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How To Plan An Alaskan Cruise

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Alaska Cruises From Seattle

Alaskan Cruise Tips – How to plan your trip to Alaska!

If youre planning an Alaskan cruise from Seattle, this chart indicates which glaciers are included on selected cruise ships. The Norwegian Bliss does not cruise to any of the following glaciers. For me, that would be a good reason not to sail that ship because, after all, dont we sail to Alaska to see the glaciers?

Cruise Ship
RC Serenade of the Seas X

Select A Cabin With A Balcony

Some things are just worth spending a little extra money on, and a balcony cabin is worth everything when cruising Alaska.

The favorite part of our days was opening up the balcony door, still groggy with sleep, to see how the scenery had changed overnight. Rolling into a new port early each morning, the balcony scene was hushed and peaceful, with other guests emerging onto balconies here and there, cups of hot coffee in hand.

Sleeping in is always a bonus while on vacation, but I beg you to not miss the early mornings on the balcony during your Alaska cruise.

Blake spent a good amount of time out on our balcony, simply enjoying the beauty of Alaska. And keeping his eyes peeled for sightings of whales and dolphins. Oh yes, we saw them!

When Is The Best Time To Cruise Alaska

If youre cruising on a strict budget, the best cruise deals are offered in early May and the last sailings in September. Its important to note some excursions may not be available in September. Additionally, some stores close down for the winter in the last weeks of August. From time to time, Vancouver sailings are offered at great prices if you can sail a drop-and-go on a one-way itinerary. For the Alaska cruise 2022 season, I have seen one-way cruises for under USD 500.

Since it rains greatly in Alaska, the best months are May and June to avoid the liquid sunshine. In fact, I have sailed to Alaska in May. Not only was it dry, but the temperatures were much warmer than I anticipated. In addition, the Alaska cruise season has only begun, so cruise ports are less crowded.

During June, Alaska experiences the maximum number of hours. Consequently, if youre a night owl like me, travel in June. During the summer solstice, much of northern Alaska encounters an incredible 18 hours of sunlight. However, if you need complete darkness to sleep, you might avoid the month of June.

In the final analysis, every month is a great month to cruise the inside passage to Alaska. No matter which month you choose, the memories created will last a lifetime.

Happy travels ~ Karen

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Utilize Local Transportation In Alaska

One of my favorite facts about Alaska is that you can drive almost 1,000 miles and only make one left hand turn at a proper light and get from Seward to Deadhorse. So, even though we only have one major highway you can access a huge portion of Alaska from the comfort of a car. And, if you want to be a real Alaskan, youll get off the highway and take to the air or sea to reach all the hidden gems and small villages that make Alaska such a special place.

Go Off The Beaten Path

If youre thinking about planning a summer cruise, Alaska ...

Alaska may be a bucket-list destination for many. But heres a radical approach: Dont try to do it all. Travel less ambitiously and spend more time in a more remote town like Homer or Valdez, places with plenty of outdoor appeal and relative affordability.

Valdez is an indie traveler Mecca, said Colleen Stephens, the president of Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises in Valdez. The influx of independent travelers this year is somewhat curtailed by the border closing with Canada Valdez is a popular R.V. destination that requires driving through Canada from the lower 48 states but, she added, at least this year were able to open the doors and operate.

Cruises on ships up to 90 feet with ample open-viewing decks cost $140 for a six-hour itinerary and $170 for an eight-hour tour, both cruises visiting area glaciers and looking for sea otters, whales and puffins en route.

Among affordable lodging options in Valdez, Eagles Rest RV Park has cabins from $145 and, new this summer, glamping tents from $85.

Airbnb can be a good alternative for saving money in some communities, but some listings may be dry or without running water, in which case, Ms. Maloney said, youll be using an outhouse, which is a part of the quintessential Alaska experience.

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Have A Current Passport

First things first.

Alaska cruise itineraries with Princess include porting in either Victoria or Vancouver, British Columbia. In order for you to book one of these cruises, you must have a current passport for stopping in Canada. And getting a passport or renewing a passport is usually not a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. You need to plan ahead.

If You Want To See The Northern Lights

There are only a few places in the world where you can see the aurora borealis. Fairbanks, Alaska happens to be one of the greatest spots to catch them. The best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is in September when the sun sets earlier, yielding darker skies that are ideal for witnessing the aerial lightshow. Temperatures start to drop around this time of year, but its a small price to pay to cross this awe-inspiring natural wonder off your bucket list. Whats more, prime time for viewing the Northern Lights coincides with Alaskas transition into its off-season, which means youll be able to take advantage of Alaska cruise deals and discounts on onshore activities across your adventure a triple win for any savvy traveler.

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Catch A Bus Or Shuttle

Alaska has a pretty shit public transportation system, so dont expect to hop on a convenient bus from downtown Anchorage to Eagle River any time soon. But, we do take care of our tourists, and you have plenty of options to catch a motorcoach bus from Anchorage to Denali National Park. The Park Connection Shuttles people between Denali and Seward. Most shuttles operate daily, if not several times a day during the summer season. My former employer, Premier Alaska Tours, operates these shuttles, and they are fantastic.

If you are in Anchorage with time to kill and want to see the gorgeous Turnagain Arm including a scenic drive, a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Girdwood, or Portage Glacier then book a shuttle day trip to see all the highlights of the Anchorage area with Turnagain Arm Shuttle.If you are looking to hike Anchorages Flat Top, then you can catch a shuttle from Anchorage to the trailhead and back with the Flat Top Shuttle. Ketchikan and Talkeetna have a tourist taxi service that acts as a shuttle service. There are dozens of options like this around Alaska, including Seward, Juneau, Fairbanks, and more. If you need help finding excellent shuttles or transportation hops near any of your destinations in Alaska, let me know!

Top Alaska Cruise Tours


Cruise tours to Alaskas interior come in different lengths and visit different areas of the state. The most popular visit Talkeetna for views of Denali and Denali National Park to see wildlife and learn about the parks history and ecosystem.

Some Alaska cruise tours will give guests a night in Anchorage to explore the city, or travel as far north as Fairbanks. Others will swap Anchorage with a stay on the Kenai Peninsula or at the Alyeska Resort in the Chugach Mountains before heading north.

Other cruise tours combine interior Alaska with trips to Canadas Yukon. Some simply extend the land portion of the trip to include Dawson City or Whitehorse for one epic trip. For those with less vacation time, Holland America has an option that combines half an Alaska cruise with a land extension through the Yukon to Fairbanks and Denali, ending in Anchorage.

For a different Canadian adventure, Princess offers a cruise tour that starts in Calgary and visits Banff and Lake Louise before finishing up in Alaska to meet the cruise ship. This tour does not venture as far as Denali.

Which Alaska cruise tours are the best? That decision is personal, but Holland America and Princess lead the pack for the most diverse tour options, company-owned Alaska railway cars and resort properties, and experience in the region.

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Take Advantage Of All There Is To Learn

Almost every day of your cruise, there will be some opportunity to learn about Alaskan culture, history, or wildlife. Plan to attend one of the expert presentations offered in the Walt Disney Theater or you can view many of them on the TV in your stateroom.

These talks will help give you a new perspective on everything that is going on around you and can be a great way to make the cruise an educational experience for you and your family.

There is a naturist onboard who will come on the PA system to teach cruisers about the wildlife in Alaska. They will also point out where to stand on the ship if you want to catch a glimpse of whales and eagles. Make sure you have waterproof and fog-proof binoculars nearby to get a better look at these amazing animals. We recommend purchasing binoculars prior to your cruise as they are very pricey on board or at the ports.

Tracy Arm Isnt An Actual Port

If you look at your itinerary for Disneys 5-night, 7-night or 9-night Alaskan cruises, you will notice that Tracy Arm is listed as one of the ports of call.

In reality, however, the ship wont dock at this location it couldnt even if it tried.

Tracy Arm Fjord is actually a day at sea, but the ship will pass remarkable glaciers, icebergs, and frozen waterfalls. Prepare for some of the most magnificent jaw-dropping views of your entire cruise, and get ready to spend a lot of time out on deck while you pass through this unique stretch of water.

Everyone came out onto the deck when they made the announcement that we were approaching Tracy Arm. I dont think there was any cruise passenger that stayed inside while our ship was passing by this incredible fjord.

This is also when youll see Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Chip and Dale in their Alaskan outfits. Make sure you check the daily schedule for meet and greets and photos. Our kids were excited to get a picture with each one of them in their winter gear.

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When Is The Best Time To Cruise To Alaska For Maximum Daylight

Imagine being able to enjoy Alaskas incredible natural beauty during days of near-continuous sunlight. With so much daylight, you can enjoy all the best Alaska shore excursions, from biking alongside the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau to hiking in the Tongass National Forest.

If you want to experience the phenomenon of sunlit nights for yourself, the best time to go to Alaska on a cruise is right around the Summer Solstice in the second half of June. This is the time when days are longest in the entire Northern Hemisphere.

Sail The Seas With Alaska Marine Highway

10 Tips for Planning an Alaskan Cruise

If you had your heart set on seeing Southeast Alaska, including Juneau, Sitka Ketchikan, and more, then dont despair, do as the Alaskans do, and take advantage of our Alaska Marine Highway System. The marine highway is 3,500 miles of ferry routes that connect 35 communities, including connections to Canada and Washington State. You can access the ferry system from most coastal regions in the south including, Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands all the way to Bellingham, Washington. The Marine Highway also offers short day trip ferries and shuttle ferries, so you can create a home base and take a short day or overnight trips to see your surroundings.

You can easily fly to Juneau, where you can use the ferry to access Skagway, Hoonah, and Sitka. Then from Juneau, you can make your way down to Ketchikan, where you could fly back to Washington or settle in for a long ferry ride to Bellingham. The ferry can eat up days of your itinerary. For example, getting from Juneau to Ketchikan is 20 hours, so if youre not up for a night on the ferry, then just stick to Juneau and utilize the day and shuttle ferries to see plenty of amazing spots in southeast Alaska.

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So Whens The Best Time To Cruise Alaska

May to September marks the best of Alaska cruise season, with the fall and winter being a bit too unpredictable. But of those months, which is the best time for an Alaska cruise? Thats difficult to say because every traveler is unique. If we had to pick just one month, wed lean toward June for its low rainfall and abundance of daylight hours, but you cant go wrong any time during cruise season. When you decide on what month to take your Alaskan cruise, be sure to think about factors such as the following.

Consider what you and any travel partners want to experience and any other needs you have before you book. Are you prone to seasickness? Do you need optimal conditions to get some sleep and prepare for the next day? If you cant decide on one month or dont have any particular concerns, you can always make multiple trips to experience all that Alaska has to offer!

Shore Excursions Will Be Costly But Worth It

What gives many cruisers sticker shock are the costs of the shore excursions. Part of the experience is getting to do and see all that Alaska has to offer. Why go all that way and not walk on top of a glacier or take a trip down the historic White Pass Rail? These popular excursions easily run $100+ per port of call, often times up to $300-$500 a person. Do know your budget for the entire vacation and then pick your tours and excursions wisely.

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Support The Local Economy

Denali National Park

You can buy some cool souvenirs in Alaska, and theres no shortage of retail opportunities in each port. Look for the Alaska Grown or Made In Alaska logos. When you buy local, youre supporting the economy of towns that rely on a very short tourist season.

Locally made jewelry is a great buy, especially made from Alaskan jade, as are Christmas tree decorations, wood carvings, vacuum-packed Alaskan salmon, boxes of chocolate moose poop as amusing gifts for friends back home, and clothing.

Bear claw salad servers made from wood, not actual bear claws, are a typical Alaskan gift, as is a bottle of birch syrup, the states answer to maple syrup.

Which Alaska Cruise Ports


Ports of calls can play a big factor when Alaska cruise planning. Of all the Alaska cruise ports, the most common stops are Juneau, the capital, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Juneau is the only port that feels like a city and offers most of the usual shops, restaurants, and amenities found in other US cities. And for the record, it even has a Costco and Walmart. Juneau also offers the largest selection of port excursions from seeing humpback whales, visiting the mighty Mendenhall Glacier, or taking the Roberts Tramway for the best views of Juneau. Oh, and lets not forget my favorite activity of mushing a dog team around a glacier.

In contrast, Skagway and Ketchikan are tiny towns with cruise docks located within walking distance to stores. In fact, Skagway is a quaint town borne out of the Klondike goldrush period. A visit to Skagway whisks you back in time, as the town still resembles a gold rush western community. During a port day in Skagway, most first-time cruisers take the White Pass and Yukon Route train excursion into the Yukon through the picturesque mountains.

Other popular Alaska cruise ports might include Icy Strait Point, Haines, and the historic Sitka. Although some cruise ships stop at the least commonly used ports of Homer, Kenai, Wrangell, and Valdez.

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You Need To Pack More

We are chronic over-packers regardless of where we are traveling, but even those who pride themselves on begin able to travel with just a carry-on, may want to think twice. Given the constantly fluctuating weather, you will want to pack extra clothes of varying degrees of warmth, think layers, as well as multi-purpose jackets and boots. While Alaskan cruises tend to be more casual, you will still want some nicer clothes for the nights around the ship. Needless to say, you will want to review our Alaskan Packing Guide for tips on what to bring.

What Excursions Should I Reserve

There are so many fun excursions on an Alaskan cruise!

Let me say this up front. Youll want to research the available excursions and reserve them as early as possible! They book up fast!

Youll find that the excursions come in a wide variety from laid-back and easy going to active and adventurous. Youll find that each of the excursions includes a very detailed description and rating as to activity requirements during the excursion. They make it so easy for you to find excursions the whole family will enjoy to those that are more rugged and adventurous.

We opted for excursions where we were able to see Alaska in a more relaxed manner. From whale watching excursions to taking a train into the Yukon, we didnt miss a thing!

And while our excursions were more relaxing, many on our ship took a high adventure approach. Their excursions included kayaking, hiking, mountain climbing, helicopter and seaplane tours, and so much more!

So no matter how adventurous you want to be during your cruise, youll find something just right for you and your family. Just be sure to reserve those excursions as early as possible so that you get the ones you want!

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