Best Alaska Cruises for Glaciers, Fjords, and Wildlife

The largest state in the U.S., Alaska is huge in size but also in cruise opportunities. If you’d like to venture beyond the “cruise classics” like the Caribbean, Hawaii or Mediterranean, why not head up north and explore coastal Alaska on one of this year’s best Alaska cruises.

Best Alaska Cruise Lines

As one of the most popular cruise destinations in the USA, Alaska is served by several, if not most, major cruise lines. Whether you’re looking for expedition cruises to Alaska or a high-end luxury cruise, you’ll find something that matches your interests and passions. In no particular order, these are cruise lines that offer Alaska cruises.

1. Celebrity Cruises

When looking for the best cruises to Alaska, chances are that a Celebrity itinerary will pop up. Offering a variety of voyages that last 5, 6 or 7 nights, Celebrity Cruises is a main player in the Alaska cruise market. They have dedicated no fewer than three ships to their Alaska itineraries: Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Millennium. Additionally, Celebrity’s Alaska cruisetours are amazing trips that combine a 7-night cruise and a land-based tour to remote inland lodges and parks.

2. Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian has decades of experience sailing to the world’s northernmost regions, from Scandinavia and Iceland to Alaska. They have some the greatest Alaska cruise itineraries available. Many of them are 7-day cruises, either round-trips from Seattle or one-way voyages along the rugged Northwest coasts. Shorter options of 5 days are available, too, as are longer sailings of up to 10 days. Norwegian Cruise Line also offers their own Alaska cruisetours, which allow you to explore breathtaking destinations like Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Homer, Anchorage and/or Fairbanks.

3. Royal Caribbean

Alaska’s coastline is longer than all the entire coastline of the rest of the USA. You can explore a section of it on a cruise with Royal Caribbean, which offer some of the cheapest Alaska cruise rates. An impressive four large Royal Caribbean cruise ships sail the Alaskan coasts. Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas all travel along the spectacular coast of northwestern North America. This Alaska cruise line has literally dozens of itineraries, from 7-night cruises to 11-night cruisetours.

4. Seabourn

For a luxury cruise to Alaska, it is hard to beat Seabourn’s offerings. This is one of the most luxurious cruise lines in the world, combining high-end amenities with an expedition-style atmosphere. Seabourn gives cruisers the chance to immerse themselves in Alaska’s wilderness, nature, wildlife and history—all without having to forsake modern-day comforts. An on-board expedition team consists of a marine biologist, bear biologist, photographer, historian and geologist, all of whom offer invaluable insights during kayak excursions or hiking trips.

5. Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises is noteworthy among these Alaska cruise lines because they offer round-trip cruises to Alaska from a number of different ports, specifically Vancouver, Seattle and even San Francisco. In addition to that convenience, they distinguish themselves with their world-class cruise ships, combined with exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness railway service in Alaska. On top of that, they also operate Princess Wilderness Lodges near some of Alaska’s most spectacular national parks. Unsurprisingly, cruisetours in Alaska organized by Princess Cruises are among the best of their kind.

Cruise ship cruising towards glacier in Alaska.
Glacier Bay cruising towards the Johns Hopkins Glacier in Alaska. Credit: Maridav – stock.adobe.com

6. Holland America Line

With well over half a century of experience in organizing top-rated Alaska cruises, Holland America Line boasts a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Each of their cruises features a combination of wildlife, outdoor adventures, massive glaciers and towering mountains. How much time you spend on the water, on the ship or on land, however, is up to you—there’s plenty to choose from. Cruises depart from either Seattle or Vancouver, while Holland America’s Land+Sea Cruise Tours can take you to Denali or even deep into the Yukon. They are currently the only Alaska cruise line to offer their guests the opportunity to explore the Yukon wilderness.

7. Oceania Cruises

The Oceania Cruises Alaska itineraries revolve primarily around three main departure/arrival ports: Vancouver, Seattle and Seward. Essentially all two-port combinations between those three cities are possible, including both one-way and round-trip sailings. Most Oceania Alaska cruises are 7-day voyages, but sailings up to 14 days are available as well. On the way, you get to see and explore famous places like the Inside Passage, the Hubbard Glacier, Ice Strait Point, Tongass National Forest, Juneau, Sitka and Skagway.

8. Carnival Cruises

Carnival Cruises is perhaps the only cruise line to offer more cruises to Alaska from San Francisco than any other departure port. This makes them a fantastic choice for 10-day sailings along most of West Coast of the USA and Canada. (Although they also have a 7-day itinerary from Seattle, all other current itineraries start in San Francisco.) Various combinations of popular Alaskan destinations are available, including such amazing ones as the Tracy Arm Fjord, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. All itineraries, whether it’s from San Francisco or Seattle, also include a stop in Victoria, the beautiful capital of British Columbia.

9. Windstar Cruises

Famous for their small-ship cruises, Windstar Cruises offer a unique perspective on Alaska. Most of their voyages start in Vancouver, British Columbia, but where they end depends on you. You can choose between round-trips from Vancouver or one-way journeys to Juneau or Seward, or even to Fairbanks when combined with a Denali cruise tour. (Reverse itineraries are available, too.) See enormous glaciers up close on Zodiac or kayak excursions, guided by expedition experts and launched directly from the ship. Additionally, Windstar’s smaller ship are able to get closer to the shore than any other cruise ships, providing world-class wildlife viewing.

Best Alaska Cruises Available This Year

A cruise to Alaska is all about epic coastal landscapes and bustling fishing ports, iconic wildlife and perhaps a taste of life at America’s last frontier. You’ll sail to places such as the Inside Passage and see monumental Glacier Bay, visit harbor towns like Skagway and Juneau, and head to Anchorage, the perfect base for excursions to some of the U.S.’ most magnificent national parks.

If this all sounds like fun to you, go ahead and check out the following best Alaska cruises on offer right now. Note, however, that the Alaska cruise season is shorter than other destinations’. It runs roughly from May through September. Check out our blog post elaborating on the best time to cruise to Alaska.

Sunrise as seen from the ocean peaking over a glacier in Alaska.
Sunrise at the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska. Credit: lhboucault – stock.adobe.com

Alaska Hubbard Glacier Cruise ─ Celebrity Eclipse

This marvelous 8-day cruise starts in Vancouver and takes you through the iconic Inside Passage to Ketchikan and Juneau. You’ll explore basically the entire Alaska panhandle, which is home to some of North America’s most breathtaking coastline, including deep fjords, calving glaciers, and coastal mountains and forests. The final destination on this epic Alaska cruise is the massive Hubbard Glacier.

This is one of the best Alaska cruises if you have a week’s time. In 2019, there are twelve sailing dates, running from late-May through mid-September.

  • From/to: roundtrip from Vancouver
  • Duration: 8 days, 7 nights
  • Ports of call: Icy Strait Point, Juneau and Ketchikan
  • Highlights: Inside Passage, whale watching excursions, wilderness hikes, historic gold mining experiences, Hubbard Glacier, and salmon fishing
  • Price: from $899 per person
Dock on the ocean with lush mountains in background.
Scenic dock in Juneau, Alaska. Credit: Reggie – stock.adobe.com

Alaska Highlights Cruise ─ Norwegian Bliss

While this itinerary is similar to many other week-long Alaska cruises, what sets this Alaska Highlights Cruise apart is the ship itself. Norwegian Bliss is the youngest addition to the Norwegian fleet, an enormous ship—the largest one to sail to Alaska—and custom built specially to offer the best Alaska cruises.

Because of its sheer size, it offers all possible entertainment types and amenities you can expect on a cruise ship. No other ship in the region comes close. There is an on-board racetrack, laser tag, Starbucks, superb restaurants and Broadway-quality theater.

  • From/to: roundtrip from Seattle
  • Duration: 7 nights
  • Ports of call: Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria
  • Highlights: Native American culture, seafood, historic Juneau, Glacier Bay National Park and gold rush history in Skagway
  • Price: from $699
Brown bears playing in the water.
Brown bears playing in the water. Credit: Petr Šimon – stock.adobe.com

Northbound Alaska & Hubbard Glacier Cruise ─ Radiance of the Seas

The northbound Alaska & Hubbard Glacier Cruise goes beyond most Alaska cruises’ itineraries. Instead of turning back to its port of departure, it continues north. You’ll travel from Vancouver in British Columbia to Seward, Alaska, along a long stretch of stunning subarctic coastline. As such, you’ll see twice as much in the same time as 7-night return cruises to Alaska!

This seven-night cruise takes in most of the iconic highlights in coastal Alaska. From Ketchikan’s totem poles and salmon fishing to the Klondike Gold Rush days in Skagway, the massive Hubbard Glacier and the wildlife of the Katmai peninsula, you’ll find it all (and more) on this awesome Alaska cruise.

Note: you can also do this cruise in a southbound direction.

  • From/to: Vancouver to Seward
  • Duration: 8 days, 7 nights
  • Ports of call: Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier
  • Highlights: Totem poles collections, Klondike Gold Rush history, enormous glaciers, seafood and lots of wildlife
  • Price: from $804
Mountains overlooking picturesque Glacier Bay National Park on an Alaska cruise.
Mountains overlooking picturesque Glacier Bay National Park on an Alaska cruise. Credit: Maridav – stock.adobe.com

Glacier Bay and Canadian Inside Passage Cruise ─ Seabourn Sojourn

If you’re looking to get pampered and spoiled during your cruise to Alaska, there’s arguably no better cruise line than Seabourn, one of the world’s top luxury cruise lines. Combining expedition-style travel with extreme luxury, their Alaska cruises offer a more in-depth, intimate and immersive experience than many other cruises.

This 7-day Ultimate Glacier & Fjord Adventure takes in all major highlights from Juneau to Vancouver, particularly the spectacular passages and channels on the southeastern Alaska and British Columbia coasts.. And there are plenty of those, from Glacier Bay National Park and Stephens Passage to Rudyerd Bay (Misty Fjords), Whale Channel and Princess Royal Channel. In terms of destinations, this is one of the absolute best Alaska cruises you can do this season, taking in many Alaska cruise locations that other cruise lines don’t visit.

  • From/to: Juneau to Vancouver
  • Duration: 7 days
  • Ports of call: Wrangell, Rudyerd Bay, Prince Rupert, Alert Bay,
  • Highlights: numerous glaciers, national park, pioneering history, fantastic fresh seafood, straits and channels, historic towns
  • Price: from $4,499

We’ve chosen these as the best Alaska cruises to do this year, but note that there are many more. Use these suggestions as a starting point—they all truly are among the very best you’ll find—but we also encourage you to browse the respective cruise line websites for more options and comparisons.

Stellar sea lions seen on a cruise in Seward, Alaska.
Stellar sea lions seen on a cruise in Seward, Alaska. Credit: Caleb Foster – stock.adobe.com

Alaska Cruises FAQs

When thinking about going on an Alaska cruise, you might have some questions. Below are a few of the most common questions and their respective answers. If you’d like to know something else, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

What Is the Best Month to Cruise to Alaska?

The Alaska cruise season typically kicks off around mid-May, running to mid-September. This coincides with spring, summer and fall in Alaska. Summer really doesn’t last much longer than July through August. Spring and fall are very short, yet offer an abundance of natural sights.

June and July are the warmest, busiest and most comfortable months for cruises to Alaska. However, this comes with much higher prices as well. Each month from May through September has its pros and cons. You can see a break-down of the individual months in our best time to cruise to Alaska post.

All factors considered, early-September might be the greatest time for Alaska cruises. This time is caribou and moose mating season, salmon runs are at their peak, fall foliage is glorious, and there are no more bugs.

What Side of the Ship Is Best for an Alaska Cruise?

Since Alaska cruises are basically coastal cruises, the route paralleling the Alaskan coastline, you might think that the coast side of the ship is best. While there’s certainly plenty of scenery to enjoy, the open sea-facing side can offer spectacular marine life watching. Therefore, there’s really no “best” side to stay on a cruise to Alaska.

Moreover, many Alaska cruises are return trips. After reaching its furthest destination, the ship turns back and you’ll have the chance to face the other way.

What Is the Average Cost of an Alaskan Cruise?

There are several different factors that determine the cost of cruises to Alaska. From the time of year to natural circumstances, the location of your stateroom, and the cruise line you choose, the price range is quite wide.

That said, however, the average starting price of the best Alaska cruises discussed in this post is $1,565 per person. Note that this is the average cost of the cheapest time of each cruise. As mentioned, the range is wide, from $699 to $3,999, depending on how luxurious you want to go.

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By Bram R

Born and raised in Belgium, Bram is currently based in the Pacific Northwest where he spends his days blogging, hiking, indulging in freshly roasted coffee and sipping craft beers. An experienced traveler, his most memorable journeys include a sea crossing on a cargo ship, a cruise along the Norwegian fjords, a multi-month bike trip around northern Europe, and a road trip across Australia. He's obsessed with America's national parks.

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