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Alaska Cruises: Your Comprehensive Guide

As one of the most beautiful places in the world, Alaska offers a perfect escape into the Last Frontier. With most of the noteworthy destinations being ruggedly remote, the best way to traverse the landscape is through Alaska cruises.

Through this marvelous form of travel, visitors can enjoy cruises to Alaska do not need to sacrifice luxury and comfort while cruising on their ship. So make sure to grab one of my free cruise planners and get comfortable, because we are going to dive into all the things you need to know!

Alaska cruise guide

When is the Season for Alaska Cruises?

Cruise lines most consistently visit Alaska on their best Alaska cruises between the months of late April to mid-September. This means that it can be difficult to narrow down your choices as many cruise lines have dozens of itineraries operating a month in season.

With so many must-see spots in Alaska, the most popular months for cruises to Alaska are July and August. This is when the temperatures are the highest and most enjoyable with sunnier days.

If you were hoping to see the northern lights, try to book an Alaska cruise later in the season around late September. While this spectacle may be seen from multiple ports of call, watch out for deals through the cruise lines offering Aurora Borealis viewing experiences.

How is the Weather on Alaska Cruises?

While spring, summer, and early fall on an Alaska cruise can be fabulous, you should always come prepared.

This means you should definitely dress in layers to have the best Alaskan cruise. Mornings and nights can be quite chilly (in the 40s and 50s), however, mid-day when the sun is at its best can bring the high 70s and low 80s.

It also rains a lot in Alaska, so make sure to bring your best rain jacket and umbrella. When I went on my Alaskan cruise, I forgot my umbrella and instantly regretted it as, while my body was protected, my face and shoes became soaked. Thus, some waterproof shoes should be included in some of your Alaska cruise outfits, whether hiking shoes or rain boots.

cruise to Alaska

How Do I Plan an Alaska Cruise?

If you have never been on a cruise before, you may have some questions about the logistics and how to plan your cruise.

First, you will want to get an idea of what your must-see attractions are. Most Alaska cruises follow the popular itineraries of the Inside Passage, Gulf of Alaska, or even longer sailings from the west coast.

After you determine the itinerary you would like, then you need to focus on a specific cruise line for the best Alaska cruise ever. Each cruise line offers a unique experience for every type of cruiser. Then, you can select a date with that perfect cruise line and itinerary to book and mark in your calendar!

I highly recommend booking a balcony or higher stateroom with a trusted cruise travel agent as you will not regret waking up to the breathtaking Alaska cruise landscape from your own private balcony. Also, make sure to avoid the loudest staterooms onboard to completely relax on your Alaskan cruise.

Once booked, you will receive access to more booking options like onboard packages, shore excursions, and stateroom upgrades. I highly suggest taking advantage of these pre-travel opportunities to have your vacation planned out before you leave!

cruise port Juneau Alaska

What are the Different Alaska Itineraries?

My first cruise to Alaska started in Seattle and went up the western Canadian coast, eventually bringing me through the inside passage. I was traveling with a group of over 20 people, so it made sense financially to start in the continental United States.

Our cruise was through the Norwegian Cruise Line and was 7 nights. For us, that was perfect, however, others may be looking for a shorter or longer experience spending more time in the Last Frontier. While that particular cruise was through a popular cruise line, there are ships running throughout the season sailing a variety of itineraries with their version of the best Alaska cruise.

cruise to Alaska

Inside Passage

By far the most popular itinerary for Alaska cruises in the inside passage. Itineraries typically leave out of either Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, British Columbia. If you are looking to start your Alaska cruise in Alaska, there are some inside passage cruises leaving from Juneau.

The history behind this unique water passage is quite interesting. Glacial ice carved the inside passage a long time ago, and today, cruise ships and other fishing boats zig-zag through the islets and channels to witness some of the most fascinating natural sights in the world.

Reasons to Cruise the Inside Passage

Nature lovers, sports enthusiasts, and those who would just love to relax will fall in love with this itinerary. They all head out on Alaskan cruises for fishing charters, bird and bear-watching trips, seas kayaking expeditions, glacier hiking, and much more!

Book a stateroom overlooking Alaska's magnificent mountains (often snow-capped even in the summer), waterfalls, lush forests, fjords, and calving glaciers. If you are looking for marine wildlife, you are in luck. On my shorter, 7-night cruise, I saw an abundance of whales, porpoises, sea lions, dolphins, and harbor seals. When in port, you can spot bears, Dall sheep, eagles, puffins, and countless other seabird species.

Shore excursions and onboard lectures are a must-do as they will overview the rich history of Alaska. You will want to learn about the cultures of the indigenous people of Alaska on your Alaskan cruise and about more recent inhabitants. This includes the Russian community in Sitka and the gold-seekers who moved to Skagway during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s.

Inside Passage Ports

The most popular inside passage ports are Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, Juneau, Haines, Petersburg, and Skagway. Most Alaskan cruises also pass by the famous sights of Glacier Bay National Park, Dawes Glacier, and Endicott Arm.

A perk of Alaska cruises traversing the inside passage is calm waters. If you are prone to seasickness, this may be the itinerary for you, versus one that transits over open, rougher waters.

Gulf of Alaska

Gulf of Alaska

If you are looking for a little more than just exploring the Inside Passage, I highly suggest booking a Gulf of Alaska cruise. This way, you will enjoy parts of the Inside Passage and its ports while hitting other, less-visited cruise destinations to the north.

In general, these one-way itineraries depart from Anchorage (Seward) or Anchorage (Whittier) and end in Vancouver (or vice versa). Many of these sailings are seven nights, however, it should not be difficult to find ones longer.

Reasons to Cruise the Gulf of Alaska

You will have up to two days at sea perfect for scenic cruising as you enjoy the views of the landscape passing by. This may sound boring at first, however, these days at sea are completely different from others, as you will see some incredible sites. These include Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.

The Gulf of Alaska sailings can experience rough waters in the Gulf of Alaska section of the voyage. This is especially prevalent in late August and September, so that may be something to keep in mind if you are prone to seasickness.

Alaska cruise

Longer Alaska Cruises from the West Coast

Finally, if you are looking for a longer cruise, there are some cruises leaving out of San Francisco. Usually 10 nights long, these round-trip itineraries are best suited for cruises who love days at sea.

You will typically have four days at sea (two from San Francisco to Juneau) with another day of scenic cruising when on a Alaskan cruise. The waters before entering the Inside Passage can be rough or calm, it really depends on when you go.

The ports of these longer cruises are typically Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria, British Columbia.

Land and Sea Cruise-tours

On an Alaska cruise, you can expect to journey along the state's southeastern coast aboard your cruise ship. However, if you are looking to spend more time exploring inland, you may want to consider extending your Alaska itinerary with a cruise tour.

Many cruise lines like Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line offer these itineraries. These options were created by popular demand as you can combine a simple 7-night Alaskan cruise with an exhilarating land tour. These are typically booked through the cruise line where you can stay in authentic lodges and travel remote roads in motor coach.

Most of these Land and Sea Cruise-tours are guided by locals. This means you will get to know the land and culture with deep connections to the local communities.

small cruise sailing by cliff

Small Ship vs. Large Cruise Ship

Alaska's jaw-dropping glaciers, charismatic wildlife, and serene landscapes await. But before you sail, there's a significant decision ahead: do you opt for an intimate small ship or go big with a large cruise ship? It's a bit like choosing between a cozy bed & breakfast and a grand resort. Both offer unique experiences, and the best choice boils down to what you want from your Alaskan journey. Let's dive deep, weigh the pros and cons, and help you decide!

Small Ship Cruising to Alaska

Feel the pulse of the wild, up-close and personal.

Pros:

  1. Intimacy: Small ship cruising expeditions typically host fewer passengers, fostering a close-knit, community feel. You'll likely know most crew members and fellow travelers by the end of your journey.
  2. Access to Remote Areas: Navigating Alaska's secluded bays, inlets, and narrow passages is a breeze for smaller vessels. It's akin to trekking off-the-beaten-path vs. strolling in a popular park.
  3. Focused Experiences: Many small ships emphasize immersive experiences, offering onboard naturalists, cultural experts, and specialized excursions that dig deep into Alaska's natural and cultural richness.
  4. Minimal Crowds: Fewer passengers mean quicker disembarkations, less crowded excursions, and more serene moments in nature.

Cons:

  1. Fewer Amenities: Smaller ships might lack multiple dining options, spas, or extensive entertainment venues.
  2. Cost: Small ship cruises, given their specialized nature, often come with a heftier price tag.
  3. Less Variety: With limited space, entertainment, activities, and excursion choices might be less varied compared to large ships.
month long cruises

Large Cruise Ship to Alaska

Experience Alaska with all the bells and whistles.

Pros:

  1. Abundant Amenities: Large ships are practically floating cities! Multiple restaurants, entertainment shows, pools, gyms, and more - there's never a dull moment.
  2. Diverse Audience: Larger ships cater to a broad demographic, from kids to seniors. Whether you're a family, couple, or solo traveler, there's something for everyone.
  3. Budget Options: Economies of scale often mean that larger ships can offer more budget-friendly options.
  4. Varied Excursions: With a more extensive clientele to cater to, expect a wide range of shore excursions, from family-friendly to adventure-packed.

Cons:

  1. Impersonal Experience: With thousands of passengers, it's easy to feel like just another face in the crowd.
  2. Limited Access: Some of Alaska's intimate ports or narrow inlets might be off-limits for these behemoths.
  3. Crowds: Popular excursions can fill up quickly, and disembarkations can feel crowded.

The Verdict?

It's all about what you're seeking! Yearn for a quiet, intimate experience with nature? Small ship might be your vibe. Prefer a wide array of choices and love the buzz of activity? A large ship may float your boat. Whatever you pick, Alaska promises to leave you spellbound. Here's to icy adventures and warm memories! 

Alaskan cruises

Types of Alaska Cruise Lines

No matter what cruising experience you are looking for, I guarantee you will find it in Alaska. Nearly every cruise line has voyages heading up to Alaska, from 3-day weekend trips to 180-day world cruises.

There are plenty of Alaska cruise deals available for eager cruisers booking through a travel agent or directly with the cruise line. Make sure to research diligently to find the best Alaska cruise for you!

Mainstream and Family Cruise Lines for Alaska Cruises

Just about all the main cruise lines offer sailings to Alaska's scenic shores.

  1. Royal Caribbean International -- Royal Caribbean offers spectacular itineraries up to the Last Frontier at extraordinarily low prices. With prices as low as $500 for a 7-night Alaskan cruise, this cruise line offers amenities for all types of cruisers-- from toddlers to bingo enthusiasts.
  2. Norwegian Cruise Line -- Norwegian (NCL) offers unique itineraries visiting the icy fjords and frozen wilderness. If you are looking to spend more time on land, check out their Alaskan Cruisetours! NCL prioritizes Alaska cruises sending their two popular ships - Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore - out every summer!
  3. Disney Cruise Line -- Disney Cruise Line offers outdoor adventures and picturesque scenery on their Alaska cruises. This is the perfect cruise line to choose if you are traveling with little ones! They will fall in love with the Last Frontier with an immersive Disney experience.
  4. Celebrity Cruises -- Celebrity Cruises offer their passengers a slightly more luxurious experience tailored to each guests' dream Alaska cruise. This cruise line is popular for their Alaska Cruisetours as well, spanning from 9 to 13 nights. Three award-winning ships will take you to Alaska: Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Millennium, and Celebrity Solstice.
  5. Carnival Cruise Line -- Carnival offers affordable Alaska cruises for the average cruise enthusiast. Their popular cruise ports include Ketchikan, Skagway, and Juneau. They offer some longer West Coast cruises from San Francisco as well.

Small Cruise Lines and Expedition Sailings to Alaska

Active travelers may be searching for expedition-style voyages or Alaska cruises on a smaller ship to enjoy more time in port.

  1. Uncruise Adventures -- Uncruise Adventures operates smaller ship expeditions on an Alaskan cruise focusing on culture, wildlife, and active participation. Their fleet of small ships varies from 22-passengers to 84-passengers. Excursions are also included in the fair.
  2. Silversea -- Silversea offers stylish yet intimate Alaska cruises. You will fall in love with their new Silver Muse ship offering a spot for 596 guests in suites with butler services. These itineraries range from 7 to 11 days with extensive exploration opportunities.
  3. Seabourn -- Seabourn combines personalized Alaska cruises with ultra-luxury, perfect for navigating the pristine waterways. The best part of Seabourn is the marine biologist, geologist, photographer, and other experts on board ready to assist or answer any questions you may have.
  4. Regent Seven Seas -- Seven Seas Mariner returns for Alaska cruises every summer. This cruise line is world-renowned for its combination of comfortable suite living and excellent dining services. They offer a perfect 7-day itinerary with personalized day-trips into port.
  5. Holland America -- Holland prides itself on its 75-year history of Alaskan cruises. They consistently rank as the best Alaska cruise because of their superior experience and knowledge of the best itineraries. Holland cruises by artic-blue glaciers and marine wildlife hitting those must-see attractions in Alaska.
Alaskan cruises

Top Ports for Alaska Cruises

No matter which cruise line and itinerary you ultimately decide on, you will likely visit a mix of these popular ports. Many cruises to Alaska feature fabulous ports of call that are consistent with most itineraries.

Like Caribbean cruise ports, these ports cater to the Alaskan cruise market. If you are looking for more than touristy attractions and activities, make sure to get out of the main port area and explore the most scenic excursions on Alaska cruise itineraries.

Ketchikan Alaska cruises

Ketchikan, Alaska

This Alaska cruise port is known as the "salmon capital of the world". You may have also heard of this authentic Alaskan town popular for Native Alaskan totem poles and the Misty Fjords National Monument. In fact, Ketchikan is home to more standing totem poles than anywhere else in the state.

What to do in Ketchikan:

The main draws include excursions to Saxman Native Village to learn about the totem poles in the area or The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. The show is staged within walking distance of the cruise port and it’s the place to see athletes wielding axes and saws in traditional lumbering activities.

Kayak or cruise tours of Misty Fjords are incredibly popular in Ketchikan as well. You can also sightsee by floatplane or city trolley, bear-watch, fish ( salmon and halibut), hike through a rainforest, and try active adventures like a canoe safari, Zodiac expedition, zip-lining. You can even snorkel in the cool waters at Mountain Point, or take it easy with a pub crawl downtown to enjoy the tasty local brews and socialize with locals.

Related: What to Do in Ketchikan, Alaska

Skagway Alaskan cruises

Skagway, Alaska

This is a great stop on Alaska cruises to learn about the state's rich Gold Rush history. Located around 90 miles northwest of Juneau, this port has a lot of excursions and activities for cruisers to enjoy. Skagway is known as the gateway to the Dawson and Klondike mining district in Canada's Yukon Territory. This port can be quite crowded during the busy summer months when several ships are docked during the same day.

What to do in Skagway:

You can easily walk from the cruise port into town and explore on your own or book a guided shore excursion. Tours include panning for gold, a snowshoeing expedition, and rides on the White Pass Rail.

You can also visit a waterfall, hike the Chilkoot Trail, explore Glacier Point by ATV, helicopter flight-see the area’s glaciers, or rock climb. If you didn’t get to enjoy a dogsled experience yet, do it in Skagway. And if you just want to see the city sights, take the Skagway Street Car City Tour.

Related: What to Do in Skagway, Alaska

cruising to Alaska Juneau

Juneau, Alaska

As Alaska's capital city, Juneau is unique in that it has no roads leading from the rest of the state into the city. Located at the base of Mount Juneau, this cruise port can only be accessed via the water. Talking with locals, you will quickly realize that everything, including their cars, has to be brought in via ferry. This port is home to the famous Mendenhall Glacier, a popular spot for a unique shore excursion.

What to do in Juneau:

Look for kayak and bike adventures, a ride in the sky on the Mount Roberts Tramway (the pickup point is right at the cruise port), and wildlife-viewing trips (whale, bears, and more) while in Juneau. Juneau Food Tours are a popular option for you to explore while in port. Get to know the state capital's lively food scene with an in-depth tour of the city's most delicious food offerings.

Fishing outings and glacier visits (Mendenhall, Taku, and Tracy Arm Fjord) are also popular in Juneau. Even fun culinary trips such as an Alaska salmon bake or a craft beer tasting are popular in this port. You can go to a dogsled camp, pan for gold, or take a helicopter and land on Mendenhall Glacier as well.

Related: What to Do in Juneau, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska cruising

Sitka, Alaska

Located on Baranof Island on the outside coast of the Inside Passage, Sitka is a popular cruise port visited on Alaska cruises. As the former capital of Russian America, Sitka offers colorful heritage throughout the town for cruisers to explore extensively during their day in port.

What to do in Sitka:

Head into the heart of Sitka to the town's gorgeous onion-domed St. Michael's Cathedral. This beautiful cathedral is a must-see attraction on your Alaskan cruise when you go into port. Another popular attraction in Sitka is the neighboring restored Russian Bishop's House. On the edge of town you will find the Sitka National Historical Park boasting over 100 acres of striking totem poles contrasting against the Alaskan pines.

While in other ports you will more than likely notice the influx of jewelry shops, Sitka offers a completely different experience. Watch out for artisan handicrafts like homemade foods and herbal soaps while strolling through the streets of Sitka during your Alaskan cruise.

Related: Sitka Alaska Cruise Port30+ Things to Do in Sitka

Top cruising ports of Alaska cruises

Top Cruise-by Ports on a Alaskan Cruise

If you are planning to go on an Alaskan cruise, you can more than likely expect to have a couple days at sea cruising by some of the state's top natural wonders. This alone is reason enough to splurge on that balcony cabin you have been debating about as you can sip on your morning coffee while watching whales and glaciers pass by.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay National Park

While there may not be a dock or really a port, Glacier Bay National Park will more than likely be the highlight of your entire Alaska cruise.

This expansive bay offers a front-row seat for passengers to observe how to earth has evolved in a relatively short amount of time. Some of the ginormous glaciers found here have retreated nearly 40 miles since their engulfment of the bay a mere 250 years ago.

Most cruise lines running Alaska cruises will spend the majority of their time sailing to and stopping at Marjorie Glacier, located 55 miles into the National Park. While you will totally fall in love with the park's glaciers, you may also get the chance to see mountain goats and brown bears along the shoreline. Also keep your eye out for migrating humpback whales-- especially near the mouth of the bay.

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard is the largest glacier visited by cruise ships on Alaska cruises offering large vistas and big icebergs.

 As an impressive natural wonder, this glacier is 6 miles wide with a 400-foot tall face. These facts combined with the brilliant blue ice will have you watching in awe as you inch towards Hubbard Glacier. If you are lucky enough to visit on a good, clear day, you will be able to get within 1/2 miles of the face.

Even if your ship doesn't get this close, your experience onboard Alaska cruises will be remarkable! This glacier is located in Disenchantment Bay found near the outer Alaskan coast town of Yakutat.

Dawes Glacier Cruise

Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier

One of the top cruise-by ports frequented by Alaskan cruises is the 32-mile-long fjord known as Endicott Arm. Located at the beginning of this magnificent fjord is the majestic Dawes Glacier shown in the image above.

The steep walls found along the Endicott arm rise up to 1,000 feet from the depths of the icy water to heights of over 3,000 feet above the water. Dawes Glacier is one of Alaska's gorgeous tidewater glaciers-- meaning a glacier that drops directly into the sea.

Endicott Arm is an exciting wildlife destination, home to migrating humpback whales, climbing mountain goats, and soaring bald eagles. Most cruise lines offer an in-depth history seminar during the day of this important cruise-by port, highlighted by John Muir's exploration in the 1880s.

Tracy Arm

Tracy Arm

Located a mere fifty miles south of Alaska's capital of Juneau, Tracy Arm is a long, narrow fjord popular on most Alaskan cruises.

While the glaciers found at Tracy Arm aren't the largest, they extend deep under water-- placing extreme pressure on the glacier ice. This process squeezes out the majority of air pockets and fractures resulting in a beautiful cobalt blue look.

Tracy Arm is almost a half-mile in width, creating an illusion of the area's relatively small glaciers looking massive! The narrowness of the access route getting to Tracy Arm is also quite striking. Ships frequently visit this cruise-by port on Alaska cruises  and navigate these zig-zag waterways through S-Turns around 3,000-foot high cliffsides.

Ketchikan Lumberjack Show

Alaska's Rich Culture and History

Alaska, renowned for its icy landscapes and wildlife wonders, is equally rich in human heritage. As you prepare to set sail on your Alaskan adventure, let’s embark on a voyage through time and learn about the tapestry of cultures, traditions, and historical events that have shaped this captivating region.

The First Alaskans: Indigenous Roots

  • Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian: Native to the southeastern Alaskan coast, these tribes are known for their totem poles, rich oral histories, and artistic expressions. Their vibrant ceremonies, dances, and songs offer a glimpse into their profound connection to the land and sea.
  • Inuit & Yupik: Inhabitants of the icy Arctic regions, their culture has been intricately shaped by the extreme cold. From intricately carved ivory artifacts to the famed igloos, their resourcefulness is awe-inspiring.

Russian Footprints: The Tsarist Era

  • Russian Orthodox Churches: Even as you explore small Alaskan towns, you might stumble upon these historic churches with their distinctive onion domes. They stand as a testament to Russian colonization in the 18th century.
  • Fur Trade: Russian voyagers were lured by the promise of rich fur resources, leading to settlements and trading posts. Remember the name 'Vitus Bering'? His expeditions paved the way for Russian endeavors in Alaska.

The American Acquisition: Seward's Folly

  • The $7.2 Million Deal: Many raised eyebrows when Secretary of State William H. Seward purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. Dubbed "Seward's Folly," this decision later proved to be incredibly valuable when gold was discovered.
  • The Gold Rush: Speaking of gold, the late 1800s and early 1900s saw a rush of prospectors, adventurers, and dreamers hoping to strike it rich. Towns like Skagway and Juneau have deep-rooted histories connected to these gold-hungry times.

Traditions & Festivities: Celebrating the Alaskan Way

  • Iditarod Dog Sled Race: Stemming from the vital role dog sledding played in Alaskan livelihoods, this annual race from Anchorage to Nome tests endurance and celebrates heritage.
  • Whale Festivals: As spring begins and whales migrate, towns like Sitka come alive with celebrations, combining indigenous traditions with modern festivities.
  • Slavic Influence: Don't be surprised if you come across the Russian-inspired dance and traditional foods, a nod to Alaska's Russian past.

Modern Day Alaska: The Last Frontier

  • As you explore modern towns and cities, observe the blend of native traditions with contemporary influences. From art galleries showcasing indigenous art to thriving seafood industries, the spirit of Alaska remains deeply rooted in its history.
Southeast Alaska Discovery Center Ketchikan Alaska

The Wild Wonders During an Alaskan Cruise

Hello nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers! If your camera roll is dominated by sunset snaps, mountain peaks, and random animal sightings, an Alaskan cruise is your dream come true. As you sail through the icy waters and navigate between majestic glaciers, prepare to be enthralled by the untouched wilderness and the creatures that call it home. Let’s dive into the marvelous world of Alaskan nature and wildlife.

Marine Giants Beneath Your Feet:

  • Whales: From the orca’s striking black and white patterns to the humpback whales’ acrobatics, Alaska’s waters are teeming with these gentle giants. Time your cruise right, and you might witness their mesmerizing bubble-net feeding!
  • Dolphins and Porpoises: Look out for the playful Dall’s porpoises, known for their speed and agility, riding the wake of your ship.
  • Seals & Sea Lions: Watch them sunbathe on buoys or ice floes. Their loud barks and curious stares are endearing to say the least.

Coastal Critters & Furry Friends:

  • Bears: Ah, the Alaskan biggies! Both black and brown (grizzly) bears can be spotted, especially when salmon are running upstream. Be bear-aware when on shore excursions!
  • Moose & Caribou: These majestic herbivores are a sight to behold, grazing gracefully along the coasts.
  • Mountain Goats: Their white coats stand out against the rugged mountainsides they scale with surprising ease.

Avian Wonders in the Alaskan Skies:

  • Eagles: The iconic bald eagle is a frequent sight, soaring majestically above, or perched high scanning the waters for fish.
  • Puffins: These adorable 'sea parrots' with their colorful beaks and waddling gait are often found nesting in cliff colonies.
  • Ravens and Owls: Keep an ear out for the distinct calls of these mystical birds, integral to native folklore.

Everchanging Landscapes & Natural Phenomena:

  • Glaciers: Calving glaciers are Alaska’s thunderous applause to Mother Nature. When chunks of ice break and crash into the ocean below, it's both a visual and auditory spectacle.
  • Midnight Sun & Northern Lights: Depending on when you sail, experience the eerie beauty of the sun at midnight or the ethereal dance of the Northern Lights.
  • Flora: While fauna often steals the spotlight, Alaska's flora is equally mesmerizing. From vibrant fireweed fields to ancient rainforests, there's a diverse array of vegetation waiting to be admired.

FAQ: All About Alaska Cruises

When is the best time to go on an Alaskan cruise?

  • The Alaska cruise season runs from late April to September, with the warmest months being June to August. For those hoping to catch the Northern Lights, late September might offer a glimpse.

Which cruise lines operate in Alaska?

  • Several major cruise lines operate in Alaska, including Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America, and Celebrity Cruises, among others.

How long is a typical Alaskan cruise?

  • Most cruises are 7 days long, though there are options ranging from 4-day mini cruises to extended 14-day voyages.

What is the Inside Passage?

  • The Inside Passage is a coastal route that cruises take, offering sheltered waters and scenic views of islands, fjords, and glaciers. It stretches from Vancouver to Juneau.

What should I pack for an Alaskan cruise?

  • Layers are crucial due to varying temperatures. Bring waterproof and warm clothing, comfortable walking shoes, binoculars for wildlife viewing, and a camera.

Is seasickness common on Alaska cruises?

  • The Inside Passage offers calmer waters, reducing the likelihood of seasickness. However, those prone to it should take precautions.

What wildlife can I expect to see?

  • Common sightings include humpback whales, orcas, bald eagles, sea lions, and sometimes bears along the shorelines.

Is it necessary to have a passport for an Alaska cruise?

  • If the cruise starts or ends in a foreign port (like Vancouver), a passport is required. However, if it's a closed-loop cruise (starting and ending in the U.S.), other forms of ID may suffice. Always check with your cruise line.

Are there kid-friendly activities on board?

  • Yes, most major cruise lines offer a range of kid-friendly activities, from onboard entertainment to age-appropriate excursions.

Do I need travel insurance for an Alaska cruise?

  • While not mandatory, travel insurance is highly recommended for any cruise, ensuring coverage for unexpected medical issues, trip interruptions, or cancellations.

Can I stay connected while on the cruise?

  • Most ships offer Wi-Fi (often at an additional cost). However, service may be intermittent or slower in remote areas.

What's the food like on an Alaskan cruise?

  • Cruises offer a wide variety of cuisine, but when in Alaska, expect fresh seafood specialties like salmon, halibut, and king crab.

Are there any unique cultural experiences onboard or at ports?

  • Yes, many cruises offer onboard lectures about Alaska's history and culture. At ports, visitors can experience native Tlingit culture, visit historical sites, and more.

What's the difference between large ship cruises and small ship cruises in Alaska?

  • Large ships offer a plethora of amenities and entertainment but might be limited to major ports. Small ships can access more remote areas, offering intimate and immersive experiences, though with fewer onboard amenities.

What types of onboard accommodations can I expect?

  • Depending on the cruise line and ship, you'll find a range of options from inside cabins to suites with private balconies. Typically, ocean-view rooms, suites, and rooms with balconies provide the best views of the Alaskan scenery.

How can I get the best deal on an Alaskan cruise?

  • Booking well in advance or looking for last-minute deals can be advantageous. Additionally, consider traveling during the shoulder season (early May or September) for potentially lower rates.

Are shore excursions included in the cruise fare?

  • Typically, shore excursions come at an additional cost. Some luxury cruises might offer them as part of the package, but it's always good to check the specifics with your chosen cruise line.

Do I need to tip on board?

  • Gratuity policies vary by cruise line. Some include gratuities in the fare, while others add it to your onboard account or leave it to the discretion of the passenger.

Is the water safe to drink on the ship?

  • Yes, all major cruise ships have stringent water purification systems in place. You can safely drink water from taps in your cabin or at any of the ship's restaurants and bars.

Can I cruise to Alaska outside of the regular season?

  • The majority of cruises operate between late April and September, given the region's weather conditions. It's rare to find cruises outside of these months due to potential harsh weather and limited daylight.

Are there any themed cruises in Alaska?

  • Yes, some cruise lines offer themed cruises, like photography, wildlife, culinary experiences, or even family-centered themes, enhancing the voyage with specialized activities and workshops.

How can I be environmentally responsible while cruising in Alaska?

  • Choose cruise lines that practice sustainable tourism, reduce waste by minimizing single-use plastics, and follow all guidelines while on shore excursions. Respect wildlife and their habitats and support local communities by shopping local.

Can I extend my stay in Alaska post-cruise?

  • Absolutely! Many cruisers choose to extend their Alaskan adventure with land tours or independent stays, exploring deeper into the state's national parks or interior regions.

What medical facilities are available onboard?

  • Most cruise ships are equipped with medical clinics that can handle minor injuries or illnesses. For serious medical issues, emergency evacuations can be arranged. It's advisable to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies.

Do I need to bring cash onboard?

  • While most expenses onboard can be charged to your room account, which you'll settle at the end of the cruise, it's a good idea to carry a small amount of cash for tipping or spending at smaller ports where cards may not be accepted.

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24 Comments

  1. Alaska looks so beautiful! I am definitely looking to go in the near future. I also heard Alaskan cruises are amazing and this is so helpful Great article. 🙂

    1. Taking an alaskan cruise has been on my bucket list for YEARS! I hope to still be able to go once we have a better handle on the pandemic 🙂 Thank you for these tips!

  2. I would love love loooooove to visit Alaska! The pandemic has made me pretty wary of all cruises, but once things are really safe again, I would really like to see these gorgeous views. Now I know to come to you when I need all the details. 🙂

  3. My sister went on a cruise in Alaska and she loved it. I don’t like the cold but she said it wasn’t as cold as you think. Thank you for sharing this. Its’ on my bucket list! I’m saving it for later.

    1. I went on my Alaskan cruise in the summer so I thought it was not super hot, but comfortable during my trip! You should totally book an Alaskan cruise when it is safe to cruise again 🙂

    1. The inside passage was amazing. Lots of scenic sailing that I loved watching on my cruise balcony with my morning coffee 🙂

  4. Alaska is a bucket list destination for me. My best friend used to work on Uncruise ships in Alaska and all her photos just made me dream of visiting, love that you included them in your list!

    1. That’s so cool! I’m sure your friend has some crazy stories about her time onboard 🙂 Definitely make sure to add an Alaskan cruise to your bucket list!

    1. I know I love sticking to the bigger cruise lines but have met plenty of travelers looking for a more personalized experience! I have heard great things about Uncruise 🙂

  5. Alaska is such an original destination! I would love to visit but never realized a cruise could be a great way to discover it! Thanks for sharing all the details!

    1. With all the glaciers and cool islands off the coast of Alaska, an Alaskan cruise is the perfect way to explore this northern state! I highly suggest checking out some of the Inside Passage itineraries if you have never visited Alaska before 🙂

  6. I have always wanted to do an Alaskan cruise and now I feel like I am so much better informed about which option would be best for me.

  7. Alaska looks like such a stunning destination! It’s somewhere I’d absolutely love to visit and a cruise looks like a fantastic way to see the state! Thanks so much for the great guide!

  8. I’m not a huge cruise girl, but I do love Alaska! We visited Fairbanks and Anchorage a few years ago, but we want to go back to see Ketchikan and some of the other places on the ocean!

  9. You have captured the beauty of Alaska through the pictures quite professionally. I will love to take land and sea cruise tours and for this, the Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line sound interesting.

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