Top Alaskan Ports Of Call
No matter which type of itinerary you select, youll likely visit a mix of these ports. Like so many places around the world, many of these ports now cater to the cruise market. If you want to see nature at its finest, go beyond the immediate port area. And if you want to see some of Alaskas most rustic and charming villages, book a voyage with a line like Alaskan Dream Cruises and UnCruise that visits destinations like Baranof Island, Chichagof Island, Petersburg and Wrangell.
What Excursions Do You Want To Do
Each cruise port has a range of different excursions available at an extra cost. Some of the more common ones like floatplane sightseeing, bear-watching, whale-watching,;dog sledding and fishing you can do in multiple places, but others are only available in one location.
Its worth doing a bit of research in advance to work out what you want to do as some of the most popular excursions book up fast, especially in peak season. So if theres something you particularly want to do then its a good idea to reserve a spot when you book your cruise. The pros of official cruise line excursions is that youre usually allowed off the ship first and itll wait if there are delays, but they can be pricey and sometimes have big group sizes.
Float plane in Juneau
You can also book excursions independently, either through companies like Get Your Guide or Viator, or directly with local operators. There are usually tour desks lined up at cruise ports too where you can book something last-minute too if you dont want to book ahead we did a last-minute trip to the Mendenhall Glacier from Juneau when we knew itd be a sunny day. Make sure you allow plenty of time though as the ship wont wait if youre late back.
An excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier
Best Time To Cruise Alaska
The best time to cruise Alaska is between April and September, with the high season in June and July, mainly because of the warmer weather and longer days. The beginning of April and end of September are typically the low season but offer the best time to see the Northern Lights because of the shorter days. April and May also offer stunning scenery as the mountain peaks are still covered in snow.
Mid-April until the end of August offers the best time to see whales, particularly Orca and Humpback whales. However, it doesnt really matter which time of year you choose between April and September, as amazing wildlife sightings are a given, whether its mountain goats, black bears, harbor seals, sea otters or bald eagles, couple that with the stunning Alaska landscape and youre sure to have an adventure cruise to remember.
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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.
Glacier Bay National Park
Some Alaska cruises spend their entire itinerary at Glacier Bay National Park and understandably so. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is the largest in the world, home to dramatic glacier scenery and wildlife watching opportunities.
Cruise there and you can enjoy kayaking, visiting local villages or just admire the non-stop parade of glaciers passing by. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for calving glaciers and have your camera ready.
Summer is the best time to visit for warmth, with April to June being the driest months. That said, a visit in winter gives you the chance to capture fog-shrouded landscapes ideal for moody photography.
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Where Does The Ship Depart From
The three main departure points for Alaskan cruises are Seattle and Vancouver in the south and Anchorage in the north. Seattle is popular with cruisers from the US as they dont need to go through immigration and can often get cheap flights. But you end up travelling through a large section of open sea which can be rough, some short trips miss out the Inside Passage and ships have to make a compulsory stop in Canada so theres less time in Alaska.
Vancouvers Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal
Vancouver is the most popular departure point for Alaska cruises so youll have the biggest choice of cruise lines, itineraries and departures. If youre travelling internationally there are plenty of flights, and routes mostly travel through the Inside Passage with more to see.
Most departures from Anchorage actually leave from the ports of Seward or Whittier rather than Anchorage itself. So you need to allow time to get to the ship from the airport. Its 60 miles to Whittier and 125 miles to Seward so will take at least a couple of hours, but its probably safer to stay overnight, especially if youre flying internationally. Theres some beautiful scenery along the way though, and one bonus is you can get there via the Alaska Railroad.
Sailing out of Vancouver
Which Cruise Line Suits You Best
A quick search for Alaskan cruises will come up with a huge amount of different cruise lines and ships even if youve narrowed down which route you want to do. The difference in ship sizes, facilities and even your fellow travellers means you can have a completely different experience depending on which you choose. But how do you pick one which suits you the best?
One of the first decisions to make is whether you want to go small or go large. Do you want a mega-ship with tons of facilities and activities on board, or something a bit smaller and low-key, which can reach places the giant ships cant go? Smaller Expedition cruise ships only carry around 60100 people and tend to be less formal, with more adventurous outdoor activities. Theyre sometimes described as cruises for people who dont like the idea of cruises.
Celebrity Eclipse docked in Juneau
Companies like;National Geographic, Silversea and UnCruises small ships can access narrow fjords and small islands, get up close to wildlife, glaciers and waterfalls, and are also more flexible in their itineraries in case of bad weather. But they have much more limited facilities on board and can be bumpy in rough seas so arent so good if youre worried about seasickness. Expedition cruises also tend to be more expensive, and you dont often see discounts.
Sunset on deck
A Holland America ship sailing out of Vancouver
Alaskas unspoilt scenery
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Which Glacier/s Do You Visit
Most Alaska cruises have at least one day of scenic cruising in their itinerary, when you get up close to a glacier or maybe two or more of them if youre doing a one-way cruise. Normally the ship will spend at least half a day at the glacier, with a commentary from an on-board naturalist to explain what youre seeing. The three main glaciers visited on Alaska cruises are:
Alaska Cruise Itineraries From Seattle
Alaska cruises departing from Seattle typically last seven nights and feature stops in five ports of call: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria, and Seattle.
These itineraries also include a cruising day through Alaskas Endicott Arm Fjord, a 30-mile-long stretch full of natural beauty, that ends at the gorgeous Dawes Glacier. Step out into your veranda or head up to one of the ships outdoor decks and be soothed by the granite Alaskan mountains, cascading waterfalls, drifting icebergs, and spectacular glaciers.
During a round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle, youll also sail through the Inside Passage, a maze of fjords and bays home to a number of animals including bald eagles, sea lions, and whales.
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When Is The Best Time To Take An Alaskan Cruise
We prefer cruising to Alaska in the fall toward the end of the season. Youll escape insects and crowds on an autumn visit, but shoppers may find that boutiques and gift stores are either closed already or offering limited merchandise.
Spring is another good time for an Alaskan cruise, with the promise of drier weather and fewer crowds . In both fall or springknown as shoulder seasondiscounted fares are a possibility.
Of course if youre traveling on a multi-generation Alaskan cruise, with work and school schedules to accommodate, summer may be your only choice. This is when an UnCruise adventure makes especially good sense for those traveling with tweens and above, since the line skips typical ports in favor of helping you experience wild Alaska.
No matter which line you choose, expect rainier weather on a summer Alaska cruise, especially in July and August.
Alaska Cruise Itineraries From Seward
Alaska cruises from Seward sail south and end in Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit the Alaska SeaLife Center and Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where youll interact with wildlife and learn more about the regions unique habitat.
Southbound cruises from Seward visit a number of exciting Alaskan ports, including the historic mining town of Skagway; Icy Strait Point, where you can sign up for fun outdoor adventures; and Ketchikan, where youll see one of the worlds largest collections of indigenous totem poles.
Extend your vacation with one of our Alaska cruisetours, which last from 9 to 13 nights and combine a 7-night cruise with a few days on land in destinations including Anchorage, Talkeetna, and Denali.
Visit the cosmopolitan city of Anchorage, then stop in the picturesque town of Talkeetna, where youll be surrounded by Denali, the tallest peak in North America. Experience hiking in Alaska up the trails of the Denali National Park or go on a river rafting adventure down the Nenana River.
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Portage Glacier Cruise Vs Blackstone Bay Cruise
We are a couple in our 60’s and plan to visit the Kenai peninsula in June 2022. Since neither of us like the idea of a 6 hour or longer cruise and viewing glaciers is our goal, can anyone compare the experience of doing the above two cruises? Is the Portage Glacier a similar size as the Blackstone or Benoit Glaciers? Would the Blackstone Bay tour be a better “Alaskan” experience? Thanks!
Why Cruise To Alaska
The staggering natural beauty of Alaska is impossible to ignore. Its hard to believe so many unique cruise ports are contained in a single state, but a voyage to Alaska by ship unfolds rugged mountainscapes peppered with wildlife and tiny, eclectic towns founded by gold prospectors.
Alaska cruises blend a mix of port calls with spectacular scenic sailing through Glacier Bay National Park or through other routes that also hold calving glaciers and potential whale sightings. The experience of watching the scenery from your cruise ship is just as rich as the stops it makes along the way.
In fact, many sites in Alaska including its capital, Juneau are only accessible by air or sea, making a cruise one of the best ways to explore the Last Frontier.
To make sure visitors by cruise ship don’t miss the sprawling interior of the state, nearly every cruise line offers a variety of tours that can be added before or after your cruise. The most popular extensions include a visit to Denali National Park & Preserve.
On some Alaska itineraries, American citizens might not even need a passport .
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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 .
Whens The Best Time To See The Northern Lights On An Alaska Cruise
Seeing the northern lights from the cruise ship is a rare occurrence, but if youd like to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis from the balcony on your stateroom, then you need to book a trip in late September or early October.
To maximize your chance of witnessing the northern lights, get off the boat and join a land excursion to Fairbanks. The aurora season in Fairbanks lasts from the end of August to April and the lights can be seen 4 out of 5 nights .
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Advantages Of Visiting Alaska In July
- Looking for warm weather? July is Alaskas hottest month, with daytime temperatures ranging between 50-70 degrees and 18-19 hours of daylight.
- If youre planning an arctic cruise, prepare for cooler weather, as the temperature up north dips down to 33-45 degrees. Also pack an eye mask for sleeping, as arctic cruises enjoy nearly 24 hours of daylight.
- Grizzlies, black bears, and mountain goats dot the landscape. In the sea, humpback whales and otters splash about, and overhead you can spot millions of migrating shorebirds.
- For the anglers, July is spawning season for salmon, making it perfect for fishing trips.
Alaska State Fair. Photo by Matt Hage/State of Alaska.
Wheres The Refund For My Canceled Alaska Cruise
When his Alaska cruise gets canceled during the pandemic, UnCruise Adventures promises a refund. But it never shows up. What can he do?
- Sunday, September 12, 2021 1:30am
Q: Im trying to secure a refund from UnCruise Adventures for an Alaska cruise canceled during the pandemic. UnCruise Adventures agreed to a $2,400 refund last July, but I have not received it after numerous messages.
A representative said it would take 90 days to process a refund. I have since been in touch numerous times via email and by phone to ask for an update.
I would like the refund check for $2,400 to be sent as soon as possible. Can you help me? Thomas Anderson, Quincy, Massachusetts
A: If UnCruise Adventures promised you a refund within 90 days, it should have sent you one. Why didnt it?
UnCruise Adventures, which operates small ship cruises in Alaska, Central America and Hawaii, was hit by a wave of cancellations during the pandemic. It turns out the company was waiting for a federal disaster loan to repay customers like you.
In an email sent to you last fall, the company blamed a delay in its federal disaster financing for the refund holdup. The most recent information from our bank indicates that approval is now not likely until after the election, making it mid/late November as our best and latest estimate for your refund processing, a representative wrote. This is very disappointing for all of us here at UnCruise Adventures, and I am sure for you as well.
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Compare: 12 Cruise Ships In Alaska
A message from Cruise Critic: During this unprecedented time throughout the world and across the cruise industry, it is important to note that article information might be impacted by cruise line hiatuses and port closures due to COVID-19. For the latest information, please visit our regularly updated article on what cruisers need to know about coronavirus.
It’s hard not to revert to hyperbole with Alaska. Here lie more than enough towering snow-capped mountains, breathtaking calving glaciers, extraordinary wild animals and quirky frontier towns to wow hundreds of thousands of cruisers annually. With more than two dozen mainstream ships plying Alaska’s island-filled southeast region from May to September, passengers certainly have options.
This chart features a representative from every major line in the mainstream and luxury markets, from the intimate and upscale Silver Muse to mega-ships like Norwegian Bliss.
Each of the 12 ships, which were hand-picked based on their popularity among all cruise options in Alaska, caters to a different type of traveler. Families on a budget might find the most “bang for their buck” onboard Carnival Spirit, while couples looking to splurge can pamper themselves with Seven Seas Mariner’s lavish suites and all-inclusive fine dining.
Familiarize yourself with the biggest contenders’ itineraries, exclusive regional offerings and more to determine which is the best Alaska cruise option for you.
Luxury Cruises To Alaska
When it comes to a luxury Alaska cruise, youll find plenty of choices. Well known luxury lines like Crystal Cruises, Regent, Silversea, Seabourn, and Ponant cruise in Alaska. But youll also find more affordable boutique lines such as Viking and Oceania.
Alan and I appreciate the all-inclusiveness of small luxury cruise companies like Silversea or Seabourn. Since everything, except excursions and spa services, are included in the price, we know exactly how the cruise will fit into our budget. Slightly larger, but still all-inclusive, Regent and Crystal are also good choices.
Because the ships are smaller, lesser-known ports are sometimes included, not to mention exemplary personal service that leads to some unique shipboard and shore side experiences. To learn more about traveling on a luxury cruise, check out our Luxury Cruise Planner for Boomers.
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