Alaska is one of the most serene and most popular cruise destinations in the world. Here, space isn’t measured in miles but in never-ending horizons. Pristine ancient glaciers glinting majestically, endless forests, snowcapped towering mountains, abundant wildlife and an enthralling coastline make it one of the most overwhelming landscapes in the world. Alaska has a lot to offer to its cruise travelers ranging from mild to the wild, activities and tours. Some of its key offerings include admiring the spectacular sights of the glaciers of Tracy Arm Fjord, College Fjord and the Glacier Bay National Park; exploring the scenic beauty of the Inside Passage along with experiencing the unsurpassed grandeur and serenity of the Hubbard Glacier to the spirit and mysteries of its coastal towns – Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.
Cruise from Vancouver to Anchorage – The best Alaska cruise experience
Before you begin to plan your trip to magnificent Alaska, you need to decide between the two types of cruises – ‘Inside Passage’ cruises (round trip cruises from Seattle to Seattle or Vancouver to Vancouver) and ‘Gulf of Alaska’ cruises (one way cruises that sail northbound or southbound between Seattle/Vancouver and Anchorage via the port towns of Seward or Whittier).
If you wish to experience the best of Alaska, then you should definitely opt for the ‘Gulf of Alaska’ cruise from Vancouver to Anchorage as it sails right through the protected and calm waters of the Inside Passage that are scenic, being close to land. The Seattle departure cruises, on the other hand, go out to sea to the west of Vancouver Island and are thus relatively less appealing.
It’s Better to Cruise Northbound or Southbound
Usually both the ‘Inside Passage’ cruises and the ‘Gulf of Alaska’ cruises last for 7-8 days. However, Alaska cruises from Vancouver or Anchorage are one way cruises which typically include more wildlife and glacier viewing opportunities. These cruises allow you to spend more days on land in Alaska ports as there are fewer days at sea than a roundtrip cruise departing from Seattle. You get to spend time in Glacier Bay and National Glacier Parks at Hubbard Glacier and more time in the Inside Passage. If you wish to make the most of your one week trip and want most of your time on land and for glacier viewing, this is your best option for an Alaska Cruise Vacation.
Vancouver, the third largest city in Canada, is a picturesque metropolis surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on three sides, nestled alongside the snow-capped peaks of the Coast Mountain range. Since more than 30 years it serves as the popular gateway to Alaska. Before setting sail to the exquisite Alaska, explore the city with international dining, world-class accommodations, varied attractions and easy accessibility.
This lively city caters to your each and every interest. Once you arrive in Vancouver, notice the ships constantly sailing underneath the Lions Gate Bridge making their way past the enormous Stanley Park. Walk through the park, witness residents and visitors cycling or walking on its splendid pathway Seawall or paddling a kayak in the waters nearby. Explore the most popular attractions of the city situated within a two-square-miles area from the renowned downtown peninsula. Go around using numerous hop-on-hop-off buses, the SkyTrain (light-rail transit) and the harbor ferries.
Discover Vancouver’s roots at the historic Gastown, plumb the North America’s second-largest Chinatown, check out the chic ambience of Yaletown, marvel at the Science World and browse the artisan studios, Granville Island’s public market and nautical shops, situated across the famous False Creek, if you are an art lover, a foodie or a maritime buff. Just take a tram ride to the lovely Ming Dynasty Gardens and the top of Grouse Mountain.
Cruise the Inside Passage
Alaska Inside Passage is a narrow watercourse bordered by 1,000-feet icy cliffs and towering forested walls that stretches from Puget Soundton through the British Columbia coast and into the Gulf of Alaska. As you sail across the Inside Passage, gaze at the seemingly endless shoreline, thousands of idyllic bays and coves and thousands of barrier islands. Get mesmerized by the constantly changing scenery from beautiful shores to welcoming coastal towns. The Inside Passage is your gateway to the enthralling and colorful history, culture and sights of the Great Land of Alaska.
Ketchikan, located on Revillagigedo Island and world-renowned as the “Salmon Capital of the World”, is a popular destination along Alaska’s Inside Passage. Home to 1,000 feet waterfalls, Tongass Rainforest, granite cliffs, low-hanging mists and crystalline lakes, Ketchikan teems with Native American art and culture. It boasts of the world’s largest collection of Northwest totems poles on which legends of a various sort are recorded.
While there, hike up Deer Mountain, kayak or snorkel in Misty Fjords, tour the backcountry by Jeep, go for deep sea fishing or fly-fishing, revel in semi-submersible boat trips and whale watching, enjoy cultural performances or indulge in fancy dining and shopping in Stedman Street. Visit Creek Street, a strip of wooden buildings perched above the water on pilings and possibly the world’s most photographed street. Stop over at the museum at Dolly’s House and catch a glimpse of the coarse ways of frontier life.
Alaska’s capital Juneau, positioned at Mt. Juneau’s base, is reputed for its vibrant wildflowers, lush terrain and small town quaintness mixed with cosmopolitan sophistication. It is bordered by salt water — perfect jumping-off point for plenty of outdoor activities. So, while there, enjoy shore side actions like zip-lining, witness immense wildlife such as seals, bald eagles and humpback whales. Don’t forget to – go for sea kayaking, glacier dog sledding and glacier hiking; tour the Alaskan Brewing Co. and the Capitol building; and admire the massive Mendenhall Glacier via helicopter ride. You may even catch sight of a bear or two up close. Go shop at wonderful stores and eat at some fabulous restaurants.
Rated as one of Alaska’s most popular ports since the19th century’s Alaskan Gold Rush, Skagway holds a rich history and stunning natural surrounds that together create unmatched recreation and sightseeing opportunities. Largely restored to its roots, Skagway retains the flavor of its gold-rush days with its frontier-style storefronts and rustic boardwalk. As you step into the town, enjoy a guided tour of Skagway, tour into Canada’s Yukon Territory or take a narrow gauge rail journey of the famous White Pass Route. Take horseback expeditions, fishing charters and climbing lessons. Marvel at the exceptional collection of gold rush memorabilia at the Trail of ‘98 Museum and rejoice with more than 20 shore excursions available, including kayaking, rappelling, nature hikes, biking, wilderness safari, and dog-sledding.
As the sole city in Southeast Alaska located on the Pacific Ocean, Sitka is Alaska’s most exotic port with picturesque surroundings and a dormant volcano, Mount Edgecumbe, looking over the city. Being the former “Russian Capital of North America”, it is unlike the rest of Alaska. As you get here, New Archangel Dancers, representing the rich culture of Russia in vibrant floral attire, greet you. While here, walk through the Lincoln Street; gaze at wildlife at the Sitka National Historical Park; admire the historic domed architecture of Russian Bishop’s House and St. Michael’s Cathedral; see various Native American Museums; stroll in the Katlian Street; and watch the weathered houses and colorful fishing boats go by in the Sitka Channel.
Cruising Hubbard Glacier
Hubbard Glacier, one of the most active glaciers in the world and the largest glacier in North America, is truly breathtaking. The immense cliff face is over 90 miles in length, more than six miles in width and about 700 feet from peak to the bottom. As the Glacier advances, heed the symphony of groans and creaks and see it move and calve; witness monumental chunks of ice splash into the bay creating a tremendous sound. Amongst the islands of ice, find numerous birds, fish and sea mammals residing in the region; catch a sight of cormorants, gulls and bald eagles roosted on the floating islands in search of fish; also spot the orca – toothed whale, the humpback and minke – two species of baleen whales, romp in the nearby coves.
Anchorage (Seward), Alaska
Seward located on the Kenai Peninsula is one of the chief Gulf of Alaska cruise ports. Once you disembark at Seward take a motor coach to Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, about 125 miles away and explore its exquisiteness. Discover various galleries selling organic silkscreened T-shirts and original paintings; drink spicy hot chocolate or eat monster breakfasts at coffee shops; see brewpubs churn out growlers for locally made beer; or find out the highbrowed side of the city at the great Anchorage Museum displaying modern art as well as native Alaskan cultural artifacts. In the city’s center, join rollerbladers, walkers and bikers in their ride on the 11-mile Tony Knowles coastal trail that encircles the city. Go fish with fishermen at Ship Creek, and try to catch a meaty salmon for dinner.
To admire Anchorage’s scenic beauty, take a bus, bush plane or train to the south of the city, to the Kenai Fjords and Prince William Sound that have variety of sea life and dramatic glacial ice. In the North of city, go ski in the lofty Mt. McKinley and catch a glimpse of the Denali National Park.
Popular Cruise liners that operate in Alaska:
Princess Cruise Lines, with a fleet of 16 modern vessels, is the world’s third largest cruise line. It is world-famous for a wide collection of onboard options, innovative ships and an ambience of outstanding customer service. Rendering traveling opportunity to approximately 1.3 million travelers every year to world’s top destination, Princess Cruises effectively balances cruise traditions with innovations to deliver an experience that suits people of all ages. Island Princess, Coral Princess, Pacific Princess and Island Princess offer an 8-day excursion to Alaska from May to July. Departing from Vancouver, BC, Canada, the cruises take passengers through various ports of call including Vancouver, Seattle, Skagway, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Glacier Bay National Park, Ketchikan and Anchorage.
Holland America Cruise Line, since its inception in 1873, has been providing its travelers the finest and the most exquisite cruise experience around the world. Currently there are 15 Holland America ships in operation, each offering a traditional style of cruising with a modern touch and an award-winning service. Every ship is gracefully adorned with nautical antiques, fine art, floral themes, huge paintings of old HAL ships, ship memorabilia and Indonesia touches that provide a subtle connection to the line’s heritage. Crew members are cordial and dedicated to rendering guests the best possible cruise experience at the best value for money. Holland America’s ms Volendam, ms Oosterdam, ms Zuiderdam , ms Statendam and ms Zaandam offer an 8 day cruise to Alaska from April to September. Departing from Vancouver, BC, Canada, the cruises take passengers through various ports of call including Vancouver, Seattle, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier and Seward.
Celebrity Cruise Line has 11 luxury cruise ships in its fleet, each offering chic, contemporary spaces paired with award-winning design and décor, an impeccable personalized service and unparalleled spa, cuisine and fine wines. Celebrity’s each ship has its own distinctive style, with its own exceptionally inviting social spaces and public rooms. Celebrity Millennium and Celebrity Century offer an 8 day cruise to Alaska in May, June and July. Departing from Vancouver, BC, Canada, the cruises take passengers through various ports of call including Vancouver, Seattle, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier and Seward.
Royal Caribbean International, with a fleet of 22 world-class ships, is the world’s second largest cruise line. Cruising travelers across the 6 continents and covering more than 270 destinations around the globe, the Royal Caribbean is far-famed for having the most exciting and innovative cruise liners in the travel industry. Journey on each of Royal Caribbean ships is a truly royal experience with their amazing entertainment and onboard activities, finest quality of service, exciting dining options, spectacular shore excursions and innovative features like a rock climbing wall, an ice skating rink and miniature golf. Radiance of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas offer an 8-day excursion to Alaska from May to August. Departing from Vancouver, BC, Canada, the cruises take passengers through various ports of call including Vancouver, Seattle, Skagway, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Glacier Bay National Park, Ketchikan, Hubbard Glacier, Icy Strait Point, Seward and Seattle.
Disney Cruise Liners offer world-class cruise experience afloat combined with exemplary customer service and unrivaled entertainment. Two of Disney Ships consists of 875 staterooms and the other two houses 1,250 staterooms – completely unique in their interior design, entertainment venues and restaurants. Each of the four Disney Cruise Ships is designed exclusively for all age groups – kids, teenagers and adults, and is world-famous as a family cruise liner, excluding casinos and libraries. The Disney Cruise Line has been recognized as the No. 1 Mega-Ship Cruise Line in Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards for Families 2013, making it the fifth consecutive year to be ranked in the top spot. Disney Wonder offers an 8 day cruise to Alaska in June, July and September. Departing from Vancouver, BC, Canada, the cruise takes passengers through six ports of call namely Vancouver, Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan and Seward.
Carnival Cruise Lines has the world’s largest fleet of luxury cruise ships with 24 vessels presently in operation that promise to deliver fun for everyone, from children to adults. Carnival Cruise Lines offer a wide range of quality cruise vacations providing great value for money. They are renowned for their Las Vegas-style entertainment and décor and for promoting a spirit of be-yourself fun unlike any other cruise line. Carnival Miracle offers an 8 day cruise to Alaska in April. Departing from Vancouver, BC, Canada, the cruise takes passengers through six ports of call namely Vancouver, Seattle, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan and Seward.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is world-renowned for its Freestyle Cruising theme, which means that there is no formality in terms of a set time or seating arrangement for meals, nor there is a compulsion for formal attire. NCL is more like a sailing resort unlikely to be found in any other mainstream cruise line on the high seas. NCL provides liberating cruise experience to those people who look for their own style of cruising. Open dining schedule, onboard Internet cafés, on board bowling alleys, alternative restaurants and relaxed disembarkations are some of the key features that are responsible for NCL’s popularity. Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Pearl offer an 8 day and 12 day cruise respectively to Alaska from May to September. Departing from Vancouver, BC, Canada, the cruises take passengers through various ports of call including Vancouver, Seattle, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, Whittier, Seward, Sitka, Victoria and Seattle.
Alaska is a seasonal cruise destination, as opposed to year-round. The Alaska Cruise season generally commences in late April and continues through September. Usually lower brochure rates are offered during May and September as they are considered the shoulder season. June, July, and August are the warmest months with temperatures normally around 50° to 80°F (10°-27°C) during the day and much cooler at night. The weather in Alaska is quite unpredictable, so it’s better to pack for both cool and warm temperatures. It is also recommended to pack rain wear when packing for an Alaskan cruise.
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