The bucket-list cruise holiday with sea lion spotting, gold-panning activities and onboard champagne waterfalls

IT was the TV show Ice Road Truckers that got me interested in Alaska. 

Who wouldn’t want to drive a lorry across frozen lakes? 

Princess Cruises are known to be specialists at Alaskan cruising

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Princess Cruises are known to be specialists at Alaskan cruisingCredit: Supplied
Ketchikan, our first stop, is an important breeding ground for salmon and has a strong Alaska Native culture

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Ketchikan, our first stop, is an important breeding ground for salmon and has a strong Alaska Native cultureCredit: Princess Cruises

But, as a bucket-list trip, I decided a seven-night cruise to Alaska’s Inside Passage on the Discovery Princess was a far more comfortable way to experience the majesty of this incredible destination.

It was, and there was still plenty of ice. 

Russia sold this northwest corner of North America to the US for a song in 1867. Twice the size of Texas, Alaska is a remote, mountainous wilderness, carved by flowing glaciers over thousands of years. 

From Seattle we sailed to the ports of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, with a stop-off on the way back in Victoria, Canada

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And we were definitely sailing in style. Princess Cruises are known to be specialists at Alaskan cruising and the new Discovery Princess can accommodate 3,660 passengers over its 19 decks.

Built in Italy, the  two-year-old vessel has a luxury spa, theatre, swimming pools, Jacuzzis and themed bars. 

Though family-friendly with a dedicated kids’ club, there are no waterslides or zip lines and it feels very much a playground for grown-ups. The popular casino even allows those feeling lucky to smoke.

I did wonder how we’d all manage to haul our luggage up the gangways and find our cabins but it’s well organised with the MedallionClass app. You book a time slot for boarding and drop off your suitcase at the dock. 

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There’s also a linked Medallion on a lanyard to collect as you check in. It works as a digital onboard passport, opening doors, logging orders and pinging your name to crew members. 

I live on a cruise ship – my rent & food are free and I get to do all of the excursions too, but Bingo’s off the cards

You feel like a celebrity when the barman says, “Hello, Miss Beverley, here’s your mimosa cocktail”.

Yes, I had my binoculars ready to spot humpback whales and giant moose, but cruising is definitely also about enjoying the ship. My balcony stateroom was stylishly decorated in pale tones with a queen-size bed. 

To make things simple, the Princess Plus package I added to my booking includes extras such as wi-fi, drinks up to $15 (£12) each and crew tips.

There are loads of excursions at every port — at various prices — but you can just disembark and do your own thing. It’s only risky if you go it alone, get hammered in a bar and miss the return deadline. The ship will sail without you . . . 

Ketchikan, our first stop, is an important breeding ground for salmon and has a strong Alaska Native culture, with colourful totem poles posted around town. 

The lumberjack show on slippery logs is great fun. I ate a stack of long-legged king crab at a waterside crab fest and watched a bald eagle called Harold swoop for food on my wilderness boat trip. 

For my favourite excursion, we anchored at sea southeast of Juneau

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For my favourite excursion, we anchored at sea southeast of Juneau
I had my binoculars ready to spot humpback whales and giant moose

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I had my binoculars ready to spot humpback whales and giant moose
Dog-mushing is still important in Alaska today

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Dog-mushing is still important in Alaska today

Back onboard Discovery, there are organised activities throughout the day and evening entertainment, with live bands, musical theatre shows, magicians, comedians and fun quizzes. 

The Piazza is the main meeting place and the Captain’s Welcome Aboard party kicks off with a champagne waterfall. If you’ve ever wanted to try salsa or line dancing, here’s your chance.

For my favourite excursion, we anchored at sea southeast of Juneau and were picked up to sail into Endicott Arm, a narrow fjord 30 miles long.

Its forested slopes are home to bears and wolves and at the head stands Dawes Glacier.  Wedges of ice regularly sheer off the edge and become icebergs, shimmering blue in the water. On the cloudless day we floated in, sea lions were sunning themselves on rocks.

The Princess chefs buy catches of seafood in Alaska and all the ship’s restaurants have tempting menus (some at additional cost). 

Batty Betty

I loved Sabatini’s Trattoria and Gigi’s Pizzeria but the buffet at the World Fresh Marketplace was so wonderful that, apart from the chance to dress up, I’d have happily just dined there. 

Room service is complimentary but I prefer to hang out with other travellers and socialise.

In Skagway, it’s all about gold. During the Klondike Gold Rush in the 1890s, there was a stampede to Yukon from this deep-water port. I got to try a bit of gold-panning (sifting is not easy!) and learnt about the gruelling journey up what was dubbed Dead Horse Trail. 

The prospectors also used dogs to pull their sleds and dog-mushing is still important in Alaska today. The excitable teams begin training as puppies and, with their thick double-fur coats, can race through blizzards. They wear little boots to protect their paws.

By 1900, the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway had been constructed to replace the treacherous mountain path and it now runs as a scenic heritage train route. 

Go: Alaska cruise

A SEVEN-night Alaskan cruise on board the Discovery Princess departing Seattle on May 11, 2025, is from £844pp.

Calling at Ketchikan, Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier (Scenic Cruising), Juneau, Skagway and Victoria (Canada).

Includes full board and entertainment. Flights extra. See princess.com

Our guide Batty Betty, dressed in period costume, regaled us with stories about entrepreneurial Klondike characters such as Betty Pullen who flattened empty tin cans into pie pans. 

Travelling into the Alaskan interior on the railway made me want to see more of the national parks. If that’s more your thing, too, a Princess “cruisetour” from Vancouver is a cruise option with a direct-to-the-wilderness train trip and overnight lodge stays on land.

We didn’t dock in the Canadian city of Victoria until early evening so a guided walk at dusk was rather atmospheric, with the Parliament Buildings and Empress Hotel all lit up. 

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Then it was back to Pier 91 in Seattle to squeeze in a visit to the Space Needle and historic Pike Place Market before my flight home.

I may not have roughed it in Alaska like the Ice Road truckers but my cruise-ship odyssey was a trip of a lifetime.