With remote ports accessible only by sea or air, Alaska makes an excellent cruising destination. The pristine beauty of the 49th state has been attracting an increasing number of cruise passengers. Nearly 60 percent of visitors to Alaska arrive by cruise ship with the season running from May through September.
Historically, the allure of Alaska has attracted travellers since the mid 1800’s. After the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1868 for $7.2million – that’s less than 2 cents an acre – travelers would sail north to discover the remote region known for its vast glaciers. Naturalist, John Muir arrived in 1879 and made many more visits to explore and record his findings. Paddlewheelers were a common sight on the west coast by the turn of the century. Steamships from The Alaska Steamship Co., Canadian Pacific and other lines were the forerunners of today’s ferry boats and cruise ships.
The Inside Passage of Washington, British Columbia and Alaska provides one of the world’s most scenic cruising regions. This 1,000-mile maze of peaceful channels, bays, fjords and islands extends from Puget Sound and Seattle to Skagway. This region was formed by the retreat of glaciers during the last Ice Age. Alaska’s many glaciers, still active today, give us a glimpse of ice in action as parts of this great state remain “under construction.”
These cruises are round-trip sailings for seven nights from Vancouver and Seattle or longer sailings from San Francisco. Each year, several ships re-position between these West Coast ports and include calls at Inside Passage ports along the way.
Today’s big ships spend a good portion of their time in the Inside Passage, however, part of the voyage is spent in Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait . Ships sailing from Seattle and San Francisco spend even less time in the Inside Passage as they will likely sail off the west coast of Vancouver Island instead of in the beautiful Inside Passage of British Columbia. It is easier to make good time by sailing “outside” – a major consideration when you need to complete the voyage in seven nights. Sailing round-trip from Vancouver assures time in the Inside Passage of British Columbia.
Ports of call along the Inside Passage are the state capital of Juneau, Ketchikan , Wrangell, Sitka, Skagway, Haines, Icy Strait Point and Prince Rupert. The lovely capital of British Columbia, Victoria, is a port-of-call on some itineraries from Seattle and San Francisco but this is sometimes just a short call to refuel. Check your itinerary for times in port if you want a longer stay in Victoria.