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Cruising Into the WildMay 9, 2008 By: Michael Browne Travel Agent
Alaska's Icy Strait Point allows passengers to embark on a day of adventure
Nestled in the wilderness 50 miles west of Juneau and 1.5 miles north of the Tlingit village of Hoonah, Icy Strait Point, Alaska’s only wilderness port, offers cruise visitors the experience of authentic Alaska. Originally a productive salmon cannery, the 1912 buildings and much of the salmon packing equipment have been restored to their original glory.
Celebrity Cruises is one of several cruise lines that call on Icy Strait Point.
Icy Strait Point is owned by Huna Totem Corp., the Native village corporation for Hoonah, and is the only privately owned cruise ship port in southeast Alaska. Within minutes of disembarking at Icy Strait Point’s dock, guests can be off searching for brown bears or humpback whales, dropping a line for salmon or halibut, learning the art of filleting and barbecuing fresh wild Alaska seafood, or getting a bird’s-eye view of the area from a small fixed-wing plane or the world’s longest zip-line cable ride.
Shore excursions may be reserved at the time of cruise purchase, onboard the ship and upon arrival at Icy Strait Point. Most tours are between two and three hours, and because of Icy Strait Point’s proximity to wildlife, fishing and the village of Hoonah, it is very easy for guests to take part in more than one adventure. Among the tours and activities available:
Tribal Dance and Cultural Legends. Tlingit culture comes alive in this interactive, two-hour Alaska Native performance in a traditional long-house-style theater. An eight-member Tlingit cast, in traditional dress, regalia, hand-carved masks and colorful headdresses, share their heritage through storytelling, songs and dance.
Whale and Marine Mammals Cruise. Humpback whales, orca whales, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters and porpoise are just a few of the marine mammals that visitors may see on this two-hour cruise in Port Frederick and Icy Strait. Alaska coastal brown bears and deer are among the land mammals that may be spotted on shore as well as eagles soaring above. An onboard naturalist provides commentary and is available to answer questions.
Wildlife and Bear Viewing. Visitors travel via bus for 20 minutes through the Tlingit village of Hoonah to the Spasski River Valley in search of Alaska coastal brown bears. Other wildlife that may be spotted on this 2.5-hour tour include bald eagles, land otters, Sitka black-tail deer, mink and marten. A local driver/guide shares Hoonah’s history and culture and points out areas of interest along the route. Upon arrival, guests take a short walk on gravel and boardwalk paths to viewing platforms.
Forest and Nature Tram tours give guests opportunities to see active eagles' nests.
Forest and Nature Tram. A local guide explains Chichagof Island’s geology and the many plants and animals that inhabit its ancient and second-growth forests on this two-hour wilderness tour aboard a covered wheeled tram. Visitors will see an active bald eagle’s nest along the route, but other wildlife sightings are not uncommon, including Sitka black-tail deer, Alaska coastal brown bear and humpback whales, to name a few.
ATV Expedition. Visitors explore the rugged backcountry of Chichagof Island on 4x4 Kawasaki Mules during this guided, 2.5-hour adventure tour. Several vantage points along the brush-lined route offer breathtaking views of Icy Strait. The local guide provides a brief tour of the area on the bus ride through Hoonah to the departure point.
Glacier Bay Flightseeing. Guests depart from Hoonah Airport aboard a fixed-wing airplane for a bird’s-eye view of Icy Strait and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, 3.3 million acres of lush forested mountains, azure glaciers, spectacular waterfalls and deep valleys.
Hoonah Bike Trek. This leisurely, eight-mile bike tour gives cyclists an intimate look at Alaska’s largest Tlingit settlement. On the two-hour tour, visitors learn how the community survived the 1944 fire that burned the village to the ground, as well as about the dislocation of the Huna Tlingits from Glacier Bay when the glaciers advanced over their village sites.
Hoonah Sightseeing. Visitors board a comfortable bus for a 1.5-hour tour of the village of Hoonah, the largest Tlingit settlement in Alaska. A knowledgeable local guide shares personal stories along with the history and culture of the area, providing a glimpse of life in rural Alaska.
Wild Alaska Culinary Extravaganza. Wild Alaska seafood is the heart of this interactive two-hour culinary tour. Participants learn about the seafood in the area, as well as the traditional methods of preparing and storing. Local experts share the art of filleting halibut and salmon, which participants marinate and then barbecue for lunch. Crab and a variety of smoked meats and side dishes complete the meal.
Visitors take in a magnificent view as they soar more than 5,300 feet from mountain forests to the beach on the ZipRider.
ZipRider. In May 2007, the world’s highest and longest ZipRider zip line opened at Icy Strait Point. Guests learn about Hoonah history and culture from their local driver/guide as they travel by bus to the zip line start at 1,330 feet above sea level. Within seconds, riders are securely buckled in and treated to a magnificent aerial view of Icy Strait Point and the surrounding mountains as they soar silently more than 5,330 feet to the base near the beach below.
Fishing. Within a few minutes of leaving the Icy Strait Point dock, anglers of all ages cast their lines for halibut and all five species of salmon aboard a half-day fishing charter. Local guides share fishing stories and tips, and will assist in securing processing and shipping for the guest’s catch.
Canning Line. The original 1912 cannery and much of its equipment have been restored to its original luster. Visitors learn about the canning process from beginning to end through interpretive displays and may even “can” a souvenir—items are vacuum-sealed to shrink them down and then canned on the cannery line for mailing home or to friends and relatives.
Icy Strait Museum. Learn about Alaska, Hoonah and the cannery in this free museum filled with historical photos and relics. Many of the original canning labels are also on display. The adjacent video room shows films about the area.
Shopping. The renovated cannery facility is home to 11 Alaskan-owned shops, including a general store for sundry items. Alaska-made soaps and candles, Icy Strait Point logo items, jewelry, wild Alaska salmon, glass beads and Alaska Native crafts from local wood are among the featured items.
Although all large Alaska cruise ships are welcome to call at Icy Strait Point, the port is limited to one ship per day. The “one-ship-a-day” policy is designed, according to Icy Strait Point CEO Bob Wysocki, “to enable us to show off the best of Alaska culture, nature and history to visitors without unduly burdening the lands that provide for our people.”
Five ships making nearly 60 calls and representing three major cruise lines are scheduled to dock at Icy Strait Point from mid-May through late September 2008. Passengers aboard Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas, Celebrity Cruises’ Infinity and Millennium, and Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess (in May only) will have an opportunity to explore Alaska’s history, Native culture, wildlife and untamed wilderness at the remote, privately owned Southeast Alaska port, which is adjacent to the state’s largest Tlingit village, Hoonah.