Alaska/British Columbia
Alaska: Deep Into the Last Frontier
Immerse yourself in the spirit of Alaska, discovering local culture, enjoying expert lectures and exploring untamed wilderness still roamed by caribou and moose.
Rating (4.5)
Program No. 18667RJ
14 days
Starts at
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14 days
13 nights
38 meals
13 B 12 L 13 D
Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Fairbanks, AK
Westmark Fairbanks Hotel & Conference Center

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: As you arrive at the airport, please pick up your welcome packets from the Holland America desk beside the luggage carousel. Your welcome packets contain room keys, meal vouchers, and other important cruise information that your group leader will explain during orientation tonight. Program Registration: After checking into the hotel and obtaining your room assignment, please look for the Road Scholar meet and greet table located near the tour desk. Program staff will provide you with another arrival packet containing the up-to-date schedule and other important information we will review during orientation. If you arrive late, please pick up your packet at the front desk. All routes, field trips, and excursions may be subject to change as weather and sea conditions may affect the itinerary. Sea conditions could affect the progress of the ship, making it run late and sometimes miss ports because it is not safe to dock. Because of this, the cruise itinerary should always be regarded as provisional. The operators reserve the right to change the content of field trips and excursions without prior notice. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible.

Dinner: In the hotel meeting space enjoy a catered meal, including coffee, tea, water; other beverages are available for purchase. Dinner will be followed by a brief meet & greet and orientation. This will be a chance for you to meet your fellow travelers as you begin your journey in wondrous Alaska.

Evening: At leisure. Take the rest of the evening to settle in, relax, and get a good night's sleep for the full day of activities tomorrow.

Morris Thompson Cultural Center, Museum of the North (UA)
Fairbanks, AK
Westmark Fairbanks Hotel & Conference Center

Activity note: Group will walk 1/2 mile from the hotel to the Morris Thompson Cultural Center. A bus will transport us to the Museum of the North, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus and back to the hotel.

Breakfast: At hotel restaurant.

Morning: Orientation: Gather in our meeting space where the Road Scholar group leaders will provide an overview of the program and an introduction to Fairbanks and Alaska. We will review the daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, and emergency procedures and answer any of your questions. The group will then walk to the Morris Thompson Cultural Center for a guided exploration of the center provided by the center's director. Morris Thompson, a Koyukon Athabascan, was born, raised, and is now laid to rest in Tanana. As a native political leader and businessman, he dedicated his life to Alaska issues and its peoples. The center is dedicated to his memory and educates residents and visitors about Interior Alaska’s cultural and natural history.

Lunch: Enjoy a special Athabascan meal with local, fresh ingredients specially prepared for our group at the Cultural Center.

Afternoon: Following lunch enjoy a one-hour Cultural Connections Presentation by Alaskan native youth. After the performance our group will board a bus to the Museum of the North on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus for a self-guided visit of the museum. The museum exhibits are a great introduction to Alaska’s diverse wildlife, people and land. Exhibits highlight the objects and artifacts, people, wildlife, geography and history of each of Alaska's five major geographic regions. Pieces and objects representing 2000 years of Alaskan art and historical paintings from the 19th and 20th century round out the exhibits.

Dinner: In the hotel meeting space enjoy a catered meal, including coffee, tea, water; other beverages are available for purchase.

Evening: At your leisure to rest and relax for tomorrow's early departure to Denali. Please remember that you may want two sets of bags for tomorrow morning. One set will be transferred directly to the ship and another with your items for Denali, Anchorage and Seward. Your leaders will carefully explain how to label your bags for proper transfer.

Transfer to Denali, Welcome to the Sub Arctic
Denali National Park, AK
McKinley Chalet Resort

Activity note: The coach trip to Denali from Fairbanks is 3 1/2 hours long. We will take a break mid-trip to allow you to stretch your legs.

Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.

Morning: Bags out by 6:00 am. Depart via motor coach to Denali National Park via the George Parks Highway. Departing Fairbanks you will view the rolling hill country of the Yukon-Tanana uplands, which are covered with spruce and birch before crossing the vast Tanana lowlands, then climbing the north side of the Alaska Range. Enjoy the incredible scenery with views of the Alaska Range and meandering rivers. Keep a look out for moose and other wildlife. Approaching Denali, the highway parallels a deep canyon, carved by the Nenana River.

Lunch: At the McKinley Chalet Resort, lunch at the Chalet’s restaurant.

Afternoon: After checking in at the resort, you will have free time to visit the Denali National Park Visitor Center. A free shuttle runs between the resort to the Park's Visitor's Center. The center offers visitors a chance to learn more about the Park by speaking with rangers, viewing the 20-minute film, "Heartbeats of Denali," exploring the exhibit area and taking advantage of the adjacent trail system.

Dinner: Homemade dinner at Denali Education Center.

Evening: Following dinner, a speaker at the Denali Education Center will deliver a "Welcome to the Sub Arctic" presentation, which will provide an excellent background for tomorrow’s trip deep into Denali National Park. A non-profit educational partner of Denali National Park and Preserve since 1989, the Denali Education Center offers Road Scholar programs during the summer months.

Heart of Denali National Park, Wildlife Viewing
Denali National Park, AK
McKinley Chalet Resort

Activity note: Early transfer from the lodge. Group will depart the Chalet between 5:30 and 6:30 am. Full day field trip by motorcoach, about 6-8 hours.

Breakfast: 5:00 am early morning breakfast at the McKinley Chalet.

Morning: We will depart very early this morning for the Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour via coach, returning this afternoon. Lunch will be provided on the bus. Traveling 53 miles into the Park to the Toklat River Rest Area, the Tundra Wilderness Tour offers some of the best opportunities to view the Park’s wildlife and scenery. It includes narration about the Park’s animals, plants and history. One never knows when wildlife will show, but there will be opportunities to see Dall sheep, moose, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears. On days when Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) is visible, it may be possible to travel to Stony Hill Overlook (another eight miles down the road) and view the entire mountain. We make rest stops at least once every 90 minutes during the trip.

Lunch: Boxed lunch including sandwich, fruit and beverage.

Afternoon: After returning from the Tundra Wilderness Tour, enjoy free time to explore the Park. Be sure to take advantage of the free shuttle to the Visitor’s Center. There are several short hikes that begin in the area of the Visitor’s Center. Also, near the Visitor's Center there are kennels for the sled dogs of Denali, which have been important to the Park for a very long time. The dogs, and their kennels, represent important pieces of Alaskan history.

Dinner: After a long day of activity, we will not dine as a group, so you can set your own schedule for the evening. Dinner will be at the Chalet's grill or café.

Evening: At your leisure.

Train to Anchorage, Hurricane Gulch, Denali (Mount McKinley)
Anchorage, AK
Westmark Anchorage Hotel

Activity note: The train trip (via the McKinley Explorer train) from Denali to Anchorage takes approximately 8 hours. During the rail trip you will be able to move about the train cars and enjoy open-air vistas from aprons between train cars.

Breakfast: At the Chalet.

Morning: Place bags outside room by 7:30 am. Depart via coach to the train depot for the rail trip to Anchorage at approximately 8:30 am. The train departs the depot by 9:15 am. Narration is provided on the train. Relax and enjoy Alaska’s scenic beauty from domed railcars while traveling south to Anchorage. Be sure to keep an eye out for bears, moose, eagles, beavers, wolves and swans.

Lunch: Meal in the train’s dining room includes entrée, dessert and beverage.

Afternoon: We pass through the expansive Broad Pass, the highest point on the Alaska Railroad at 2,363 feet. Near the south end of Broad Pass we cross the impressive 918-foot Hurricane Gulch trestle, towering 296 feet above the creek below. South of Talkeetna marks one of the most spectacular views of Denali. If the weather is good the train will slow to allow passengers to snap a few photos. We will arrive in Anchorage late afternoon and check into the Westmark Anchorage hotel.

Dinner: Enjoy a catered meal, including coffee, tea, water; other beverages are available for purchase.

Evening: At your leisure after visiting as a group during dinner.

Anchorage Museum, Turnagain Arm, Wildlife Center
Seward, AK
Windsong Lodge

Activity note: The group walk to the Anchorage museum and back to the hotel is about a half mile each way. Afternoon coach trip will be approximately 2 1/2 hours long with a break at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.

Morning: We will walk to the Anchorage Museum for a self-guided visit. Enjoy the large variety of exhibits that explain pre-historic, historic and present Anchorage and Alaska. A main exhibition contains over 600 objects from the Smithsonian collections and is one of the finest presentations of Alaskan history and ethnology in the state. Full-scale and miniature dioramas provide a look at the early lifestyles of Alaska’s native peoples. Exhibits also cover the exploration and settlement by the Russians, the gold rush era, World War II and statehood. Our Road Scholar group leaders will provide a time and place to meet for boarding a motor coach for the drive along Turnagain Arm to Seward. South of Anchorage, the Seward Highway hugs the dramatic shorelines of Turnagain Arm; one of the world's great drives, ranking right up there with Italy's Amalfi Drive. This route is one of 15 roads in the U.S. that have been designated as an "All-American Road." Here explorer Captain Cook searched for the Northwest Passage. Local lore has it that the arm is so named because Cook entered it repeatedly, only to be forced to turn back. Driving along Turnagain Arm, watch for beluga whales, which are frequent visitors to the arm as they patrol the muddy waters in search of salmon and hooligan, a variety of smelt.

Lunch: Boxed lunch aboard the motor coach includes sandwich, fruit, cookie and beverage.

Afternoon: We will stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where we will see and learn about an array of Alaskan animals including Musk ox, brown bear, moose and wood bison. The center provides care for rescued and displaced Alaskan animals. We arrive in Seward late in the afternoon and check into the Windsong Lodge.

Dinner: At the Windsong Lodge as a group, enjoy a catered meal, including coffee, tea, water; other beverages are available for purchase.

Evening: At your leisure, and preparing for embarkation on the Noordam.

Behind the Scenes at Alaska Sealife Center, Ship Embarkation
At Sea
MS Noordam

Activity note: Group will take a shuttle from the lodge to the Alaska Sealife center. After visiting the Alaska Sealife Center, the group will catch a shuttle to the cruise ship terminal. Afternoon is free to return to downtown Seward.

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the Windsong Lodge.

Morning: Transfer from the Windsong Lodge to the Alaska Sealife Center where you will see marine life and birds in a behind the scenes visit to learn about the role of the Sealife Center in education, research and the rehabilitation of marine animals. It is Alaska's only public aquarium and ocean wildlife rescue center. View puffins, octopus, sea lions and other sea life while learning about the center's mission to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. After our visit the group will board a shuttle and transfer to the ship.

Lunch: Onboard the ship, or if you prefer you may dine on your own in Seward. Seward provides a shuttle service from downtown to the cruise ship terminal. Ship boarding begins at 1:00 pm.

Afternoon: Explore Seward and/or settle in to the Noordam. Be on board the ship by 5:00 pm.

Dinner: Each evening we have early seating for dinner in the main dining room (5:30). The regionally inspired cuisine features classic dishes as well as other dietary options.

Evening: At your leisure to unpack, enjoy sail away from Resurrection Bay and explore the ship’s hospitality.

At Sea, Road Scholar Staff Presentations
At Sea
MS Noordam

Activity note: Road Scholar staff will provide lectures relating to Alaska in our meeting space. Opportunities for ship activities will also be available and Road Scholar staff will make adjustments to the schedule to facilitate these shipboard activities.

Breakfast: Onboard the ship at the restaurant of your choice as the ship sails across the Gulf of Alaska toward Glacier Bay.

Morning: The time available in each port is set by the cruise line. Whenever possible, the Road Scholar daily schedule indicates port arrival and departure times (subject to change by the cruise line). Road Scholar delivers a robust educational program in each port, and this may mean that free time in port could be limited. This morning, Road Scholar staff will provide lectures relating to Alaska in our meeting space. Each specially selected staff member has expertise of their own, so lectures on the ship will vary by cruise. Opportunities for ship activities will also be available and Road Scholar staff will make adjustments to the schedule to facilitate these shipboard activities.

Lunch: Onboard the ship.

Afternoon: This afternoon will include a presentation by Road Scholar staff covering such topics as how to see nature in action during the cruise, life in Alaska, or other topics of interest. Late in the afternoon we will gather for a special Road Scholar cocktail party.

Dinner: Early seating for dinner in the main dining room.

Evening: At leisure.

Nature Interpretation in Glacier Bay, Tidewater Glaciers
Glacier Bay, AK
MS Noordam

Activity note: Learn fascinating features of Glacier Bay. Spend time out on deck to watch for wildlife and enjoy the glacial scenery. Meet a Huna Tlingit cultural ambassador.

Breakfast: Onboard the ship.

Morning: Glacier Bay National Park Ranger-Naturalists will board the ship near Gustavus at the mouth of the Bay. They will be on hand to explain the natural and cultural history of the area and point out fascinating features of Glacier Bay.

Lunch: Aboard the ship at one of its many dining venues.

Afternoon: Spend time out on deck to watch for wildlife and enjoy the glacial scenery. If a glacier is fed by enough snow to flow out of the mountains and down to the sea, it is called a "tidewater" glacier, which is one of the types of glacier seen in Glacier Bay. Watch closely when the ship stops near a tidewater glacier and you may very well see a calving glacier. Listen for the sound as the great blocks of ice up to 200 feet high break loose and crash into the water. Late afternoon a Huna Tlingit cultural ambassador will discuss personal experiences, clan and family traditions, and the historic use of the Glacier Bay area. Learn about traditional subsistence practices and the traditions that have sustained the Huna Tlingit people dating back thousands of years.

Dinner: Onboard the ship.

Evening: Road Scholar staff will provide an orientation to Skagway and a presentation on the history of the area.

Haines, Skagway, White Pass & Yukon Railway
Haines, AK
MS Noordam

Activity note: Late in the morning we take a ferry to Skagway. Ramps can be steep for getting on and off the ferry; ride about 1 hour. Walking about ½ mile on town sidewalks. Train ride is approximately 3 ½ hours.

Breakfast: Onboard the ship at your leisure.

Morning: A special guest will discuss his experiences growing up in remote areas of Alaska. After the presentation, we will board a fast-ferry bound for Skagway.

Lunch: Boxed lunch on the White Pass & Yukon Railway.

Afternoon: Board the White Pass & Yukon Railway for a narrated trip up to White Pass and a short distance into Canada. Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, this narrow-gauge railroad is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Its steep grade (about 3,000 feet in 20 miles) includes spectacular tunnels, bridges and trestles. During the train trip you will have a chance to take in the panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and historic sites from the comfort of vintage parlor cars. Similar to the Alaska Railroad, you can enjoy open-air vistas from aprons between train cars. Once back in Skagway take time to explore the town. Late in the afternoon we board the fast-ferry to go back to Haines and our home on the Noordam.

Dinner: Onboard the ship, or eat on your own in Haines. Haines provides a town shuttle which runs frequently between the ship dock and town.

Eagles, Whales, Seals, Mendenhall Glacier, Free Time Juneau
Juneau, AK
MS Noordam

Activity note: Trails at Mendenhall Glacier are uneven and unpaved. Walking about 1 mile round trip, approx. 1 hour depending on how long one stays to view the glacier. There is the option to spend time at the Visitor Center, which can be accessed by elevator. Driving approximately 10 miles total driving, about ½ hour. Getting on/off boat; whale watching about 2.5 hours.

Breakfast: On board ship at your leisure.

Morning: Board a motor coach for a narrated drive to Mendenhall Glacier. Morning viewing of the glacier is more relaxed as most visitors arrive in the afternoon. Take a leisurely walk on the many trails and stop in the Visitor's Center to talk with a ranger, take in glacier vistas, or view a beautifully produced film. Our group will then be taken to board a private catamaran for a whale watching expedition among the many islands in Stephen's Passage. View glaciers as well as wildlife along the way.

Lunch: Boxed lunch. Complementary tea, coffee, hot chocolate and water are available during the whale watch.

Afternoon: During our whale watching expedition the onboard naturalist will explain the behavior and habitat of wildlife we may encounter, including humpback whales, Steller sea lions, Dall’s porpoises, harbor seals, and bald eagles. Arrive back at Auke Bay and embark on a motor coach transfer to Juneau where you can independently visit points of interest in Juneau such as the new Alaska State Museum, the State Capitol, the Russian Orthodox church and historic Franklin Street Area.

Dinner: Onboard the ship.

Evening: Join the Road Scholar staff in our meeting space for a presentation.

Ketchikan Totems, Visit Saxman Mayor
Ketchikan, AK
MS Noordam

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus for short drives around town. Minimal walking with some periods of standing at the Heritage and Discovery Centers.

Breakfast: Onboard the ship.

Morning: Travel south through Clarence Straits toward Ketchikan. Gather in the Road Scholar meeting space for a presentation.

Lunch: Onboard at your leisure as we approach Ketchikan.

Afternoon: Disembark for a presentation at the Totem Heritage Center where Center staff will explain the culture and crafts of the Tlingit and Haida people and interpret ancient totem poles. Go behind-the-scenes to examine a special collection of totems up close along with native crafts. Afterwards we'll head to the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center where we'll have some time to explore on our own. We'll also have a chance to learn about the native culture from a Tlingit tribal member and former mayor of the Saxman native community. After our visit, choose to walk back a short distance to the ship or spend some time exploring downtown Ketchikan.

Dinner: Onboard the ship.

Evening: Enjoy a short Road Scholar presentation this evening.

At Sea, Canadian Waters, Road Scholar Staff Presentation
At Sea
MS Noordam

Activity note: A lecture onboard. Opportunities for ship activities. Discuss disembarkation procedures in the afternoon.

Breakfast: Onboard the ship.

Morning: This morning we will have a lecture in our meeting space while cruising in Canadian waters.

Lunch: Onboard the ship.

Afternoon: At leisure to prepare for disembarkation tomorrow. While traveling the magnificent inside passage of British Columbia. Watch for lighthouses, fishing boats and marine mammals while continuing down Hecate Strait and into Queen Charlotte Sound. We will assemble in our meeting space for an overview of our Alaska adventure. In addition, Road Scholar staff will host a Q&A session to discuss disembarkation procedures to make disembarkation as smooth as possible.

Dinner: Onboard the ship.

Evening: At leisure to enjoy our last evening on the ship.

Vancouver – BC, Program Concludes
Vancouver, BC

Breakfast: Onboard the ship.

Morning: Early morning arrival in Vancouver at Canada Place Pier. Disembark and transfer to the airport or to area hotels if staying over. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and we look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please be in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network, where you can share memories, pictures, and comments. Best wishes for all your journeys.

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