Man, it’s hot.
I know it’s July, and that I should expect that from Maryland summers, but it is seriously hot everywhere. Last week, it was 119 degrees in Phoenix, and take it from a friend of mine who lives there: 119 is insane … even if it’s a “dry” heat.
Needless to say, my mind is wholly focused on cooling off. And what better way to do that than a cruise to and around Alaska?
Now, before you think you’ll find yourself on something resembling Deadliest Catch, I assure you the cruise I envision doesn’t involve a 50-foot rogue wave in the Bering Sea.
You’ll be relieved instead to find that I’m talking about a leisurely seven-to-10-day meander up the Pacific Coast, from as far south as Los Angeles all the way north to Kodiak — the second-largest island in terms of land mass in the United States.
Putting together and booking a cruise to Alaska couldn’t be much easier. Velocity.com lists at least eight major cruise liners offering packages to the wintry north, including Carnival (CCL), Royal Caribbean (RCL), Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCLH) and even Disney’s (DIS) Cruise Line division.
Prices ran the gamut, with listed starting prices ranging as low as $399 — for a seven-day, one-way Princess Cruises voyage in July from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Whittier, Alaska — to a $1,477 Disney Cruise Line trip in August, starting and ending in Vancouver. (Starting prices are for inside cabins, with higher costs for accommodations such as ocean view, balcony and suite.)
Cruises are famous for providing entertainment and food on-ship, but you’ll want to stretch your legs and take in the sights to really cool off. Luckily, voyages to Alaska feature any number of destination stops along the way:
- College Fjord: A 20-mile fjord in Prince William Sound, featuring glaciers, whale watching, colonies of sea otters and the occasional Orca sighting.
- Ketchikan: Admittedly a big “tourist trap” destination, this stop features the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center and the Great American Lumberjack Show, with log rolling, axe throwing and pole climbing exhibitions and contests.
- Glacier Bay: Located along the Inside Passage route taken by many of the cruise liners, Glacier Bay features humpback whales and tidewater glaciers.
- Juneau: Alaska’s third-largest city is chock-full of shopping, offers local beer courtesy of the Alaskan Brewing Company, and boasts a tram that goes roughly halfway up the 3,819-foot Mount Roberts. You also can book a helicopter tour of the Mendenhall Glacier, which my wife tells me is fantastic.
Since you’re going to beat the heat in the first place, you’ll love these average high temps for Kodiak: 60 degrees in July, 62 in August and 57 in September. The record high temperature in that period is 86 degrees — it never got below 82 degrees in Phoenix all of last week!
But don’t fear a cold snap, either — the record low for that same period is a balmy … well, 26 degrees.
OK, it’s Alaska. It gets cold now and then.
Another bonus is that Alaska is the land of the midnight sun. In Juneau, the average period of sunlight for August through September is 16 hours, which gives you plenty of time to take in all the state has to offer.
Let’s be candid: This is a great change of pace. You get to stay cool during the hottest part of the year, view sea creatures you’ll never spot on either coast of the “lower 48,” and when was the last time a glacier drifted past you while relaxing on the Gulf of Mexico?
My fried friend in Phoenix leaves the first week in September. I might have to tag along.
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he was long DIS.