The Hotel Captain Cook is Anchorage’s grande dame, if you will, and the pre-and-post hotel of choice for many higher-end cruise lines and tour companies exploring Alaska. Erected in the aftermath of the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake, it’s now three towers housing 546 rooms including one and two bedroom suites. Its central downtown location is within walking distance of museums, shops, restaurants, and the Visitor’s information Center, an authentic little sod-roofed log cabin.
We stayed there – and liked it. Luxurious? I guess that depends on who’s asking. It is indeed a nice property, albeit being a bit dark, and well, dated. However, its Alaska-rustic décor, nautical nod to its legendary namesake, and stunning views of those snow-capped Chugach Mountains gives it a real sense-of-place. It was recently inducted into the Historic Hotels of America.
A labyrinth of corridors is lined with shops and dining venues, and boasts a private art collection. The lower level includes expansive health club facilities - a pool, his-and-her gyms, and spa facilities. Yoga class and a massage? The Captain’s got you covered.
The service level is five-star. Bellmen weave their brass luggage carts around a bustling lobby full of guests outfitted by LL Bean and Patagonia - seemingly de rigueur. Captain Cook describes itself as the “launching pad for Alaskan adventure” – we got that. The guests’ excitement was tangible.
We were happy to be upgraded to a 17th-floor concierge level-room. Spacious and comfortable, the view of the Cook Inlet more than makes up for the unremarkable décor. The lounge, with the same stunning view, is a nice spot to ease into the day with a mug of coffee and the complimentary buffet. The lobby Café serves lumber-jack worthy breakfasts, but if you feel like a morning walk, the fun and funky Snow City Café is just down the street. The recipient of Alaska’s best brekkie award, they serve it all day long. The hotel’s other eateries include Fletchers Pub, the Whales’ Tale Wine Bar, Cubby, a grab-and-go coffee shop, and its acclaimed top-of-the-tower Crow’s Nest Restaurant.
Do consider dining at the Crow’s Nest. Posh, I would venture for the Last Frontier, but it had a unique, relaxed, destination-specific ambiance. Its wine list is impressive and the food rivaled anything in the lower 48. We collaborated on the creation of our own ad hoc turf and surf, sharing a to-die-for espresso-crusted rib eye served with a bordelaise sauce and a pan-roasted – delicate and delicious - Halibut fillet. Desserts are in the “oh-wow” category. Lots of restos offer fine Lemon Meyer Tarts. But served with white spruce sorbet? We think not. Nicely done Crow’s Nest.
One Day in Anchorage...
Like many cruisers and travelers, we had only one day in Anchorage. Myriad tour operators offer half and full day excursions – fishing, flightseeing, and such, but there’s not a lot to do in Anchorage proper. There are a few museums (Anchorage Museum was getting a do-over when we visited) The Public Lands Information Center, with its exhibits on the state’s history, geography, and culture, is well-worth a visit. Downtown access to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is less than a five-minute walk from the Captain Cook Hotel. Considered to be one of the country’s most beautiful trails, it gently winds along the coast for eleven miles and provides hikers and bikers with stunning views. Bike rentals are available.
Slightly jet-weary, we took the advice of the hotel’s concierge and hopped onboard the Anchorage City Trolley Tour for a fun, one-hour – anecdote-laden – tour. Just the ticket.
We lunched at the recommended Glacier Brewhouse. Good call. It’s as popular with locals as with tourists. We shared a starter of smoked sockeye salmon served with capers and grilled (on alder wood) artesian bread and double dipped with a House-smoked salmon BLT Wedge (It is Alaska – get it when you can.) Two thumbs up for the local craft beer. And then we were off to our adventure – a Silversea cruise.