Cruise Alaska: Spectacular Alaska Cruising
Alaska is a wonderland of fjords, glaciers and wilderness, with some charming cities which make perfect cruise ports. Much of the attraction to Alaska cruising is scenic, with amazing vistas viewed directly from the comfort of the ship. Many Alaskan cruises begin in Seattle or Vancouver, both bigger cities which are well equipped to handle embarkations and disembarkations.
The Ports: Best Cruise Destinations in Alaska
Ketchikan is a misty town on the Tongass Narrows, backed by forested slopes and perching on the edge of the water. Sightseeing tours are popular for day cruise visitors, and the Totem Heritage Centre and Tongass Historical Museum in the town centre will appeal to history lovers. The scenic Creek Street has charming buildings set on poles over the water, and is also known for good shopping. Ships dock in the centre of town, so most sights are within easy reach. If more than one ship visits at a time, one may be required to anchor offshore and tender in to port.
The Inside Passage is not a port but may be listed on many itineraries as a destination. It is a waterway between various islands off the coast, and is sheltered and calm, perfect for scenic cruising. There is often a lot of wildlife spotted in the area, namely whales, sea lions and the majestic bald eagles. Glaciers and mountains round out the on-shore scenery.
Juneau, capital of the state, is another major port for Alaska cruising. Accessible only by plane, boat or birth canal, it is certainly the United States' most isolated and unusual state capital, surrounded by Alaska's huge wilderness. The downtown area is compact and walkable. There is a series of signs which detail the interesting history of the city. Juneau is also home to the Alaska State Museum. Ships dock in one of three areas- the first choice being along South Franklin Street. Very rarely are there so many ships in town that tenders are required! All docks are within walking distance of downtown.
Sitka is another common stop on a cruise to Alaska. It is a small village on the outer edge of the islands of the Inside Passage. The quaint town has great shopping, and further afield are some wonderful natural attractions. The Sitka National Historical Park is one of these, and there are plenty of tours available to take in the wilderness that surrounds the town. Large ships anchor offshore and tender passengers ashore. Small expedition ships use docks downtown.
The Tracy Arm Fjord, Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay are all northern glaciers and fjords which offer scenic cruising. These stunning spots can be enjoyed from balconies, decks and windows whilst enjoying the comfort of your ship, or if you are travelling on an expedition-focused luxury line, by zodiac, helicopter or kayak. The majestic beauty of the glaciers and fjords are what makes an Alaska cruise spectacular. Witnessing the Hubbard Glacier calving is a reported highlight for many cruisers.
Skagway is a small town that sprang up during the gold boom in the Yukon in the late 19th century. The town is a natural beauty spot, encircled by mountain peaks. The historic downtown area is very pretty and restored to its gold-rush roots, complete with wooden sidewalks. Exploring the town can make a fun day visit, and shore tours can take you further inland and into the Alaskan wilderness. Ships dock at one of three deep-water docks near the heart of downtown.
Whittier is a very small community in northern Alaska which hosts the occasional ship. It has a new cruise terminal, and can be used as an embarkation or disembarkation point as an alternative to nearby Anchorage. Also far to the north is Seward, a picturesque harbour town which is the gateway to the amazing Kenai Fjords National Park. Cruise ships dock at the northern end of town.
The Alaska Cruise Deals: Take Your Pick
Cruise Sale Finder has options for Alaska cruises with a wide variety of lines. Most of them offer sailings to Alaska, with many basing a ship or two in the region during the northern summer season. Princess Cruises ships are some of the most prolific Alaska cruisers, closely followed by the likes of Celebrity, Holland America, P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean. Sailing largely from Seattle and Vancouver, these large-ship lines offer a range of different itineraries with different lengths. Most include at least the major Alaskan cruise destinations of Ketchikan, Juneau and one or more of the northern scenic glacier areas.
Luxury cruise lines and smaller ship cruises are also in on the Alaskan action. Silversea and Regent Seven Seas cruises both have itineraries in Alaska, and these often offer the chance to get a bit more up close and personal with the Alaskan wilderness.