Cruises in Alaska that are perfect for any vacationer
This guide to the best Alaska cruises can help you narrow down your options and find the cruise that best suits your travel preferences, budget, and desired level of adventure in Alaska.
Alaska is the third most popular cruise destination in the world after the Caribbean and Europe, despite having a short season (April to October). This is because there are about 40 large ships and dozens of smaller ships that visit Alaska. Some of the best Alaska cruises are small-ship adventures with a handful of passengers, while others are weeklong excursions on massive ships with thousands of passengers.
Travelers to Alaska have a plethora of itinerary options to choose from. Some vessels prefer the more familiar routes through Southeast Alaska and western Canada. While some stay close to the Kenai Peninsula, others travel as far north as Nome and Barrow, and still others venture far out into the Bering Sea. In Alaska, visitors can choose from tours that visit multiple national parks, or those that focus on the state's unique culture, such as those that take them to a dive bar to hear tales of "the big one" from a local fisherman.
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It can be difficult to determine which vessel will provide the "bucket list" experience of a lifetime in The Last Frontier. What matters most is how you like to travel, what you like to do, and how much money you have. While some vacationers can't stand anything less than five-star accommodations, others wouldn't mind roughing it if it meant seeing wild animals up close and personal. Some are in search of love, while others hope to teach their children or grandchildren about things like sled dogs, gold panning, and glaciers.
There's a ship in Alaska that's perfect for you, no matter what your personal preferences are. To help you narrow down your options, we've compiled this guide to the best Alaska cruises for first-timers.
Perfect for those who enjoy staying at large resorts
Some of the largest ships operated by Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean can be found in Alaska. They are like floating megaresorts with glitzy casinos, Broadway shows, and lavish spas that can accommodate thousands of guests. There are dozens of places to eat and drink, and there are also many attractions that will appeal to the thrill-seekers and families with young children.
It's a Norwegian Recurrence
While sailing through Alaska's Inside Passage on the Norwegian Encore, passengers can enjoy a variety of on-board activities, including a go-kart track, outdoor laser tag, and a water park. The ship leaves from Seattle and makes stops in Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan in Alaska, Victoria, British Columbia, and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Corresponding: How to Choose a Cruise Line for the First Time
Applause of the Seas
You can get a drink from a robot bartender on Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships, experience virtual skydiving or surfing, and ride in a glass capsule suspended from the ship's mechanical arm, all while taking in the breathtaking views of Alaska.
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Seven-night cruises on Ovation of the Seas depart weekly from Seattle, though the specific itinerary varies from week to week. The ship typically stops in at three Alaskan ports and Victoria, with a stop at Endicott Arm to see Dawes Glacier.
The Top Choice for Travel on Land and Sea
Travel with the Island Princess to Alaska's Glacier Bay TRANSFER TO PRINCESS CRUISES
It would be a shame to travel all the way to Alaska and then not see the Denali National Park and Preserve and the sight of Denali, North America's largest peak, which is often obscured by clouds due to its own weather system.
The two longest-running cruise lines in the industry (at 75 and 55 years, respectively) both send half a dozen ships to Alaska every year: Holland America Line and Princess Cruises.
When it comes to cruises and cruise tours, which combine time at sea with overnight stays in various locations, they come out on top. The businesses provide their own lodgings, trains, and motorcoaches for trips into the interior of Alaska and beyond. Numerous vessels are authorized to enter Glacier Bay.
Connected: The Best Activities for an Alaskan Cruise
Select from itineraries ranging in length from 10 nights to 17 nights that combine a standard weeklong cruise (sometimes half a cruise) with time spent exploring the interior of Alaska via bus, train, or plane.
The year 2023 will see the deployment of six ships to Alaska from Holland America, with cruise itineraries including visits to Denali, Fairbanks, and Talkeetna.
However, the Koningsdam also offers cruise tours of the Canadian Yukon that last for ten nights and trace the path of the Klondike Gold Rush from Alaska to the northwest of the country. Visit Whitehorse and Dawson City in the Yukon Territory after getting off your cruise ship in Skagway, then continue on to Fairbanks (the entry point to Arctic Alaska), Denali National Park, and finally Anchorage.
Glacier Bay National Park, Denali National Park, the Kenai Fjords, and America's largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias The 15-day excursion begins with a Vancouver to Whittier, Alaska cruise that lasts seven nights and concludes in Fairbanks, Alaska after a week on land.
Highly recommended for thrifty vacationers
Prices on Norwegian and Royal Caribbean's older ships are typically lower than on the lines' larger and newer ships because these vessels don't have as many extra perks.
Because of their large fleets, cruise lines like Holland America and Princess regularly run sales, especially for their older ships' tonnage. Some married couples enjoy these vessels because of their small size and lack of children.
Corresponding: Summer is the best time to cruise Alaska
Shoulder season cruises are a surefire way to save money, and there are other ways to cut costs as well. From April through early June and again in September, you can save money compared to the peak summer season.
And because everyone wants to see the Alaskan wilderness, snowy peaks, and glaciers, balcony cabins are in high demand there as well. As the supply decreases, the price usually rises. Those on a tight budget have a few options: book early, choose an unreservable outside cabin, or accept a guaranteed inside or outside cabin.
The Radiance of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's 20-year-old ship, primarily operates week-long, one-way cruises between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska, with prices for inside and outside cabins frequently falling below $100 per person, per night.
The Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise from Seward to Vancouver in May 2023 is the cheapest of the season. The price for an interior cabin begins at $348 per passenger.
Both the Grand Princess and the Majestic Princess
Princess Cruises has a large fleet of ships based in Alaska, so it's likely you can find a good deal, especially for a cruise during the shoulder season. In May of 2023, you can book a weeklong Alaska cruise aboard either the Grand or Majestic Princess for as little as $398 per person, inside. The cruise departs from Vancouver, British Columbia, and docks in the Alaskan cities of Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway before ending in the town of Whittier.
For the most authentic experience, seek out destinations that are less frequented.
Alaska kayaking trip DANGEROUS EXPERIMENTS
Are interested in visiting and exploring coastal Alaska, but prefer a more laid-back atmosphere where lectures and impromptu guitar singalongs replace casinos and stage productions? You can find cruise lines that cater to smaller groups on the market, such as UnCruise Adventures, Lindblad Expeditions, and Alaskan Dream Cruises, all of which have ships that accommodate fewer than one hundred passengers.
When the on-board naturalist spots a group of whales or a bear digging for clams, the captain of a small ship can easily change course or linger to observe.
Because of the limitations larger vessels have, smaller vessels can go to ports that larger vessels can't. Petersburg, a fishing town with strong Norwegian roots, and Wrangell, one of Alaska's oldest communities, are two of the more out-of-the-way locales you'll get to see. There are cruises that don't even make port stops and instead travel through the wilderness.
Expeditions That Are Not A Cruise
UnCruise Adventures offers 7-, 12-, and 14-night cruises through Southeast Alaska. A day could begin with a kayaking trip, continue with some birdwatching, and end with a campfire on dry land. UnCruise has the only permits for hiking and biking adventures on Chichagof Island, and you can visit LeConte and Baird Glaciers (which the big ships can't access).
Itineraries with Lindblad Expeditions range from 6-15 days and visit remote areas of Alaska and British Columbia.
Travelers to Alaska can go sightseeing in the quaint fishing village of Petersburg, find native petroglyphs on the beaches of Wrangell Island, or go on a bear-spotting expedition in the Great Bear Rainforest of Canada. Unlike the large cruise ships, Lindblad is authorized to take visitors deeper into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the Tongass National Forest.
Dream Cruises in Alaska
Ships owned by Alaskans take groups of 10 to 76 people to Native villages that rarely see tourists, and there's plenty of time to go wildlife watching away from the madding crowds. From ports like Sitka, Ketchikan, and Juneau, guests can embark on itineraries that last anywhere from five to nine nights.
Recommended for households
The newest and largest ships of Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, and especially Disney Cruise Line offer excellent camp-like activity programs for kids, as well as jaw-dropping amusement attractions, making them ideal for families visiting Alaska.
As you look at bald eagles, blue icebergs, and glaciers from the deck of a Disney cruise ship, Goofy may make an appearance. You can expect the kind of extensive children's program, entertainment, and activities like lightning-fast water slides from a company that sells dreams. Plus, the cabins have two separate bathrooms (one with a toilet and sink, and the other with a shower/tub combination and sink), making it easy to accommodate larger groups.
See also: the top 5 family-friendly cruise lines
Princess of Discovery
Princess Cruises is another great option, even if it doesn't have any mind-blowing features. They have a great kids' and teens' program with plenty of room, and they do fun things like bring sled dogs on board, which is a huge hit with the young passengers. Newest ship in the fleet Discovery Princess departs from Seattle, a central U.S. S family-friendly airport and/or highway terminal
In conjunction with Dr. The Carnival Spirit is a great option for families in Alaska due to Seuss and the three teen and kid hangouts on board.
The casual atmosphere and wide selection of free quick eats (pizza, tacos, Guy Fieri's burgers, and unlimited soft serve ice cream) on the ship remove any tension from family mealtimes. Seven-night itineraries depart from Seattle, visiting Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Victoria, and featuring scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord.
The pinnacle of opulence for splurge-see
Alaskan cruise on the Silversea SAILING THE SILVER SEAS
One of the all-inclusive luxury cruise lines in Alaska, such as Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, or Silversea, is the ideal choice if you want to sip Champagne while watching a glacier calve into the sea with a rumbling roar.
All these companies have luxurious vessels that are pros at serving up gourmet meals and other luxuries in cozy settings at sea. Furthermore, it is a major focus of all the lines to offer lectures by experts, giving visitors a more in-depth understanding of Alaska.
Itineraries typically visit well-known ports as well as those less frequented. Wrangell and Prince Rupert, a Canadian port city, are two possible destinations, as are the Misty Fjords and Prince William Sound. Vancouver, Seward, and Sitka are just some of the ports where seven- to fourteen-night voyages set sail.
Ship That Explores the Seven Seas
The 750-passenger Regent Seven Seas Explorer is an all-suite vessel that provides Alaskan visitors with a wide variety of amenities, such as complimentary gourmet dining, open bar, round-trip airfare, and tips. The majority of shore excursions are offered at no cost. Pamper yourself with an afternoon in the thermal suite of the two-story spa-and-fitness center, or go all out and book the Regent Suite, the most opulent suite at sea.
The Seabourn Odyssey
The Seabourn Odyssey, which can carry up to 450 passengers, offers a luxurious take on expedition cruising in Alaska by way of inflatable Zodiac boats and kayaks operated by the ship's own expedition team.
Travel with Seabourn is referred to as a "Ventures by Seabourn" experience. Scientists, naturalists, and biologists make up the expedition crew for these trips. After guests have spent time communing with nature, they can relax with a glass of Champagne and some caviar, courtesy of the ship, or savor a meal prepared by celebrity chef Thomas Keller.
Corresponding: Four Exclusive Luxury Cruise Lines
Clouds of Starlight
Windstar Cruises' Star Breeze, which can carry up to 312 passengers and has a fleet of kayaks and Zodiacs, is another excellent option for small-group exploration.
The atmosphere is one of laid-back opulence, so leave the jewelry at home, but don't worry—you'll still be treated to attentive service and delicious food prepared by James Beard Foundation-nominated chefs. You can explore more of Alaska on a cruise that lasts a week or 11 nights, or you can add on a cruise tour.
The Ultimate Vacation for Lonely Hearts
Those who wish to cruise Alaska on their own need not necessarily pay the "solo surcharge." Many ships offer single-occupancy cabins at a discounted rate. It's worth noting that Silversea and Seabourn, two upscale cruise lines, go out of their way to make single passengers feel welcome and comfortable, even if they have to pay a premium.
Nirvana in Norway
Tight studio cabins priced for one person are standard on Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway and Getaway-class ships. They're also in a building with a private lounge that serves as an excellent setting for informal networking. Single travelers can book one of Norwegian Bliss' 82 single cabins on round-trip Seattle cruises that stop at Dawes Glacier, Sitka, and Icy Strait Point.
A Quantitative Assessment of the Oceans
In Alaska, Royal Caribbean's studio staterooms on its Quantum-class ships offer single passengers the advantages of both adequate living space and private balconies.
Inside cabins on the Quantum of the Seas are 101 square feet, while ocean-view rooms are 119 square feet and have a 55 square foot balcony. There's plenty of room for one person on a full-size bed in either case. Round-trip from Seattle, with scenic cruising along Endicott Arm, is on the itinerary for Ovation of the Seas for a full week, just like it is on Quantum of the Seas, the ship's sister.
Only on the Koningsdam, Holland America's flagship ship, can a single traveler to Alaska enjoy a stateroom with a view of The rooms range in size from 127 to 172 square feet, and they all feature a full-size bed and a picture window.
The Koningsdam makes scenic cruises through Tracy Arm and Glacier Bay on her round-trip voyage from Vancouver to Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Its cruises to the Yukon and Denali can be combined into tours lasting anywhere from nine to fourteen nights.
Arranging a cruise Get going with these tales:
Erica Silverstein has contributed additional reporting.
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Budget hotels in Fairbanks start at per night, with options like the Super 8 by Wyndham Fairbanks (from $106), the Borealis Inn (from ), Pike's Waterfront Lodge (from $115), and more.
Denali (or Mount McKinley) is the highest and most prominent mountain in Alaska, standing at an impressive 20,308 feet (6,190 meters) in height.