Spotlight on Alaska

When you think of your winter bucket list items, seeing the Northern Lights, dogsledding, shredding some snow, or hiking a glacier may come to mind. And if there’s one place to check all those items off your list at once, it’s Alaska. 

The Great Alaska Road Trip: Set Your Sights on Adventure in the Last Frontier

The Great Alaska Road Trip: Set Your Sights on Adventure in the Last Frontier
Spotlight

There is no more intimate of a way to experience Alaska's true grandeur than by taking a road trip – just you, your car, and a strip of pavement leading through mile upon mile of dramatic scenery, big wildlife and friendly, down-to-earth small towns.

There's just one catch: Alaska is so big that driving the whole state would take a month or more – and you still need a boat or plane to reach some of the far-flung communities. But if you're clever, driving still offers the closest, most personal introduction to Alaska's majesty.

There is no more intimate of a way to experience Alaska's true grandeur than by taking a road trip – just you, your car, and a strip of pavement leading through mile upon mile of dramatic scenery, big wildlife and friendly, down-to-earth small towns.

There's just one catch: Alaska is so big that driving the whole state would take a month or more – and you still need a boat or plane to reach some of the far-flung communities. But if you're clever, driving still offers the closest, most personal introduction to Alaska's majesty.

Southeast Alaska

All great road trips start on islands, right? That means your journey begins in Southeast Alaska, where isolated island communities are connected not by bridges but by ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Make sure you book your car berth far in advance; some of the ferry routes only run a couple times a week, so they fill up fast.

Most of these island towns are busy cruise ports, which means you don't need a car to partake in most of the tours and amenities. But having your own wheels makes it much easier to explore the dozens of miles of coastal roadway each island community possesses. This is your gateway to beachside rock petroglyphs near Wrangell, pretty picnic and fishing areas near Petersburg, and totem pole parks near Ketchikan.

No car? No problem – you can rent one in most communities. But again, the key is to plan ahead before they sell out.

If you bring your passport, you can take the ferry all the way north to Haines or Skagway, then drive into Canada, turn west and cross the border back into Alaska, headed for the famous waypoint of Tok. But let's assume you'll take a ferry to the Southcentral Alaska town of Valdez.

Southcentral and Interior Alaska

Even in a land of superlatives Valdez is something special, backed by towering mountains and surrounded by the rich waters of Prince William Sound. Plan on at least one big tour here – perhaps a visit to one of the world's most active tidewater glaciers – plus time to explore the small, but very interesting, local museums.

When you're ready to move on, it's a six-hour drive northwest to the Interior Alaska city of Fairbanks – which easily becomes eight once you add time for rest stops and taking a few photos. You're trading the dramatic mountains of Valdez for rolling hills clad in every imaginable shade of green. Much of the land here was shaped by early gold mining, and panning for gold remains a massive tourist draw, along with unusual experiences like bathing in a hot spring or taking a nature walk with free-roaming reindeer.

If you're feeling really adventurous, use Fairbanks as your jumping-off point for a day-long drive up the Dalton Highway to the work camps of Coldfoot or Wiseman, or even all the way to Prudhoe Bay. Let someone else do the driving on a van tour, then hop a small plane to get you back to Fairbanks in the same day.

From there, you'll hopscotch south: another two hours to Denali National Park, where six million acres of wilderness speak for themselves; then two and a half hours more to Talkeetna, the famously quirky little town that serves as ground zero for flightseeing tours around North America's tallest peak: 20,310' Denali.

The next major stop is Anchorage, Alaska's only "big city," where you can have almost anything you want, from a true city spa day to walking hundreds of miles of city trails and parkland. You're back in Southcentral Alaska now and just a short drive from many great tours, including glacier dog-sledding from nearby Girdwood or hopping a plane for bear-viewing in Lake Clark or Katmai national parks.

But this isn't the end of the line. A narrow ribbon of highway continues south to Seward, a popular cruise port known for its day cruises; you can go sightseeing, whale-watching or fishing there. Or, take the other fork and end up in Homer, which is famous for its friendly people and many artsy, foodie and fishing pursuits. Along the way, you'll pass through Kenai and Soldotna, home to some of the best freshwater salmon fishing in the world.

When to Hop on a Plane

There are a few places in Alaska where your car can't go – at least not easily. So, although traveling by four wheels gives you the freedom to slow down and explore the state on your own terms and at your own speed, at some point, you should consider taking to the air to reach the Arctic communities of Nome or Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow). Unless you're on a cruise, planes are also the easiest way to reach the famous fishing/crabbing city of Kodiak or the remote fishing port of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands.

But once you get there, rent a car and head out on the local roads. There are once-in-a-lifetime memories awaiting you.

All Aboard with Rocky Mountaineer

Imagine yourself training through the Canadian Rockies, stopping in small picturesque villages and iconic cities like Vancouver, Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper.

You might see wildlife along the way, waterfalls, and endless mountain peaks soaring above your current elevation. Your journey is paired with fine wine and locally sourced produce representative of the lands you’re passing through. You arrive to a destination, explore all the area has to offer, and before you know it, you’re boarding a helicopter and being whisked away to fly through the mountain peaks you just viewed from below. It feels like a dream ... but it isn’t.

Ready for the rail journey of a lifetime? Contact your Ensemble travel agent to start planning.

10 Once-in-a-Lifetime Adventures You Can Have in Alaska

Alaska is a land of endless exploration and adventure — in fact, there are so many possibilities here, it can be hard to choose! The solution? Read through this list of only-in-Alaska thrills, pick one or two that really resonate with you, then use them as the core of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure trip.

Capture Your Moment Under Alaska's Northern Lights

Capture Your Moment Under Alaska's Northern Lights
Travel Style

Few things can rival the experience of looking up to see a night sky covered in dancing ribbons of light: the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. These mysterious lights draw thousands of visitors to Alaska during the winter and shoulder seasons, when night skies are dark enough for the colors of the aurora to shine through.

The only thing better than carrying a memory of the northern lights home with you is capturing them in a photo, too – so I turned to Todd Salat, the Aurora Hunter, professional photographer, and owner of the Todd Salat Shots gallery in Anchorage, for some advice on how to make that happen.

Prep before your trip

The key to capturing aurora with both camera and heart? Salat says it's taking the time to practice night photography before you leave on your trip, along with accepting that no matter how good you are or what kind of camera you're using, a certain amount of trial and error is inevitable.

"Practice in the backyard before you go, or even in a closed bedroom with the lights off and a candle as a target," he advises. And although with a bit of luck you can capture amazing aurora photos on late-model mobile devices, if you're after a hero shot you can blow up and hang on the wall, you're going to need a higher-end digital camera and a tripod.

"The first thing you need to do is stabilize your camera," Salat goes on to say, "After that, it's all about exposing the relatively low light onto the sensor of your camera." That means learning to twiddle a few settings in manual mode: ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop or aperture.

Get ready for trial and error

Cameras, lenses, and shooting conditions all vary enormously, so Salat recommends starting by making sure you have some light preserved on your camera. Set your shutter speed between five and 10 seconds, place the aperture as wide as possible to let the most light in (select the lowest possible f-stop setting), and crank the ISO as high as you can tolerate it. Salat usually starts shooting at ISO 3200 but notes that on some cameras, ISO 1600 is a good place to start.

Then, take a picture and check the results in your camera's LCD. At a high ISO, your camera sensor is more sensitive to light than your eye, so even if all you see is the vague white light of a dim aurora, your camera might be able to see green and other colors. If the picture is too grainy or "noisy," that's because of a high ISO. But since the most common mistake Salat sees from hopeful photographers is underexposing their photos, it's better to overexpose at first, so you at least see something on the screen, then dial it back.

Once you have the first trace of light on your screen, tweak your settings to suit conditions in the moment. As a general rule, keep the aperture as wide open as possible as you adjust the balance of ISO and shutter speed. A higher ISO lets you use a faster shutter speed, while a lower ISO requires a slower shutter speed to allow more light through the lens.

Focus on the light

Knowing how those settings relate to each other and being comfortable adjusting them before you find yourself standing under the ever-changing aurora, will get you most of the way to great photo memories of your Alaska experience. But if the stars or foreground objects in your shot are fuzzy, you may have a problem with your lens focus.

"You need to set your lens to infinity focus, then dial it back a hair," Salat explains. "But the width of that hair varies from lens to lens." His solution? Go into live view mode, focus on a star or a foreground object that you've illuminated by headlamp, then tape your focus ring in place so it'll stay at just the right setting. Once that's done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the hunt for a perfect photo memory.

"I think the number one thing you want to do is enjoy the experience," he says. And as long as you take the time to practice adjusting your camera settings beforehand, you can have your aurora experience and photograph it, too.

Additionally, follow these tips for a seamless aurora photography experience:

  • Use a remote shutter release or short shutter delay so your long exposure isn't blurred by the motion of your finger on the camera.
  • Bring extra camera batteries – they run out quickly in the cold. Keep the spares in an inside pocket of your jacket or stash them in a warm place.
  • When you bring your camera back inside, put it in a plastic bag to keep the lens from icing over.
  • Bring a headlamp with a red-light mode so you can see what you're doing without disrupting your night vision or photos with splashes of bright white light.

International culinary delights

Tempting dishes from our featured destinations give you a taste of local culture. From succulent roasts to exotic spicy fare and some divine desserts, you’re sure to find plenty of delicious recipes to try at home.

CULINARY DISCOVERY

Steeped in tradition and infused with innovation, cuisine transcends mere excellence and enters the sublime. Michelin-inspired menus reflect the flavors of the world with every meal an artful orchestration of culinary discovery. The Spot Prawn Vermicelli Clay Pot is a fine example of dining crossing paths with art – enjoy it on Crystal Symphony or Crystal Serenity at the new Silk Kitchen and Bar, one of up to ten dining venues!



Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 2 ounce chicken stock
  • 0.35 ounce light soy sauce
  • 0,2 ounce dark soy sauce
  • 0.35 ounce oyster sauce
  • 0.35 ounce sugar

Sweet Garlic:

  • 6 pcs. garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup onion oil
  • 12 pcs. crushed black pepper

Ingredients List:

  • 0.70 ounce bacon slices 3 * 3 cm
  • 0.35 ounce ginger ( julienne)
  • 8.8 ounce glass noodles cut into 10 cm long and soaked in warm water
  • 12 pcs. blanched celery stalks (chinese cut into 1 cm by 2 cm)
  • 16 pcs. spot prawn tails (raw)
  • 4 pcs. langoustine raw or spot prawns (cut tail in half claws cracked)
  • 18 pcs. parsley stems cut into 4cm pieces
  • 18 pcs. cilantro stems cut into 4cm pieces

Garnish:

  • young celery leaves
  • fresh cilantro

Preparation

For the Sauce

  1. Mix all ingredients and bring to a boil and set aside

Sweet Garlic

  1. Cook all ingredients over very low heat until garlic is soft and sweet, crush with a fork

Procedure

  1. In a clay pot place parsley stems, cilantro stems, ginger julienne, bacon slices top with your sweet garlic pepper mixture
  2. Next place your prawn tails on top followed by the glass noodles (dry no water)
  3. Add in each clay pot 3/4 cup sauce, top each clay pot with 2 pcs. langoustine
  4. Preheat oven to 220°C cover clay pot and cook for 15 minutes
  5. Before serving mix the noodles well garnish with celery leaves and fresh cilantro

Step aboard the world’s greatest ships

Each month we’re showcasing our cruise partners to bring you the latest on the cruise line and their ships. With different cruising styles and a variety of ships to choose from, you’ll find these profiles helpful for selecting the cruise that’s right for you.

Experience Luxury Perfected

Photo: Regent Seven Seas Cruises

We are the moment makers, your consummate host. We deliver the pinnacle of ocean cruising, with every luxury included, knowing your delight is in the details. Whether you seek a quiet night alone, are looking to socialize or are simply excited to explore our world, we look forward to welcoming you aboard.

We believe luxury exists in the smallest details, the most attentive service and the most inviting atmosphere. Come aboard and allow us to create opportunities for you to embrace the moment, so that you can create memories that will last a lifetime. We take care of everything, so you don’t need to do anything except enjoy your travel. The genuine hospitality and attention to detail of our outstanding crew will carry forward throughout your voyage, from the little touches in your suite to the perfect dining choices made to your taste.

The Ship

Seven Seas Splendor™ Arriving February 2020. Catering to a mere 750 guests, she will boast one of the highest space ratios in the industry while maintaining an intimate atmosphere. Intricate design details create an elegant and relaxing space in each of the 375 spacious suites.

The Ship
Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Accommodations

Fine stones and marble, custom furniture, oversized bathrooms, European King Size Elite Slumber™ beds and private balconies, which are among the largest at sea, create the ultimate haven. The crown jewel of Seven Seas Splendor’s suites is the one-of-a-kind, 4,443 square foot Regent Suite, offering sweeping ocean views, a wrap-around balcony with a glass enclosed sitting area at the bow, unlimited in-suite spa treatments and a luxurious custom-built Hästens Vividus bed.

Accommodations
Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Dining

An unmatched collection of specialty dining options including French fare with a twist in Chartreuse, the Pan-Asian Pacific Rim, the best steakhouse at sea in Prime 7 and our largest specialty restaurant, with fully customizable menus, Compass Rose. Relax at the Pool Grill with friends after a full day of onshore adventures or simply enjoy the quiet and comfort of your suite with an impeccably prepared meal from the excellent 24-hour room service.

Dining
Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Activities

Talented expert Chefs lead individualized, hands-on instruction in specially developed cooking classes within the professionally designed Culinary Arts Kitchen. In the evenings, our ships take on new life as the sun sets and lights come on. Dance the night away to the tunes of a live band or take the stage yourself during karaoke with friends. The Casino always invites a good time, whether you’d prefer to join in the fun or simply cheer on your fellow gamers as they bet on a favorite number or beat the house in a high stakes card game.

Activities
Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Services

Enjoy an invigorating workout or exercise class in the state-of-the-art Fitness Center or indulge and revitalize your mind and body with a holistic treatment at our onboard spa.

Services
Regent Seven Seas Cruises