Explore The Small Towns Of Skagway And Ketchikan
Most cruise lines stop at several small towns and cities along the Inside Passage, all of which offer great excursions for your time off-board the ship. But sometimes the best choice is to keep your afternoon open and explore the towns on your own. I stopped at three ports in all: Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan, and all three offered a unique glimpse into different parts of Alaskas fascinating history. Skagway is a former Gold Rush boomtown that still gives off a very Wild West vibe; is a low-key capital city with plenty of cute cafés and boutique shops; and Ketchikan is a vibrant fishing community with a strong Native Alaskan culture. Even if there are excursions at these ports you dont want to miss, its worth it to set aside some time while the ships in port to walk around these fascinating little communities and see how real Alaskans live.
Your Adventure Is Only A Click Away
“The ability of a small boat to maneuver into hidden places makes for an unforgettable experience.” Patricia G, Park Ridge, IL
This was perfect for us! Like everyone we met on board, we would not consider a cruise with thousands to be a vacation. We made friends each night in the lounge and it felt like a dinner party. The flexibility of the captain and our guides was a fantastic touch. Being able to go into places where it was just our boat was very special. Richard L, Kamas, UT
Ally P, Poway, CA
Selecting A Cabin Type
For most people cabin selection will be based on your budget but there are a few things to consider when selecting your room and whether its worth upping your budget a little to get a room you truly love. There are a variety of state rooms, and I think the first choice is whether you want an interior room , a sea view room , a balcony room or a suite with balcony.
If you are claustrophobic or get a little seasick, then going for a room with a window or balcony is essential. We enjoyed a balcony room and found this was such a great way to be able to enjoy the sailing days, relaxing on the balcony, book in hand, waiting for a whale to swim by!
The second consideration is which part of the boat you want to be on, the back, middle or front. Honestly, I personally dont think this is as much of a consideration as selecting which room type you go for. The selection of which location is usually based on what you want to be close to, but with activities on board all over the boat you will be walking from one end to the other no matter what.
One thing to check if possible is that you are not in a middle corner room. Our room was on a corner in the middle of the ship where the next section of cabin rooms and balconies jutted out farther than ours to one side. This meant we had a large wall next to our balcony completely obscuring the view to the left and front of the boat so could not see anything ahead of us when we were sailing.
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Best Overall: Norwegian Cruise Line
Courtesy of; Norwegian Cruise Line
- Ship Name: Norwegian Bliss
- Itinerary: Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Victoria
Norwegian boasts that it has the youngest fleet cruising to Alaska,” and the Norwegian Bliss is NCLs newest ship . Bliss has buzzworthy features like laser tag, a race track on the top deck, and thrilling waterslides that overhang the sides of the ship. The ship has accommodations for every type of cruiser, including solo staterooms and elegant suites in the Haven, a luxurious enclave. Another perk of this cruise is that is sails round-trip from Seattle, so guests can drive or fly into the same port for departure and arrival .;Bliss also has a beautiful observation lounge ideal when sailing the Inside Passage.;
Alaska Is Americas Last Frontier Experience The Rugged Adventure In Comfort And Style With A Variety Of Cruise Lines
Alaska cruises and cruise tours are the ideal way to experience the legendary history of the 49th state. The historic charm and frontier spirit are felt in the Inside Passage and in picturesque ports of call, such as Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau and Sitka. Alaska is also renowned for its magnificent wildlife, whale migrations, exceptional scenery, dramatic glaciers, and iconic natural wonders, such as Mount McKinley and Denali National Park. With departures and arrivals available from Seattle or Vancouver, youre sure to find an adventure that suits you.
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Ketchikan Overall Runner Up And Best For Shopping And Totem Poles
Ketchikan is a very close second for me for the top spot as the best Alaska cruise port! Juneau gets a slight edge from me as I mentioned above for the number of hiking trails that are easy to get to from the cruise ship dock. Like Juneau, Ketchikan is relatively easy to get around on your own and has a bus system that takes you to most places.
Ketchikan also has excellent shore excursions, particularly to Misty Fjords National Monument, and its a great place for fishing trips.
One of the best things about Ketchikan is its impressive number of totem poles. There are several you can see downtown, including at the entrance to Creek Street, the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center and the Totem Heritage Center. To see and learn even more, take an excursion offered by your ship to either Totem Bight National Historical Park or Saxman Totem Park.
This is the best Alaska cruise port for shopping, with delightful Creek Street and the streets surrounding it offering up more local art and gifts than many other ports . Make sure to visit Crazy Wolf Studio, which is Alaska Native owned and features Native art from across the northwest coast. In addition, I highly recommend the Captains Lady, with lots of locally made items as well as Ray Trolls studio.
The Best Alaska Itineraries
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.
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Advantages Of Visiting Alaska In May
- May is part of the spring shoulder season and sees fewer visitors than later in the year, so you should be able to find better travel deals and lower cruise prices.
- For wildlife spotters, May offers migratory songbirds, pods of gray whales, and herds of moose. Bring a pair of binoculars and you may even catch the occasional wolf or lynx on the prowl.
Your Alaska Cruise Itinerary Can Determine What To Pack
This is why it is an important thing to pack lots of gear most of which you would never pack for a regular cruise line. Especially since you dont know what the weather will be like. Sure you can check the weather in advance but I recommend packing in as much as you can in your luggage, as you never know how the weather changes in Alaska. As the Alaskan Cruise Season runs from May to September with the busiest time being in
Inside Passage: Holland American ships run for a seven night cruise along the southeast Alaska inside passage from either Seattle, USA or Vancouver, Canada. The cruise ports I went to are all on the inside passages of ;
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Whens The Best Time To Take An Alaska Cruise
The cruise season in Alaska runs from late April/early May until early September, and can be broadly split into three different seasons: spring, summer and autumn. Theres not really a best time to take an Alaska cruise as each season has different advantages and disadvantages which might relate to the weather, the wildlife, the prices or the size of the crowds.
Its important to remember weather in Alaska is pretty unpredictable, so youre never going to be guaranteed blues skies and sunshine, even in the middle of summer. I travelled in late August and got lucky with some beautiful weather, but the same cruise a week earlier had thick fog and rain, so theres always a bit of luck involved and you need to be prepared for changing weather conditions pack wet weather gear and warm layers whenever youre travelling.
Sitka Best Alaska Cruise Port To Explore On Your Own
If you like to explore on your own, Sitka is the port for you! Sitka has far fewer ships than many other ports so its fun for an independent minded traveler to explore. Most likely your ship will dock a few miles outside of town, but theres a free shuttle downtown that goes every 15 minutes while a ship is important and its easy to zip around. You can also link up with Sitkas bus system to get to trailheads and other areas.
Sitkas beautiful setting on Baranof Island combined with an intriguing history of Tlingit history and modern culture with Russian and American rule make it an interesting place to visit.
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Helpful Tips Before You Go
- Be aware of the unusual length of days and nights in these northern latitudes. In May or June, the sun doesnt set until after 11pm giving you more time to see more of Alaska.
- In Alaska, some of the best tasting water comes right out of the tap. Thats because its glacial watercrisp, clean and clear.
- Much of Alaska is covered by a rainforest, so pack water-resistant clothing.
- Temperatures can vary based on what you are doing . Wearing layers can help keep you comfortable throughout the day no matter what the activity.
- Book Flights by Celebrity® to be protected in case there is any cancellation.
- Research the shore excursions and book them in advance, pre-cruise. The popular shore excursions get sold out fast.
- All destinations in Alaska take U.S. dollars and most take credit cards but be sure to check before your purchase.
Alaska Cruise Packing List
September 21, 2021 by Cacinda Maloney
I started to pack for my very first ride on an Alaska cruise ship with Holland Americas Nieuw Amsterdamfor the upcoming summer months. It was most definitely on my bucket list. I was trying to decide what to take with me, since I knew there was a big difference from going to than going on a traditional Caribbean cruise.
What’s in this post:
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Questions To Consider If Still Struggling With Cabin/stateroom Choice:
If youre still struggling with this choice, ask yourself these questions.; Your answers may bring clarity to your decision.; ;
- MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION:;;;WHEN am I cruising? A balcony in July is quite different from a balcony in Sept or May. For detailed info about weather/temps in each month in Alaska:;;Planning an Alaskan Cruise Choosing the Cruise Line, Itinerary & Dates
- SECOND MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION:; How important is cost in the decision?;; ;;Is cost at the top of your list of considerationsor closer to the bottom? How much weight does the cost factor receive?
- VIEWS:; Do I; want to see EVERYTHING a 360° view? Or can I accept the fact that some things are going to be on the other side of the ship and I wont see them from my Balcony ?;
- PRIVACY:; Do I prefer More view; less privacy; OR;Less view; more privacy?;
- DAYLIGHT & SLEEPING: Can I sleep with light in the room? ; Clothespins/clips on curtains will keep out SOME
- ATMOSPHERE:; How Important is the Atmosphere to my Scenery Enjoyment?; In other words, do I prefer these pristine sites alone with quiet, or surrounded by the excitement generated by people oohing and awwing?
- Am I traveling as a couple/family or part of a group of 23 who will all want to share the experience together anyway?; ;
HOWEVER.about 2 months before our cruise, we got an UPSELL offer ; We took their offer and for just a few hundred dollars more, went from Interior to Balcony.; It was a deal we just couldnt pass up!;;
Best Glacier Bay Excursion
Our next excursion doesnt even require you to get off the ship youre going to Glacier Bay, Alaska for scenic cruising!
If you arent familiar with Glacier Bay, heres what Princess shares about it
Princess is one of a select few cruise lines permitted to cruise the pristine waters of Glacier Bay, the highlight of our 7-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise. Just west of Juneau, this breathtaking national park and preserve boasts some of the worlds most spectacular tidewater glaciers, such as Margerie Glacier, which often drops colossal chunks of ice into the sea. Not surprisingly, Glacier Bay National Park and its epic ice giants are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising Alaskas magnificent park system.
Glacier Bay is breathtaking. And you get to spend most of your morning there. And just like in other national parks, there are park rangers. Park rangers come aboard the ship, narrate your time there and answer questions.
And there is coffee, hot chocolate and kicked up coffee and hot chocolate.
Glacier Bay is another reason you should GET THE BALCONY ROOM! While you can see Glacier Bay from pretty much everywhere on the ship that has decks or windows, its kind of dreamy to have a four-course champagne breakfast on your balcony while marveling at glaciers. CRUISE EXCURSION TIP: Get the balcony room!
Watching glaciers calve is surreal and bittersweet. But it is an unforgettable sight to see.
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Best Traditional Cruise: Princess Cruises
Courtesy of;Princess Cruises
- Ship Name: Royal Princess
- Itinerary: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Whittier
Royal Princess is a gorgeous ship that like all Princess cruises focuses on a more traditional experience . As passengers sail through Glacier Bay or the College Fjord they can stroll around the stunning skywalk a glass walkway that overhangs the vessel or relax next to a lovely water fountain in the pool area. In the evenings, passengers catch movies under the stars. The cruise concludes in Whittier, Alaska, where most cruise lines do not visit. Although Whittier is industrial, its ideal for those extending their stay in Alaska on land. The Alaska railroad connects Whittier to Anchorage so travelers can also enjoy a scenic ride to Anchorage and hop on a connecting flight.;
Compare: 12 Cruise Ships In Alaska
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It’s hard not to revert to hyperbole with Alaska. Here lie more than enough towering snow-capped mountains, breathtaking calving glaciers, extraordinary wild animals and quirky frontier towns to wow hundreds of thousands of cruisers annually. With more than two dozen mainstream ships plying Alaska’s island-filled southeast region from May to September, passengers certainly have options.
This chart features a representative from every major line in the mainstream and luxury markets, from the intimate and upscale Silver Muse to mega-ships like Norwegian Bliss.
Each of the 12 ships, which were hand-picked based on their popularity among all cruise options in Alaska, caters to a different type of traveler. Families on a budget might find the most “bang for their buck” onboard Carnival Spirit, while couples looking to splurge can pamper themselves with Seven Seas Mariner’s lavish suites and all-inclusive fine dining.
Familiarize yourself with the biggest contenders’ itineraries, exclusive regional offerings and more to determine which is the best Alaska cruise option for you.
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Popular Alaska Cruise Routes And How To Choose The Best One For You
There are over 34,000 miles of tidal shoreline in Alaska just waiting for you to discover. Sure, Alaska cruise routes might vary from company to company, but the views are anything but inconsistent. Glaciers lurk between the shadows of rugged mountain peaks. Lakes glisten with the amber glow of approaching dusk. Fjords, dense with rainforest, tunnel their way inland towards sheets of ice as clear as glass.
And above it all, watching in silent contemplation, standsMt. McKinley, North Americas highest peak.
Of course, thats just the topography.
Image Source: Pixabay.com
It really doesnt matter which one of the Alaska cruise routes you opt for, the wildlife always astounds. Humpback whales share the waters with Pacific white-sided dolphins,salmon shark, andBeluga. In harbors dotted across the Alaskan coast, sea lions, otters, and seals hunt, laze, and frolic.
Bears lumber from the forested coastline in search of berries, trout, and other tasty treats. Caribou, elk, and moose throw wary eyes at packs of roaming gray wolves. Dall sheep share the highlands with over 300 varieties of nesting birds.