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The lure of Alaska, both for North Americans and international visitors, lies in its stunning scenery, abundant wildlife and colorful Native American culture, along with the state’s pioneering spirit. When you wake up in the middle of the night on a cruise and look out to see the light of a single cabin in miles of pitch-black darkness, you get a glimpse into the self-sufficiency of the Alaskan way of life, even today.
Cruise lines have been very skilled at getting their passengers access to the Alaskan way of life by bringing Alaskans onboard and taking guests into the Great Land to see its immense beauty in greater depth. Of the state’s regions, the most traveled to is the Inside Passage, variously measured from 800-1,300 miles in length. It consists of a series of passages along the coast, most of which are places sheltered by islands from the open Pacific Ocean, reaching into the fjords at its northern end. Most of the passage is in southeastern Alaskan Panhandle, some of it is located in British Columbia and a little part of it also lies in Washington.
The Alaska portion of the Inside Passage contains approximately 1,000 islands, thousands of coves and towns that bears strong traces of the state’s colorful history: Haines, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, Skagway and Wrangell.
What follows is a sampling of Alaska Inside Passage cruise itineraries for 2011.
American Safari CruisesAmerican Safari Cruises’ yachts include two days of exploration in Glacier Bay National Park with a park ranger on the line’s Famed Inside Passage itineraries, including a 14-night cruise that sails most of the 900 nautical miles between Seattle and Juneau on the 12-passenger Safari Spirit, visiting the San Juan Islands and Friday Harbor, Misty Fjord, Ketchikan, Petersburg and various fjords and hot springs, priced from $9,195 per person. www.americansafaricruises.com
Carnival Cruise Lines The 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit will offer seven-day cruises sailing roundtrip from Seattle in 2011, visiting Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Victoria, priced from $569 per person.www.carnival.com
Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Cruises’ 2,034-passenger Celebrity Millennium will sail seven-day cruises priced from $565 per person, sailing between Vancouver and Seward with visits to Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway and the Hubbard Glacier. www.celebritycruises.com
Cruise WestCruise West’s 138-passenger Spirit of Yorktown will sail a 10-night Gold Rush Inside Passage itinerary, following the Seattle to Juneau route of the original stampeders from the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. The itinerary includes the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Georgia, Glacier Bay, Frederick Sound and Tracy Arm, and calls in Sitka, Petersburg and Skagway — the jumping-off points for thousands of people during the Gold Rush. Pricing starts at $4,999 per person.www.cruisewest.com
Crystal CruisesCrystal Cruises is offering 12-day Inside Passage Discovery cruises, sailing roundtrip from San Francisco, aboard the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony and calling in Victoria, Vancouver, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, priced from $4,650 per person.www.crystalcruises.com
Disney Cruise LineFor the first time, Disney Cruise Line will enter the Alaska market with the 1,754-passenger Disney Wonder sailing seven-day cruises roundtrip from Vancouver and visiting Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan from $2,086 per person.www.disneycruise.com
Holland America LineHolland America Line’s 2011 Alaska season will continue the line’s new 14-day Alaskan Adventurer itinerary, introduced this year aboard the 1,380-passenger Amsterdam. The cruise is roundtrip from Seattle and includes Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay National Park on most sailings, along with Tracy Arm, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka and Victoria, priced from $1,999 per person.www.hollandamerica.comInnersea DiscoveriesA new cruise brand, Innersea Discoveries, which is now the parent company of American Safari Cruises, will operate two newly renovated 49-passenger vessels in Alaska in 2011. The Wilderness Discoverer will sail a seven-night Inner Reaches itinerary between Ketchikan and Juneau with no set ports of call but with guided, very up-close adventures including hiking, snorkeling, whale-watching, polar bear club swims and birding. Pricing begins at $1,795 per person.www.innerseadiscoveries.com
Norwegian Cruise LineThe 2,394-passenger Norwegian Pearl will operate a seven-day Glacier Bay itinerary in 2011, sailing roundtrip from Seattle and calling in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria. It is priced from $669 per person. www.ncl.com
Oceania CruisesOceania Cruises’ 684-passenger Regatta offers diverse itineraries to Alaska, including the 12-night Alaskan Grandeur route between San Francisco and Vancouver, calling in Astoria, Victoria, Wrangell, Juneau, Hoonah, Sitka and Ketchikan. Cruises are priced from $7,998 per person.www.oceaniacruises.com
Princess CruisesPrincess Cruises has announced that Glacier Bay National Park has been added to select 2011 sailings of the 2,600-passenger Golden Princess for the seven-day Inside Passage itinerary. The itinerary, which sails roundtrip from Seattle, calls in Juneau, Ketchikan, Tracy Arm and Victoria, and is priced from $649 per person.www.princess.com
Regent Seven Seas CruisesFor 2011, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is offering seven-night cruises between Vancouver and Anchorage (Seward) on the 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator, priced from $3,599 per person and cruising to Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Juneau, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and the Seymour Narrows. www.rssc.com
Royal Caribbean InternationalAmong Royal Caribbean International’s offerings are seven-night Alaska Northbound/Southbound cruises between Vancouver and Seward onboard the 2,500-passenger Radiance of the Seas. Priced from $635 per person, it visits Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway and the Hubbard Glacier.www.royalcaribbean.com
Silversea CruisesSilversea Cruises’ 382-passenger Silver Shadow will sail seven-day cruises between Seward and Vancouver from $3,558 per person, with visits to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka and the Hubbard Glacier.www.silversea.com