Explore the rugged Inside Passage and breathtaking Gulf of Alaska, and marvel at spectacular marine life and dazzling glaciers from the vantage of a magnificent cruise ship. On a Princess ship, Park rangers and Alaska experts come onboard to give you a deeper understanding of this special place.
Round-Trip Inside Passage Cruises
A seven-day or 10 day round trip cruise starts and finishes in Vancouver, British Columbia, San Francisco or Seattle, Washington. The first and last days are spent at sea, traveling to and from Alaska along the mountainous coast of British Columbia. Once in Alaska, most ships call at a different port on each of four days, and reserve one day for cruising in or near Glacier Bay National Park or another glacier-rich fjord such as Tracy Arm or Hubbard Glacier.
One-Way Northbound or Southbound Inside Passage–Gulf of Alaska Cruises
Alaska cruises depart from Vancouver British Columbia, and end at Seward or Whittier Alaska, the ports of call for Anchorage. You can also sail from Whittier or Seward to Vancouver. These are the cruises you choose if you want to explore Alaska by land, either before or after your cruise. To take this cruise, you'll fly in and out of different cities (into Vancouver and out of Anchorage, for example), which will cost you more than, say a roundtrip Seattle airfare.
Small-Ship Alaska Cruises
Most small ships home port in Juneau for the Summer and offer a variety of one-way and round-trip cruises within Alaska. A typical small-ship cruise is a seven-day, one-way or roundtrip from Juneau, stopping at several Inside Passage ports—including smaller ports inaccessible by the larger cruise ships.
Alaska, West Coast Repositioning Cruises
Alaska's cruise ships are based in Seattle, Vancouver or San Francisco throughout the summer. In September they sail back to their winter homes of Hawaii, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, San Diego, Los Angeles or the Caribbean; in May they return to sail Alaska. These repositioning cruises are usually about 12-15 days and many include a full transit of the Panama Canal.
Although Princess, Norwegian, Disney, Carnival, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity promote the popular seven-day Alaskan itineraries, some smaller ships add more options. Cruise West, for example, offers voyages that not only include Alaska, but travel across the Bering Sea to Japan and Asia.
Can I combine a Sea Cruise with a Land Tour?
See even more on an Alaska land and sea vacation. Stay at Princess wilderness lodges and enjoy the benefits of our exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness rail service, giving you more time in the heart of Alaska. Best of all, Glacier Bay and Denali National Parks are on every cruisetour.
Alaska Cruise Tours
Most cruise lines offer the option of independent, hosted, or fully escorted land tours before or after your cruise. These tours, known as cruisetours, give you an organized itinerary with confirmed hotel and rail and or motorcoach transportation, but you're free to follow your interests at each overnight stop. Hosted tours are similar, but representatives of the cruise line are located at the stops on your journey should you need assistance. On fully escorted tours you travel with a group, led by a tour director. Activities are preplanned, organized and typically included in the price of your cruisetour, so you know how much your trip will cost before departure. Most lines offer cruise tours that include a domed-car train ride aboard the Alaska Railroad to or from Denali National Park.
Running between Anchorage, Denali National Park, and Fairbanks are Holland America Line's McKinley Explorer, Princess Tours' Denali Express and McKinley Express, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity's Wilderness Express, which offer great views of the passing terrain and wildlife from private glass-domed railcars. Princess Cruises has one of the most extensive Alaska cruise programs, as they own and operate their own motorcoaches, railcars, and wilderness lodges.
In addition to rail trips to Denali, Holland America offers tours into the Yukon, as well as river cruises on the Yukon River. Princess's cruise tours include trips to the Copper River and the Kenai Peninsula. Both lines offer land excursions to the Arctic Circle to Prudhoe Bay. You may also find pre- and post-cruise tours of the Canadian Rockies. Of the traditional cruise-ship fleets, only Norwegian Cruise Line, Crystal, Oceania, Disney, or Carnival do not currently offer cruise tour land packages in Alaska. Many cruise lines also offer pre- or post-cruise hotel and sightseeing packages in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco or Anchorage lasting one to three days.
Should I go out on my own before or after my cruise?
Grayline of Alaska offers tours before or after a cruise as another option independent of the cruise lines. You begin or end your cruise in Anchorage, or Fairbanks and then set out to explore Alaska.
When Is The Best Time To Go?
The Alaska cruise season is from mid-May to late September. The most popular sailing dates, and the most expensive, are from late June through August. In spring, wildflowers are abundant, and you'll likely see more wildlife along the shore because the animals haven't yet migrated to higher elevations. May and June are traditionally drier than July and August. Alaska's early fall brings the splendor of autumn hues and the first snowfalls in the mountains. Animals return to low ground, and shorter days bring the possibility of seeing the northern lights.
Daytime temperatures in May, June, and September are in the 50s and 60s. July and August averages are in the 60s and 70s, with occasional days in the 80s. Cruising in the low and shoulder seasons provides other advantages besides discounted fares: you have a wider choice of available staterooms , and ports of call are less crowded.
How Much Will It Cost?
Average cruise fares vary depending on when you sail, which ship you take and the type of stateroom you choose. Your price will vary depending when you book, as prices change depending upon how well a cruise or cruise tour is selling at the time you book. Published rates are highest during July and August; you'll pay less, and have more space on ship and ashore, if you sail in May, June, or September.
Whenever you choose to sail, remember that the brochure price is not necessarily what you will pay. Cruise lines may offer early booking discounts, senior rates, family savings and past guest discounts. Although these vary tremendously, many lines will offer at least 10-20% off if you book several months ahead of time, usually by the end of January for a summer cruise. You can book a discounted last-minute cruise, but your choice of ships, staterooms, or sailing dates will be limited.
Cruise Tip: Most cruise lines will, if asked, refund the difference in your cruise or cruise tour fare if it goes down after you've paid your deposit and before you make your final payment, so there may be no advantage to make a last-minute booking.
Some other deals to look out for are "kids sail free" deals, where children under 12 sail free in the same stateroom as their parents; free upgrades rather than or in addition to cruise line discounts; and special deals for state residents.
What's Included On A Cruise To Alaska? What's Not.
Cruise fares typically include accommodation, onboard meals and snacks, and most onboard activities. Not included are airfare, ground transportation, shore excursions, tips, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, or spa treatments. Port fees, fuel surcharges ( if any ), and government fees and taxes are extra and are added to your fare at booking.
Onboard an Alaska Cruise
The difference between seeing Alaska and understanding Alaska is what a cruise brings to life on your Alaska cruise vacation. as an example, on a Princess cruise, onboard enrichment programs introduce the real Alaska for a personalized perspective of America's last frontier.
Insider's View of Alaska
Libby Riddles comes aboard in Juneau to share her adventures as the first woman to win the grueling 1,100-mile Iditarod sled dog race. In Skagway, you'll enjoy the entertainment of an Alaskan storyteller. And in Ketchikan, a U.S. Forest Service naturalist will present a program about the largest forest in the country, Tongass National Forest.
Rangers and Naturalists
Alaska's intriguing flora, fauna and geology come to life by the full-time onboard naturalists who sails with you the entire length of the cruise. While in Glacier Bay National Park, rangers from the National Park Service will board the cruise ship to serve as tour guides and answer questions about this national treasure. Rangers also lead our Junior Ranger and Teen Explorer programs in Glacier Bay, which teach kids about the wildlife and scenery in a fun and entertaining way.
Alaska Signature Specialties
Princess' Signature Alaskan Cuisine showcases local specialties like fresh Alaskan Seafood. They also treat you to a Taste of Alaska Buffet, a festive on-deck Fish Barbeque and a Reindeer Chili and Rockfish Chowder Cook-Off. The Chef's Alaskan Dinner and Glacier Bay Gala Buffet are highlights not to be missed. Or indulge in a Glacier Bay Champagne Breakfast served on your own balcony onboard a Princess Cruise.
What's A Typical Ship that Sails To Alaska Like?
Cruise ships that sail in Alaska can have as few as 400 passengers, while the larger, mainstream cruise ships can have between 1,500 and 3,400 passengers onboard. Large ships are a good choice if you're looking for nonstop activity and lots of options; they're especially appealing for families, groups and seniors. If you prefer less of a crowd, try a smaller ship.
Here are some typical descriptions of Princess' cruise ship. Other lines have similar vessels.
"Coral Princess is a luxurious way to escape completely, with all the amenities for an amazing cruise vacation. It features an impressive array of dining options, such as specialty restaurants Sabatini's Italian restaurant and the Bayou Cafe & Steakhouse, as well as a European-style casino, a cigar lounge and retro martini bar."
"Diamond Princess is a luxury destination in itself. Wake each morning in anticipation of a new horizon. Take in the view from one of nearly 740 balcony staterooms. Indulge in a hot stone massage at the renowned Lotus Spa, enjoy fine dining in a formal or relaxed atmosphere and make it a cruise to remember."
"Golden Princess can take you in style to places you've always wanted to see. Among this magnificent ship's features are a lively piazza-style atrium, three state-of-the-art show lounges, a tranquil adults-only Sanctuary, the Movies Under the Stars outdoor theater, sparkling pools, and numerous dining options, including showplace specialty venues."
"The spectacular Island Princess is a destination all on its own. Get active in the fitness center or on the digital golf simulator, browse the world-class art collection or relax with a massage in the Lotus Spa® or The Sanctuary, our on-deck retreat for adults. Dining choices include specialty restaurants, Sabatini'sand the Bayou Café & Steakhouse, plus Traditional or Anytime Dining. Later, head for the themed casino, or take in an unforgettable show at the dazzling Universe Lounge."
"The world's destinations seem to sparkle when seen from the decks of the incredible Sapphire Princess.® Get a workout at the fitness center or run a few laps on the jogging track, then rejuvenate with a pampering treatment in the Lotus Spa.® You'll enjoy an array of swimming pools and hot tubs, lounges and clubs, a library and Internet Café and much more - plus fine dining in our many dining rooms, specialty restaurants like Sabatini's or Sterling Steakhouse and Traditional or Anytime Dining rooms. It's all you would expect of a ship this grand."
Compact expedition-type small ships can bring you closer to the shoreline to view the glaciers and they call navigate through narrow channels where the big ships don't fit. These cruises are where you will most likely see more wildlife and visit the smaller less touristy ports, as well as some of the better-known stops such as Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. Often naturalists, native Alaskans, and other experts are onboard and offer insights in to Alaska's culture, climate and wildlife.
Staterooms on these smaller ships are not as big as you will find on mega-liner. The dining room and lounge are usually the public area to gather and some small ships are more luxurious with well-appointed staterooms, lounges, libraries and internet cafes.
What Should I Pack For
An Alaska Cruise?
From May through September, temperatures range from 40°F to 70° F during the day and drop into the 30’s and 40’s at night. The best way to prepare for this range of temperatures is to dress in layers and to be prepared for anything from bright sunshine—don’t forget those sunglasses—to light rain. Here’s a list of items to include when packing for an Alaska trip.
Wool or fleece sweater or liner
Turtleneck or a comfortable protective long sleeve shirt
Comfortable footwear suitable for hiking and walking in wet conditions (Be sure to break in new shoes before your trip.)
Warm hat/rain hat
Good camera with extra batteries and variety of film speeds
Spare memory card and battery for digital cameras
What Should I Wear?
Days onboard are casual. To be most comfortable, we recommend:
- Jeans or slacks
- Several sweaters, a jacket, a windbreaker and a raincoat
- Warm socks
- Low-heeled shoes for deck activities
- Don't forget your swimsuit, camera and a pair of binoculars (towels are provided)
For evening wear, count on three basic types of attire:
- Casual: Dresses or slacks and blouses for women, sport shirts and trousers for men
- Smart Casual: Dresses or pantsuits for women, jackets for men
- Formal: Cocktail dresses for women, suits and ties or tuxedos for men (you can arrange to rent a tuxedo onboard)
- Ashore, you'll need comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots. Cruisetours are casual, both during the day and in the evening.