Alaska’s massive coastline features extraordinary beauty and quaint, small-town ports to explore. A destination sought after by many, cruises to Alaska combine the comfort of a largely prepaid and often luxurious accommodation with the wild beauty of Alaska. And the choices of port-side experiences vary to please any cruiser. Whether you wish to shop for Alaska jewelry or Alaska Native artwork, flightsee (plane or helicopter) over natural wonders, take a thrilling zipline tour, kayak in glacial waters, mush a dog team or hike glaciers, the options are seemingly endless.
The most common choice for cruisers is the week-long Inside Passage itinerary which departs from Seattle or Vancouver, with stops at several Southeast Alaska ports and a return to the departure city. The second most common would be a one-way, either traveling north or southbound through the Inside Passage and crossing the Gulf, with one direction traveled by cruiseship and the other by airplane. This option allows for day-or overnight tours into the interior.
And lastly, there is a wide array of shorter and longer trips that range from sailing to cruising, often in a more boutique-styled vessel. These may stay solely in the Inside Passage, Cross Sound or the Prince William Sound area. A few longer voyages include those that cross trans-Pacific to Russia or Japan while including the Alaska Gulf, Aleutian Islands and Southwest Alaska ports.
Among the choices to make in this vacation decision are: What size of vessel and quantity of fellow travelers appeals to you? Ships to Alaska vary from nearly 2,500 passengers on mega cruiseships down to just a handful of fellow travelers on the smallest boats.
Next, when do you want to cruise? Cruising season is largely mid-May to mid-September for the most options but both pre-season and post-season choices can offer unusual port stops and extraordinary experiences. The warmest weather is likely in July or August but salmon runs and whale watching may be better in June or September. And finally, which type of experience are you after and which ports do you hope to visit? With those decisions made, you can begin to examine the options of cruiseline and sailing date that works best for you.
Read through the following overview of cruise lines serving Alaska in 2016, and contact the cruiseship company with the amenities and itineraries that meet your needs. Click on the linked cruiseline name for access to websites.
Large to “Mega” Cruiseships
Carnival Cruiselines: The Carnival Legend (2,124 passengers/963 ft. in length) offers summer-long Tuesday departures from Seattle with port of calls at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway and a trip through Glacier Bay and a return to Victoria or Vancouver, BC. The opening trip is an 8-day Glacier Bay that departs from Vancouver, BC, May 16 then ends in Seattle, WA. For more information call/go to: 1-800-CARNIVAL.
Celebrity Cruiselines: The Infinity, Millennium and Solstice all tour Alaska waters (approx. 1,814 passengers/843 ft. in length). Cruises begin May 6 and range from 5–12 days in length with multiple focuses to choose between. They leave from Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, BC, to Skagway and Hubbard Glacier and then return. Ports include Ketchikan, Icy Straits among others and some itineraries end or begin in Seward. For more information call 1-800-647-2251.
Disney Cruiselines: Disney’s Wonder departs Vancouver, BC, in summer season on Mondays May–August (2,400 passenger/964 ft. in length). The 7-day roundtrip cruise goes through Tracy Arm to Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. For more information call 1-800-951-3532.
Holland America: is like a small-sized Large/Mega cruiseline with approx. 1,400 passengers/800 ft. in length. The Westerdam, Amsterdam, Noordam and Maasdam do 7-day cruises that include one-way and roundtrip cruises from Seattle and Vancouver, and visit Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway among other ports. The southbound cruises depart from Seward. The 14-day Maasdam includes cross gulf travel to Homer, Kodiak and Anchorage. Land and Sea packages make this stand out for guests looking for longer vacations (10-20 days) and the addition of interior Alaska experiences. For more information call 1-877-932-4259.
Norwegian Cruiselines: The Norwegian Pearl, Jewel and Sun (approx. 2,394 passengers/695 ft. in length) Offering cruises from 7–14 days in length, departure ports include Seattle, WA, Vancouver, BC and Seward, AK. Both one-way north or southbound, and roundtrip options are available. The longer cruises include more time at glacial viewing locations with options to see wildlife and spend more time ashore. End of season 22-day trip cruises the Inside Passage from Vancouver RT, then south to Mexico with return to San Diego. For more information call 1-866-234-7350.
Princess Cruiselines: This cruiseline schedules 7 ships for 8 Alaska itineraries: Crown Princess, Star Princess, Coral Princess, Emerald Princess, Island Princess, Ruby Princess and Grand Princess. There are 7-day roundtrips from Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, BC, and 10-day roundtrips from San Francisco, CA. Also available are 1-way 7-day cruises (north or southbound) from Vancouver, BC, and Whittier (Anchorage), AK. Ports-of-call, which vary depending on itinerary, include: Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Tracy Arm Fjord, College Fjord, Hubbard Glacier and Victoria, BC. For more information call 1-800-774-6237.
Royal Caribbean Cruiseline: Radiance of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas (approx. 2,139 passengers/962 ft. in length). These two ships depart from Vancouver, BC, Seattle WA, and Seward, AK for 7- 10 and 11-night voyages that include Skagway, Tracy Arm Fjord, Victoria and the Hubbard Glacier. Explorer of the Seas 12- 13-night trips includes 6 ports such as the Inside Passage, Juneau, Skagway and Tracy Arm Fjord. For more information call 1-866-562-7625.
Mid-Size Cruise Vessels
Oceania Cruiseline: Offering 10 sailings, the trips vary from 7- 12-nights as the Regatta travels roundtrip Seattle, WA. En route it cruises the Inside and Outside Passage, stops in some of the lesser visited ports and offers a luxurious onboard experience. For more information call 1-800-386-9283.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises: The Mariner travels Alaska waters in 2016. These trips are mostly 7-days in length, one-ways from Seward, AK, crossing the Gulf of Alaska and through the Inside Passage to Vancouver, BC or in reverse. Early and late in the season a few 10-14 day cruises are offered. This cruise company offers all-inclusive packages with free unlimited shore excursions. Phone 1-844-473-4368.
Silversea Cruises: From Vancouver, BC to Seward, AK (or in reverse), the Silver Shadow offers 7-day voyages throughout the summer. The route includes Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Tracy Arm, Prince Rupert and Victoria, BC. The Silver Discoverer runs 12 day trips from Seward to Nome with stops at St. Paul Island, Dutch Harbor, Castle Bay and more. For more information call/go to: 1-888-978-4070.
Small Cruise Vessels
Alaska Coastal Quest: This single-ship cruiseline offers some of the most diverse cruising in Southeast Alaska. The expedition-class Misty Fjord offers accommodations for 12 guests in 5 staterooms. Varied full-ship charters are offered to groups and individuals; unbooked cabins are then opened to the general public. Trips range from Ketchikan to Sitka, Sitka to Petersburg, and roundtrip Petersburg. For more information call 1-855-747-8100.
Alaska Dream Cruises: The Alaskan Dream, Admiralty Dream, Baranof Dream, Chichigof Dream and Misty Fjord offer 5 cruise ship options (approx. 10–74 passengers/60–207 ft. in length). There are 5 cruise itinerary options to choose from 8-day to 11-day trips. For more information call 1-855-747-8100.
All Aboard Yacht Charters: The historic 87-foot, 6 cabin, 1931-vintage yacht Discovery features 7-night/8-day Inside Passage cruises north or south between Ketchikan and Juneau, and Juneau and Sitka, and round-trip voyages from Juneau. These cruises provide 8–10 guests with fishing opportunities, wildlife viewing, rowing skiffs and kayaks for guest adventures. Book early to travel with this provider (they book up early). For more information call 1-800-767-1024.
American Cruise Lines: Embarking Saturdays for 2 itineraries aboard the 100-passenger American Spirit. There are 4 11-night/12-day 1,000-mile cruises departing from Seattle to Juneau and spots in between, and 10 7-night/8-day core season Southeast Alaska cruises which include Glacier Bay, Kake, Haines, Skagway, Petersburg, and Tracy Arm/South Sawyer Glacier with return to Juneau. For more information call 1-800-460-4518.
The Boat Company: This cruiseline emphasizes environmental awareness. Two vessels—the 20-guest Liseron, a now-upscale converted 1940s minesweeper, and the 24-guest Mist Cove, a decidedly upscale replica—sail 7-night/8 day voyages between Sitka and Juneau. The itinerary is flexible and spontaneous. Passengers can spend as much time off the boat as they like, hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking or beachcombing. For more information call 1-877-647-8268.
Custom Alaska Cruises: The 5-person crew takes care of a maximum of 12 passengers for 7-day cruises aboard the MV Sikumi. These trips include wildlife viewing, photography, kayaking, daily beach excursions, visits to hot springs, fishing, pulling crab/shrimp pots and tailor the trip around your requests. For more information call 970-217-6359.
Discovery Voyages: This pioneering small ship cruise company operates the comfortably refurbished former missionary vessel Discovery in Prince William Sound. Cruise and cruise-tour itineraries range from 3 to 13 days. Its varied-length sightseeing vessel trips include a hike and kayak voyage, Classic Discovery, Grand Alaska Journey (includes Denali National Park), Photo Voyages and more. For more information call 1-800-324-7602.
Fantasy Cruises: A full summer season of mostly 8-night/9-day voyages aboard the Island Spirit includes the Inside Passage voyages, wilderness cruises and 2 roundtrip Petersburg trips. There are also a series of itineraries of Sitka to Petersburg and in reverse. All trips include glacier viewing, beach hikes, exploring small coves, forest trail walks, and other outdoor activities. Initial and final voyages for the year will be a 14-day Juneau to Seattle voyage. For more information call 1-800-234-3861.
Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic: The Sea Bird and Sea Lion both provide 62 passenger accommodations in 31 outside suites. The 8- or 15- day journeys feature Tracy Arm fjord and Sawyer glaciers, Ford’s Terror wilderness, Petersburg, whale watching in Frederick Sound, Chatham Strait, Point Adolphus, and Inian Pass plus cruising a full day in Glacier Bay. For more information call 1-800-397-3348.
Maple Leaf Adventures: A 92-foot “tall ship” sailing schooner, the Maple Leaf, accommodates 8–9 guests. This historic vessel has sailed the waters of Alaska and British Columbia since 1904. Ports of call include Ketchikan, Petersburg and Baranof in Warm Springs Bay. For more information call 1-888-599-5323.
Sea Wolf Adventures: The 12 passenger/97 ft Sea Wolf accommodates and specializes in cruises that are 6- and 10-day Glacier Bay trips, 10-day Inside Passage, and 11-day Great Bear Exploring BC’s Inside Passage. This small-group offers customized options like beach strolls and mountain climbs as well as sea life viewing and kayaking. For more information call 907-957-1438.
Sound Sailing: The vessel is a modern, fast, Catalina/Morgan 50-foot sailboat, with 3 guest cabins (large double berth with private head and shower). They offer itineraries for 7- or 10-day trips, customizing each trip to match passenger interests. For more information call 907-887-9446.
Un-Cruise Adventures: April to September, these boats (22–84 passengers) sail 11 different itineraries that range from 7 to 21 nights. Some of these cruises focus on gold rush history and Inside Passage culture. Other cruises feature expedition-style explorations, including kayaking and paddle-boarding. The luxury cruise options have extra amenities, soft-adventure, and exclusive excursions. For more information call 1-888-862-8881.