Theres A Selection Of Cruises To Suit Every Style And Budget
Not all Alaska cruises are created equal, so first-timers and old-salts tend to make their ship selection based on variables such as onboard facilities, itineraries, ports of call, and value for money . For many, though, size is what matters most. And the choice is twofold: a small boutique-style ship with scaled-down facilities, easy access to ports in remote areas, an intimate and cosy vibe, and no dressing up for dinner. Or a mega-vessel with state-of-the-art amenities, multiple wining and dining venues, glamorous Vegas-style entertainment, spas and fitness centres, endless cultural and educational programs, and the opportunity to be super-sociable. Some of the best go-to holidays that incorporate sailing on Alaskas waterways include the 17-night Canadian Rockies Experience & Silversea Alaskan Cruise, the 14-night Luxury Regent Seven Seas Cruise Vancouver to San Francisco, and the 15-night Rocky Mountaineer & Norwegian Bliss Alaska Cruise.
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When To Go To Alaska
The Alaska adventure cruising season begins in April and runs into October. If you are considering a land extension to Denali National Park, the season is even shorter, beginning in early June and ending in early September. For even more detail on the best time to visit Alaska view our month by month guide.
Flattop Mountain And Chugach State Park
The Glen Alps Overlook provides excellent views. It is at 2,200 feet in elevation and is arguably the best location to see the northern lights in Anchorage. Visitors are high enough up that Anchorage is a distant urban glow and there are unobstructed views of the northern sky. The more adventurous can hike up the mountain for even better views. Toilsome Road, which leads up to Glen Alps, has very steep grades and sharp switchbacks. If it is snowy or icy, you will need good winter tires or all-wheel-drive to make it up to this area.
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What Should You Avoid In Alaska
20 Things Everyone In Alaska Should Avoid At All Costs Farmed seafood. Flickr Judi Knight. Or buying fish in general. Even feeding your dogs farmed fish. Eating hot dogs. Camping without a view. Snacking on chips from the lower 48. Shopping at big corporate box stores. Drinking wine that isnt from Alaska.
What Is The Best Month To Cruise Alaska
The best month to visit Alaska depends on what you hope to experience during your trip.
- Do you want as much sun and daylight as possible? Then book a June or July cruise.
- Would you like to see lots of wildlife? Then purchase a May, August, or September cruise as these months feature young animal families and migrations.
- Do you want to get into the interior and see Denali National Park or the Yukon? Then select July or August.
- Are you chasing bright tree foliage? Then book a cruise at the end of August or in September.
- Would you like to avoid mosquitoes? Then May and September are the best months for your cruise.
- Are northern lights on the itinerary? Then your trip will be in September or October. Would you like to fish for salmon? Then select any summer or shoulder month.
The good news is that no matter which month you choose, your Alaskan cruise will reward you with incredible experiences and memories that last a lifetime.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Alaska
Alaska is a cruise destination like no other with so much to be appreciated both on shore and from the deck of your ship. Most Alaska cruise itineraries will voyage along The Inside Passage, which offers the chance to traverse piercing blue fjords, icy glaciers and snow-peaked mountains. Hubbard Glacier is another must-see on an Alaska cruise, as is the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Glacier Bay National Park. Plus there’s always the added possibility of spotting whales from your ship as you sail in Alaska too.
An Alaskan cruise requires a good mix of warm, waterproof and practical outdoor clothing, coupled with a selection of eveningwear outfits to wear on board and swimwear if you’re planning to make use of your ship’s pools and spa. Bring base layers and sensible walking shoes with a sturdy grip, as well as gloves, a hat and scarf, and a jacket capable of keeping you warm and dry. Long sleeves and trousers are advised for daytimes, particularly if you’re planning to observe the scenery from deck as you sail the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay. A camera is also an Alaskan cruise essential as the landscape here is truly otherworldly.
Layers are essential to pack for an Alaska cruise, as are comfortable shoes and wet weather gear, such as a light rain mac. A more substantial coat is also recommended, particularly if you plan to stargaze from deck in the evenings or get up early to see the sunrise.
US English is the main language in Alaska.
Where And When Can You See The Northern Lights
Aurora Borealis can only be seen from a few places in the world. One of the best viewing locations is Fairbanks, Alaska, which is why this landmark is one of the central highlights of a Norwegian Cruise Line tour. In fact, Fairbanks is often voted as one of the top ten places in the world to witness the brilliant green waves of light. Some make the most of the expedition and travel to the small town of Manley Hot Springs to witness this amazing wonder from the view of a steamy spring-fed hot tub.
Although the full viewing season spans from March to September, you’ll have the greatest chance of witnessing the Borealis’ emergence in September, when skies are so much darker than during the summer cruise season. Incidentally, this is also the time when you’ll find cost savings on your cruise since most families tend to vacation while school is out.
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What Makes The Perfect Alaska Cruise Itinerary
While theres no such thing as a one-size-fits-all Alaska cruise, newbies and seasoned pros will always be guaranteed cinematic scenery, out-of-the-ordinary ports of call, and oceangoing adventures of epic proportions. Little wonder, then, that its one of the worlds most popular cruise destinations not least because it makes light work of showcasing the very best of Americas 49th state . With this in mind, weve put together a list of reasons why you need to experience the Last Frontier from the water.
Lodges & Overnight Tours
- Northern Alaska Tour Company offers 3-day/2-night trips from Fairbanks to Coldfoot Camp above the Arctic Circle. Located halfway between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay, this is an exceptional spot to see the lights.
- Iniakuk Lake Wilderness Lodge, a fly-in luxury wilderness lodge inside Gates of the Arctic National Park, offers one of Alaskas most exclusive experiences for viewing the northern lights. Step outside or scan the sky from the lodges huge picture windows.
- Just an hour from Fairbanks is Borealis Basecamp, where you can book your own clear-roofed igloo for the night.
- Salmon Berry Tours offers 6-day/5-night packages from Anchorage. Youll work your way north, stopping in Talkeetna, and look for the northern lights each night once you reach Fairbanks.
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What Is Aurora Borealis
Aurora Borealis are magical bands of neon green light that spontaneously burst and dance in the sky. And there are only a few places on the globe where it can be viewed. Specifically, it occurs within the Northern Lights zone .
The Borealis is composed of solar particles shooting into the magnetic field of the earth and appear more than 60 miles above the earth’s surface. Natives have believed the lights have a mystical force or even marked the appearance of spirits who have passed on.
The Best Months For An Alaska Cruise For Good Weather
The weather in Alaska can, and will, change multiple times per day, but you will find the warmest months to be June, July and August.
The median months will see higher temperatures and longer days for touring, and it represents the limited summer that Alaska enjoys. However, July and August tend to also have higher levels of precipitation.
If you do book a cruise during summer, be sure to plan your shore excursions well in advance to avoid tours selling out.
If you are willing to trade warmth for less precipitation, then go for May. In fact, the end of May and the beginning of June offers some of the best weather in the region throughout the year.
If you want to see snow on the ground, May is the best month for that.
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What Do I Pack For A Northern Lights Cruise
For fall and winter, when sightings of the Northern Lights are more common, layering is key.
A large coat or puffer jacket is helpful, but the true secret to staying warm is layering. Thick wool socks and not airy fabrics are important in keeping heat trapped in and closer to the body.
When in doubt, wear one more layer than you think you need. Remember: you can always take off another layer, but if you didnt bring one to begin with, you might find yourself battling the cold.
Beanies, hats, hoods, gloves, and hand warmers are all good ideas, too.
When To View Aurora Borealis
Northern lights dance across the sky all year round, but we are able to see it only on a dark and clear night. So the season stretches from late August through to late April. Winter being the best season is a myth. You can spot absolutely stunning aurora borealis displays in September or October, as well as March or April. The best time to look for the shimmering lights is between midnight and 2 am.
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Lindblad Expeditions Icelands Wild West Coast To East Greenland
Of all the cruises operating in Arctic waters, Lindblads Iceland and Greenland voyage may be more aptly referred to as an expedition, and its passengers as true adventurers. Of this cruises 13 days, no less than 8 represent great opportunities to view the northern lights whether from Icelands western side, Greenlands eastern coastline, or the Denmark Strait that separates them.
The National Geographic Endurance has but 69 cabins and a maximum passenger capacity of 126, which seems better suited for a university research team than a cruise manifest. Despite the modest size of the polar-rated vessel, this cruise does not skimp on the pampering and provides in abundance all the amenities one would expect from a two-week excursion.
While the nights will be spent scanning the Arctic sky for northern lights, days will be filled with once-in-a-lifetime adventures which include:
- visiting the largest national park in the world Greenlands Northeast Greenland National Park
- navigating Scoresby Sound, the longest and largest fjord system in the world
- sailing past majestic glaciers, massive icebergs, and seemingly endless ice sheets
- seeing iconic Arctic wildlife in their natural habitat, including polar bears and whales
Northern Lights From Cruise Ship
Hi all! I’m trying to plan a trip for my aunts 50th. Her #1 dream in life is to see the northern lights. I’m thinking a cruise ship would be the easiest option for our family. We can go anytime from Dec-April. Any suggestions? I don’t even know where to start looking!
Well, the cruises don’t run during that season – only May – Sept. The best bet is to fly up here. 🙂
Fairbanks is a good option.
Well if we came to Denali, what is the best month for northern lights and are there places to stay in the park?
Well, the best months for the lights are during the winter. While you can come to Denali, the real tourist season is from mid-May thru mid-September. I have seen the lights in very late August/early September, but they are more prolific during the winter months. They are sort of in a slump and are rather unpredictable. We would be happy to help you plan a trip, but can’t guarantee the Aurora. 🙂
Yes, there are places to stay near the park as well as deep with in the park – just depends on what you are looking for.
Edited: 11 years ago
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Where To Watch The Northern Lights
You can see the northern lights from anywhere, but youll find them more frequently when youre near the Arctic Circle. You also need to view them in more remote areas, or at least in places away from light pollution. Here are the best places in the world to see the northern lights, which also make fascinating cruise destinations:
Holland America Line 14
This voyage begins in Fairbanks, Alaska, with a 4-day land tour that provides opportunities to view the northern lights right off the bat. It is said that the aurora borealis appear in the Fairbanks area on average, an incredible 243 nights per year . What better way to begin a dream vacation than by witnessing natures greatest light show.
Although the chances of seeing the northern lights lessen as one gets further away from the Arctic Circle, Alaska is far enough north that sightings are not uncommon from places like Denali National Park and even Anchorage . This voyage has the potential to stack successive nights of northern lights appearances one after the other.
By day, the 14-Day Double Denali program has all the makings of a dream Alaskan vacation. The Noordam is a full-fledged luxury liner measuring over 900 feet in length with accommodations for nearly 2,000 passengers. For those staying up until the wee hours of the morning taking in the spectacle of the northern lights, there are onboard amenities galore to gather ones senses and recuperate for the next nights hunt for the aurora borealis.
Silversea Cruises Arctic & Greenland Cruise
This 15-day voyage provides an intimate view of Icelandic life before venturing across the Denmark Strait and exploring Greenlands eastern side for 8 straight days. All the while, each night aboard the Silver Wind provides an ideal setting for viewing the northern lights in comfort from the passengers private verandas or in the company of other aurora-seekers on the ships observation deck.
Silverseas Silver Wind has the sleek look of a modern luxury cruise ship, only on a smaller scale. Outfitted with a newly strengthened hull to take on Arctic seas with ease, the Silver Wind boasts a nearly one-to-one ratio between passengers and crew , resulting in an Arctic voyage that has a level of personalized care and attention like no other. The Silver Wind is an all-suite vessel.
While the exploration and appreciation of Iceland and Greenlands incredible natural features are major themes of this voyage, these areas also serve as habitats for whales, walruses, and polar bears, so passengers will be treated to rare, up-close views of these creatures as they are rarely seen. All told, this is one cruise that is guaranteed to provide the individual experiences that will make up the trip of a lifetime.
When Is The Best Month To View The Northern Lights In Alaska
The Alaska Aurora season in Fairbanks runs from September through April when the Earth is perfectly tilted in relation to the sun so that both its magnetic field and the solar wind are in sync.
But for serious Aurora hunters in Alaska, March is the best time to visit because of the clearer spring skies. Aurora viewing is also enhanced by the Spring Equinox and a new moon, making for a higher chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
It is not possible to see the Aurora Borealis during the summer in Alaska. The long summer days make it impossible to see any aurora activity.
To see the most up to date Aurora Forecast, visit:
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About The Northern Lights
The northern lights, also called the aurora borealis, is the result of electrons colliding with the Earths atmosphere. The electrons transfer their energy to the molecules in the atmosphere, which eventually release the energy in the form of colorful light.
The northern lights appear in many shapes and colors, such as violets, reds, pinks and greens. Usually, the lights look like folds of cloth in the sky, while sometimes they can produce arcs that stretch as far as the eye can see. The lights might move like neon streamers blowing in the wind and eventually fill the entire sky with a bright, pulsating glow. In the early morning, the lights seem to be flickering clouds that fade away as the sun rises.
You Can Cruise Alaska Anytime Between April And October
The weather in Alaska can be unpredictable and challenging , so youll always be at the mercy of Mother Nature. Winter is a strict no-go, so the cruise season typically runs from the end of April to the beginning of October . Not only is this six-month window the safest time for cruise ships to sail, but it also means avoiding the freezing months of January and February when the earth has tilted and theres hardly any sunlight. For those lucky enough not to be restricted by school term times, one of the best times to travel is in May and early June not least for the wildflowers blooming along the Inside Passage, the migrating wildlife, and the chance to see icebergs and snowdrifts just before the breakup turns it into a melting and slushy mess. Equally standout are the peak summer months for glorious light-filled days when the sun simply refuses to set, temperatures that range from 60°F to 80°F , and rainfall that wont ruin your sightseeing . This is also when cruise-goers make the most of ship facilities such as outdoor pools, sun decks, and swim-up bars.