Alaska consistently ranks among the top five premier cruise destinations, according to Cruise Holidays’ surveys of cruise booking data from its agencies across North America. From 1997 to 2008, the annual number of Alaska-bound cruise passengers doubled, from 500,000 to more than one million; while that growth has calmed a bit, the upward trend continues. What makes Alaska cruises so enduringly popular?
Multiple cruise lines visit Alaska, so there’s a terrific choice of ships, onboard amenities and onshore activities. But, Alaska’s popularity as a cruise destination really comes down to Alaska itself. The scenery is massive in scale and absolutely stunning: verdant old-growth forests, snow-capped peaks, calving glaciers that glow deep blue and green; plus, wide stretches of water and shoreline occupied by extraordinary wildlife, from deep-diving whales to soaring eagles. The ports are unique, offbeat towns that welcome visitors interested in native cultures, the frontier age and the modern Alaskan way of life.
Most cruises of Alaska focus on the scenic coastline and towns of Southeastern Alaska, and most itineraries follow one of two routes: a roundtrip loop through the Inside Passage, departing from Seattle or Vancouver; or a one-way voyage from Seattle or Vancouver to Whittier or Seward, which are the sea ports for Anchorage.
Many itineraries are seven days; for a longer vacation, you can pair your cruise with a land tour. Several cruise lines offer these combination land-and-sea packages known as “cruisetours.” Alaskan cruisetours often include a scenic rail journey toward an interior destination like Denali National Park, Wrangell-Elias National Park or the Yukon. For even more adventure, choose a tour that will take you across the Arctic Circle to Prudhoe Bay.
This year’s Alaska cruise season began April 25 and will be over by October, so there’s no time to lose! Considering the incredible scenery in store, you may want to choose a stateroom with a larger window or balcony: your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert can guide you. Packing takes a bit of thought, too; daytime temperatures can vary from the 50s to the high 70s or low 80s. And, bring your best camera with plenty of digital storage. You’ll need it, and our guess is that you’ll use it all.