Cruising Alaska is a wonderful experience and if you are heading there this summer or next here are some tips on what you need to know before you book an Alaskan Cruise, from what cabin to book to what to do in each port.
I have been to Alaska so many times over the last ten years between my time working onboard and now travelling with my husband it feels like home!
Every time I go, I am blown away how beautiful it is and how fresh the air is. I have seen lovely weather and awful weather and it is pot luck what type you get, you just have to make the most of it and pack the right clothes to be prepared. If you get sun, rain, snow, wind it makes a great story when you get home.
If it is your first time to Alaska, there is a lot to do and you can’t do everything in one cruise so pick and choose what takes your fancy, as I’m sure you will be back again.
What You Need to Know before you book an Alaskan Cruise
Which Cruise Lines Go to Alaska?
Holland America Line
Norweigan Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line
Royal Caribbean International
What Cabin to Book?
There is a lot of scenic cruising whilst in Alaska so I would recommend a cabin with a balcony or a window, to enjoy the spectacular views and wildlife spotting.
Should I book any tours?
If it is your first time to Alaska, you need to leave the port area and see what Alaska has to offer. The port towns are lovely to walk around if you would like an easy day with shopping and a spot of lunch.
The tours in Alaska are amazing from helicopter tours that land on a glacier to float planes through the misty fjords, to whale watching, to getting up close to wild animals or watching a lumberjack show.
Should I book tours with the cruise line or privately?
The choice is yours, but if you book with the cruise line, if the tour is running late the ship will wait for you. If you are on a private tour and you are late back and the ship may not wait!
If you book with the cruise line, you can reserve online before your cruise and see all the options before they sell out. You can also book onboard, but if there is something you really want to do and you know it before your cruise reserve online before to avoid disappointment.
There are many tour vendors on the pier of each port if you would like to go on last-minute tour, the choice is there.
Most ships embark (start) in either Vancouver, Seattle, Whittier, San Francisco or Los Angeles. Then the ports are normally Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, maybe Vancouver or Victoria and scenic cruising around a glacier like Glacier Bay or Sawyer Glacier.
Skagway is a small town with lovely gift shops and jewellery shops. There are a few restaurants, bars and coffee shops. The town is surrounded by mountains and this was the starting point for the gold rush back 1898.
In Skagway, the tours range from helicopter tours, plane tours, the famous train through the mountains to see the gold rush route, wildlife spotting and even go to Hains the next town to get up close to Alaskan wild animals.
Here is my account of some of the tours in Skagway:
Juneau is the capital of Alaska. The town is full of gift shops, jewellery shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. This is the biggest town and if you stay in town you can get the cable car up the mountain.
The tours in Juneau range from helicopter tours to the glacier, float planes, whale watching, food tours and wildlife spotting.
I went on a tour of a lifetime on the helicopter tour that landed on a glacier, read more about it here:
Here is all about whale watching:
Ketchikan is the salmon capital of the world and is a cute colourful town. Creek Street had a colourful red light district in the gold rush era, today the houses are gift shops and museums. See the Lumberjack show right in town or head out of town for some amazing scenery.
The tours in Ketchikan range from spotting bears to the totem pole park to flying through the misty fjords on a float plane.
Read more about the Lumberjack Show, Totem Pole Park and Creek Street here:
Whilst on an Alaskan cruise you are going to see a glacier or two! This will be a scenic cruising day and is usually the coldest day of the cruise. Make sure you pack some warm clothes for this day.
Sometimes depending on the cruise, you go on and time of the season you can get up close the glacier on a smaller boat tour. Check with your cruise line if this tour is available as this tour is only available through the cruise line, as you directly embark the smaller boat from the cruise ship.
Read more about the tour I did that got me up close to the Sawyer Glacier:
There is a lot of scenic cruising throughout the Alaskan cruise between the three ports; Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau. Look out for whales, eagles, seals and bears and lots of trees and little islands.
What to Pack
An Alaskan summer is not like a summer in Italy or LA. So, do not pack your normal summer wardrobe, think layers as it will be colder than you think! Onboard the ship it can be warm though so layers are the best way to go to take off when needed.
I wrote a whole guide on what to pack for an Alaskan cruise read more here:
I hope you enjoyed reading What You Need to Know before you book an Alaskan Cruise. Please share on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest so your friends and family can read too. Sharing is caring!