Princess Cruises has added nine new choices to its lineup ofoptional land excursions for Alaska cruisetours

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (March 25, 2010) — Princess Cruises has added nine new choices to its lineup ofoptional land excursions for Alaska cruisetours, giving travelers opportunities for fresh adventures, including discovering how local hunters and trappers live, exploring by ATV, riding a dog cart, visiting a true Eskimo village or learning to cook Alaska cuisine.

In total, the optional land excursion program features 96 tour choices that cruisetour travelers can add to the land portion of their trip. These activities are currently open for purchase and offer a range of experiences from easygoing to exhilarating — including cultural tours, nature hikes, kayak adventures and flightseeing tours.

Cruisetour passengers can get additional information about the land excursions from a new section on Princess’ web site, http://www.princess.com/learn/cruisetours/alaska/land_excursions, offering full details on the program and tour listings.

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Ketchikan: Misty Fjords Excursion

We returned to the heart of Ketchikan after our zip-line expedition, in order to catch our next bus. We had scheduled an afternoon tour of the Misty Fjords by floatplane. This became by far the most relaxing, awe inspiring, breathtaking part of the entire vacation for me. It can’t be explained accurately with words, or pictures even… it was a feeling that took me entirely.

de Haviland Beaver Float Plane at Taquan Air

de Haviland Beaver Float Plane at Taquan Air

Board an authentic Alaska seaplane and take off from Ketchikan’s bustling waterfront on a scenic flight over the Tongass National Forest. You are en route to the nation’s second-largest wilderness area, encompassing more than two million acres and, to fully appreciate the vastness of the Misty Fjords National Monument, you must see it from the air. Since its first identification by Captain George Vancouver in 1793, Misty Fjords has been called a scenic wonder not to be missed. You will see majestic fjords, waterfalls and lakes, and perhaps wildlife such as bears, mountain goats, deer, wolves and eagles. Individual headsets allow you to enjoy the lively narrative and inspirational music as you take in the dramatic beauty of a land slowly crafted by the hands of nature. See sheer granite cliffs, 1,000-foot waterfalls, crystalline lakes and low-hanging mists on your flight from Tongass Narrows over Revillagigedo Island to Misty Fjords. At the entrance of spectacular Rudyerd Bay, your introduction to the monument, watch for New Eddystone Rock–a striking remnant of early geological activity. Enjoy a brief lake landing in Misty Fjords, giving you the opportunity to experience the silence, serenity, and monumental beauty that surrounds you. Each guest is guaranteed a window seat.”

We bussed through Ketchikan to Taquan Air, located just outside of the edge of town. We were a small group and as with previous bus trips, we were given a narrative as we passed the historic structures along the road. Within fifteen minutes we arrived at our destination and were prepared for our flight.

The Misty Fjords National Monument, sometimes spelled Fiord, covers 2.3 million acres of the southeastern region of Alaska. Wikipedia calls it the “Yosemite of the North” due to the similar geology. You basically find yourself flying through a never-ending mountainous forest, carved throughout by glacial activity, full of streams, small lakes and waterfalls. A misty steam rising from the water softens all of the edges. Glacial snow melt, volcanic lava flow and mineral springs add to the unique terrain. Being at such an elevation allowed us to truly understand how glaciation works, the kettles and moraines left by the prehistoric sheets of ice were quite visible to us.

Panorama Misty Fiords Float Plane

Panorama Misty Fiords Float Plane - Click for Full Size

We flew with four others and a pilot into the monument, Enya was being played over our headsets and everyone was just silent. Soon we were flying low through steep rock lined U-shaped valleys, encouraged to look for sheep and bear. It felt at many times we could reach out and touch the soft pines we were flying past. Halfway through our trip, our pilot landed us on a lake, allowing us to really be encompassed by the exhilarating silence. A lone sailboat was asea at the other side of the lake, the water was like glass. We climbed out of the plane to stand on the floats in order to best take in the scenery.

Ketchikan Cape Fox Hill Tram/Funicular

Ketchikan Cape Fox Hill Tram/Funicular

I can’t speak enough as to how much impact this one excursion had on me, it is the one experience I insist you take during your trip to Alaska.

We returned to Ketchikan proper for an hour remaining of shore time. We would have definitely enjoyed having a longer visit in order to explore the village itself, its streets of wooden walkways and fishing museums, but we took in some of the local art instead and bought our first piece to take home. At my husbands dismay, I also insisted on purchasing the obligatory long sleeved tees at the largest tourist shop on the corner, but they did come in handy as essential layering pieces during the rest of our trip!

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Ryan was able to work on his portrait photography with a local bald eagle, this one being located at the street market, but we were very aware of the many flying overhead.

We ended our shore stint in Ketchikan with some fried fish from a shack located near the dock. Wow… albeit wrapped in newspaper and served with lemonade in a Styrofoam cup, it was an incredible meal.

Local and quaint is the way to go. I personally left the day fully satisfied, humbled and blessed.