Photo Credit: Monika Jones

Best Time To Cruise Alaska

Alaska Shore Excursions

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Cruise season in Alaska runs from late April to early October —but within that time frame, is one time better than another to book your cruise?

For a lot of cruisers, mid-June through mid-July is the peak season, because of optimum weather and daylight.

But it may not be ideal for you: Here are the factors to consider, so that you can zero in on your own peak cruise time:

Shoulder Seasons Offer Lower Prices

For both cruising and land-based tours, May and September are the “shoulder” seasons in Alaska, with better deals and fewer crowds. Cruise prices during those times may be lower, perhaps by a couple hundred dollars per person. Selected shore and land excursions can also be 20% cheaper.

Also More Cabin Availability

You might find that you get a wider choice of ships and cabins during either shoulder season, too. One big reason: fewer families book cruises during those timeframes, because of the school calendar.

What Are the Best Months for Wildlife & Activities?

Spotting wildlife is always unpredictable in Alaska, but your best bet of getting pics of wildlife ashore is probably late May and early June, when mothers and their calves or cubs tend to be out and about. One exception: If you want to do a bear-watching shore excursion, prime bear season is not until late June or early July.

Denali: If you want to do a land tour that includes the national park, don’t come during the May shoulder season. Denali National Park doesn’t open up until mid-May.

Want to fish ashore? Fishing is good during any month—there are just different species of salmon that peak as the weeks go by.

Summer berry-picking on shore is best late in August or early September.

If you want to see fall foliage ashore, wait until the first week of September. It remains good through the third week of September.

Hate mosquitoes? If you’re doing a land tour, come during either shoulder season (The bugs haven’t hatched in May, and they’ve died off by September.)

See a full calendar of Alaska’s natural events.

Temperature & Daylight Hours

For the warmest temperatures, cruise between mid-June and mid-August.

For the most Midnight Sun, come 3 weeks before or after the summer solstice and longest day of the year, June 21.

Want to see the northern lights? That’s a long shot during cruising season. It does get dark enough at night to see them by the second week of September, but it's still not as brilliant as what you’ll see on a winter, land-based Alaska aurora viewing vacation.

Alaska Cruise Highlights By Month

This table can help you pick the best time to cruise Alaska.

Related: Best Time To Visit Alaska

Month May June July August September
Price Lower Higher Higher Higher Lower
Weather Cooler Warmer Warmer Cooler, Rainier Cooler, Rainier
  • Spring flowers
  • Big waterfalls
  • Few Bugs
  • Season begins 2nd week
  • Longest days of year
  • Denali opens mid-June
  • Best bear viewing mid-June through end of August
  • King or Red Salmon
  • Longest days of year
  • Red Salmon
  • Berry picking
  • Silver Salmon
  • Fall foliage
  • No Bugs
  • Silver Salmon
  • Some northern lights
  • Season ends 3rd week


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