Alaska Cruise Port Guide: Everything You Need To Know

Alaska offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, making it an ideal location for a cruise. With 26 active cruise ports, including popular ones like Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, and Skagway, there’s no shortage of stunning destinations to explore. Whether you’re interested in wildlife encounters, glacier exploration, or immersing yourself in Native American art and culture, Alaska‘s cruise ports have something for everyone.

The cruise season in Alaska typically runs from late April to early October, with the high season falling between June and August. It’s during this time that you’ll have the best chances of experiencing the warmest weather and spotting incredible wildlife like humpback whales and orcas. However, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider booking during the shoulder season months of April, May, or September.

When it comes to choosing a departure port for your Alaska cruise, you have the options of Seward, Juneau, Vancouver, or Seattle. Each port offers its own unique advantages and attractions to enhance your cruise experience. Whether you’re starting your journey in the heart of Alaska or setting sail from a bustling city, you’re sure to be captivated by the beauty that awaits.

Alaska Ports, Key Takeaways:

  • Alaska’s cruise ports offer stunning scenery and a variety of experiences
  • Popular cruise ports include Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, and Skagway
  • The cruise season in Alaska runs from late April to early October
  • High season falls between June and August, offering the warmest weather
  • Shoulder season months of April, May, and September provide better deals
  • Departure ports include Seward, Juneau, Vancouver, and Seattle

Best Alaska Cruise Ports: Top 5 Ports of Call

When planning an Alaska cruise, it’s important to consider the top ports of call that offer the best experiences and attractions. Here are the top 5 Alaska cruise ports that you shouldn’t miss:

  1. Ketchikan: Known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” Ketchikan offers a unique blend of Native American culture and breathtaking natural beauty. Explore the town’s famous totem poles, take a seaplane tour to admire the stunning landscapes from above, and indulge in fresh local seafood.
  2. Sitka: Sitka is a hidden gem that showcases Alaska’s rich history. Visit the National Historic Park, where you can immerse yourself in Native American art and explore preserved tribal houses. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy the opportunity to spot humpback whales, sea otters, and bald eagles.
  3. Juneau: As the capital of Alaska, Juneau offers a plethora of activities for every traveler. Get up close to majestic glaciers, try your hand at gold panning, and take a scenic tram ride for panoramic views of the city and surrounding wilderness. Don’t forget to sample some fresh Alaskan seafood!
  4. Skagway: Step back in time in Skagway, a historic gold rush town. Explore the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, visit restored buildings from the gold rush era, and embark on scenic hikes to soak in the stunning mountain views.
  5. Icy Strait Point (Hoonah): Located on Chichagof Island, Icy Strait Point is a small community that offers a unique Alaskan experience. Soar through the treetops on a thrilling zip-lining adventure, immerse yourself in the local culture, and savor delicious seafood caught fresh from the surrounding waters.

These top cruise ports of call in Alaska provide an array of unforgettable experiences, from cultural immersion to stunning natural beauty. Dive into the rich history and breathtaking landscapes of Alaska as you explore these top destinations during your cruise.

PortHighlights
KetchikanTotem poles, seaplane tours, fresh seafood
SitkaNative American art, wildlife viewing, National Historic Park
JuneauGlacier exploration, gold panning, scenic tram rides
SkagwayGold rush history, restored buildings, scenic hikes
Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)Zip-lining, cultural experiences, fresh seafood

How to Visit Alaska Cruise Ports: Excursion Tips and Activities

When visiting the stunning Alaska cruise ports, you’ll find a plethora of excursion options and activities to make your trip truly memorable. Each port offers unique experiences that showcase the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the region. Here are some tips and ideas to help you plan your visit:

Ketchikan – The Totem Pole Capital

Ketchikan is known as the Totem Pole Capital of the World, so a visit here wouldn’t be complete without exploring its famous collection of totem poles. You can take a guided tour to learn about the history and significance of these magnificent sculptures. For an exhilarating experience, consider taking a seaplane tour to enjoy breathtaking aerial views of the surrounding landscapes. And of course, don’t forget to savor the delicious fresh seafood that Ketchikan is renowned for.

Sitka – Wildlife Encounters and Native American Art

Sitka offers a blend of wildlife encounters, stunning scenery, and rich Native American art and culture. Explore the Alaska Raptor Center, where you can see and learn about rehabilitating birds of prey up close. Take a wildlife tour to spot humpback whales, sea otters, and other marine life in their natural habitat. Immerse yourself in Sitka’s history by visiting the National Historic Park, home to one of the largest collections of totem poles in Alaska.

Juneau – Gateway to Glaciers and Gold Rush History

Patsy Ann Statue - Junea, AK
Patsy Ann, a bull terrier who came to town in 1929, is Juneau’s most famous dog. Her remarkable life is celebrated in a sculpture of her likeness which sits on the downtown cruise ship dock, not far from her final resting place in Gastineau Channel. (Photo By John Shallo/Cruise Addicts)

Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is a paradise for nature lovers and history enthusiasts. Take a glacier tour to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of Mendenhall Glacier and explore its ice caves. Experience the thrill of gold panning and learn about the city’s rich gold rush history at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. For panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscapes, hop on a scenic tram ride to the top of Mount Roberts.

Skagway – Gold Rush Town and Scenic Hikes

Step back in time in Skagway, a charming gold rush town with well-preserved historic buildings. Take a guided tour of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park to learn about the fascinating stories and hardships of the gold rush era. If you’re up for an adventure, embark on a scenic hike along the picturesque trails, such as the Chilkoot Trail or the Lower Dewey Lake Trail. Don’t forget to capture the breathtaking views along the way!

Icy Strait Point – Thrilling Adventures and Cultural Experiences

Our Zip Rider review at Icy Strait Point (Hoonah, Alaska)

Icy Strait Point, located on Hoonah, offers a unique blend of thrilling activities and immersive cultural experiences. Get your adrenaline pumping with a zip-lining adventure through the lush rainforest, enjoying panoramic views of the coastline. Immerse yourself in the local Tlingit culture by visiting the Huna Heritage Center, where you can learn about traditional arts, crafts, and history. Indulge in the delicious local seafood, including the famous Alaskan king crab.

These are just a few examples of the incredible excursion options and activities available in Alaska cruise ports. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or adventure seeker, each port has something to offer that will make your Alaskan cruise experience unforgettable.

Best Time to Cruise Alaska: Weather and Wildlife

When planning an Alaska cruise, it’s important to consider the best time to visit in terms of weather and wildlife. The summer months of June, July, and August offer the warmest weather, making it an ideal time to explore the stunning landscapes of Alaska. However, it’s worth noting that July and August can also be quite rainy, so be prepared with appropriate clothing and gear.

One of the major highlights of an Alaskan cruise is the opportunity to see incredible wildlife in their natural habitat. The best chances of spotting humpback whales, orcas, and gray whales are during the summer months, particularly in June and July. These months coincide with the salmon runs, which attract these majestic creatures to the Alaska coast. Keep your camera ready for amazing wildlife encounters!

“THE SUMMER MONTHS OF JUNE, JULY, AND AUGUST OFFER THE WARMEST WEATHER AND THE BEST CHANCES OF SEEING WILDLIFE, INCLUDING HUMPBACK WHALES, ORCAS, AND GRAY WHALES.”

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider cruising in the shoulder seasons of April, May, and September. Although the weather may be cooler and there is a higher chance of excursions being canceled due to unpredictable conditions, these months offer lower prices and fewer crowds. May, in particular, is known for being one of the driest months in the Inside Passage, while September presents the opportunity to catch the mesmerizing Northern Lights.

Alaska Cruise Weather by Month

MonthAverage Temperature (°F)Average Rainfall (inches)
April40 – 503.6
May50 – 601.9
June55 – 652.9
July60 – 702.7
August60 – 703.5
September50 – 603.5

Overall, the best time to cruise Alaska depends on your preferences and priorities. If you’re seeking warmer weather and optimal wildlife viewing opportunities, June, July, and August are the months to consider. If budget is a concern and you don’t mind cooler temperatures, April, May, and September offer more affordable options. Regardless of when you decide to cruise, Alaska’s breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife will surely leave you in awe.

Alaska Cruise Costs: Budgeting and Shore Excursions

Planning a cruise to Alaska involves careful budgeting to ensure you have an unforgettable experience without breaking the bank. The cost of an Alaska cruise can vary greatly depending on factors such as the cruise line, itinerary, and cabin type. On average, prices range from $500 to $8,000 or more per person.

For those looking to save money, booking during shoulder season months of April, May, and September can offer more affordable fares. However, keep in mind that weather conditions during these months can be less predictable, and some excursions may be canceled due to unfavorable conditions. May, in particular, is known for being one of the driest months in the Inside Passage, while September offers the possibility of witnessing the mesmerizing Northern Lights.

When budgeting for your Alaska cruise, it’s important to consider the cost of shore excursions. Alaska offers a wide range of activities, from historic tours and guided hikes to helicopter rides and flightseeing tours. The prices of these excursions can vary significantly, so it’s essential to plan and allocate your budget accordingly. A general guideline is to budget at least $500 per person for shore excursions, but keep in mind that more extravagant experiences can cost even more.

Average Alaska Cruise Costs

Cruise LineAverage Cost (per person)
Carnival$500 – $2,000
Celebrity$1,000 – $4,000
Holland America$1,500 – $5,000
Oceania$3,000 – $8,000

“I WAS AMAZED BY THE RANGE OF SHORE EXCURSION OPTIONS IN ALASKA. FROM EXPLORING ANCIENT GLACIERS TO WATCHING HUMPBACK WHALES, THERE’S SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND BUDGETING FOR AT LEAST A FEW EXCURSIONS TO TRULY MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR ALASKA CRUISE EXPERIENCE.” – MARY, ALASKA CRUISE ENTHUSIAST

Remember to factor in additional costs such as gratuities, onboard amenities, and any pre- or post-cruise accommodations. By carefully budgeting and planning your shore excursions, you can make the most of your Alaska cruise while staying within your desired price range.

Alaska Cruise Lines: Mainstream and Luxury Options

When planning an Alaska cruise, you have a range of options when it comes to cruise lines. Whether you prefer a mainstream experience or want to indulge in luxury, there are several cruise lines to choose from.

Mainstream Alaska Cruise Lines

For those looking for a more affordable and traditional cruise experience, mainstream cruise lines like Carnival, Celebrity, NCL, and Royal Caribbean offer Alaska itineraries. Holland America and Princess are the largest mainstream cruise lines for Alaska cruises. These cruise lines provide a variety of onboard amenities, entertainment options, and activities for guests of all ages.

Luxury Alaska Cruise Lines

If you’re seeking a more upscale and personalized experience, luxury cruise lines like Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea, and Windstar offer Alaska itineraries. These cruise lines provide a higher level of service, elegant accommodations, gourmet dining options, and exclusive shore excursions. If you value comfort and indulgence, luxury cruise lines are a great choice for exploring the beauty of Alaska.

Mainstream Alaska Cruise LinesLuxury Alaska Cruise Lines
CarnivalOceania
CelebrityRegent Seven Seas
NCLSeabourn
Royal CaribbeanSilversea
Holland AmericaWindstar
Princess

When choosing the right Alaska cruise line for you, consider your budget, preferences, and desired level of luxury. Whether you opt for a mainstream or luxury experience, you’re sure to have a memorable journey through the breathtaking landscapes of Alaska’s cruise ports.

Alaska Cruise Itineraries: Inside Passage and Gulf of Alaska

Alaska offers two popular cruise itineraries that showcase the stunning natural beauty of the region – Inside Passage cruises and Gulf of Alaska cruises. Each itinerary offers unique experiences and highlights, allowing travelers to explore different parts of this breathtaking destination.

Inside Passage Cruise

Alaska Cruise Port Guide: Everything You Need To Know | 14
Deckhand Dave’s in Juneau, Alaska is an award-winning favorite of cruise visitors for their fish tacos (Photo By John Shallo/Cruise Addicts)

An Inside Passage cruise is a seven-night journey that typically departs from Seattle, Vancouver, or Juneau. This itinerary takes you through the scenic passages and fjords of the Inside Passage, offering picturesque ports of call along the way.

  • Ketchikan: Known for its authentic totem poles and seaplane tours.
  • Sitka: Offers a mix of Native American art, wildlife encounters, and historical landmarks.
  • Juneau: The capital of Alaska, with activities like glacier exploration, gold panning, and wildlife viewing.
  • Skagway: A gold rush town with restored historic buildings and scenic hikes.

Gulf of Alaska Cruise

Gulf of Alaska cruises are one-way itineraries between Vancouver or Whittier/Seward, and they offer a different perspective of Alaska’s beauty. These cruises often include scenic cruising in areas like Glacier Bay and College Fjord.

  • Sitka: A port known for wildlife viewing, exploring Native American art, and visiting the Alaska Raptor Center.
  • Juneau: Gateway to glacier adventures, gold panning, and scenic tram rides.
  • Skagway: Showcasing its gold rush history through restored buildings and offering hikes with stunning views.
Pikes Place Market in Seattle, Washington
Pikes Place Market in Seattle, Washington is a great place to visit (Photo by John Shallo/Cruise Addicts)

Both itineraries provide opportunities to witness the majestic glaciers, spot wildlife like whales and eagles, and immerse yourself in the rich culture and history of Alaska. Whether you choose an Inside Passage cruise or a Gulf of Alaska cruise, you will be treated to unforgettable experiences in this awe-inspiring destination.

ItineraryDeparture PortsPorts of CallHighlights
Inside Passage CruiseSeattle, Vancouver, JuneauKetchikan, Sitka, Juneau, SkagwayTotem poles, wildlife encounters, glacier exploration, gold panning
Gulf of Alaska CruiseVancouver, Whittier/SewardSitka, Juneau, SkagwayScenic cruising, wildlife viewing, gold rush history

Must-See Attractions in Alaska Cruise Ports

Alaska’s cruise ports offer a plethora of must-see attractions that showcase the unique beauty and culture of this destination. Whether you’re exploring the popular ports or venturing off the beaten path to discover hidden gems, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Here are some top attractions you shouldn’t miss:

Ketchikan:

Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour in Ketchikan, Alaska
Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour in Ketchikan, Alaska is not to be missed (Photo By John Shallo/Cruise Addicts)

Home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world, Ketchikan offers a fascinating glimpse into Native American heritage and art. Take a stroll through Totem Bight State Historical Park or visit Saxman Native Village to admire these impressive cultural landmarks. Don’t forget to indulge in delicious fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants.

Sitka:

Immerse yourself in the rich history of Sitka by visiting the Sitka National Historical Park. Explore the preserved tribal houses and totem poles while learning about the area’s indigenous culture. For wildlife enthusiasts, a visit to the Alaska Raptor Center is a must, where you can observe and learn about various bird species, including majestic bald eagles.

Juneau:

As the capital of Alaska, Juneau offers a wide range of attractions. Get up close and personal with glaciers by taking a helicopter tour or boarding a boat excursion to the magnificent Mendenhall Glacier. Pan for gold and learn about the gold rush era at the Last Chance Mining Museum, and take a scenic tram ride up Mount Roberts for panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscapes.

Skagway:

Step back in time in Skagway, a town known for its well-preserved gold rush history. Take a stroll along Broadway Street to admire the charming historic buildings and explore the exhibits at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. For outdoor enthusiasts, the Chilkoot Trail offers scenic hikes surrounded by stunning landscapes.

These are just a few of the must-see attractions in Alaska cruise ports. Each port has its own unique offerings, so make sure to plan your itinerary accordingly to make the most of your Alaskan adventure.

PortMust-See Attractions
KetchikanTotem Bight State Historical Park
Saxman Native Village
Fresh seafood
SitkaSitka National Historical Park
Alaska Raptor Center
Indigenous culture
JuneauMendenhall Glacier
Last Chance Mining Museum
Mount Roberts tram ride
SkagwayHistoric Broadway Street
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Chilkoot Trail hikes

Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Alaska Cruise Ports

While many travelers flock to popular Alaska cruise ports like Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered for those seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience. These lesser-known ports offer unique charm and breathtaking landscapes that are often reserved for smaller ships and luxury cruise lines.

Haines: A Quiet Retreat Amidst Stunning Scenery

Nestled amidst the towering mountains of Southeast Alaska, Haines offers a quieter and more intimate experience. This picturesque town is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, from lush forests to snow-capped peaks. Visitors can immerse themselves in the great outdoors through activities like hiking, wildlife spotting, and kayaking. Haines is also home to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, where visitors can witness the annual gathering of thousands of bald eagles, making it a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

Wrangell: Preserved Heritage and Rich History

For those interested in Alaska’s rich cultural heritage, a visit to Wrangell is a must. This hidden gem showcases its history through preserved tribal houses and a fascinating gold rush museum. Visitors can explore the rich traditions of the Tlingit Native Americans and learn about the town’s gold rush era. Wrangell is also a gateway to the Stikine River, where adventurous travelers can embark on thrilling jet boat tours or scenic river cruises.

Petersburg: Authentic Alaskan Fishing Community

If you’re seeking an authentic Alaskan experience, look no further than Petersburg. This charming fishing community offers a glimpse into the rugged and vibrant lifestyle of Alaskan fishermen. Visitors can wander through the town’s colorful streets, browse local art galleries, and sample fresh seafood. Nature lovers will enjoy exploring the nearby LeConte Glacier, known as the southernmost tidewater glacier in North America. With its small-town charm and rich maritime history, Petersburg is a hidden gem worth exploring.

PortDescriptionNotable Attractions
HainesA quiet retreat amidst stunning sceneryChilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, hiking, wildlife spotting
WrangellPreserved heritage and rich historyTribal houses, gold rush museum, Stikine River
PetersburgAuthentic Alaskan fishing communityLocal art galleries, fresh seafood, LeConte Glacier

Alaska Cruise Port FAQ

Q: What is an Alaska Cruise Port?

A: An Alaska Cruise Port refers to a specific location in Alaska where cruise ships dock to allow passengers to explore the surrounding area.

Q: What are some popular Alaska Cruise Ports of Call?

A: Some popular Alaska Cruise Ports of Call include Vancouver, Seward, Whittier, Hoonah, and Anchorage.

Q: Can you provide information about Vancouver, a popular Cruise Port in Alaska?

A: Vancouver is a major cruise port in Alaska that serves as the starting point for many Alaska cruises. It offers stunning views of the Inside Passage and is known for its vibrant city life.

Q: What is Glacier Bay National Park?

A: Glacier Bay National Park is a must-visit destination in Alaska known for its majestic glaciers and abundant wildlife. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and provides a breathtaking backdrop for cruise ship passengers.

Q: What is the Inside Passage?

A: The Inside Passage is a scenic route along the western coast of Canada and Alaska. It is a popular route for cruise ships, offering breathtaking views of fjords, glaciers, and coastal towns.

Q: Can you provide some planning tips for an Alaska cruise vacation?

A: Absolutely! When planning an Alaska cruise vacation, consider booking a cruise that includes a land tour to explore destinations such as Denali National Park, Kenai Peninsula, and Prince William Sound. Additionally, pack layers of clothing, bring binoculars for wildlife viewing, and don’t forget your camera!

Q: What are some popular outdoor activities in Alaska?

A: Alaska offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including kayaking, hiking, whale watching, fishing, and glacier tours. Each port of call provides unique opportunities to explore the last frontier.

Q: Which major cruise lines offer cruises to Alaska?

A: Most major cruise lines, including Celebrity Cruises, offer cruises to Alaska. They provide various itineraries and onboard amenities to cater to different preferences and budgets.

Q: What can I expect to see on an Alaska cruise?

A: On an Alaska cruise, you can expect to see breathtaking scenery, including glaciers, waterfalls, fjords, and wildlife such as whales, bears, and eagles. You will also have the chance to visit quaint coastal towns and experience the rich culture of the indigenous people.

Q: Is it possible to book a cruise to Alaska without a land tour?

A: Yes, it is possible to book a cruise-only package to Alaska. However, adding a land tour allows you to explore more of Alaska’s inland destinations and get a more comprehensive experience of the state.

Q: What are some popular Alaska Native attractions?

A: Alaska is known for its rich Native Alaskan culture. Some popular attractions include visiting Tlingit villages, exploring Native Alaskan art galleries, and experiencing traditional Native Alaskan dances and performances.

Final Thoughts

Departing from Vancouver for an Alaskan cruise
Departing from Vancouver for an Alaskan cruise (Photo By John Shallo/Cruise Addicts)

After exploring the diverse and captivating Alaska cruise ports, it is clear that this destination offers something for every traveler. Whether you are drawn to the rich cultural heritage of Ketchikan and Sitka, the awe-inspiring glaciers of Juneau, or the historical charm of Skagway, there is no shortage of unforgettable experiences awaiting you.

From soaring seaplane tours to thrilling zip-lining adventures, Alaska’s cruise ports provide endless opportunities for exploration and discovery. Whether you choose to visit the popular ports or venture off the beaten path to discover hidden gems, you will be rewarded with breathtaking natural beauty and unique cultural encounters.

Remember to carefully plan your itinerary and consider the best time to cruise Alaska based on your interests and preferences. Whether you opt for a mainstream cruise line or a luxury expedition, the beauty and splendor of Alaska’s cruise ports will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

John Shallo
John Shallohttp://www.cruiseaddicts.com
John Shallo is the founder and editor of Cruise Addicts. Since 1999 it has been a leading destination for cruise travelers and self professed Cruise Addicts looking for the latest news, ship reviews and travel tips.

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