Royal Caribbean Cruises Radiance of the Seas cruising in front of a glacier in Alaska.

Alaska Cruise Routes

All the ways to experience an Alaska cruise.

Princess Cruises Ruby Princess cruising in Alaska.

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Alaska cruise routes can be broken down into two main categories, those that travel between Alaska and Vancouver, and those that travel between Alaska and Seattle. Alaska-Vancouver cruises have the most route options, while Seattle-Alaska cruises offer only roundtrip itineraries from Seattle.

Cruises between Vancouver and Alaska can be further broken down by the specific route. Here you'll see northbound glacier route cruises that travel from Vancouver to Seward and Vancouver to Whittier . These typically start with a full day at sea and a first port call in Ketchikan , then proceed to two or three more ports within the Inside Passage. The final days of the route are often spent at sea. Northbound Whittier cruises also include a day sailing through beautiful College Fjord in Prince William Sound.

Southbound cruises sail the opposite routes, going from Seward to Vancouver and Whittier to Vancouver . Most Alaska cruises are seven days long, although some 10-day itineraries are available. There are also a select number of routes that run roundtrip from Vancouver .

Our Cruise Finder is a useful tool that you can use to find cruises based on your preferred route. Simply select the route to see individual sailings listed by cruise line and vessel. You can further narrow results by picking your preferred Alaska cruise line and sailing date. Once you've found your perfect cruise, request a quote from us online or give us a call at 800-208-0200.

One of the perks of taking a Vancouver glacier route cruise is being able to fit in an Alaska land package either before or after your cruise. You can use our Trip Finder tool and search for pre - or post-cruise land tours to complete your Alaskan vacation.

Seward to Vancouver Cruises

Sail south from Seward along tidewater glaciers, through misty fjords, and to colorful ports on this seven- or 10-day route run by Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean. Learn More >

Whittier to Vancouver Cruises

Sailed by Princess Cruises and Holland America, this route flows south through Prince William Sound to Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, and three ports in southeast Alaska. Learn More >

Vancouver to Seward Cruises

Cruise northward within the Inside Passage to places like Ketchikan and Glacier Bay on a seven- or 10-day trip. Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean run this route. Learn More >

Vancouver to Whittier Cruises

Cruised by Princess and Holland America, this northbound route features three port calls and a day in Glacier Bay. It concludes with a trip through College Fjord, a beautiful inlet within Prince William Sound. Learn More >

Best Alaska Cruise

Whether it's by cruise route, cruise line, or sailing dates and rates, here's how to pick the best Alaska cruise. Learn More >

Alaska Cruise Finder

Find an Alaska cruise and request a no obligation cruise quote. Choose roundtrip Seattle cruises or, even better, glacier route cruises between Vancouver and Whittier or Seward. Learn More >

Alaska Cruise Deals

Save on your Alaska cruise with discounts, specials, and an exclusive transportation booking bonus when you reserve with us. Learn More >

Round Trip Alaska Cruise Vancouver

From the Canada's cosmopolitan Vancouver cruise roundtrip through landscapes ripe with natural splendor and simple seaside towns. Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Holland America run this seven-day route. Learn More >

Round Trip Alaska Cruise Seattle

See Alaska's Inside Passage on a cruise offering the convenience of roundtrip travel within the States. Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, and Princess Cruises operate this seven-day route. Learn More >

Alaska Cruise Guide: Best Itineraries, Ports, Tips, & More

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When you think of a cruise vacation, Alaska might not be the first destination that comes to mind.

Alaska is one of the most scenic destinations in the world, offering an escape into America’s Last Frontier. The lush rainforest, snow-capped mountains, abundant wildlife, and blue glaciers provide an experience unlike any other.

But the rough terrain makes it challenging to navigate by land, so it’s best to explore Alaska by cruise ship.

This Alaska cruise guide covers everything you need to know before you sail to Alaska. We’ll cover what to pack, the best time to sail, cruise ports, things to do, weather, wildlife, and more.

Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents

Why Cruise to Alaska?

Aerial view of a cruise ship in front of a glacier

There are several reasons why people cruise Alaska, but one way or another, people are drawn to the state for its incredible scenic beauty.

Alaska is home to a beautiful snow-capped mountain landscape, abundant wildlife, vibrant Alaskan native cultures, Gold Rush history, art, culture, and the largest temperate rainforest in the world.

Alaska is one of the most beautiful destinations on the planet. And an Alaska cruise is unlike any other. Alaska cruises are less of a party and more of a laid-back scenic cruise.

Exploring Alaska by land is both tricky and expensive. Many cities are inaccessible by land. A land tour is expensive between cars, trains, ferries, and hotels.

The best way to explore Alaska is by cruise ship.

An Alaska cruise allows guests to explore multiple ports of call and experience the state through hands-on shore excursions.

Unlike other cruise destinations, Alaskan ports aren’t separated by large bodies of the ocean. The land is visible throughout most of the sailing, and you can often spot whales, eagles, and other wildlife from the ship.

Not sure if Alaskan cruises are for you, here’s what to expect on an Alaskan cruise .

Best Time to Crusie Alaska

Aerial view of a Holland America cruise ship in front of a glacier

The Alaska cruise season runs from May to late September, with some sailings in April and October.

The short cruise season owes itself to the weather. Aside from the winter cold providing an uncomfortable experience, many regions of Alaska become inaccessible as the water turns to ice.

The best time to cruise Alaska depends on what you want to see and do. For smaller crowds and lower cruise fares, you’ll want to sail at the beginning or end of the cruise season (May, June, or September).

May, June, and September are known as the shoulder season. With kids still in school, there’s less demand for cruise vacations. Sailing during the shoulder season is the best time to find cheaper cruise fares.

The peak season for Alaska cruises is July and August. If you sail during these months, you’ll find higher prices and larger crowds.

But if you want to see wildlife, you should take an Alaska cruise during July or August. Summer also provides the best weather, with warmer temperatures, lower rainfall, and more hours of sunlight.

Best Alaska Cruise Itineraries

View of alaska coastline from the rear of a cruise ship with the wake trailing the ship

Alaska cruises come in two forms; one-way cruises and round-trip sailings .

Round-trip cruises are the most popular, typically beginning and ending in Seattle, Washington, or Vancouver, Canada .

Most round-trip sailings travel along Alaska’s Inside Passage, visiting ports like Juneau and Skagway and scenic destinations like Tracy Arm Fjord or Mendenhall Glacier.

You’ll likely have to choose a one-way cruise if you want to travel further north on your Alaska cruise. One-way cruises begin and end in different ports, typically embarking or debarking in Seward, Alaska.

A one-way cruise is the best way to visit the Gulf of Alaska, with calls in northern ports like Whittier or Hubbard Glacier .

Inside Passage

Inside Passage, cruises are the most popular Alaska cruise route. These week-long sailings embark in either Seattle, Washington, or Vancouver, British Columbia .

The Inside Passage consists of a series of passages along the West Coast. Glacial ice formed the passages over 250 million years ago. The glaciers carved the unique rivers, islands, and ocean passages that make up the Inside Passage.

As you pass through the passage, you’ll notice the unique footprint of the glaciers that carved the mountains and waterways.

Some of the tallest mountains have sharp edges towards the peaks. Mountains with rounded peaks were once submerged beneath the glacier, eroding their sharp edges. The mountains with sharp peaks stood above the glaciers. By carefully looking at the structure of the mountains, you can see just how massive the past glaciers were.

Inside Passage cruises are popular for the incredible scenery, snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and whale species.

Even on sea days, there’s always something to look at.

Inside Passage cruises typically have a”scenic cruising” day at a Fjord or glacier. You won’t leave the ship on scenic days, but it’s a chance to witness some truly incredible scenery.

Inside Passage, itineraries are best for nature lovers, outdoorsy, and active-minded people .

From the ship, it’s fun keeping an eye on the water for local whale pods or searching the shoreline for bears, moose, or sea lions.

If you’re in luck, you can spot plenty of wildlife from the deck of the cruise ship. On our last 7-day cruise, we could spot pods of orcas, humpback whales, seals, and bald eagles without leaving the vessel.

Popular ports of call along the Inside Passage include Juneau, Ketchican, Sitka, Skagway, Haines, Icy Strait, and Tracy Arm Fjord.

Shore excursions provide the best chance to explore the beauty of Alaska or enrich yourself with the area’s deep history and culture. Through the shore excursions, you can learn more about the Indigenous peoples of Alaska or the fortune-seekers who traveled to the region during the Klondike Gold Rush.

While cruising through the Inside Passage, the islands create a natural break from the open ocean, calming the water. If you’re worried about getting seasick on a cruise ship , Alaska is one destination where you won’t spend much time in the open ocean.

Gulf of Alaska

If you book a Gulf of Alaska cruise, you’ll experience other less-visited cruise ports further north.

Most Gulf of Alaska cruises is one-way cruises traveling from Vancouver or Seattle to Seward or Whittier . If you embark in Seward or Whittier, you’ll have to fly into Anchorage, Alaska, and take the train or bus to and from the cruise port.

It’s a drive that can take an hour or two. You’ll have to book your transportation, but you can often book through the cruise line.

And it’s essential to keep in mind that you won’t be able to book round-trip airfare, which means you’ll have to pay more for flights.

Gulf of Alaska cruises tend to be 7-nights in duration , though you’ll find a few 8 and 9-day itineraries.

Some cruise lines offer round-trip sailings from Seattle and Vancouver. The round-trip Gulf of Alaska cruises tend to be 12 to 14-day itineraries , and you’ll likely spend at least two days at sea (not including scenic cruising days).

In addition to visiting some of the ports along Alaska’s Inside Passage, itineraries also include up to two scenic cruising days . The scenic destinations may include College Fjord, Glacier Bay, or Hubbard Glacier.

The seas in the Gulf of Alaska can be particularly rough. If you’re prone to seasickness, you may want to think twice before booking a Gulf of Alaska cruise.

Longer West-Coast Sailings

Some cruise lines offer longer west-coast sailings that begin in San Francisco. The round-trip sailings have four or more sea days, a scenic day, port visits along the inside passage, and a call at either Vancouver or Victoria, British Columbia.

With for or more sea days, West-coast sailings are best for people who like to spend multiple days at sea .

You may find rougher seas at the beginning and end of the cruise until your cruise ship reaches the Inside Passage, where the waters are calmer.

Cruise Tours

A cruise ship is one of the best ways to visit Alaska. But there are many destinations that you can’t visit by sea.

Many cruise lines offer tours combining a traditional Alaska cruise with a bus tour. Cruise tours allow you to extend your vacation and explore further inland.

The three to seven-night land tour allows passengers to explore destinations not accessible to cruise ships.

The cruise tours visit places like Denali National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, the city of Fairbanks, and the Kenai Peninsula.

Most cruise tours begin as one-way Alaska Gulf cruises before passengers embark on a bus tour through northern Alaska. Some cruise tours bring travelers into Canada’s Yukon territory, and there are even some round-trip cruise tours.

Locals lead the tours, so you will get to know the land and culture firsthand.

Because the tours venture farther north than most cruise itineraries, they provide the best opportunity to see the northern lights. If you want to increase your chances, you should book towards the end of the Alaska cruise season, in late October.

Cruise tours are ideal because they provide fully booked itineraries. Guests don’t need to worry about booking transportation, hotels, or activities both on and off the ship.

The activities are often included in the tour price, though you may need to pay extra for some excursions.

Best Alaska Cruise Lines

ROTTERDAM of Holland America Line in the Geirangerfjord Norway

Almost every mainstream cruise line provides Alaskan cruises.

Holland America and Princess Cruises are two of the most popular cruise lines for Alaska sailings. They have a long history of offering trips around Alaska and provide the largest selection of itineraries and cruise tours.

There are cruise lines of all price ranges sailing in Alaska, with budget-friendly lines like Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean and luxury cruise lines like Seabourn and Silversea Cruises.

For unique experiences, you may want to try smaller expedition cruise ships like Alaskan Dream Cruises and Uncruise Adventure.

In the past, cruise lines sent their older and smaller cruise ships for Alaskan itineraries. But with younger crowds and growing demand for cruises to Alaska, cruise lines have started to offer some of their latest ships.

Royal Caribbean has positioned Ovation of the Seas , one of the newest cruise ships, in Alaska. The ship’s North Star provides an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you simply can’t pass up.

No matter your preferences, you can find a cruise ship to fit your dream vacation.

Best Cruise Lines for Long Alaskan Sailings

Royal Princess Docked in Juneau Alaska

If you’re looking for longer Alaska sailings of 12 or more nights, you’ll want to stick with Holland America or Princess Cruises .

Both cruise lines offer plenty of longer sailings and a large selection of cruise tours.

Best Alaska Cruises for Families with Kids

Royal Caribbean cruise ship Radiance of the seas docked in skagway alaska

Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line are perfect for families sailing with kids .

The cruise lines offer kids’ clubs, from babies to teens, catering to all ages.

Some people wouldn’t consider Alaska a family-friendly cruise destination.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Alaska is an excellent destination for families with kids. From mountains to whales, there’s so much for kids to see. If you choose the right shore excursion, you can create an adventure that’s both fun and educational.

And with cruise lines sending their latest and greatest ships to the region, you’ll find enough entertainment for the whole family.

Still not convinced. I can tell you from experience that my favorite cruise as a kid was our trip to Alaska.

Best Cruise Lines for Adventure-Seekers

Cruise ship passengers on a Zodiac tour excursions in Icy Strait Point, Alaska

If your dream vacation includes hiking in Tongass National Park, Kayaking on Lake Chiliak, or overnight camping, you’ll want to look at expedition cruises.

Expedition voyages feature smaller ships with a greater focus on adventurous activities. Smaller vessels can better access less habited areas of Alaska and provide a closer look at the Last Frontier.

Expedition cruise lines often include complimentary shore excursions and provide zodiacs, kayaks, and bikes for you to use.

The cruises are very different than a traditional cruise to Alaska, with a greater focus on education, enrichment, nature, and the environment. Expedition-style cruises often bring scientists and naturalists to provide lectures and act as tour guides.

If you’re an adventure-seeker looking for the vacation of a lifetime, you’ll want to look at UnCruise Adventures, Alaskan Dream Cruises, or Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic .

Best Luxury Cruise Lines Sailing Alaska

alaska cruise map

Several luxury cruise lines are sailing in Alaska, including Silversea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Cunard Line, and Seabourn Cruises .

There’s a significant benefit to sailing on a luxury cruise to Alaska. With fewer passengers on the ship, you won’t need to fight through the crowd for a prime sightseeing spot.

You’ll also find a more intimate experience with personalized shore excursions and better service.

Luxury cruise lines often visit less-traveled cruise ports, including Wrangell, Alaska, and Klemtu, British Columbia.

But there’s one significant benefit to sailing on a luxury cruise line.

Small-ship, luxury cruise lines like Seabourn, Silversea, and Regent can navigate more waterways than larger mainstream cruise lines. They can get close to glaciers and travel to the twin-Sawyer Glaciers at the end of Tracy Arm Fjord.

Best Cruise Lines for Couples

Couples looking for a romantic getaway should choose Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, or Holland America .

The cruise lines provide a slightly upscale atmosphere with fewer kids and affordable cruise fares.

Things to Do on an Alaska Cruise

white pass and yukon route railroad passing through a forest with a snow capped mountian in the background

There are lots of things to do in Alaska . There’s more to do than you’ll have time for when it comes to Alaskan cruises.

Unlike a Caribbean cruise, where most days are spent lounging on a beach, most Alaska tours and activities are outdoor adventures.

Alaska offers opportunities for active travelers, history buffs, shopping, wildlife encounters, and sightseeing.

Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway with a view of Downtown Juneau and Cruise Ships

It’s always a good idea to research your port of call to get information about the shore excursions before you embark on your cruise.

Some of our favorite things to do on an Alaska cruise include:

  • White Pass and Yukon Route Railway (Skagway)
  • Mount Roberts Tramway (Juneau)
  • Kayaking on Chilkoot Lake (Haines)
  • Exploring Gold Rush history
  • Panning for gold
  • Helicopter tours
  • Glacier tours in Glacier Bay National Park
  • Whale watching

Best Alaska Cruise Ports

Princess Cruise ship docked in Juneau Alaska

You’ll have a different experience at Alaska cruise ports compared to Caribbean cities. The ports of call in Alaska have different atmospheres and personalities.

Where Skagway is a historic small town full of history and adventure, Juneau is a large city with great eateries and shopping.

As you might expect, the best Alaskan cruise ports are also the busiest. You can expect long lineups and higher prices at popular attractions if you’re sailing during peak season.

Book a shore excursion or cruise tour if you want to explore Alaska’s wilderness or venture beyond the town center.

A busy day on S Franklin St in Juneau Alaska where cruise tourists can shop for souvineers

Juneau is Alaska’s capital city, located at the base of Mount Juneau. The city is notable for its lack of roads leading in our out. You can only reach Juneau by plane or boat.

If you’re not afraid of heights, the Mount Roberts Tramway is a must-see activity. The 15-minute tram ride takes you to the top of Mount Roberts, where there’s a lookout point, bald eagles, a gift shop, and a restaurant.

Juneau is home to the Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier is a popular destination for hiking and kayaking tours. If you want an up-close glacier experience, you can book a helicopter tour and glacier walk.

More : Things to do in Juneau Alaska

Downtown Skagway Alaska with a cruise ship and snow capped mountain visible in the background

If you’re interested in Gold Rush history, you’ll want to visit Skagway, Alaska. The town of Skagway was once the gateway to the Klondike in Canada’s Yukon territory (the site of the famous gold fields).

Thousands of prospectors visited Skagway in the late 1890s with dreams of finding gold.

Much of the gold rush history is preserved. Many of the original buildings remain, as are the town’s wooden boardwalks.

Skagway’s most popular attraction is the White Pass railway . The train ride takes passengers along the original route used by prospectors during the height of the gold rush.

More : Things to do in Skagway Alaska

Ketchikan, Alaska, is best known as the “Salmon capital of the world.” But the town is also popular for its Misty Fjords National Monument and numerous totem poles carved by Alaska’s Indigenous peoples, the Tlingit.

The city is home to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack show. Tourists worldwide come to see athletes wield axes and saws while competing in lumbering activities. The show is within walking distance of the cruise port and a must-see if you’re in town during the event.

View Of Sitka Alaska Boats and Buildings from the Water with Mountain Background

Sitka is a little fishing town located on Baranof Island.

The town is the former capital of Russian America and offers a glimpse into the past with Russian landmarks and museums. Landmarks like the Russian Bishop’s House and St. Michaels Orthodox Cathedral are some of the famous historical sites.

The town is full of museums, shops, and small restaurants. Wildlife lovers should take a whale-watching tour in Sitka Sound or visit the Alaska Raptor Center and Fortress of the Bear rescue centers.

Sitka is the best town to visit if you’re hoping to spot bald eagles. There are so many bald eagles in Sitka that you’d have to try not to see one.

Sitka National Historical Park is the oldest national park in Alaska. The park is home to over 20 hand-carved totem poles scattered along the nature trails. It’s also the site of the final battle between indigenous Tlingit people and the Russians

More : Things to do in Sitka

Town of Haines Alaska, photo from the deck of a cruise ship

Haines is a newer cruise port of call. The town has less than 2,000 residents and isn’t as touristy as other Alaska cruise ports.

Haines is best known for its fishing, golf, wildlife, and Chilkoot Lake. The lake is a popular destination for its immense beauty and the site of the salmon rush.

The town is also home to a hammer museum with the world’s second-largest hammer located out front.

More : https://highseascruising.com/things-to-do-in-haines-alaska/

Seward is located along the Gulf of Alaska and is an excellent port for exploring the outdoors. There are mountain biking tours, fishing excursions, and kayaking adventures.

The city is home to Fort William H. Seward and the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park.

Scenic Cruising Destinations

Ovation of the seas in alaska with North Star raised and glacier in the background

Most Alaskan cruises include at least one “scenic cruising” day. You won’t leave the ship on a scenic day, but you’ll have an incredible view of Alaska’s scenery.

The most popular scenic cruising destinations include Glacier Bay National Park, Tracy Arm Fjord, Hubbard Glacier, Endicott Arm, and College Fjord.

It’s important to note that the cruise line may cancel scenic cruising days due to weather. The fjords and narrow passages are difficult for large cruise ships to navigate. If the weather conditions aren’t perfect, the captain may cancel the scenic sailing or sail to an alternative destination.

A group of tourists on an Alaska cruise enjoying the gorgeous view of the Margerie Glacier in the Glacier Bay of Alaska on a sunny day

Glacier Bay National Park : The expansive bay provides a window to 250 million years ago when the land was covered by ice. Most cruise lines stop at Marjorie Glacier, located 55 miles into the park. While sailing along the bay, keep your eye out for bears, mountain goats, eagles, and grizzly bears.

Hubbard Glacier : The largest glacier visited by cruise ships. Hubbard Glacier is an impressive 6 miles wide with a 400-foot tall face. We were fortunate enough to sail beside the glacier and were awestruck by the blue ice wall that stood before us. (We were also entertained by an otter playing on an iceberg.)

Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier : The 32-mile-long fjord is home to the beautiful Dawes Glacier. The glacier is home to many wildlife species and was founded by John Muir in the 1880s.

Tracy Arm Fjord: One of the most popular scenic destinations for Alaska cruises, located only 50 miles south of Juneau. At the end of the 30-mile-long fjord sits the South Sawyer Glacier and the North Sawyer Glacier. Tracy Arm Fjord is famous for its narrow passageway and towering mountain landscape.

Northern Lights Cruises

alaska cruise map

Millions of passengers travel to Alaska every year, hoping to see the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights are most visible further north during darker nights.

You best to see the Northern Lights on a cruise ship by booking a Gulf of Alaska itinerary during September .

The Gulf of Alaska itinerary brings you the furthest north, and sailing in September provides more hours of darkness.

You can increase your chances by visiting Denali National Park, where there’s less population and light pollution. Still, it’s never a guarantee that you’ll see the Northern Lights.

When to Book an Alaskan Cruise

Whale shows its tail with Disney cruise ship in the background in Alaska

The best time to book an Alaskan cruise is as early as possible . Cruise fares are often the cheapest when first released to the public.

If you purchase your cruise fare early and later find a lower price, you can take advantage of price protection and ask the cruise line to honor the lower price.

Because of the popularity of Alaska cruises and the short sailing season, cruise fares tend to be more expensive than traditional Caribbean sailings.

An Alaska cruise can cost between $500 to $10,000 per person depending on the cruise line, cabin category, flights, hotel, shore excursions, and drink purchases.

Aerial View of Downtown Sitka Alaska

In general, you don’t want to wait for last-minute discounts on unsold cabins  unless you live near Seattle or Vancouver.

Alaska is one of the cruise destinations where we recommend booking a balcony accommodation. There’s nothing we love more than sipping a coffee on our balcony while admiring the picturesque views.

Due to their popularity, balcony cabins on Alaskan cruises are more expensive than traditional Caribbean sailings. You can expect to pay a higher price if you book a balcony.

What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

Woman on a bed packing for a cruise to the caribbean and checking her packing list

When you visit Alaska, you’ll want to pack very differently than you would for a Caribbean cruise.

You’ll want to pack clothing for all types of weather and temperatures.

It’s essential to dress in layers. Because of the fast-changing weather in Alaska, it’s not possible to dress for the weather.

It might be warm in the morning, then cold and rainy in the afternoon.

Dressing in multiple layers prepares you for any weather. It helps to take a backpack or waterproof bag to put extra layers if you don’t need them.

Most importantly you should bring a lightweight rain jacket and waterproof shoes. If there’s one thing you can count on in Alaska, it’s rain. It also helps to pack an umbrella or a rain poncho.

If you’re unsure what to pack for your Alaska cruise, check out our printable Alaska cruise packing list .

Common items to pack for an Alaska cruise include:

  • Lightweight raincoat
  • Warm clothing, hats, gloves, sweaters
  • Camera and tripod
  • Bug spray and sunscreen
  • Bathing suit
  • Waterproof bag for kayaking or rafting excursions

Alaska Cruise Weather

Skagway Alaska cruise port on a foggy day wiht Serenade of the Seas in the forground and Holland America cruise ship in the background

The Alaska cruise weather changes rapidly throughout the day. One minute it’s warm, and the next, it’s cold and rainy. Only for it to change again ten minutes later.

The weather can drop into the 40s or 50s in the morning during the cruise season. But on sunny days, the temperature can rise into the mid-70s.

It’s important to remember that Alaska is home to the world’s largest temperate rainforest, and you can almost guarantee that it will rain during your cruise.

The weather in Alaska changes rapidly throughout the day. One minute it’s warm, and the next, it’s cold and rainy. Only for it to change again ten minutes later.

Even if it’s sunny when you’re on the ship, you can expect the weather to change at a moment’s notice.

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Alaska Cruises

Map of Alaska and Western Canada

Alaska, America's "Last Frontier," is home to craggy glaciers, raging rivers, snow-capped mountains and miles upon miles of wild, windblown tundra. The state shares a border and much of its topographical characteristics with western Canada -- specifically, the snowy provinces of British Columbia and the Yukon.

Alaska cruises tour the Inside Passage, the state's southeastern leg, from the cannery town of Ketchikan to Glacier Bay National Park. They also can traverse the Gulf of Alaska to reach Seward, the port for Anchorage, the state's largest city, and other ports along the southern coast.

Alaska cruise tours, meanwhile, skim the coastline as well as explore the state's vast interior. Common targets for these vacations are Denali National Park, about 150 miles north of Anchorage, and Fairbanks, a former Gold Rush town some 200 miles northeast of Denali. Some cruise tours even cross the border into Canada, making stops as far east as Calgary, Jasper and Lake Louise, all popular points in the province of Alberta.

alaska cruise map

While there are countless variations of itineraries with the number of cruise lines sailing to Alaska, they can be broken down into general categories of cruises and cruisetours. Below you will find a general description of each with an itinerary map to help you visualize where you will go. Once you have an idea of which one sounds most appealing, please call us at 877 836-1949 and we will find the best price and value along with the specific itinerary for a particular ship and sail date. click here to request assistance.

2023 and 2024 Alaska Cruises - Alaska Cruises and Land Tours - Inside Passage cruises - Gulf of Alaska cruises, Alaska Cruisetours Alaska cruises from Seattle, Alaska cruises from Vancouver

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Alaska Cruises

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Discover The Wild Beauty Of The Last Frontier

From 6-night getaways to immersive, 13-night Cruisetours that combine the wild, forested beauty of Alaska’s coast with the majesty of Denali National Park, there’s an Alaskan cruise style and length to suit you. Sail one-way between Vancouver and Seward or Vancouver and Seattle, round-trip from Vancouver or Seattle, or on a Cruisetour between Vancouver and Anchorage or Fairbanks.

Featured Alaska Cruises

Dawes glacier cruises.

Prepare for a thrill as you approach the head of the 30-mile Endicott Arm fjord to face Dawes Glacier, a 600-foot-tall wall of ice. Other Alaska cruise highlights include Juneau; remote Ketchikan, and historic Skagway.

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Hubbard Glacier Cruises

Sail from Vancouver to North America’s biggest glacier, seven miles wide and the height of a 30-story building. Ports along this Alaska cruise include Ketchikan; Juneau, the perfect spot for whale-watching; and Icy Strait Point, where you can search for bears and eagles.

One-Way Alaska Cruises

Sail one-way between Vancouver and Seward or Vancouver and Seattle, and you’ll see a stretch of Alaska’s forested coastline against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and lichen-draped forests.

Option for Land & Cruise Package: Extend your sailing with a Cruisetour, which will take you to Denali National Park, Anchorage, and Talkeetna, among other destinations.

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Why Cruise to Alaska with Celebrity Cruises

Live life to the fullest on a Alaska cruise with Celebrity. We have three ships in Alaska, sailing itineraries ranging from 6 or 7 nights to immersive 9- to 13-night Cruisetours that combine the excitement of sailing Alaska’s rugged coast with the awe-inspiring wilderness of Denali National Park and the towns and cities of the vast interior. Explore the best Alaska cruises available with a range of departure ports including Vancouver, Seward, and Seattle, and a choice of thrilling round-trip or one-way itineraries. 

Immerse yourself in the wildlife, scenery, and culture ashore and return to aboard our contemporary, design-led ships. After enjoying the untamed beauty, return to your Alaska cruise and rejuvenate your spirit in The Spa. Watch for whales and dolphins from the privacy of your Infinite Veranda stateroom, where the touch of a button brings the outside in. 

Elevate your Alaska cruise to the next level at The Retreat®, with sumptuous suite accommodation, access to a tranquil lounge, and dining at the exclusive Luminae at The Retreat. 

Let Celebrity take you to some of Alaska’s most exciting ports, whether your dream is to get close to breaching humpbacks on a whale-watching adventure or follow the treacherous trail of early gold prospectors over the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. Sail the Inside Passage, watching for bears foraging on stony beaches, or gaze in wonder at the towering, blue-white wall of the mighty Hubbard Glacier.  

Personal service will be the hallmark of your Alaska cruise adventure, on board as well as ashore, where our range of carefully curated excursions includes everything from zip-lining over the forest canopy to floatplane adventures and driving a team of sled dogs across the icy expanse of a glacier. Choose the style to suit your personal taste, from Destination Highlights to Small Group Discoveries, or even custom-designed Private Journeys.

Endless Options for Exploration

You’ll be immersed in nature at every point of your Alaska cruise. Vast, creaking blue-white glaciers inch their way to the sea as jagged, snow-capped mountain peaks pierce the sky. Bears prowl rock-strewn beaches, while salmon-laden rivers rush through pristine, old-growth forest, bald eagles perched watchfully in the treetops. 

Learn about the heady days of the Gold Rush. Kayak silent fjords on your journey along the coast of the Last Frontier. Let Celebrity’s award-winning ships take you to the most dazzling locations in the 49th state, from bustling Juneau to pretty Ketchikan. Or extend your stay with one of our Alaska Cruisetours to explore Alaska’s interiors. Head deep into the wilderness of Denali, immerse yourself in the exciting contemporary culture of Anchorage, and spend time in quirky, arty Talkeetna.

On an Alaska cruise, you’ll experience everything from raw, untamed natural wonders on an extravagant scale to rich history, buzzing cities, vibrant and delicious cuisine, and a warm welcome.

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Cruising in Alaska

Is an Alaska cruise good for families?

Absolutely. With spectacular wildlife and dozens of thrilling, kid-friendly activities, Alaska is perfect for families. Kids will love spotting bears and whales, and the whole family can try sea kayaking, go zip lining, join guided hikes through the forest, and learn to drive a team of husky dogs. Here’s all you need to know about cruising in Alaska as a family.

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Can I add a land tour before or after my Alaska cruise?

With one of our 9- to 13-night Alaska Cruisetours, you can combine your seven-night Alaska cruise with an exciting land tour where you’ll visit destinations like cultured Anchorage, folksy Talkeetna, and wild Denali, giving you a more diverse experience of the magnificent 49th state and more opportunities to spot the Big Five: Moose, caribou, wolf, Dall sheep, and grizzly bear. 

Will I see a glacier on my Alaska cruise?

Many of our itineraries spend a day cruising the beautiful Endicott Arm Fjord, the end of which is dominated by the mighty Dawes Glacier. Others take you to Hubbard Glacier, a vast wall of ice. 

From Juneau, you can take an excursion to Mendenhall Glacier, where you can see fantastic views of the ice on a hike or join a kayak tour. From Seward, you could join a challenging hike to Exit Glacier, which flows slowly from the enormous Harding Icefield. Wherever you go in Alaska, you’ll see glaciers in the distance, high in the mountains, sometimes hanging dramatically over a wall of rock.

What should I pack for an Alaska cruise?

When you’re packing for an Alaska cruise, you’ll want to plan for any kind of weather, from hot sun to ethereal mist and rain showers—often in the same day. Layers, light waterproof jackets, good walking shoes, and a hat and gloves are the essentials; Alaska can be cold as well as warm and sunny.

Pack binoculars for spotting all that incredible wildlife, and camera lens or smartphone. You will also need sunblock and insect repellant. Remember swimwear for the ship; even if it’s cool outside, the Solarium on board is climate controlled and covered, so you can relax on a lounger in the warmth, and swim in the pool. Pack Evening Chic outfits for our dressier nights. 

If you join activities like kayaking, all safety gear will be provided.

What are the best things to do in Alaska?

Alaska is all about exploring the Great Outdoors with family and friends, learning about US History and enjoying wildlife. There are hikes, kayaking, mountain biking, ziplining, and dog sledding for more energetic travelers. 

For a less testing but equally thrilling experience, you could join a whale-watching tour, or take a helicopter or floatplane flightseeing trip, soaring over forests and glaciers. Alaska is brimming with history and culture, too. Explore the cultures of the Native Alaskans, and learn about the Klondike Gold Rush.

Make a point of trying the local cuisine in Alaska, which is famous for its seafood. You’ll find Alaskan salmon on every menu. King crab is delicious in a chowder, or with melted butter. Black cod and halibut are delicious and often served with fries; fish and chips is a popular dish in Alaska. You’ll also find seasonal berries on every menu, locally roasted coffee, and a wide assortment of craft beers.

What kind of animals can I see in Alaska?

You’ll likely see a wide variety of animals in Alaska. If you’re lucky, you can spot brown and black bears; the Spasski River Valley near Icy Strait Point is a great place for bear-spotting, as are the rivers around Ketchikan in July, peak salmon spawning season, when bears come to feast on the fish. For guaranteed bear viewing, head to the Fortress of the Bear near Sitka, which raises orphaned bears in a natural setting. 

You’ll also see whales; the Inside Passage is a great place to spot humpbacks and orcas. Look out for bald eagles perched in the trees, steller sea lions spread out on rocks, and cute sea otters bobbing in the water. To search for the Big Five—grizzly bears, wolves, caribou, Dall sheep, and moose—extend your vacation with a Cruisetour and a visit to Denali National Park. 

When's the best time to cruise to Alaska?

Alaska’s summer season begins in early May and extends until late September. There are compelling reasons to cruise to Alaska in any month of the summer, depending on whether you’re interested in maximizing your chances of spotting whales, seeing the Northern Lights, getting closer to glaciers, or traveling when there are fewer people around. See our blog post to learn more about the best time to cruise to Alaska. 

What Celebrity ships sail to Alaska?

Celebrity Cruises has three ships operating different itineraries in Alaska. These include Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Solstice, and Celebrity Summit.

Where do Alaska cruises embark from?

Most of Celebrity’s Alaska cruises sail round-trip from either Vancouver or Seattle. You could also opt for a one-way cruise between Vancouver and Seward or Vancouver and Seattle. If you choose a Cruisetour, you could sail from Vancouver to Seward and then fly out of Anchorage after the tour. Other itineraries begin in Fairbanks and, after the land journey, sail south from Seward to Vancouver.

How long are Alaskan cruises?

Celebrity’s Alaskan cruises range from six to seven nights, but if you extend your voyage into a Cruisetour, the duration is nine to 13 nights. You could also consider extending your vacation with a night or two in either Vancouver or Seattle, depending on which itinerary you have chosen.

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Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, British Columbia

7 Night Alaska Experience Cruise

Your ship ovation of the seas.

Ovation of the Seas, Aerial View, Australia, Vietnam, and the Philippines

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Live. Love. Legs.

Day 1: seattle, washington.

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Day 3: juneau, alaska.

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Day 4: Skagway, Alaska

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Hubbard Glacier (Alaska)

Cruise port schedule, live map, terminals, news.

Hubbard Glacier cruise port

Region Alaska

Local Time 2024-07-17 03:40

Port Hubbard Glacier cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port's schedule lists all ships (in links) with cruises going to or leaving from Hubbard Glacier, Alaska. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.

Hubbard Glacier is located in eastern Alaska (USA) and partially of Yukon (Canada). It has a length of 122 km (76 ml). Icebergs sized as a 10-story building routinely break off. The glacier enters Disenchantment Bay with most of its ice being below the waterline. Newly broken off icebergs are constant danger for cruise ships visiting the region, so the vessels must keep their distance from its edge in the bay.

Before it reaches sea, Hubbard Glacier is joined by Valerie Glacier to the west, which has contributed to the advance of ice flow that experts believe will dam Russell Fjord from the waters of Disenchantment Bay. For about a century, Hubbard Glacier ice margin continues to advance. In May 1986, the glacier surged forward, blocking Russell Fjord's outlet and creating "Russell Lake." The lake filled with runoff and its water level rose 25 m (82 ft). The decrease in salinity threatened sea life. Around midnight on October 8, 1986 the dam began to give way and during the next 24 hours, 5.3 cubic km (1.3 cu miles) of water gushed through the gap. The fjord was reconnected to ocean at the previous level. This was the 2nd largest glacial lake outburst flood in recorded history, and had equivalent flow of 35 Niagara Falls.

On May 20, 2002 Hubbard Glacier squeezed towards Gilbert Point. The longest source for the glacier originates 122 km (76 ml) and is approx 8 km (5 ml) west of Mount Walsh (3,4 km / 2,1 ml altitude). A shorter tributary glacier starts at the easternmost summit on Mount Logan ridge (at 5,6 km / 3,5 ml).

In spring 2002, Hubbard Glacier again approached Bert Point, pushing a terminal moraine ahead, then closing the opening in July. On August 14, the moraine was washed away after rains raised the water level behind the dam it formed to 18 m (60 ft) above sea level. The fjord could be dammed again, next time probably permanently. If this happens, it could overflow its southern banks and drain through Situk River, threatening a local airport.

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Alaska considers new limits for cruise ship visitors in this popular port city

The visitor limit agreement would go into effect in 2026.

The pristine natural beauty of Alaska boasts breathtaking landscapes with vast national parks, glaciers and 6,640 miles of coastline that makes the destination particularly popular for cruises.

Now, the capital port city of Juneau, where crowds have been sailing in in record numbers, is considering a limit on large cruise ships with 250 passengers or more that would cap the number of daily visitors starting in 2026 to help combat overtourism.

New agreement in Alaska to limit cruise ship visitors

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Last month, cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian signed an agreement with Juneau tourism officials to help manage the thousands of passengers getting off the boats at the same time and visiting the area.

While the numbers are subject to change, Sundays through Fridays, cruise crowds are expected to be capped at 16,000. That number will be limited to 12,000 on Saturdays.

The new agreement expands on last year's decision to implement a limit of five cruise ships per day in Juneau.

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Juneau is home to some amazing outdoor attractions, such as whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier, but some local residents said they've had enough of the post-pandemic crowds.

"I personally came to the realization that Alaska was being sold as a friendly place and that my friendliness was a commodity for the cruise lines," resident Karla Hart told ABC News. "The idea is just one day every week to just take a pause -- to have our community back."

In 2023, a record 1.6 million cruise passengers visited Juneau, including Sarah Grathwohlwent, who was there for the first time earlier this spring and documented her journey on social media.

"It was beautiful to go and see a glacier -- was my first one," she said. "I'm not against limiting the amount of cruise ships, I think it would make it nicer for the locals who live there year round."

Overtourism around the world prompts new crowd management systems

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Scott Keyes, travel expert and founder of Going.com, said that the challenges of overtourism are not isolated to Juneau.

"We have been setting new travel records every month so far in 2024, and there's no reason to think that's going to stop," he told ABC News.

In the U.S., Mount Rainier is among the National Parks that have begun implementing timed entry reservations to help manage large crowds. In Europe, hotspot destinations like Venice and Barcelona have implemented day trip fees for visitors .

Over the weekend in Barcelona, thousands of locals protested in the streets with water guns to take a stand against tourism, which they say has resulted in a higher cost of living for residents.

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Venice implements visitor entry fees: What to know about the new system

Due to increased demand in Athens, Greece, the city is also studying limits on tourist capacity.

Experts believe that as more destinations see surges in visitors, local officials may implement restrictions to deal with crowds diplomatically.

"I'm all in favor of steps taken to try to make sure you're managing that properly and respecting the local environment and everything," Keyes said.

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Inside Passage Alaska Cruise

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Alaska Inside Passage Cruises

Alaska’s Inside Passage is nothing short of breathtaking. Encompassed by tranquil waters, one moment you can be sailing a wide bay of barrier islands and the next you’re cruising through a narrow waterway flanked by towering forested walls. That’s the splendid spectacle of these serene landscapes — the scenery is constantly changing, from picturesque shores to friendly coastal towns.

What is the Inside Passage?

Stretching hundreds of miles from Puget Sound, Washington, through the British Columbia coast and into the Gulf of Alaska, the Inside Passage includes more than 1,000 islands, seemingly endless shoreline and thousands of idyllic coves and bays. Sailing with Princess, you’ll marvel at the breathtaking scenery and encounter ports of call like Gold Rush-era Skagway, Salmon Capital of the World Ketchikan, the capital city of Juneau and British-flavored Victoria.

Visit a Native village, learn about the triumphs and tragedies of Alaska’s Gold Rush heyday or go dog sledding with a real musher. Touring the Inside Passage on an Alaska cruise is your gateway to the fascinating and colorful culture, history and sights of the Great Land.

History of the Inside Passage

During a two-year expedition through uncharted territory, Captain George Vancouver sailed into the still waters of what came to be known as the Inside Passage . Passing by luminous glaciers artfully carved by Mother Nature’s beaming summers and numbing winters, Captain Vancouver and his team charted over 1,000 miles from 1792 to 1794. From the towering spruce trees lining the borders of Ketchikan to the majestic mountains cradling the heart of Skagway, the mariners documented every inch of this winter wonderland — inviting others to set sail in their same path and revel in the magic for themselves.

In 1881, the first cruise drifted into the still waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage — but, these seafarers did not experience the wonder of modern-day cruises. In the height of the Klondike Gold Rush, these passengers were making history, not reliving it. Since then, journeys through these breathtaking lands have become more exhilarating. In Juneau, venture underground into historical gold mines and see for yourself just how treasure was extracted from rugged walls. Or, take a scenic railway tour up snow-capped mountains and through lush landscapes, retracing the footsteps of early explorers in Skagway.

History awaits you in the enchanting enclaves of the Inside Passage. Cruise past archaic, granite glaciers and step into protected lands. With exclusive access to some of the most famous glaciers — including Glacier Bay National Park — Princess offers a close-up, undisturbed view to spectacular scenery and adored wildlife. Sail into sheer serenity amidst the Inside Passage on an Alaska cruise from Princess.

*Princess Cruise Line is an authorized concessioner of Glacier Bay National Park.

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Glaciers seen cruising up Alaska's Inside Passage

Alaska's 7-Day Inside Passage Cruise

You’re in for one wild week. This roundtrip Inside Passage cruise from Vancouver delivers spellbinding scenery from narrow fjords to scattered islets and towering peaks. Get close to massive glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park and wait breathlessly for ice to calve off and plunge into the ocean. Inside Passage waters are as smooth as it gets, while on shore you’ll find endless thrills and chills. Fish for salmon in Ketchikan, helicopter onto Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, or ride the rails along the rugged White Pass Summit in Skagway.

Map of Inside Passage Cruise

Stop into three iconic ports of call and see Alaska’s remote wilderness areas.

Ports of Call on This Cruise

  • Scenic Cruising the Inside Passage
  • Tracy Arm Inlet
  • Glacier Bay

Ships Sailing This Cruise

  • Nieuw Amsterdam

Map of inside passage cruise

Why Take This Cruise?

This Inside Passage cruise docks near Vancouver’s biggest attractions, so you can spend more time sightseeing and less time getting from place to place. Air travel is a breeze with a convenient roundtrip and Saturday or Sunday departures. Features Alaska’s most historic ports and scenic natural wonderlands.

Ice calving from the edge of Glacier Bay, Alaska

Glacier Bay On All Inside Passage Cruises

White Pass & Yukon Railway from Skagway, Alaska

Skagway Stop

Orcas breach the calm waters of Alaska's Inside Passage

Smooth-as-Glass Waters

Cruise Alaska aboard award-winning Koningsdam

Newer Ship: Koningsdam

alaska cruise map

The best time to cruise Alaska

Fran Golden

Alaska is a cruise destination with a limited season. Cruise ships arrive in southeast Alaska in spring, stay the summer and linger only into early fall. The 49th state's snowy, cold and dark winters are not conducive to cruising.

Most cruise passengers will head to Alaska between Memorial Day in late May and Labor Day in early September when temperatures range from slightly chilly to warm during the long daylight hours. Tourist attractions are in full swing, salmon swim upriver, and bears (and humans) have access to fishing.

Some adventurous cruisers will board ships when they arrive in Alaska in April to see the remnants of winter. A few big ships cruise into mid-October for those who want a peek at what life is like in Alaska towns when all other tourists have returned home.

For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

Each month has its advantages, not the least of which is discounted pricing in the spring and fall shoulder seasons. Here is a guide to help you decide when to cruise in Alaska.

After a long winter, Alaska begins to wake up in April — that includes the wildlife. Small-ship cruise lines such as Lindblad Expeditions and UnCruise Adventures have sailings into the wilderness, where you might spot bears emerging from their slumber and admire huge waterfalls fueled by the snowmelt. A few big ships, such as Norwegian Cruise Line 's 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss out of Seattle , begin their season this month with discounted early-season pricing.

alaska cruise map

You may encounter freezing rain or even snow on your April cruise and should expect to tread through the mud. Some tourist facilities — including those at national parks — may still be shuttered for the winter.

On the other hand, you will have the opportunity to observe the change of seasons. Expect crisp mornings with temperatures in the 30s, though by the end of the month, you may find dry weather and temperatures in the 60s. As an added bonus, the skies will be dark at night; if clear, you might spot the northern lights.

Related: The best Alaska cruise for every type of traveler

As someone who has cruised Alaska many times, I love cruising in May when the weather is dry. Locals start emerging from their winter cocoons, embracing the sunshine, and the wildlife does the same. You might spot bears with their cubs, moose with their calves and humpback whales returning from their winter home in Hawaii.

Big-ship cruise lines such as Holland America Line , Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean ramp up their operations in May, as do Disney Cruise Line and small-ship and luxury lines. Early season deals might be available.

alaska cruise map

Attractions and shops will switch to peak-season hours at the end of the month; Denali National Park and Preserve will switch into summer mode in May. You'll find those who work in tourism excited to be back in business, considering many people in southeast Alaska earn their income from out-of-state visitors. Cruise lines will offer the opportunity to extend cruises with land tours, which include accommodations, transportation and some meals.

While early May often carries a chill in the air, you might encounter temperatures in the 60s by the end of the month. The warmer weather means glaciers begin shedding ice more frequently, so you have a better chance of experiencing the sight and sound of a house-size chunk of ice calving into the sea. Another bonus is that Alaska's large mosquito population has yet to emerge.

Related: Alaska cruise guide: Best itineraries, planning tips and things to do

The cruise season beefs up in June, with the number of ships growing; the season is in full swing by the end of the month. The midnight sun means many hours of daylight — especially on June 20, the longest day of the year. You'll have to stay up late to see any darkness at all.

Early in June, the ships still mostly carry adults, with the family crowd — including multigenerational groups — arriving later in the month.

Shore excursion experiences abound. Temperatures are pleasant — in the 60s and sometimes higher, with wildflowers in bloom and glaciers calving. Anglers will find opportunities to reel in halibut along with king and sockeye salmon and rainbow trout. In addition to humpbacks, you might also spot belugas and seals with their pups as you sail.

At the beginning of the month, you might still be able to find some early-season pricing; the peak season for Alaska cruising begins in late June.

Related: Alaska cruise packing list: What to pack for a sailing up north

July and August

alaska cruise map

Summer is the height of the Alaska cruise season, which means crowds in port towns, especially when several ships are in port at the same time. You might have to wait hours for a table at the popular Tracy's King Crab Shack in Juneau.

It might surprise many, but July and especially August are rainy, so don't expect endless sunshine. That said, you are in Alaska at a time for festivals and other special events, and frontier towns really come alive.

Temperatures will be in the 60s, sometimes higher — you might even see 80s in Juneau in July. During long days of light, you'll find hearty Alaskans swimming in the sea and enjoying water sports. Shore excursion options will be in full swing.

During both months, you will encounter peak-season pricing. Unless you booked early, cabin choice could be limited — especially if you are looking for a fancy suite or cheap inside cabin; those tend to be the first categories to sell out. Balcony cabins are particularly popular in Alaska.

Mosquitos enjoy the summer, too, so pack bug spray. July and August are also spawning season for salmon, so you might spot grizzlies and brown bears near rivers and streams.

Keep an eye out for seabirds and songbirds, seals, Steller sea lions and humpback whales. Marine life is so prolific that some small-boat shore excursions guarantee you will see animals. Bears will be fishing; in late August, they will be looking for blueberries, which also become a featured item on restaurant menus. Toward the end of August, you'll see leaves changing to fall colors.

Related: Best Alaska cruise shore excursions — from heli-hiking to whale watching

The beginning of September is much like August, but after the kids go back to school and the family crowd departs, it's shoulder season for cruising and pricing drops. Most cruise ships will have repositioned out of the state by the end of the month. You will experience a change of season, with cooler temperatures (in the 50s or lower) and some rain.

Mid-to-late September is one of the best times to spot wildlife in Alaska. I have had extraordinary experiences. Once, I watched a pod of humpback whales gather together in bubble-net feeding (corralling fish in a "net" of bubbles) to fill their bellies in preparation for their annual journey to warmer waters. Bears will be hunting for the last of the berries and salmon, and caribou, deer and moose will be mating.

You'll see colorful fall foliage but not mosquitos. National park facilities and some tourist businesses will switch to winter hours. September is also a great time to get deals on souvenirs, as merchants sell off this year's goods at the end of Alaska's tourist season.

On clear nights, you have a chance of spotting the northern lights — though they won't shine as brightly as they do in winter. Rather than stay up all night, see if your ship or pre- or post-cruise hotel has a sign-up sheet for people who want a wake-up call should the lights appear.

Related: From Alaska to the Panama Canal: Here are 9 of TPG's favorite fall cruise itineraries

A limited number of cruises in October (predominantly on Norwegian Cruise Line ) make it possible for cruisers to experience a taste of Alaska in winter without sub-zero temperatures. You will want to bundle up; the average temperature in Juneau in October is 39 degrees. Days will be short — there are only about 10 hours of daylight. You are likely to experience rain and maybe snow.

alaska cruise map

Some attractions and shops will be closed for winter, though your cruise line will still operate a full roster of shore excursions. On the plus side, you will experience southeast Alaska towns as they are most of the year, sans tourist crowds. Sit in a bar and talk to the locals as they prepare for the long winter ahead. Cruise fares will be discounted.

Related: Caribbean vs. Alaska cruises: Which itinerary will I like more?

When is the best time to see the northern lights in Alaska?

If one of your primary objectives during your Alaska sailing is to get a glimpse of the northern lights , consider a sailing in late August, September or October. The lights are typically strong in Alaska from late August to mid-April.

Your best bet for a sighting will be in Fairbanks — it's situated under the "aurora oval," an area known for a high frequency of northern lights displays. Fairbanks is a popular stop on cruisetours, itineraries that combine time sailing with overnight stays on land. For example, Holland America's nine-night Denali itinerary begins with an overnight stay in Fairbanks in early September.

Denali National Park and Anchorage can offer a glimpse of the northern lights — though not as frequently as Fairbanks since they are farther south. Both destinations are popular cruisetour stops. If you're cruising into or out of Seward or Whittier, you'll fly through Anchorage on one end of your trip. Consider an extra night or two there if you want to try and catch the aurora.

It's incredibly rare to see the northern lights from aboard your ship in the Inside Passage.

Related: Northern lights cruises: A guide to chasing the aurora borealis at sea

What is the cheapest month for an Alaska cruise?

As previously mentioned, April, May, September and October are good months for an Alaska cruise if you're hoping to score a deal . In addition to cheaper fares, early and late sailings of the season see fewer crowds.

Bottom line

What is the best month for an Alaska cruise? Alaska is a thrilling cruise destination no matter which month you sail. However, some months might be better for you, depending on your interests. Look to the early and late sailings of the season if you are a bargain seeker. Choose a May or June sailing for drier weather and fewer mosquitos. Summer is the best time to cruise to see abundant marine life and birds. September can be a great month to see wildlife.

Planning an Alaska cruise? Start with these stories:

  • Everything you need to know about booking a trip to Alaska on points
  • 8 of the best Alaskan lodges for getting close to glaciers, Denali and more
  • Best Alaska cruise tips to help you make the most of your time aboard and ashore
  • 6 best Alaska cruises for families
  • The best Alaska cruises for couples
  • I took a $900 dog sledding and helicopter excursion on my Alaska cruise. Was it worth it?
  • What to pack for a cruise
  • 20 must-have cruise items — including a roll of duct tape
  • The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship

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Alaskan Cruise Guide for Seattle Families

Taking a princess cruise to alaska is an easy vacation, according to one local mom.

Naomi Tomky

By Naomi Tomky

Published on: july 09, 2024.

Aerial view of a Princess cruise ship on an Alaskan cruise with views of the water and mountains, a must-see for Seattle families

Over seven days on an Alaskan cruise, I spotted orcas from a hot tub, watched massive chunks of glacier crash into the frigid ocean below from my bed and squealed as the ship casually floated by a bald eagle perched atop an iceberg.

I was previously a cruise skeptic, but the easy days on board a Princess ship convinced me to see the light at sea.

"A view of Mount Rainier as you leave Seattle on an Alaskan Cruise"

Leaving for a Princess cruise from Seattle

As I ducked out of the Uber and rolled my suitcase directly up the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91 in Seattle (a 15-minute drive from my house), I channeled my best Kate Winslet boarding the Titanic: Someone follow me with my trunk, I can grab the hatbox.

The food writer Fuchsia Dunlop describes certain Chinese foods as having “high grapple factor,” and I’m stealing that to describe my vacation style. My trips usually end up with four hotel switches in as many nights or me dragging my kids up the 17th switchback of what I’d promised would be a short walk. I’ve always tossed “easy” to the sharks, focusing on finding the best experiences without busting my budget – first as a backpacker, then with confidence that my kids could hang on the subways of Mexico City or bite into street food tours in Thessaloniki.

This trip, for once, I reversed course, sailing north armed with full-sized bottles of sunscreen and conditioner, thriving with unlimited allowances of liquids and luggage.

"Luggage waiting to be loaded onto a Princess cruise ship, going from Seattle to Alaska"

What to pack for an Alaskan cruise

Princess cruises run from late spring to early fall, and the temperatures can range depending on the time of year you go. Pack comfortable activewear and different layers so you can adjust your wardrobe as needed. Early summer in Alaska can be chilly with a little bit of rain (especially the first port in Juneau, when it poured most of the day on my trip). While the mid-50s temperatures and wind kept us from using the pools more, it felt appropriate for Alaska.

"Alaskan cruise ship with a swimming pool on deck"

Accessories like a hat, sunglasses and gloves should also be on the packing list . And keep in mind your cruise may have formal dinners with a dress code — think cocktail dresses for women and suits for men.

Nature enthusiasts wanting to take advantage of excursions and scenic hikes will likely want to bring along a backpack, collapsible hiking poles and rain cover.

"Stunning mountain and water views on an Alaskan cruise for Seattle families"

Whether you’re watching glaciers from your room’s balcony or out on an excursion, you’ll also want a camera at the ready.

"Glacier views from Alaskan cruise ship"

Alaskan cruise food and other surprises

Once on board the cruise ship, certain parts of the journey met my expectations precisely – the food sadly fit the cruise-ship-buffet stereotype and the ‘80s themed dance parties were just as delightfully absurd as hoped.

Other parts absolutely blew me away. The comfortable bed gently swaying in the waves obliterated my insomnia. I listened raptly to the naturalist and, following his advice, spotted seemingly endless numbers of whales. But most surprising of all was the freedom and excitement the ship set-up offered kids, which showed me what other parents clearly figured out long before that there is an easier way to do this.

"A whale surfaces on the water during an Alaskan cruise"

While I eyed the food dubiously, I watched kids attack the pan-loads of chicken nuggets and slabs of macaroni and cheese with ferocity. Not only did the buffet offer unlimited quantities of kid favorites, my personal favorite eatery on the ship also appealed to them: Swirls, where soft serve ice cream snaked out in unlimited quantities, its pace unfettered by rain and chilly temperatures. While I’m hopeful one of the 500 kids on our ship ate a vegetable at some point in the week, I can’t be confident.

"Two kids sitting on Alaskan cruise ship steps eating soft serve ice cream"

Alaskan Princess cruise kids clubs and activities

Beyond the low-hanging fruit of kid-foods (and I do think I saw one eat some fruit!), the youth of the ship found similar freedom in other facets of the ship. “I’m going to the kids club,” a 12-year-old girl said to her mother on our second afternoon. Her mom smiled her approval, then turned to me and added, “She can’t wander the streets of Austin alone, but here, she can just take off.”

Not only does the ship limit how far away her daughter could get, the quarter-sized “medallions” that act as room key and payment device have a location tracker that adults can turn on and off, but kids can’t. “It’s amazing,” said the mom of the freedom this offered both her and her daughter.

By the second day, most of the kids on board had transferred their medallions to the beaded lanyard necklaces they crafted in one of the ship’s three kids clubs. The first club, for 3- to 7-year-olds, required parents to sign children in and out and take a pager that allowed staff to contact them if needed. A second room for 8- to 12-year-olds was home to some wildly ferocious PlayStation battles. There, parents could choose if the child was allowed to sign themselves in and out. The third room, complete with DJ station, was as much a clubhouse as a care facility.

"Kids playing a game in a kids club onboard a Princess cruise ship in Alaska"

More than once I saw teenagers sitting in the hallway, impatiently waiting for it to open up so they could play skee-ball or air hockey with their friends. The kids clubs mostly run between meals. “We found families want to eat together,” explained the ship’s entertainment director. On the other hand, one of the girls quickly made a friend and the pair seized their newfound freedom to hit the on-board Irish pub one evening, allowing their mom to have an adult dinner.

Alaskan cruise on-board activities for families

While I heard many kids checking in with their parents before slipping off to teen dance parties, the on-board activities often appealed across generations — none more so than “Puppies in the Piazza.” The interview with an Iditarod racer and introduction of 6-week-old future sled dog puppies was certainly the highlight of my week, even if sweet Ruby slept through the whole thing, so we never got to see the mismatched eyes her minder described.

"Person holding a puppy during a cruise ship activity on Princess Alaskan cruises"

“Can you keep the puppies?” a 7-year-old girl asked her mom. She and her family also took an excursion to see sled dogs when the ship stopped in Skagway, during which one of the adorable pups peed on her brother’s jacket. When I asked her 10-year-old brother his favorite part of the trip, he immediately responded that it was still the puppies. And, again, things are easy here: Each deck of the ship has its own self-service laundromat, where they could clean the jacket up quickly.

The kids' activities allowed for breaks and a generous amount of space for the family of four otherwise squished into a single stateroom – their mom admitted to hitting her head a few times on the kids’ bunk beds, which pulled down from the ceiling.

"Kids bunk beds pull down from the ceiling in a Princess Cruise state room"

Alaska cruise excursions

In addition to on-board activities, I also went on a number of excursions, some better than others. I really enjoyed my float through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, which I did from Skagway. The wildlife safari with a beach barbecue in Ketchikan was amazing because — though this wasn't in the description — the barbecue was hosted by residents of the small island, who casually chatted with me about their lives.

"two kids staring at the water in Alaska on a cruise ship excursion"

Benefits and drawbacks of an Alaskan cruise for families

It’s helpful that the kids clubs are completely free to all families on board, because the biggest downside of the cruise, for me, was the constant attempts to separate guests from their money. Cruising makes everything easy, as long as thinking about how much you’re paying for everything doesn’t make you too uncomfortable.

We would go to a show, and it would turn out to be a pitch for an excursion at a later port. The best food on board, Gigi’s Pizzeria, has a small upcharge, the “fancy” ice creams a slightly larger one. Even with the “Princess Premier” package, which included both of those, along with all the internet we could want, crew gratuities, endless drinks, and a slew of other benefits, it felt like a constant battle to avoid accidentally agreeing to an additional expense.

Which is too bad, because the aside from the ease of traveling straight from home, best parts of the trip cost absolutely nothing extra: sharing the excitement of a whale’s splash with everyone on the top deck, admiring the adorable otters floating by on their backs from a window seat in the dining room, and marveling at the majestic glaciers glinting in the northern sun while cozied into a blanket on my balcony.

Editor’s note: This trip was hosted by Princess Cruises , but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.

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About the author.

Naomi Tomky

Award-winning food and travel writer Naomi Tomky uses her unrelenting enthusiasm for eating everything to propel herself around the world. Her work appears in publications such as Saveur, Food & Wine, and Vogue, as well as the anthology Best Food Writing 2017. Find more of her delicious adventures at www.naomitomky.com and on Twitter (@gastrognome).

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alaska cruise map

What to Expect: My Princess Alaska Cruise Review from Seattle

W e’ve just set sail and I’m typing this while onboard my very first Princess Cruise. I’ve been on many other Alaska cruises so I’m writing this guide for you about my Princess Alaska cruise to help you know what you can expect.

What’s Included in this post:

  • Tips for Sailing from Seattle
  • Onboarding & My Room
  • Premier Package & Specialty Dining Reviews (including Caymus Winemakers & 360)
  • My Shore Excursion Recaps from Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan

Our Itinerary – Discovery Princess (June 2024)

  • Glacier Bay
  • Victoria, BC

Sailing from Seattle

We’re local to Seattle, and so just drove down to Pier 91 to board the Discovery Princess . Our boarding time was 10:30 am to 2:00 pm. All passengers needed to be onboard by 2:00 pm for a 3:00 pm departure. If you’re a non-local, here are a few things to note about sailing Princess from Seattle.

  • Pier 91 is about 3 miles north of the downtown Seattle corridor. So, if you’re planning to visit the city beforehand, you’ll need to use rideshare, taxi, or shuttle to get to the cruise port from the main tourist area downtown. It’ll take you about 10-15 minutes to travel by car from downtown to Pier 91.
  • If you want to stay a day beforehand to tour the city, my favorite downtown hotels near popular attractions are the Thompson Hotel, Inn at the Market, and Four Seasons Seattle. The Westin Seattle and Motif Seattle might be slightly more price friendly and are close to the monorail, but further from Pike Place Market and the waterfront. The monorail can take you from downtown to the Seattle Center district where the Space Needle and other popular attractions are located.

Onboarding with Princess

When we arrived at Pier 91, we were able to be dropped off right by the cruise ships. There were two ships in port, a Holland America Line ship and our Discovery Princess cruise ship. There were bag tags available for those who hadn’t printed them in advance and a long line for bag drop and check-in.

There was a separate, shorter, line for those with no bag drop who were carrying on their bags (which we did). Although the bag drop check-in line was extremely long, it seemed to be moving quickly. It can be chilly and windy waiting outdoors for the bag drop line to move indoors, so be sure to have a jacket handy.

From the time of drop off until we were onboard was probably only 40 minutes when we boarded around noon. Everything moved extremely smoothly. We had checked in via the app in advance and so simply scanned our check-in app QR code and showed our passport at the first step.

Next, we had to go to the blue lane to get our Princess Medallions since we missed the shipping date. I HIGHLY recommend you download the app and check-in as soon as you’re able (at least more than 14 days before) and have your medallion shipped to you to save time.

Plus, you have the opportunity to personalize your medallion with special occasions and celebrations and preorder medallion accessories if you want. If you check-in early enough you can skip the blue lane and go to the green lane which had no line and was simply an ID and photo check point before heading on the ship.

Since we had missed the medallion shipping date, we went to the blue lane, which honestly moved extremely quickly and so it wasn’t a huge issue. We had our passports checked again and received our medallions which had our names and sailing date listed on them, which was very nice. The whole process was smooth and moved quickly. Getting 4000 passengers onboard a ship at a single point of entry could be a logistical nightmare but we were very impressed with how smoothly it all went.

We got onboard and headed to our room which was actually ready! They say that rooms aren’t guaranteed ready until 1 pm, but ours was. So we dropped our bags and headed to the buffet to get a little bite to eat. If you don’t want to eat at the buffet, make sure you board early and can make it to the restaurant before 1 pm.

Day 1 is a busy day! We had to confirm and make dining reservations and soon we were setting sail with a windy music sail away party happening on decks 16 & 17 at the pool. I also highly recommend if you want to enjoy the private Sanctuary retreat space (added cost) make sure to go book that on day 1.

Our Balcony Stateroom L129

Since I was hosted on this cruise, I didn’t choose our cabin, it was simply assigned to us. We were booked in a Category BF – Balcony Stateroom (Guarantee) and were assigned a room on deck 16, the Lido deck, towards the front of the ship. Since I’ve never sailed Princess, I wasn’t sure what to expect from our room; a balcony stateroom number L129.

Initial impressions: I was shocked we didn’t have a sitting/couch area in our balcony stateroom. Our room is simply a queen bed with a desk, one chair, and a mini-fridge cabinet. We did have a very spacious open closet space that is right next to the bathroom. The bathroom doesn’t have an enclosed shower, which is a first for me on a cruise ship.

Space wise, it’s fine for two people, however I miss having a couch and sitting area. The closet had ample hangers which I appreciated and there is a small shelf cabinet in the closet that worked well for my packing cubes. I unpacked, hung some items, left others in my packing cubes, then simply slid my suitcase under the bed.

The bathroom seemed small compared to what I recall from other cruises. I have a slender build and felt I had to keep the bathroom door open when drying off and getting ready simply to have room to move and breathe.

I was worried about being on the busy Lido deck 16, the same deck as the pool and buffet. However, the forward rooms on these decks are nicely separated and due to the fact that there is no forward stairs or elevators in front of the rooms, it hasn’t been an issue with excessive noise and foot traffic.

Personally, I’d avoid the L301 and L302 rooms in this section near the elevators as there is a lot of activity in this area. Also it’s worth noting that deck 17 overhung our deck, so many of my photos looking out from our balcony do show a white floor above us. You can see this in the image with my conclusion paragraph at the end of this post.

Being on the right (starboard) side of the ship was fine most of the time, however, in Glacier Bay we did hear the park ranger mentioning the left (port) side to see some of the sights. The ship does turn and pass all the spots again, you just don’t have the ranger audio commentary.

Thankfully when you reach the end of Glacier Bay and view Margerie Glacier, the ship spins a few times so that both sides of the ship can see the famous glacier.

The Discovery Princess Ship

I was a bit surprised to discover that this ship can carry about 4300 guests, for our sailing I was told it was at 4003 guests, which seems like a lot! The ship was built in 2022, and still feels nice and new.

The layout of the ship is a little odd and not as free flowing as I’m used to on other ships. You’ll occasionally find elevators hidden behind walls and getting to a restaurant on the back of deck 5 means you have to go up to deck 6 to cross to it as you can’t cut through another restaurant on deck 5. It just wasn’t as free flowing and easy to orient myself as I’ve experienced before.

Discovery Princess does have a great three floor midship atrium where you’ll find shopping, bars, and dining. Plus, this open area is where many of the entertainment competitions and mini-shows take place. There is some seating on all levels around this space and many people would stand at the overlooking edges on decks 6 and 7 to watch the performances happening on deck 5.

One of my favorite spaces I discovered is the Retreat and Sanctuary on decks 17 and 18. The retreat is an adults-only pool, two hot tubs, and lounge space. This leads to the Sanctuary space which is a paid for private lounge deck with glass viewing over the front of the ship.

You have to reserve access to the sanctuary in advance for $20 for half a day and $40 for the full day, or rent a cabana with a tv and mini-fridge for a varying price. When we asked if we could book a day they were already sold out. So, if you think you’ll want some lounge time in a quiet area with a view, book a spot in the Sanctuary right when you board.

Princess is soon debuting a Sanctuary Collection package that will be included with some upgraded stateroom fares. It will launch on the Sun and Star Princess ships in Fall 2025.

Our Premier Package

We did have the Princess Premier Package (an added $80 per day per guest) as part of our booking which includes a few extra amenities:

  • WiFi 4 devices per guest – text, share, stream and video chat with the best Wi-Fi at sea
  • Premium Drinks, Bottled Water, Specialty Coffee, and Juice Bar – Top-shelf spirits and craft cocktails up to $20 each, in addition to what’s included with Princess Plus
  • Pre-paid crew appreciation (tips) – this is included in Plus packages as well
  • Professional photos included – unlimited downloads and three printed images
  • 2 Specialty meals included (per sailing) – dine at one of three specialty restaurants on the Discovery; Crown Grill (steak & seafood), Catch by Rudi (seafood), Sabatini’s (italian).
  • Unlimited dining at casual restaurants: Gigi’s Pizzaria, Ocean Terrace Sushi Bar, Salty Dog Gastro Pub, Gelato
  • Unlimited premium desserts at Gelateria, Swirls or Coffee and Cones
  • OceanNow® (delivery anywhere onboard) fee waived – order drinks and food on the app and it will find you anywhere on board
  • Unlimited Room Service
  • Unlimited Fitness Classes: Classes by Xpotential: Pure Barre, Yoga Six and Stretch Lab
  • Reserved Theater Seating (we really LOVED this perk!)
  • Princess Prizes – during casino hours, win prizes like wine tasting, onboard credit and more (we didn’t really understand or experience this perk)
  • Blue Medallion Clip On

Having the Premier package truly gives you more of an all-inclusive feel. You’re allowed to eat and order whatever you want at the extra dining spots. You have access to the top label alcoholic drinks, for example I could order a $19 glass of Pinot Noir where the Plus package was limited to a $15 glass.

My husband and I are both heavy internet users and thought the Princess WiFi was truly the best we’ve ever experienced. We could facetime with our kids and even streamed a couple of hockey games while onboard! I was easily able to download shows from my streaming accounts as well.

And we loved the reserved theater seating since some people would show up an hour before showtime to start getting good seats!

There are three main restaurants onboard, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway that are open for dinner; and for our cruise, Ketchikan was open for breakfast and lunch as well. In addition to those there is a World Market buffet, Salty Dog Pub, and Gigi’s Pizzaria. 

Discovery Princess has added fee restaurants as well if you want a smaller, upscale dining experience. There is the Crown Grill steakhouse, Catch by Rudi seafood, and Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria. We also had the chance to experience two limited dining experiences, The Caymus Winemaker’s Dinner and 360 Dining Experience 7-course tasting.

I’ll be honest that we found the food in the main restaurants pretty standard for a large cruise ship. Everything was good, but not extraordinary. We enjoyed the meals but felt they were a little under-seasoned and the fish was repeatedly overcooked.

However, the specialty dining restaurants were a better experience. Which makes sense as the main dining rooms need to feed around 4000 guests and the specialty restaurants are only feeding a small seating of maybe 20 tables during the night. I’ll say that the 360 dinner was one of the absolute best experiences I’ve ever had onboard a ship, and I highly recommend you splurge on it if you enjoy experiential dining experiences.

The Caymus Winemaker’s Dinner

I was told in advance to request the winemaker’s dinner experience and so I did on day 1. It isn’t a set scheduled event, so we had to wait to be told when our dining experience would happen. There was no publicity about this meal while onboard. It seems to be arranged by request or offered to guests who speak with the sommelier and show an interest in wine. I was told that it typically happens twice per cruise.

You’ll meet in the atrium and be escorted to a private table inside one of the main restaurants. For our seating we had 10 guests, which were 5 couples. We had a host and sommelier for the night and we ate and drank through 6 courses. The couples chatted during the meal and the sommelier shared information about the Caymus family of wines and their history.

The food was tasty and very unique; it was a great break from the standard main dining experience and the wine pours were generous and truly paired well with each dish. I’ll mention that the ship also did an AMAZING job accommodating Paul’s pescatarian diet and my sensitivity to mushrooms, including creating different plates for each of us at this meal when the dish included meat or mushrooms.

If you’re a person who enjoys private dining experiences and wine, this would be an excellent splurge for the cruise – just make sure to talk to the dining team on day 1 to arrange.

360: An Extraordinary Experience

If you only want to splurge on one upgraded dining experience while sailing with Princess, 360 is the one I would recommend. Beyond the food being wonderful, the whole evening was unique and truly experiential.

You’ll meet in the atrium where you’ll be served a cocktail and have a photo taken against the 360 Princess Cruises backdrop, then you’re led into the back kitchen area of Catch by Rudi to a hidden room with a circular table that seats 20 guests.

The evening starts with a host greeting you and starting the story by grabbing a journal from the wall. Then Brooke Shields takes you on a travel journey around Europe tasting and drinking through a 7-course meal.

The lighting and table effects, the private servers for each couple, the energetic host, and the amazing makers storytelling videos immerse you in the food and drink you’ll consume. We loved it and so did the couples sitting around us!

Entertainment & Shows

There are a lot of activities happening on the ship to engage guests. Each day you’ll check the app or the daily sheet left the night before to find out times of activities. Paul and I were both surprised at how it seemed there were quite a few announcements made over the speakers through the day about events and activities.

There were maybe three a day? Compared to Norwegian where it seems there’s only one a day, it’s something to keep in mind if that’s something you want or don’t. The announcements do not get broadcast in your rooms.

Some of the events were things like egg dropping contests, paper plane flying challenge, music trivia, group workouts, art auctions, bingo, as well as skin and shopping events each day at the spa and shops.

The main theater had a show each night that featured two stage shows during the week and the other nights were acts like comedians, singers, and magicians.

The bars all had live music each evening, with the same performers each night but with different set lists. We felt the first stage show we attended was pretty good, not Broadway level but definitely enjoyable. The reserved seating for Premier guests was a useful perk.

TIP: if you know you want to watch a lot of the main theater shows, make sure you plan your dining accordingly. Paul and I often had dining times around 7 pm, which meant we had to go to the 9:30pm late show (first show is at 7:30 pm) and sometimes we were too tired to go after a busy day out. :)

Paul and I felt like there were a lot of things you could do, although some of the activities seemed to be somewhat aimed at selling you something. But overall, if you’re the type who doesn’t want to hang out in your room and love to pop into things, Princess seems to really try to have some kind of fun activity happening throughout the day.

Lotus Spa & Enclave

After having a few spa services on cruises, I’ve decided it might just not be my thing. I feel that you’re either pushed in and out quickly, which was my facial experience on Princess, or a big chunk of your treatment time is spent trying to upsell you on other services or products, which was my recent facial experience with Holland.

I did get a day pass for the spa Enclave area which is a special water therapy area not included in spa services. I believe the rate is around $49 a day. I’ve tried one of these areas before on the Norwegian Bliss ship, so was looking forward to checking this out.

Enclave has a large center jacuzzi pool with special jet areas around the pool. There are heated tile lounge benches throughout the edges of the space. And there are three heat therapy rooms as well as some water therapy cold/hot showers.

I visited in the late morning one day and didn’t feel the space was overcrowded, but did feel like my two hours was plenty of time. I tried each of the rooms and relaxed on a heated bench to read a few times. The space isn’t overly large so could easily get crowded.

Shore Excursions and Ports of Call

I’ve been on quite a few Alaska cruises, as I’ve mentioned, and shore excursions are extremely popular with guests. I recommend booking early! Some popular excursions sell out months in advance. And most shore excursions happen rain or shine, so be prepared to pack accordingly.

One thing to note, if you’re not interested in any of the excursions or activities, the ships become extremely empty during port calls. You’ll find the pools, hot tubs, and restaurants clear and quiet, so keep that in mind if you’re just looking to relax. Of course, you’ll have to count on good weather to get people off the ship and to make you want to spend time in the pool or hot tub. :)

My Juneau Excursion:

Alaska’s Whales & Mendenhall Glacier Trail: Small-Group Experience

The most popular activities in Juneau are seeing Mendenhall Glacier and whale-watching. I’ve done bus transfers to Mendenhall, rented a Jeep to self-tour around the sites, and on this trip I finally did a whale-watching trip.

Our small group tour was two groups of 20 people and we were separated onto small shuttle buses that took us on a drive of about 15 minutes to the port where we boarded a small boat at a marina. There was time to quickly use the bathrooms which were at the marina and do get busy.

The boat had an interior closed cabin with bench seating that just fit all 20 of us. There was a small front and back deck where we could go out when we weren’t moving. Plus the window walls of the interior of the boat could be pulled up and locked into place to allow the whole interior cabin to have open viewing.

We headed out onto the water and after traveling for about 15 minutes we came upon our first pod of humpback whales. There were quite a few of them feeding, and we even had the opportunity to see bubble net feeding, which is pretty rare!

In addition to the many seagulls flying over the feeding whales, we also spotted a bald eagle. I really wished I had my DSLR camera with a strong zoom lens as my iPhone photos just couldn’t capture the amazing details and size of these creatures.

If this is a bucket list trip experience for you, I HIGHLY recommend you bring a good zoom camera. There are point and shoot cameras for reasonable prices that would work well. I’d recommend something with a high optical zoom like the Panasonic FZ80 series or a Canon Powershot like the SX740 .

After spending a bit of time with that group of whales, we left again to look for more and passed a group of five Steller Sea Lions hanging out on an ocean buoy. We soon found another group of humpback whales that were feeding and shooting their breathing mists high. We spent another few minutes with this pod and then had to head back to the marina.

Once in the marina, we boarded our shuttle again to go to a bus parking area for Mendenhall where we split into two groups of ten. Our guide led us through a short hike through the woods, sharing some of the local fauna, and we ended up at a beach across from Mendenhall Glacier.

This was the first time I ever viewed the glacier from the vantage as I’ve always visited it from the main visitors entrance and done the hike to the waterfall near the glacier. So, just know that this visit to the glacier is simply a visual stop and not the standard visitor’s center experience.

We headed back to the bus and we passed over a creek that does get salmon running in it, although not this time but we did see them in August 2022. This time we spotted a porcupine high in the trees!

Our bus driver offered to drop us in the main area of Juneau for shopping, but the original drop off point is just slightly down from downtown at the dock. It’s only about a 10 minute walk along the dock. When we cruised on the Norwegian Bliss we docked farther away at the A1 dock which is a mile away from downtown. Our Holland America ships have always ported at the main docks in port.

Our Skagway Excursion

Sip & Summit: White Pass Scenic Rail & Skagway Brewing Company

The most notable excursion in Skagway is the White Pass Scenic Railway. This is a historic train route and even some of the cars and engine are historically important. The purpose was for trade and moving products to the Canadian border. The train only operates during the peak summer season, so be sure you check the dates if you’re traveling in the shoulder season.

For our excursion it included more than just the train, and we started our day meeting in a parking lot after tendering to shore from the ship. Recent landslides have made tendering and shuttling mandatory for some larger ships.

A large tour bus soon came to the parking lot and we loaded onto it with guests who seemed to be from another pier – a Holland ship. The bus took us to an overlook viewpoint where we were able to see the town as well as the cruise ships in port. Then we traveled back to town and were dropped off at Skagway Brewing Company in town.

Our group had a private seating area on the patio of the pub and we were all served a flight of beers and a pretzel with beer cheese. The manager came to each of our tables to chat for a few minutes, and there was plenty of time for us to enjoy our beer tasting as well as the chance to shop in their gift shop. One of the big features for this brewery is their Spruce Tip Ale which was their first beer made with Sitka Spruce tree tips which contain vitamin C to help prevent scurvy.

After the brewery we loaded back on the bus and were driven a short distance to a parking lot near the train where we were assigned a train car for our group. We had researched in advance and knew the right side of the car was best; however, the train does turn around at the top and everyone stays in their same seats, so the left side of the car will see the sites coming back down the mountain.

There are about 10 rows of seats, fitting two people in each bench seat on each side. So a train car probably holds about 40 people. There is a bathroom in each car, and there are very small viewing platforms on each side of the train car, which you’re allowed to access if the conductor feel it’s safe. The trip will take about two and a half to three hours.

If you happen to get a clear weather day, this excursion is amazing. The views are unbelievable and you truly appreciate the challenge of mining and trade in this region. I will say that it can be a little unsettling if you’re afraid of heights as you’re often on train tracks right next to gorges; so keep that in mind if you don’t like heights. You’ll be given a route map on the train and it will help you keep track of the main sights along the way.

Glacier Bay National Park

While not a cruise excursion, I did want to mention our stop in Glacier Bay as it’s one of the main draws for many cruisers. Some cruise ships and itineraries do not go to Glacier Bay since there is a permit limit each year. So if you really to visit this National Park, be sure to pick a cruise itinerary that has Glacier Bay included.

Glacier Bay is typically a one-day special experience. You’ll sail into the bay early in the morning and a couple of National Park Rangers will board the ship at the mouth of the bay. Throughout the day you’ll cruise up the bay to the end and the featured site of Margerie Glacier. The rangers will give audio commentary about sights along the way, and there are typically education events onboard including Junior Ranger badge programs.

Whether the weather will give you a clear blue sky day or a cloudy, rainy mess, is anyone’s guess. Keep in mind that the whole bay is gorgeous and it’s worth spending some time enjoying the views on one of the decks while cruising the bay. This would be a perfect day to reserve time in the Sanctuary.

Our Ketchikan Fishing Excursion

Alaska Fishing & Wilderness Dining – Discovery Exclusive

I actually did this exact excursion with my daughter Mia on our Holland Alaska Cruise, and we loved it so much I knew I had to book it for Paul, too. You’ll meet up on shore with a guide from Baranof Fishing and be led to their pier spot to have your fishing licenses checked or purchased.

With Holland we didn’t have any info to buy a license in advance; however, Princess did a great job having a sheet in our room upon boarding telling us what to do. So when we got to the pier we were able to just print off our licenses, meaning we got onboard a boat quicker.

Our guide took us out to one of his favorite spots to start fishing for rockfish. When I went with Mia in August, we were on a six-person open skift boat, but this time there were five of us on a small boat with a small cabin and back deck for fishing. They’ll loan you boots for the trip, and depending on weather they may give you waders. I can’t recall if they have coats for loan, but I wouldn’t count on it.

We had to chase the rockfish quite a bit this time, whereas when I fished with Mia, we all immediately got two fish each when we dropped our hooks down. So it was kind of fun having two different experiences. We also caught a few different types of rockfish, with Paul catching a tiger rockfish which had to be returned and I caught a fair sized yelloweye rockfish which we kept for lunch!

After we all caught a couple of rockfish, we headed to a different spot to go for salmon. With rockfish, we all were dropping lines into the water, whereas for salmon you’ll troll fish and have to watch rods for bites, then someone has to grab the rod and hope to reel in a fish. Salmon can be tricky and we have had a few pop off the hook when we’d try to reel them in. But in the end we came away with a lovely Pink Salmon to keep while we had to let a King Salmon go since it was too small.

With our fish onboard, we headed to a private island for some lunch. You’ll be brought ashore; keep in mind that you have to hop off the boat into very shallow water to go ashore, so you’ll need to be a little nimble. But they have a step stool and will help you get on and off the boat.

Onshore there is a campfire going and you can help yourself to fireside coffee in pitchers or use hot water to have some hot chocolate. Your guide will clean your fish and hand them off to the chef who will prepare the fish with amazing seasonings and a cioppino tomato soup. Our salmon was prepared with teriyaki sauce on a cedar plank board and it was all tasty. There was also blueberry cobbler for dessert. We finished eating and headed back to our boat to go back to the cruise ship.

Keep in mind, you’ll be fishing and sitting by a campfire; so consider packing a special outfit and/or jacket for this excursion. Or plan on having some laundry done on the ship; perhaps even pack some travel febreeze , hand wipes and sanitizer.

What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

Be sure to read my Alaska Cruise Packing List post which includes a free printable packing list! A few important notes:

  • Pack layers for clothes, weather can vary and wind and rain are a reality just as much as sunny 70 degree days. A good flannel, fleece, puffer, and raincoat could be ideal for varying weather.
  • Pack shoes that will accomodate your various excursions and dress, i.e. walking, hiking, or formal night.
  • Pack a pair of good binoculars – we had a cheap pair and they were worthless.
  • Pack some playing cards or travel board games if that’s your lounge style.
  • Don’t forget a day pack for shore excursions.

Taking a cruise to Alaska is definitely something I’d recommend. Things to keep in mind is that bigger ships might not be able to port right at the pier and you’ll have to tender or shuttle ashore. Itineraries matter and you should carefully look at the ports of call as well as the amount of time in each port of call which choosing your line.

This was my first Princess Cruise and I loved the medallion “key” technology as well as the great WiFi at sea. The specialty dining experiences were better than the main dining and the 360 dining experience is something I’d recommend to all my friends. Princess cruise staff onboard were all kind and helpful, from the servers in the buffet to the room stewards.

The ship size was bigger than I expected and did come with some extra lines for getting off and on at cruise ports. While I didn’t love the layout, overall it was a gorgeous ship and I did enjoy all the different venues and lounge seating areas. There weren’t a lot of “active” areas onboard like a ropes course or waterslide, but that might have been what helped keep the family quotient lower and as a traveling couple, that was enjoyable.

I asked two different couples that mentioned they had sailed 10+ times with Princess why the loved it so much, and both gave me the same response: because they know what to expect. So, if consistency is something that appeals to you, it certainly seems like Princess might be a great line for you to cruise.

We’ve just set sail and I’m typing this while onboard my very first Princess Cruise. I’ve been on many other Alaska cruises so I’m writing this guide for you about my Princess Alaska cruise to help you know what you can expect. What’s Included in this post: Our Itinerary – Discovery Princess (June 2024) Sailing …

Alaska’s capital, with a population of 32,000, could ban cruise ships on Saturdays as tourists can spike to 18,000 a day

cruise ship docked at port

Each year,  a crush of tourists  arrives in Alaska’s capital city on cruise ships to see wonders like the  fast-diminishing Mendenhall Glacier . Now, long-simmering tensions over Juneau’s tourism boom are coming to a head over a new voter initiative aimed at giving residents a respite from the influx.

A measure that would ban cruise ships with 250 or more passengers from docking in Juneau on Saturdays qualified for the Oct. 1 municipal ballot, setting the stage for a debate about how much tourism is too much in a city that is experiencing first-hand the impacts of climate change. The measure would also ban ships on July 4, a day when locals flock to a downtown parade.

The “ship-free Saturdays” initiative that qualified this week will go to voters unless the local Assembly enacts a similar measure by Aug. 15, which is seen as unlikely.

Juneau, accessible only by water or air, is home to the Mendenhall Glacier, a major draw for the cruise passengers who arrive on multi-story ships towering over parts of the modest downtown skyline. Many residents of this city of about 32,000 have concerns about increased traffic, congested trails and the frequent buzz of sight-seeing helicopters transporting visitors to the Mendenhall and other glaciers.

Deborah Craig, who has lived in Juneau for decades, supports ship-free Saturdays. Craig, who lives across the channel from where the ships dock, often hears their early-morning fog horns and broadcast announcements made to passengers that are audible across the water.

The current “overwhelming” number of visitors diminishes what residents love so much about Juneau, she said.

“It’s about preserving the lifestyle that keeps us in Juneau, which is about clean air, clean water, pristine environment and easy access to trails, easy access to water sports and nature,” she said of the initiative.

“There’s this perception that some people are not welcoming of tourists, and that’s not the case at all,” Craig said. “It’s about volume. It’s about too much — too many in a short period of time overwhelming a small community.”

The current cruise season runs from early April to late October.

Opponents of the initiative say limiting dockings will hurt local businesses that rely heavily on tourism and could invite lawsuits. A  voter-approved limit on cruise passenger numbers in Bar Harbor, Maine, another community with a significant tourism economy, was challenged in federal court.

Laura McDonnell, a business leader who owns Caribou Crossings, a gift shop in Juneau’s downtown tourist core, said she makes 98% of her annual revenue during the summer season.

Tourism is about all the “local businesses that rely on cruise passengers and our place in the community,” said McDonnell, who is involved in Protect Juneau’s Future, which opposes the initiative.

Some schools recently closed due to factors including declining enrollment, while the regional economy faces challenges, she said.

“I think that as a community, we really need to look at what’s at stake for our economy,” she said. “We are not in a position to be shrinking our economy.”

The cruise industry accounted for $375 million in direct spending in Juneau in 2023, most of that attributable to spending by passengers, according to a report prepared for the city by McKinley Research Group LLC.

After a two-year pandemic lull, cruise passenger numbers rose sharply in Juneau, hitting a record of more than 1.6 million in 2023. Under this year’s schedule, Sept. 21 will be the first day since early May with no large ships in town.

The tourism debate is polarizing, and the city has been trying to find a middle ground, said Alexandra Pierce, Juneau’s visitor industry director. But she noted there also needs to be a regional solution.

If the Juneau initiative passes, it will impact other, smaller communities in southeast Alaska because the ships, generally on trips originating in Seattle or Vancouver, Canada, will have to go somewhere if they can’t dock in Juneau on Saturdays, she said.

Some residents in Sitka, south of Juneau, are in the early stages of trying to limit cruise visitation to that small, island community, which is near a volcano.

Juneau and major cruise lines, including Carnival Corp., Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Group, agreed to a limit of five large ships a day, which took effect this year. They more recently  signed a pact , set to take effect in 2026, seeking a daily limit of 16,000 cruise passengers Sundays through Fridays and 12,000 on Saturdays.

Pierce said the overall goal is to keep total cruise passenger visitation around 1.6 million, and to even out daily numbers of visitors that can spike to about 18,000 on the busiest days. Peak days in the past have felt “a bit suffocating,” she said. Juneau traditionally has been the most popular cruise port in the state.

A number of projects around Juneau are expected to help make existing cruise numbers feel less impactful. Those include plans for a gondola at the city-owned ski area and increased visitor capacity at the Mendenhall Glacier recreation area, she said.

Renée Limoge Reeve, vice president of government and community relations for the trade group Cruise Lines International Association Alaska, said the agreements signed with the city were the first of their kind in Alaska.

The best strategy is “ongoing, direct dialogue with local communities” and working together in a way that also provides a predictable source of income for local businesses, she said.

Protect Juneau’s Future, led by local business leaders, said the success of the ballot measure would mean a loss of sales tax revenue and millions of dollars in direct spending by cruise passengers. The group was confident voters would reject the measure, its steering committee said in a statement.

Karla Hart, a sponsor of the initiative and frequent critic of the cruise industry, said the threat of litigation has kept communities from taking steps to limit cruise numbers in the past. She was heartened by legal wins this year in the ongoing fight over the measure passed in Bar Harbor, a popular destination near Maine’s Acadia National Park.

She believes the Juneau initiative will pass.

“Every single person who is going to vote has a lived experience and knowledge of how the cruise industry impacts their lives,” she said.

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  1. Alaska Cruise Routes

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    Hubbard Glacier. Hubbard Glacier. Cruise from Vancouver to Hubbard Glacier aboard Celebrity Solstice, an Alaska cruise route that introduces you to the Last Frontier's boundless beauty as you sail through the Inside Passage to destinations such as Juneau, Ketchikan, and Icy Strait Point. Whale-watching in Alaska.

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    Map Skip to main content. Princess Cruises - come back new® Language ... Alaska Asia Australia & New Zealand California & Pacific Coast Canada & New England Caribbean Europe ... Get Ready for Your Cruise.

  17. Best Alaska Cruises 2024-2025

    Discover Alaska with Princess in 2024-2025. The best cruise line in Alaska just keeps getting better! From top-rated cruises that visit Glacier Bay National Park to scenic rail travel and exclusive Princess lodges, you will find a seamless Alaska experience with Princess. Learn More.

  18. Alaska Cruise: Award-Winning Alaskan Cruise

    Why Cruise to Alaska with Celebrity Cruises. Live life to the fullest on a Alaska cruise with Celebrity. We have three ships in Alaska, sailing itineraries ranging from 6 or 7 nights to immersive 9- to 13-night Cruisetours that combine the excitement of sailing Alaska's rugged coast with the awe-inspiring wilderness of Denali National Park and the towns and cities of the vast interior.

  19. Alaska Cruises

    Or small ships like UnCruise and Discovery Voyages. And here are three mistakes not to make: Make sure you're aware of the small ship option—most people aren't. Know what you're missing if you take an Inside Passage-only itinerary. Don't fall for pricing gimmicks, because most agents sell the cruise for the same price.

  20. 7 Night Alaska Experience Cruise

    The 7 Night Alaska Experience Cruise visits Seattle, Washington; Juneau, Alaska; Skagway, Alaska; Sitka, Alaska; Victoria, British Columbia; Seattle, Washington. Explore our cruise itineraries and choose from a variety of rooms depending on your needs and budget. Start planning your next cruise vacation by selecting a destination and departure port.

  21. Cruise Ship Tracker, Itineraries, Schedules, Deck Plans

    CruiseMapper provides free cruise tracking, current ship positions, itinerary schedules, deck plans, cabins, accidents and incidents ('cruise minus') reports, cruise news

  22. Hubbard Glacier (Alaska) cruise port schedule

    Hubbard Glacier cruise port schedule 2024-2025-2026, map, address, ship terminals, hotels, tours, shore excursions. ... RCI-Royal Caribbean International is expanding its cruise offerings in Alaska for summer 2025. The popular liner Anthem OTS will join the Alaskan... November 2, 2023.

  23. Alaska considers new limits for cruise ship visitors in this popular

    Juneau, the capital city of Alaska, is working on an agreement with major cruise lines to limit the daily number of visitors starting in 2026. ... New agreement in Alaska to limit cruise ship ...

  24. Inside Passage Alaska Cruise

    Touring the Inside Passage on an Alaska cruise is your gateway to the fascinating and colorful culture, history and sights of the Great Land. History of the Inside Passage. During a two-year expedition through uncharted territory, Captain George Vancouver sailed into the still waters of what came to be known as the Inside Passage.

  25. Inside Passage Cruise

    Alaska's 7-Day Inside Passage Cruise. You're in for one wild week. This roundtrip Inside Passage cruise from Vancouver delivers spellbinding scenery from narrow fjords to scattered islets and towering peaks. Get close to massive glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park and wait breathlessly for ice to calve off and plunge into the ocean.

  26. The best time to cruise Alaska

    Fran Golden is an award-winning cruise journalist whose work regularly appears in Bloomberg, Travel + Leisure, Afar and other leading publications and websites. She is the author of numerous cruise and travel books, including "100 Things To Do In Alaska Before You Die" (Reedy Press, 2021). Fran ...

  27. Alaskan Cruise Guide for Seattle Families

    Explore Alaska with cruise ship excursions. Photo: courtesy Princess Cruises Benefits and drawbacks of an Alaskan cruise for families. It's helpful that the kids clubs are completely free to all families on board, because the biggest downside of the cruise, for me, was the constant attempts to separate guests from their money. Cruising makes ...

  28. What to Expect: My Princess Alaska Cruise Review from Seattle

    Pier 91 is about 3 miles north of the downtown Seattle corridor. So, if you're planning to visit the city beforehand, you'll need to use rideshare, taxi, or shuttle to get to the cruise port ...

  29. Alaska's capital could ban cruise ships on Saturdays

    Alaska's capital, with a population of 32,000, could ban cruise ships on Saturdays as tourists can spike to 18,000 a day BY Becky Bohrer and The Associated Press