Originally Posted by You
I am looking at some of the places that the Alaskan cruises go and I have NO IDEA what cities I should aim for visiting.
My wife (she has no idea, it will be a surprise for her) and I want to do four main things while on the Alaskan cruise:
1) Dog sledding
2) Whale watching
3) Helicopter Ride
4) See as much natural wildlife as possible
With this in mind, please tell a newbie what cities have the best of what I named above.
Unfortunately, Alaska is so rich in attractions that you won't be able to do everything everywhere -- which means that you will have to plan another trip in the future to do more. Overall, though, all of the major cruise lines have pretty similar itineraries. Most cruises call at three of the four major ports of call (Kethikan, Juneau, Sitka, and Skagway) and perhaps a minor port of call (Homer, Hoonah (aka "Icy Strait Point"), Valdez, etc.). Nearly all cruises also visit bay or another to view glaciers.
Since the major difference in your experience will be the lifestyle, etc., of the cruise line, I strongly recommend choosing a cruise line that's a good match for your personal style on that basis. If you and your wife like to dress up for classy evenings on the town, for example, go with a dressier cruse line like Celebrity. If you prefer to dress down, Norwegian Cruise Line might be a good choice. Most of the rest are somewhere in between. But the best approach is to get a cruise guidebook at your local bookstore, read about the various lines, and narrow it down to the line(s) that seem to be a good match. If you narrow it down to two or three, a good travel agent can help you to choose among them.
Having said that, I should point out that there are two basic itineraries that all of the major cruise lines offer. One basic transits between either Seward or Whittier, the ports that serve Anchorage, and Vancouver. The other basic itinerary operates round trip out of either Vancouver or Seattle. I think that the "one way" itineraries are the better choice, as Anchorage is the gateway to Alaska's interior so there's a lot of Alaska that you won't get to see on the "round trip" cruise.
Now, let me comment on your wish list.
>> Your best chance to see whales is on a cruise that crosses the Gulf of Alaska, as it gets into more open water. Be out on deck watching for spouts while the ship is crossing the gulf. On many ships, the naturalist also will make an announcement telling passengers where to look when they spot a whale from the bridge. Some of the ports of call also offer whalewatching tours, but there's no guarantee of sightings.
>> There are a couple options for dog sledding. One option is to combine it with a helicopter excursion in a port of call. The helicopter takes you to a spot on one of the glaciers where the dogs and the mushers are awaiting your arrival. IIRC, you actually get a turn mushing the dogs yourself on the glacier, after which the helicopter brings you back to the base. There are also dog farms (?) that welcome visitors where you can see the animals and hear a presentation by a musher, and they may demonstrate by having the dogs pull a sled over banana peels.
>> Wildlife abounds everywhere in Alaska, but you might want to consider a stay at a lodge on the Kenai Peninsual or a lodge at Denali, with a tour of the park, if this is important.
And yes, be sure to budget some time and funds for touring on land in Alaska's interior and on the Kenai Peninusla. Also, Anchorage is a fantastic city -- definitely a great place to spend a weekend downtown. If you rent a car, there are many day trips that you can do from Anchorage as well. Just be aware that cities in Alaska are quite far apart, major highways are two lane roads as soon as you get out of the major citties, and detours can add hundreds of miles onto a day's drive, so you need to budge tplenty of travel time. Also, be sure to reserve hotels in advance for whatever time you plan to spend on land since summer is peak season when hotels can be full.
Have a great time planning a wonderful adventure!