Alaska - Inside Passage
The Inside Passage is a string of islands in Southeast Alaska. Seven- to 10-night Inside Passage cruises typically sail round trip from Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, or San Francisco, and head along British Columbia’s forested coast as far up as Skagway, with visits to Ketchikan and Juneau. They also include a day spent cruising through one of the glacier areas: Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, or Sawyer Glacier.
What We Love
The Great Outdoors: Hiking, biking, kayaking, and rafting — you can do it all from these ports.
Calm Seas: The Inside Passage is sheltered by many islands and fjords, protecting ships from stormy, rocky seas.
Best Known For
Glaciers: The huge rivers of ice wedged into the creases of mountains, like Mendenhall Glacier outside Juneau, are fascinating to see. Many are tinted blue (due to the way light is transmitted), and some are calving (when chunks break off the ends).
Wildlife: From orcas and humpback whales to brown bears, porcupines, and bald eagles, there are many wild critters in Southeast Alaska, and you may be lucky enough to spot some. Your best chances? Aboard a small boat or on an intimate shore excursion.
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Skagway: Tales of the Klondike Gold Rush live on here. More than a century ago, prospectors gathered from far and wide to trudge into the snowy mountains in search of fortunes. Many explorers didn’t survive; a few became millionaires overnight.
Ketchikan: The town is all about salmon. In July and August, tons of them swim upstream under Creek Street in the middle of town. You'll also see totem poles in the nearby villages of Saxman and Totem Bight ... and rain. There's more annual rainfall here than anywhere else in Southeast Alaska.
Juneau: The state capital is surrounded by ice fields, including easily accessible Mendenhall Glacier, right at the edge of town. The Mount Roberts Tramway near the cruise docks is a worthwhile way to get up high for views of the harbor.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Flightseeing Tours Can Be Cloudy: These excursions are a great idea if the weather is clear, but your flight won’t be canceled for clouds. In that case, your costly helicopter or floatplane trip may feel like an expensive flight to nowhere, especially over the Misty Fjords area from rainy Ketchikan.
Where’s the Wildlife? If you’re on a big ship, you’ll cruise farther from the shore than small ships, so your chances of spotting a bear are very low. You may see some whales, but you’ll need binoculars.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.