Ferries plying the Inside Passage from Bellingham to Skagway cruise up an inland waterway and through fjords far wilder than Norway’s, surpassing even a trip down the coast of Chile to Punta Arenas. One difference is that the North American journey is cheaper and more easily arranged than its South American or Scandinavian counterparts.
Another difference is the variety of services, routes, and destinations for this 1,000-mile historic cruise. Ferries operated by the Alaska Marine Highway (907/465-3941 or 800/642-0066, www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs) are the core of Inside Passage travel.Destination:Activities:
For many people, particularly retirees, cruise ships offer a luxury way to see Alaska. A multitude of ships ply the Inside Passage and Gulf of Alaska waters, carrying 900,000 people each summer—half of all travelers to the state. Cruises make it easy for travelers to explore the Inside Passage while enjoying good food and cozy accommodations.Destination:Activities:
Continue beyond Medicine Lake to reach Maligne Lake (48 km/30 mi from Jasper), the largest glacier-fed lake in the Canadian Rockies and second largest in the world. Activities are plentiful, but other than taking in the spectacular vistas, the only thing you won’t need your wallet for is hiking one of the numerous trails in the area.
The most popular tourist activity at the lake is a 90-minute narrated cruise on a glass-enclosed boat up the lake to oft-photographed Spirit Island. Cruises leave every hour on the hour 10 a.m.–5 p.m. in summer, with fewer sailings in May and September (adult $55, child $27.50). Many time slots are booked in blocks by tour companies, so reservations are suggested.Destination:Activities:
Wander down to Canada Place at any time during summer, and chances are you’ll see a cruise ship taking on or dropping off passengers and being restocked for its next trip north along the Inside Passage.Destination:Activities:
See the Niagara/Erie Canal region the way early travelers did through the winding path and clever engineered lock system of the Erie Canal. Tiny canal towns offer a laid back look into the history and natural beauty of the area.Destination:Activities:
The only way to reach Boldt Island, as well as the other 1,800-plus islands in the St. Lawrence River, is by boat. And several boat companies offer tours.
Largest among them is Uncle Sam’s Boat Tours (315/482-2611, www.usboattours.com), whose huge replica paddleboats dock at the eastern end of James Street. Uncle Sam’s features an hourly shuttle service to Boldt Castle (adults $7, children 4–12 $4.50) that allows visitors to stay as long as they like, as well as various sightseeing and dining cruises.Destination:Activities:
Circle Greenway is a 10-mile walk that leads to many of Ithaca’s foremost natural and urban attractions, including gorges, the waterfront, Cornell, and the Commons. A free map can be picked up at the Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau (904 E. Shore Dr., near Stewart Park, 607/272-1313 or 800/284-8422, www.visitithaca.com).Destination:Activities:
Head 25 minutes east of Niagara Falls via Route 31/270 to the Erie Canal town of Lockport, hometown of volleyball. As the story goes, the townspeople used a basketball for the game at first, but broken fingers soon led to the development of a lighter ball. Also said to be a Lockport invention is the fire hydrant—developed by a man whose factory later burned to the ground.Destination:Activities:
The backsides of Simón Bolívar, hero of the Latin American liberation movement, and his horse greet you upon arrival (he’s peering northward for impending Yanqui invasions, probably). It’s an inauspicious welcome to one of Managua’s more interesting quarters, though its full potential remains unmet for now.
Puerto Salvador Allende
It was a loudly decried pity that rather than capitalizing on Lake Xolotlán’s windswept lakefront, Managuan mayors had instead chosen for decades to defile it. That has finally changed and the Malecón is becoming a halfway-decent place to spend some time. The Malecón benefitted from a facelift in 2007 and the Puerto Salvador Allende opened for business not long after.Destination:Activities:
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