How to Find the Right Alaskan Cruise
Know the Best Time to Take a Cruise in Alaska
So you are interested in taking a cruise to Alaska? Exciting! Gorgeous views and an unforgettable experience undoubtedly await you.
We all know Alaska is cold and known for its ice so many tourists opp for the mid-summer months to ensure a pleasant and warm experience. Cruises in Alaska are seasonal, typically operating from May to September, though the summer months, specifically June, July, and August, are the most popular.
There is some flexibility in the months- for example, if you go on a cruise in May, you may have cooler weather, but the locals are not tired of tourists yet, and the crowds will not be as intense. If you go in September, most of the tourists have already enjoyed their tours and headed home. If you do choose one of these border months to travel (May or September), consider that some attractions may not have opened yet or may already be closed. Likely you will not have a problem, but just like any seasonal destination, it is good to keep in mind.
Decide if You Want the Inside Passage or the Gulf of Alaska
There are a few different routes cruise ships can take in Alaska. Due to their size, larger vessels can be limited to where they go as they need larger ports to dock and accommodate them. Smaller ships can more easily fit through narrow straits or smaller ports so that they may have a slightly more off the beaten path options.
In general, the leading cruise itineraries include either the Inside Passage or the Gulf of Alaska.
The Inside Passage is what it sounds like- a sheltered waterway that spans from Seatlle up to Juneau. Glaciers carved out this passageway long ago, so you are in for some truly spectacular sights. This route typically takes about seven days to complete, and major ports include Skagway, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Juneau.
The Gulf of Alaska takes a slightly different route, though it also lasts about seven days. This route will mean you will have a couple of days of purely scenic cruising. Don’t worry; you won’t be at a loss for what to do with all of the stunning and peaceful nature surrounding you. For this cruise, you will likely fly to Anchorage, and from there, depart on your cruise hitting ports like Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Haines, and Icy Strait Point.
Determine Your Cruise Budget
If you are traveling to Alaska with kids, you may want to opt for a larger cruise ship known as a mega-ship. Large ships tend to have more amenities like entertainment, activities, pools, fitness rooms, and more. With more amenities, every kid in your family can likely find an activity to satisfy their interest, and mom and dad can enjoy some downtime. Their large size also makes them less likely to rock in the waves, which is good news for those who are prone to seasickness. Larger cruise ships in Alaska are more likely to have elevators making them accessible for people with wheelchairs or other mobility needs.
These ships include vessels like Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity, and Norwegians Cruise’s Jewel and Pearl cruise ships
Older adults traveling on a cruise may be best suited for a mid-sized ship. These will have less noise and activities as a family-friendly mega-ship, but will still have some of the amenities only found on a larger ship like casinos and spas. These mid-sized Alaskan vessels range from the ultra-luxurious to the modern. Once you know your budget and specific needs, you should be able to pick between the two with ease.
Alaskan cruise ships in the mid-size category include Regent Seven Seas, Silversea Cruises, and Holland America’s cruise ships.
If you are traveling as a couple, you might want to consider a smaller ship. The ship will be more simplified than a larger cruise ship– think: maybe one dining option, no entertainment, and smaller cabins. The trade-off? A more intimate experience with less of a crowd. A smaller boat can sail through more narrow passages than a mega-ship or a mid-sized cruise liner, which means you may get a more personal experience with the sights, scenery, and wildlife too.
Check out Oceania and Windstar Cruises for some super luxurious and couple-friendly options.
Consider Shore Excursions and Fun Activities
When considering how to pick the right cruise for your Alaskan vacation, be sure to remember shore excursions. Depending on the route and the specific cruise line, you will stop along the way at different ports. Each stop may offer a different activity like fishing, glacier trekking, shopping, whale watching, whitewater rafting, and many more. Knowing what shore excursions are most interesting to you can be the key you need to find the right cruise for you. Do some homework and read about the port destinations and what the cruise offers in terms of tours, excursions, and other activities.
Be Prepared: What to Pack
In the summer months, temperatures in Alaska can reach up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, though it can cool down significantly in the evenings. Packing for Alaska will prove a challenge as you may need a variety of clothing options that are not such obvious pairs.
You’ll want to bring a swimsuit to enjoy the ship’s pools or hot tubs along with some t-shirts for warmer days exploring in ports. Because the temperature drops at night, you will also need a parka, socks and warmer clothes to stay comfortable in the evenings. Whether you will have bright sunny days, heavy rains, or a mixture is anyone’s guess, so it’s a good idea to throw in some sunblock and rain or wind jacket just in case.
The Most Important Thing to Remember
When you are planning your cruise, do not forget the most important aspect- this is a vacation! It is time to let loose and enjoy some well-deserved rest. Booking should be part of the fun too. Get the family or your partner and brainstorm together what’s on your Alaska bucket list. From there, you will know what interests you, and you can narrow down your search to relevant cruises. Bon voyage!