Cruising Alaska

Cruises I am told can be a wondrous experience – full of music, people, sights, smells, activities, and of coarse GREAT food. I have yet to go on one, but my family and I have been discussing doing one to Alaska. Which cruise is the best pick though?? Looking around online I found this great article with some helpful suggestions on a trip to AK. I picked out some good tips from the Chicago Suns article “Alaska’s Inside Passage: Wild coast”:

Options aplenty

Now, as then, the basic coastal voyage remains the standard, the trip most travelers try first. Sailing between the ragged Pacific coastline and hundreds of outer islands, the route charts a path between Vancouver, Canada (or Seattle) and the Gulf of Alaska, skimming the highlights and calling at A-list ports like Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway and Juneau.

Convenience vs. close-ups

To give them their due, mega-ships are a thrill a minute. More hotel than ship, these floating resorts have panoramic views and glam entertainment. Luxury dining, dance bands, spa treatments, nightclub acts, casinos, Internet access, a choice of restaurants and staterooms with picture windows are standard fare. Art collections, investment seminars and children’s programs juke up the choices. And storm friendly? Most definitely. These goliaths are so stable, it’s hard to tell when you’re moving.

But that same giant will be too wide and sit too deep in the water (“draft” it’s called) to sail close to shore. If there’s a brown bear prowling that distant beach, he’ll look like a dot. If the captain has his hand on the throttle and you’re not standing in the stern holding your binoculars you’ll miss the sea lions on the rocks.

Best compromise

For a combination of small ship convenience and large ship entertainment, check out the Empress of the North, Majestic America Line’s 231-passenger sternwheeler. This riverboat look-alike sails seven-night loop cruises out of Juneau, reprising the bawdy days of the 1898 Gold Rush to the Yukon. You’d never guess that that Victorian silk upholstery, brass railings, gilt mirrors and silk pillows are new. So are the amenities, including TV, DVD player, telephone and minibar. Bathrooms come with showers and tubs. The onboard historian is a fount of Gold Rush anecdotes.

Finish this article and more at the Chicago Sun Times