Cruising is all set to resume in the United States, and the time is right to consider going on an Alaskan cruise! Let’s explore the Last Frontier on a cruise. This Alaska Cruise Travel Guide will help you outline everything before voyaging on a cruise to Alaska. Learn all the information you need with our planned details to execute a perfect vacation to Alaska.
Cruising to Alaska is perfect for everyone who loves nature, outdoors and values the uniqueness of such adventurous escapes. Alaska is so much more than amusement parks and spending the entire day at the beach; someone who understands this should take a cruise to Alaska.
Your typical Alaskan cruise will be filled with wildlife sightings, shore excursions to mountains and rainforests, delectable cuisines rich in local ingredients, and so much more. Many travelers rush to Alaska on cruises, from children to senior travelers, families, couples, and even solo travelers. The destination truly has something to offer to every single traveler.
Best Time of the Year to Take an Alaskan Cruise
Alaska is one of the top destinations to cruise in the United States. The 49th state might not be what you are picturing first when you think of a cruise, but cruising is perhaps the easiest way to visit the region.
Unlike other cruises, Alaska has seasonal cruise ports. This means that you will only be able to cruise to Alaska during certain months of the year. Thus, there are several factors to consider when looking for the best time of the year to take an Alaskan cruise - weather, pricing, crowds are just a few.
The true Alaskan season runs from late April/early May through September. That being said, people visiting Alaska in the middle of the season, i.e., July, are welcomed by rainfall, average temperatures around 25 degrees, and only certain hours of daylight.
This optimal weather, however, comes with increased crowds and increased pricing for everything.
Our Alaska cruise travel guide experts state that if you plan on taking an Alaskan cruise during shoulder seasons, you will end up saving hundreds of dollars. Moreover, you will also be avoiding crowds.
How much does an Alaskan cruise cost?
Average Alaskan cruises tend to be a little expensive compared to other cruise vacations, such as the Caribbean. Cruise fares can fluctuate considerably depending on multiple factors, such as the cruise line, ship, itinerary, and traveling time.
If you are flexible with your vacation timings, choose the appropriate season to take an Alaskan cruise to save loads on your overall budget. As mentioned earlier, the middle of the summer, which is also a favorable season to visit due to the weather, wildlife, and other factors, will always be a little expensive.
Cruise lines and ships that you choose also dictate the overall cost for your Alaskan vacation. Most cruise lines sail to Alaska now, so you have plenty of options to choose from.
The newer ships from every cruise line will be a little more expensive than the older ones since the overall demand for the new ones is more. And of course, the luxurious and premium cruise lines will always be more expensive than others.
Other factors to consider when determining the price of your cruise vacation to Alaska are embarking port, category of your stateroom, shore excursions, etc. Depending on where you embark on your journey, you might also need a pre-cruise hotel day. Flights to Anchorage are also going to be more expensive when compared to Seattle or Vancouver.
The fare and your overall budget will also rise if you upgrade to a balcony room on your Alaskan cruise. The balcony rooms cost more than the ones with an ocean view or inside view cabins. Lastly, shore excursions can also increase your cost since they are a bit expensive compared to the Caribbean ones.
Selecting Your Activities And Excursions
Perhaps the most challenging part of your Alaskan cruise is picking the suitable activities and shore excursions for yourself and making sure you get the ones you want. In your cabin, you will find a detailed document on all the shore excursions available for you to select from.
Go through every single activity and circle the ones that appeal the most to you. Every activity might come with a different variation every time you cruise to Alaska; whale watching activity might have variations like whale watching with lunch or a glacier trek. It can be a bit hard to select the ones you want to do, so read everything carefully and choose what appeals to you the most. Of course, factor in the cost of the excursions before you book them.
Once you have picked up a few excursions for yourself, head down to the onboard activities desk to talk with the representative there. They will explain all your doubts and educate you more about the options so you can decide correctly.
Here are a few picks by our Alaska cruise travel guide experts:
- In Skagway, don’t miss out on the White Pass and the Yukon Full Day trip
- In Juneau, do give the Helicopter ride and the glacier walk a try
- In Ketchikan, try out the Lumberjack show and the flight-seeing seaplane activity.
Some of the most common Alaskan cruise tours are almost seven days in length. The number of days can, of course, vary. Alaskan cruises can be both - round-trip or one-way sailings.
Round-trip sailings depart from either Seattle or Vancouver. At the same time, the one-way sailings begin from Seward or Whittier in Alaska to Vancouver on either northbound or southbound routes.
Few cruise line options offer select cruises out of California as well.
Port of calls popular on the Alaskan routes are Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway in the southeast. Some ships can also visit Sitka, Haines, and the Icy Strait Point.
Most cruise ships also have at least one day dedicated to “scenic cruising,” where passengers are sailing past the majestic fjords and glaciers. These can include the Inside Passage, Dawes Glacier, Sawyer Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park, or the Hubbard Glacier.
Big Ship v/s Small Ship
Smaller ships in Alaska, such as those by Un-Cruise Adventures, Alaskan Dream Cruises, or Lindblad Expeditions, nip directly into the secluded bay regions, narrow fjords, and even the shallowest of spots like Misty Fjords, Tidal Inlet, South Sandy Cove, Icy Strait, etc. Larger ships cannot dream of getting into such small and narrow locations, giving you an intimate feel of the place. People prefer the smaller ships because of their up close and personal touch on vacation time. Some sites get so close to you on the ship that you can simply lean over the ship railings and touch the fjord walls or the bobbing-bergy bits. Small ships are perhaps the best way to experience Alaska and the perfect way to spot wildlife grazing along the shores.
On the other hand, the bigger ships cannot get so close to the shorelines as the smaller ships. They are restricted to their own route. Moreover, these ships are jam-packed with many things to do, from casinos to playrooms, spas, and other activities. They are a vacation destination on their own. Many cruise ships going to Alaska have educators on board, teaching cruisers about nature, sports, and other detailed facts about the location. Larger ships sure do have their way to offer you the best vacation experience.
Alaska Cruise Lines
The two most extensive cruise lines that operate in Alaska are Holland America and Princess. However, almost all the major cruise lines have at least one ship that takes passengers to Alaska every summer.
The list includes names like Carnival, Disney, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian.
You can also choose from the other small yet luxurious cruise options like Crystal Azamara, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Viking Ocean, Windstar, and Silversea.
Suppose you are looking for more adventure and less of a vacation. In that case, you can choose from expedition-friendly cruise lines like Alaskan Dream Cruises, UnCruise Adventures, and Lindblad, focusing more on intimate and personal encounters with the wilderness of Alaska.
There are three major types of Alaska Cruise Itineraries:
The Inside Passage cruises embark from Seattle, San Francisco, or Vancouver and visit Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan ports.
This part of southeast Alaska is a protected sea route that goes along the North American west coast. The passage stretches for approximately 950 miles from Seattle along the coast of British Columbia to the northern parts near Haines and Skagway.
These cruises also include stopovers in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and the ever-so-famous Glacier Bay National Park.
Gulf of Alaska
Working toward the north from Vancouver, the south-central Alaskan coast is added to the Inside passage for Gulf of Alaska itineraries. The ships on this path sail one way between Vancouver/Seattle and Seward, the closest port to Anchorage. The embarkation point on this itinerary will be different from your disembarkation point. Still, you will get the opportunity to see more of Alaskan scenery, including the glacier-clad Gulf of Alaska and the Hubbard Glacier.
Bering Sea cruises
Usually, only the expedition ships sail through this historical region between Asia and North America. The larger, mainstream cruise lines do not sail this far north. However, some do sail this sea region when they are trying to reposition between Alaska and Asia.
Things To Do in Alaska
Getting to experience Alaska is all about adventuring the outdoors. From bear watching to hiking, viewing ducks in the ocean, and kayaking to see marine life, there is so much to do on this land of adventure.
You can take a small boat and witness the glacier calving or ride on the Alaskan Railroad to see the beauty of the scenic lands. Of course, you have to visit at least one of the many national park Alaska houses, like the Denali National Park and Preserve, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, or the Katmai National Park and Preserve.
You also must visit the tallest North American peak, i.e., Denali, or formerly called Mount McKinley, which has a summit elevation of 20,310 feet above sea level.
You can also enlist Pursuit services and arrange for traveling through the park with a view of Denali and stay comfortably at the Denali Backcountry Lodge in Kantishna.
Travel the interiors of Alaska and find the best of the marine life in the coastal regions. Travel by boats to see whales, seals, sea lions, sea otters, walruses, and other exotic species. Witness the beauty of mammals via a flightseeing tour or land excursions. You will find over 32 different species of carnivorous and approximately 900,000 caribou across the Alaskan tundra.
If you are traveling to Alaska during the winter months, it is the best time to witness the aurora’s glory. You can see the northern lights when the skies are at their darkest. Northern lights can be seen at Fairbanks or the interiors of Alaska, or you can go as far north as you can to see this band of light.
Regardless of your destination, there are a few tried and tested Alaskan cruise tips straight from our Alaska cruise travel guide that come in handy for planning and executing your vacation ideally. You should know what needs to be included in your cruise vacation and what will cost you extra or things to pack. This way, you can plan everything properly.
Saving Your Money
Once you have decided on your cruise line and your ship, a few things can help you save some money. These tips can range from booking in advance to securing the right kind of cabin or using a travel agent for your booking management, and much more!
Use the Cruise App
As a part of your pre-cruise plans, you must download your dedicated cruise line’s application on your smartphone. It will be easier to manage your reservations, restaurant table bookings, or entertainment bookings through the app. You can also reserve your shore excursions via the mobile app. This will come in handy since shore excursions sell out fast.
You must also decide the kind of package you want. You should monitor the cruise line website before making any decision. You might explore the website and find a great deal or promotional pricing. The most popular packages of all time on Alaskan cruises have to be the beverage packages. Weigh in the pros and cons before you decide if the package is worth the investment or not!
When it comes to packing for your Alaskan cruise, you should know the essentials! Pack your best rain gear and the best layers to keep you cozy.
Choose your essential electronic devices and make sure they are charged well. Carry a portable charger on your cruise trip.
Carry essential medications, including some antacids, Tylenol, and other items. Also, carry all of your basic toiletries, with a few extra tissues, zip lock bags, bug sprays, sanitizers, and your sanitary products.
Apart from all these essential items, ensure you carry a YETI water bottle for yourself during onshore excursions.
Alaska Cruise Travel Guide Tip: Carry a pair of binoculars; you will not regret it!
Unpredictable Weather Conditions
Waters in Alaska are pretty unpredictable. The temperatures here can change in varied ways from one destination to another. Sometimes, even during the warmest summer days, while cruising, it can get cold. This especially happens when you are near a glacier or when the sun dips behind the clouds. The key here is to know how to dress. You should always dress in layers and layers of clothing. You can peel off or add on to the already existing layers slowly as the temperature changes. You should therefore be looking forward to packing your warm fleece jackets with your summer bathing suits. You will find yourself wearing both at different times during your vacation.
If you are prone to seasickness, beware! Here is our Alaska cruise travel guide advice for you! You will probably run into choppy seas, especially if you are traveling into the open seas through the Gulf of Alaska. If you are concerned about your health on board, you should pick either a north-bound route or the inner and protected Inside Passage stretch. If you get seasick very quickly, you should also think twice before you start voyaging out of Seattle. These cruises take more time, spending a large number of days on the open seas.
We at Leisure hope that you found our Alaska cruise travel guide helpful. Bookmark this; you will need it when you plan your cruise to Alaska. This article will come in handy at the time, or share it with someone you know is planning to cruise and are looking for some cruise tips.
Happy vacationing to you!