I know it's hard to think of Alaska with the chill of winter in the air, but this is the best time to reserve a berth for next summer's voyages. Last August, my family and I took our first cruise together as an extended family into Alaska's storied Inside Passage. We skipped the Disney cruises when the children were younger, not having the patience to deal with hundreds of toddlers in a confined space. I wanted a real cruise, one that would appeal to my nine-year-old daughter and to my 77-year-old father. Alaska and the weeklong jaunt aboard Holland America's Oosterdam fit the bill handsomely.
We enjoyed two days at sea, traveling close to 900 nautical miles from Seattle to Juneau. Binoculars in hand, we would stroll the outside promenade in the early morning hours to spot porpoises and some of the humpback whales that make their way to the Inside Passage each summer from Hawaii. Yet, to my landlubber wife, arguably the best part of the trip is that you're sheltered on both sides of the Inside Passage by islands, so there were no powerful swells or any signs of seasickness.
Unlike a Mediterranean cruise, where you have the futile task of trying to see Barcelona or Rome in a day, six hours is the perfect amount of time to see Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan, the main Alaskan ports on the journey. New shore excursions await Alaska passengers, as cruise lines add more culture, adventure, and history to their tour programs in 2008. The exciting options include ziplining through old growth forest and heli-hiking, where you exit the chopper and walk through terrain that's only been seen by bears. There's also the perennial Alaskan favorite, glacier flightseeing tours to the Mendenhall Glacier or Misty Fjords National Monument.
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