The Alaska cruise is a breathtaking adventure that you'll never forget. Giant snow-capped mountains, sparkling glaciers, thick pine forests rising up from the shoreline and abundant wildlife vie for your attention in this dramatic landscape. Towns and villages brimming with history tell a story of the Great Land that will endear Alaska to you forever. An Alaska cruise typically departs from Seattle in Washington State or from Vancouver in British Columbia.
Winters are very harsh in Alaska, so the main cruising season is confined to the summer months, typically between May and September. The most popular Alaska cruise route takes passengers on a one week round-trip up the Alaskan coastline and through the Inside Passage. This route takes in the ports of Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka in the extreme southeast of Alaska. Other cruise routes run to Prince William Sound near the city of Anchorage, and also along the Alaska Peninsula and into the Bering Sea. These longer cruises are often one-way, requiring passengers to make their return journey by train or plane.
Ketchikan is well worth a visit alone for the Tongass National Forest - the most northerly rainforest on the North American continent. It is more than eight times the size of the Yellowstone National Park, and offers the ultimate in adventure tours where you'll find rich salmon runs and grizzly bears. Ketchikan is also home to the world's largest collection of totem poles. These can be found at the Totem Heritage Center Museum. Juneau, often known as 'little San Francisco', is Alaska's capital.
Here you can experience life in a true northern city. The Mendenhall Glacier is sure worth a visit, as is the Sawyer Glacier a little further to the South. Skagway is Alaska's gold-rush town. It is well preserved and offers access to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Disembark at this port and view the way of the world famous White Pass railroad, before panning for gold in this northern outpost.
And when you're done with the gold, why not take time out to watch the whales near Sitka - a haven for these beautiful creatures all year round. For the more adventurous, an Alaska cruise can take in Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. Known as Alaska's 'Emerald Isle' Kodiak Island takes visitors back to the time when the first inhabitants settled on the island more than 7,500 years ago. You can even locate Alaska's oldest parish here on Kodiak Island. .
By: John Metcalfe