While many novice travellers will find the restraints of ‘cruise life’ to be a bit offensive, there are many reasons to pick an Alaskan cruise. In Alaska, a land that could take years to explore thoroughly, you get an opportunity to see many of the top spectacles in one handy, all-inclusive voyage.
Depending on the kind of tour you pick, you can get a chance to deplane in port for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, where you can stroll around town, take in an excursion or a hike, or even a more extended trip inland. You also get to sit on the deck and spot humpback whales breaching, bald eagles hunting and icebergs calving: not bad, right?
On other lines, you’ll get more wildlife outings and more stops. Travellers, Backpackers and economical types can always hop on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry. You see similar sights, but you don’t get a heated pool, casino, hot-tub, all-you-can-eat buffet, B-team comedian, or cruise director.
Pick your Alaska Cruise Ship
- Large cruise ships
For the convenience of an all-inclusive sailing hotel, you can’t beat a big cruise ship. These resorts on the sea do have their boundaries, however. Most large cruises stop only in the significant ports of call and usually start from Seattle or Vancouver. Excursions range from zipline tours and heli-seeing trips to kayaks, guided hikes, and day trips to Denali National Park. Cruises cost around $120 a night, but that does not include your flight to embarkation. Celebrity, Carnival, Holland America, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Princess all offer Alaskan cruise opportunities.
- Small ships
A small percentage of Alaskan cruisers choose a small-ship voyage. While you’ll have bumpier seas, tighter quarters, and fewer entertainment options than on the big babes, these small ships offer better chances at seeing more land, wildlife, and kayak excursions, generally better food, onboard naturalists (most of the time), a more casual atmosphere (you can forget that blue coat at the office cabin where it belongs), and a more informal portrait of Alaska.
These boats nap anywhere from eight to 100 and are more likely to leave from Alaska. While this is your best bet, if you are looking to match comfort with authentic and quality experience, it does come with an abrupter price tag: anywhere from $250 to $1200 a night. Lindblad Expeditions, Adventure Life Voyages, AdventureSmith Explorations, Cruise West, Discovery Voyages, America Safari Cruises, and Holland America offer different kinds of small boat cruises.
- Alaska Marine Highway:
Travel on the state ferries is a delightful and leisurely experience. The midnight sun is gold, the landscape stunning, and the possibility of bald eagles, sighting whales or sea lions keeps most passengers at the ship’s side.
Alaska Marine Highway runs ferries furnished with food services, observation decks, solariums, and lounges with deck chairs. You can hire a stateroom for overnight journeys – spartan compared with what you’ll get on a cruise liner – but many tourists head straight for the solarium and unfurl their sleeping bags on chairs.
The ferries are remarkably popular during the peak season. Suppose you are boarding in Washington, Bellingham, you need reservations for a vehicle space or cabin, and just to be safe. In that case, you should presumably have one even if you’re just a walk-on passenger.