Alaska cruises are one of the most famous—and popular—ways to see our great state. Cruises are just easy: You only have to unpack once. Meals and entertainment are taken care of. Your only job is to relax while sailing through some of the world’s most magnificent coastal scenery.You’ll call on 2-3 small coastal towns in Alaska’s Inside Passage, have 1-2 glacier experiences, enjoy 24-hour dining, and have at your disposal all the amenities of a floating resort: casinos, gyms, lavish shows, spas, huge restaurants. Big ships are ideal for families and grandparents-and-grandkids trips.If you’re interested in taking a conventional cruise, here are some things you should think about:
Two Little-Known Limitations
You Miss Alaska’s Heartland
Look at a map, and you’ll see cruises don’t come near Alaska’s great interior regions. Adding an overland package is the only way to see Alaska’s unique land treasures: Denali (Mt. McKinley) and the "Rooftop of North America," the "Big Five" in Denali National Park (moose, caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep and wolves), mighty glacial rivers thundering out of the mountains, and tundra stretching as far as the eye can see.
Time Onshore Is Limited
You’re only in port for the day. That leaves plenty of time to take advantage of the literally hundreds of shore excursions at larger ports (e.g. Juneau, Ketchikan) but not enough time to meet Alaskans and learn about our lifestyles.
Two Itinerary Choices
This is the classic Alaska cruise itinerary. Sailing round-trip from Seattle or Vancouver, you'll typically stop at three or four port towns, such as Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and either Sitka, Haines, or Victoria, B.C. These cruises usually spend a day in Glacier Bay or another glacier area and two days at sea.
- Potential downside: It’s round trip, you won’t cover as much ground.
- It’s for you if: You just want to sit back and take in the scenery, or if you want to take advantage of round-trip airfare from your home to Seattle or Vancouver.
Gulf Of Alaska
These cruises usually sail northbound or southbound between Vancouver and Anchorage (via the port towns of either Whittier or Seward). You'll likely hit many of the same stops that an Inside Passage cruise does, but because it's one-way, you may also get to go to Valdez, Hubbard Glacier, College Fjord or another town in the gulf.
- Potential downside: You might spend more on airfare, since it’s one way, and you’ll have to fly home out of a different city.
- It's for you if: You want to add a land tour.
Large Ship Classic Itineraries
Ports of Call: San Francisco, Reedsport, Strathcona A, Juneau, Skagway, Gustavus, Ketchikan, Mount Waddington, Victoria, North Bend
Cruise Ship Type: Large Ship Cruises
Ship Name: Grande Princess
For those looking for a cruise-only experience, this is a great option. It is a round-trip cruise from San Francisco (meaning you will not have to by one-way tickets like you will for a cross-gulf cruise), and you still hit the highlights of the Inside Passage; Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway & Glacier Bay National Park. While you will not be able to add a land tour, it offers a great sampling of Alaska.