North to Alaska: The Rosens Hit the Ground on a Globus Tour of the 49th State | Travel Research Online


North to Alaska: The Rosens Hit the Ground on a Globus Tour of the 49th State

Travel advisors know that the key to a successful trip is putting the right customer in the right place, and then matching their expectations to reality. And there’s no place that’s truer than in Alaska.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to cruise Alaska three times. But I never saw the vast and wild interior of the forty-ninth state until last week, when my husband and I and a couple of friends set off on our first-ever Globus bus tour to explore the 49th state from the ground. With 37 other curious explorers and one terrific tour director named Kip Wheeler, we drove almost 100 hours on the highways and byways, rode the train to Denali National Park, took a paddle boat to a native village, played with a litter of seven-week-old Iditarod dogs, and watched the sea lions line up for lunch on opening day of pink salmon season.

For hours, as the bus rolled on through the sun and the rain and the detours around washed-out roads, we were immersed in the vast emptiness of Alaska’s forests, mountains, and glaciers. On Day Three alone, we drove 370 miles. We often ate what the locals ate: fried cod and chips, buffalo meatloaf, the inevitable choice of turkey or ham sandwiches.

For me, and for many of my fellow adventurers, the trip was a leisurely and relaxing foray into the wilderness. There was more bus time than I expected, full days of sitting and watching the wilderness go by, and less walking time. Yet, the immersiveness was an experience in its own right, a different side of Alaska than the towns the cruise ships visit. There were not many optional excursions, as the trip itself was one big excursion; but the flight over Denali and the helicopter to the top of a glacier, offered by both the ships and the land tours, were unforgettable experiences.

On the social side, our group of 40—about half of them returning Globus guests—was a good size for mingling with an assortment of diverse and intelligent fellow travelers. Our shared love of seeing the world created a quick bond, and our choice of a July trip brought us to Alaska on the first day of the pink salmon fishing season, the peak of flower season, 11:45 pm sunsets, and a lucky break of 75-degree weather while the Lower 48 steamed.

Most of the fellow travelers with whom I spoke favor quantity when it comes to travel, choosing Globus for a midlevel price point that allows them to forgo more luxurious accommodations in favor of taking more trips. “We’ve lost three years of travel, so we’re thinking we’ll have to do two trips a year—and, at our age, we’ll still run out of time before we get to see everything we want to see,” said my new friend MaryJo Abbott of Iowa City. “I didn’t travel growing up, so it’s been quite a privilege to go on these adventures”—including Scandinavia, Croatia and Bosnia, China, South Africa, and Normandy.

“Travel is my passion,” said Smita Shrimanker, who’s been to “70 or 80 countries” on more than a dozen trips with Globus, Trafalgar, Insight Vacations. “I came to see the natural beauty—it gets me close to myself. Alaska has so much silence, and this [bus tour] is a good pace for me. I’m recharging my batteries.”

“I grew up hearing about Alaska, and I always wanted to visit,” said Rose Enriquez of Australia, on her 10th Globus tour. “I’m a veterinarian, so I wanted to see the wildlife and take the tundra walking tour.”

For her vacations, “I always fly and rent a car or cruise,” said Sally Oliver of Florida—but her friends recently spent three weeks driving themselves around Alaska, and here we covered the same ground in just 10 days. “I wanted somebody holding my hand. I was surprised by the harshness of the environment. My expectations were that we’d have bathrooms and not outhouses. You really have to have fairly good physical stamina. But I’d recommend it.”

At Globus, meanwhile, chief marketing officer Steve Born said the Alaska tours have been hot sellers this season, and fewer than 100 seats remain on late-summer departures. “We saw a significant number of travelers change from other destinations to Alaska, so sales for 2022 dates were base-loaded early,” he noted. Alaska sales are up more than 20% over 2019.

Overall, 2022 “is proving to be a ‘bridge year’ to travel’s return, as volume has built slowly and steadily through the booking season,” Born said. “We’re looking at 70% of the volume from 2019, but with steady growth since April.”

Sales for 2023 are strong, up 10% compared to this same timing in pre-pandemic years. “Travelers seem to be very in tune to factors that impact travel, including flight costs and geopolitical considerations, signaling that there will be a very strong positive reaction when some of the headwinds are removed.”

But for this bunch of hardy travelers, 2023 is too far away. So, which is better, the cruise or the land tour?

“We took the cruise to Ketchikan, Skagway, and Juneau in 2006 and were so overwhelmed by the natural beauty that we had to come back to see more of the country,” said Mary Jo Abbott’s husband Mark. “You don’t really get the complete picture of the grandeur of the state unless you go inland. Alaska just has so much to offer the traveler. Everywhere you turn there is such natural beauty. One of the best parts of this trip was our flight up to and around Denali. It is often hard to see because of the ever-present cloud cover, but the flight can eliminate that issue and the views are spectacular. We also enjoyed the train trip from Fairbanks to Denali. The train traverses 85 miles of pristine natural beauty. It was awesome. And, of course, one of the highlights of every trip is meeting the Rosens and all the others.”

If your idea of a vacation is a little luxury and a gourmet dinner at the end of the day, a cruise is a better choice; but, if you want an adventure that includes the national parks in this vast and rugged terrain, you can hit the ground running on a land tour.

In short, Abbott said—and my husband and I agree—“the best way to really enjoy and appreciate all that Alaska has to offer is to both take a cruise and spend some time in the communities and national parks.”

Howard and Cheryl Rosen with Mark and Robin Gelfand. Photo credit: Cheryl Rosen

Cheryl’s 40-year career in journalism is bookended by roles in the travel industry, including Executive Editor of Business Travel News in the 1990s, and recently, Editor in Chief of Travel Market Report and admin of Cheryl Rosen’s Group for Travel Professionals, a news and support group on Facebook.

As an independent contractor since retiring from the 9-to-5 to travel more, she has written regular articles about the life and business of travel agents for Luxury Travel Advisor, Travel Agent, and Insider Travel Report. She also writes and edits for professional publications in the financial services, business, and technology sectors.

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