How To Pick The Best Alaska Cruise For You
Youll see from our chart below that dozens of ships are sailing Alaska in 2020. And this just includes the mass-market and luxury ships. There are even more if you count all of the small ship and expedition vessels. Thats a lot of information to parse as you determine which ship is right for you, so consider a cruise line that caters to your specific needs or interests. Consult this list, and then check the chart to find a vessel that might fit your own preferences, from ships with the fewest passengers to those with the least expensive cruise fares to the ones offering exactly the itinerary you want.
What Health And Safety Protocols Are In Place
Cruise ships definitely got a bad rap in the beginning of 2020. When the global health crisis began taking hold, there were several horror stories of people getting sick on ships, being quarantined, and not being able to dock anywhere.;
It is understandable to be apprehensive about being on a cruise ship during these times. I definitely had those thoughts. However, after going on my Alaska cruise, I can tell you that being on a cruise ship is one of the safest places you can be right now.
Because there was such a bad light put on the cruise ship industry at the start of the global health crisis, these companies are taking absolutely no chances. There are many protocols that have been put in place by cruise ship companies to ensure a healthy and safe voyage for all.
For example, for our cruise on Celebrity Cruises, the following guidelines were put in place as part of its Healthy at Sea program:
- All passengers age 12+ must show proof of full vaccination
- Children aged 12 and under are given a free PCR test at the cruise terminal before boarding the ship, and must take an antigen test on board 24 hours before disembarkation.;
- Proof of negative PCR test must be shown by all guests prior to boarding
- Sailings at reduced capacity
- HVAC system producing 100% fresh, filtered air on board at all times
- Mask and hand sanitizer provided for every passenger in each stateroom .
- Hand sanitizing stations all over the ship
- Reduced touch points and contact
Alaska Cruise Weather: July
Pack your sunglasses and sunscreen, and your bathing suit for a top-deck dip after your shore tour. Despite the positive forecast, youll still want to pack light layers and rain gear that you can don for glacier viewing or visits, forested hikes, or the always-possible rain shower.;
Ships docked in Juneau, Alaska
Fishing enthusiasts will do best cruising in July since the most types of salmon are running during this month. As with June, its an ideal month for wildlife viewing, whether you seek out bears, moose, or Humpback whales. The glaciers along your route will be cracking like mad, so make sure your July cruise swings by Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, or other scenic cruising destinations.;
Youll have the full range of cruise tour destinations open to you if you travel in July. But be warned: Cruise fares average the highest this month because the Alaska cruise weather in July is so nice, and more families are traveling because school is out for the summer.
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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
Ships Sailing Alaska In 2020
This chart shows the major ships that are sailing Alaska in 2020. Itinerary types include IP , GA and L . RT indicates a round-trip sailing that originates and ends in the same port. Other itineraries begin in one city and end in another.
Also, remember that cruise fares fluctuate over time. The per person fares are whats currently listed on the cruise lines website, but you may be able to find a lower or higher price than whats published here.
Finally, cruises at the beginning and end of Alaskas cruise season are generally a bit cheaper than those in June, July and August.
|Cruise Line/ Ship|
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Budgeting For Shore Excursions And Adventures
For an excellent itinerary and a vacation you will never forget, we recommend budgeting $1,000 – $1,500 for shore excursions per person for a 7-day cruise. This would get you a whale watching tour in Juneau or;Icy Strait, helicopter;dog sled tour in Juneau or Skagway, a train tour in Skagway, a float plane flightseeing tour in Ketchikan, and then a different excursion in a different port.
Of course, theres plenty of room for flexibility. A shore excursion budget can range from low to high depending on what type of excursions you are interested in. You can buy city tours in almost every port for less $75 or spend as much as $600 for an extended helicopter dog sledding tour.
Consider Adding A Land Tour To Your Alaskan Cruise
Some cruise companies give you the opportunity to add an Alaskan land tour onto your cruise holiday. These are a great way to journey even further into Americas last frontier and see even more of this beautiful region. Alaskan land tours can take you to the stunning Denali National Park, to Fairbanks where you can learn more about Alaskas gold rush history, Anchorage, Alaksas main city and lots more. Plus you can travel on wilderness trains and coaches that give you plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities and youll stay in authentic Alaskan lodges. Land tours can be added on pre or post cruise.
Start your Alaska cruise adventure today! Contact us and speak to one of our travel experts about your dream USA holiday!
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Miscellaneous Alaska Cruise Packing List Items
- Travel documents
Alaskas cruise season begins in May and ends in September, and though those summer months are the warmest, the weather can still vary from month to monthtemperatures are known to drop drastically even on a daily basis.
Always consider layering items when packing for an Alaska cruise, regardless of the time of year youll be sailing. If you have already booked your cruise and know what dates youll be traveling, here are some extra tips on what to wear on an Alaska cruise during specific months of the year.
Go For The Scenery Not The Ship
All major cruise lines have at least one ship that sails in Alaska during the cruise season. While some lines have positioned newer ships in the region, the vessels are often not the latest and greatest ships. You can still find a great ship that caters to your familys interests, but this will be guided mostly by the cruise line you choose. It doesnt matter though, as the true focus of this trip is the surrounding wilderness and ports of call.
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Price Shopping Prices Are The Same Across Sites
You can make your head spin by searching site after site for the best cruise deal. And while many promise low fares, weve found that the prices are almost always the exact same whether you go to the cruise lines website. What might change is the incentives to book. So one site might charge $1,000 for a cruise, but have $50 in onboard credit. Another might have the same trip for $1,000 as well, but with $100 in onboard credit. All told however, the differences are usually small.
Spend The Extra Money On The Excursions
Excursions arent normally included with your cruise fare. Youll need to pay extra to experience them. We highly recommend spending the extra money. Excursions in Alaska are experiences you simply cant find anywhere else in the world. And while they may be pricey, the memories youll have from them will last a lifetime. If theres one time to splurge extra, its on an Alaskan cruise.
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Waterproof Shoes Or Boots
A pair of waterproof footwear is a must in order to fully experience the best excursions that an Alaskan cruise has to offer. Pack a pair of water resistant hiking boots or waterproof boots to take with you as you hike through the rugged wilderness or participate in some other type of outdoor activities including ziplining, fishing, and kayaking in Alaska.
Dining Is Uneven And Sometimes Additional
One of the biggest surprises about the cruise tour is that meals might not be included. Some cruise tour programs don’t include meals in the price to give travelers the freedom to try local restaurants of their own choosing.
Yet, you might often be compelled to eat at certain times and in certain places. On the Alaska Railroad train rides, you might not be allowed to eat your own food up in the seating area, but since the ride typically takes place smack in the middle of a meal time , you are basically forced to eat in the dining car. And, because the dining car can’t accommodate all the passengers at once, you’ll have to eat in shifts as dictated by the train host.
Eating dinner at the hotel each night will likely be the most convenient option, especially if you’re in a more remote lodge. However, it’s likely to be more expensive with limited options.
On the other hand, shuttle service between out-of-the-way hotels and the restaurant area are not always reliable, especially if you’re eating later at night due to your tour schedule. Be prepared: Getting back to the hotel is part of the adventure.
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Dont Forget Your Wine Or Champagne
Cruise lines dont let you bring beer or liquor on the ships. But they do allow you to bring a bottle or two of wine of champagne. If you drink these beverages, then take advantage of the perk. Consider that a moderate bottle of wine can cost $10-12. Meanwhile, a glass of wine on the ship can be $10-12. In other words, that bottle you bring can save you a small fortune compared to drinking on the ship.
Alaska Cruise Weather In August
Like July, nights and early mornings can be very cold, so late nighters and early risers should be prepared to bundle up for icy temperatures. Plenty of layers are also essential in August, and travelers should be sure to pack waterproof jackets, shoes, and bags as August and September are among the rainiest months of the year.
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Theres More Down Time On An Alaskan Cruise
Unlike most Caribbean cruises Ive been on that have shows and activities going on all night long, our Alaskan cruise was dead by about 10PM. The Alaskan cruises prices tend to be more expensive;and geared toward an older crowd of people and the entertainment and activities reflected that. I was with a group of about 20 for my moms 50th birthday when we went and most of the time, it seemed like we were the only ones awake and walking around the ship around 10PM.
We went on the Princess Ruby, a popular Princess Cruises Alaska, but Im willing to bet that the other cruises will be similar. So if you want to sleep, there will likely be;plenty of time to sleep;without having to miss out.
The other downside was also that not only did the activities and entertainment end early, almost all of the food closed early as well. There was one small cafe on our ship that was open all night long, but it only served a handful of small desserts and pre-made sandwiches that were not my favorite. I wouldve loved to see the pizza place or ice cream or anywhere really open after 10PM for those of us who dont go to bed at 9PM.
More Alaskan Cruise Tips Get Our Expert Advice
Most important when choosing your Alaska cruise, speak with an experienced Alaska small ship expert. Our specialists are armed with the best Alaskan cruise tips from years of experience traveling and working in the region. Theyre also knowledgeable about whats new for Alaska small ship cruises, to get you the most up-to-date selection. You will not get the whole picture when booking direct, and a company with experience aboard;all;the ships can make;all the difference.
At AdventureSmith Explorations, we are award-winning;Alaska small ship cruise and Alaska travel specialists with a focus on guided small group nature tours and custom travel for individuals, couples, families and small groups. Our founder and president Todd Smith helped pioneer expedition cruising, and our staff has decades of experience guiding, arranging and selling wilderness adventures. We offer firsthand knowledge, personal service, key Alaska cruise tips, sustainable practices and unbeatable prices. Thanks for reading AdventureSmiths Alaska small ship cruise guide and comparison, and contact us with any further questions on how to choose your Alaska cruise.
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Cruise Tips For Alaska Weather: Month By Month
If youre thinking about planning a summer cruise, Alaska may be the perfect destination for you. The Alaskan cruise season lasts from May to September, and the warmest months for travel are typically June, July, and August. Alaskan cruises may seem suited only for people who like extreme weather, but the truth is that the weather in Alaska varies widely based on the region.
Most itineraries cruise the Inside Passage, a section of the state that runs alongside Canada, and avoid the main territory. These cruises go nowhere near the Arctic zone, so you likely wont need your snow gear. Heres what you can expect each month on your upcoming Alaska cruise along with what you really need to pack. ;
Book A Seattle Hotel With A Shuttle To The Port
Many people fly into the area to take their cruise. That means transportation is always a big issue. While Uber, Lyft, and taxis are abundant in Seattle, there are a number of hotels that can also make things easier. To attract cruise customers, some hotels in Seattle have cruise shuttles that will take you to the port when its time to board. Simply stay a night and your transportation is taken care of for you.
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Mosquito Repellent Is Your Friend
You might not realize it, but mosquitoes are as big a nuisance in Alaska during the summer as they are in the southern United States. The area receives a lot of rainfall, making it a playground for the insects. In other words, be sure you pack mosquito spray to keep your day from turning into an itchy nightmare.
You Have Only A Few Months To Cruise
If you are thinking about when you should take an Alaskan cruise, do know that the Alaskan cruise season only runs from May to September. Typically, the first and last month of the cruise season, referred to as the shoulder seasons, offer the lowest rates, but the weather can be less than optimal. Prime weather and sightseeing conditions occur in July and August, but that is also when the cruise rates are the highest.
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Take The Time To Learn About Your Surroundings
While attending a lecture might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about fun things to do on your cruise holiday on an Alaskan cruise, I highly recommend it. Most cruise companys will arrange for rangers and local experts to come onboard especially during cruising days when you are sailing by glaciers to tell you more about these magnificent features, how they have evolved, what wildlife to look out for in the area and so on. Believe me, youll enjoy the experience all the more once you have a better understanding of the magnitude of what it is you are witnessing.
Alaska Cruise Packing List: Non
Now that you know what you need to bring from your closet, its time to go through all the other items you wont want to leave out from your Alaska cruise suitcase.
In addition to clothes, there are a few extra items that will go a long way in making your cruise to Alaska a memorable experience. For example, one of the highlights of traveling to Alaska is spotting wildlife in its natural habitat. Therefore, we recommend travelers bring a handheld camera and a good pair of binoculars, in order to fully experience the wonder of Alaskas nature.
Alaska Cruise Weather: June
If youre planning an Alaska cruise in June, temperatures average a low of 45 and a high of 62. June is tied with July as the least rainy month, with Ketchikan receiving an average rainfall of less than 7.5 inches. Alaska cruise weather in late June is some of the best, with 18 hours of daylight and plenty of sun. If youre lucky, it might even get hot!;
With drier ground in June than May, Alaska cruisers can start to hike in earnest. Whether youre hiking on your own or with a guide, be sure to pack appropriate gear, such as backpacks with bear bells, water bottles, snacks, and most important bug spray. The mosquitos start being a nuisance in June.;
For other shore excursions, layering is your best bet. You might need a fleece jacket in the morning, but find yourself stripping down to a T-shirt by early afternoon. A packable rain jacket is always good to have on hand, since you never know when youll get caught in a summer squall.;
The warmer Alaska weather makes June the best times to see calving glaciers during scenic cruise days. June is also one of the best months for whale-watching; late June and early July are the best times for bear-spotting excursions.;
Because of the fine Alaska weather in late June, its an excellent time to plan a cruise tour to Denali. The full road will be open, days will be long and dry, and you have an increased chance of seeing active wildlife.
Cruise fares in June will be higher than May, but better than the prime summer months.