Queen Elizabeth sailing past Hubbard Glacier in Alaska
Grey silhouette of a person's head and shoulders

Nick Dalton

Journalist, The Mail on Sunday

Outside, in breezy sunshine, there's the mighty Hubbard Glacier in a fjord off Alaska's Inside Passage. Forbidding snow-tipped mountains line the mainland on one side, craggy islands the other. Yet inside there's the chink of bone china and the murmur of cucumber sandwiches being dispatched. Of course there is - we're on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth, all polished wood and Art Deco trimmings.


Bear Grylls is on our voyage from Vancouver, recalling adventures from his TV show Running Wild, huge in the US, where he makes celebs rely on their - or his - survival skills. He tells how, on a previous visit to this part of the world, he served salmon to President Obama that had been caught - and half-eaten - by a real bear.


Grylls is here alongside a classical trio, various pianists and the due Everglow with their twangy 50s-style guitars. He seems to enjoy the luxury as much as persuading a guest to join him for a sea dip.

There's something unreal about being out in the world aboard 2,000 passenger Queen Elizabeth, a world of expensive art, delicate furnishings and white-gloved waiters. No roughing it while slipping between icebergs, hunting another glacier.


Grylls emits wild-eyed vigour, but the leader of the pack is British whale expert Dr Rachel Cartwright, who spends winters in Hawaii studying humpback whales, and then follows them to Alaska in summer. She talks engagingly on whales, glaciers and bears. Her book, Wildlife and Wilderness: Along Alaska's Inside Passage, is a cruise-meets-ecology must.

Glacier Bay National Park rangers take over the panoramic Commodore Club lounge. Ranger Michael commentates as we see the mighty if murky Grand Pacific Glacier reaching the sea alongside Margerie's pristine ice cliff. He puts Alaska into perspective when he says he wishes he'd seen half the spots we have - because a cruise is the only way of ticking them off without a small plane.


This includes the town of Sitka, with its Raptor Center where injured bald eagles gaze at us while being returned to health, and Fortress Of The Bear, where motherless cubs play.


At Icy Strait Point, a former salmon cannery, we bob in a tiny boat as humpback whales flip their tails. We lunch on Alaskan crab legs, take a gondola up the mountain, zip-wire froma height that dwarfs the Empire State Building then stroll the coast, spotting sea otters.

Alaska's capital, Juneau, which we reach by tender, features timbered buildings and colourful bars nestled against the backdrop of the near vertical Thunder Mountain. Leaving the gold-rush town Ketchikan, we amble up Deer Mountain, through age-old rainforest criss-crossed by streams. Heading for Haines, we gaze up at peaks so daunting the driver of our amiably ancient bus says more people have been to the moon than have climbed them.


Food is important on this Cunard cruise, with plenty of local salmon and halibut eaten in proper dining rooms where suits and posh frocks lend formality to the evenings.


It's inspiring being out in the wilderness, but it's good to have a bit of luxury when the sun sets.

Cunard's Alaska seasons, 2024 from Vancouver, and 2025 sailing from Seattle, are on sale now. Book your stateroom online today.


This article was first published in The Mail on Sunday in March 2024. 

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