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Who Has The Best Alaska Cruise

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Alaska Cruise Guide: Planning Tips And Best Cruise Itineraries

Who has the best Alaska itineraries? | Great Alaska Debate, Ep 3

Most people equate cruising with tropical destinations. Why would anyone cruise to chilly, rainy Alaska, where you might be wearing fleece jackets and knit hats and gloves in July?

Look beyond the iffy weather, and youll find many reasons to cruise Alaska. Perhaps youre drawn to the gorgeous scenery, the areas cultural and historic riches, or its abundant wildlife. With a variety of itineraries, cruise ships, destinations, and activities to consider, no two cruises to Alaska will be the same. However, first-timers can easily become overwhelmed choosing the best Alaska cruise itinerary or picking the perfect cruise line or cruise tour.

In our definitive Alaska cruise, well take you through everything you need to know to choose and plan the Alaska cruise vacation of your dreams.

Best Cruises For Extended Trips To Alaska

If you want to cruise Alaska but also see some of the interior and enjoy a stay in a lodge or hotel, go for a cruise-tour package from either Holland America or Princess Cruises. Both have fantastic itineraries that take passengers not only to the Inside Passage, but also Anchorage, Denali National Park, the Yukon, Kenai Peninsula, Talkeetna and Fairbanks. Princess even owns a handful of its own lodges.

Alaska Hubbard Glacier Cruise Celebrity Eclipse

This starts in Vancouver and takes you through the iconic Inside Passage to Ketchikan and Juneau. Youll explore basically the entire Alaska panhandle, which is home to some of North Americas most breathtaking coastline, including deep fjords, calving glaciers, and coastal mountains and forests. The final destination on this epic Alaska cruise is the massive Hubbard Glacier.

This is one of the best Alaska cruises if you have a weeks time. In 2019, there are twelve sailing dates, running from late-May through mid-September.

  • From/to: roundtrip from Vancouver

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Best Time To Cruise To Alaska

The Alaska cruise season is short, running mainly from May to September, with a few lines offering sailings in April and October. The best time to cruise varies based on what you prioritize most.

The best Alaska cruise weather is typically found in June, when the summer rains havent ramped up, but the air temperatures are rising. This is the time when the sun barely sets and its light nearly all day long. July and August are the rainiest months in Alaska and see the most mosquitos September is starting to get chilly, with rougher waters and shorter days.

May is the best month to see waterfalls and wildflowers. June is when the salmon start to run, and the different species will appear and disappear throughout the cruise season. Denali lodges and the park road open in June, so your best bet for visiting the national park is in July and August for full accessibility and wildlife activity. However, if you want to see baby animals, plan your Alaska visit for May or June.

The best prices are found in the shoulder seasons: April-May and September-October. The biggest crowds and highest cruise fares come mid-June through mid-August.

Travelers who want the best shot at viewing the Northern Lights should book a cruise at the very end of the season, and tack on a cruise tour up to Denali and Fairbanks for the greatest potential.

Icy Strait Point/hoonah Most Unique Alaska Cruise Port

Princess Cruises is the only way to truly see and ...

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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Best Modern Cruise: Celebrity

  • Ship Name: Celebrity Solstice
  • Itinerary: Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Alaska Inside Passage, Victoria

For an upscale Alaska cruise without the luxury price tag, Celebrity is a fantastic option. The award-winning, Celebrity Solstice is a dignified ship that focuses on modern well-being. Activities include culinary classes, silent discos, and educational lectures. Theres also a half-acre of fresh grass with hot glass demonstrations, private cabanas, and outdoor movies. The ship also has a fabulous fitness center and programs, and the Canyon Ranch Spa situated right next to the Aqua Class cabins. These cabins include access to a health-conscious restaurant as well as the relaxation room and other spa perks. This voyage includes a full day cruising Endicott Arm for fabulous views before concluding in Victoria.

Northbound Alaska And Hubbard Glacier

TheVancouver ToSeward journey is a great way to take in as much of what Alaska has to offer in the shortest possible time. Vancouver is, after all, only one day’s sail from the Inside Passage.

A pause atKetchikan — the salmon capital of the world no less — allows you to stretch your legs before you head deeper into the Alaskan hinterland. Making its way past theIcy Strait Point, the cruise stops at Juneau, Skagway, and then up to the spectacularHubbard Glacier.

The last leg of the trip takes you to the charming town of Seward, one of Alaskas oldest communities. And from there, you can fly back home in comfort.

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Selecting A Cabin Type

For most people cabin selection will be based on your budget but there are a few things to consider when selecting your room and whether its worth upping your budget a little to get a room you truly love. There are a variety of state rooms, and I think the first choice is whether you want an interior room , a sea view room , a balcony room or a suite with balcony.

If you are claustrophobic or get a little seasick, then going for a room with a window or balcony is essential. We enjoyed a balcony room and found this was such a great way to be able to enjoy the sailing days, relaxing on the balcony, book in hand, waiting for a whale to swim by!

The second consideration is which part of the boat you want to be on, the back, middle or front. Honestly, I personally dont think this is as much of a consideration as selecting which room type you go for. The selection of which location is usually based on what you want to be close to, but with activities on board all over the boat you will be walking from one end to the other no matter what.

One thing to check if possible is that you are not in a middle corner room. Our room was on a corner in the middle of the ship where the next section of cabin rooms and balconies jutted out farther than ours to one side. This meant we had a large wall next to our balcony completely obscuring the view to the left and front of the boat so could not see anything ahead of us when we were sailing.

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Alaska Cruise Tips. 6 Need To Knows Before You Go

The ability of a small boat to maneuver into hidden places makes for an unforgettable experience.Patricia G, Park Ridge, IL

This was perfect for us! Like everyone we met on board, we would not consider a cruise with thousands to be a vacation. We made friends each night in the lounge and it felt like a dinner party. The flexibility of the captain and our guides was a fantastic touch. Being able to go into places where it was just our boat was very special. Richard L, Kamas, UT

Ally P, Poway, CA

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Taking An Alaska Cruise In August

Youre still in peak season here, but at the back end, so you might see some deals emerge toward the end of the month. However, you should likely expect to pay full price for an August Alaska cruise.

Your chance of rain for the month is at more than 50 percent, so you should surely expect to see some rain during your cruise.

Waterproof shoes and wool socks are your best friend during July, as well as any other breathable rain gear you own. Count on getting wet, so its best to be prepared.

The famous Alaska blueberries will be in season in August so snatch up your favorite berries. You know the bears sure will be, as July still offers great chances to view them feeding on branches or salmon. Youll even have a solid chance of spotting bald eagles near salmon-spawning streams.

How To Pick The Best Alaska Cruise For You

Youll see from our chart below that dozens of ships are sailing Alaska in 2020. And this just includes the mass-market and luxury ships. There are even more if you count all of the small ship and expedition vessels. Thats a lot of information to parse as you determine which ship is right for you, so consider a cruise line that caters to your specific needs or interests. Consult this list, and then check the chart to find a vessel that might fit your own preferences, from ships with the fewest passengers to those with the least expensive cruise fares to the ones offering exactly the itinerary you want.

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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

Best For Families With Younger Kids

Book an Alaskan Cruise With Norwegian and They

Carnival, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean all have extensive kids clubs aboard their ships. Disney kicks that up a notch with meet-and-greets with its beloved characters on board. You can hang with Dr. Seuss characters when sailing with Carnival and there are DreamWorks personas aboard Royal Caribbean ships.

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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!

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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Where Does It Stop

Each cruise line and often individual itineraries within the same cruise line makes different stops as they travel through Alaska. So one important thing to consider when you choose an Alaska cruise is where you want to visit and what you want to see and do. Heres what you can expect in the main Alaskan cruise ports of call .

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Popular Alaska Cruise Ports

The Best Alaska Cruise Shore Excursions

Most Alaska ports offer a mix of history, culture, scenery, and outdoor activities. If the best Alaska cruise ports are the most popular ones, then the top options are the main Inside Passage ports of Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.

Cruise ships sailing one-way voyages often visit Sitka, a former Russian outpost in North America and home to many native Alaskans. Some ships visit Haines instead of Skagway. Icy Strait Point is a native owned and operated port set on a former fish cannery, which has been expanding and growing in popularity. Less common are the ports of Petersburg and Wrangell, located between Ketchikan and Juneau you can find these smaller ports on select itineraries.

For more information on our favorite destinations, read our post on the best Alaska cruise ports.

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Scenic Cruise Destinations In Alaska

Glaciers are a must-see in Alaska, and every cruise itinerary features at least one day of scenic cruising. Glacier Bay National Park is the top pick for glacier-viewing because of its multiple glaciers and generally passable channel. However, so many cruise lines wish to visit that the national park issues a limited-number of day-use spots each year.

Other scenic cruising sites along the Inside Passage include Tracy Arm with its Sawyer Glacier andEndicott Arm with Dawes Glacier. One-way Alaska cruises that travel to/from Seward and Whittier may also visit the spectacular Hubbard Glacier.

Typically, the big ships will open up all the outer decks for passengers to crowd the railings to watch the glaciers calve and scan the area for wildlife. If you want to get out on a kayak or small boat to get closer to the glacier or the marine life, youll need to book an expedition cruise.

Compare the options in our guide to scenic cruising in Alaska.

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.

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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.

Its 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 Alaskas 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 Mariners 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.

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