Instead of lugging a thousand pounds of provisions up the Chilkoot Trail, do Alaska and the Yukon in luxury and style next summer by taking Holland America Line’s Alaska Land + Sea Journey ( www.hollandamerica.com). I took the 12-day Yukon + Double Denali package, which granted an all-access pass to Denali National Park to see mighty Mount McKinley up close. On this one-of-a-kind cruise, you can spot whales, sea lions and dolphins – and likes of grizzly bears, moose and elk. The cruise includes train travel; excursion flights are optional.
Getting there: You choose your itinerary – land-first (which I did) or cruise-first. Arrive in Anchorage, your land-first city of embarkation, a day or two early. Your body will need time to adjust from the long flight. Anchorage International is well thought-out and very navigable. Outside of baggage claim, they run a municipal bus system – on the hour – that will get you to the hotel district for a mere $4.50.
Where to stay: With overnight stays at the Westmark Hotels ( www.westmarkhotels.com) in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Yukon Territory’s Dawson City and Whitehorse, you'll become familiar with the brand: Their parent company is the same as Holland America’s. The properties are what you would expect from a hospitality-driven enterprise: tidy, outfitted with comfortable beds, a conscientious staff. Another nicety: They offer a wake-up call for the Northern Lights if anyone on the staff spies the aurora borealis during the night.
By planes: Fly Denali ( www.flydenali.com) offers a flight-seeing tour of Mount McKinley – the highest peak in North America – and also will land on a glacier near the summit for unspoiled views. The sturdiness of their planes lend themselves to your confidence; forgive the pilots’ corny jokes.
And don’t pass on being one of the few who venture to the Article Circle ( http://warbelows.com). You'll even get a certificate to prove you made it this far north. You land in Alaska’s Fort Yukon, a village so remote that it is accessible only by plane and river transportation – with no roads leading in or out.
Trains: Take a peaceful 7.5-hour ride slicing through the pristine Alaskan countryside on the domed rail cars of the McKinley Explorer ( www.alaskatravel.com). A half hour of out of Anchorage, there’s the possibility of sighting Mount McKinley, weather permitting. Take in some good eats on white tableclothed tables as your dining car swiftly rambles along the railway. The cuisine is delightful.
Hop aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route ( www.wpyr.com), a train ride that careens past mountain rock pools, scenic gorges and dramatic waterfalls. On this unforgettable ride you will journey along virtually the same path the Yukon prospectors hiked during the 1890s gold rush. This wildly popular pleasure trip is a surprisingly quick 3.5 hours and will allow for some memorable photographs – provided you brave the whirling cold and stand between the cars as the train bumps down the tracks.
Motorcoaches: On much of the Land + Sea Journey you will be shuttled from place to place on a narrated luxury coach. Being on the tour bus and living out of a suitcase, you'll feel like a Yukon rock star. Many mornings you will be leaving at the crack of dawn, but your tour host will always see that the shuttle picks you up and arrives on time.
On the MS Zuiderdam: When you arrive at the cruise ship terminal in Skagway, Alaska, to begin the sailing portion of your trip, you will feel like royalty. The crew scurries to make your voyage the best possible. On this Holland America voyage, you can’t help but be amazed.