Alaska is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world and is very high on most cruise lovers' list. Many cruises visit the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska that is inaccessible to cars. Therefore, some of the most spectacular parts of Alaska can best be seen from the sea.
Alaska cruises normally sell for a higher price than the Caribbean. The Alaska cruise season only runs from April through September, and demand is high. In addition, getting to the cruise ship is often more costly than flying to Florida or other cruise embarkation ports. Some cruise ships are sailing from California ports, which might be a cheaper airfare but a longer cruise. Summer is the big vacation season in the northwest, and many non-cruisers also choose to head to this beautiful part of the world. The shorter season and high demand add up to a more expensive cruise vacation.
Even though Alaska cruises can be more expensive, the joy of seeing this exciting American wilderness is well worth the extra dollars. Many of the large and mid-sized cruise ships sailing to Alaska include cabins with private verandas. Cruisers go to Alaska to see the magnificent mountains, beautiful bays, and wonderful wildlife (like bears, whales, and sea lions) and to participate in some unforgettable shore excursions. In addition, visitors to Alaska get to experience fascinating small towns like Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. How better to see all of this than from your own private balcony? In addition to the verandas, ships cruising Alaska often include huge observation lounges and heated indoor/outdoor pools. You don't have to "rough it" to see all that Alaska has to offer!
There are two great ways to cruise Alaska--on a large or mid-sized cruise ship of 500 to 3000 passengers or on a small ship of a dozen to less than 500 passengers. Both types of cruises have pros and cons. The larger ships have all the extra amenities you could ever wish for, but an Alaska cruise on a small ship provides a more personal look at Alaska and often a better chance to see wildlife from the ship. Either way, Alaska cruise lines offer something for everyone.
Many of the cruise lines offer "cruise tours", which include both a cruise and a land tour of parts of the interior of Alaska or western Canada. Those with more time should inquire about these cruise tours since they often represent a good add-on to your Alaska cruise.
Let's look at the large and mid-sized ships sailing to Alaska.
The Carnival Legend sails Alaska for Carnival Cruise Lines, featuring seven- or eight-day Inside Passage cruises. The ship will sail roundtrip from Seattle or between Seattle and Vancouver. Ports of call vary but may include Juneau, Ketchikan, Victoria, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Sitka, and Tracy Arm.
Celebrity Cruises passengers can choose from nine Alaska itineraries to 24 ports of call on three cruise ships in 2018--the Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Infinity, or Celebrity Millennium.
The Celebrity Solstice sails weekly Alaska Inside Passage cruises roundtrip from Seattle, with ports of call in Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, and Victoria and a day cruising in Tracy Arm.
The Celebrity Millennium sails one-way between Vancouver and Seward, with ports of call in Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, and a day cruising at Hubbard Glacier.
The Celebrity Infinity sails 7-day cruises round-trip from Vancouver, BC, with ports of call at Juneau, Ketchikan, and Icy Point Strait. The cruise ship also spends a day cruising Hubbard Glacier.
Celebrity Cruises offers a cruise/tour land package for passengers who want to extend their time in Alaska.
The Crystal Serenity cruise ship visits Alaska for three months in 2018, with 7-day itineraries sailing between Vancouver and Whittier near Anchorage or 9 to 10-day cruises roundtrip from Vancouver. This luxury ship visits several ports of call in Alaska and British Columbia and also spends a day cruising in Glacier National Park.
Disney Cruise Line visits Alaska when the Disney Wonder cruise ship sails seven-day voyages roundtrip from Vancouver in May through September. Although Disney is best-known for its family cruises, adults will also appreciate the memorable shore excursions and activities Disney has planned.
Holland America Line has seven cruise ships sailing Alaska waters in 2018. The company also has some fascinating cruise tours that combine a cruise with a tour to Denali National Park and the interior of Alaska. Holland America celebrated 70 years of touring Alaska in 2017, so this cruise line certainly has lots of great experience in the Great North.
The Zaandam primarily sails 14-day cruises of Alaska, all roundtrip from Seattle to Seward (Anchorage) and return. These cruises are perfect for those who want to spend more time in this spectacular part of the world.
The Volendam sails 7-day cruises roundtrip from Vancouver with Inside Passage ports of call in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. The ship also features a day in Glacier Bay.
The Noordam sails 7-day one-way cruises between Vancouver and Seward (Anchorage) with ports of call in Ketchikan, Skagway, and Juneau. The ship also spends a day in Glacier Bay.
The Nieuw Amsterdam sails 7-day cruises roundtrip from Vancouver, with ports of call at Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. The cruise ship spends one day in Glacier Bay and another at Tracy Arm.
The Westerdam sails 7-night cruises between Seward and Vancouver, with ports of call at Juneau, Ketchikan, Haines, and a day in Glacier Bay.
The Amsterdam sails 7-night cruises roundtrip from Seattle. She has ports of call in Victoria, Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, and Hubbard Glacier.
The Eurodam sails 7-night cruises roundtrip from Seattle. She has ports of call at Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria, and Glacier Bay National Park.
Norwegian Cruise Line sends three ships to Alaska in 2018. The Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Bliss sail 7-day cruises to Alaska roundtrip from Seattle. The Norwegian Bliss is the company's newest ship. After her launch in Europe in April, the Bliss crosses the Atlantic and makes her way through the Panama Canal before arriving in Alaska in early June to spend the season.
The Norwegian Jewel sails 7-day cruises between Vancouver and Seward (near Anchorage.) The north and southbound itineraries are slightly different so can be combined into a 14-day voyage, but both include Inside Passage cruising, stopovers at popular ports of call, and the opportunity to do scenic cruising in Glacier Bay or Hubbard and Sawyer Glaciers.
Norwegian also offers land/cruise options for those who wish to extend their time in Alaska.
The Regatta of Oceania Cruises returns to Alaska, sailing 7 to 10-day cruises. Most of the cruises sail round-trip from Seattle, while some of the longer cruises sail between Vancouver or Seattle, stopping in Alaska ports on the Inside Passage. Oceania also has cruises between San Francisco and Vancouver at the beginning and end of the Alaska cruise season.
Princess Cruises will feature seven cruise ships offering three basic itinerary options during the May to September season. Princess also offers many land/cruise combination tours, so those wanting to see parts of the interior of Alaska (like Denali Park), might want to add-on a land extension.
The Princess lineup includes Star Princess, Island Princess, and Coral Princess traveling 7-day cruises between Vancouver and Whittier near Anchorage through the Inside Passage and the scenic Gulf of Alaska; Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess sailing 7-day cruises roundtrip from Seattle to the Inside Passage; and the Grand Princess cruising on 10-day journeys roundtrip from San Francisco.
Many of the Gulf of Alaska 7-day cruises can be combined into a 14-day voyage since the north and southbound itineraries are somewhat different.
The Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Mariner sails all-inclusive cruises to Alaska. The Mariner primarily sails 7-day cruises between Vancouver and Seward.
Royal Caribbean sends two ships to Alaska, with departures from Seward, Vancouver, and Seattle. Radiance of the Seas will take guests on seven-night itineraries between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska. Explorer of the Seas sails from Seattle on seven-night roundtrip Inside Passage voyages. Royal Caribbean also has cruise tour options that combine well with the Radiance of the Seas' itineraries.