Alaska Cruise reading list

Okay, now that I’ve scared everyone away, I thought I’d share the books I’ve enjoyed about Alaska, to help me understand what I see on my trips.

Travel books:

The Alaska Cruise Handbook – A Mile By Mile Guide; by Joe Upton. Love this and bring it with me on every cruise (especially the huge folded map that usually gets stuck to my cabin wall).  Over 300 great photos, maps and engaging stories trace the route used by most Alaska cruises.  It’s all keyed to a route numbering/navigational system that is frequently announced on board.  And if you go to his website, there are a bunch of short (3-5 minute) videos.

Alaska by Cruise Ship: The Complete Guide to Cruising Alaska; by Anne Vipond. Good information about ports of call – what to see and do. And has a large tear out map.

Lonely Planet Alaska. A good travel guide, with maps, highlights, suggested itineraries, budgets, etc.

Field Guides:

The Nature of Alaska: An Introduction to Familiar Plants, Animals and Outstanding Natural Attractions; by James Kavanaugh.  Great preview of wild flora and fauna in the state of Alaska. Well organized, great pictures; highlights more than 325 familiar plants and animals and dozens of the state’s outstanding natural attractions.

Guide to the Birds of Alaska; by Robert H. Armstrong. If you’re a bird watcher, you need this book.  I especially like it because it breaks Alaska down into geographical regions and shows what birds can be found in that region.


Travels in Alaska; by John Muir. (1915). Experiences, reflections and geography that reads like poetry. If you can, find a copy with the original photographs.

Where the Sea Breaks Its Back: The Epic Story of Early Naturalist Georg Steller and the Russian Exploration of Alaska; by Corey Ford. (1966) A great adventure of epic proportions! It includes history, natural history, conservation, seamanship, and even some interesting (and horrible) Russian politics. This is the story of naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, who traveled with Vitus Bering (of Bering Strait fame) in 1741-1742 to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Yes, the Steller of Steller’s Jay, Steller’s Sea Lion and Steller’s Sea Cow fame (among many other).

Rescue at the Top of the World: The True Story of the Most Daring Arctic Rescue in History; by Shawn Shallow. (2005) In 1897, nearly the entire American whaling fleet was trapped in pack ice, stranding over 300 men. Three officers from the early U.S. Coast Guard and two missionaries volunteered to travel over 1,500 miles through the Arctic winter to reach the shipwrecked whalers. I can’t even imagine …

Two Years in the Klondike and Alaskan Gold-fields; by William Haskell. (1898) This book is a fascinating first-hand account of a two-year trip to the Yukon River valley’s gold fields. Haskell and his best friend/partner set off for Alaska in 1896 (just before the Klondike gold strike). It’s an easy read, part memoir, part field guide. The primitive conditions, personal deprivations, and extremes of environment they experienced are nothing short of incredible.

Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians; by Brian Garfield. (1969) The story of the Japanese invasion of Alaska in 1942.  Not your typical battle/war story. A bit of dry humor and a great narrative style make this an interesting read. (Fact I didn’t know until I read this book: when American and Canadian forces invaded Attu Island to take it back from the Japanese, it was the largest Pacific invasion since Guadelcanel and in terms of casualties as a percentage of troops committed it ranked only behind Iwo Jima.  The reprint (in 1995) includes additional archival material.


Wrap up of our Zaandam cruise

Well, I finally finished sorting through over 1200 photos (digital can be a blessing or a curse), and here’s my photo review of our cruise.

And if you don’t like Enya’s Sail Away (yes, I’m addressing Karin here), try this link instead: (you only have Enya for the first minute and half).

And the When & Wheres have been scanned in as well, so I can remember all things we might have done.

May 21 – Seattle Embarkation
May 22 – At Sea
May 23 – Ketchikan
May 24 – Endicott Arm
May 25 – Juneau
May 26 – Icy Strait Point
May 27 – At Sea
May 28 – Anchorage
May 29 – Homer
May 30 – Kodiak
May 31 – Hubbard Glacier
June 1 – Sitka
June 2 – At Sea
June 3 – Victoria, BC


Last breakfast aboard

Karin fetched me one final raisin bun and we went to the Explorations Cafe for coffee. Still too full to tackle breakfast in the dining room or Lido.

My clothes still fit, but I am so not standing on the scales for a few days. 😁

How to deal with rain in Victoria

Today, for whatever reason, it was a mess getting off ship. So we decided to stay on board and deal with the rain in our own fashion. 😂

Approaching Victoria

A leisurely morning as we don’t arrive in Victoria until 2:30 – providing, of course, that the Princess ship in our berth decides to leave on time.

So a stop at the Explorations Cafe for coffee, a short hop up to the Sea View pool as we entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then downstairs for Sunday Brunch, and then to our cabin to start packing. (boo hiss). We picked up the pilot boat about 1:30 and now we’re basically just marking time until we can dock.

Sunday brunch fruit plate.

Sunday brunch – salmon and crab cake


we’re almost at Victoria

Pilot boat, Pacific Scout, racing up to meet us.

Sailing regatta. Always something to see in the Victoria harbor.

Entering the Strait of Juan De Fuca

Cape Flattery on the US side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Vancouver Island on the Canadian side. The mountains look so small and smooth in comparison to the Alaskan mountain ranges we’ve seen. But they are also familiar and I feel a sense of being close to home.

We seem to have brought the overcast skies and damp with us. Blame Canada or blame the Two Cruising Sisters … you decide. 😁

Too much?

We avoided the Mariner Brunch in favor of lunch at the Pinnacle Grill. And then this fudge brownie with espresso ice cream just happened to show up 🙄

A Cosmopolitan sunset

Two ship day in Sitka

Two ships in Sitka today. Us on the Zaandam (about 1370 passengers) and the Norwegian Jewel (about 2500 passengers), adding 50% to the town’s year-round population of 8,800. Sitka has one long and narrow dock, and cruise ships didn’t dock there until 2016, so it was a much less frequented port. This season is going to be quite different. However, it is rather unprecedented to have 2 main cruise lines docked at the same time.

Karin and I agree that we would not want to do Sitka again with 2 large cruise ships in port. We opted to get out of a town on the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest with Allen Marine, a company that has always done a good job on our previous excursions with them.

We had another great day – no whales, but Stellar sea lions, sea otters and beautiful scenery. Karin and I always enjoy another bouncy little boat ride.

Zaandam and Norwegian Jewel docked side-by-side.

Mount Edgecumbe, the dormant volcano overlooking Sitka

Sitka Sound

This is my harem, keep your fins off!

A raft of sea otters seem to be looking at us rather quizzically, as if to say, “what you looking at, buddy”

Another bald eagle, and I’m still not blase about seeing them.

The Shaman’s Cave, where the remains and artifacts of a Tlingit shaman were found, many of which are now in the Smithsonian.

Crosses memorializing Sitka seamen who were lost at sea.

Among the islands in Sitka Sound

Sitka is going to be busy

Still gorgeous views in Sitka, except for the dratted Norwegian Jewel docked right next to us. Interfering with my photos, the nerve 😉

Going to be busy in Sitka today. The city has made 15 extra shuttle buses available to deal with the influx. So Karin booked us a whale watch to get out of town. She’s the smart one.

%d bloggers like this: