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What to see in The Inside Passage

The Inside Passage Attractions

Alaskan cruises happily trade the warm blue waters of tropic destinations for the rugged scenery of craggy islands, jutting glaciers and forested coastline. Instead of open ocean, cruise ships weave through the Inner Passage, up the Gulf of Alaska and past scores of islands and inlets. Cruise ships traverse a string of coastal cities which include Ketchikan, Skagway, Haines, Sitka and Juneau. Stacked together, their unique atmospheres make a diverse totem pole of cruise ports with Juneau at the top.

Most ships will call port in Juneau, a unique state capital nestled into mountain steps and a narrow inlet. The small city is accustomed to water transportation as no roads lead in or out of the city. Cruise liners are berthed at one of three docks, all within an easy walk of a rustic and charming downtown area. Here, visitors can take a tramway up Mount Roberts to share an eagle's view of the city and landscape below. Visitors can also view scenery with whale watching tours starting from Juneau's waterfront. Those in port for longer stays can catch a ferry to Glacier Bay National Park to see 16 enormous glaciers cut into the land and sea. Others can visit Mendenhall Glacier, close to town.

With no roads connecting the towns the best way to travel is by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry that hops from town to town, or on one of the numerous and very popular cruises that ply the channels. The Alaska Marine Highway is a designated National Scenic Byway and is one of the most beautiful ways to explore Alaska. The deep waters and mild climate provide a prime habitat for whales, sea lions and porpoises, which can often be spotted from the deck. Between the picturesque fishing town of Petersburg and Russian-founded Wrangell is the spectacular Wrangell Narrows that is only 300ft (91m) wide and so shallow in places that the boat is forced into a slalom course of 46 turns to avoid grounding on the channel bottom. Frederick Sound is a prime whale sighting area.

Alaskan Ferry

Large cruise ships regularly travel to major ports in Alaska but a better idea for those who prefer a more intimate option is the Alaskan Ferry. Departing from Bellingham, Washington, these large ferries…

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Glacier Bay National Park

When the early explorers and pioneers of the 18th century sailed this way, Glacier Bay was hidden under a huge sheet of solid ice, more than 4,000ft (1,219m) thick and up to 20 miles (32km) wide. Today…

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Hubbard Glacier

There is surely no more spectacular experience on the planet than to witness the calving of a titanic glacier. A stopover to watch nature's incredible marvel, the Hubbard Glacier, in action as the…

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The 'salmon capital of the world' started as a summer fish camp on the shores of Ketchikan Creek used by the Tlingit natives, and became a major salmon canning centre. Native Inuit heritage plays a…

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Mendenhall Glacier

The most popular attraction in Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier, located just 12 miles (19km) from the downtown area. Originally known as Sitaantaagu ('the Glacier Behind the Town') by the Tlingits,…

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