In “Alaskan Cruises: A Comprehensive Guide,” we break down everything one needs to know about Alaskan cruises in 2019. From deciding on the right cruise line for your personal preferences to highlighting the distinctive excursions awaiting in The Last Frontier, this guide aims to offer travelers, both seasoned and novice, valuable insights to enhance their journey. Alaska, renowned for its breathtaking wildlife and awe-inspiring landscapes, will come into sharper focus as we detail the very essence of what makes an Alaskan cruise an experience of a lifetime.
Understanding Alaskan Cruises
Providing a thrilling blend of awe-inspiring landscapes and abundant wildlife, Alaska has grown to become one of the world’s most sought-after cruise destinations. Whether it’s the rugged terrain, glistening icebergs, or the diverse wildlife that appeals, there’s no denying that an Alaskan cruise is a spectacular experience.
Defining Alaskan Cruises
Alaskan cruises, as the name suggests, refer to cruises along the Alaskan coastline. These journeys commonly navigate through Alaska’s Inner Passage, the Glacier Bay National Park and the spectacular Hubbard Glacier. Onboard, you can enjoy luxurious amenities, culinary experiences, and entertainment. Off the ship, immersive shore excursions allow you to explore Alaska’s breathtaking scenery and wildlife up close.
Importance of Planning Ahead for an Alaskan Cruise
Planning your Alaskan cruise in advance allows you to make the most out of your journey. Not only will you have a better shot at securing your desired itinerary and accommodation, but it also gives you ample time to arrange your travel documents, pack suitable clothing and prepare for unique Alaskan weather conditions. More importantly, it lets you customize your cruise to your liking, from choosing your preferred dining options and on-board activities to booking your desired shore excursions.
Choosing the Right Timing for Your Cruise
When it comes to Alaskan cruises, timing carries significant importance and plays a crucial role in shaping your overall cruise experience.
Peak Season for Alaskan Cruises
The high season for Alaskan cruises typically falls between June and August, when the weather is warmest. During this time, not only is wildlife such as whales, seals, and bears more visible and active, but you also get to experience longer daylight hours, allowing more time for exploration and activities.
Understanding Alaskan Weather Patterns
While considering weather patterns, it’s important to remember that Alaska’s weather can be unpredictable. Winters can be extremely cold, and summers, while warm, often see a fair amount of rain. Moreover, different parts of Alaska can experience different weather patterns. For instance, the Southeast tends to be milder and wetter, while the Interior can have hot summers and freezing winters.
Benefits of Off-Peak Season Cruising
Choosing to cruise during the off-peak season, which usually falls in May and September, offers its own benefits. Not only are the cruise fares typically cheaper, but the crowd is also less dense both on the ship and during shore excursions. Furthermore, traveling during these shoulder months can offer unique wildlife spotting opportunities, such as witnessing the northern lights in late September.
Mapping Your Cruise
There are several factors to consider when planning your Alaskan cruise route, including the length of your voyage and your must-see locations.
Popular Alaskan Cruise Routes
The two primary Alaskan cruise routes are the Inside Passage route, typically taken by round-trip cruises from cities like Seattle or Vancouver, and the Gulf of Alaska route, popular for one-way cruises. The Inside Passage route includes ports such as Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway, while the Gulf of Alaska route often visits Seward, Valdez, or Whittier.
Determining the Length of your Cruise
Alaskan cruises typically range from 7 to 14 nights, but the ideal length really depends on your personal preferences, vacation length, and budget. A week-long cruise may cover the popular ports, but a longer journey allows more time for in-depth exploration and more varied destinations.
Must-See Locations on an Alaskan Cruise
Alaska offers a variety of breathtaking locations. Must-see destinations often include Glacier Bay National Park, known for its massive glaciers and abundant wildlife, the historic town of Skagway, the cultural hub of Juneau, and the quaint, picturesque town of Ketchikan, best known for its Native American totem poles.
Budgeting for Your Alaskan Cruise
An essential part of planning your Alaskan cruise involves budgeting and understanding the different costs involved.
Average Costs for Alaskan Cruises
The cost of an Alaskan cruise can vary greatly depending on factors such as the length of the cruise, the type of accommodation chosen, the cruise line, and the time of year. For example, a 7-night cruise during peak season may cost anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000 per person, depending on the above variables.
Hidden Costs to Consider
Besides the cruise fare, you should consider additional costs that are not included in your initial fare. These might include gratuities, dining in specialty restaurants, alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, and personal expenditures such as spa treatments or souvenirs.
Cost Saving Strategies
Booking your cruise well in advance, choosing off-peak dates, and opting for inside cabins can significantly reduce your cruise fare. Packages that bundle inclusions like shore excursions, drinks packages, or Wi-Fi can also offer savings overall.
Choosing the Right Cruise Line
When planning an Alaskan cruise, another key decision to make is which cruise line to choose.
Popular Cruise Lines for Alaskan Cruises
Several cruise lines operate in Alaskan waters, each with its own unique offerings. Popular choices include Princess Cruises, known for their extended options and immersive programs; Holland America Line, recognized for their smaller, intimate ships; and Celebrity Cruises, celebrated for their modern amenities and fine dining options.
Factors to Consider when Choosing a Cruise Line
When selecting a cruise line, consider factors like the size and style of the ship, the demographic it caters to, the on-board amenities and entertainment, the range of shore excursions offered, and the quality of dining options.
Reviews of Top Cruise Lines for Alaskan Cruises
We recommend doing thorough research and reading reviews about the top cruise lines. By doing so, you can gain deeper insights into their offerings, customer service, and their passengers’ overall cruise experience.
Accommodation Types on Alaskan Cruises
A wide range of accommodation types are available on Alaskan cruises, with options to suit every preference and budget.
Types of Rooms Available
From basic inside staterooms to luxurious suites with a private veranda, the choices are plentiful. Other options include outside or ocean-view staterooms, which have a window or porthole, and balcony staterooms, which have a private balcony.
Choosing the Right Accommodation to Suit your Needs
The right accommodation for you depends on your personal needs and budget. If you plan to spend most of your time enjoying the ship’s amenities and activities, an inside stateroom might be adequate. However, if you prefer a more personal and serene space to enjoy the captivating Alaskan landscape from the comfort of your room, a suite or balcony stateroom would be your best bet.
Cost Differences Based on Accommodation
The cost can differ significantly based on the accommodation type. Typically, inside staterooms are the most affordable option, while suites are the most expensive. Factors such as the deck level, location, and size of the room also affect the cost.
Amenities on Alaskan cruises can range from basic ones like pools and gyms to more luxurious offerings such as spas and theaters.
Typical Amenities on Alaskan Cruises
Most Alaskan cruises provide a wide range of amenities including fitness centers, pools, hot tubs, multiple dining venues, and bars. Entertainment options may include live music, theater performances, movie screenings as well as enrichment programs such as lectures or cooking demonstrations.
How to Maximize Enjoyment of Cruise Amenities
To make the most of these amenities, we suggest creating a daily plan. Review the daily program delivered to your cabin each evening and highlight activities or shows you’re interested in. Remember, popular amenities can get crowded at peak times, so always plan accordingly.
Comparison of Amenities Across Cruise Lines
While most cruise lines offer a similar range of basic amenities, the quality, variety, and exclusivity of these amenities can differ. For instance, some cruise lines may offer a more comprehensive fitness program, gourmet dining options, or exclusive enrichment programs.
Meals and Dining Options
Gastronomy is a crucial part of the cruising experience. Let’s discuss what meal plans and dining options you can expect on an Alaskan cruise.
Meal Plans on Alaskan Cruises
Most Alaskan cruises operate on a full-board basis, which means that breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the main dining venues are included in your cruise fare. However, specialty restaurants often require an additional fee.
Special Diet Considerations
Cruise lines are often very accommodating when it comes to dietary requirements. Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or have specific allergies, notifying the cruise line in advance will ensure your needs are taken care of.
Dining Etiquette on a Cruise
Dining on a cruise is often a casual affair, but there might be a few formal nights, where more formal attire is required. Also, most cruise lines adjust meal times based on port schedules, so always check your daily schedule for the latest dining times.
Land Tours and Excursions
One of the most exciting parts of cruising Alaska is the opportunity to embark on land tours and excursions.
Types of Excursions Available
The options for shore excursions in Alaska are incredibly varied. From city tours, wildlife watching, hiking, and cultural experiences to helicopter rides and glacier trekking, the adventures are endless.
Safety Considerations for Land Tours
While excursions offer thrilling experiences, safety should always be your priority. Always follow the instructions provided by your tour guide, wear appropriate clothing and gear, and remember to respect local wildlife and the environment.
Tips for Touring Alaskan Landscapes
To get the most of your shore excursions, do your research before booking, consider the physical demands and adventure levels of the excursions, stick to local paths and trails, and always respect local customs and traditions.
Pre and Post Cruise Accommodation
Before and after your Alaskan cruise, you’ll likely require somewhere to stay, especially if your cruise doesn’t start or end in your hometown.
Picking an Arrival and Departure City
Your choice of arrival and departure city can significantly impact the overall cruise experience. For instance, cities like Seattle, Vancouver, Anchorage, and San Francisco are popular choices since they offer direct cruise departures to Alaska and are well connected to major airports.
Recommended Accommodation in Cruise Departure Cities
Depending on your budget and preferences, there are a vast array of accommodation options available in these cities. Luxury hotels, cozy bed and breakfasts, affordable hostels, vacation rentals are among the choices available.
Sights to See Before and After Your Cruise
Spend some time exploring your departure or arrival city before or after your cruise. Each of these cities possess their own unique charms, from Vancouver’s spectacular mountains and waterside views to Seattle’s iconic Space Needle and Pike Place Market. These experiences can add an extra dimension to your Alaskan cruise journey.
In conclusion, planning an Alaskan cruise involves multiple facets and requires thorough research and consideration. However, with careful planning and understanding of what to expect, you can create an Alaskan cruise experience that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.