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So much to explore

Of all our friends who have taken Alaskan cruises, the one on Cruise West sounds like the best.  The ship is small in comparison to the behemoth cruise ships, and the emphasis is on seeing and learning, not the cruise ship experience.
The only person advice I can offer on Alaska is a little off beat.  Our son spent a summer working for the National Park Service in Kotzebue, Alaska, during the summer of 2000.  Believe it or not, Alaska Airlines flies a 727 to this very remote place north of the Arctic Circle.  On its return, it also stops in Nome.  You can use your American Airlines mile, if you like -- and not many of them, since this is a domestic US trip -- and do what I did, fly to Kotzebue via a connecting flight in Anchorage.  There is only one hotel in town.  Through it, you can arrange for a day-long tour of Inuit (Eskimo) life.  The best time to be there is when the ice floes are breaking from the river and heading out to the Bering Sea.  There is a kind of raw beauty to the tundra, but it is too far north for trees to grow, so the views are desolate.
Here is the hotel information from the 2002 Frommer's Guide:
Location Shore Ave. and Tundra Way (P.O. Box 336), Around Town
Phone 907/442-3331, 907/442-3340
Fax 907/442-3340
Room Information 73 units
Prices High season $149 double. Low season $121 double
Credit Cards AE, DC, DISC, MC, V
In Room Amenities TV, telephone

Frommer's Favorite Nullagvik Hotel

The NANA-owned hotel is thoughtfully designed and comfortably furnished. The clean, up-to-date rooms have all the features of a good chain hotel. Their windows angle out from the building so that all get at least some ocean view. It can be startling to see Eskimo women wearing summer parkas called kuspuks cleaning in the halls; they certainly do a thorough job. By booking with an Alaska Airlines Vacations package, you save considerable money on stays here.

The restaurant is clean and nicely decorated, with a good view and flowers on the table. Certainly it is the best in town. Reindeer steak and Arctic salmon are on the menu for the tourists. Locals are more likely to come in for the popular Sunday breakfast, or order the less expensive sandwiches and beef for lunch. It is closed October through mid-May.


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