Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

What is the Inside Passage?

The Inside Passage offers distance views of mountainous islands © 2018 Scott S. Bateman
The Inside Passage offers distance views of mountainous islands © 2018 Scott S. Bateman

The Inside Passage is often listed as a “destination” on itineraries for Alaska cruises, but it’s really just an interesting stretch of water.

The passage is a coastal route that stretches from northwestern Washington state along the coast of British Columbia and then to southeastern Alaska. It’s actually a series of islands on one side of the route and the continental coast on the other side. In some stretches, cruise ships travel between islands.

Cruise ships that disembark from Seattle or Vancouver will quickly enter the passage and spend a full day in it before reaching their first destination.

That’s because Inside Passage is the route that cruise ships take to reach most of the important cruise ports on the southeast Alaska coast. They include Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka and Glacier Bay.

“Inside Passage Alaska is home to Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Indians whose history is reflected in towering totem poles. Russian settlers left a legacy of onion-domed churches gleaming with icons,” the Alaska Travel Industry Association says.

Inside Passage Photography and Views

What may matter to cruise passengers is the views between those ports. On clear days, passengers can sit or walk on either side of the decks and see green hills and mountains. The lucky ones may see an occasional land or sea creature such as a bald eagle, bear or whale.

Between ports, most passengers walk the decks for exercise and the views. Anyone who likes lounging in chairs for the sake of the views should pack some extra warm clothing. On some days, cooler temperatures plus strong winds can make sitting uncomfortable.

Photographers will find some passages more narrow than others, especially when approaching or leaving the cruise ports. A good zoom lens is helpful in getting the best shots. Most photos end up being distant landscape shots.

Does it matter if the cruise itinerary lists Inside Passage? Not really. It is simply a way of getting to the cruise ports and to Glacier Bay.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.
May 26, 2022