There are some remote corners of the world where the best, and often the only way to travel, is by ship. Alaska is one of those places.
Its very hard to imagine a corner of the USA that isn't peppered with MacDonalds outlets, convenience stores or roads. Alaska's sheer wilderness is breathtaking. Dense forest clings to the mountains right down to the rocky shoreline, where you'll sometimes see a brown bear foraging as your ship glides silently by.Bald eagles perch on branches overhanging the glassy water, keeping a watchful eye out for fish. Pods of humpback whales breach alongside the ship, their shiny skin encrusted with barnacles. If you watch the shoreline for long enough you can spot sea otters, sea lions and even wolves.
Although the wildlife is the main attraction, Alaska has other faces too. The native culture comes alive in the arts, the language and the colourful totem poles you'll see at every stop.The Alaskan architecture is reminiscent of the Gold Rush days, with saloon bars and the like.
Everywhere you go, there's a real frontier feel, perhaps perpetuated by the fact that life in Alaska is tough. Juneau for example, is the capital, but its only accessible by sea or air. There are no roads and no rail links, only a buzz of float planes and helicopters taking visitors up to the glciers for hiking or sightseeing.
The glaciers are one of Alaska's biggest thrills, creaking their way down permanently snow covered mountains to the ocean, shearing off huge chunks that fall into the water with a 'thunderclap' sound.
One of the most spectacular sights is Glacier Bay, where 12 glaciers converge into one magnificient fjord. Only two ships per day are allowed here and a National Park ranger boards each one to tell the passengers about the amazing scenery.
If you prefer to get up close and personal with a glacier, visit the Methendall Glacier near Juneau - there are walking trails through the forest and on a hot day you paddle in the freezing water of the glacier lake while chunks of ice wash up on shore round your ankles.
When to go: May to September
What to pack: Fleece, sunglasses, binoculars, zoom lens and walking shoes
The upside: Fresh air, active days, amazing scenery
The downside: Small ports can get busy and prices on the ground are high