Simply saying the names of Alaska waterways—like the Inside Passage, Lynn Canal, Glacier Bay, and Frederick Sound—can elicit a shiver of excitement and thoughts of blue-tinged glaciers, orca, waterfalls cascading through spruce-covered cliffsides, still water broken by small ice chunk
s and bergs. An Alaska cruise is one of the few ways to access to some of these coves and bay, and one of the most perfect ways to experience this spectacular American wilderness, coast and sound and fjord. It's not only people and ships that use these waters for passage: along these shores and passages are the greatest hits of Alaska wildlife, from humpback whales, the whoosh of their breath loud enough to be heard almost a half-mile away, to giant sea lions and their very distinctive smell that can carry just as far. At some spots along the coast, the mountains come right down into the sea, high tide licking the roots of spruce and hemlock. In this landscape cut by the last ice age, you really have to measure to the mountain peaks for true scale: They climb to towering summits, sometimes 5,000 feet high, their slopes covered with forests, meadows that turn sunset into alpenglow, and best of all, by the purple tinge of glaciers. Alaska offers unrivaled scenery and adventure among its narrow fjords, rugged mountains and verdant forests. Glaciers loom over the sea like towers of blue ice while migrating whales can be spotted surfacing to exhale jets of spray. And scattered along the coast, remote outposts tell the hardscrabble history of Alaska: Sitka's skyline reveals hints of a time when Russia ruled these shores, and Ketchikan and Haines are studded with the totem poles of Alaska’s native nations.