Alaska’s massive coastline features extraordinary beauty and fascinating, small-town ports to explore. A destination sought by many, Alaska welcomed 1,025,900 cruising visitors in 2016. This route of travel is much-loved because it combines 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 over natural wonders (fixed-wing or helicopter), take a thrilling zipline tour, kayak in glacial waters, ride behind a dog team or hike glaciers, the opportunities are endless.
The most frequently chosen cruise is the week-long roundtrip Inside Passage itinerary which departs from Seattle or Vancouver and stops at several Southeast Alaska ports. The second most common would be a one-way, north or southbound through the Inside Passage and crossing the Gulf, with one direction traveled by sea and the other by air. This option allows for exploration within Alaska’s interior. There are many shorter and longer trips that range from sailing to cruising, often in a more boutique-styled vessel (see small-sized cruises). These voyages may stay solely in the Inside Passage, Cross Sound or the Prince William Sound area. And lastly, a few longer voyages include those that cross trans-Pacific to Russia or Japan, or turn north for the Northwest Passage (stops on these may include 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 several thousand guests 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 explore? 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 2017, and contact the cruiseship company with the amenities and itineraries that meet your needs.
When thinking about what excursions and opportunities are available at your ports of call, remember that The MILEPOST® covers many if not most of these within the SOUTHEAST, ANCHORAGE, SEWARD HIGHWAY, STERLING HIGHWAY and KODIAK sections of this book and you can use it to plan your own shore excursions.
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, April 30 then ends in Seattle, WA. The Carnival Miracle offers just one roundtrip, 14-day Long Beach, CA to Skagway/Glacier Bay, AK and back on Sept. 2. For more information call: 1-800-CARNIVAL.
Celebrity Cruiselines: The Infinity, Millennium and Solstice all tour Alaska waters (approx. 1,814 guests/843 ft. in length). Cruises begin May 17 and range from 5–12 days in length with multiple focuses to choose between. Roundtrip voyages are from Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, BC, to Skagway and Hubbard Glacier in Alaska. Ports include Ketchikan and Icy Straits among others. Some itineraries end or begin in Seward, AK. 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 Alaska ports and attractions like Tracy Arm to Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. There is one 5-day and one 9-day trip offered. For more information call: 1-800-951-3532.
Holland America: is like a small-sized Large/Mega cruiseline with approx. 1,400 guests/800 ft. in length. The Eurodam, Oosterdam, Westerdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Noordam, Volendam and Zaandam 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, AK. The Amsterdam and Zaamdam also offer a 14-day trip that includes cross gulf travel to Homer, Kodiak and Anchorage, AK. 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 guests/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 glacier viewing 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: 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 Alaska features: 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 Explorer of the Seas (approx. 2,139 guests/962 ft. in length). These two ships depart from Vancouver, BC, Seattle WA, and Seward, AK for 7–9 night voyages that include Skagway, Tracy Arm Fjord, Victoria and the Hubbard Glacier. They also offer 9–12 day post or pre land tours to accompany the cruise package. For more information call/go to: 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 Seven Seas Mariner travels Alaska waters with 7-day 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, AK; Prince Rupert and Victoria, BC. The Silver Explorer runs 12 day trips from Seward to Nome, AK with stops at St. Paul Island, Dutch Harbor, Castle Bay and more. For more information call: 1-888-978-4070.
Small Cruise Vessels
Alaska Dream Cruises: The Alaskan Dream, Admiralty Dream, Baranof Dream, Chichigof Dream and Misty Fjord offer 5 cruise ship options (approx. 10–74 guests/60–207 ft. in length). There are 5 cruise itinerary options to choose from in 8–11 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 6–12 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 June 10 and August 19 aboard the 100-passenger American Spirit, 15-day 1,000-mile cruises departing from Seattle, WA to Juneau, AK and spots in between, and 10, 7-night/8-day core season southeastern 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, AK. The itinerary is flexible and spontaneous. Guests 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 guests 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 or shrimp pots and fulfilling requests. For more information call: 970-217-6359.
Discovery Voyages: This pioneering small ship cruise company operates the comfortably refurbished former missionary vessel Discovery (12 guests/65 ft.) in Prince William Sound. Cruise and cruise-tour itineraries range from 3–13 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 32 passenger 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 guests accommodations in 31 outside suites and the Quest, for 100 guests. The 8-day journeys feature Alaska’s 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; the 15-day includes time in Haida Gwaii, BC. The 13-day Quest journey features San Juan Islands, WA and the Inside Passage (in AK). For more information call: 1-800-397-3348.
Maple Leaf Adventures: A “tall ship” sailing schooner, the Maple Leaf historic vessel has sailed the waters of Alaska and British Columbia since 1904 (8–9 guests/92 ft). Alaska ports of call include Ketchikan, Petersburg and Baranof in Warm Springs Bay. The MV Swell, a renovated tugboat, offers 4–7 night trips (accommodates 12 guests/88 ft.). For more information call: 1-888-599-5323.
Sea Wolf Adventures: The Sea Wolf accommodates and specializes in Alaska cruises that are 6- and 10-day Glacier Bay trips, 10-day Inside Passage, or the 11-day Great Bear Exploring BC’s Inside Passage. This small-group option (12 guest/97 ft.) offers guests 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 customized itineraries for 7- or 10-day trips. For more information call: (907) 887-9446.
Un-Cruise Adventures: April to September, these boats (22–84 guests) offer 11 itineraries ranging from 7–21 nights. Cruises may focus on gold rush history, Inside Passage cultures, or expedition-style explorations, such as kayaking and paddle-boarding. The luxury cruise options include extra amenities, soft-adventure, and exclusive excursions. For more information call: 1-888-862-8881.