Alaska Cruises: The Ultimate Guide For An Unforgettable Alaskan Cruise
As one of the most beautiful places in the world, Alaska offers a perfect escape into the Last Frontier. With most of the noteworthy destinations being ruggedly remote, the best way to traverse the landscape is through Alaska cruises.
Through this form of travel, visitors can enjoy cruises to Alaska do not need to sacrifice luxury and comfort while cruising on their ship. Eager cruisers will enjoy the Alaska cruise deals offered throughout the year by various travel agents and cruise lines.
So make sure to grab one of my free cruise planners and get comfortable, because we are going to dive into all the things you need to know about Alaska cruises!
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The 6 Most Important Factors To Consider When Choosing The Perfect Alaska Cruise
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INSIDER SECRET: Youll want to choose your cruise line carefully. Some cruise lines, like Carnival, cater to families and budget travelers, while others, like Celebrity, are known for offering a more luxury experience.
If you have looked into or taken an Alaskan cruise before, you know how confusing it can be to choose the right cruise itinerary. There are many different ports of call, none of which you have likely heard of before, tons of scenic cruising days , plus one-way or round-trip options.
Its overwhelming, to say the least. Alaskan cruises offer some of the largest variety from week to week and ship to ship compared to any other cruising region in the world.
But there are good reasons to have so many options. Once you know what differences to look for, you can find the right itinerary for that perfect Alaskan cruise.
Best Alaska Cruise Itineraries
Big ships and smaller luxury cruise lines tend to follow similar cruise itineraries.
Alaska Inside Passage cruises sail roundtrip from Seattle or Vancouver, perhaps with a stop in Victoria, B.C., and explore Southeast Alaska, never reaching Anchorage. They call at the big, tourist-focused Inside Passage ports.
One-way cruises travel between Vancouver and Whittier or Seward in Alaska. These cruises typically visit several Inside Passage ports, but swap Victoria for a more northern Alaska stop, such as Sitka. They take cruisers through the Gulf of Alaska to Southcentral Alaska, close to Anchorage.
The best Alaska cruise itinerary for you depends on what you want to prioritize for your vacation. The benefit of a roundtrip cruise is easier and cheaper airlift to the departure ports. You wont have to bother with one-way flights and the longer transit time to/from Anchorage. A one-way sailing is best for cruisers who want to tack on extra vacation time on land to visit Denali National Park or the Kenai Peninsula.
To assist with the latter, most cruise lines offer cruise tours, which combine a three- to seven-night bus tour through Alaska with a weeklong cruise. These options are ideal for travelers who want their entire itinerary planned out for them, rather than booking their own lodging, transportation, and activities pre- or post-cruise.
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How Much Does A Princess Cruise Cost
Princess ships are very reasonably priced. Theyre not the least expensive vessels out there. But theyre not pricey by any means. Its possible to find Princess voyages to the Caribbean, Bahamas or Mexico starting under $100 per person, per night including all taxes and fees at least in the offseason.
As of the date of this storys posting, for instance, seven-night sailings from Fort Lauderdale to the Eastern Caribbean in May were starting at just $571 per person, not including taxes and fees of $140. That works out to just $102 per night, per person with taxes and fees for a package that includes your lodging, transportation and meals.
As you might expect, pricing for ships generally will be lower during offseason periods such as September, October, November and parts of December.
The timing of when you book also can matter. Cruises book up much further in advance than airplanes or hotels, and many cruisers will tell you that the best pricing for any given sailing often is available when cruises first go on sale . Booking far in advance also will give you the best chance of getting your preferred cabin type and location on a ship.
Once on board a Princess ship, youll pay extra for most drinks, extra-charge restaurants, spa services, shore excursions, internet service and a few other things unless youve bought a package for some of these items in advance. Most onboard activities such as theater shows are included in the fare.
Scenic Cruising Is Glacier Bay Better Than Other Scenic Glacier Cruising
Theres no question that Glacier Bay National Park is absolutely stunning. However, there are plenty of other glacier cruising areas that are every bit as beautiful, just different. Most Alaska cruises have a day of cruising near a glacier but its not always Glacier Bay. If youre looking at a cruise itinerary that does not include Glacier Bay, you can be confident that you will have an amazing experience! Dont let that on its own stop you from booking. Small ships sometimes dock at Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay , but big ships do not go ashore in the park. Park rangers usually come aboard to share about what youre seeing and experiencing. Other possible glacier cruising areas include:
- College Fjord Cross gulf cruises sometimes call at College Fjord, a spectacular collection of tidewater glaciers, narrow fjords and towering mountains.
- Hubbard Glacier located near Yakutat, this glacier is huge! In fact, this is the largest glacier that big cruise ships visit. It is not in a narrow fjord, but the glacier itself, the icebergs and massive mountains behind more than make up for this
- Tracy Arm located near Juneau, Tracy Arm is a local favorite and an impossibly long and gorgeous fjord. The glacier is not huge but the setting is stunning. Locals will tell you Tracy Arm is more beautiful than Glacier Bay!
No matter where your ship sails for glacier viewing, it is sure to be absolutely stunning.
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Best For Teens And Adventure
If youve got active kids who have an interest in nature and the environment, an expedition voyage could be exactly what will keep them engaged and off their devices. Anyone else looking to really explore Alaska should also consider an expedition cruise where youll hop aboard skiffs for up-close looks at glaciers, go hiking in Tongass National Forest and kayak the calm waters of the Inside Passage. Look to UnCruise Adventures, Alaskan Dream Cruises, Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions , Ponant or Silverseas expedition ships .
The Best Cruises In Alaska
Cruise lines are in the business of giving their guests a good time, so theyve all got something going for them. Here are our picks for Alaskas 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 lines most recent ships are beautiful, but Celebritys 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.
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Whats The Weather Like
The weather in Alaska can be unpredictable, so its essential to come prepared for all conditions. In the summer months, temperatures generally range from the 60s to the 80s. But it can get cooler at night or during excursions. The fall and winter months are colder, with temperatures dropping below freezing. Its also common to experience rain and snow in these seasons.
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.
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Types Of Alaska Cruise Lines
No matter what cruising experience you are looking for, I guarantee you will find it in Alaska. Nearly every cruise line has voyages heading up to Alaska, from 3-day weekend trips to 180-day world cruises.
There are plenty of Alaska cruise deals available for eager cruisers booking through a travel agent or directly with the cruise line. Make sure to research diligently to find the best Alaska cruise for you!
Alaska Cruise Guide: Planning Tips And Best Cruise Itineraries
Most people equate cruising with tropical destinations. Why would anyone cruise to chilly, rainy Alaska, where you might be wearing fleece jackets and knit hats and gloves in July?
Look beyond the iffy weather, and youll find many reasons to cruise Alaska. Perhaps youre drawn to the gorgeous scenery, the areas cultural and historic riches, or its abundant wildlife. With a variety of itineraries, cruise ships, destinations, and activities to consider, no two cruises to Alaska will be the same. However, first-timers can easily become overwhelmed choosing the best Alaska cruise itinerary or picking the perfect cruise line or cruise tour.
In our definitive Alaska cruise, well take you through everything you need to know to choose and plan the Alaska cruise vacation of your dreams.
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Looking For Extended Voyages
If youre looking for an extended voyage, consider one of the cruises that sail to Anchorage or even further up into the Inside Passagethese can be as long as fourteen nights! And if you want to see everything Alaska offers, including glaciers and wildlife, try an expedition cruise.
The largest ships in Alaska are typically found on these routes and most major cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Disney. So if youre looking for a luxurious experience with all the bells and whistles, these might be the best option for youbut they come at a premium price tag.
What To Pack For An Alaskan Cruise
I have a whole post about what to pack for Alaska, including if youre taking a cruise! Head over there for all the details, but the MOST important things to have and bring from home are an excellent rain jacket and waterproof comfortable walking shoesor boots!
If you are coming from a hot climate, make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes. Temperatures in Southeast Alaska and along the Inside Passage are generally in the 50s and 60s in the summer. It is possible to have much hotter days but definitely be ready for some chilly and damp days, even in the middle of summer!
Youll also want to make sure you have sunscreen because when the sun does come out its INTENSE during Alaskas long summer days. You can find sunscreen everywhere, but if you like a particular brand definitely bring it with you.
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How To Pick The Best Alaska Cruises
My journey to Alaska began in Vancouver British Columbia, where we boarded Holland America for a cruise through the inside passage. When choosing a cruise for your next trip, here are some things to consider. What is the budget? Where do you want to go? What kind of experience would be best? Do you have any favorite destinations? Or ports of call that should be included in your itinerary? And excursions on land, in addition to tours onboard, do they look interesting? Make sure theyre offered by the cruise line .
Alaskan sailing trips can vary greatly depending upon which route or region you choose. For example, a luxury yacht might give passengers access to more intimate views but wont often allow them onto land. . In contrast, smaller vessels may provide an even closer view of glaciers than their bigger counterparts but may have fewer onboard amenities like hot tubs.
Many cruise lines offer a wide range of itineraries in Alaska, so its important to do your homework before making any decisions. The most popular routes are from Vancouver up to Skagway and then back down again , with occasional sailings around the state. Though shorter versions are available, but these typically last seven nights.
What Kind Of Cruise Are You Taking
Most first-time Alaska cruisers choose a traditional cruise line, like Holland America or Princess, both of which are well-known for their Alaska cruises.
But adventure-seekers and people whoâve already done a traditional Alaska cruise often go back and try an expedition cruise to get closer to nature on their vacation.
Taking an expedition cruise in Alaska is very different than sailing on a mainstream or luxury cruise line. Most expedition cruise lines will send you a list of recommended items, so check your email for their specific recommendations.
Expedition cruisers will want to pack more performance or active clothingâyouâll have an outdoor adventure to experience each day. Traditional cruisers can pack more basic outfits, depending on the types of shore excursions youâre planning.
Continue reading Carrie Ann’s Alaska Cruise packing suggestions here:
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Youll Follow One Of The Worlds Most Scenic Sea Routes
Just about every Alaska cruise incorporates the Inside Passage, the fabled 400-mile coastal route stretching from Puget Sound in Washington, through the British Columbia coast, and into the Gulf of Alaska . Shaped by the staggering force of massive glaciers millions of years ago, this serene waterway really does have it all: 1,000 forest-clad islands, amazing fjords, idyllic bays, and huge populations of whales, sea lions, and seals. Its also where youll find some of the states key towns, all of which have their own unique character and are easy to navigate on foot. Popular stops include Ketchikan for Creek Street, Tongass Historical Museum, and Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, Sitka for St. Michael’s Cathedral, Russian Bishop’s House, Sheldon Jackson Museum, and Sitka National Historical Park, and Skagway for 19th-century Gold Rush-era buildings that have been restored by the National Park Service. Another itinerary bonus is Juneau, the city that is one of just two US state capitals accessible only by boat or plane. Highlights here include marvelling at the icy giant that is Medenhall Glacier, riding the Mount Roberts Tramway for incredible views, and spending time at Glacier Gardens – the 50-acre botanical wonderland in the Tongass National Forest that is most famous for its 15-foot-tall upside down Flower Tower trees.
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Alaska is Adventurous!
Come explore some of the top active / adventure Alaska destinations, resorts, wilderness lodges and activities. Alaska Cruises Direct has you covered – whether it’s kayaking, hiking, cycling, helicopter glacier landing, flightseeing, fishing remote lakes, or zip lining through Alaska’s mountains, we know where to have fun!
Alaska Cruises, Rail & Tours, Alaska’s National Parks
With over 150 unique itinerary possibilities, from the 3 most popular cruise lines and hundreds of shore excursions, the combinations for your bucket-list inspired adventure are nearly endless. With Alaska Cruises Direct, you’ll enjoy the best of Alaska by combining a seven-night sailing with a land tour into Alaska’s most magnificent inland destinations.
Choose From 5 Great Ways To Sail Alaska
3 – 8 day land tours combined with a 7 day Alaska Cruise.
Start with glaciers and frontier towns on a 7-day Voyage of the Glaciers Cruise
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When Is The Season For Alaska Cruises
Cruise lines most consistently visit Alaska on their best Alaska cruises between the months of late April to mid-September. This means that it can be difficult to narrow down your choices as many cruise lines have dozens of itineraries operating a month in season.
With so many must-see spots in Alaska, the most popular months for cruises to Alaska are July and August. This is when the temperatures are the highest and most enjoyable with sunnier days.
If you were hoping to see the northern lights, try to book an Alaska cruise later in the season around late September. While this spectacle may be seen from multiple ports of call, watch out for deals through the cruise lines offering Aurora Borealis viewing experiences.