Alaska Cruise and Land Tour: Access Tips

One of the best accessible cruises is to Alaska, whether using a manual or power wheelchair or scooter.  I recommend doing the land tour first followed by the seven night southbound cruise.  Why?  When you are on tour, you will be on a schedule and your time will be governed by the daily itinerary. Once they are on the ship, you can relax and enjoy the next seven days at their own pace. Please bear in mind, the land portion does include time on your own so, anyone who needs it, will have time to rest. These tours usually begin in Fairbanks or Anchorage and I highly recommend arriving a day or two prior to the start of your tour. This will give you time to recuperate from a long flight, adjust to any time changes and do some sightseeing on your own.

Many of the land tours include an excursion on a scenic train with a domed observation car which is often accessible by means of a lift. A day trip to Denali National Park is always a highlight. All tours in the park are by school bus and lift equipped buses are readily available for those who need them. Motor coaches used for your tour are lift equipped and you will have wheelchair accessible accommodations in the hotels and lodges. I encourage you to take a cruise that has no tender ports so that you will have easy access to land. The most popular ports are Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka and Victoria. This is just a synopsis of what an Alaskan Cruise Tour can offer you.  This trip is appropriate for people with all levels of disabilities.

Sitka now has a dock allowing disabled cruisers to enjoy the Russian heritage of this delightful town.  Sitka is also home to a very informative Raptor Rehabilitation Center and the best kettle corn I’ve ever had!   Russian Nesting Dolls are very popular souveniers and enjoyed by children and adults.

Ketchikan is a charming fishing village with an illustrious past and the locals will be happy to regale you with stories and folktales.  This is a great port for a salmon bake or a visit to the Saxman Indian Village where you will learn the history of the Totem Poles, see a demonstration of Totem Pole carving, watch a folkloric show put on by the Saxman Indians and sample some homemade Indian Fry Bread.

Skagway is famous for the White Pass & Yukon Railway which is an old narrow gauge train that travels high overhead on a trestle bridge.  The good news is that there is a fully accessible train car so everyone can enjoy this thrilling ride.  After your train ride, be sure to stroll into town and join the Arctic Brotherhood and hear the story of the infamous Soapy Smith.  Enjoy the authentic feel of this gold rush town and watch the old fashioned street cars and locals dressed in costume.

On to Juneau, the capital of Alaska.  Try to overlook the prevalence of jewelry stores from the Caribbean and shop in stores which proudly display signs that read, Owned & Operated by Native Alaskans.  This is a great port from which to ship home Alaskan salmon and halibut and perhaps, try your hand at fishing.  Whale watching is also very popular in Juneau and the boats are accessible.  I’ve had many disabled clients take a helicopter ride, land on a glacier and then enjoy a spin on a dog sled.  Now that’s a once in a lifetime experience!  If the weather is good, stroll over to the Mt. Roberts Tramway and take a ride high over Juneau in the fully accessible tram car.  No visit to Juneau is complete without a stop at the famous Red Dog Saloon where everyone gathers before heading back to the ship.  Have a drink and sing along with your fellow cruisers and crew.  Lots to see and do in Juneau!

If your ship stops in Victoria, a visit to the lovely Butchart Gardens is a must.  Magnificent flowers and shrubs are all accessible by paved walkways.  If you’re thinking about indulging in High Tea at the famous Empress Hotel, be sure to make advance reservations.

  

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