Today’s Alaska cruises offer a little something
for every lifestyle, from small excursion vessels offering casual
informality and soft adventure to megaships with a dazzling array of
activities and options.
Unlike year-round cruise destinations, Alaska
cruising is seasonal. Generally
beginning in May, cruise ships ply the Inside Passage and Gulf of Alaska
until September. June,
July, and August are the warmest months with temperatures averaging from
50° to 80° during the day and cooler at night.
are lower in May and September, the “shoulder” months.
Late May is a particularly good choice because snow still covers
mountain tops and yet the weather is typically mild.
Alaska cruises take essentially two “routes.”
There are Inside Passage itineraries, round-trip from Vancouver
or Seattle with ports of call possibly including Juneau, Sitka,
Ketchikan, Skagway, Haines, Glacier Bay (or another glacier—possibly
Sawyer), and a day of cruising a scenic waterway such as Misty Fjords.
The second major cruise itinerary is the Gulf of
Alaska cruise which is a south to north or north to south itinerary from
Anchorage to Vancouver or vice-versa. Ports of call might include Valdez, Seward, cruising College
Fjord and Hubbard Glacier, and the Inside Passage ports of Ketchikan,
Juneau, Sitka, and Skagway. In
addition, many cruisers add a pre- or post-cruise side trip to Denali
National Park to their Alaska Gulf of Alaska itinerary.
After selecting an itinerary option, it’s
important to pick the right ship to ensure your Alaska vacation meets
your expectations. Ships
range from small excursion/adventure vessels to megaships with every
resort convenience at hand. The
former are more casual and destination intensive, while the latter
conform to a traditional cruising standard.
Unlike the not-so-distant past, the majority of Alaska-bound
cruise passengers are not senior citizens.
Newer and larger ships in the region have been a boon for
families whose children find as much to enjoy onboard as their parents
Before going to Alaska, decide what you want to see
and do. Determine what’s
important to you and what’s not—after all, this may be your
opportunity of a lifetime to see this great state.
Even with discounts making Alaska cruises more affordable,
expensive shore excursions can make your total vacation cost rise faster
than a helicopter lifting off for Mendenhall Glacier.
Establish your priorities and avoid disappointment by booking
popular excursions immediately upon boarding your ship.
If you have your heart set on a very pricey float plane
excursion, remember you can even out costs by taking a walking tour in
the next port.
You needn’t pack a winter wardrobe suitable for
northern Minnesota when cruising in Alaska; after all, the locals call
this “summer.” Instead,
think layers and stick with cottons and other natural fabrics.
Plan to buy souvenir sweatshirts and make them a part of your
warmth plan. Instead of a
heavy parka, take a tightly-woven, hooded windbreaker, a cap that covers
the ears, and gloves. You’ll
appreciate warm socks and waterproof shoes. Don't forget to pack
your binoculars and take an umbrella—if you have it, you may
not need it.