A cruise ship sails in Alaska
Alaska, also known as the 49th state, is a wilderness wonderland and with its abundant natural beauty and culture, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe it. Alaska is the US’ biggest state, and it is approximately seven times bigger than the UK but is the least densely populated state meaning there are large areas of unspoilt landscapes.
One of the best ways to experience the stunning scenery that the state has to offer is to go on an Alaska cruise. From the deck of the ship, you will get panoramic views of huge icebergs, majestic cliffs, and small islands. You can also disembark and explore areas of the state on foot.
As cruising to the state is among the most popular ways to experience Alaska, in this guide, we answer the frequently asked questions about Alaska cruises to save you from spending hours of research looking for the answers elsewhere.
Answering FAQs about Alaska cruises?
•Do you need a passport for an Alaskan cruise? Do I need a visa for an Alaska cruise?
•Where do Alaska cruises leave from and where do they dock?
•What is the best month to go on an Alaskan cruise?
•How much does an Alaska cruise from Vancouver usually cost? What is the average cost of a 7-day Alaska cruise?
•Why is Alaska a popular cruise destination?
•Which Alaska cruise line is best for families?
•Are Alaska cruises wheelchair-friendly?
•Are Alaska cruises cold?
•What to wear on an Alaska cruise?
•Is food free on an Alaska cruise?
•Can you see whales from cruise ships in Alaska?
•What are the must-do Alaska cruise excursions?
Do you need a passport for an Alaskan cruise? Do I need a visa for an Alaska cruise?
All cruise passengers must carry a valid passport (one which is valid for at least six months from the departure date from the US).
With Alaska being part of the United States of America, UK citizens travelling to the state on a cruise must obtain an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). If you have flights to Canada booked you will need to obtain an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) to get into Canada. If you arrive at a Canadian port by cruise ship then an eTA or visa is not usually required.
ALSO READ: Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA)
Where do Alaska cruises leave from and where do they dock?
Most Alaska cruises depart from Vancouver because of its favourable geographic location and shorter sailing distance to the scenic Inside Passage. Vancouver is also the only cruise port that offers both one-way and roundtrip Alaska cruises, meaning you can choose to sail from Vancouver and fly back from Alaska. There are also Alaska cruises which depart from Seattle.
If you are unsure about where Alaska cruises dock, then it very much depends on the package you choose. Whittier, Seward, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Anchorage, and Fairbanks are all places where Alaska cruises can dock. Depending on your desired Canada and Alaska cruise package, there are some cruises where you can even dock at the Yukon and from there you can explore the iconic Dawson City and Whitehorse.
The time you stop at each port differs by the cruise line and the port that is being visited. A typical cruise could spend a little over 13 hours in Skagway, 10 hours in Juneau, and 8 hours in Ketchikan, for example.
ALSO READ: How to spend a day in Juneau
What is the best month to go on an Alaskan cruise/ When is Alaska cruise season?
Traditionally, July and August have been considered the best months to cruise to Alaska, as these months offer warmer weather, long days, and abundant wildlife. However, the shoulder seasons (April–May and September–October) are growing in popularity, thanks to fewer crowds, lower-priced cruises and seasonal attractions like the northern lights.
How much does an Alaska cruise from Vancouver usually cost? What is the average cost of a 7-day Alaska cruise?
The cost of an Alaska cruise from Vancouver can range in price depending on the cruise line, the cabin you choose to stay in, the time of the year, the number of people going on the cruise as well as other factors. For a 7-day Alaska cruise, which is the most common length of time, you can see prices as low as £1,500 per person including flights, with luxury cruises closer to £10,000 per person for a 14-day cruise with a suite and flights included. There are lots of cruise packages available too so you can enjoy an Alaska cruise alongside a Canadian Rockies train trip or a visit to Vancouver or Calgary. There are discounts available on some Alaska cruises, so be sure to get in touch with one of our specialists at Canadian Affair for a quote on specific routes and holiday packages.
ALSO READ: Alaska cruises vs Caribbean cruises: Which one is better?
Why is Alaska a popular cruise destination?
Alaska is one of the most popular destinations for cruises in the world and it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise as it offers you the best of both land and sea. In between sailing the Inside Passage and nearby fjords, you’ll have the chance to see the state’s highest mountains, land animals known as the “Big Five” (grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolf and Dall sheep) and incredible landscapes on one of the many shore excursions on offer.
Don’t just take our word for it as Jill Olson, the founder of the travel blog Finding Jillian, told us about why she thinks Alaska is so popular for cruises: “Alaska is a very popular cruise destination! The wildlife, natural landscape, and weather all work together to create a truly unique and special cruising experience.”
Savi, one of the writers behind the Bruised Passport travel blog, spoke about his experience in Alaska: “We’ve been in Alaska for less than a week but we’ve realised something – here, at the edge of the world, there is a surprise lurking around every corner. Entire valleys alive with bright pink flowers, mountains and landscapes draped with sapphire ice, whales and orcas playing and hunting in untouched wilderness, and glaciers by the dozen. There is something so incredibly seductive about nature this pristine.”
ALSO READ: What is Alaska famous for?
Which Alaska cruise line is best for families?
If you are looking for family cruises to Alaska, then you have a lot of choices as most cruise lines will offer activities that children can take part in. The likes of Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity cruises are all popular cruise lines for families as they offer great kids clubs and youth programmes as well as entertainment and activities for the adults.
Are Alaska cruises wheelchair-friendly?
All the major cruise lines we work with that travel to Alaska can accommodate passengers in wheelchairs and those who need to use mobility aids. Cruise lines have equipment and procedures in place to board guests with limited mobility so even if a port isn’t the most accessible you can get still safely get on and off the boat. There are some accessible shore excursions available in Alaska, but there are some which are not.
ALSO READ: Alaska cruise ship rooms: what you need to know
Are Alaska cruises cold?
Daytime temperatures in the Inside Passage during Alaska cruise season can reach average highs of between 12 to 18 °C from June to August, whilst temperatures are cooler in May and September with average temperatures around 2-8 °C. Mornings and evenings can feel chilly, but afternoons are when temperatures are generally at their highest.
What to wear on an Alaska cruise?
An Alaskan cruise requires a good mix of warm, waterproof and practical outdoor clothing, coupled with a selection of eveningwear outfits to wear on board and swimwear if you’re planning to make use of your ship’s pools and spa.
Sensible walking shoes, gloves, a hat and scarf, and a jacket to keep you warm and dry are also sensible items to bring with you. A camera is also an Alaskan cruise essential as the landscape here is truly otherworldly.
Jill Olson from Finding Jillian adds: “Alaskan cruises are typically a little more casual than other cruise itineraries. Most experts agree that packing for an Alaskan cruise is all about layers! My advice is to pack comfortable base layers and include a waterproof layer, a fleece layer and water-resistant shoes. Oh, and don’t forget the binoculars!”
The essentials to pack for an Alaska cruise
•Passports, travel documents and ESTA visa
•Jeans/comfortable trousers for walking
•Jumpers and t-shirts for walking
•T-shirts, long-sleeved tops and light layers
•Gloves & woolly hat
•Casual and smarter clothes for formal nights on the cruise
ALSO READ: What to pack for the Rocky Mountaineer & Alaska Cruise
Is food free on an Alaska cruise?
You can eat all you want on a cruise ship without having to pay for a meal as it is included in the price you pay. Whether you cruise with Celebrity, Holland America Line or Norwegian Cruise Line or book a luxury Alaska cruise deal with Seabourn or Cunard, the restaurant options are endless. With dishes inspired by local flavours and a selection of international cuisine ranging from American grills to Asian fusion, the options are sure to satisfy, whatever your taste preferences. You could pick a different restaurant for each night you are onboard the ship.
ALSO READ: What is it like onboard an Alaska cruise?
Can you see whales from cruise ships in Alaska?
Whales are a common sight in Alaska, and they typically arrive in April and live around the coastal waters of the state until the end of September. It is not unusual to see whales from the deck of your cruise ship and most cruises offer whale-watching excursions and wildlife tours so you can see whales, sea lions, eagles, puffins and other wildlife such as grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolf and Dall sheep.
ALSO READ: Where to see rare and impressive wildlife in Alaska
What are the must-do Alaska cruise excursions?
When the boat stops, the adventures begin! Hiking, whale watching and even walking on glaciers are just some of the excursions you can enjoy as part of an Alaska cruise.
Below is a list of some of the Alaska cruise excursions you can enjoy:
•Kayaking at Icy Strait Point
•The Mendenhall Glacier Canoe Paddle & Trek
•Whale-watching tours and boat rides to Alaska’s glaciers
•Off-road karting adventures
•Tongass Rainforest hiking expedition
•Helicopter & Dogsled Excursions
•Hiking and rafting tours at Chilkoot
•Misty Fjords Flightseeing Tour from Ketchikan
•Zip lining excursion
ALSO READ: Best shore excursions in Alaska
This article looks at answering some of the most frequently asked questions about Alaska cruises. From where Alaska cruises leave from and the average cost of cruises to what to wear on an Alaska cruise and must-do excursions, we hope this guide will help you to plan a cruise to Alaska. If you need more information, then our experts will be on hand to create the perfect trip for you. For more articles like this, check out the blog section of our website.