Majestic snow-capped peaks, abundant wildlife, and a
colorful collection of cultural influences – cruising Alaska's coastlines is an experience
unlike any other. America's largest state is as vast as the imagination, and its breathtaking
physical beauty has remained impervious to the passage of time (making it a popular choice with
travelers seeking an unspoiled encounter with Mother Nature). And today's luxury cruise ships –
agile, and therefore capable of docking alongside "the last frontier's" least-frequented locales –
help enhance this extraordinary scenery. A generous selection of balcony staterooms affords passengers
panoramic access to Alaska's great outdoors.
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Boarding a helicopter or seaplane for an aerial "flightseeing" tour of Alaska's peaks
Dining at an authentic salmon bake, prepared over (and alongside) an open alderwood fire
Standing on the runners of a dog sled as huskies guide you across ancient snow fields
Traveling by train to the White Pass Summit via the "Scenic Railway of the World"
Tracing the same steps taken by famous prospectors, then panning for real gold
POPULAR ALASKAN PORTS OF CALL
Surrounded by scenic wilderness yet simultaneously cosmopolitan, Alaska's most populous city offers
something for everyone – from museums and fine restaurants (think "pan-seared Kodiak scallops",
"prosciutto-wrapped rockfish", and "sesame-crusted ahi tuna") to frontier saloons and six
separate mountain ranges warmed by a maritime climate. And cruising here directly is a rare
treat that's largely reserved for luxury passengers, since many mid-sized and over-sized
cruise ships are unable to reach the city via the narrow waterways of Cook Inlet.
Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)
Rich in native history and culture, Icy Strait Point (located just down the road from Hoonah,
Alaska's largest Tlingit Indian village) limits the number of cruise ships that call upon its
shores each day, enabling the surrounding community to hold tight to its many traditions. These
same restrictions permit its hosts to provide guests with a highly-authentic Alaskan experience,
one that's highlighted by locally-produced crafts and confections (courtesy of the Tlingits),
dwellings constructed from sustainable woods, and a wide range of wilderness excursions.
Founded during a gold rush in 1880, Alaska's capital counts some of the state's most spectacular
scenery among its many riches &ndas; the largest temperate rainforest in the region, the array of
fjords that line the city's Gastineau Channel, majestic Mendenhall Glacier (one of Alaska's most
popular attractions) and Auke Bay (teeming with humpback whales, porpoises, and sea lions). And
Juneau, despite its status as a state capital, manages to retain a surprising amount of small-town
charm (the fact that it's only accessible by sea or by air certainly helps).
"Alaska's First City" and "The Salmon Capital of the World", Ketchikan also lays claim to the
world's largest collection of standing totem poles (on view at Saxman Village, Totem Bight, and
the Totem Heritage Center). The city's native heritage, as well as its more recent gold rush
history (Ketchikan experienced huge growth as an entry port for miners during the 1898 Klondike
frenzy), is the stuff of legend, as is Misty Fjords Monument (the unspoiled coastal ecosystem
encompassing over two million acres within Tongass National Forest).
Sitka serves as the unofficial gateway to remote Southeast Alaska, and its strong blend of Russian
and Tlingit influences give it much of its character (the Russian-American Company invaded native
settlements in 1799, ultimately holding sway despite fierce resistance from the Tlingits) Nearly
two dozen Sitka landmarks appear on the National Register of Historic Places, including Castle Hill
(site of the first American flag-raising ceremony in 1867), and this city-borough's collection
of unspoiled walking trails help make it a hiker's paradise.
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