An Alaskan Cruise is a once in a lifetime opportunity, the ultimate bucket list item, and a must for any adventure traveler. With dozens of cruise ships, itineraries, and activities, it can be difficult to figure out how to choose an Alaska cruise. We’ll cover the best cruise ships, ports, and activities to make the most of your Alaska cruise.
Choose Your Departure Port: When it comes to figuring out how to choose an Alaskan cruise, you should start with the departure port. Your Alaska cruise will most likely begin in either Vancouver or Seattle. If you live in the U.S. and don’t want to spend time exploring Vancouver, we would recommend a route that begins in Seattle. The reasoning behind this is that you’ll have to clear Canadian customs when going to Vancouver. Once you’re in Vancouver and want to board your ship, you’ll have to clear U.S. customs to board the ship. If you want to leave the ship for the day, you’ll have to clear customs once again. This added a great deal of time to our travel day and we never even got to see Vancouver 🙁 Unless you’re overnighting in Vancouver, try to choose a ship that departs from Seattle.
If you’re interested in an Alaska cruise from Seattle, it will most likely occur in the spring or fall when the Alaska cruise lines are trying to reposition their ships back to the U.S.
Alaska Cruise Route: Most ships generally cruise the Inside Passage. We would highly recommend choosing a cruise line that allows you to visit Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Juneau, The Tracy Arm Fjord, The Hubbard Glacier, and one that ends in Anchorage. If your cruise doesn’t end in Anchorage and instead it ends in Seward or Whittier, don’t be in a hurry to head up to Anchorage right after the cruise. Enjoy your time in one of these beautiful coastal cities.
How to Choose an Alaskan Cruise: We are always preferential to smaller cruises such as Silversea, UnCruise, or National Geographic because these small ships are able to navigate through narrow spaces, experience more time in ports, and offer higher-end, exclusive service. We also love that smaller ships can navigate through the fjords of the Inside Passage whereas their larger counterparts need to go out to sea.
- Our recommendations for a small ship Alaska cruise: UnCruise, National Geographic, Silversea
- Our recommendations for mid-size cruises in Alaska: Azamara, Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas
Choosing a Room: If you’re cruising north, request a room on the starboard side (right side) of the boat. That way, you can enjoy a view of the towns as you cruise along the coast and into port. If you’re cruising south, request a room on the port side of the boat (left side).
Best Time to go to Alaska: May – September is the main cruising season in Alaska. May is the driest month and it will offer lower prices vs. the later summer months. As the summer progresses, so does the rain. Since most of coastal Alaska is part of the Tongass National Forest, expect copious amounts of rain. When it comes to how to choose an Alaska cruise, weather should be a major factor!
Best Alaska Cruise Excursions: Choosing excursions on your Alaskan cruise can be confusing and intimidating! We highly recommend booking the majority of your excursions in advance because they will quickly fill up. We highly recommend:
- Salmon fishing in Ketchikan
- Helicopter glacier trek on Mendenhall Glacier (Juneau)
- Helicopter dog sledding on Mendenhall Glacier (Juneau)
- Halibut fishing (Icy Straight)
- Whale watching (Juneau)
- Bears of Anan (Sitka)
Alaska Cruise On-Board Amenities: Before choosing a cruise ship for your Alaskan vacation, see what on-board amenities are offered. While you’ll most likely spend the majority of your time on excursions, you’ll want to make sure that the boat meets your needs for the times that you are on board. For example, we like to look for ships that will have a gym, a spa, a pool, and great food / beverage packages.
Pack Wisely for your Alaska Cruise: The weather in Alaska changes day-by-day and hour-by-hour so you have to be prepared for all sorts of weather, especially rain! Click here to find the ultimate Alaska packing list and Alaska cruise packing list for your Alaskan cruise.
This is AWESOME and totally fun. Last time I went on a cruise I believe in my teens… SHAMELESS! LOL.. Thanks for sharing. Definitely now on the list for this summer.