The 49th State, the largest in the U.S., is perfect for cruisers, with numerous opportunities to appreciate its vast natural beauty. Sail along the Inside Passage to visit the immense ice formations of Glacier Bay and Icy Strait, as well popular ports such as Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau, the only U.S. state capital that's not accessible by car. Or travel further north to the Kenai Peninsula and nearby Anchorage, a perfect jumping-off point for cruise tours to Denali, Fairbanks and Canada's Yukon. Maybe you'll see a bear!
It's hard not to revert to hyperbole with Alaska. Here lie more than enough towering snow-capped mountains, breathtaking calving glaciers, extraordinary wild animals and quirky (if overtrafficked) frontier towns to wow hundreds of thousands of cruisers annually. With more than two dozen mainstream ships plying Alaska's island-filled southeast region from May to September, passengers certainly have options. This chart features a representative from every major line in the mainstream and luxury markets, from the intimate and upscale Silver Shadow to new mega-ships like Norwegian Bliss. (For those who'd prefer to cruise with no more than 100 passengers, see our rundown of small-ship cruise lines in Alaska.) Each of the 12 ships, which were hand-picked based on their popularity among all cruise options in Alaska, caters to a different type of traveler. Families on a budget might find the most "bang for their buck" onboard Carnival Legend, while couples looking to splurge can pamper themselves with Crystal Symphony's lavish suites and all-inclusive fine dining. Familiarize yourself with the biggest contenders' itineraries, exclusive regional offerings and more to determine which is the best Alaska cruise option for you. Note: Click on a ship name to get more info and read hundreds of cruise reviews.