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.
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.
When Is The Best Time To Cruise Alaska
The best time to cruise Alaska is from May to September. During these months, the weather would not be too wet or too cold. Any month earlier or later than May to September would be too cold and too wet for you to be able to appreciate the cruise. You would not be able to venture outside of your cabin for too long.
Moreover, you may want to book your room earlier, so you can have the luxury of choosing a stateroom that suits your preferences. When you book early, you may also be able to avail of discounts and freebies.
The Royal Caribbean or Harmony of the Seas cruise ships offer fantastic Alaskan cruises that can provide top-notch entertainment, magnificent live views from any suite stateroom, and virtual balconies.
Many Alaskan cruise ships can provide modern amenities and features that can turn your trip into a comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable journey at the right cost.
If youre traveling on a budget, dont worry, as there are good options for you as well. It is advisable to scout for a cruise ship congruent with your travel itinerary and financial budget. Dont let money limit your exploration and adventure. Think out of the box. You can accomplish your objectives by being positive about your Alaskan trip.
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Balconies Are Not Airproof Or Soundproof
Also, if the person adjacent to your cabin smokes and you dont, it can spell disaster. You may have to endure the smell when you decide to spend time on your balcony.
The sounds of the occupants in the other balcony can also be heard from yours, as the wind carries sound. You may not see them, but you can still hear them. Not so much privacy, dont you think so?
Full Frame Lens Recommendations
If youre shooting full frame, like I do, I think you can get away pretty easily with a a 24-70 mm or 24-105 mm zoom for your general purpose task and a 100-400 mm zoom for wildlife and to reach out from the ship while youre cursing.
As far as f/2.8 versus f/4 goes, I dont see a lot to favor either option. For landscapes youre generally going to stop down anyway. Even for something like shooting portraits of your family youre not going to want to have ultra shallow depth of field, as youll want to preserve the context of being in Alaska. Moreover, I found very little need for the fast aperture for purely light gathering reasons.
As for the telephoto, I would recommend a 100-400 class zoom, or a 150-600 class zoom. A 70-300 can be effective for some things, like whales, but in many cases its going to be too short for bears.
Plan Your Own Trip To Alaska The Best 2 Week Itinerary
Sunday Boarding in Vancouver
If you have free time in Vancouver before you board the ship, my two favorite spots were Stanley Park and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
Monday At Sea in the Inside Passage
Cruises force you to take a day offand thats a good thing. I spent the majority of my sea days alternating between eating and watching the scenery go by. Its also a great chance to practice with your camera so that youre ready for the perfect shot later on during the trip. Watch for whales along this route! I saw a few orcas on my first trip.
Alaska shore excursions are expensive, but you can have a cheap day in Ketchikan. Grab the local Silver Line bus to Totem Bight State Park. The park has a clan house and several totem poles in the Tongass Forest . You can also access a small beach and tidepools, with the possibility to see harbor seals or other animals. Youll spend about $10 for the bus and admission and should allow 2-3 hours round-trip.
Afterward, hike Deer Mountain for spectacular views. You wont have time for the full hike unless youre super fit, but you can see local islands from the one-mile overlook which will give you a two-hour round trip hike.
Be prepared! Ketchikan is one of the rainiest cities in the USA with an average of 141 inches of annual rain. Youll still have a great time I got soaked and loved it anyway but get some tips on how to hike in the rain.
Featured September Cruises To Alaska
Increase your chances of seeing fall foliage on an Alaska Southbound Glacier Cruise itinerary that sails from Seward, Alaska down to British Columbia. The northern ports youll visit along the way may already be showing signs of autumn, and by beginning in Alaska, you can enjoy a couple of days before your embarks to explore on land when the first signs of the impending Alaskan winter are just starting to show.
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Looking To Kick Your Adventure Up A Notchoptional Excursions Include:
- Rafting Paddle through Alaskas icy waters for a once in a lifetime thrill.
- Heli-hiking Trek through the most remote areas of the wilderness that only a helicopter can reach.
- Fishing Reel in local salmon and cod from the freshest waters in the world
- Flightseeing Get an aerial view of the most breathtaking nature on the planet.
Through our partnerships with the worlds finest cruise lines, Cruises to Alaska/Best Cruises has attained an exclusive privilege the ability to create custom cruise vacations available only to our customers. Our custom cruisetours depart three different dates from Fairbanks and travel through the heart of Alaska. We provide action-packed adventures you wont find anywhere else.
What Is The Best Month To Cruise Alaska
The best month to visit Alaska depends on what you hope to experience during your trip.
- Do you want as much sun and daylight as possible? Then book a June or July cruise.
- Would you like to see lots of wildlife? Then purchase a May, August, or September cruise as these months feature young animal families and migrations.
- Do you want to get into the interior and see Denali National Park or the Yukon? Then select July or August.
- Are you chasing bright tree foliage? Then book a cruise at the end of August or in September.
- Would you like to avoid mosquitoes? Then May and September are the best months for your cruise.
- Are northern lights on the itinerary? Then your trip will be in September or October. Would you like to fish for salmon? Then select any summer or shoulder month.
The good news is that no matter which month you choose, your Alaskan cruise will reward you with incredible experiences and memories that last a lifetime.
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Can Be Good For Smokers
If you smoke a lot, having a balcony where smoking is allowed can be convenient. Nonetheless, determine if smoking is indeed allowed, as cruise ships have gotten stricter regarding non-smoking areas. And be aware that it would be cold out there, so you might not be able to stay long and leisurely smoke your cigarette.
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 Via Land And Sea
To explore even more of the natural wonders of Alaska, consider a cruisetour. A cruisetour is a vacation that combines a full-length cruise with an escorted tour on land before or after the cruise.
The tour portion can be anywhere from two to six nights long and take you deep into the Alaskan wilderness, where youll explore small mountain towns and Denali National Park and Preserve.
During the land portion of your vacation, your tour guide will make sure you have everything you need and will arrange comfortable transportation from one site to the next. Youll also get ample free time to explore on your own. When it comes to transportation and accommodation, youll experience luxurious glass-domed trains and stay in high-end hotels and lodges.
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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Advantages Of Visiting Alaska In June
- Warming coastal temperatures between 40-60 degrees and even warmer interior temperatures of 50-70 degrees.
- Between 18-20 hours of daylight, giving you lots of time to enjoy the Alaskan wilderness and wildlife.
- Wildlife is everywhere in June, with caribou, black bear cubs, mountain goats, moose calves, and even polar bears, out in force. On the water, pods of beluga whales can be spotted, along with plentiful seabirds and seal pups.
- Cruises offering land tours are available, as all the major national parks open in June.
- The warmer weather and longer daylight hours mean that tourist attractions in towns like Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks are fully open.
Girdwood Forest Fair. Photo by Brook Binkowski/Flicker
Buying Or Renting New Gear
I know many people will buy a new camera in preparation for a trip like this. My dad this before his first trip to Alaska. If you do this too close to your cruise, youll have less practical experience with the camera, which is not good for working quickly and efficiently. However, there are some things you can do to get up to speed more quickly.
To start with, I always recommend going through some kind of formalized acclimation testing. My article Testing and Acclimating to a new Camera covers the process I use for every new camera I get. This helps me get a baseline feel for the cameras performance range under controlled conditions.
I also recommend making sure you have time to get out and shoot with the camera and lenses some before you go on the trip. Field conditions expose different limitations than just the basic image testing does.
The hand holding rule of thumb, 1 focal length, was derived for 35 mm film, which has a digital equivalent resolution of around 16 MP or less. On modern high resolution and crop digital cameras, the rule of thumb is almost always insufficient. See Hand Holding Rule of Thumb for Digital Cameras for more.
For example, as resolutions increase, you may find that youre no longer able to get pixel sharp images handheld at the same shutter speeds you were able to on your older gear. This also applies to the handling of super telephoto lenses, even 100-400 class zooms, if youve never used a lens that long before.
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When Is The Best Time To Visit Alaska To Avoid Crowds
Shoulder season is also the best time to go on an Alaska cruise if you prefer fewer crowds while exploring the historical and cultural aspects of Alaskan cities and towns.
Shore excursions are easier to book, so take full advantage of roomier whale-watching cruises and less crowded restaurants.
Schools are still in session in May and September, so fewer families are traveling. Also, many cruise passengers prefer to travel to Alaska in the warmer weather, so crowds on both sea and land tend to thin out.
When Is The Best Time To See Alaskas Glaciers
Alaskas glaciers are magnificent, and Celebritys Alaska cruise itineraries take in two of the most accessible glaciers in Southeast Alaska: Hubbard Glacier and Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier.
The height of the Alaska cruise season is the best time to cruise Alaska on these itineraries to ensure youll be able to see and enjoy the glaciers on each of the routes.
Cruising during peak season increases the probability that warmer temperatures have allowed more of the winter ice to melt, allowing for smooth sailing through the Inner Passage and the fjords, and the captains ability to get as close as possible to the glacier to give you the most spectacular experience possible.
When sailing the Hubbard Glacier itinerary, your ships captain will slowly turn the ship so that passengers on all sides will be able to enjoy the view and witness any calving that might occur while the ship is in the glaciers vicinity.
Sailing the Endicott Arm fjord toward Dawes Glacier is just as spectacular an itinerary, and this Alaskan glacier is just as magnificent.
For these peak season Alaska cruise routes, its advisable to book early so you get the best stateroom. Booking a veranda stateroom ensures that youll have your own private space to see glaciers during your cruise.
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When Is The Best Time For Families To Visit Alaska
Summer break, which is peak cruising season, is an ideal time for families to go on an Alaska cruise. Depending on your familys interests, youll want to decide whether to book earlier or later in the season, since there can be a difference in weather and activities between the end of June and mid-August.
Some of the shore excursions you can experience when going on an Alaska cruise with kids include hiking the Tongass forest, whale-watching tours, kayaking, and learning about Tlingit culture.
Aim for the week right after school ends or the week before school begins if youd like to get there just ahead of the most crowded part of peak season. A cruise to Alaska is an unforgettable summer family vacation experience your kids will cherish forever.
Whens The Best Time To See The Northern Lights On An Alaska Cruise
Seeing the northern lights from the cruise ship is a rare occurrence, but if youd like to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis from the balcony on your stateroom, then you need to book a trip in late September or early October.
To maximize your chance of witnessing the northern lights, get off the boat and join a land excursion to Fairbanks. The aurora season in Fairbanks lasts from the end of August to April and the lights can be seen 4 out of 5 nights .
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When Is The Best Time To Cruise To Alaska To See Whales
Watching a humpback or an orca arc gracefully out of Alaskas blue-green water is a sight youll never forget.
On an Alaska whale-watching cruise, youll have the chance to see some of the states eight magnificent species of whales that frequent its icy waters. As luck would have it, the entire Alaska cruise season is also prime whale-watching season.
Depending on which itinerary you sail and when you choose to cruise, you can increase your chances of seeing certain species, including humpbacks, orcas, and Minke whales. Dont forget to throw in a good pair of binoculars when planning your Alaska cruise packing list.
You can spot whales on Alaska shore excursions like a safari vessel whale-sighting tour in Stephens Passage, Juneau, to evening whale-quest cocktail cruises where sighting a whale is guaranteed.
You may even catch a glimpse of a whale swimming alongside your cruise ship as you sip morning coffee on your stateroom veranda its just one of the joys of cruising to Alaska.
Humpback whales start making their journey from the warm waters of Mexico and Hawaii in March and April, and by June and July theyre happily feeding in the waters of Alaskas Inside Passage.
Seeing a single whale, as they prefer to travel, or in small pods, as they like to feed, is highly likely. If humpbacks are your favorite, book an Inside Passage cruise during late June, July, or August.