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Alaskan cruises have surged in popularity in recent years, and the demand to see America's last unspoiled frontier continues to grow.

If you decide to cruise Alaska you can see snowcapped peaks, mighty glaciers, steep fjords and such wildlife as whales, black bears, brown bears, bald eagles, sea otters and seals.

You'll also find historic gold rush towns, Native American art and culture, Russian heritage and plenty of outdoor adventure.

Because of this region's popularity and short season, the per-diem prices for Alaskan cruises are among the highest in the cruise industry. Alaskan cruises are generally divided into two types, Inside Passage cruises and Gulf of Alaska cruises.

The Inside Passage has been the traditional way to cruise Alaska, with most ships sailing round-trip from Vancouver or Seattle, through glacier country as far north as Skagway or Juneau.

Gulf of Alaska cruises cover more territory as they travel from Vancouver through the Inside Passage and up to Seward/Anchorage (or the reverse). Airfare for a Gulf of Alaska cruise is generally more expensive because Anchorage is so far north.

The Alaskan cruise season lasts from May through September and cruises to Alaska are seven to 12 days in length.

You can find the most affordable Alaskan cruise rates in May and September, the off-peak periods. Nearly half of all passengers add a land tour to their Alaskan cruise. Denali National Park, the Yukon gold rush country and the Canadian Rockies are among options.

Alaska experiences long hours of daylight during summer, lasting up to 23 hours a day in June.

In addition to popular sightseeing tours via train and motorcoach, cruise lines have added more adventurous shore excursions to Alaskan itineraries, such as sea kayaking, mountain hiking and salmon fishing.

If you have frequent-flier miles, this may be a good time to use a free ticket to fly round trip to Vancouver, the main port of departure for Inside Passage cruises.

Because in most cases you’ll need to fly a long distance to reach your port of departure, we suggest that you arrive at the port city at least one or two days in advance of your cruise. This will give you time to rest and get oriented before boarding the ship. Most cruise lines offer pre-cruise hotel packages.