Terminology to help you plan your Alaskan Cruise
Alaska is a unique destination with its own unique terminology. If your planning a trip or cruise vacation to the Great Land, you’ll need to understand its special travel “lingo.” Here’s some terms to help you get started:
One of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. It is the parallel of latitude that runs 66° 33′ 44″ (or 66.5622°) north of the Equator This vast polar region encircles the top of Canada, Alaska, Russia, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland and includes the ice-covered Arctic Ocean.
Calving is when a massive section of ice breaks off from a glacier and drops into the water. Also referred to as “white thunder.”
Cruise First, Land First, Northbound, Southbound
When taking a cruisetour, Cruise First is the option of taking the cruise portion of the vacation first, while Land First means the land portion of your vacation is first. Northbound cruises begin in the U.S. or Vancouver and go one way north to Anchorage or Seward, while Southbound cruises start in Anchorage or Seward and travel to Vancouver or the U.S.
Cruisetour (Cruise plus Land Tour, or Land + Sea Journey)
A cruisetour (Holland America officially calls them Land+Sea Journeys) is a cruise and land vacation package combined. One portion of your vacation is a cruise, and the other includes hotel stays on land in destinations you want to spend more time exploring.
Fjords are long, narrow bays of the sea bordered by steep cliffs. Scientists believe they are formed by glacier erosion.
Flightseeing is a term used to describe a tour that is on a small airplane or helicopter. It’s the best way to see large areas of scenic mountain ranges, glaciers and the vast wilderness.
Floatplane or Seaplane
A floatplane is the same thing as a seaplane. Both types of airplanes have floats and are able to take off and land on water. If you’re taking a flightseeing excursion by plane, it will most likely take off and land on the water.
A glacier is a mass of ice that accumulates from falling snow over the years and moves very slowly down a mountain valley at the rate of inches or feet per year.
Glass-domed traincars are double-deckers with panoramic domed windows on the upper level. The lower level features a dining room and an open-air viewing platform. Each traincar is independently operated by cruise lines. For example, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity call their traincars the Wilderness Express. Holland America calls theirs the McKinley Explorer.
Guided tours are a group of people who are assigned to a tour guide and stay together for the duration of the tour..
This is tour that starts in a helicopter and will drop you off at a remote place for hiking. The helicopter will return to pick you up later.
Iditarod dogs are the husky sled dogs that compete in the Iditarod race held every year in March. The race begins in downtown Anchorage and runs for 1,049 miles. The Iditarod dogs train year-round for this annual event, so you will be able to visit with the pups during the cruise season.
The Inside Passage is a coastal route for oceangoing vessels along a network of passages which weave through the islands on the Pacific coast of North America. The inside passage along the British Columbia coast is sheltered by large islands and runs along Vancouver Island and the western Canadian coastline. The other inside passage is called the Alaska Inside Passage which runs between Ketchikan and Skagway, and encompasses 1,000 islands, 15,000 mile of shoreline and thousands of coves and bays.
Klondike Gold Rush Country
The discovery of gold brought in over 100,000 prospectors who migrated to the Klondike region of the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1896 and 1899. The journey to this remote wilderness was hard and only 30,000 to 40,000 actually arrived. And then, only 4,000 prospectors actually struck gold. The largest boomtown, Dawson City, emerged as a result of the gold rush. However, once the gold was mined out and gold was discovered in Nome, the town was abandoned.
This highway is the original route created by the stampeders during the gold rush. It runs from Skagway to Yukon’s Dawson City. The Klondike Highway’s official names are the Yukon Highway 2 in Canada and Alaska Route 98 in Alaska.
Mt. McKinley, aka Denali, is the highest mountain peak in North America and is located in Alaska in the Denali National Park. Its summit towers at 20,237 feet.
Motorcoach or Coach
The motorcoach is a luxury bus used to transport passengers to and from their ship on selected shore excursion, cruisetours, and vacation packages. The motorcoaches are roomy and comfortable. Beverages and snacks are available as well.
The Aurora Borealis, aka Northern Lights, are best seen at night in the northern regions of Alaska. On an Alaskan cruise, your best chances to see them would be during late September when there are more night hours.
Port/Port of Call
A port and ports of call are destinations where the ship stops and allows passengers to disembark. The embarkation port is where you board your ship for the first time, while the disembarkation port is where your cruise ends. On a round trip cruise, they are one and the same.
The term scenic cruising may appear on your cruise itinerary. It means that the cruise ship will be in motion to its next destination and traveling through, most commonly, the inside passage, a bay or fjord. You can expect to see amazing views of glaciers, cliffs, mountains and marine life from the ship. It’s a good time to relax on your private balcony or one of the viewing lounges on board the ship.
Shore (Optional) Excursion
A shore, or optional, excursion can be booked with your cruise or added on any time, including once on board your ship. Depending on the activity you’ve chosen, each shore excursion usually includes guides, transportation and fees associated with the activity. Popular shore excursion sell out first, so it is encouraged to secure your reservation in advance.
A tram is most commonly referring to a gondola ride up the side of a mountain. During the winter, it is used to transport skiers. However, during the summer tourists can take the tram for spectacular views.
A transfer can come in the form of a luxurious motorcoach or van depending on the size of the group. If a tour states it includes a transfer, then it generally means the cost is included in the price of the tour. For a reasonable fee, you can add a transfer from the airport to your cruise ship on your cruise package to ensure you get to your ship on time.
Viewing decks are public places on cruise ships where passengers can relax with spectacular views from the ship.
This railway was created during the Klondike Gold rush, but it is now used for tourists since the building of the Klondike Highway. It’s one of the most popular shore excursions because people of all ages enjoy riding this heritage railway from Skagway to Whitehorse.
The Yukon is a wilderness region located in northwest Canada. The capital of the Yukon is Whitehorse.
A zip line is a stainless steel rope which is mounted on an incline for a suspended, hanging, free-flowing ride across forests, canyons or rivers. The ZipRider at Icy Strait Point holds the record for the longest zip line stretching one mile long with a 1,150 foot vertical drop. The six side-by-side cables allow entire groups to fly at the same time. The SuperFly in Whistler is Canada’s newest long course, almost one mile long, with six tandem lines as well.
Are you ready to book your Alaskan cruise or cruisetour?
Now is the time to book your 2014 Alaskan cruise plus land tour. Don’t delay—the most popular shore excursions and cruisetours sell out first. Alaskan cruising season runs from May to September, and we can help you find the time that’s right for you. Perhaps you’d prefer something more “exotic,” like a European river cruise. Whatever your dream destination, we can help you plan your vacation from start to finish. Contact CruiseExperts.com by calling 1-888-804-CRUIse(2784) or by visiting our website www.CruiseExperts.com.
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Linda Brandt joined the team at CruiseExperts.com in November 2011. She has been working with the marketing team in many capacities. Her new role is to pass on the expertise of the agency to help travelers understand the world of cruising through blogging. She studied journalism and writing in college and was a writer for The Campus newspaper for two years at the College of the Sequoias. She is also currently working on her Bachelor’s degree.