali National Park and Preserve. Holland America Line will develop the property further with renovations taking place over the next few years and will include extensive room updates and upgrades to amenities. Holland America Lineâ€™s Alaska hotels at Fairbanks, Skagway and Whitehorse will also see modifications.
Contact: Erik Elvejord, Holland America Line
Phone: (206) 298-3057
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4. New distillery hand crafting local spirits in Sterling
High Mark Distillery, opened on Alaskaâ€™s Kenai Peninsula in December 2012, has quickly become a hit with visitors and locals alike. Owner Felicia Keith-Jones uses traditional spirit-crafting methods from Ireland paired with technologically advanced German and American micro-distilling equipment, to produce premium local spirits. Keith-Jones started her career as an elementary school teacher and eventually ended up in Ireland and Northern Ireland learning how to create these spirits before returning to Alaska to open High Mark Distillery in Sterling. The distillery uses a secret family recipe, mixed with ideas borrowed from backwoods jack makers, to create its popular Nickel Back Apple Jack, a smooth, apple-pie-flavored liqueur. The establishment currently offers Nickel Back Apple Jack, High Mark Vodka and Blind Cat Moonshine. High Mark Distillery is also working on creating a barrelhouse for bourbon and has expanded its operation this fall to include a chocolate factory on the 10-acre ranch where the distillery is located. Infused chocolates, syrups, caramels, and hot buttered jack mix are already available in the tasting room.
Contact: Felicia Keith-Jones, High Mark Distillery
Phone: (907) 355-3492
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