The Best Time to Take an Alaskan Cruise
The dramatic coastline, majestic wildlife and intriguing ports that make Alaska
such an incredible cruise destination owe their remarkable characteristics to
the state’s northerly location.
Alaska’s faraway geography allows for a cruise season running from April to
September, when the days are long and temperatures are at their most welcoming.
Depending on your schedule and desires, any of these six months could be
considered the best time to take an Alaskan cruise.
If you’re looking for Alaskan cruise calendar tips, the following are some key
things to think about.
Seasons within the Cruise Season
Alaska is famous for its long, cold winters and fleetingly short summers, but
within the April-to-September cruise season are ever-shifting patterns of
temperature and daylight hours.
During early shoulder season throughout April and May, daytime highs average
from the high 40s to mid-50s Fahrenheit, with overnight lows in the 30-to-40
range. Highs in the peak summer months of June, July, and August are in the low
to mid-60s, with lows in the high 40s. In September, low temperatures drop back
to the 40s, and highs to the mid-50s. June is the driest month, and the early
season is usually drier than the late shoulder season.
June also offers the longest daylight hours, peaking at 18 hours a day, although
even the shortest days during the Alaskan cruise season offer 14 hours of light.
Tip: If you’re looking at weather forecasts for Alaska, be sure to find facts
and figures for the Inside Passage region, home to Carnival cruise ports
including Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Alaska is huge, so temperatures in the
Inside Passage can be vastly different from those farther north.
The Busiest Season for Ships and Ports
Cruises to Alaska departing between Memorial Day and Labor Day are the most
popular because they coincide with school holidays and the warmest temperatures.
If you want to cruise during these peak times, it’s a good idea to book early.
You can also expect a livelier scene and bustling crowds both on board and in
Shoulder season departures are a great choice if you prefer smaller crowds,
don’t mind cooler weather, and have a flexible schedule. If you’re opting for an
early- or late-season cruise to Alaska, ports of call are likely to be on the
If you intend to cruise during peak season, know that it’s best to book a spot
early for popular shore excursions with a fixed number of spots, such as the
Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Explorer excursion in Skagway and VIP Alaska’s
Whales and Glacier Rainforest Trails in Juneau.
Alaska’s Scenic Highlights by Season
Alaska is famous all over the world for its outstanding natural beauty, and the
Inside Passage is spectacular in any season. There are some notable
month-to-month differences, though.
In the earliest and latest days of the cruise season, distant mountain peaks are
capped with snow. Early cruises offer the chance to see meadows blanketed with
blooming wildflowers in a gorgeous display of color, whereas September visits
coincide with the appearance of brilliant fall foliage. Early June is the peak
time to witness the breathtaking spectacle of calving glaciers.
The Most Wonderful Time for Alaskan Wildlife
At any time during the cruise season you’ll certainly see some of Alaska’s most
amazing animal inhabitants, including whales, dolphins, bears and bald eagles.
However, many migratory species are sighted more often during certain times.
Furthermore, cruise departure dates within some specific time frames offer
unique and exciting wildlife-viewing shore excursions. One example is the Alaska
Bear Adventure from Ketchikan, which is available only from mid-July to
September, when black bears congregate at river rapids to feast on spawning
If you’re looking forward to a whale-watching or orca-spotting excursion, such
as Discover Alaska’s Whales from Juneau or the Wildlife Safari and Beach Bonfire
from Ketchikan, know that the entire cruise season is ideal and you have an
excellent chance of seeing whales, orca and dolphins. April and May are best for
spotting gray whales, while humpback sightings are more likely during peak
When the Northern Lights Are Most Likely
In Alaska, the great beauty of nature doesn’t disappear when the sun goes down –
lucky passengers might witness the spectacular natural phenomenon of the
Northern Lights. If you’re planning an Alaskan cruise with hopes of seeing the
Northern Lights, there’s one key way to maximize your chances. The aurora can
only appear when the sky is dark, so book a cruise as early or as late in the
season as possible when there are more hours of darkness.
Experience Alaska on a Cruise
Cruises to Alaska take guests to some amazing Alaskan cruise stops, such as
Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Victoria, and Skagway and spectacular wilderness
locales like Icy Strait Point, Glacier Bay, and Tracy Arm Fjord. You can spend
your days admiring icebergs and glaciers, and maybe witness bears feasting on
salmon, the possibilities are endless.
Source: Carnival Cruise Line
The Whales, Wonders and Wildlife of Alaska await.
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