Oftentimes when people think of cruising they think about Caribbean getaways and beach trips. Maybe they think of Europe and cruising the Baltic. Or maybe they think of crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner as their relatives did in the past. There are many regions to cruise, but today I want to focus on one region alone. One that just so happens to be right in our backyard.
Alaska has always intrigued me. It’s part of the United States, yet it feels so disconnected. Maybe it’s because of the weather, but then again there are snowy landscapes and cold temperatures in many US states. Maybe it’s the landscapes. Maybe it’s the wildlife. Likely it’s a combination of all of these things.
Driving to Alaska from Seattle takes around 40 hours. It also involves traveling into Canada, and may even involve a ferry ride. Now, you can fly, of course. But if I were to take a flight to Alaska from my hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina, it would take me over ten hours not to mention it costs almost the same as a flight to Europe. So, you see, Alaska seems foreign to many of us. But there is one great way to get to Alaska, and to see Alaska and that is by ship.
Alaska cruises run from May to September, and are a great way to see everything that Alaska has to offer. Cruising gives guests a chance to view wildlife, including whale watching, take in Alaska’s most beautiful landscapes, and travel through the state comfortably as they visit many different cities, towns, and national parks.
Today, we will look at the top ten Alaska itineraries for 2020. If you are hoping to see The Last Frontier, 2020 might just be the year to do so.
Princess Cruises is one of the first cruise lines that I think of when I think of Alaska. Having just celebrated its 50th anniversary in the region, there is no surprise why. The line offers multiple Alaska sailings from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Seattle. The selection of itineraries offers both one-way and roundtrip cruises, as well as combined cruise and land tours.
Star Princess, as seen after exiting the tunnel in Whittier. Photo 2015 Aaron Saunders
The 7-Day Inside Passage (With Glacier Bay National Park) itinerary leaves from Seattle, Washington and visits Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, and Ketchikan, Alaska; and Victoria, Canada. Guests will cruise for seven days aboard Ruby Princess and have many sightseeing opportunities from the ship. Ashore, Princess offers a variety of excursions from whale watching to visiting glacier gardens to ziplining.
Rates start at US$699 per person, per day.
Holland America Line is another cruise line with a history in Alaska. There are many Alaska itineraries offered by Holland America Line that depart from multiple cities. Like Princess, Holland America Line also offers both one-way and roundtrip cruises, and also cruises combined with land tours.
Alaska is a crowd pleaser on Holland America’s itineraries.
Guests sailing the Great Alaska Explorer itinerary will depart from Vancouver, Canada, and sail roundtrip around Alaska. Ports of call include Ketchikan, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, The Inian Islands, Anchorage, Homer, Valdez, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, and Misty Fiords. With three days of scenic cruising and stops at both Alaska’s capital (Juneau) and largest city (Anchorage), guests will be able to explore the region in-depth.
Excursions include visiting a native village, a rail journey on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, glacier cruises, catamaran explorations, and so much more.
Rates start at US$1,599 per person.
Hurtigruten is a Norwegian company with more than 100 years of sailing under its belt. While it has a rich history sailing the northern parts of the world, the company just began sailing in Alaska this year.
MS Roald Amundsen in Canadian waters sailing in the Northwest Passage. Photo courtesy of Karsten Bidstrup / Hurtigruten
Guests will sail aboard MS Roald Amundsen as they explore the 49th state on this 18-day voyage. Roald Amundsen will call on Ketchikan, Sitka, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, Kodiak, Kinak Bay, Unga Village, St. Paul, St. Matthew Island, and Nome. The voyage will start in Vancouver, and after disembarking in Nome, guests will fly back to Vancouver.
Hurtigruten includes an excursion in most ports of call, but other excursions are available for an additional fee. Guess will have the opportunity to hike, kayak, attend lectures and view wildlife at most ports of call.
Rates start at US$14,085 per person.
UnCruise Adventures operates in many areas of the globe, but its most robust itinerary line-up is in Alaska. Voyages range from seven to 14 nights and all depart from an Alaskan port. Guests looking for a more intimate Alaska experience will find it with UnCruise, as none of the ships in UnCruise’s fleet carry more than 100 passengers.
Un-Cruise Adventure’s Safari Endeavour in Alaska. Photo 2014 Aaron Saunders
Passengers on the Alaska’s Glacier Country sailing will embark in Juneau and travel to Icy Strait Point, Glacier Bay National Park, Chatham Strait, Kuiu Island, Frederick Sound, and Dawes Glacier before returning to Juneau for disembarkation.
UnCruise is a good option for active travelers, as daily activities include hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, and even snorkeling. Yes, snorkeling. All activities are included in the cruise fare. Guests wishing to extend their vacation can do so by purchasing a six-night land package where they will ride the Alaskan Railroad.
Rates start at US$3,795 per person.
Okay, so technically this one spends more time in Canada than it does in Alaska. But I promise it’s a good one. Seabourn offers an expedition program, Ventures By Seabourn, on many of its sailings. Through this program, guests will learn more about the history, ecology, and culture of the places they’re visiting by working with an expedition team. This team will host excursions off the ship, but also give presentations and be available for conversations on board.
Seabourn Sojourn in Haines, Alaska. Photo 2017 Aaron Saunders
Guests on this seven-day itinerary will sail from Juneau to Victoria cruising to and through Glacier Bay, Stephens Passage, Wrangell, Stikine Strait, Behm Canal, Misty Fjords (Ventures by Seabourn only), Prince Rupert, Grenville Channel, Whale Channel, Princess Royal Channel, Alert Bay, Johnstone Strait, and Seymour Narrows along the way.
Excursions may include fishing trips, zodiac explorations, nature walks, discovery cruises, and more.
Rates start at US$3,499 per person.
Again, this one may not count as an Alaska cruise but because almost half the itinerary is spent in Alaska, I am including it on my list. Viking may be a name that you know from river cruising, but its ocean product does not disappoint. The ships are beautiful and spacious, and Viking’s inclusions in the cruise fare are something that we don’t always find on the oceans. Beer and wine are included at lunch and dinner, guests are able to use the internet free of charge, and there is a complimentary excursion in every port.
Hubbard is one of the few glaciers in Alaska that is advancing. Photo 2015 Aaron Saunders
This 23-day voyage visits four countries, taking guests from Tokyo, Japan to Vancouver, Canada. Highlights of the cruise include stops in Sapporo, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Seward, and Sitka. Guests will also cross the International Date Line.
Cruising from Russia to Alaska is a bucket-list voyage for many travelers. Starting in Tokyo just makes that bucket-list wish even better. Guests can add a pre-cruise extension in Tokyo or post-cruise extensions in Vancouver.
Rates start at US$7,999 per person.
In 1966, Lars-Eric Lindblad lead the first “citizen-explorer” expedition to Antarctica. Continuing to sail Antarctica and expanding throughout the globe, the company grew into what is now known as Lindblad Expeditions. Lindblad has an extensive expedition history of its own, but the company also partners with National Geographic. This partnership allows guests to cruise beside the scientists, researchers, and naturalists that make up National Geographic’s team on board.
An ice avalanche at Sawyer Glacier. Photo courtesy of Ralph Lee Hopkins / Lindblad Expeditions
The 13-day Bering Sea Wilderness itinerary is yet another itinerary that journeys to Russia. Guests will embark National Geographic Orion in Nome. After embarking, they will cross the Bering Strait before arriving in Provideniya, Russia. On the days that follow guests will cruise to and through the Pribilof Islands, Alaskan Peninsula, Shumagin Islands, Katmai National Park, Kodiak Island, and the Kenai Peninsula. Guests will disembark in Seward.
Rates start at $17,340 per person.
After looking at the most expensive cruise on our list, it’s only fair that we look at a more affordable cruise. Carnival cruises are definitely not for everyone but if you are looking to cruise Alaska as economically as possible this may be an option.
Ports of call on this voyage include Vancouver, Tracy Arm Fjord, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Seattle.
Rates start at $519 per person.
For those looking to cruise with children, taking a Disney cruise to Alaska might be a good option. Of course, some of the companies that we have looked at so far would also be suitable for children, but if your children need a more tailored experience, Disney may be it.
Juneau, Alaska and the Gastineau Channel, as seen from the air. Photo 2015 Aaron Saunders
This seven-night itinerary sails roundtrip from Vancouver and visits Dawes Glacier, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, and Ketchikan. Activities ashore include glacier exploring, ziplining, Jeep adventures, family scavenger hunts, tribal dancing, and more.
Rates start at US$3,524 per person.
Last but not least on our list is Silversea. Silversea is one of our favorite expedition cruise lines here at Avid Cruiser. Silversea has luxury accommodations, beautiful food and wines, but what really makes Silversea Expeditions sparkle is its expedition staff.
2018 Ralph Grizzle
On this 14-day voyage, guests will visit St. Paul Island, Dutch Harbor, Unga Island, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Wrangel, and Misty Fjords. The cruise starts in Nome and concludes in Vancouver.
On this voyage, guests will likely have the chance to see seals, puffins, whales, bald eagles, hummingbirds, and so much more.
Rates start at US$10,980 per person.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Nome was named accidentally? When exploring the region, a British officer wrote “? name” next to the city. When a cartographer reviewed the map, he misread the “a” in name as an “o” and copied “Nome” onto his documents.
For more on Alaska Cruises, check out our Alaska landing page.
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