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Another mode of travel popular in the Pacific Northwest is ships, with Alaska summer cruises heading out from Seattle and Vancouver. RSVP, for example, offers its 2013 summer Alaska cruise out of Seattle, July 21 to 28, hitting Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. Matt Bamford, a former D.C. denizen and Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2010, knows these ports well, as he spent years working in the tourist industry in Alaska's Denali National Park.
''Juneau is the capital, it's bustling,'' says Bamford. ''The Alaskan Brewing Co. brewery is at the base of one of the glaciers, and they use the glacier water. The Alaskan Brewing Co. Depot is just a couple blocks off the waterfront, a must-do.
''Ketchikan is more of an escape, a little more rural and rustic. Sitka is a happy medium. One of the fun things is Fortress of the Bear. You get to interact with bears. It's a rehabilitation center.''
Back at the southern end of the greater Pacific Northwest, Christian, Joyce and Robinson all sum Vancouver in a word: international. Or, in Joyce's case, ''überinternational''. Seattle's reputation is being a bit more urbane than its Oregon neighbor. Christian labels Portland ''granola hipster,'' and Robinson says those thinking about a visit should take Portlandia somewhat seriously.
''It's very accurate,'' she admits. ''I just found myself asking at a restaurant if the chicken was locally sourced.''
It probably was. Even with the crunchy quotient, Portland – at least in summer – is a breathtaking Eden, where on a clear day you can see the summits of Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier from downtown. Up in Vancouver, Christian points out that you can be in downtown one minute and hiking on Grouse Mountain the next – then end the day with fabulous gay nightlife. Seattle is no different, offering easy access to Olympic National Park and a thriving cultural core in the city. Add in a cruise to Alaska and the socially progressive Pacific Northwest makes an unbeatable summer destination.