Alaska is such a beautiful place to visit, and cruising, it’s a great way to explore it. Full of natural wonders, the northern State allows you to step into a different world. As we all lead busy lives, it is essential to see as much as we can and enjoy our time while we’re traveling.
Cruising allows you to do that. You can be on the ports of call exploring, discovering what each city has to offer, or you can stand on the deck, gazing at the wonders around you. Trust us, there truly isn’t a dull moment.
Places You'll Visit
Depending on the cruise you’ll be choosing, there are several ports of call that will let you experience the Alaskan culture.
Ketchikan - The salmon capital of the world
It is very picturesque, with many things to do on your port day. If you are more of an adventurous type, you can spend your day salmon fishing, hiking, or kayaking. Or if not you can walk in the historic downtown, enjoying the scenery.
Whatever you choose, you cannot miss Ketchikan’s former red-light district, Creek street. Today it is a famous shopping and entertainment area, where you can spend as much time as you please. While you’re Ketchikan, it is a must to see the Misty Fjords National Monument.
What’s unique about Ketchikan is that it is a focal point about learning about Alaskan culture through totem poles as symbolic icons. That’s something you shouldn’t miss!
Juneau is the state capital of Alaska, and guess what? It is inaccessible by car! So taking an Alaskan cruise is the best way to visit the capital.
Surrounded by rainforests, mountains, glaciers, inter-coastal waterways, it will allow you to have a wide range of options for your activities. Ride the Mount Robert tramway; visit the Mendenhall glacier – one of the most accessible glaciers in the world, view wildlife, and so much more.
The small town from the Gold Rush days. You can close your eyes and go back to the days of the Wild West. Alaskan cruise passengers today visit the town in search of souvenirs and memories.
When you are in Skagway, you don’t want to miss the train, the White Pass Yukon rail. It goes from Skagway all to the way into the Yukon. It’s one of the most beautiful scenic trains you can take.
How about something that will kick the adrenaline in? We recommend dog sledding! It will take sledding to a whole new level.
As the former capital of Russian America, it is what makes Sitka different from all the other Alaskan ports of call.
In Sitka, you can visit museums, go sea kayaking or even scuba diving! You can relax and spend your afternoon at Sitka National Historic Park. Historically speaking, Sitka is perhaps the wealthiest city in Alaska.
And it never ceases to amaze.
A city full of tradition and culture held by citizens that remain true to their heritage. Haines will definitely satisfy your visual desires. You can go kayaking, learn about eagles, or visit the Kroschel Center for Orphaned animals. But if you want to do something special, you can go bear-watching at twilight.
Which cruise line is best for Alaska?
Norwegian Cruise Line
If you decide to explore Alaska with the Norwegian Cruise Line, you’ll have the opportunity to see all sides of Alaska the same way locals see it.
You’ll get close to the frozen wilderness, see whales, wildlife, and breathtaking scenery, and with plenty of kids activities on board, it is perfect for the whole family.
With 5 ships currently sailing the Alaska area, Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Joy, and Norwegian Sun, you have plenty of itineraries to choose from.
For a more traditional experience, you can’t make a mistake by choosing Princess cruises. It sails from Vancouver, and unlike other cruise lines, its route includes Whittier, and it’s where it ends. It’s ideal if you’re planning on extending your stay on land, and for flight connections afterward.
However, Vancouver is not the only embarkation port, they also have cruises from Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Anchorage. With their Alaska Cruisetours, you’ll have the opportunity to combine your cruise with a land tour, with plenty of time to see and taste everything that Alaska has to offer.
As a premium cruise line and many years of experience of cruising to Alaska, if you decide to choose Holland America for your next Alaskan cruise, you’ll enjoy excellent service, a great combination of cruise itineraries, and land tours. With their mid-sized-ships, you’ll get to experience all of Alaska’s natural wonders up close.
Perfect for couples, families, and even larger groups, with magnificent staterooms, this cruise line is a natural choice for many cruisers when it comes to Alaska.
Providing luxury without the expensive price tag, Celebrity cruises offers so much, from culinary classes to wine tasting, spa perks, outdoor movies, and even lectures!
Celebrity sails from Seattle and different than the others is that is sails to stunning Victoria, British Colombia. You’ll get the chance to visit the famous Butchart Gardens or explore Bastion square.
Same as Princess, Celebrity cruises also have cruisetours that combine cruise and land tour. You’ll stay at authentic lodges and travel to more remote roads so you can get a truly feel of the 49th State.
Where do Alaska cruises leave from?
There are four ports that most Alaskan cruises depart from:
- Alaska cruise from Seattle
- Alaska cruise from Vancouver
- Alaska cruise from Seward
- Alaska cruise from Whittier
Other ports like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Juneau are used less frequently.
When traveling the Inside Passage, you can choose Seattle or Vancouver. There are some pros and cons you might consider when selecting the departure port. For example, if you get more seasick, then you might want to choose Vancouver because of the calmer water when sailing through the Inside Passage. You will also enjoy more scenery.
On the other side, you might want to consider Seattle if you enjoy more sea time or if you don’t want to deal with passport control, given that you’d only transfer through the port of Vancouver.
Most importantly, it would be best if you chose where to depart from according to the cruise itinerary, focusing on what you want to visit most.
Featured Alaska Cruise Itineraries
- 7 Night Alaska Glacier Bay, Norwegian Encore
On Norwegian Encore, Norwegian’s newest ship and part of the youngest fleet cruising Alaska, you can channel your inner explorer and experience the awe of gorgeous Alaska. The ships make a round trip from Seattle, visiting the ports of Juneau, Skagway, Alaska; Cruise Glacier Bay National Park; Ketchikan, and Victoria, British Columbia. A wide range of options are available for staterooms, from The Haven to Single Studios. There are also an immense number of dining choices and lively entertainment for all and sports.
- 7 Night Alaska Inside Passage, Majestic Princess
In cruising, Princess Cruises is a leading name and embarks on an extensive range of destinations. You can visit the tundra or see the natural scenery, take a dog sled trip or kick back in some hot springs! The social center of this Princess ship is the sparkling multi-story Atrium. There is a vast top-deck pool and revamped Under the Stars screen movies. You can also enjoy the Princess WaterColor Fantasy fountain and light show.
Best Alaskan Cruise for Couples
Alaska’s glaciers and natural beauty provide you and your beloved with a romantic atmosphere. For someone celebrating a milestone, such as an anniversary, significant birthday, or retirement, the customized service and all-inclusive quality of luxury voyages may be enticing.
For such luxury cruise itineraries, look at Oceania, Seven Seas Regent, Princess, Seabourn, Silversea, Viking Ocean, and Windstar Cruise Lines. Many of them also offer honeymoon packages, an excellent way to celebrate your new journey.
Best Alaskan Cruise for Families
A cruise to Alaska should be on every family’s bucket list. But when choosing a cruise line, one line can be a better match than others, depending on your kids’ ages or the environment. There are a couple of cruise lines with family-friendly qualities.
- Carnival Cruise Line
There are ships with giant waterslides, poolside movie screens and dedicated play areas on this mega cruise line.
- Celebrity Cruise Line
This line appears to be more urban and grown-up than other lines, but the ships do have controlled activities for kids aged 3-11.
- Disney Cruise Line
No surprise, children are taken care of by Disney, even as young as three months. There are also plenty of parent-and-kid-oriented shore excursions, besides the unique children’s and family pools.
Holland America, Norwegian, Princess also have family-oriented itineraries. These itineraries are practically all-inclusive, so there are of tremendous value as the price includes lodging, all meals, games onboard the ship, programs for children, and entertainment.
Alaska Cruise for Seniors
Cruising has some of the best options for retirees, whether it’s because of taking an activity off a bucket list or to relax on a deck chair.
From the adventure-seeker to the scenic lounger, a Princess Cruise to Alaska has enough to please every senior. You can see the scenery, including the glaciers and wildlife, right from the comfort of your stateroom by sailing through majestic Glacier Bay. Throughout most of the Princess fleet, users can find also find access-friendly designs.
Another cruise line that is ideal for retirement cruises for seniors is the Norwegian Cruise Line.
All-Inclusive & Luxury Alaska Cruise
An authentic experience of luxury cruising is definitely above the rest of the cruise industry. These cruises and their large packages of excursions have become a significant part of Alaska’s economy, and it’s easy to see why. They attract the traveler who requests the highest quality possible and offered facilities and amenities for luxury cruise ships that rival the best resorts worldwide.
Several cruise lines provide all-inclusive and luxury cruises:
- Crystal Cruises
- Oceania Cruises
- Silversea Cruises
- Seabourn Cruises
Alaska Cruise Tours
Unlike other cruises, when you embark on an Alaskan journey, we highly recommend that you book tours. It will maximize both your time and ability to see as much as possible.
Some of the best Alaska cruise excursions include:
- Dog sledding on a glacier
- Misty Fjords National Monument via floatplane
- Mendenhall Glacier tour
- White Pass railroad ride
- Whale watching
- Salmon fishing
- The totems of Ketchikan
- And many more.
Alaska cruise excursions tips
A tip that might come in handy is booking the shore excursions before time since sometimes tours can be sold out if you wait until being on your cruise.
Also, when selecting your excursions pick something that it’s doubtful you’ll find it anywhere else in the world. Alaska is a distinctive place, so don’t miss out on any opportunity for an authentic experience.
Need to Know/FAQ
When is the best time to cruise in Alaska?
Alaskan cruises operate from late April till mid-September. When booking a cruise, you must remember that the weather in Alaska changes very often, so even if you go in mid-July when the temperatures typically are really high, in Alaska, it could be quite cold.
One thing to bear in mind, if you are interested in the salmon season, seeing bear catching salmon, then you should go between mid-July and mid-August.
Best time to cruise Alaska to see whales
One of the best opportunities to see the world’s largest mammals in their natural habitat is on an Alaska whale-watching cruise. While you are on your voyage, the kind of whale species you will meet depends mainly on which area of Alaska you are traveling through. Summertime is Alaska’s best time for whale watching since that’s typically the height of the season for whale migration. But in spring and fall, you could see whales as well. Therefore any period during the cruise season is the perfect time to cruise to Alaska to see whales.
How much should I budget for an Alaskan Cruise?
When it comes to budgeting for an Alaskan cruise, there are many factors to consider. From choosing your cruise line, your stateroom type, how many people are traveling in your group, the length of your cruise, airfare, pre or post hotel stays, etc.
A typical Alaskan cruise can cost you between $1000 – $6000 per person, including your cruise, shore excursions, airfare, and hotel. Of course, these numbers can vary depending on the many factors we mentioned above.
Alaska Cruise Tips
If and when you decide that you’d be going on an Alaskan cruise, you’ll be needing some tips and tricks to assist you in navigating smoothly through the process. We recommend booking your cruise as soon as possible if you want the cheapest rate and cabins’ best choice. As usual, during peak season, prices are higher in contrast to the low season. The second thing to consider is carefully choosing your itinerary; there are two main ones, the Inside Passage and the Gulf of Alaska.
Also, an important aspect is to determine which cruise line you want. Both the range of onboard entertainment and the type of fellow cruisers will significantly affect that decision. So do your research thoroughly.
A maybe obvious tip is to look at booking a balcony cabin; the scenery while cruising is quite remarkable so that it will be worth it. But in doing so, you will also need to know how to choose correctly. For example, if you are on a Gulf of Alaska trip, as you head northbound, you should be on the starboard (right-hand side) of the ships because that’s where all the scenery will be. If you are heading southbound, then choose one on the port side of the boat.
Choosing your Stateroom and Onboard Amenities
One of the decisions you’ll have to make when booking your cruise is which stateroom type you’d like. We would highly recommend you pick a balcony room.
The reason for this is that as we’ve mentioned, being on an Alaskan cruise is not only valuable for the ports and excursions you do but also for the enjoyment of simply sitting back and gazing into Alaska’s natural treasures.
Also choose your onboard amenities according to your needs. If you enjoy different food, make sure you add a dining package in your cruise, same goes for drinks packages, wi-fi onboard, shore excursion credit, etc.
Many cruise lines have great promotions and deals where they include some of the amenities in your cruise fare for free, that’s why we recommend using a travel advisor when booking your cruise, since we will work on your behalf to make sure you receive the best value.
As usual, we would recommend that you choose a room on the lower decks if you or your travel partner get seasick.
What to pack for an Alaskan cruise?
When you have a cruise trip ahead of you, you immediately think, oh, but what should I pack?
Well, when you’re on your way to Alaska, you should definitely pack warmly. Here is a list of suggested items you can pack:
Alaska Cruise Packing List
- Long-sleeve shirts
- A warm, water-repellent jacket
- A lightweight windbreaker
- Walking shoes or sneakers
- A scarf
- A rain hat
- Touchscreen gloves
- all required travel documents
- medical insurance cards
- credit cards / cash(singles)
- essential toiletries
- electronic/reading material
- electronic device chargers
- waterproof phone case
- digital camera/extra memory cards
Given that this is mostly a scenic route, you will want to spend most of your time on the upper decks, enjoying the view. But with the wind, it can be very chilly so don’t forget to bring a windbreaker jacket, gloves, hats, and good shoes or boots.
When you are on the ports of call, the weather can be quite unpredictable, so even if it gets warmer and you dress lightly, bring a backpack with you with some warm clothes just in case.
Also, an umbrella is always a must because you never know when it might rain.
So by now, we hope that you have a general idea of what cruising to Alaska means, breathtaking scenery, abundant wildlife, plenty of natural wonders, and amazing local food and culture. No matter the type of cruise and excursions you choose, one thing is for sure, you are in for a treat!
Once you go cruising through Alaska, you will love it so much you’d want to do it over and over again. At least that’s what our clients say. But going through all the options, different itineraries, shore excursions by yourself can be a daunting task and very time-consuming.
So instead of spending your time doing it yourself, feel free to contact us at any time and let one of our cruise specialists help you plan your perfect Alaskan cruise.