It’s the United States’ last frontier and many travelers don’t quite realize that cruising is the best way to see it. Alaska is bigger than the states of Texas, California and Montana combined and many of its most interesting locations are only accessible by sea or through the air. If you truly want to discover the wonders of the 49th state, go on an Alaskan cruise. You’ll come across magnificent mountain scenery, huge glaciers and wildlife unlike any other in the continental United States. There’s plenty of history and culture too. If you’re considering a trip, take note of these Alaskan cruise tips for beginners before finalizing your plans.
Alaskan Cruise Tips for Beginners
When to Go
Cruising to Alaska is seasonal. Unlike other destinations, it is limited to May until September – although some smaller liners begin as early as late April. The shoulder seasons of May and September are the most ideal if you’re looking for deals or a more relaxing cruising experience.
As for the weather, it starts to be pleasant in May. It’s generally the driest month, though the temperatures might still be cold. June, July and August are its busiest months. The temperatures range from 50° to 80°F (10°-27°C). These are also the months when wildlife is the most active.
September is where you’ll find many discounts on shore, particularly for souvenirs and artifacts. Shops that want to get rid of their inventory are more amenable to lowering their prices at the end of the season.
Itineraries to Choose From
For many planning their first Alaskan cruise, choosing the itinerary is probably the hardest part, with so many to choose from. Most cruise liners offer three itineraries.
1. Inside Passage
Most Alaskan cruise tips for beginners will suggest an Inside Passage itinerary. Carved by glaciers, the Inside Passage stretches approximately 950 miles from Seattle along the coast of British Columbia; to the northern part of the Alaskan panhandle near Haines and Skagway. Its calm waters, spectacular scenery and interesting ports such as Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway, make this a preferred route for those who’ve never been to the state before. Also, most cruise lines with roundtrip itineraries from major cities like Seattle or Vancouver typically offer Inside Passage itineraries.
2. Gulf of Alaska
If you have more time to spare and wouldn’t mind a one-way trip by sea to Alaska, then consider itineraries that include the Gulf of Alaska. Known as the “Glacier Discovery Route,” travelers on this course will get to experience not only some ports within the Inside Passage but also the glacier-clad Gulf of Alaska. Ships will include passage to Glacier Bay National Park, the Kenai Peninsula, Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet as well. Typical ports of call include Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka and Seward.
3. Bering Sea Cruises
If you’re looking for more adventure, consider ships that sail up to the Bering Sea. Very few operators take on this challenging northern route but it’s Alaska and neighboring Russia at its finest. It’s also important to note that itineraries to the Bering Sea are the most expensive.