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Anchorage (Photo:Rocky Grimes/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Anchorage

Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, has many personalities. A cruise traveler's first impression is often of a cliched tourist destination with rows of souvenir shops selling chocolate moose poop, Alaska T-shirts and native ulu knives. But, duck down a side street, and it oozes a Pacific Northwest hipster vibe with galleries selling original paintings and organic silk-screened T-shirts, coffee shops serving up monster breakfasts and spicy hot chocolate, and brewpubs churning out growlers of locally produced beer. The city can even get a bit highbrow at the fabulous Anchorage Museum, where the state's artists team up with the veritable Smithsonian to display native Alaskan cultural artifacts and modern art as indecipherable as moose tracks after a heavy snow.

When the rare sunny day comes along (and even when it doesn't), Anchorage puts on its outdoorsmen's hat. Nestled between the Chugach Mountains and the ocean, the city is ideally situated for outdoor play. On Flattop Mountain, blueberry-pickers, trail-runners, dog-walkers and even the occasional moose test themselves against the steep climb to the summit (or linger on the gentler, bottom slopes). In the city center, bikers, walkers and rollerbladers stretch their legs on the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail that rims the city. You can't walk very far downtown without passing at least one bike rental place. And down at Ship Creek, not far from the port, fishermen attempt to catch their dinner in the form of big, meaty salmon.

And, if Anchorage's multiple facets don't suit, the surrounding natural areas are available to anyone who doesn't mind spending a few hours on a bus, train or small plane. South of the city, Prince William Sound and the Kenai Fjords beckon with their dramatic glacial ice and variety of sea life. North of town, Talkeetna offers a glimpse into Denali National Park and the lofty Mt. Denali, especially if you can take to the skies. Wilderness hikes, salmon fishing and even bear watching are accessible in one very full day from Anchorage.

Cruise passengers visit Anchorage in a variety of ways. Some book extra time in the city before or after a cruise into or out of Seward or Whittier. Others overnight there as part of a cruisetour, a combination cruise-and-land tour.

About Anchorage


Pro

A well-equipped visitors' center is just one sign of how welcoming and accessible the city is to tourists

Con

A point of confusion for many cruisers, ships rarely dock in town; expect to sail from Seward or Whittier

Bottom Line

While ships might dock elsewhere, Anchorage is deservedly an active hub for Alaska cruises


Find a Cruise to Alaska

Where You're Docked

The Port of Anchorage is an industrial port located just a five minutes' drive from downtown Anchorage. It is important to note that despite Anchorage being listed on many cruise itineraries (most people fly into the airport here), it is not a port of embarkation. You're most likely to be in town before or after a cruise departing from the nearby port cities of Seward or Whittier. And by nearby, we mean about two hours' worth of driving, so plan transfers accordingly. Once or twice per season, a cruise ship will call on the Port of Anchorage, but this is an exception.

Good to Know

Given that most goods and foodstuffs are flown or shipped into Alaska from the "Outside," you might be a bit taken aback by the higher-than-average costs of food and other essentials in Alaska. Then again, if you're from Manhattan, you won't bat an eyelash!

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Currency is the U.S. dollar. There are several ATMs and banks downtown, including First National Bank (646 W. 4th Avenue at G Street and 222 W. 7th Avenue at B Street) and Wells Fargo (in the 5th Avenue Mall). There's also an ATM in the Grizzly's Gifts store (501 W. 4th Avenue).

Language

English is spoken.

Shopping

One of the most popular only-in-Alaska souvenirs is an ulu knife. These round-bladed knives date back more than 5,000 years and were used by Eskimo women to skin and clean fish. Today, they come packaged with wooden cutting boards and can be used to chop anything from vegetables to meat. You can buy them at any souvenir shop, or if you'd like to see how they're made, stop at the Ulu Factory by the train station. (Just remember to pack them in your checked bag.)

A more expensive yet unique souvenir is a scarf, hat or headband made of qiviut, which is musk ox wool. It is warmer, softer and finer than lamb's wool. You can buy them at Oomingmak (604 H Street), but they're pricy -- items range from $100 on up.