by Louis Bignami

However, Al-Can Highway's 1,520 miles from Dawson Creek, B.C. to Fairbanks, Alaska isn't the shortest route from the West Coast either! Especially since you can drive another 1,500 miles or more to chug into Dawson! It means long driving days that wear down vehicles and drivers. So some visitors drive north from Vancouver on pavement through Prince George via historic Stewart Lake -- super lake trout, nice rainbows -- to Prince Rupert where they catch Alaska's unique Marine Highway System ferries, the state's "freeways." Or catch these craft in Seattle. Or take a ferry from Vancouver or Port Angeles to Victoria and drive north on Vancouver Island to Port Hardy for a two-day trip to Prince Rupert on B.C. Ferries. You enjoy lots of options.

Alaska scenic form airplane

photo credit: Annette Bignami


However, the largest Alaskan ferry, is the Columbia. Canadian ferries run smaller too. "The smaller the boat, the rougher the ride" is the rule and, while most of the Inland Passage is protected from Pacific storms by islands, open channels and my QUITE upsetting!

Prices on both systems are roughly comparable. You have a choice of cabin options and hearty if hardly spectacular food. If you just want to look at the scenery and sample day or, half-day excursions, cruise ships look good. More than a dozen cruise ships voyage up the Inside Passage to Alaska. All offer cruise comfort and six or seven -- who counts -- gourmet meals a day, stage shows, dancing, skeet, casinos, deck games, a big gym and other cruise attractions that coddle passengers. Big ships with stabilizers also reduce the risk of seasickness.

Routes vary with shore time at Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan or Sitka and approaches into scenic fjords such as the Tracy Arm with its glaciers calving bergs into ice blue water or Misty Fjords, a clone of the scenic fjords of Norway. Expect rather less time ashore than on many cruises and even it it's 100 degrees out when you leave home, bring raingear, sweaters, waterproof footgear and hats plus mosquito dope. Rates vary with the season and ship. Do realize that less expensive cabins get there just as soon as the rest and still let you enjoy all the services of the ship. Most who cruise spend few conscious hours in cabins anywhere.

Regardless of how you get there, you will not regret your trip to Alaska. The scenery is breathtaking every turn you take on your route.