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What Is The Best Alaska Cruise Itinerary

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The Best Alaska Itineraries

Best Alaska Cruise Which cruise Line and Which Itinerary

My first visit to Alaska started in Anchorage, where we took the Alaska Railroad to Whittier to board Regent Seven Seas Mariner to explore Prince William Sound, Kodiak and the remote Dutch Harbor before heading to Russias Kamchatka Peninsula and the northern islands of Japan.

What I saw in Alaska took my breath away, and weve returned several times since. While that particular cruise was aboard a pricey luxury line, there are ships in all price ranges sailing a variety of itineraries, so dont let budget stop you from visiting.

Popular Alaska Cruise Ports

Most Alaska ports offer a mix of history, culture, scenery, and outdoor activities. If the best Alaska cruise ports are the most popular ones, then the top options are the main Inside Passage ports of Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.

Cruise ships sailing one-way voyages often visit Sitka, a former Russian outpost in North America and home to many native Alaskans. Some ships visit Haines instead of Skagway. Icy Strait Point is a native owned and operated port set on a former fish cannery, which has been expanding and growing in popularity. Less common are the ports of Petersburg and Wrangell, located between Ketchikan and Juneau you can find these smaller ports on select itineraries.

For more information on our favorite destinations, read our post on the best Alaska cruise ports.

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 sailings 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 isnt always enjoyable, it is certainly better than missing a flight if things go wrong. Disembarkation can be affected by many scenarios, so if youre 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.

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Which Cruise Line Is Best For Alaska

Nearly every major cruise line sails to Alaska, so you have your pick of price points and onboard personalities.

Among the big-ship lines, Holland America and Princess are known as the Alaska experts. These lines typically base the most ships in this region every summer, and offer the largest selection of cruises and cruise tours. They schedule Alaska-specific special events onboard, such as Princess Puppies in the Piazza and Klondike Festival, and even have their own train cars and hotel properties in Denali and Fairbanks.

However, if other lines, such as Royal Caribbean or Norwegian, suit your familys needs and budget better, you will still have a wonderful cruise vacation in Alaska. You might find that these lines offer more competitive pricing, your preferred onboard activities, or more robust kids programming, making them the best Alaska cruise choice for you.

Travelers looking for luxury should consider upscale lines such as Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Silversea. These cruise lines offer more intimate ships, inclusive fares, and attentive service, but wont have as many onboard attractions or as expansive kids facilities or activities as the bigger ships.

Choose expedition cruise lines, such as UnCruise Adventures, American Cruise Line, or Alaskan Dream Cruises, for intimate, adventure-focused ships that sail off the beaten path.

Other Interior Attractions And Activities

Best Alaska Cruise Itinerary

In addition to entertainment spaces, the interiors of Princess ships are filled with other venues where passengers can kick back and let loose day and night, including a range of bars, lounges and nightspots.

On many ships, the hub of activity is the Piazza, a sprawling, multilevel space that is designed to resemble a square in Italy. The configuration of the Piazza varies by ship, but the area typically offers several shops, a coffee bar called International Cafe, a wine bar called Vines and additional bars and eateries. The Piazza also is home to roving street performers.

Every Princess ship also has a casino, often just off the Piazza, and spas are big on Princess ships. The Lotus Spa complexes on the lines Royal Class ships offer nearly two dozen treatment rooms, an extensive beauty salon and a thermal suite with a hydrotherapy pool, heated stone beds, Turkish-style steam bath and other steam chambers.

The new Sky Princess is home to the first jazz club on a Princess ship and the lines first escape room. Called Phantom Bridge, the latter attraction takes place in a digitally enhanced room that can be adjusted so the experience is different every time you try it. Its designed for six players at a time, and the experience lasts 23 minutes.

Culinary demonstrations, wine tastings and dance classes also are big on Princess ships.

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Small Ship Alaska Cruises From Seattle

At this time, AAA does not offer 3-day Alaska cruises from Seattle, small boutique cruises from Seattle to Alaska, or cruises from Seattle to Alaska one way.

Please contact one of our travel agents with any questions you may have about our Alaska cruises leaving from Seattle.

We hope to see you soon on one of our cruises!

Start Your Planning With Our Alaska Cruise Tips

Alan and I are total geeks when it comes to travel planning. We dont leave anything to chance. Here are the tools that we use when planning a cruise to Alaska.

Boomer Travel Tip

We highly recommend joining a medical evacuation program before leaving on an active international trip. Start your Medjet membership here.

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Alaska Cruise Itineraries From Seattle


Alaska cruises departing from Seattle typically last seven nights and feature stops in five ports of call: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria, and Seattle.

These itineraries also include a cruising day through Alaskas Endicott Arm Fjord, a 30-mile-long stretch full of natural beauty, that ends at the gorgeous Dawes Glacier. Step out into your veranda or head up to one of the ships outdoor decks and be soothed by the granite Alaskan mountains, cascading waterfalls, drifting icebergs, and spectacular glaciers.

During a round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle, youll also sail through the Inside Passage, a maze of fjords and bays home to a number of animals including bald eagles, sea lions, and whales.

See Itineraries

How To Choose An Alaska Cruise Itinerary

Who has the best Alaska itineraries? | Great Alaska Debate, Ep 3

When you tell a non-cruiser youre planning a cruise to Alaska, theres a good chance theyll say something like Oh, be sure to sail the Inside Passage. Ive heard its beautiful. Experienced cruisers, on the other hand, know that all Alaska cruises navigate at least a portion of the Inside Passage, the protected waters that stretch from the northern coast of Washington state into Alaskas panhandle.

Of course, just because you dont have to specifically choose an Inside Passage cruise doesnt mean that you wont have a choice to make – there are a number of different alaska cruise itineraries to choose from. To help simplify the choices, here are five of the most popular Alaska cruise routes, with some of the pros and cons of each choice.

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Day : Anchorage To Knik River

1 hour 44 minutes of driving

Tonights lodging: Knik River Lodge

8AM Breakfast and check out

A Goldenview Bed and Breakfast serves up a full spread for breakfast! Homemade bread, jam, eggs, quiche, yogurt, and more! Since the Eagle River Nature Center was closed, we ended up soaking in the hot tub here for quite a while! It was a relaxing start to the day!

Eagle River Nature Center

As I mentioned, the Eagle River Nature Center was closed on the day we were there, but if its open when you visit, definitely add it to your list. There are great hiking spots and beautiful views here!

Alaska Helicopter Tours

Alright, now for my favorite activity of the WHOLE ALASKA TRIP! We got to do the Grand Knik Tour with Alaska Helicopter Tours which includes three landings! Ours included an Ice Fall add-on as one of the three stops.

This was by far my favorite experience in Alaska, and is arguably the best way to see Alaska! It takes off from the Knik River Lodge, so I booked lodging at the lodge for tonight. If you have the chance to do a helicopter tour, sign up for this one!

Turkey Red

Since the Knik River Lodge restaurant was only open on weekends when we visited, we headed into Palmer for dinner. Turkey Red serves up fresh, organic, local food that is absolutely delicious! I ordered the chicken funghi, Harrison ordered the Moussaka, and we shared a peanut butter tart for dessert!

Knik River Lodge

Alaska Cruises In June

Of the few warm summer months in Alaska, June has the longest days all year, with summer solstice falling on the 20th. Southeast Alaska experiences daylight nearly around the clock in June, making it a good time to see everything there is to see on an Alaskan cruise.

Wildlife is visibly abundant, with whales making their journey back into Alaskan waters from Hawaii. There is a heavy concentration of humpback whales in Southeast Alaskan waters during the summer months, and it is not uncommon to see them feeding with their young.

There are also grey whales, orcas, Dall porpoise, seals, sea lions and sea otters inhabiting the area where the Sikumi cruises. And look ashore for black and brown bears who are in full swing for summer, hunting and fishing for food.

Summer solstice is an exciting time all over Alaska, so make plans to visit a town or festival before or after your custom Alaska cruise on the Sikumi.

Our adventure was close to its end I could feel the nostalgia growing inside me. I would miss this boat and her crew. Our once-in-a-lifetime experience was their routine, and I couldnt help but envy them.

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What To Do On An Alaskan Cruise

When it comes to planning shore excursions or time in port, youll find more things you must see or do on your Alaska cruise than you have time for.

Flightseeing is a popular activity, either by a floatplane that will soar you over beautiful natural areas or a helicopter that will fly up to the top of a glacier. Dogslide rides or visiting a dogsled training center and playing with the huskies are quintessential Alaska activities. To get more of a glimpse of Alaska culture and lifestyle, get tickets to a lumberjack show, attend a salmon bake, or go on a crab fishing tour.

History buffs will want to explore the states Gold Rush history, either with a local tour of Skagway or a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad. Culturally curious cruisers can visit a totem park or see a performance by native Alaskans.

Animal lovers can sign up for a whale watch, visit a bald eagle preserve, or take a tour to observe bears in their natural habitat or at a sanctuary. Active travelers can work up a sweat hiking, kayaking, biking, zip-lining, and even snorkeling in Alaskas wilderness. Gentle rafting and float trips are a less intense way to get outside and bond with nature in this cruise destination.

Dont want to book a tour? Alaskas cruise ports provide plenty of shopping opportunities for souvenirs and locally made crafts. Grab an Alaskan beer at a historic saloon, or try local seafood at any number of portside restaurants.

See The Wilds Of A Great Frontier

What is the best time to cruise to Alaska?

Immerse yourself in a world of Tlingit heritage with hints of Russia, where an outpost atmosphere prevails in mountain-ringed seaside towns. As you cruise this pristine wilderness of misty fjords, lush forest and gleaming walls of ice, pan for gold like prospectors of old, meet local Tlingit, and hear tales both tall and true of a region where a Wild West spirit is very much alive.

Immerse yourself in a world of Tlingit heritage with hints of Russia, where an outpost atmosphere prevails in mountain-ringed seaside towns. As you cruise this pristine wilderness of misty fjords, lush forest and gleaming walls of ice, pan for gold like prospectors of old, meet local Tlingit, and hear tales both tall and true of a region where a Wild West spirit is very much alive.

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Top 8 Best Cruise Ships Going To Alaska In 2020

Think this is the year you will take the family to the Last Frontier and go on an Alaska cruise? Sounds like a great plan, but you might be wondering which is the best ship to go on an Alaska cruise.

There are a lot of great ships that will traverse the Inside Passage from May through September, each with their own assortment of amenities, activities and fun things to do. In fact, you will find a great range of value with options that run the gamut of ship size and offerings.

Here are our picks for the best ships cruising to Alaska this summer.

Haines Best Weather And Kayaking

Haines doesnt have a lot of cruise ships that call in its port, but it does have some. You can also visit Haines by taking a shore excursion when your ship calls in nearby Skagway. However you get there, Haines is worth a visit for plenty of reasons.

In addition to the scenery that every Alaska town has on offer, Haines is positioned to have the best weather in Southeast Alaska, making it ideal for outdoor activities like kayaking! When I say best weather I mean less rain than most other ports but it doesnt have the wind that Skagway has. In any part of Southeast Alaska you need to be ready for rain, any day, all year, but Haines gives you a better chance of a dry day than most.

Kayaking is unique in Haines because you can take a tour for sea kayaking or you can kayak in Chilkoot Lake, giving options for every preference and every skill level in a kayak. This is a wonderful place to try kayaking for the first time!

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Day : Alaska Railroad From Denali To Fairbanks

The train trip from Denali to Fairbanks is much shorter at four hours and leaves in the late afternoon. This allows time for another hike or visiting the sled dog kennels or exploring the entrance area at the park.

Make sure to get to the train depot early and not miss your train!

Youll arrive in Fairbanks in the evening, usually around 8pm. I recommend finding a place to stay close to downtown so you can get there quickly and be able to explore the next day on foot.

How To Choose Your Alaska Cruise Itinerary

How to Choose the Best Alaska Cruise

Though you now know youre cruising northbound, theres still a huge decision to make: which Alaska cruise itinerary should you choose? Over two dozen companies offer Alaska cruises, and they all do it a bit differently.

Im not saying it will be easy or quick, but here are three steps you can take to narrow down your search.

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Rhine And Danube Rivers

Why we love it: River cruises are luring baby boomers off bus tours and onto cruise ships. Europes Rhine and Danube Rivers are the most popular introductory itineraries due to their charming scenery, slower pace and bucket-list cities like Amsterdam and Budapest. Rhine River cruises afford a fabulous wine scene and must-see villages like Strasbourg and Rudesheim, while the Danube which includes stops in Nuremburg, Vienna and Melk is dotted with cities rich in art history. Fairytale castles, medieval influences and UNESCO World Heritage Sites give you a glimpse of each regions history and culture and allow you to venture at your leisure.

Itinerary highlights: Amsterdam, Basel and Rudesheim on the Rhine Budapest, Vienna and Melk and the Christmas markets during the late fall and winter on either itinerary.

Learn more about the Rhine and Danube Rivers.

Pack For Every Weather

Alaska weather is dynamic it changes quickly and dramatically. The forecast is almost always worse than the weather turns out to be except when it isnt. This might be super intimidating and leave you uncertain about what to pack for your Alaska cruise.

Luckily you dont need to pack your whole closet to be prepared. Alaska is a casual destination, so your daily clothes at home will be sufficient for almost every occasion. Then just keep in mind these Alaska travel essentials and take a look at my Alaska cruise packing list and youll be set.

If youre feeling nervous about specific items, I have guides on the best shoes and boots for Alaska, as well as the best coats and jackets.

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