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Sarah Palin isn’t the only one making waves in the 49th state. Thanks to a voter-enacted head tax and skyrocketing fuel costs, cruise ships have been unmooring from its ports for the past couple of years – but the tides are changing. Liners like Disney are newly bound for Alaskan waters, and a bevy of other boats are debuting new routes and intrepid Last Frontier excursions in 2011.

Oceania: The 684-passenger Regatta makes its inaugural voyage through the Inside Passage this May, with ports of call in Juneau and Ketchikan before slicing through Hoonah’s rugged terrain. Travelers can choose from four itineraries – Majestic Alaska, Alaskan Grandeur, Frontiers and Glaciers, and Glacial Wilderness – that depart from San Francisco or Vancouver. Ten-day trips from $3,299; www.oceaniacruises.com.

Disney: Families can fish for wild salmon in Ketchikan and pan for gold in Skagway during a cruise aboard the 2,400-passenger Disney Wonder, which departs from Vancouver and glides past Alaska’s glacier-strewn shores for the first time this summer. Disney Cruise Line’s popular youth clubs offer plenty of supervised distractions, so parents can easily carve out quiet time. Eight-day trips from $939; disneycruise.disney.go.com

Crystal Cruises: After a five-year hiatus, Crystal Cruises’ 922-passenger Crystal Symphony sails to Alaska on 9 different itineraries this year, most with stops in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. Also new for 2011: Luxury shore excursions, like a helicopter flight over the Juneau Ice Field and an entertaining ride aboard a century-old train in Klondike country. Eleven-day trips from $4,650; www.crystalcruises.com

InnerSea Discoveries: This company’s tagline, “Indulge Your Adventurous Side,” sums up its new Western Coves trips aboard the Wilderness Discoverer and the Wilderness Adventurer, which traverse hidden waterways and inlets too narrow for larger liners to chart. Once past El Capitan Passage, cruisers can kayak around Devilfish Cove and set off on a whale-watching expedition in Frederick Sound. Eight-day trips from $1,795; www.innerseadiscoveries.com

From the spring/summer issue of Smart Luxury Travel magazine by ShermansTravel.com.

See our Alaska Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.

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