Frozen Experiences of a Lifetime: Cruise the Inside Passage (Alaska)

The ultimate North American winter bucket list

    Photo: Eva Holland

I know, I know. The cruise lines don’t sail to Alaska in the winter. But the Alaska Marine Highway System—better known as the state ferry—never hibernates. And wintertime really is the best time to sail the passage: There are no crowds in the ports, the chilly weather brings clear skies and big mountain views, and the only folks riding the ferries are friendly locals.

You can climb aboard in Bellingham for the full three-day ride north, or fly into Juneau, Sitka, or Ketchikan for a shorter cruise. Reserve a cabin, roll out a thermarest and sleeping bag in the lounge, or head outside and brave the solarium—a semi-covered area on deck where the air is fresh and cold and the heat lamps burn all night. And don’t forget to stop by the onboard bar, where you’re just about guaranteed to have someone tell you all about how they came up to Alaska for a visit 30-odd years ago, and they haven’t left yet.

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