Updated: Sep 6
An Alaska cruise is widely regarded as one of the best ways to experience the awe-inspiring beauty and diverse landscapes of this vast state. My Alaska Cruise was one of the best vacations I have ever taken. Here are some reasons why an Alaska cruise is considered the best way to see Alaska, and some of my favorite things along the way. My cruise left Seward and had stops at Hoonah, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan before ending in Vancouver B.C. Canada.
What to pack: It is hard to decide what to pack for this cruise. On mine I overpacked, and temperatures vary. I expected to be somewhere from the upper 40's to 70's, so I bought items so I could dress in layers. Little did I realize the only sunburn I would get this summer would be in Anchorage when temperatures were well over 90 degrees. It was hot. I brought a light rain jacket, which I used 1 time in Juneau. I never used my umbrella. One thing I did buy and bring with me was mosquito wipes. There were tons of mosquitos anytime I was on land but near water (not when the ship was sailing from port to port), so these wipes worked great. I did not get a single bug bite. So, you expect to pack more because you will need to dress in layers.
Sea sickness: If you are worried about sea sickness pick a cruise that spends more time in the passage instead of the open sea. But honestly, I take the over-the-counter pill called Bonnie. I start taking it the day before I get on the ship and for 2 or 3 days after getting off the ship. It helps me with my sea legs. If you are worried, trust me it helps, I have in my past and present had seasickness, and horrible vertigo episodes. This pill helps.
Scenic Views: Cruising along Alaska's coastline offers breathtaking views of towering glaciers, fjords, rugged mountains, and pristine wilderness. The ever-changing landscapes can be enjoyed from the comfort of your ship's deck, providing ample opportunities for stunning photographs and unforgettable moments.
Cruising Glacier Bay is a highlight. Cruising in the bay let me see sea lions swimming and laying on ice floats, a great view of the glacier and hearing the booms from the glacier calving. (Calving may be a new term for you; it's when chunks of ice fall off glaciers into the sea.) The only issue during this is the deck is full, people are out trying to get the best view. Balcony rooms are nice, just as long as the ship turns in the direction to help you see it from your room, but it is not a guarantee. Of course, I was that person on the top deck with the madhouse of everyone else, until I realized the ship would be turning, then I went down to a lower deck that had an outside walkway. This was perfect, it was not crowded, and I got amazing views and pictures, even 1 with me and the glacier.
Access to Remote Locations: Many of Alaska's most spectacular destinations are remote and inaccessible by road. An Alaska cruise allows you to visit these hidden gems, such as Glacier Bay National Park, Hubbard Glacier, and Tracy Arm Fjord, where you can witness calving glaciers, spot wildlife, and immerse yourself in the untouched natural beauty of the region.
The cruise I took had a stop in Hoonah Alaska, which is a very small village. They have turned into a tourist area. But from here I got the chance to do an amazing easy hike and was able to learn a lot and see bears, tons of bald eagles, salmon rushing up a stream and banana slugs. While in port I took a moment and looked to the bay, imagining how wonderful it would be to live right here, beautiful views of the water and the seclusion. While talking to a local fisherman he said there are times when whales swim right through the bay for a close-up view.
Wildlife Encounters: Alaska is renowned for its abundant wildlife, including bears, whales, seals, sea lions, eagles, and more. On a cruise, you have the chance to observe these incredible creatures in their natural habitats, both from the ship and during shore excursions. Keep your camera ready for sightings of breaching whales and playful otters!
On my last day at sea, near Ketchikan Alaska on my way to Vancouver Canada, I saw 15 blue whales from the ship. This was not all at once but over a couple of hours where I was out on deck. The whales are not close the ship, they are a good distance away, but you can spot them as they breach the surface and blow water out of the hole on top of their body, I brought binoculars with me, which I would suggest, that will help, after you get the general direction to look for the whales. If you want the up-close encounter, I do recommend you do a whale watching excursion. Seeing the whales from the cruise ship are not close at all. All ports offer whale watching, and everyone I talked to on my cruise enjoyed them at whichever port they did them from. In my opinion though take the whale watching adventures in the Icy Straight area if possible (Hoonah).
Also, my shore excursion in Ketchikan was amazing. It was a boat tour on a boat from the Deadliest Catch, I saw so many Bald Eagles, plus octopus, many fish and crabs!!!!! Learned a lot about deep sea fishing, and you can buy the best crab to eat while on the excursion.
Cultural Experiences: Along your cruise route, you can explore charming coastal towns and experience Alaska's rich cultural heritage. Enjoy interactions with local communities, learn about Native Alaskan traditions, visit art galleries, taste regional cuisine, and take part in cultural performances. Ports of call such as Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway offer a glimpse into the history and culture of the Last Frontier.
There are so many cultural experiences when visiting Alaska, every city you visit offers something cultural which I do recommend. I also recommend flying into Anchorage and taking the train to Seward to get on the ship. Take a day or 2 before and spend time in Anchorage. There is an amazing cultural center there called Alaska Native Heritage Center. Also check out my blog about my time in Anchorage, check it out by clicking this link. Yaakw Kahidi Cultural Center in Hoonah, Alaska Native Cultural Immersion Adventure Tour in Ketchikan Alaska, Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau Alaska, and Haines Native Culture Experience in Skagway Alaska.
All-Inclusive Experience: An Alaska cruise provides an all-inclusive experience, with accommodations, meals, entertainment, and transportation (sometimes) conveniently bundled into one package. Onboard amenities range from gourmet dining options and live performances to spa facilities and educational lectures about Alaska's history and natural wonders. This ensures a comfortable and immersive journey throughout your trip.
Of course, each cruise line is different on what's included with what package. Some include discounts on excursions, an alcohol package, or upgrades to include specialty restaurants. Sometimes packages are given with room upgrades. Moving up from an interior room to a balcony usually gets you more included in your package.
Flexibility and Variety: Alaska cruises offer a diverse range of itineraries, allowing you to choose the duration, ports of call, and activities that best suit your preferences. Whether you prefer a week-long voyage or an extended adventure, you can tailor your itinerary to fit your desired level of exploration and relaxation.
My cruise left from Seward, and ended in Vancouver B.C. Canada, but there are so many to choose from. Leave and come back to Seattle, Vancouver, Seward or even the chance of transpacific or repositioning cruises, that will take you all the way to California. Some ships even offer a cruise extension with a trip to Denali by train and fly out of Fairbanks Alaska when you are done. It's your call, choose whichever works best for your vacation. Just know that Alaska must be seen.
Expert Guidance: Cruise lines often employ knowledgeable naturalists and guides who provide educational commentary and lead informative shore excursions. Their expertise enhances your understanding of Alaska's unique ecosystems, geological formations, and wildlife behavior, making the experience even more enriching.
While taking an excursion with the cruise line does have its benefits, you can also book excursions yourself (they can be cheaper). Or do self-guided tours which may offer you more time to see a specific area if you like. Just be mindful of your time, as cruise lines do not wait on passengers that did not book an excursion with them if you are running late to get back on the ship. Also, know that with summer being the busy tourist season, and sometimes several ships are in the city at the same time. Excursions can sell out quickly. And local buses usually are not made for extra traffic during the tourist season, because local buses are used by the locals.
In Juneau Alaska the excursion I took showed a salmon hatchery and a Salmon Bake which is a popular thing in Alaska. Plus included was a trip to Mendenhall Glacier.
In Skagway I suggest the White Pass Train. It has a tendency to sell out quickly. It's a great way to go up into the mountains, learn some history. You get off the train in Frasier British Columbia, but some tours take you on into the Yukon Territory by bus from Frasier which is what I did. It was beautiful to see. Plus, you will get to see the northernmost desert which is in the Yukon.
An Alaska cruise combines the convenience and luxury of a cruise vacation with unparalleled access to Alaska's natural wonders and cultural treasures. It offers a comprehensive and immersive way to explore this majestic state, ensuring an unforgettable experience filled with awe-inspiring sights and lifelong memories. I hope you have enjoyed this blog, and you found it useful.