The Inside Passage is one of the most stunning and memorable cruise experiences I’ve ever had. The passage connects the Canadian port cities with the Alaskan cities Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. The passage is comprised of two sections, the northern and southern portions. The southern part runs along the rugged coastline from Victoria, north along the east side of Vancouver Island – this is the protected side that runs alongside BC’s mainland. The northern part of the passage takes visitors through Alaska, past deep bays and beautiful coves. The entire route is nearly 40,000 miles of coastline.
While much of this coastline can be enjoyed from the decks of the BC Ferries, a regular commute for some residents of the west coast, other, more rural parts are only accessible via cruise ships. I found that when I visited, the other cruisers parked themselves along the decks and didn’t want to move for fear of missing anything! The sights and scenery are stunning. Wildlife abounds and passengers often see whales and porpoises (though I wasn’t so lucky on my trip!). The landscape is chilly but gorgeous. Rocks jut out of the shoreline and mountains are covered in forests and snow.
If you’re looking into booking a cruise along this route, look for a smaller cruise ship. Smaller boats can pull into more ports than the large ones, and passengers often get to see a wider variety of attractions. Ever since steam ships first took passengers up the coast in the 1890s to reach the gold rush, people have been marvelling at the beauty of the place. Even though the passage is on the sheltered inside coast, there are endless sights to see.
Even before you reach your destination in Alaska, keep your eyes cast across the water and you’ll see fishing trawlers, lighthouses and even Native landmarks like totem poles and long houses.
I definitely had a couple of favorite stops along the way when I went on this cruise:
Tongass National Forest
This forest is huge and managed by the American federal government. It’s a rich area historically and two spots within the forest are national monuments. The Misty Fjords are areas where glaciers carved out the fjords. The water butts up against cliffs that are in excess of 3,000 feet! These waterways are constantly shrouded in mist, which is what gives them their name. The other spot is Admiralty. It’s known for having the world’s greatest concentration of brown bears.
This is where the steam ships dropped off prospectors who were heading north to pan for gold. It’s a popular spot for cruise ships and their passengers because of the rich history and great stories that accompany it.
There really are endless sights to see on cruises in the area. In fact, I’m planning at trip back in the fall to explore a little more.
Carol Atkins is a Group Travel Leader with YMT Vacations.