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.
I Enjoy A Much Deserved Nap And Wake To Find Quite A Spectacle
A group of almost a dozen Dall porpoise are swimming in the bow wave of our boat, just beneath the front deck. They dart from side to side and pop out of the water, putting on quite a show.
As we pass Admirality Island , the weather breaks up and we soon find ourselves basking in the sunlight. We see all sorts of shorebirds, hawks, and eagles along the shores of this huge island, which boasts one of the highest per capita grizzly populations in the world. Baranoff Hot springs is our next destination, and what a destination it would prove to be. After getting onto the little dock, I made my way past several buildings there are a few homes here, as well as a gallery featuring some work from local artists. There is also a huge river pouring down a nearby hill.
Hiking along this river with our guide and some of the other passengers, we soon find ourselves at the hot springs I have heard so much about. I just couldnt resist and hopped right into one of the pools. Some were more reluctant then others, but soon the rest of the passengers had found their way into the water with me.
Fueled by afternoon naps and a full day of excitement, I stay up with some of my fellow passengers and crew late into the night, trading stories and laughing heartily.
Alaska Cruise Itinerary: Day 4
The other passengers and I have tentatively agreed to spend part of the morning sleeping in. The laid back atmosphere and philosophy of the Sikumi and allow for such plans, so we take advantage.
Rafting The Mendenhall River
If youre looking to go whitewater rafting in Southeast Alaska, the Mendenhall River rafting trip is your only option. So dont miss out! You start with a float in Mendenhall Lake with a view of the blue-tinged Mendenhall Glacier. The current picks up, and soon youre bouncing through some mild, Class III rapids with ice cold water splashing in your face. The river winds through the forest, and you end the trip floating through a Juneau neighborhood. Watch for real Alaskan wildlife, like a family barbecuing salmon in their backyard!
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Do An Independent Land Tour
Use a local Alaskan travel agent to help you plan a custom land tour. You have a lot of options.Fly into Anchorage and travel by railroad, or rent a car or motorhome and drive our highways. Another option: take the or fly into an Inside Passage town. Visit off-the-beaten-path destinations. Stay at smaller hotels and roadside adventure lodges. Ask your hosts for advice. Meet locals and understand the Alaskan lifestyle it may make you think differently about your own life.
You need a land tour to see Mt. Denali
Tip: Take a day cruise and you can see more marine wildlife and tidewater glaciers than you would on a one-week conventional cruise. Youll also get closer to everything.
Cruises Of Various Types
Youll be able to locate whatever kind of cruise youre searching for in Alaska. All of the main ships traveling in Alaska in 2020 are included in my graphic at the bottom of this page.
Sailings to Alaska are available on almost every mass-market second cruise company. Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, both of which have a lengthy history in the area, provide cruises and cruise-and-land tour vacation packages. Plus they have hot tubs to die for on the starboard side!
However, Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and other major cruise lines offer trips as well.
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How To Choose A Cruise Itinerary
With so many incredible destinations and experiences to choose from, finding the perfect cruise itinerary isnt always easy. Dreaming of a glamorous island-hopping vacation? Try the Caribbean, Greece, or the South Pacific. Are you fascinated by history and other cultures? The Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Asia, or South America might be the place for you.
If youre looking for a nature-inspired getaway, youll find it in Alaska, the Norwegian fjords, and New Zealand, where breathtaking landscapes and unforgettable experiences are all part of the journey.
Whether your ideal getaway consists of lounging on pristine beaches, exploring UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or tasting some of the best food in the world, theres a cruise itinerary that will satisfy your vacation needs. Follow the steps below to find the ideal itinerary and start planning your dream cruise today.
Things To Do In Haines
Zipline, kayak, learn about eagles and other raptors, fish Chilkoot Lake, ride an ATV to Glacier Point, hike, or golf. Go bear-watching at dusk for a unique experience. The Kroschel Center for Orphaned Animals is a popular destination for animal lovers and children. You may also take a scenic train journey up White Pass Summit.
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Skagway Best Shore Excursion
Skagway is a tiny town with a very busy cruise port! This is as far north as cruise ships go in the Inside Passage . Skagway was put on the map by the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898 and has a colorful history. In fact, the entire downtown is a national park!
The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad was built during the Gold Rush and remains today as a tour for visitors and I will tell you that in my opinion this is the best shore excursion available in Southeast Alaska! There are several options for the train: you can take a round trip summit excursion right from the cruise ship dock, or you can go one way by train and one by bus giving you additional views of this stunning location. You can also do a hike from the train getting dropped off at Denver or Laughton Glacier as part of a tour.
The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad gives you the unique opportunity in Southeast Alaska to get up into the mountains and inland and see a completely different climate. There are good chances to see bears and goats on this trip too! Overall I highly recommend this if you only do one shore excursionmake it this one!
Skagway also has lots of great history to explore and several excellent hikes that leave from downtown and you can easily walk to.
Gulf Of Alaska Cruise
If you book a Gulf of Alaska cruise, youll have the opportunity to visit Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Ketchikan, Haines, and Icy Strait Point, among other destinations along the Inside Passage.
Youll also have up to two days of scenic cruising, during which youll be able to take in the beautiful scenery but wont be able to get ashore. Youll visit some spectacular vistas, such as Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay National Parks& Preserve, so this isnt quite as dull as you may expect.
These one-way cruise sailings usually depart from Anchorage or Anchorage and arrive in Vancouver . The majority of itineraries are seven nights, although there are a few that are longer.
When looking at cruise itineraries, youll see that some embarkation/debarkation ports are specified, such as Anchorage . That means youll have to travel into Anchorage and then transfer to Seward for your trip. The transfer is normally somewhat long, so cruise companies specifically include these ports in their brochures. Transportation to the port is normally included or available for a nominal price if you purchase your cruise Alaska airlines fare. For example, when I sailed from Anchorage , Regent included a ride on the Alaska Railroad from my hotel in Anchorage to Whittier.
If youre prone to seasickness, keep in mind that Gulf of Alaska sailings, especially those in late August and September, may suffer some strong waves in the Gulf of Alaska section of the journey.
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Skagway: Best Of Skagway
- Who Offers This Excursion? As mentioned, this excursion is offered by many of the cruise companies. The Best of Skagway tour is offered by Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean.
- Find 9 other excursion options on my guide to the best Skagway cruise excursions.
In my opinion, there is just too much to choose from in Skagway. Thats why I consider a city tour to be the best Skagway cruise excursion, like the top Alaska cruise excursion that I recommended in Seattle.
The Best of Skagway tour shows you the best parts of this small Alaskan community. Its offered by many of the cruise companies that make port stops in Skagway. On this 6.5-hour tour, youll have three incredible experiences and three that are totally unique to Skagway .
First, youll board and ride the White Pass and Yukon Route, a narrow-gauge railroad that ascends the White Pass for epic views and scenery. Next, most tours disembark at the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp and Salmon Bake for a bawdy historic reenactment about Skagways history and a meal of fresh Alaska salmon. Finally, some tours add on a saloon stop at Red Onion Saloon you can raise a glass in camaraderie with the legions of intrepid gold miners who passed through Skagway over the centuries.
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Consider Time Of Year
When you cruise is a factor in your choice of itinerary. Some destinations, most notably Alaska, are accessible to cruise ships only in specific seasons. The Alaska cruise season is May to September.
Do your research on the best time to go on a cruise. While the Caribbean is temperate year-round, the Mediterranean is most popular in spring, summer, and fall.
When looking at cruise ship itineraries, consider when it is you are planning to vacation and check the typical weather for the period you wish to cruise. You dont want to head somewhere where the weather is cold if youre thinking about beach time.
You may also want to consider whether your timing is high season in the destination you plan to visit. For instance, there will be fewer crowds in St. Marks Square in Venice if you dont visit in July and August.
In the Caribbean, summertime and holidays are popular with families, which is fine if youre cruising with toddlers or older kids. If you are looking for more of an adult crowd, you may want to consider other time periods.
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Haines Best Weather And Kayaking
Haines doesnt have a lot of cruise ships that call in its port, but it does have some. You can also visit Haines by taking a shore excursion when your ship calls in nearby Skagway. However you get there, Haines is worth a visit for plenty of reasons.
In addition to the scenery that every Alaska town has on offer, Haines is positioned to have the best weather in Southeast Alaska, making it ideal for outdoor activities like kayaking! When I say best weather I mean less rain than most other ports but it doesnt have the wind that Skagway has. In any part of Southeast Alaska you need to be ready for rain, any day, all year, but Haines gives you a better chance of a dry day than most.
Kayaking is unique in Haines because you can take a tour for sea kayaking or you can kayak in Chilkoot Lake, giving options for every preference and every skill level in a kayak. This is a wonderful place to try kayaking for the first time!
Cruise Tips For Alaska Weather
If youre thinking of going on a summer cruise, Alaska could be the place to go. The Alaskan cruise best time season runs from late May through September, with being the hottest months for travel. Alaskan cruises may seem to be reserved for those who like harsh weather conditions, but the fact is that Alaskan weather varies greatly depending on the location.
Most itineraries circumvent the main territory by cruising the Inside Passage, a portion of the state that passes alongside Canada. You wont need your winter gear on these trips since they dont travel near the Arctic zone. Heres what to anticipate on your future Alaska cruise each month, as well as what you should bring.
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Best Alaska Cruise Itinerary To See Wildlife
One of the biggest draws of taking a cruise to Alaska is the opportunity to spot abundant wildlife in their natural habitat.
Brown bears in Alaska
An Alaska cruise route that stops in Icy Strait Point is sure to appeal to animal lovers. There, you can trek along the famous Trail of the Bears in Spasski River Valley, where youll find brown bears, black-tailed deer, and regal bald eagles.
Victoria in British Columbia is considered one of the best places to spot whales in the wild. Climb aboard an eco-friendly zodiac boat and search for migrating orcas, humpback whales, seals, sea lions, and marine birds.
In Sitka, double up and take a guided boat tour through the Sitka Sound, where youll see a number of marine wildlife including porpoises and harbor seals, and later visit the Alaska Raptor Center, a facility where injured eagles and other birds of prey are rehabilitated and then released back into the wild.
Got Questions About Alaska Cruises
If you have any questions about which Alaska cruise and itinerary would be best for you, get in touch with one of AAAs travel agents today.
Here at AAA, weve made it our mission to provide travelers with access to luxurious and fun cruise experiences. We look forward to providing you with the answers that you need in order to make the best decision for your upcoming trip.
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Best Traditional Cruise: Princess Cruises
Courtesy of Princess Cruises
- Ship Name: Royal Princess
- Itinerary: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Whittier
Royal Princess is a gorgeous ship that like all Princess cruises focuses on a more traditional experience . As passengers sail through Glacier Bay or the College Fjord they can stroll around the stunning skywalk a glass walkway that overhangs the vessel or relax next to a lovely water fountain in the pool area. In the evenings, passengers catch movies under the stars. The cruise concludes in Whittier, Alaska, where most cruise lines do not visit. Although Whittier is industrial, its ideal for those extending their stay in Alaska on land. The Alaska railroad connects Whittier to Anchorage so travelers can also enjoy a scenic ride to Anchorage and hop on a connecting flight.
Icy Strait Point/hoonah Most Unique Alaska Cruise Port
Icy Strait Point near the town of Hoonah is a unique port in Southeast Alaska. Icy Strait Point was converted from a cannery for cruise ships by the Huna Totem Corporation and is Huna Tlingit owned and operated. The vast majority of employees are Huna Tlingit who live in the town of Hoonah.
At Icy Strait Point you can explore the museum in a historic cannery, walk the nature trails, eat delicious seafood and book one of the many tours offered. Tours include whale watching, trips to look for bears around Chichagof Island, ziplining and off road adventures. If you have the chance to go, dont miss out on this truly unique Alaska cruise port, theres nothing like it anywhere else!
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Princess Cruises Relationship With Alaska
One of the reasons I chose Princess Cruises for an Alaska itinerary is their relationship with Alaska. For more than fifty years, Princess Cruises ships have sailed to Alaska, and now cruisers can extend their stay in one of their wilderness lodges and enjoy the impressive views of the towering Denali during the midnight sun. Their Voyage of the Glaciers cruises experience unique ports and cruise glacier-fed fjords with jaw-dropping scenery.
While I didnt book a Princess cruise and land tour, my 14-day back-to-back Alaska itinerary had different glacier viewings each way, which made the vacation doubly magical. Also, because I live in Vancouver, Canada, sailing back was cheaper than flying. Hard to believe, right? But, if you snag an Alaskan cruise deal as I did, the 7-day Alaska return cruise was less expensive than the cost of a one-way flight. Additionally, I could extend my vacation by seven days .
When sailing out of Vancouver, Coral Princess, Royal Princess, and Grand Princess offer 14-day or seven-day back-to-back itineraries. . When considered a 14-day or back-to-back itinerary, compare the prices of the two options. Sometimes, its cheaper to book two one-week cruises than one 14-day vacation. Especially when there are perks such s free onboard credit, youll double your credit by choosing two cruises instead of one.
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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:
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