When To Cruise The Inside Passage
Stretching from Puget Sound in Washington into the Gulf of Alaska, the Inside Passage offers over 500 miles of jaw-dropping scenery teeming with wildlife. Shaped by huge glaciers, this passage is over 100 miles wide in parts, encompassing more than 1000 islands.
Cruise there and you can enjoy everything from towering mountains to deep fjords, remote island visits and, of course, glaciers. This haven for wildlife is a must-do for fans of wildlife spotting and bird watching, plus active cruisers who want to try a variety of outdoors pursuits.
You can spot migrating animals and enjoy blooming wildflowers in the forests during spring. Summer is the main mating season, when you can spot seals lazing on the ice and watch young birds learning to fly. Youll also have the best chance of seeing whales during summer. If you want to go hiking, visit from mid-summer onwards once the terrain has thawed.
Bear in mind the Inside Passage is known for its high rainfall all year and pack accordingly.
Better Pricing And More Value
Not only do you get a much better selection of staterooms and itineraries, but most cruise lines offer early booking discounts that are usually coupled with value-adds such as drink packages, onboard credits and free upgrades.Plus, with many cruise lines offering reduced deposits you can lock in the low cruise price and get the cabin that is right for you and a cruise experience you will never forget!
When Should I Book My Alaska Cruise
We always recommend booking your cruise early, even nine to 12 months in advance, to get the lowest prices and best pick of cabins. You can probably wait until January or February, when cruise lines put out Wave Season sales and promotions, to see if you can get a deal on your Alaska sailing.
Once it gets to be March or April, your booking is considered last minute. You might find a low fare, especially on shoulder-season cruises, but you might also find that the room types you prefer are sold out or that fares have gone up on a nearly full ship.
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When Is The Best Time To Cruise Alaska: Ultimate Guide
If you are thinking about taking an Alaska cruise vacation or have already booked your trip, youll be happy to know that a cruise ship is the best way to explore Americas Last Frontier. If you havent taken an Alaska trip before, you may be wondering when is the best time to cruise Alaska?
Alaska is a unique cruise destination, unlike the typical Caribbean or Mediterranean getaways you might have sailed in the past. The remote location, picturesque landscapes, and abundant wildlife provide memories unlike anywhere in the world.
The long, cold winters and short summers mean that cruise ships only have a short window to sail the Alaskan waterways safely.
Alaskas cruise season is five months long, from May to September. Youll find noticeable differences in wildlife, weather, pricing, and crowds from one week to the next.
Whether youre looking to spot wildlife, catch a king salmon, or hope to see the northern lights, well help you find the best time to book your cruise to Alaska.
The Timeline For Cruising Alaska
While the state is beautiful during any season, the best time to cruise Alaska is between May and September. Between these months, there is an average of zero inches of snowfall in Juneau and Anchorage. The days are longer than they are in the winter, and theres usually much more to do. The Anchorage Market, for instance, runs from mid-May to mid-September on the weekends, so no matter which month you choose, a visit may be a part of your cruise itinerary.
May to September also has the safest and calmest water to cruise on, but which of those months is the best time to take an Alaskan cruise? Well break down the pros and cons to help you decide when to experience the great Alaskan wilderness and culture. Some factors to consider include:
- Hours of daylight
- Wildlife sightings
- Potential for crowds
Check out our breakdown of the months between May and September to decide when is the best time to visit Alaska based on what you want to see and do.
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Why Cruise To Alaska
The 49th U.S. state is home to a beautiful mountainous landscape and an abundance of wildlife, from bald eagles to bears and moose. It possesses a unique Gold Rush history and a vibrant mix of native Alaskan cultures. You wont find this blend of scenery, outdoor pursuits, history, and culture in any other cruise itinerary.
Plus, many of the Inside Passage ports are tricky to visit by land. For example, Ketchikan is only accessible by air or sea. You cannot visit the breathtaking glaciers of Glacier Bay by car. If you want to explore this region of Alaska, youll need a ship to get there.
Unlike other cruise destinations, Alaskan ports arent separated by vast swaths of ocean. When you cruise the Inside Passage, the ship is constantly within site of land. Most sea days offer something to see, even if not an official scenic cruising day. Its a different kind of cruise experience, and one many travelers are eager to pursue.
Alaska Cruise Weather In May
May brings warmer weather within the cities and towns of the Alaskan inside passage. While it can be freezing cold at times, the weather can also be pleasantly cool. The low temperatures typically range from the mid-thirties to the low forties Fahrenheit, but the highs can get up to the upper fifties.
This month also experiences near constant cloud cover with a good chance of rain on any given day. Travelers get at least fifteen hours of daylight and twilight in May, providing more time for whale watching and other outdoor activities. With low wind speeds, cold temperatures, and precipitation, travelers may want to pack plenty of knit sweaters, a jacket, warm pants, and waterproof boots or shoes.
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The Best Time For An Alaska Cruise To Avoid Crowds
The Alaska cruise season runs between May and September, but there are definite ebbs and flows to demand and crowds in the ports you will visit.
If you are looking for the months with the lowest crowds in Alaska, try for May or September. These are the “shoulder season” months, which is when the season begins and ends, and is when you will find less people vying for a cruise.
Moreover, going during May or September is also when most kids are still in school, which means families are unable to cruise during this period.
The downside to these months is the weather tends to be the most unpredictable, and that can be an issue with possibly impacting your shore excursions. Most notably helicopter and boat excursions are the most at risk.
Read more: What is the best time to cruise to Alaska?
Alaska Cruise Weather By Month
The following breakdowns of weather by month combines 30 years of weather data for five major Alaska cruise ports from the U.S. National Weather Service.
These historical averages are simply averages and will vary somewhat from year to year and port to port. But they give cruise planners a general idea of what to expect with weather and what clothing to pack.
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The Best Time To Cruise Alaska To See Wildlife
Alaska is one of the best places in the United States to see wildlife. The state is home to 15 national parks, and its federally-protected lands cover an area the size of California.
Its possible to see wildlife any time of the year, but the best time to see a wide variety is during the summer. During the summer, you may catch a glimpse of brown bears fishing for salmon along streams, deer and moose calves along the shore, and a wide variety of birds.
When Is The Best Time For A Cruise To Alaska
If only there were an easy, universal answer! But like Alaskas wild country, mixed culture, and fabled history, its difficult to put the whole thing in a pretty box. The easiest way to break down when you should take an Alaskan cruise is to take a look at things by the month.
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The first thing you should know is that the Alaska cruise season is just five months long, lasting from May to September, with the summer months of June, . However, this doesnt necessarily make them the best.
Each month sort of has its own niche.
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Best Time Of Year To See Bears In Alaska
Grizzly bears are one of the most sought-after wildlife sightings for Alaskan cruise passengers. Your best chance of spotting a bear is during June or July. During the summer, brown bears gather along the Katmai coast to feed, mate, and socialize.
As July progresses, you might see bears fishing for razor clams along the beaches at low tide and start to engage in mating behavior. The beginning of the salmon run later in summer offers a chance to spot these animals as they fish along Alaskas many rivers and streams. Its one of the states most spectacular wildlife-watching opportunities.
Best Time Of Year To Take An Alaskan Cruise: Weather
The first factor you will want to consider when planning your Alaskan cruise is the weather. Dont let all those beautiful pictures of Southeastern Alaska fool you. Unfortunately, the summer months in Alaska are not always bright and sunny. In fact, the weather during the Alaskan cruise season tends to be rather wet.
A benefit of traveling earlier in the season is the reduced precipitation. Historically, May is the driest month of the cruise season. Less rain is good, but the weather also tends to be cooler earlier in the season.
If you are looking for the warmest weather, then you will want to sail mid-July to mid-August. Still, temperature swings in one day of 25 degrees will not be uncommon. You could wake up to freezing temperatures and be in the mid 60s by late afternoon.
There is also the longest daylight hours during the months of June and July. During this time of year, the sun doesnt set until around 10 pm. These extended periods of light make viewing the surrounding scenery sailing in and out of ports even more appealing.
Taking into consideration the average temperatures, rainfall amounts, and hours of daylight, the best time of year to go on an Alaskan Cruise is the month of July. However, with this optimal weather comes increased crowds and increased price. Not to mention, popular tours and shore excursions will fill up quickly.
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What Is The Best Time Of Year To Take An Alaskan Cruise
We would like to start planning next yearâs vacation. What time of year is best for a cruise. We would like to be on a small ship, not one of the huge ships.
We want to see the wildlife and scenery, and arenât too into ships that main attractions are the buffets, disco and casino.
It depends. We already have tons of light in May which will be somewhat of an oddity to you I am sure, but that is good for activities. In May, many places donât open until the Memorial weekend. That will not affect you on a cruise. However, if you decide to extend your cruise with some land touring on your own, then you should just know this. May is also a good time, because many visitors donât arrive yet, so you would not feel the impact of the height of the tourist season . However, the weather will of course be a little cooler than it would in July.
I would say the peak is the 4th of July week and right around there. If you want to avoid the peak, Iâd say come before the 4th and after the 3rd week of July. In August, we start to get into our rainy pattern, then in September it cools off, but is still a great time to come. Again, like in May, many businesses start closing around Labor Day, but most linger to mid-month. It will also be dark at night, unlike in May.
Anytime during this entire period is good on a cruise. I was merely pointing out that the crowds are more of a factor at a certain time of the season. I hope this helps for a start.
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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What Shore Excursions Are Available In Alaska Throughout The Cruise Season
Many of Alaskas most popular activities can be done anytime from May through September, depending on the port of call.
Glacier viewing is an all-cruise-season activity, with many ways to get to the glacier depending on your preference while in different ports. Biking alongside the glacier, or taking a helicopter to land on top of a glacier, is a memorable and spectacular way to begin a glacier hike.
Other popular Alaska shore excursions include sea kayaking, rafting, craft beer tasting in town, attending a salmon bake, visiting museums to learn about Alaskan culture and history, and going on local hikes you can access from town.
For all your Alaska shore excursions, youll want to dress in layers, as the weather can change quickly.
The Best Months For An Alaska Cruise For Good Weather
The weather in Alaska can, and will, change multiple times per day, but you will find the warmest months to be June, July and August.
The median months will see higher temperatures and longer days for touring, and it represents the limited summer that Alaska enjoys. However, July and August tend to also have higher levels of precipitation.
If you do book a cruise during summer, be sure to plan your shore excursions well in advance to avoid tours selling out.
If you are willing to trade warmth for less precipitation, then go for May. In fact, the end of May and the beginning of June offers some of the best weather in the region throughout the year.
If you want to see snow on the ground, May is the best month for that.
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The Best Time For A Cruise To Alaska If You Want To See Whales
Luckily for whale watchers, various species can be seen in Alaskan waters during the entirety of cruise season. It truly is not uncommon for cruise passengers to spot whales right from the deck of the cruise ship, but booking a whale watching excursion will increase your chance of spotting some whales.
The tours smaller boat will allow you to get a closer look of the whales and get tidbits about the local whale pods from your guide.
Gray whales head north in April and May but return at the end of cruise season in September. Humpback whales can be spotted using their unique and fascinating bubble-netting feeding technique during June and July.
There are over 500 humpbacks who make Southeast Alaskas inside passage their home during the summer months between Homer and Kodiak in the Barren Islands.
Blue whales can be spotted in open water during July and August while killer whales are most frequently spotted in May and early June, although they can be seen at any time during the entire cruise season. Beluga whales may also be seen year round.
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Best Time To Travel To Alaska By Land
Alaskas interior is colder than the coast so the land-based travel season can be shorter than the cruising season. Keep this in mind if you are planning an Alaska small ship cruise and an Alaska land tour combination.
Summer in interior Alaska is short and occurs from mid-June through late-August. Winter in Alaska sees far fewer travelers with December through March being the best months to view the northern lights or aurora borealis. The spring and fall months in Alaska offer unique opportunities and lower prices.
In our opinion the best time to travel to Alaska is in June, July and August. The best month to visit Alaska is July, when travelers will experience the best combination of weather and wildlife. See our breakdown of Alaska weather by month to learn more about the temperatures, sunlight and wildlife, to find the best time to visit Alaska for you.
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Best Modern Cruise: Celebrity
- Ship Name: Celebrity Solstice
- Itinerary: Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Alaska Inside Passage, Victoria
For an upscale Alaska cruise without the luxury price tag, Celebrity is a fantastic option. The award-winning, Celebrity Solstice is a dignified ship that focuses on modern well-being. Activities include culinary classes, silent discos, and educational lectures. Theres also a half-acre of fresh grass with hot glass demonstrations, private cabanas, and outdoor movies. The ship also has a fabulous fitness center and programs, and the Canyon Ranch Spa situated right next to the Aqua Class cabins. These cabins include access to a health-conscious restaurant as well as the relaxation room and other spa perks. This voyage includes a full day cruising Endicott Arm for fabulous views before concluding in Victoria.