Visiting Alaska by Land or by Cruise?

Map of Alaska Showing Popular Travel Regions - Land Tour and Inside Passage
••• Map of Alaska Showing Popular Travel Regions: Land Tour and Inside Passage. Source: Map Resources

An Alaska vacation, for most of us, is a significant investment of time and money. You've dreamed of visiting Alaska for many years and you want to make sure you choose a travel mode and itinerary that fits the tastes and expectations of you and your Alaska travel partners. You can travel by land or by cruise, on a strict schedule or on your whim. You can explore on your own, or have someone guide you to a pre-selected list of sights and attractions.

Here are some things to consider when planning your Alaska vacation.

Visit Alaska by Large- to Mid-sized Cruise Ship

A large ship cruise can sound like heaven or hell, depending on your personality. In reality, an Alaska cruise has appeal for the vivacious party goer and for the seeker of solitude, for the passive and for the active. A cruise ship offers a wide variety of experiences and is a good choice for travel groups where members have a mix of tastes and dispositions.

Pros

  • a wide variety of options for dining and activities
  • stay in the same room every night, so you can unpack once and settle in

Cons

  • can be crowded in public areas
  • additional expenses (shore excursions, photos, spa treatments, beverages, etc) can add up significantly
  • potential for seasickness

Visit Alaska by Small Cruise Ship

As an alternative to traveling with thousands aboard a major cruise ship, you can cruise Alaska aboard a small ship.

Small-ship cruises are available for a few dozen to a few hundred guests.

Pros

  • no crowds, more intimate
  • smaller vessels can get closer to scenery and wildlife

Cons

  • less room to move around
  • fewer dining and entertainment options

Visit Alaska by Escorted Land Tour

Relax and let someone else take you around. The Alaska Railroad and posh tour buses provide the transportation for many of the guided tours of Alaska.

Pros

  • no stress over travel logistics (directions, nightly reservations, parking, admission tickets, etc)
  • efficient way to visit Alaska's highlight attractions

Cons

  • change rooms each night
  • no sleeping in
  • food quality varies

Visit Alaska by Land on Your Own

If your ideal Alaska trip includes attractions or destinations that aren't among the most popular, traveling on your own, using your own form of transportation, is your best option. This mode of travel is also a good choice for people who plan to include camping or backpacking in their itinerary.

Pros

  • truly independent
  • can linger or stop at will
  • can go off the beaten path

Cons

  • planning your custom itinerary can be time consuming
  • worry over travel logistics can be stressful (directions, finding services, parking, etc)

However you plan to visit the grand and glorious state of Alaska, you'll be sure to come home with memories to treasure for lifetime. And a list of things to explore "next time".