Summer is Alaskan cruise season, and despite the intense popularity of this particular destination, there are still some bargains to be found.
Although it's known for glaciers and polar bears, going to Alaska is a bit like going on safari. This state is 65% national park, national forest, or national wildlife reserve. In fact, only one percent of this gigantic state (3.5 million lakes!) Is privately owned.
The result is lots of unspoiled natural habitat for creatures ranging from the bald eagle to the black bear. You can not beat the fishing; photographers will find this place a paradise. You can see moose, elk, wolves, different types of bears, and all kinds of fish.
An Alaskan cruise is also one of the best way to see some of the world's most spectacular glaciers. Glaciers are actually moving rivers of ice. The sheer weight of them pushes them downwards and outwards and they move, in inches typically, over the course of years. Glaciers creak and groan as they move, providing eerie sound effects. Every now and then, you may get to witness the spectral process of "calving," which occurs when a large chunk of ice breaks off from a glacier with a resounding crash and splash. Calving is how icebergs are born.
There was a time when most glaciers had to be observed from a distance. Most are not safe for hikers or climbers (this is the original "slippery slope") and are just plain inhospitable. That's why a cruise can allow you to drift by these magnificent creations in comfort and safety and see them as a few other people in history have ever been able to observe them.
Most Alaskan cruises offer plenty of excursions and a flight-seeing tour is a great way to take in a glacier. In Alaska, flight-seeing has become incredibly popular because many of the state's most specular natural attractions are not readily accessible by land. (For example, you can not get in your car and drive to Juneau, Alaska's capital city.
Alaskan culture is extremely diverse. There is a reliably large indigenous population in Alaska and cultural influences on the state range from Eskimo to Russian (the Russians owned Alaska till 1867).
Throughout history, Alaska has always been a frontier. Way back in the 1800s, Alaska was the destination of a lot of gold miners and those who came to "mine the miners". In the 20th century, there was an oil boom. Right now, Alaska is enjoying what might be called a discovery bonanza as more and more people are finding out that it is a great vacation destination.
Alaska bought to woo tourists a while ago with the creation of a railroad that connected it with the lower 48 states. (Alaska is one of only two US states that does not border on another state.) These railroads welcomed spectacular scenery to the passengers and allowed them to get in and out of a state that is sometimes fairly inaccessible. Today, these railroads are updated and maintained.
The problem with the rockets is that once you arrive at your destination, how do you get around?
Alaskans have always relied on ferry boats to move between towns and the Alaskan Ferry is something that increasing numbers of tourists are discovering as well. If you have a vehicle, you can drive it on board and take the ferry (with your car) to your next destination. The Alaskan Ferry ( http://www.akferry.org ) even offers staterooms, food courts, and some common areas so that you can spend some time moving around the country. The ferry allows campers to camp onboard, too.
But the best way for the newcomer or comfort-lover to see Alaska is by cruise ship. The cruise ship allows visitors the luxury of remaining in one stateroom as the vessel makes port here and there, giving passengers time to helicopter, flight-see, dog-mush, whale watch, shop, or go on photo safaris by day.
Alaskan cruises typically take place from July to September, which are the best months to see the state anyway.
When traveling to Alaska, do take some warm clothing, including hats, jackets, mittens or gloves, and heavy socks. Even if the air temperature is not particularly cold (it can be 40 or 50 by day), the wind onboard ship can make it seem colder than it is. But remember to pack sunscreen, sun glasses, and a hat or a visor because the sun still reflects on the water; glare is common and the unprotected can get burned.