Best Time To Sail For Cheap: Go When School Is In Session
Knowing the best time to purchase your cruise is just one part of the puzzle. The other piece of that puzzle? When you actually set sail. When you sail has a much bigger impact on what you pay than when you buy.
The simple rule of thumb is that prices are lowest when school is session.
When school is back in session, its much more difficult for families to set sail. That means cruise lines offer cheaper cruises in an effort to get more people on the ship during these times. So youll find the cheapest time to book a cruise is in the fall and winter.
Specifically, the following times of year see cheap fares:
- Between Thanksgiving and Christmas
Meanwhile, youll see the highest fares during summer, Spring Break, and the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays.
How much can you save based on when you sail? Take a look at the chart below. Weve charted the per-person cabin prices for both a balcony and interior room. Specifically, these prices are for a 3-day cruise aboard Carnival from Miami.
During the course of a year, the price of the cruise varied from a low of $299 for a balcony cabin and a high of $539 even though this is the same trip on the same ship.
In other words, if you sail at the least expensive time, your cruise can be a sharp discount off the peak price.
Again, the best time to take a cruise if you want the cheapest price is when school is in session. If you have to sail during the summer or holidays, expect to pay a premium.
When To Cruise Ketchikan
The salmon capital of the world, Ketchikan is not to be missed for the chance to take a fishing adventure cruise, dine on fresh fish, and learn more about the local people of this unique area.
With a fishing history dating back to the 1880s, this history-rich city is a fascinating destination for culture fans. Ketchikan has the largest collection of standing totem poles in the world and an abundance of salmon species for you to try.
There is of course plenty of Alaskan wildlife, plus outdoor pursuits on glacial and forest terrain perfect for working up a good appetite for dinner.
Cruise Ketchikan in April and you can delight in seeing hummingbirds return after their winter away. Whichever month you choose, bear in mind its the fourth wettest place in the world and pack accordingly.
The Best Time To Visit Alaska
Among the most common questions we receive, and indeed an important consideration when planning Alaska travel, are What is the best time to visit Alaska? or What is the best time to cruise Alaska?
The answer is complicated and depends on many factors. Alaska is huge and weather is vastly different in the north vs south or interior vs coast. The travel season is short and can vary greatly between spring, summer and fall. Combine all this with Alaskas notoriously unpredictable weather and it can be a challenge to determine the best time to visit Alaska.
What follows is our expert advice and a month by month guide with tips on weather, wildlife, daylight and the benefits of each month, to get you thinking about the best time to go to Alaska.
IN THIS POST Best Time to Visit Alaska:
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The Best Time Of Year To Go On An Alaska Cruise
This cruise was my second time visiting Alaska, and both times I visited in mid-May and was blessed with absolutely amazing weather with sunshine and clear skies everyday. Based on my experience I would definitely recommend going in May, however if you are interested in seeing the salmon season and capturing photos of the bears fishing for salmon this is later in the season between mid-July and mid-August.
Best Large Cruise: Royal Caribbean
Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
- Ship: Ovation of the Seas
- Duration: 7 nights
- Itinerary: Alaska Inside Passage, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria
If youre looking for a cruise to Alaska with all the theme-park-like attractions, then the Ovation of the Seas will not disappoint. Built in 2016, Ovation is currently ranked as one of the 10 largest cruise ships in the world with onboard features like a skydiving simulator, a cocktail bar tended by robots, aerial performances in the theater, and the North Star, a moving observation pod with surreal views. The first two days of the voyage are spent at sea so theres plenty of time to explore the ship and try different activities. Or, dine at specialty restaurants like Chops Grille, Royal Caribbeans iconic steakhouse Wonderland, an eclectic array of dishes, or Giovannis table, a favorite Italian restaurant.
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The Best Time To Book An Alaskan Cruise
Book ahead for selection, wait for bargains.
Conventional wisdom for Alaska cruises is to book a year in advanceparticularly for travelers who want the best selection of sailing dates and cabins during the June/July peak season. Bargain hunters who are more flexible can often snag deals during the Wave booking season in January and February, when cruise bookings for all destinations peak last-minute deals can also be found as late as June.
Cruise lines tend to price higher for early bookings, with included add-ons like onboard credits or prepaid gratuities to entice buyers. Last-minute offers, on the other hand, are typically cruise-only. It also pays to monitor fares after the initial depositmany cruise lines will honor lower fares after the initial booking as long as the final payment hasnt been made. However, lower fares may not come with the same included amenities originally applied.
Best Price On Alaska Cruises
Carnival Miracle in Tracy Arm, Alaska
As a summertime and family-focused cruise destination, demand is greatest when kids are out of school, so prices start to rise in mid-June, peak in early to mid-July , and begin dropping from late July into August.
The two shoulder seasons, late April and May and September, almost always offer the lowest prices and best promotions.
Pro Tip: For the best price on an Alaskan cruise, youll want to travel early or late in the season.
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When To Cruise The Glacier Bay National Park
The Glacier Bay National Park is within the Inside Passage and some cruises spend their itinerary focussed on this unique area. The scenery is staggering, as you would expect for the largest UNESCO protected biosphere in the world.
Glacier Bay National Park cruises combine wildlife watching with dramatic landscapes, adventurous activities such as paddling a skiff or kayaking, and visiting remote villages. It goes without saying youll be surrounded by glaciers in this national park, with the chance to see huge blocks of ice calving away.
As with the rest of the Inside Passage, there is plenty of wildlife to see and summer is the best season to visit for warmer temperatures. April to June are usually the driest months, with Glacier Bay experiencing the most rainfall during September and October.
If you have the chance to visit in winter, there is still plenty to enjoy amidst the cold and foggy landscapes.
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Weather During Alaska Cruise In August
One of the major reasons why many dont consider August to be the best time for an Alaskan cruise is because of the rain it brings.
There is a 50% chance of you encountering rain during this month.
A few of your planned visits may get rained out.
The temperature ranges from a high of 17 degrees Celsius to a low of 9 degrees Celsius .
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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.
The 8 Best Alaska Cruises Of 2021
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“Airport transfers, shore excursions, meals, wine and spirits, and park admission is bundled into the price.”
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“Excursions focus on local culture such as totem carvings, folk dances, and other Tlingit cultural presentations.”
Alaska Cruises In August
Whales and bears alike are feeding before the long winter takes hold once again. A dense population of humpbacks feeds in the waters of Southeast Alaska preparing for their journey back to Hawaiian waters. Bears are fattening up for their long, winter hibernation, and migratory birds prepare to head South.
Alaska is alive with activity in August, and the warm, summer days of Southeast Alaska cause the landscape to move and change.
Experience the powerful and incredible force of calving glaciers and moving icebergs. And there is still plenty of daylight in August to experience all you can take in aboard the Sikumi.
It can rain more in August than in other months, but it can be beautiful as well.
Alaska is a fickle state, and the weather can be unpredictable – clouds and rain one day and warm, clear skies the next.
No matter the date, we can guarantee that once you step aboard the Sikumi, your trip will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, out and away from it all in the Alaskan wilderness.
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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Featured June Cruises To Alaska
Experience the wonders of Endicott Arm Fjord and Dawes Glacier on the gorgeous Celebrity Solstice on a to Alaska. This popular itinerary sails roundtrip from Seattle, Washington.
Along the way, youll stop in the Alaskan port towns of Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, as well as Victoria, British Columbia. As you sail through Endicott Arm to Dawes Glacier, relax on your private veranda and admire the stunning landscapes.
Picking Your Activities And Excursions
Perhaps the hardest part of the cruise is deciding which activities to take and making sure that you get the ones that you want. In your cabin you will find a detailed document with all the excursions available and there are a lot!
My suggestion is to go through the activity packet and star the ones you think appeal to you, and there are usually a few slightly different variations of each trip. For example, there will be whale watching, whale watching with lunch, and also whale watching with both a glacier trek and lunch, so its hard to know what to select. Read these carefully and choose the one that sounds best, keeping in mind the price and time of each excursion.
Once you have your general picks, head down to the activities desk and have a chat with one of the representatives. They usually have their favourites and will help you decide between the myriad of options available.
In Alaska, I suggest that you do the following activities on the port days:
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Taking An Alaska Cruise In July
Youve now reached peak Alaska cruise season. The prices for cruises, excursions, and even souvenirs will be at their highest, and each port will be full of tourists.
July is traditionally the warmest month in the Alaskan year, with highs in the mid-60s and lows in the low 50s. Some days will touch into the 70s, but dont expect it to go much higher.
However, , so youll need to pack a raincoat for any excursions.
July is also peak season for salmon, which means it may too be your best chance to spot a bear. Fur seal pups are also born during July as well as Steller sea lions. Walruses also haul out on Round, Little Diomede, and King islands during this time.
July also offers your best chance to catch a glimpse of the largest animal in the world the blue whale.
Wildlife Viewing During Alaska Cruise In July
In July, there are enough Salmon in the waters of Alaska to start attracting the bears.
Expect to see a lot of bears trying to get their share of Salmon.
You can also visit the seabird colonies from Southeast to Northwest Alaska.
In July, fur seal pups and Steller sea lions start giving birth to young ones, which is quite popular amongst the kids on Alaskan cruises.
In the North of Alaska, you can see a lot of walruses.
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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.
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.
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Insider Tips For Alaska Cruises
Transfer day is a sightseeing day The trip between Whittier or Seward and Anchorage travels one of the most scenic stretches of road in the state. Youll cross the mountains and follow the coast of Turnagain Arm. Transfers are typically by motorcoach, private shuttle or train, but this is far more than getting from A to B. Keep your camera at the ready, and dont be surprised if you spot wildlife and incredible natural landscapes along the way.
Day cruises get even closer to glaciers Its worth adding a day cruise either in Prince William Sound or Resurrection Bay/Kenai Fjords. These nimble vessels are able to slip into smaller spaces than the big ships, better navigate to sea lion haulouts, bird nesting areas and whale watching hot spots in the moment, and get closer to glaciers and then linger in silence. These incredible sights also makes day cruises a great option for independent travelers as well. If spending nights aboard a ship doesnt appeal to you, day cruises are a great way to sample the marine ecosystem and keep the start of each day on solid ground.
Anchorage as flightseeing capital Anchorage isnt just the spot to catch the flight into or out of Alaska. With a huge concentration of pilots and small aircraft, its also a prime spot for sightseeing tours by air. Flights from Merrill Field or Lake Hood in Anchorage take off for glaciers in the nearby Chugach Mountains, the waters of Prince William Sound, or even circle Denali by air.