Its native peoples called it Alyeska, "the Great Land," and no wonder: Alaska has many eye-popping and mind-boggling attributes to richly justify that name. Consider it has 586,000 square miles (equivalent of one-fifth of the lower contiguous 48 states). It has more than 3 million lakes larger than 20 acres, 39 mountain chains with 17 of the 20 tallest peaks in North America, more than 3,000 rivers, 1,800 islands, 100,000 glaciers and a whopping 33,904 miles of coastline.
A great way to explore America's "Last Frontier" is via a voyage through the Inside Passage roundtrip from Seattle or Vancouver visiting quaint seaside towns such as Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and Sitka. Other itineraries include a glacier route/Gulf of Alaska voyage northbound or southbound that takes in an even greater amount of Alaska's coastline and points of interest such as Hubbard Glacier. Most cruise lines also feature land packages pre- or post cruise to visit highlights such as Denali National Park, with its views of Mount McKinley.
The Alaska cruise season typically goes from May through September. Here are just some offerings for the upcoming season to check out. Check each line's website for best available fares and specials.
Carnival Cruise Line: Voyages from April to September include seven-day cruises from Seattle to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia, aboard the Carnival Miracle. There's also an eight-day voyage from Vancouver to Juneau, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan and Seattle aboard the Carnival Miracle on April 29. Info: carnival.com.
Celebrity Cruises: This premium line offers cruises on multiple ships, including a seven-night Northbound Alaska voyage from Vancouver to Seward aboard the Celebrity Millennium. Departures are scheduled in May, June, July and August. Highlights include the Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Icy Point, Juneau, Skagway and Hubbard Glacier. Info: celebritycruises.com.
Disney Cruise Line: This premium line will deploy the Disney Wonder to Alaska for the upcoming season on seven-night itineraries roundtrip from Vancouver to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. Departures are slated from May to September. Info: disneycruise.com.
Holland America: This premium line features an extensive menu of itineraries in Alaska including seven-day Inside Passage, seven-day Explorer and seven-day Discovery voyages on seven ships. Other itineraries include 14-day Alaska Roundtrip Collectors' Voyages. Departure ports include Seattle, Vancouver and Seward. Info: hollandamerica.com.
Oceania Cruises: Upper-premium Oceania offers a varied menu aboard its Regatta from May through August. Among the sailings is a new 14-day Pacific Exploration voyage, roundtrip from Seattle cruising the Inside Passage to Ketchikan, Sitka, Icy Straight Point, Hubbard Glacier, Seward, Skagway, Kodiak, Wrangell, Prince Rupert, cruising the Outside Passage and Victoria, British Columbia (departure of this cruise is June 4). Info: oceaniacruises.com.
Princess Cruises: This premium line will deploy seven ships to Alaska waters for the 2013 cruise season. A variety of itineraries are featured including seven-,10- and 14-day cruises sailing on Inside Passage and Voyage of the Glaciers routes. Embarkation ports include San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver and Whittier. Info: princess.com.
Royal Caribbean: Moderately-priced Radiance of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas will feature Alaska seven-night sailings from Seattle, Vancouver and Seward with departures from May through the end of August. Many of the sailings are highlighted by scenic cruising at Hubbard Glacier. Info: royalcaribbean.com.