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Cruise into Alaska with a screaming deal

Have an Alaskan wilderness adventure with this cruise package that takes you to Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and British Columbia's Victoria.
/ Source: ARTHUR FROMMER'S BUDGET TRAVEL

The Real Deal: Seven nights' accommodations aboard a cruise ship, all meals, and a $75 onboard credit, from $699 per person — plus taxes and fees of about $177.

When: Depart on May 18, 2008; add $10 for May 11; $30 for June 1; $41 for May 25; additional departure dates available from May 4-Sept. 14.

The fine print: Based on departures from Seattle. The starting rate includes accommodations in an interior cabin and all meals. Note that the onboard credit amount depends on the per-person cruise rate and can range from $25 to $650 per cabin (the $699 rate qualifies for a credit of $75 per cabin). The credit can be redeemed for onboard dining, spa treatments, shopping purchases, soda, alcoholic beverages, or for shore excursions. Taxes are an additional $128 per person, and fuel surcharges are an extra $49 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $679. Airfare is not included. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: April 13, 2008 to qualify for the onboard credit.

Contact: American Discount Cruises, 866/214-7447, americandiscountcruises.com.

Why it's a deal: Consider that the $699 price tag breaks down to about $100 per night and covers seven nights' accommodations, all meals, and the onboard credit of $75 per cabin. When we did a cruise search on Kayak, the lowest rate for a seven-night Alaskan cruise in May with the same stops was this same voyage on Norwegian Cruise Line, also priced at $699.

Trip details: The Norwegian Cruise Line package includes seven nights aboard the Norwegian Pearl, which features a wide array of facilities such as pools, a rock-climbing wall, a bowling alley, and golf driving nets. Dining and entertainment options include 12 restaurants and 11 bars and lounges. The starting rate is valid for interior cabin accommodations. Upgrades start from $130 per person for an ocean-view cabin; add $670 per person for a room with a balcony; add $900 per person for a suite.

You'll cruise along Alaska's Inside Passage, stopping in Juneau and Skagway. Then you'll continue along Glacier Bay to Ketchikan and Victoria, B.C., before returning to Seattle.

While guided tours are not included in the price, there are plenty of optional excursions you can add to your package. A few to try: glacier-view sea kayaking ($98 per person for about three hours) or river rafting in the Mendenhall Valley ($115 per person for three hours), both in Juneau; an undersea tour in Ketchikan ($55 per person for 90 minutes), or a Yukon horseback adventure in Skagway ($179 per person for six hours).

You can extend your stay in Seattle with a pre- or post-cruise package, which range from $99 for one night at one of Seattle's Doubletree properties to $499 for three nights at the Sheraton.

For more tips on what to do in the area, visit the official Web site of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. You can find the latest exchange rate and the local time at BudgetTravel.com.

Visiting Alaska during the transitional month of May is becoming more popular, as it's just before the peak summer season begins. In other words, the temperatures are relatively high, while the prices and crowds still run low. Before you go, check the weather forecast.

Getting there: A recent search on Kayak yielded the following lowest round-trip fares to Seattle in mid-May (departing on May 17 and returning on May 26): $183 from L.A. (Virgin), $260 from Chicago (Frontier), $276 from Houston (United), $300 from New York City (United), and $415 from Miami (multiple carriers).