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.
The Best Times To Go On A Cruise To Alaska
Cruise season in Alaska runs from late April through September. According to a spokesperson for Princess Cruises, the best cruise weather typically occurs from mid-June through August. The shoulder seasons which run from the end of April through early June and September are less crowded and cheaper, but the weather may be rainy and colder.
How To Choose The Perfect Alaska Cruise
The thunderous crack of a calving glacier, snow-capped mountain peaks, bears fishing for salmon in clear meltwater streams, humpback whales swimming through turquoise waters. Alaska takes natural beauty to another level. This vast wilderness isnt the easiest place to get around though, especially if you only have a week or two to spare. But its coastal network of islands, fjords and glaciers make Alaska one of the best parts of the world to cruise in.
But if youre planning an Alaska cruise youll soon find out there are a baffling array of options different departure ports, routes, stops and cruise lines. Cruises can be pricey and you cant exactly change your mind halfway round and get on a different ship if you decide its not right, so you want to make sure you pick a good one. But how do you decide which that is? Heres my guide to the questions to ask to help you choose your perfect Alaskan cruise.
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When Should You Cruise To Alaska
As you have read above it really depends on a few factors:
- Do you mind going during peak season when its a little more crowded?
- Can you stand the temperatures during the colder months?
- Are the Northern Lights on your bucket list?
- Are you hoping to see a lot of wildlife?
- Do you mind going during the rainy months?
- Are you a floral enthusiast that wants to see all the flowers in bloom?
The best times to go to Alaska on a cruise ship are between the months of May and September, but between July and August is going to be peak season. Its during these summer months that most people like to go on these trips partially to escape the heat, and partially because they have a better chance of seeing some wildlife.
In May and September the temperature will be a little colder, so you may need to pack accordingly, but you will also see some of the more rare sites during these months. In May you will see Alaska in the spring and many wild flowers will be blooming everywhere with truly vibrant colors. You will also see a lot of animals in the spring time.
In September you have a good chance of seeing some of the northern lights, which is a spectacular show that everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime. You may experience some rain during these months that are on the fringe of the peak season, but it is worth it in my opinion.
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The Cheapest Time To Visit Alaska
While lodging is generally cheapest during early winter, airfare costs vary widely based on your point of origin.
According to historical data collected in 2017 and 2018 by Priceline in the popular cities of Anchorage, Seward and Healy , the most expensive times to book lodging are the second week in June through the third week in August. The least expensive time is early November through mid-December.
Overall, Anchorage is the least expensive city to stay in and has the most identifiable seasonality curve with midsummer being the most expensive time to go. Prices stay relatively flat all year in Seward and Healy, but see a slight decrease between October and December.
We looked at data based on annual price trends provided by the travel search engine Skyscanner to determine the cheapest times to travel to Anchorage from a few major US. airports. Flights from New York are generally cheapest in August, but if traveling from Los Angeles or Atlanta, it may be better to search for flights in April. Flights from Chicago are often cheapest in February.
Featured photo by Rod Long/Unsplash.
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Plan Your Alaskan Cruise With Windstar
Now that you know the best time to take an Alaskan cruise, its time to make it happen! Why not turn your dreams into reality with us at Windstar Cruises? Connect with fellow travelers and the crew as you sail the Alaskan waters on our intimate cruises. Our smaller ships give us access to ports the other ships cant reach, meaning you get a unique experience and opportunities you couldnt anywhere else.
Take a look at the Alaskan cruises we offer to see what will take you on the adventure of a lifetime. Well take you on guided fishing trips, through scenic forests and close to legendary fjords and glaciers for the Alaskan trip of a lifetime. Plan your voyage today by calling us at 800-258-7245 or requesting a call. We cant wait to have you aboard a Windstar Cruise!
Whats The Best Time To See Whales On An Alaska Cruise
Gray whales, humpback whales, orca, beluga whales Alaska has them all. Here are some quick tips to help you increase the odds of seeing whales during your cruise.
- Humpback whales: June and July are the best months for seeing these giants of the deep. Over 500 humpback whales spend summer within the Inside Passage, so select a cruise that passes through this route and visits the Barren Islands.
- Beluga whales: You can spot belugas in Turnagain Arm from mid-July through August, just south of Anchorage. September is also a good month for belugas, as long as your cruise passes Nome.
- Gray Whales: April and May are ideal for gray whales, as they feed around Kodiak, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Seward.
- Orca : The ideal time for orca spotting is between early May and early June when you can find these colorful behemoths feeding in Resurrection Bay and along cruise routes going between Seattle and Alaska.
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Best Time For Alaska Cruises
The Alaska cruise season typically runs from late April to early October, with high season normally falling between June through August. However, the best time to go is rather subjective.
May and September offer cheaper cruise fares and fewer crowds however, due to more unpredictable weather, shore excursions have a greater chance of being canceled than they do in high season — especially boat and helicopter tours. May is one of the driest sailing season months in the Inside Passage region, but you may still find snow on the ground — great for scenic photos, less ideal for hiking.
Alaska Cruises In September
Treat yourself to a custom Alaska cruise this fall after the kids go back to school. September in Southeast Alaska is when autumn starts to sink in, and just like any other season in Alaska, there are countless reasons to plan a vacation around this time.
Peak tourist season is over by September, so Alaska will once again be quiet as everyone prepares for another long, white winter, including the wildlife.
Black and brown bears will be stuffing themselves in preparation for winter hibernation and migratory birds will be preparing for a long flight south, while other animals are ready to hang in there for the Alaskan winter.
Bald eagles can be seen flying above or sitting in trees despite the season. Sea otters, sea lions, orcas and Dall porpoise aren’t picky about the weather either.
Alaska experiences some beautiful fall foliage in September, as well. The mountainsides turn beautiful shades of gold and yellow, and the mountains begin to collect snow on their peaks.
As the nights grow darker and longer, there is a very good chance to catch the awe inspiring Aurora Borealis, Alaska’s northern lights. Imagine cruising aboard the Sikumi and looking into the night sky to see dancing curtains and swirls of light.
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When Is The Best Time To Visit Alaska
The best time to visit Alaska is between mid-June and mid-September. The warmer weather and long days make this a particularly pleasant time of year, with temperatures in the cool-but-comfortable range of 60-67°F.
Alaskas wildlife, including bears, sea otters, seals and whales, is visible throughout this period, with June and July the best months for sightings.
The weather in Alaska changes very quickly at any time of year. However, many excursions stop operating in early September, in anticipation of the winter weather. The winter months are best avoided, unless youre looking for winter sports or to see the northern lights in extreme conditions.
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Checking The Weather Before Your Trip
Many travelers incessantly check the daily weather in Alaska as their trip approaches. We advise you to resist this temptation, it will only drive you crazy. Local forecasts in Alaska are astoundingly inaccurate and weather changes by the hour. Checking daily forecasts does little to help you prepare.
Stick to the broad guidelines above and as previously stated, follow the advice of your packing lists. Checking the weather before your Alaska trip will only serve to frustrate your preparations and offers little insight into what conditions will be like when you arrive.
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Alaska Cruises In May
Alaska is a place of incredible beauty and gorgeous weather during the month of May. There are infinite reasons to take an Alaskan cruise in May, including active wildlife, blooming wildflowers, and the peace and quiet of traveling before peak tourist season.
Bear sightings are nearly inevitable during May.
With Alaskan black and brown bears having awakened from their winter slumber, they are active and hunting food near shore since salmon aren’t yet running in the streams and rivers.
May is also when the first Alaskan wildflowers begin blooming for the summer, and migratory birds are heading in, flocking to bodies of water to settle in.
And with 18 to 20 hours of daylight, there is plenty of opportunity for enjoying all there is to see, whether you are on board the Sikumi, cruising around in a kayak, or hiking a less traveled trail.
Not only is there lots of daylight to enjoy, but May generally brings less precipitation and more sunshine to Southeast Alaska than other months, and the daily temperature is warming up for summer as well.
With Alaska’s peak travel season not yet underway, enjoy the peace and tranquility that comes with one of the wildest and most beautiful places on the planet.
The Best Time For A Cruise To Alaska If You Want To The Northern Lights
Unfortunately, if your goal is to see the Northern Lights, you will have to compromise in terms of ideal weather conditions. You will have slim-to-none chance of seeing the lights during the summer months, but if you come during September, you might just have a shot!
Whats interesting is that the conditions that create the aurora borealis are present all year long, but in order to be seen, youll need dark, clear skies and a bit of luck. Because Alaskas summer days are so long, it does not create dark enough conditions to view the lights.
The ideal time to view the Northern Lights is actually outside of the cruise season window, between late September and April. However, there is some opportunity in September for you to spot the aurora during a particularly fortunate night.
While going on an Alaska cruise this late in the season also gives you the opportunity to catch a last-minute deal, youll give yourself the best chance of spotting the Northern Lights. There is certainly no guarantee that youll see them, but the later you can go, the better, as there will be long nights late in the season.
You can also improve your chances by taking a land or sea tour that includes one or more nights in Fairbanks, which lies just under 200 miles below the Arctic Circle. This area is considered one of the best in the state, and the world, to see the aurora, especially if you are able to venture away from the city lights.
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A First Timers Guide To Taking An Alaska Cruise
This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. We may receive a small commission when you make a purchase using our link.
If you have never taken a Alaskan cruise before then you absolutely should! Cruises are an amazing way to visit a destination and maximise how much you see whilst you are there.
After taking two cruises in Alaska I have collected a bunch of tips and advice that I think will help first timers to plan for the cruise, make the most of their time on board and above all have fun! My most recent cruise was with Carnival Cruises in Alaska and in this guide I share my top tips for joining an Alaskan cruise!
If You Want To See The Northern Lights
There are only a few places in the world where you can see the aurora borealis. Fairbanks, Alaska happens to be one of the greatest spots to catch them. The best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is in September when the sun sets earlier, yielding darker skies that are ideal for witnessing the aerial lightshow. Temperatures start to drop around this time of year, but its a small price to pay to cross this awe-inspiring natural wonder off your bucket list. Whats more, prime time for viewing the Northern Lights coincides with Alaskas transition into its off-season, which means youll be able to take advantage of Alaska cruise deals and discounts on onshore activities across your adventure a triple win for any savvy traveler.
Aside from bigger savings and less bustle in port, another benefit of visiting Alaska before or after peak season is that youll probably have all the best hiking paths and photo spots like the aptly named Photo Point trail in Juneau or Beaver Lake in Sitka to yourself. Youll also get a chance to catch Alaskas brief yet beautiful change of season, which can start as early as mid-August in Denali, when tundra mosses and shrubs deepen their hues to red, and forest birch, aspen and willow tree leaves turn fiery shades of orange and gold.
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What Are The Best Months For Wildlife & Activities
Spotting wildlife is always unpredictable in Alaska, but your best bet of getting pics of wildlife ashore is probably late May and early June, when mothers and their calves or cubs tend to be out and about. One exception: If you want to do a bear-watching shore excursion, prime bear season is not until late June or early July.
Denali: If you want to do a land tour that includes the national park, dont come during the May shoulder season. Denali National Park doesnt open up until early June.
Want to fish ashore? Fishing is good during any monththere are just different species of salmon that peak as the weeks go by.
Summer berry-picking on shore is best late in August or early September.
If you want to see fall foliage ashore, wait until the first week of September. It remains good through the third week of September.
Hate mosquitoes? If youre doing a land tour, come during either shoulder season
See a full calendar of Alaskas natural events.
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.
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