A Syndicated Column By Vacation Rewards

Alaska - Like nowhere else on earth

Everything in Alaska is bigger.  From the massive glacial fields to the expansive grandeur of its wildlife and nature, when you cruise Alaska, you glide past so much overwhelmingly vast natural beauty it might be a shock to your system. For visitors sailing along the Inside Passage or College Fjord, there is an almost constant view of mountains, wilderness, glaciers, or quaint waterfront communities. You never know when you may see humpback whale or a pod of Orca whales. And with the longer, daylight hours in Alaska, it is really quite a feeling to step out to your private balcony at 11 p.m. to enjoy the view!

The options, and itineraries, are endless. The perfect Alaskan vacation starts at sea, as the coastal cities offer a glimpse into both the state's rich history and its expanding future. Start in Seattle, Washington, and wind your way up the Inside Passage, to such Alaska cities as Ketchikan, Kodiak, Steward, Sitka, Juneau and Skagway before returning to see Victoria or Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. The cities that pepper the Alaskan cruise experience each offer unique excursion opportunities, from walking the streets and hunting boutique shops for Native American Totem Poles, to catching a helicopter over Mt. McKinley, your options are limitless. The exploration and adventure are yours to plot as you wind your way up through the wilderness.

Jaws drop as fast as glacier ice

In fact, one of the most magnificent sites on every Alaskan cruise doesn't even require you to leave your ship. The amazing coastal glaciers continue to provide awe-inspiriting beauty and dramatic views, as they crack, or "calve" into steel-blue water. Hubbard Glacier, one of Alaska's few advancing glaciers, remains a tourist draw no matter what time of year you visit.

Of course, not all of Alaska is the coast. The further you journey inland from your port cities, the more dramatic the scenery. For instance, passengers should not miss the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, known as the "Scenic Railway of the World." The railway will take you deep into lush forests, peppered with the wildlife of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Relive the Gold Rush as you walk the streets of Skagway, a town which continues to embrace its mining history. Or, explore Alaska's Emerald Isle, the city of Kodiak, which features rocky cliffs, marshland and forests that hide the famous Kodiak brown bear.

For a taste of the “big city,” make sure to visit Vancouver and its southern tip, Victoria. The cities' mild climate and active outdoor lifestyle make it a perfect vacation stop for all ages and all levels of adventurous spirit. No one should make the trip in to the city without visiting the famous Butchart Gardens and, for those looking for a little adventure, the Capilano Suspension Bridge grazes the treetops for a glimpse and a gasp.

Lush green landscapes and white mountain peaks

If a total "take your breath away" moment is what you crave, adventure seekers can hike the upper reaches of the Tormented Valley in northern British Columbia. Known for its inspiring peaks, a wilderness snow shoe trek will take you to areas seemingly untouched by man. Active travelers can continue making their way through the Alaskan wildlife by taking a guided mountain-bike tour through the famous Inside Passage of Ketchikan. There are more hiking trails than streets outside Juneau, where you can see glacial waterfalls, rain forests and lush fjords just off the beaten path.

Soon, those lush fjords give way to even taller coastal peaks further north, where mountains rise dramatically up some 15,000-20,000 feet from the inlets below, providing jaw-dropping scenery and an opportunity to take a dog-sled ride across the clear glacier ice. Prefer not to spend your time walking? Fly over Juneau to see the Ice Field on a helicopter adventure or take a dogsled through the tundra to get a view at a lower level. "Cruise Tours" before or after your vacation provide passage to the state's interior cities, as well as the National Parks of Alaska, allowing you to visit such places as Mt. McKinley, Denali National Park and Fairbanks. Definitely not to be missed, they are the perfect anchor to your Alaskan cruise adventure.

Wildlife, Wild times

When it comes to wildlife, no state can beat Alaska, you may see such varied wildlife as seals, caribou, moose, killer whales, eagles and grizzly bears. Head out on rafting trips, fishing excursions, horseback rides or hiking adventures. Alaska is the perfect family vacation as it's an unforgettable destination full of high adventure and historical significance. Visit the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward, which features beautiful local marine life in its natural habitat. Learn about the complex Alaskan ecosystem while enjoying the antics of sea lions, otters and porpoises. Toddlers, adolescents, tweens and teens can each find something they love about an Alaskan vacation. From zip-lining through the alpine rainforest of Juneau to catching dinner on one of many salmon tours, there is something that every child can tweet home about.

For cruisers looking for a more intimate, up-close-and-personal tour, smaller ships wind their way through remote waterways, forsaking the wider shipping channels to visit the small villages and towns of local fisherman or to closely follow a pod of whales. Cruisers who are staying on the larger ships can get their fix through whale watching excursions, where catamarans place you “this close” to the incredible whales and their calves. Other excursions take you in the back waterways, whether you are hunting for amazing fishing holes or just looking to get a glimpse of a glacier in motion. So many options, so little time - such a big place to see and experience.

And, don't forget the food. Your Alaskan cruise will most definitely be serving some of the freshest fish you've ever tasted, including wild salmon, halibut, crab and other Alaskan delicacies.

It's all a cool dream-or is it?

Visit Alaska in the late spring, summer or early fall and you will enjoy temperate weather, and delicacies of sight, sound and taste. The cooler climate makes it a perfect summer vacation, where you can hike, bike, canoe, or just relax onboard and watch the land seem to grow beyond your view.

Alaska is America's last great true frontier, an unspoiled wilderness of glimmering glaciers, abundant forests, towering mountains and exotic wildlife. Take your vacation and become one with its beauty.

Visit or call 1-800-571-6817 to plan your Alaskan cruise or hotel getaway!