Exploring Fjords on an Alaskan Cruise

Whether you've got your first Alaskan cruise on your travel agenda for the summer or are still in the exploratory stages, you're probably wondering about what you'll see and what you should wear. The following addresses some of the most common questions people have regarding Alaskan cruises.

What You'll See on an Alaskan Cruise

Alaskan cruises travel along the Pacific coast of southeastern Alaska and western British Colombia in a waterway known as the Inside Passage. You'll be able to see the shores of many uninhabited islands from the deck of your ship. Bring your binoculars, and be sure to pack a zoom lens for your camera, because these islands contain abundant wildlife that you'll want to see as close up as possible, and you'll also want to get good photographs of the animals that you will see.

Black bear sightings are common on the small islands that make up the majority of the scenery on an Alaskan cruise. Brown bears are frequently visible as well, particularly as salmon-spawning season draws closer during the end of summer. You'll also see a great deal of deer and moose, foxes, and the occasional wolf. Wolf sightings are very rare, however.

Marine animals including dolphins, whales, seals, sea lions, otters, and various fish such as salmon and halibut can all be easily viewed from onboard a cruise ship. Whale watching is a particularly enthralling pastime, and many lucky passengers are treated to what is called a "breach," when the whale jumps completely out of the water. This is a sight that few people ever forget.

You will also see a great deal of trees on your cruise through the Inside Passage. The trees in the Tongass National Forest are primarily evergreens such as cedar, fir, pine, and hemlock. Other vegetation includes aspens, birches, ferns, berries, and a large, thorny bush known as "Devil's Club" that is highly prized by the indigenous people of the region for its numerous medicinal uses.

What to Wear on a Cruise Through the Tongass

Although Alaska in the summer isn't all ice and snow, you'll definitely need to make different wardrobe choices than if you were going on a tropical sojourn through warm and balmy waters. The average daily temperatures along the Inside Passage during the summer range from between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, but weather conditions change quickly in this part of the world. You'll need to bring plenty of layers to stay comfortable throughout the course of an average day. It is not unusual for sunny skies to turn to rain and wind within a matter of minutes.

Besides basic layered clothing, you should also bring a light waterproof jacket, two or more pairs of warm socks, a waterproof head covering, and perhaps most importantly, a pair of sturdy, nonslip, waterproof footwear.

Most travelers who experience southeast Alaska's Inside Passage via cruise ship return to this part of the world again as a result of the enchanting natural beauty that they experienced on their first trip through the Pacific Northwest.