Best Things to Do on Alaska Cruise

Alaska Offers Great Activity Options

An Alaska cruise is a dream vacation option for many travelers, and both large and small ships visit the region during the May through September season, primarily on one of three different itineraries.

The best bargains for Alaska cruises are early in the season (May or early June) or in September. The mountains are covered with more snow early in the season, and the days are as long in May as they are in August. Many of the shops at the ports of call have fantastic sales during September since the shop owners would rather sell the merchandise than store it over the winter.

Visitors come to Alaska to see glaciers, wildlife, and mountain and coastal scenery. Since much of Southeast Alaska is inaccessible by car, a cruise ship is the best way to see this spectacular part of the state. Towns like Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, and Sitka offer visitors a variety of shore excursions and things to do and see. This mostly undeveloped region also offers many outdoor activities, some of which can only be done in Alaska.

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See Whales

Humpback whales bubble feeding in Alaska
Humpback Whales (c) Linda Garrison

For many of those cruising to Alaska, seeing wildlife is a major draw, and humpback whales are a big favorite. Most travelers to Alaska see the fluke (tail) of a humpback whale, and lucky ones get to see them working cooperatively to bubble feed.

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Ride the White Pass Railway

New Bridge on the White Pass Railroad
White Pass Railway (c) Linda Garrison

If your cruise ship stops over in Skagway, you'll find an old gold rush boomtown community, complete with shops, bars, restaurants, and wonderful old historical buildings. Although you can easily spend the day exploring Skagway, a ride on the White Pass Railway travels up into the mountains and provides magnificent scenic views and a look at the route the gold miners took on their way to the gold fields in the Yukon. Some White Pass combination rail and bus excursions include a stop at the Yukon Suspension Bridge for a great photo opportunity.


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Visit Glacier National Park

Tidewater Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Glacier Bay National Park (c) Linda Garrison
Alaska, USA
+1 907-697-2230

All of the National Parks in the United States are worthy of a visit, and Glacier Bay is one that can best be viewed from a ship. The unspoiled, glorious mountain scenery, glaciers, and wildlife like sea lions and bears make this park a memorable destination.


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Float on a River

Chilkat River and Mountains in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near Haines, Alaska
Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Photo (c) Linda Garrison
Chilkat River, Alaska 99827, USA

In addition to many miles of ocean shoreline, Alaska features some beautiful rivers that are perfect for floating or jet boating. The Chilkat River near Haines is one of these, and a ride on the river provides a close up look at moose, eagles, and other wildlife.


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05 of 11

Ride in a Helicopter

Juneau Icefield and Glaciers
Alaska Glacier Helicopter Tour Photo (c) Linda Garrison

A helicopter ride is an exciting adventure almost anywhere in the world, but zipping over an icy glacier field in Alaska is quite exhilarating!


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Go Dog Sledding

Mendenhall Glacier Dog Sledding
Alaska Glacier Helicopter and Dog Sled Tour Photo (c) Linda Garrison

Can you go dog sledding on the snow in August? Yes, you can if you take a helicopter ride up to a summer training camp for sled dogs. This was definitely one of my favorite shore excursions ever (I'm a dog lover).


07 of 11

Ride the Alaska Grandview Train

Alaska Railroad Train Engine
Alaska Railroad Grandview Train Photo (c) Linda Garrison

If your cruise is embarking in Seward, you might enjoy riding the train from Anchorage on the Coastal Classic route to Seward. The scenery is spectacular, and the ride is relaxing.


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Cruise Misty Fjords near Ketchikan

Rudyerd Bay Punchbowl in Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska
Misty Fjords (c) Linda Garrison

Misty Fjords National Monument is near Ketchikan, but is only accessible via plane or boat. This spectacular area is too far south for glaciers, but visitors get to the the results of these icy giants that were in the area eons ago.


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09 of 11

Visit a Native American Community

Metlakatla Indian Long House
Metlakatla Photo (c) Linda Garrison
Metlakatla, AK 99926, USA

Fifteen miles south of Ketchikan is Metlakatla, the only native American reservation in Alaska. It's a beautiful island and visitors get the opportunity to learn much about the Tsimshian culture and history. Like a walking tour of Skagway, a visit to Metlakatla provides some historical perspective of Alaska's past.


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Go Fishing

Salmon fishing in Alaska
Salmon Fishing (c) Linda Garrison

Fishing is a popular activity in Alaska, and cruise travelers can go fishing for halibut, salmon, or whatever odd sea creature bites their bait!

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Kayak Near a Glacier

Kayaking from the Mist Cove of The Boat Company
Kayaking Photo Courtesy of The Boat Company

There's something unbelievably serene about kayaking on a calm, ice berg-filled bay near a glacier in Alaska. Enough said.


Plan Your Cruise to Alaska

Alaska offers a wide variety of activities for cruise travelers, especially those who love wildlife and the great outdoors. There's no place else in the world where you can see glaciers, fjords, AND Alaskan brown (grizzly) bears. Why not plan your cruise to Alaska now?

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11 Best Things to Do on Alaska Cruise