Which Cruise Line Is Best For Alaska
Nearly every major cruise line sails to Alaska, so you have your pick of price points and onboard personalities.
Among the big-ship lines, Holland America and Princess are known as the Alaska experts. These lines typically base the most ships in this region every summer, and offer the largest selection of cruises and cruise tours. They schedule Alaska-specific special events onboard, such as Princess Puppies in the Piazza and Klondike Festival, and even have their own train cars and hotel properties in Denali and Fairbanks.
However, if other lines, such as Royal Caribbean or Norwegian, suit your familys needs and budget better, you will still have a wonderful cruise vacation in Alaska. You might find that these lines offer more competitive pricing, your preferred onboard activities, or more robust kids programming, making them the best Alaska cruise choice for you.
Travelers looking for luxury should consider upscale lines such as Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Silversea. These cruise lines offer more intimate ships, inclusive fares, and attentive service, but wont have as many onboard attractions or as expansive kids facilities or activities as the bigger ships.
Choose expedition cruise lines, such as UnCruise Adventures, American Cruise Line, or Alaskan Dream Cruises, for intimate, adventure-focused ships that sail off the beaten path.
Best Time Of Year To Take An Alaskan Cruise
If you are planning a cruise to Alaska, you should consider these factors when determining the Best Time of Year to Take an Alaskan cruise.
Alaska is one of the top cruise destinations. For many, visiting Alaska is on their bucket list. While Alaska might not be what you first picture when you think of a cruise, a cruise is actually the easiest way to visit this region. Unlike Caribbean cruises though, Alaska is a seasonal cruise port. So, WHEN you visit the area is important. There are actually several factors to consider when determining the Best Time of Year to Take an Alaskan cruise. The answer to this question is not as clear cut as you might think.
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
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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.
What Sights Should I Hold Out For
Most of the top scenic attractions on cruises are capacity limited. Glacier Bay National Park, the banner destination for scenic glacier cruising, cannot accommodate all the large cruise ships each season. So, if Glacier Bay is a must, be sure to select a cruise that features it.
That said, the limited number of Glacier Bay entrance passes means that cruise lines have started calling at Hubbard Glacier and Tracy Arm for scenic cruising, and port calls at gems like Sitka are growing in popularity after years of downturn.
Denali National Park is a major draw for many visitors, but its also worth exploring alternative options such as the Kenai Peninsula, Copper River Center or Katmai National Park .
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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.
Top Alaska Cruise Tours
Cruise tours to Alaskas interior come in different lengths and visit different areas of the state. The most popular visit Talkeetna for views of Denali and Denali National Park to see wildlife and learn about the parks history and ecosystem.
Some Alaska cruise tours will give guests a night in Anchorage to explore the city, or travel as far north as Fairbanks. Others will swap Anchorage with a stay on the Kenai Peninsula or at the Alyeska Resort in the Chugach Mountains before heading north.
Other cruise tours combine interior Alaska with trips to Canadas Yukon. Some simply extend the land portion of the trip to include Dawson City or Whitehorse for one epic trip. For those with less vacation time, Holland America has an option that combines half an Alaska cruise with a land extension through the Yukon to Fairbanks and Denali, ending in Anchorage.
For a different Canadian adventure, Princess offers a cruise tour that starts in Calgary and visits Banff and Lake Louise before finishing up in Alaska to meet the cruise ship. This tour does not venture as far as Denali.
Which Alaska cruise tours are the best? That decision is personal, but Holland America and Princess lead the pack for the most diverse tour options, company-owned Alaska railway cars and resort properties, and experience in the region.
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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.
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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Alaska By Month: When To Go & Why
Alaska is open for travel year-round, but the primary tourist season begins in June and ends in August. The Alaska by month travel season calendar below brings in April and early spring, because that is when the yearly travel season kicks off.
The guide below will help you determine the best month to visit Alaska. It will outline Alaska weather by month and answer questions such as When is summer in Alaska? and What month is the best time to visit Alaska? or When is the best time to go to Alaska? We strive to give you the information to answer these questions based on your own travel timing and interests. For even more information and detailed climate tables, view our Alaska climate page.
In the monthly guide below we refer to Coastal, Interior and Arctic regions:
- The coastal region includes Southeast Alaska and the Inside Passage, Southcentral Alaska including Prince William Sound, Anchorage, Kodiak Island, as well as coastal Katmai National Park and the Aleutian Islands.
- Interior Alaska is the region north of Anchorage up to the Brooks Range just north of Fairbanks and includes Denali National Park.
- Arctic Alaska includes the Brooks Range north to the Arctic Ocean.
Taking An Alaska Cruise In May
With 17 hours of daylight, youll have plenty of time to work with on deck or shore. But you can leave the t-shirts and shorts at home, as the beginning of the Alaska cruise season, temperatures here are just starting to warm with an average high in the mid-50s.
Youll still need to pack layers, as the nights will be quite chilly, but you might luck out and not need your rain gear, as May is historically Alaskas driest month.
Cruise prices and excursions will also be lower in May, especially during the first week of the season. You can even find cruises for as low as $100 per day.
This early season is also a great time to view wildlife as the vegetation has not completely grown in yet, meaning it will be easier to spot animals between the trees.
Migratory birds should also have begun to arrive, and the fishing season will be just kicking off .
For those looking to hop on shore and take a hike, you still may encounter some snow on the ground, depending on where you are and at what elevation.
There are also numerous opportunities to walk on a glacier should you so choose. Just check to see what excursions are available in each port.
If youre pulling into port in Seward, keep an eye out for Alaskas resident orca whale pods, as May is the best time to spot these locals of Resurrection Bay. Its also your best chance to spot the elusive gray whale before they migrate north to colder waters.
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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.
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?
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What Is The Best Time To Cruise Alaska In 2021
Cruising Alaska at any time of the year is ultimately your choice. Still, if you take my advice, you can visit some specific months and seasons, which results in investing in your Holidays.
Before planning to book the cruise, look at this blog further. You will discover that there are so many different seasons and months of the year when it will be worth traveling to Alaska on Cruise.
Spoiler Alert: June and July, these two months are the best time to enjoy whale sightseeing and Alaskan fishing. This is for those who like to enjoy these water animals and species. They are worth watching in these seasons and months.
Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I believe this should be considered in one of your dream traveling lists. And if you have made your mind and plans to visit Alaska choosing the right time of the years matters a lot for the type of experience you will be having.
If you have made up a plan that you want to experience some of the factors, you must know the right time and season for Cruising to Alaska. Honestly, there is no specific time to visit Alaska, but every month and season has its plus points.
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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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.