The Shore Excursions Are On Another Level
If you’ve heard anything from family, friends or forums about Alaska cruises, there’s a strong chance that the elaborate excursions have come up. While the price ranges might be unlike other shore tours you’ve encountered before, the experiences are even more incredible. Anything involving flight doesn’t come cheaply, but Alaska is one of the best places to grab an aerial view — especially as planes are a regular mode of transportation in a state where many locales aren’t accessible by road. Floatplanes to bear-viewing parks or helicopters to sled dog camps or tundras high above sea level leave an indelible cruise memory.
And for every tame salmon bake or city tour, there are once-in-a-lifetime activities like snorkeling in the frigid waters of Ketchikan or paddleboarding past Bear Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park . If you take a cruise to Alaska, it’s guaranteed that your albums won’t be full of just another boring beach picture.
Which Cabin Should You Book
Cruisers tend to be split into two camps the ones who dont spend any time in their cabins and are happy to go without a window to save money, and the ones wholl pay a bit extra to have a balcony to relax and soak up the views from. As Alaska is such a scenic area, with some great views along the Inside Passage, we decided it was worth the cost to have a balcony. Turns out we had fog on the way up and didnt see a lot, but it came into its own at the glacier.
It can help to be able to see the horizon and get some fresh air if youre worried about seasickness. You can also choose a cabin on as low a deck as possible, in the middle of the ship rather than the forward or aft as they move less. It can cost a bit more to reserve a specific cabin rather than a generic category but I like to know where Im going to be .
Misty balcony morning
So which is your ideal cruise? I was travelling with my parents at the end of August, wanted to do a round trip from Vancouver, didnt mind too much about what stops we made, and wanted a mid-size ship with a bit of luxury. So we ended up choosing a Celebrity Cruises seven-night Hubbard Glacier cruise and really enjoyed it, but there are tons of options to create your own perfect Alaska cruise.
Other Alaska Cruise Ports
The 7 cruise ports and terminals above are the ones youre most likely going to visit during your Alaska cruise. However, there are other less-common destinations you might see on your itinerary. Instead of a whole section on each, heres a quick breakdown of the activities and experiences I recommend in each:
Did you notice I mentioned Haines in the Skagway section? Haines is a perfect port for a cultural experience learning about Alaska Native heritage.
The name says it all: the best cruise excursion at Dawes Glacier will have you board a dingy and get close to the glacier.
A tiny community serviced primarily by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system, Petersburg is a great spot to board a whale-watching vessel if you havent seen any yet.
Prince Rupert is a small British Columbian community known for close proximity to grizzly bear habitats. Book a coastal cruise or flightseeing to try and see the bears.
One of two northern cruise terminals, Seward is located in the heart of Kenai Fjords National Park. It might seem odd since youve been on a boat recently , but book a day-cruise of Kenai Fjords National Park .
Famous as the terminal for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Valdez also has excellent access to glaciers. A glacier flightseeing or cruise tour is the best way to enjoy them.
Which Alaska cruise ports are on your itinerary? Let me know in the comments and any other questions tooor !
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Where Does The Ship Depart From
The three main departure points for Alaskan cruises are Seattle and Vancouver in the south and Anchorage in the north. Seattle is popular with cruisers from the US as they dont need to go through immigration and can often get cheap flights. But you end up travelling through a large section of open sea which can be rough, some short trips miss out the Inside Passage and ships have to make a compulsory stop in Canada so theres less time in Alaska.
Vancouvers Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal
Vancouver is the most popular departure point for Alaska cruises so youll have the biggest choice of cruise lines, itineraries and departures. If youre travelling internationally there are plenty of flights, and routes mostly travel through the Inside Passage with more to see.
Most departures from Anchorage actually leave from the ports of Seward or Whittier rather than Anchorage itself. So you need to allow time to get to the ship from the airport. Its 60 miles to Whittier and 125 miles to Seward so will take at least a couple of hours, but its probably safer to stay overnight, especially if youre flying internationally. Theres some beautiful scenery along the way though, and one bonus is you can get there via the Alaska Railroad.
Sailing out of Vancouver
Which Glacier/s Do You Visit
Most Alaska cruises have at least one day of scenic cruising in their itinerary, when you get up close to a glacier or maybe two or more of them if youre doing a one-way cruise. Normally the ship will spend at least half a day at the glacier, with a commentary from an on-board naturalist to explain what youre seeing. The three main glaciers visited on Alaska cruises are:
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Which Is The Best Cruise Line To Go To Alaska
Set sail with PrincessÂ® the best cruise line in Alaska. We offer a range of enriching Alaska cruise vacation options to see the Great Lands glaciers, wildlife and national parks from the perspective of spectacular ships, exclusive rail service and Princess Wilderness Lodges. With both roundtrip and one-way Alaska cruises you can experience
Is The Suite & Verandah Worth It On A Cruise To Alaska On The Disney Wonder Or Holland America
Note: Updated May 2019. We traveled in June of 2018 & June of 2013.
This was our very first cruise ever, in 2013 on the Holland Americas Voldendam, and we didnt know which state room to choose. There are many options of a suite with a verandah , rooms with just a window, smaller windows, and rooms without windows. Is the extra cost for the suite and verandah worth it on our Alaskan Cruise on Holland America?
We rolled the dice and took the chance that the extra cost would be worth it. For us, we were correct.
The views up the coast to Alaska are breathtaking, calming, inspiring, and so many more adjectives If you only do ONE CRUISE in your life-time, a cruise to Alaska is the one.
When we cruised to Alaska again, this time on the Disney Wonder, the decision was easy, and we chose the Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah.
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Can You See Northern Lights From Alaska Cruise
While the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is in winter, you may still have the opportunity to see them on a late September cruise. While this spectacle can be seen from various ports of call, Princess offers the Aurora Borealis Viewing experience in Fairbanks for an unparalleled experience.
It Wont Be The Same Forever
Global warming is real ask any Alaskan. Despite a wealth of natural treasures including sprawling rainforests and iconic glaciers, Alaskaâs landscape is changing as our climate is warming. Visit Exit Glacier in Seward, and sign posts with years will line the path â those years are where the glacier used to sit, and you can walk about 187 feet between just two sign posts, thatâs how fast itâs receeding. Even on our last cruise we heard natives lament that a local bird population that used to rook on the side of a cliff in Prince William Sound just didnât show up that season. Climate change is not only affecting ice, but also Alaskaâs bird, animal and marine inhabitants. Take an Alaska cruise because who knows what the impact will be in a few short years.
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Reserve A Healthy Budget For Excursions
Day tours and excursions get you away from the crowds and into the real Alaska you came to see. But taking these tours may require some extra effortand money. After all, many of Alaska’s most dramatic sights and wildlife can be accessed only by plane or boat. Other activitieslike river rafting, glacier hiking, or dogsleddingnecessitate hiring expert guides and renting gear. Plan on one to two excursions per day, and budget $100$200 for each. If thats a little high, here are tips to see Alaska on a budget.
Is Canada Still Banning Cruise Ships
Earlier this year, Canada extended a ban on cruise ships until February 2022, citing the need to protect public health. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement that the restriction would now be lifted on Nov. 1, 2021. Canada, however, has not yet lifted a ban on non-essential travel with the United States.
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The Pros And Cons Of Touring Denali
If getting into the great outdoors is a must for you, a land based tour in Denali is for you.
Denali is located about four hours north of Anchorage and two hour south of Fairbanks, and is comprised of six million acres . To say that the park is huge and far away from anything is an understatement, and you really have to visit to get an appreciation for its scale.
As the park is a designated wilderness area, it is undeveloped on purpose. Hikers are free to roam wherever they please and there is no development or obstructions once you get outside the main road . Those who want to hike in the back country can get permits to stay in designated zones and must camp at least one mile off the main road to ensure that no tents are visible from the road at all. With a park this large that is easy to achieve- it is that large.
It is worth noting, however, that the aforementioned road has a public portion that goes only 15 miles into the park. To venture further you must purchase a bus ticket or narrated tour to go deeper, which is an absolute must.
A bus ticket to Eielson Visitor Center was roughly $50 and going to the end of the line at Kantishna was $70 in 2018. To take a narrated tour, where the driver goes into significantly more detail about the park and what you can see, and the prices jump to $146 and $218 respectively.
We even got a bonus to have a chatty driver on the way out and got a narrated-esque experience for less!
Are Cruise Tours Available On Every Sailing
The short answer: no.
The majority of all cruise tours are only offered on sailings departing from Vancouver, Seward or Whittier. Cruises from Seattle typically dont offer cruisetours, as unlike Vancouver departures, Seattle sailings tend to be roundtrip voyages.
For established lines like Holland America and Princess that have maintained an Alaskan presence for decades, nearly every sailing from Vancouver, Whittier or Seward will offer one or more options for a pre-or-post cruisetour in Alaska. However, select tours may only be available on sailings aboard certain ships. If youre particular about which cruisetour you take, you may have to take a particular ship in order to make that happen. Likewise, if youre particular about the ship you sail aboard, you may find different cruise tours are offered to that ship.
Cruise lines with only one or two ships deployed in Alaska, or smaller operators like UnCruise Adventures, may only have cruise tours available on select departures. Some of these will be designated as pre-cruise only, while others may be post-cruise only. Many cruise tours, however, can be taken either pre-or-post-cruise.
It is always a good idea to pick up a physical brochure from your favorite cruise line, or check with your favorite cruise lines website, to see what cruise tours are offered on your chosen departure and ship.
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Booking My Flight Home Before Noon
I booked my departure flight from Seattle at 11:27AM on disembarkation day. Originally, we were set to arrive in Seattle at 6AM, leaving me plenty of time to get to the airport . Due to the sailing’s itinerary change and unexpected delays, though, I did not have nearly as much time as I anticipated.
While I did make my flight home with nearly an hour to spare, I wish I had booked a flight just a little later to avoid the extra stress I encountered due to my early flight.
On the last morning of the cruise, I brought my suitcase to the Royal Esplanade to get in line for disembarkation. At around 7AM, there were only a few people ahead of me.
Then the departure process ran into several delays as we entered and docked in Seattle, leading to huge lines and a little bit of chaos. Many passengers were getting nervous about their early flights.
Luckily, since I was one of the first people in line for departure, I was able to quickly get an Uber and did not run into traffic on the way to the airport.
Was it worth the stress, though? Not really. While waiting at the airport longer before a flight isn’t always enjoyable, it is certainly better than missing a flight if things go wrong. Disembarkation can be affected by many scenarios, so if you’re sailing to Alaska, try to get a flight leaving Seattle at 1PM or later.
Ultimately, whether in Alaska, the Caribbean, or anywhere else, a little bit of planning and flexibility can go a long way.
What To Do In Alaska On A Royal Caribbean Cruise
Boasting the most glass of any Royal Caribbean cruise ship, its perfect for glacier-gazing and whale-watching in Alaska and for soaking up turquoise ocean views in the South Pacific, including Australia, French Polynesia, and New Zealand. The sheer size of Alaska lends itself to a wide variety of terrain and travel experiences.
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Which Cruise Line Is The Best For Alaska
This is a tough question since, for the most part, all the major cruise lines in Alaska are pretty similar in quality of experience. When helping my vacation planning clients choose a cruise, therefore, I urge them to put more consideration into the actual itinerary than the ship or cruise line itself. For most people, the point of cruising to Alaska is to experience the state in the best way possible, so the ship itself tends to come second.
Here are my suggestions for choosing an Alaska cruise:
- Choose an itinerary that gives you the most time in the most places versus days at sea. This is why I suggest taking a seven-day cruise that goes between Seward/Whittier and Vancouver rather than a round-trip from Vancouver up the Inside Passage or a ship that leaves from farther south like Seattle.
- Personally, I prefer to cruise on smaller ships with fewer people. Even though they often have fewer flashy amenities, I think smaller ships are more intimate and enjoyable. Theyre also better for first-time cruisers or those who want to see Alaska but are less excited about the cruising aspect.
- I recommend Glacier Bay over Hubbard Glacier, but its great if you find an itinerary that includes both!
Prince William Sound 26 Glacier Cruise
Alaska is filled with ice flows. Princess offers a Prince William Sound 26 Glacier Cruise excursion out of Anchorage. Board your catamaran and sail right up to the beautiful glaciers. Witness the glaciers calve as chunks of ice break off and drop into the water. View otters, seals, sea lions, and eagles. You may be lucky enough to spot a bear or two. From your heated cabin with panoramic viewing windows, listen to your U.S. Forest Service Ranger guide narrate your day-long journey. Prices begin at $149 for the 10-hour cruise.
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Planning What To Do In Port In Advance
A cruise to Alaska is less about lounging on a beach with a cocktail in hand and more about experiencing the nature and sights that each Alaskan port has to offer.
Do you want to book a whale watching tour? Go on the White Pass & Yukon Railway? Explore Mendenhall Glacier? Doing a little research on each port before arriving can make your time in port go much smoother. Not only that, but many popular excursions run the chance of selling out. Planning early ensures you can book an excursion when it is still available .
Planning in advance doesn’t just have to mean booking an excursion directly through Royal Caribbean, either. You can research local tour operators and transportation, too, as well as restaurants, bars, shopping, museums, and hikes you may want to check out.
While I don’t recommend planning a day in port on a super strict schedule, it can be helpful to know the basics of what there is to do in each location before arriving.