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Ketchikan Alaska Cruise Shipscruise ship

Alaska is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world, and is very high on most cruise lovers' list. Some of the most spectacular parts of Alaska can best be seen from the sea.

There are two great ways to cruise Alaska

- on a large or mid-sized cruise ship of 700 to 3000 passengers

- on a small ship of a dozen to less than 200 passengers.

Both types of cruises have pros and cons. The larger ships have all the extra amenities you could ever wish for, but the small ships provide a more personal look at Alaska and often a better chance to see wildlife from the ship. Either way, Alaska cruise lines offer something for everyone.

Alaska cruises normally sell for a higher price than the Caribbean or other popular cruise destinations. Although almost nobody pays the brochure price anymore, you can use them for comparison. Most seven-day Caribbean cruises start around $800, but the brochure price for an Alaska cruise on the same ship, same cabin will start about $1000. The Alaska cruise season only runs from May through September, and demand is high. Getting to the embarkation port is often more costly than flying to Florida or even to Europe. Some cruise ships are sailing from San Francisco or Los Angeles, which might be a cheaper air fare, but a longer cruise. Summer is the big vacation season in the northwest, and many non-cruisers also choose to head to this beautiful part of the world. The shorter season and high demand add up to a more expensive cruise.

Even though Alaska cruises can be expensive, the joy of seeing this exciting American wilderness is well worth the extra dollars. Many of the large and mid-sized cruise ships sailing to Alaska include cabins with private verandas. Cruisers go to Alaska to see the magnificent mountains, beautiful bays, and wonderful wildlife. How better to see all of this than from your own private balcony? In addition to the verandas, ships cruising Alaska often include huge observation lounges and heated indoor/outdoor pools. You don't have to "rough it" to see all that Alaska has to offer!

Small Ship Cruises to Alaska 2010small cruise ship

A small ship Alaska cruise is an exciting alternative way to cruise Alaska that might allow you an even closer look at the beautiful scenery and exotic wildlife. There are several cruise lines with ships that carry from a dozen to 300 passengers on Alaska cruises. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the advantages of 100 or less cruisers exploring Alaska, enjoying excursions, or even just descending on the Alaska towns versus 2000 or more!

The smaller ships can also visit some places that the larger ones can only dream about like the Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan or Tracy Arm fjord. If you are looking for a more exotic, out-of-the-way itinerary, a small ship Alaska cruise might be the best choice. One word of caution. These smaller ships are usually more expensive and often fill up fast. For this extra cost, you'll probably get less amenities and entertainment on board, but the trade off of a closer look at Alaska is worth it!

There are also many other small yachts offered for charter that cruise Alaskan waters. The accommodations on these range from rustic to luxurious, large, mid-sized cruises and small ship cruises to Alaska. There is certainly something for everyone!

Large and Mid-Sized Cruises to Alaska

People visit Alaska to take in the scenery, and look for exotic creatures in the sea and on the shore. Alaska is a huge place, and much of it can only be seen from the water. Therefore, an Alaskan cruise is an ideal way to see the bays, glaciers, and wildlife. However, because of its size, you will miss much of the state if you only touch on the ports. In addition, there are also cultural and historical experiences to be had in Alaska. You can get a sense of what life was like during gold rush days, or even when the Russians inhabited the area.

Many cruise passengers extend their cruise and explore the inland parts of the state by railroad or by car or bus. After all, while you're there, how can you not see Denali National Park? It features the continent's highest mountain, Mt. McKinley. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have a joint tour company that serves passengers from both sister cruise lines. The tour company features railroad cars pulled through the wilderness by the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The trek between Anchorage and Fairbanks includes a stopover at Denali. Princess also offers pre- and post- cruise opportunities to its extensive Alaska lineup, as does Holland America Line. These cruise lines have their own wilderness lodges in the interior of Alaska.

There are exciting, adventurous things to do in Alaska. Many places in the state cannot be reached by cruise ship, car, bus or railroad. How do you get there? By float plane! If you are a fishing aficionado or want to see some of the back country, a small float plane will take you to a lodge. Or you can "hook up" with a guide for a fishing trip to the back country. A glacier flight-seeing or helicopter trip in Juneau, home of the Mendenhall glacier, are popular excursions. Other adventurous options include dog sledding, sea kayaking, mountain biking, and heli-hiking. If you're not "up" on the latest fads, heli-hiking is just what it sounds like- a helicopter takes you to a remote location and drops you off. You go hiking, and then are picked up by the helicopter later. Sounds fun!

Each of the ports along the Inside Passage has a special treat for cruise passengers. Sitka is proud of its Russian heritage and offers tours focusing on its Russian roots. It also has an interesting Eagle Rehabilitation Center.

If your cruise stops at Skagway, you might want to take the White Pass & Yukon Route narrow gauge railway. This railroad has been in operation since the 1898 Yukon gold rush. Near the White Pass Summit on the Yukon Highway is the beautiful Yukon Suspension Bridge over the Tutshi River.

Valdez is the home of the southern end of the famous 800 mile Trans-Alaskan pipeline.

Juneau has the Mendenhall Glacier and the state capital. It also features the Mount Roberts Aerial Tramway, which lifts you 1800 feet above the city.

Seward is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park and home of the Annual Silver Salmon Derby, the biggest fishing event in Alaska. Ketchikan has a great waterfront, and cruise passengers love to visit Creek Street.

Each cruise line has many shore excursions, and some offer over 100 different excursions. This can get expensive. One way to save a few dollars is to check out Port Promotions. This is an independent company that has arranged cruise shore excursions in the Caribbean for years. They started offering Alaska excursions in 2000. Sometimes their rates can be as much as 15 percent less than those charged by the cruise line.