Last year, I went on a fly-cruise with Princess Cruises, flying from Singapore to Seattle and setting off from the port for a 7-day cruise to tour the Alaskan seas, stopping at Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan in Alaska, America and Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada.
This post will be covering the shore excursion I went for in Skagway, Alaska.
Founded in 1897 and incorporated in 1900, Skagway is located in a narrow glaciated valley at the head of the Taiya Inlet. It is in the Alaska panhandle, northwest of the capital city, Juneau.
Skagway has a population of just around 1,000 people, but in the summer months, the population doubles for the tourist season. During the gold rush, the population went as high as 10,000.
The port of Skagway is a popular stop for cruise ships and tourism is one of the most important revenue source for the city.
One of the biggest attraction in Skagway is the White Pass and Yukon Route narrow gauge railroad, part of the area’s mining past. The railway is now in operation purely for the tourists and runs throughout the summer months. Known as the “Scenic Railway of the World”, it links Skagway with Yukon, Canada.
We took a ride on the railway as part of the shore excursion with Princess Cruises, enjoying a meal on the train, while catching the beautiful sceneries along the way, passing by the majestic Bennett Lake. A ride on the railway allows you to have a glimpse into the colours and history of the Yukon Gold Rush in the 1800s. This was the exact same route the gold prospectors and miners took.
In August 1896, gold was discovered in Yukon and triggered a gold rush. The Klondike Gold Rush lasted just a few short years, during which time Skagway was a bustling boomtown with prospectors hungry to stake their claims. The White Pass and Yukon Railway was built during this period in a mere 26 months, blasted through the rugged coastal mountains.
Note that you are required to bring your passport along for this shore excursion as you will be passing the Canadian borders. One of the highlights of the trip was to get a Yukon passport chop, upon reaching the destination. Do remember to get yours if you are there!
In remote Yukon, other than the tourist visitor centre where everyone flock to get the Yukon passport chop, there are some souvenir shops and a few restaurants for you to spend around 10 to 30 minutes browsing. After that, it is back to the port at Skagway again.
During the heydays, the port at Skagway boasted more than 80 bars – including the Red Onion Saloon, Skagway’s infamous brothel which is now converted into a tourist attraction.
The port area has been kept to look like a gold mining town from the 1800s. There are several souvenir shops, restaurants and watering holes to hang around. I woke up early to go for a jog in the town area and it was mighty fun taking pictures around while most of the town is still asleep:
A ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route rail train is also highly recommended and definitely a must-do in Skagway.
Stay tuned for my next post as we travel from Skagway to Ketchikan, Alaska.