Alberta: An Alternative to Alaska
Longing for that epic Alaskan cruise and Denali tour, but concerned about a virus or flu outbreak on a crowded cruise ship? Or, perhaps you’ve looked at the type of immersive, excursion-heavy Alaskan vacation you want and gotten sticker shock.
That’s what my feeling was several years ago long before the Coronavirus scare and that’s why I planned a vacation to Alberta’s Canadian Rockies instead. Check out our 10-minute video on this, or skim the summary below.
The Canadian Rockies offer many of the same experiences as Alaska without the cruise ship at a lower price. Let’s compare the experiences and while looking at some of my Canadian photos.
The majestic, snow-capped Canadian Rockies are simply spectacular. Traveling In the deep glacial valley containing Banff and Lake Louise, you’re surrounded by splendor. In summer and early fall, they are less likely to be hidden by clouds or precipitation than the coastal Alaskan mountains.
Though you will see wildlife in the Canadian Rockies, Alaska wins this hands-down. The amount and variety of wildlife you will see in the marine areas of coastal Alaska plus mountainous Denali is incredible. In Alberta, you will see elk, deer, and bighorn sheep, but other animal sightings are less common.
Both destinations feature them, but the nod goes to the Canadian Rockies for one reason. You can drive to the base of one on the Icefields Parkway and take a bus ride to climb on one at a reasonable cost. As you can see, the experience was cold, but unforgettable. The helicopter or seaplane tours of glaciers in Alaska, though equally thrilling, are quite expensive.
If your idea of a vacation is to relax, sit back and watch amazing scenery pass your window, nothing beats an Alaskan cruise. In the Canadian Rockies, there’s some amazing views right out your window, but many days you will spend an hour or so driving to an overlook, a hike, or a glacier. It’s not difficult driving and the drive can be broken up into short, sight-seeing pieces. A variety of lodging is found in three distinct locations, each with a different experience.
You need to take excursions in Alaska to get adventuresome. In Alberta, you can take quite a number of short hikes for free and linger as long as you want to capture that perfect “Hallmark Moment”.
Alaska offers several. Born in the Klondike Gold Rush, The White Pass and Yukon route offers a 40-mile excursion from Skagway through rugged mountain terrain. Many tourists take the Alaskan Railroad from Seward to Anchorage and Denali.
In Alberta, the Rocky Mountaineer offers premium rail excursions from Banff and Jasper westward through the Rockies to Vancouver. Via also offers service westward from Jasper.
You can get a very reasonably priced inside room without a view on an Alaska for about $700 per person. However, a balcony room will run double that amount. Excursions are where the real expense lies, averaging $1,000-$1500 per person. When you add airfare (from New Orleans, where most of my readers live) plus several nights of accommodations in Seattle, Vancouver, or Anchorage, you can easily reach $3000 – $4000 per person for a basic cruise with some great excursions.
Prices for a week in Alberta with car rental, air fare, meals, and nice accommodations run from $2000-$2500.
Though both are summer resorts, it can snow anytime in May and early June in the Rockies, though this usually does not impact the valleys. On the other hand, Septembers are glorious. Translation: The season starts a little later and lasts a little longer in Alberta.
If you are looking for a summer vacation to a majestic, cooler destination without the cruise, Alberta offers many similar experiences to Alaska.