Alaska cruise pointers
you can trust
These Alaska cruise tips and insights will help you make the right choices for your Alaska cruise trip.
Vancouver and Seattle are the top two Alaska Cruise embarkation and debarkationport cities. Air Canada has the most Vancouver flights and Air Alaska the most Seattle flights of the major airlines. Click Air Canada and Air Alaska to view their websites and schedules.
Best time to take
an Alaska cruise
The five-month tourism season runs May to September. It can be subdivided into three periods. Each has its pro & cons.
1st week of June
Rains the least. Mountain peaks still blanketed with much of their winter snow. Wildflowers are abloom. Easier than mid-summer to book cruises and prime shore excursions. Smaller tourist crowds.
Comparatively cold. Iceberg calving may keep ships from getting close to glaciers.
2nd week of June
through 3rd week of August
Longest daylight hours. Warmest period. Salmon runs peak, thus better bear viewing. Best whale watching period.
School vacation time, which increases tourist crowds and decreases cruise and excursion availability. Rains become more prevalent.
Last week of August
Beautiful fall foliage. Cruise ports less crowded. Easier and less expensive to make bookings. Possible to see Northern Lights in late September.
Rainiest period. Fewest daylight hours. Comparatively cold.
Alaska cruises do not operate during the cold months, which generally stretch from early October through late April.
When to book
Alaska cruises, shore excursions, and the airline flights serving the embarking and disembarking ports tend to sell out early, especially for the peak-season mid-June to mid-August period.
You may be able to get better prices by waiting till the last minute, but that entails the risk of not getting the ships, cabins, excursions, and flights that best suit your personal preferences.
Moreover, the price of a flight tends to rise as the flight date nears. The increase could well offset the last-minute bargain cruise fare.
children and teenagers
If the youth is bored on the ship, his interest may perk up on shore excursions. Try to book a cruise that visits many ports. Just as important, bring your kids into the decision making on which excursions to book.
Generally, the big mid-priced ships are best suited for children and teenagers because they have a variety of age-specific onboard and ashore activities for them. And, there will be more children and teenagers onboard to meet and befriend. This is particularly true for the Royal Caribbean and Carnival ships.
Prepping your children before the cruise on what they will see and experience increases the odds that they will enjoy the cruise. For example, encourage them to watch TV nature documentaries on the destinations you will be visiting.
About the Inside Passage
Alaska's Inside Passage stretches 800 kilometers (500 miles) south to north and contains 1,000 islands. The latter helps block open-Pacific storms, creating smooth sailing waterways for cruise and cargo ships.
My Big 5 wildlife list
In my African Safari section, I give both the traditional Big 5 safari animal list (those to shoot with a rifle) and the Hillman list (those to shoot with a camera). Here's my alphabetical Big 5 list for Alaska cruise photographers:
Best cruise ships by category