Alaska may have a short cruise season, but seeing America’s last frontier is an adventure with endless opportunities for unique and life-changing experiences. The spectacular scenic views and exciting shore excursions alone are worth the trip. But, there are also endless opportunities to experience one of the most impressive natural landscapes on the planet up close and personal. Enjoy an Alaska cruise and see why this iconic destination lands on so many travelers’ bucket lists.
Although some people picture an overcast, wintry scenario, they’re surprised to discover that Alaska receives between 10 and 17 more minutes of daily sunshine than any other locale in the country. The further north you travel, the longer the days get. Fairbanks sees daylight all-day between mid-May and late July. The Alaska cruise season begins in May and continues through September, although some cruise lines get underway in late April. Temperatures usually stay in the 50s and 60s during cruise season, but they can also soar into the mid-80s. Nights and mornings are generally chillier.
Cruise companies arrange special outings for their travelers called shore excursions. Biking, diving, golf, kayaking, zip-lining, fishing, and canoeing are just some of the off-ship activities you’ll find. Photographers will find no shortage of things to capture their attention. Try an excursion into the small city of Skagway, where you can jump aboard a chopper or into a four-wheel-drive vehicle and head into the wilderness to capture the splendor of the area.
Visits to Alaska’s glaciers are a popular feature for just about every cruise line. One of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring experiences is to see a glacier “calving.” This occurs when chunks of ice break away from the glacier and float out to sea. Witnessing this interesting phenomenon is amazing, but the sound of these icebergs breaking off and falling into the water is a whole other experience. The Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay is famous for frequent calving.
Alaska cruises landing in Anchorage, Juneau, Seward, or Skagway let you experience one of the ultimate Alaskan adventures, dog sledding. Most cruises provide a helicopter ride to a glacier, where you’ll land in a dog sledding camp and kennel. Climb onto a sled and let a team of harnessed Alaskan Huskies lead you away. A professional musher and guide will assist you, but some tours may allow you to drive the sled yourself. You’ll catch some amazing views along the way and learn something about dog sledding as well.
If you want to experience indigenous Alaska culture, choose a cruise that ports in Ketchikan, the state’s southernmost major settlement. It sits at the entrance of the Inside Passage, along the southeastern coast. Ketchikan is filled with indigenous history and is home to the largest collection of hand-carved totem poles in the state, some of which are more than 100 years old. The wildlife around Ketchikan is plentiful, so you can expect to see wolves and black bears in the forests nearby, as well as eagles, soaring across the blue skies above.
An Alaska cruise takes you places that you can’t reach by land. Much of Alaska is wilderness that has never known the touch of humans and teeming with wildlife. This state is larger than Texas, California, and Montana combined, so there’s breathtaking natural beauty no matter where you look. Cascading waterfalls, lush island scenery, rainforests, miles-long fjords, majestic mountains, and huge glaciers are just some of the natural wonders you’ll see.
Watching a 30-ton whale play in the ocean is a life-changing event. Imagine repeating the experience every day while cruising through the deep, blue waters around Alaska, sitting comfortably on the open-air deck of a cruise ship. Depending on the region, you can see humpbacks, orcas, gray or blue whales hunting, splashing, and diving in and out of the water. The Cook Inlet is home to an endangered population of white beluga whales. Only 279 of these beautiful whales remain. Seeing them in their natural habitat is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
The only way to reach Alaska’s capital city is by plane or boat. Luckily, Juneau is a popular port for Alaska cruises. Remote, picturesque, and historic, Juneau is nestled between mountains in the southeastern part of the state. There’s no shortage of things to do here. Shop for souvenirs in local boutiques and gift shops in downtown Juneau. Foodies will discover a long list of culinary delights, including fresh lobster and smoked salmon. Stroll the beach on nearby Douglas Island. Or, pan for gold like the prospectors did more than a hundred years ago.
Time your cruise just right, and you can catch the miraculous splendor of the aurora borealis season in Alaska. Book your cruise so that you can be in Alaska after the third week of August to ensure you don’t miss out on this natural phenomenon, the northern lights. Many people agree that the best place to view aurora borealis is in Fairbanks, which is one of the top ten places in the world to witness Mother Nature’s magical showing of neon green lights exploding across the sky. And, it happens to be a popular port for most Alaska cruises.
If you’re seeking a comfortable way to travel and not spend a lot of money doing it, you can find great deals on Alaska cruises. Whether you’re considering a round trip exploration or a one-way voyage, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from. Meals on the ship range from full-service dining rooms to gastro pubs, and a variety of other options. Rooms with a private balcony can be a bit of a splurge, but they let you enjoy the magnificent Alaskan views from the comfort of your room if the temperatures get a bit chilly.