When spring arrives, change is in the air in Alaska.
You have to be there to see the bears that have come out of their dens and down to the shoreline to fish, dig for clams and wander the beaches with newborn cubs.
You won't want to miss out on the sunniest days, perfect for hiking in remote wilderness amid the blooming flowers in vast meadows that sit below snow-capped peaks.
You need to hear the loud cracks of calving glaciers that signal the soon-to-follow thunderous plunge of a newly born iceberg as it drops into the icy blue waters at the end of pristine fjords.
Alaska is an incredible destination any time of year, but it's a magical experience to be among the initial travelers to arrive in Alaska in spring when the awesome splendor of its annual awakening occurs.
I know. I've done it, sailing with UnCruise Adventures on its expedition ship Wilderness Explorer during the first week in May.
Read all about my adventures on Wilderness Discoverer here: An UnCruise Adventures Voyage in Alaska Is a Thrilling Challenge You Won't Ever Forget
I have been on more than 50 cruises and been to at least 45 countries. Friends, family and people I meet out on the road know I travel a lot, and the top question I get is "What is your favorite place?" It used to be a difficult question to answer -- until I went on my trip on Wilderness Explorer in 2016. Now, I quickly respond with all the incredible details of my week in Southeastern Alaska.
We ventured off ship to test our limits with kayaking and extreme hiking outings. We hopped onto standup paddleboards and took skiff tours in serene bays.
We loved every moment, returning to the ship for camaraderie over drinks and gourmet meals or a plunge in the hot tub to soothe our exhausted bodies. I am sure that I got lucky with the weather. We had days that reached the mid-70s, and sunshine was nearly constant throughout my week onboard Wilderness Explorer. The average temperature for May in Alaska is typically in the mid-50s. Spring is the driest time of year and features the most sunshine. This is also prime time for wildflowers, bear activity and birding. You can even catch the Northern Lights this time of year.
We also soaked in natural hot springs and went snorkeling in a tidal zone. (One activity requires a swimsuit, the other a wet suit.)
Oh, and don't forget the Polar Plunge, an end-of-journey celebration that thrills (the observers) and chills (the plungers).
The ports during this time of year are peaceful and uncrowded, too. Arriving ahead of the busy tourist season allowed me to see the residents of these Alaskan towns carrying on their daily activities in relative peace. I hiked alone on a trail to a high point in Wrangell and was one of three people in a local bar when I rewarded myself for the climb with an Icy Bay IPA (from Alaska Brewing Co., of course).
UnCruise Adventures, for example, is offering a special promotion for its spring sailings. Book by December 15, 2017, for an April or May expedition, mention the offer code AWAKE18PR, and you will save $400 per cabin ($200 per person).
UnCruise has more than 30 departures on seven ships (holding 22 to 88 passengers) in April and May, so you can be there to witness "Alaska Awakening." Itineraries start the season on April 7, 2018, when Wilderness Explorer sails from Seattle to Juneau on a 14-night Alaska's Inside Passage and San Juan Islands voyage.
UnCruise ships also visit the towns of Sitka, Ketchikan, Haines and Petersburg and cruise into destinations such as Misty Fjords National Monument, Lynn Canal, Glacier Bay National Park, Tracy Arm and Frederick Sound.
Have you been to Alaska -- or is it on your travel wish list? Let us know in the comments below. (I can talk about Alaska all day; just get me started.)
Thanks for reading!
Remember, always travel happy.