The Ship Is As Important As Your Alaska Cruise Itinerary Itself
For some destinations, the cruise ship is more of a floating hotel where features like bars and specialty restaurants as well as activities such as rock climbing, surfing simulators, and go karts are important. On an Alaska cruise though, youll want to select a ship with plenty of space to watch the water and shoreline around the ship as it passes by.
Ships that are designed to keep people active on inside activities can be a lot of fun for an Alaska cruise but those like Holland America Lines Koningsdam where theres a huge observation deck or Norwegian Encore where there is plenty of outdoor space on lower decks are perfect big ship experiences for an Alaska cruise since you can relax with a cup of coffee or tea and see whales, orcas, and even bears and eagles on shore.
Smaller ships such as those offered by UnCruise, Regent, Viking, and Silverseas offer not only ultra luxury experiences but also can spend more time at key locations such as glacier viewing and better viewing locations closer to the water so that you wont miss those million dollar moments when a whale breaches or a pod of orcas swims next to the ship.
Submitted by James from CruiseWestCoast.com
Mainstream And Family Cruise Lines For Alaska Cruises
Just about all the main cruise lines offer sailings to Alaska’s scenic shores.
Shore Excursions From Princess Cruise
What are your reccomendations of the top few shore excursions from the Princess cruise to Alaska? And is it best to book thru Princess or independently? Thx
Book independently. Princess adds their commission when booking through them and usually gets a discount from the operator on top of that.. I just had an interesting conversation about this last night. I cant mention any names but I was told if a company is contracted with Princess they HAVE to quote the rate Princess shows if they mention they are on the ship. Bottom linedont tell operaters your with a cruise ship till afterwards.
how do i book indpendently? thx
1st you need to know what port youll be at and what times. Then you could request a vistors guide from the local chamber of commerce or do some more researching to find out whats available.
Another great sister site to here is www.cruisecritic.com
Whale/wildlife/glacier cruises, dogsled rides, fishing, train rides, flight seeing, kayaking are a few possibilities.
One of my favorites for Seward is Godwin Glacier helicopter with a landing on the glacier and a ride in a dogsled on real snow.
Kenai Fjords wildlife cruises are very popular with many operators to consider.
You might be interested in a couple discount books available.
You dont give any specifics on your cruise or if your thinking about some land travel.
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The Best Cruises In Alaska
Cruise lines are in the business of giving their guests a good time, so they’ve all got something going for them. Here are our picks for Alaska’s best, in a few different categories.
- The Best Ships for Luxury: Luxury in Alaska is defined in 2012 by Regent Seven Seas and Silversea. If you want a more casual kind of luxury , the Seven Seas Navigator offers just that on an all-suite vessel with excellent cuisine. Silversea, on the other hand, represents a slick, Italian-influenced, slightly more formal luxury experience with all the perks — big suite cabins and excellent food, linens, service, and companions. Both Regent and Silversea include fine wine and booze in their cruise fares. For the ultimate Alaska experience in a small-ship setting, check out the intimate offerings of American Safari Cruises, where soft adventure comes with upscale accouterments.
- The Best of the Mainstream Ships: Every line’s most recent ships are beautiful, but Celebrity’s Infinity is a true stunner, as is its sister ship, Millennium. These modern vessels, with their extensive art collections, cushy public rooms, and expanded spa areas, give Celebrity a formidable presence in Alaska. And the late-model Sapphire Princess and Diamond Princess have raised the art of building big ships to new heights. Both of these vessels will again be in Inside Passage service this year from Vancouver.
What Excursions Do You Want To Do
Each cruise port has a range of different excursions available at an extra cost. Some of the more common ones like floatplane sightseeing, bear-watching, whale-watching, dog sledding and fishing you can do in multiple places, but others are only available in one location.
Its worth doing a bit of research in advance to work out what you want to do as some of the most popular excursions book up fast, especially in peak season. So if theres something you particularly want to do then its a good idea to reserve a spot when you book your cruise. The pros of official cruise line excursions is that youre usually allowed off the ship first and itll wait if there are delays, but they can be pricey and sometimes have big group sizes.
Float plane in Juneau
You can also book excursions independently, either through companies like Get Your Guide or Viator, or directly with local operators. There are usually tour desks lined up at cruise ports too where you can book something last-minute too if you dont want to book ahead we did a last-minute trip to the Mendenhall Glacier from Juneau when we knew itd be a sunny day. Make sure you allow plenty of time though as the ship wont wait if youre late back.
An excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier
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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.
What To Pack For An Alaska Cruise In September
By the time September rolls in, its shoulder season in Alaska, meaning theres less tourists but chillier weather. Temperatures will continue to drop, with highs only reaching the mid 50s and lows going down to the mid 30s. Therefore, if you booked a to Alaska, make sure to bring heavier layers of clothes, such as thick wool sweaters, socks, hats, a warmer jacket, and a sturdy pair of gloves.
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White Pass Scenic Railway
This is a must-do tour, especially on a clear day. Take a round trip ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, a historic narrow gauge railway built into amazingly rugged and beautiful terrain some 120 years ago. It follows the same Trail of 98 route taken in the late-19th century by a steady stream of gold prospectors looking for Yukon gold â¦ except they did it on foot and often, in wet, muddy conditions or frigid temperatures.
You travel in the comfort of old-fashioned rail cars, and the route takes you up the 2,865-foot summit of the White Pass, through tunnels and over sky-high trestles, past remote valleys and such sights as Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch so named because so many miners lost their horses there.
For those seeking a more active way to see the White Pass, we highly recommend you book the White Pass Train & Bike Tour. You take the train up the Pass and then get off at Fraser for an additional 15-minute van ride to the White Pass summit. Youll then bike 15 miles down the Klondike Highway on a guided summit-to-sea tour back to Skagway and we mean down, down, down. Your hands will likely hurt from hitting the handbrakes so much. Along the way, you stop at waterfalls and other spectacular overlooks.
Get The Most Out Of Your Alaskan Cruise
Choosing the right items to pack is only part of what makes an amazing cruise vacation. It is also important to pick the right cruise line. There is nothing worse than an overpriced, unexciting cruise. The right cruiseliner will have plenty of excursions for you to choose from, as well as tons of amenities.
Moreover, it will not break the bank with its pricing. Consider looking for a deal in choosing your cruise to Alaska, and compare prices to ensure you get the most out of it.
Regardless, an Alaskan cruise is a life-changing event that will show you a natural, untamed world like no other. You will not regret indulging in this easy vacation option.
Now that you know what to bring, check outthis post on what to leave at home when you cruise to help you further slim down your packing list.
Feel free to discuss this topic and all things cruise at our new boards. A place where readers can ask questions, help their fellow cruisers and general cruise discussions on cruise lines and ports.
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Icy Strait Point/hoonah Most Unique Alaska Cruise Port
Icy Strait Point near the town of Hoonah is a unique port in Southeast Alaska. Icy Strait Point was converted from a cannery for cruise ships by the Huna Totem Corporation and is Huna Tlingit owned and operated. The vast majority of employees are Huna Tlingit who live in the town of Hoonah.
At Icy Strait Point you can explore the museum in a historic cannery, walk the nature trails, eat delicious seafood and book one of the many tours offered. Tours include whale watching, trips to look for bears around Chichagof Island, ziplining and off road adventures. If you have the chance to go, dont miss out on this truly unique Alaska cruise port, theres nothing like it anywhere else!
Touch Screen Compatible Gloves
Gloves are a no-brainer on a cruise to Alaska, as it can be very chilly on the boat, especially at night. Choose your gloves carefully. The last thing that you want is to miss a picture-perfect opportunity because you had to take your gloves off first.
Touch-Screen compatible gloves will easily solve this problem, and allow you to snap a picture regardless of how cold your hands are.
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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.
Longer Sailings From The West Coast
Finally, youll find some San Francisco round-trip itineraries usually 10 nights long as well as longer sailings between San Francisco and Vancouver. These cruises are best suited to travelers who love days at sea. Youll have four sea days plus a day of scenic cruising at a spot like Tracy Arm , Endicott Arm, Hubbard Glacier or Glacier Bay National Park. The waters before you enter the Inside Passage can be calm, rough or anything in between, depending on when you go and luck of the draw.
Ports on these longer sailings may include Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point and Victoria, British Columbia.
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When Is The Best Time To Visit Alaska To Avoid Crowds
Shoulder season is also the best time to sail on an Alaska cruise if you prefer fewer crowds. The shoulder season for the Alaska cruises includes the months of May and September. The weather is still cool or cooling down , with school still in session or just beginning.
As a rule of thumb, fewer people will be traveling when school is in session, and therefore, fewer crowds. You can often find great deals on Alaskan cruises that sail during the shoulder season.
Fewer families travel during the shoulder season as school is in session during May and September. Also, many cruise passengers prefer to travel to Alaska in the warmer summer weather. So you will find fewer tourists at sea and on land.
Shore excursions are also easier to book during these months. So take advantage of the smaller crowds and roomier excursions.
Wild Arts Artist Walk: Hot Italian Glass
On this 2.5-hour excursion, youll walk through the small city of Sitka, once known as the Paris of the Pacific, with a guide, stopping at various art galleries and artisan ateliers along the way. Witness everything from wood-carving and ceramic work to jewelry-making and glass-blowing, before trying your hand at the ancient art of Venetian glass-blowing yourself. Youll also have free time at the end to browse a gallery and to shop for souvenirs. This tour is ideal for anyone who wants to take a short excursion and still have enough time left in the day to explore Sitka on his or her own.
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Best Luxury: Regent Seven Seas
Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas
- Ship Name: Seven Seas Mariner
- Itinerary: Sitka, Juneau Skagway, Ketchikan, Vancouver
For a luxury cruise experience though the Inside Passage, Regent Seven Seas has a few sailing dates on the Seven Seas Mariner, an all-suite ship. On Mariner, all staterooms have a private balcony perfect for watching the glaciers and fjords float past and a minimum of 300 feet of space. Onboard, guests can unwind in the award-winning Canyon Ranch spa, take in an evening show, and dine on gourmet cuisine. Being a smaller ship , its size allows the staff to anticipate guests needs and personalize the experience. On the Alaska voyage, the ship calls on many popular ports and also treats passengers to Sitka, a unique port steeped in Tlingit culture and Russian history, before concluding in Vancouver.
The Best Time To Take An Alaska Cruise
Want to know when is the best time to go on an Alaska cruise for great weather, low prices, or fewer crowds?
While the short-term future of cruises is still murky at best, eventually cruise ships will be heading back out to Alaska and the beautiful natural scenery to enjoy in Alaska is simply unparalleled.
It is hard to top the majesty beauty of rugged glaciers, plethora of unique animal sightings, or huge mountains. Going on a cruise to Alaska is an extremely popular kind of cruise, because it offers an easy way to see so much in a compact amount of time.
While it is impossible to see and do it all over the course of a one week cruise, Alaska has the power to enchant even brief visitors. So while you are stuck at home, this may be the perfect time to start planning a cruise to The Last Frontier.
Here is your guide for figuring out the best times to visit for your first Alaska cruise.
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Best Alaska Cruises For Families
Whale-watching in Alaska
An Alaska cruise with kids offers plenty of adventures for the whole family to enjoy, such as whale watching and kayaking next to waterfalls.
While all of our Alaska itineraries have port stops and excursions that make for a great family cruise, its a good idea to research each port of call before deciding which cruise will be the best match for your family.
Find a cruise itinerary that stops in Ketchikan during the end of summer or beginning of fall, when youll be able to witness a dramatic salmon run. Kids will be in awe when they spot massive amounts of salmon coming in from the ocean and swimming and leaping upstream in the river, where bears and other wildlife are waiting to feast.
Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau, Alaska
During a stop in , you can take the family up the Mount Roberts Tramway, visit a one-eyed bald eagle, and go on a kid-friendly hike up the mountainside for incredible views from above.
White Pass & Yukon Railroad in Skagway, Alaska
In Skagway, kids will be delighted to go on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Alaska. Built during the Gold Rush era, this stunning route travels over mountain passes and through gorgeous valleys, climbing almost 3,000 feet above water.
Enjoy the scenery while aboard the vintage passenger train, or for some extra family-friendly fun, combine your ride with an excursion to pan for gold.