Bill Fletcher, Holland America Line’s director of Alaska sales, marketing and planning, recently participated in a Twitter chat with the United States Tour Operators Association and gave some insight into Holland America Line’s Alaska experiences. No one knows Alaska like Bill, who is a native, so enjoy learning more about what we offer in this majestic state.
When you visit Alaska, what are some of your favorite off-the-beaten-path locations to explore culture?
For cruise visitors, Ketchikan, Haines, and Sitka offer best chance to get a glimpse of coastal Tlingit & Haida native culture. For overland travelers, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Dawson City in the Yukon have many opportunities to explore the fascinating Interior Athabascan native culture. Dawson City is definitely the most off-the-beaten-path of these locations that few have the chance to explore.
What is the best way to see Alaska beyond the Holland America cruise?
Holland America’s Land+Sea Journeys [that combine a cruise with an overland tour] offer the best of both styles of travel – we deliver you to the places you want to explore in style and comfort, then give you the time to discover it your way. There are dozens of excursions in both the ports and in the overnight destinations throughout Alaska and the Yukon. From bike tours, rafting adventures, or even dogsledding on a glacier by helicopter, there is truly something for everyone.
There is a lot of Alaska Native history and culture in the state: what have been your cultural highlights?
Watching master Tlingit totem carvers at work and witnessing traditional full-regalia ceremonial dance performances in Ketchikan, Haines and Sitka. In Fairbanks – visiting an authentic replica of an Athabascan village on the Riverboat Discovery tour, with fascinating demonstrations of native traditions and lifestyles – all presented proudly by both tribal elders and younger generations.
When do you typically visit Alaska? Summer? Winter months? What tips do you have to share?
We always say the best time to visit Alaska is when you have the time – there is something to be said for every season. There are fewer visitors in the spring and fall – and there may be a better chance of seeing wildlife – but the weather can be unpredictable. The long summer days of the Midnight Sun are peak season for visitors, but there is a real value in that you literally get to see more of what you came for since Mother Nature leaves the lights on almost around the clock! Winters are a great time to visit as well, but it’s a very different type of travel experience – mostly center on winter sports (like dog sledding) and viewing the Aurora Borealis (otherwise known as the Northern Lights).
It’s time to spill the beans! What souvenirs do you haul home from Alaska?
Smoked wild Alaska sockeye salmon has to be near the top of the list! Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka and Skagway have some great hidden artisan galleries with really unique Alaskan handmade crafts. Spend some time strolling down the side streets and you’re likely to be rewarded with great local treasures!
Do you have Alaska questions you’d like to ask Bill? Put them in the comments below and we’ll find out the answers!