Thinking of an Alaskan Cruise? Read on to find 10 Things to know before you go, 10 Reasons to Cruise Alaska, 8 Key Attractions and the best time to go. Or jump straight to our Alaskan cruise holidays! (opens in new tab)
10 Things to know before you go:
Bring the right clothes – Alaska’s changeable weather calls for a versatile wardrobe to cope with chilly or hot temperatures with lots of layers, waterproofs and walking shoes for hiking trips. It’s worth packing binoculars too. Alaska can have exceptionally bright days so don’t forget the sunscreen and above all sunglasses are a must.
Plan ahead – with such a tempting line-up of activities and adventures in Alaska, pre-planning is essential as excursions can get booked up early, so if there are specific tours you have in mind, reserve them before departure. This is especially important given the wide range of activities and adventures
Pick your best time – The Alaska cruise season runs from May to September when summer temperatures can range from 15-25C. If you’re into spotting the wildlife there are specific times for bird and whale migrations and salmon spawning.
When to see Salmon, Birds and Whales – Pacific salmon start returning to Alaska during May and continue to show in some rivers well into autumn. Arctic Terns nest and raise their young in Alaska each summer and then undergo a mammoth migration, the longest known, flying about 25,000 kilometres to wintering areas in Antarctica. During the cruising season, May – September various species of whales can be seen throughout Alaska, including the North Pacific Humpback, Killer Whale (Orca), and Gray Whale
Beware the crowds – pick the start or end of the Alaska season, cruises tend to be less expensive, so you might even bag a bargain and enjoy some savings! Plus you will be sharing the ports with fewer passengers and you won’t be as overwhelmed by fellow tourists as you would be if travelling at the height of the season.
Choose your ship and itinerary – okay so you’ve decided Alaska is where you want to go. Now, which cruise ship is the best one to take? Large ships tend to follow similar itineraries through the Inside Passage and the Gulf of Alaska, but smaller vessels sail to smaller bays, focusing more on natural surroundings and wildlife, calling at small towns rather than larger ports. Travel Escapes voted Cruise Agent of the Year can help you decide
Extend your stay – Alaskan cruises lend themselves to cruise-and-stay options as departure cities
include Seattle, Vancouver & Anchorage. Travel Escapes can help you plan your stay. Fans of the popular TV series ‘Yellowstone’ may even want to take a side trip to Montana.
Get set for rain or shine – Alaskan weather is famously unpredictable and the state is renowned for having more than its fair share of rain, making it one of the wettest spots in the USA, though it can be hot and sunny too.
Big pockets for adventure – such bucket list experiences don’t come cheap with some excursions running into hundreds of Euro, so weigh up which ones are worth it, book in advance and budget accordingly.
Short stops in Victoria – if you want to visit this Canadian city, study the itinerary as some sailings from US ports stop here for only two or three hours, often at night, as a technical stop to meet US cabotage laws, making it impossible to go ashore for any meaningful time
10 Reasons to Cruise Alaska
Animal magic – Alaska runs alive with wildlife, notably roaming bears, wolves, caribou and bald eagles, while the North Pacific’s fertile waters offer rich whale-watching with orcas, humpback and many other species, plus sea otters, sealions and spawning salmon. Creating unforgettable moments for wildlife enthusiasts.
Spectacular Scenery: Alaska is known as America’s Last Frontier and its vast wilderness (twenty-one times larger than Ireland) packs an impressive punch with snow-topped mountains, pristine fjords, glaciers and national parks. Providing an unparalleled visual feast for nature lovers.
Cultural heritage – Alaska’s rich native cultures and history is a colourful mix of the state’s indigenous people, known as Alaskan natives; the Gold Rush and its logging history brought to life in tourist lumberjack shows; and Russian influences from when Alaska was a Russian colony until 1867.
Alaskan hot-spots – state capital Juneau is the jumping-off point for the Tongass National Forest; Sitka was founded by Russian fur traders and was the capital of Russian Alaska; Skagway is the gateway to Gold Rush territory
Outdoor Adrenalin Adventures: From Glacier hiking to kayaking, from dog sledging to whale-watching zip-lining to flight-seeing trips. All are bucket-list adventures.
Alaska provides a playground for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure and adrenaline in a pristine and remote environment.
Quaint Coastal Towns: Explore charming towns like Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, each with its own unique character, offering a mix of history, local charm, and vibrant arts scenes.
Glaciers-a-plenty – there are around 100,000, though only 650 or so are named. Glacier Bay National Park has several ice floes that reach the sea, with Margerie Glacier being one of them. Other notables include Hubbard Glacier, Mendenhall Glacier and Sawyer Glaciers.
Unbeatable Sunsets: Experience the magic of the midnight sun during the summer months, when the sun appears to never set, creating enchanting sunsets that cast a warm glow over the Alaskan wilderness.
Catching Salmon – search for black bears catching salmon at Neets Bay (from Ketchikan). Or indeed if you are a Fishing enthusiast why not indulge in a pre-arranged excursion fishing world-class salmon? Again one for the bucket list
Luxurious Cruising: Cruising is definitely the way to see Alaska and cruising provides an opportunity to enjoy the wilderness in the comfort and luxury of your chosen ship. It’s important to decide what you want to see and do in Alaska as there are many cruise lines navigating through some of the most stunning landscapes on Earth. Travel Escapes can help you choose the right ship and cruise line to suit you and your budget.
8 Key Attractions
Glacier Bay National Park – covering a mind-boggling 3.3 million acres along Alaska’s Inside Passage, it brims with mountains, glaciers and rainforests along craggy coastlines and deep fjords offering a plethora of natural wonders.
Juneau – Alaska’s state capital, only accessible by air or sea, is a bustling hub of tourist shops and a gateway to natural wonders including the Juneau Icefield and Mendenhall Glacier plus the
Tongass National Forest
Ketchikan – famous for numerous totem poles signifying its links to Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian native tribes; its history of logging and fishing; and its reputation as one of America’s rainiest cities. Gateway to the Misty Fjords explored on floatplane trips.
Gold Rush territory – hark back to the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s, with trips from Skagway to the route taken by prospectors along the Chilkoot Trail or ride the Yukon Route Railroad through the historic White Pass.
Anchorage – Alaska’s largest city, but its backdrop of mountain peaks is a reminder of the wilderness beyond. Cruises start or end here, or at the town of Seward 200 kilometres away, or the hamlet of Whittier 100 kilometres distant.
Rocky Mountaineer train – ride the railroad across Canada on this famous train that weaves between snowy peaks and glacial lakes. Journeys start and finish in Vancouver, making this a perfect add-on to Alaska cruises from the city.
Canadian coast – the lively cosmopolitan vibe of Vancouver contrasts with the cosy homespun charm of Victoria on Vancouver Island – with both Canadian cities’ mainstays of Alaskan cruise itineraries.
Seattle – as the home of Starbucks, this buzzing West Coast hub is famous for its coffee house culture, along with foodie delights at picturesque Pike Place Market and sky-high views from the Space Needle.
Best time to go and the weather
The cruising season in Alaska spans from May to September, coinciding with the warmer summer temperatures ranging from 15- 25 degrees Celsius. As you travel further north, expect cooler temperatures. Alaska is renowned for its rainy weather, with May being relatively dry. However, rainfall tends to increase as the summer advances. By August, the likelihood of rain is reported to be slightly over 50%.
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