There are no words, no pictures, no blogs or books that can adequately describe the beauty and grandeur of Alaska. It simply must be experienced. Whether you are a hearty and intrepid soul whose aim is to hike the Chilkoot Trail into the Yukon like the Klondike gold miners of days gone by, or aim to cruise the southeastern coast of Alaska by luxury cruise ship, you will experience something that you will never forget, long to repeat, and fail miserably to put into words.
My first trip to Alaska was in July 2002. Like the one from which I returned only today, it was aboard a luxurious mega ship (the Island Princess, which is actually small compared to many of today’s cruise ships.) And as much as the two trips followed the same route, they could not have been more different. Alaska changes all of the time: seasons (even weeks within seasons), time of day, weather conditions - even a change of the sun's angle can alter the landscape.
People take cruises for a variety of very good reasons: to “get away from it all,” to be pampered, to party until dawn while someone else does the driving, to “see the world,” etc. But a cruise to Alaska is unlike a typical cruise experience. Of course all of the usual cruise trappings are available, and many people take advantage of them: spa treatments, art auctions, bingo, trivia quizzes. But an Alaskan cruise makes you privy to the magnificence of nature along the southeastern coast of the USA’s largest state. (You can fit 2.5 Texases within its borders.)
You can take Alaskan cruises of several varieties, but the two most popular are the round-trip “Inside Passage” voyage and the one-way Vancouver to Seward (or Whittier) cruise or its reverse. The round-trip voyages are a little easier to plan, and purchasing round-trip airfare to Seattle or Vancouver is a little less expensive than “open jaw” airfares that fly you into one city and out of another, which the north/south-bound sailings require. But a trip where you get to Skagway (the northernmost city in the Inside Passage cruises) and then just turn around, after all that sailing, causes you to miss out (usually) on the spectacular Glacier Bay and College Fjord, the Kenai Peninsula, and the opportunity to travel even further into Alaska’s interior.