Monday, September 19, 2011

Top 6 Cruise Ports in Alaska

While most people immediately imagine sandy beaches and swaying palm trees when they think of cruises, cruises in North America and Europe are increasingly popular. And of the numerous cold-water destinations in the Northern Hemisphere, no region is seeing more growth than the hugely popular Alaska cruise industry.

Travelling up the west coast of North America, more than a million people take Alaskan cruises each year. The most popular route is along the Inside Passage, winding through the dozens of islands in the archipelago stretching east from Alaska's mainland.

Cruise ports in Alaska range from small, bustling towns in rural Alaska to big cities like Victoria (I know it's technically in Canada!), but the variety means there's something to please everyone. Here are the top six cruise ports in Alaska:

Kodiak - The stunning landscape of Alaska's 'Emerald Isle' are filled with abundant wildlife, including the famous Kodiak Bear. Sport fishing and hunting are popular activities (though carefully regulated), or visitors can just enjoy the beauty of For Abercrombie State Historical Park.

Sitka - A bit of an Alaskan melting pot, Sitka's history as both a Russian outpost and Tlingit settlement gives it fascinating cultural history, evident in various museums and cultural events in town. There are plenty of outdoor activities as well, like birdwatching in the St Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge.

Ketchikan - Ketchikan is known for an abundance of two things: salmon and totem poles. Admire one at the Totem Heritage Center, or try your hand at catching the other from a charter boat. Visitors can also spot black bears in Neets Bay (part of Tongass National Forest), or hike on Deer Mountain.

Skagway - One of the biggest centres of the Alaskan Gold Rush in the early 20th century, Skagway still has an old-timey feeling that gives it a lively vibe with restaurants, pubs and shops lining the streets. Visitors can try their hand at panning for gold at the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp.

Juneau - Alaska's capital is one of the biggest cities along the Inside Passage, and makes a good city break for cruise passengers with restaurants and shops to explore. There's plenty of outdoor fun as well, with everything from glacier-trekking to river rafting to zip-lining on offer in the area around the city.

Icy Strait - A tiny town and relatively new cruise port in Alaska, Icy Strait benefits from its proximity to Glacier Bay National Park. The opportunity to spot whales and sea lions while watching massive glaciers calving makes for an unforgettable experience on an Alaskan cruise.

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