Alaska has been a cruise lovers’ favourite for many years. Many cities and sites are inaccessible by road, and a cruise ship provides passengers with a view of many natural wonders that cannot be seen from land. Over 750,000 cruise passengers will sail Alaskan waters during the short 5 month cruise season, attracted by the prospects of seeing towering glaciers, charming small towns, and all manner of wildlife.
The sheer ease of cruise travel is one reason for its popularity. You take in the scenery from your ship, disembarking to visit ports of call or to engage in sports activities.
This compares to less than 40,000 who visit Antarctica during its short cruise season. Sixteen major cruise lines will send more than 40 diverse ships to Alaska, ranging in size from 12 passengers to over 2600! Ships sail roundtrip from Vancouver or Seattle to the southeast panhandle of Alaska. Cruises usually include famous Glacier Bay National Park, home of 16 magnificent glaciers.
More cruise ships than ever are sailing Alaskan waters. Alaska is one cruise destination that is very high on most cruise lovers’ list. Alaska’s cruise season generally runs from May through September, although some smaller ships start up in April. May and September are considered the shoulder seasons, when lower rates and more aggressive discounts are offered.
Summer is the big vacation season in the northwest, and many non-cruisers also choose to head to this beautiful part of the world. Cruisers go to Alaska to see the magnificent mountains, beautiful bays, and wonderful wildlife.
Many cruisers realise that if you love nature, you might be able to appreciate it more on a small ship. There is a wonderful variety of small ships sailing to Alaska, and each has something special to offer cruise lovers. Small or alternative ships are best suited for people who prefer a casual, crowd-free experience that offers passengers a chance to get up close and personal with Alaska’s natural surroundings and wildlife.
On the other hand, the megaships look and feel like floating resorts. Big on glitz, they offer loads of activities, attract many families and seniors, offer fancy casinos and fully equipped gyms, and provide a wide variety of meal and entertainment options.
Over the last few years, the number of Alaska shore excursions and activities available for cruise passengers has doubled. Today, shore options are focusing more than ever on adventure and outdoors activities: Kayaking, bicycling, dog sledding, river rafting and sport fishing are possible in the scenic wilderness of this great state, alongside more traditional tours focusing on culture and history.
Juneau, the capital of Alaska, has a great variety of things to see and do. A number of memorials are situated along the waterfront and boardwalk and the famous Red Dog Saloon is nearby; state and city museums and government buildings are a short walk, with shops all along the way.
Mendenhall Glacier, a 20 minute drive from downtown, is the most accessible glacier to any town on the Inside Passage. Active adventures abound in Juneau. This is an excellent spot for whale watching, wildlife viewing, kayaking and river rafting. Some whale watching companies actually offer cash refund if you don’t see a humpback or orca whale during your tour.
Sitka, on Baranof Island, has one of the most picturesque settings of any Alaskan port. Sitka is the former Russian capital of Alaska, which combines native culture, Russian history and Alaskan wilderness.
Famous for the Klondike Gold Rush, Skagway is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Skagway is known as the “Garden City of Alaska”. Garden enthusiasts should visit Jewell Gardens, which includes a miniature town site and train within the gardens. The gold rush cemetery is a fascinating spot just a short walk from town.
Every spring and summer, a spectacle blooms unlike anything else on Earth – Alaska cruising means thundering glaciers, temperate rainforests, rugged coastlines, majestic peaks, untamed wildlife, and so much more.