Updated: May 21, 2015

Alaskan Cruises - Destinations and Rates:

Many of us will never make it to Alaska to see the beauty that exists and even if you drive up there you will miss much of the Inside Passage which is viewable only by boat or ship. I was lucky enough to take a cruise along the Inside Passage and all the way up to Glacier Bay. When you do decide on an Alaskan cruise, odds are you will be departing from Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, BC (Canada). The cruises are 7 nights and offer scenery not found in the lower 48 states. Many of the cruises stop in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Skagway, and now some are stopping over in Victoria, BC. Along the way you will visit either Sawyer Glacier or Glacier Bay and have the option to see many other gigantic glaciers and coastline areas. The off-boat excursions and activities are many, but you will remember them for a lifetime. I did a helicopter ride out of Ketchikan in the Misty Fjords, rode the cog railway from Skagway, and watched whales in Glacier Bay. The wildlife and scenery is amazing so be sure to bring along your camera to capture all the memories.


The majority of cruise ship lines start service to Alaska in early May each year and run through at least August with some continuing through early to mid-September. I did my cruise in late June and the weather was pretty bad for 4 of the 7 days. Temperatures are likely to still be in the 50's and perhaps 60's. When we cruised into Glacier Bay it must have been around 40 degrees and people were bundled up in big jackets and hats. That's the one thing I remember most from the cruise, the wild temperature and weather changes that happened throughout the day. If you can get sun, then sitting on the top deck of the ship is where you want to be since the views are unbelievable. On the 1 completely sunny day we had passing through the Inside Passage and up to Juneau, the ship had an outdoor BBQ with fresh crab, salmon and ribs for lunch. Sitting on the top deck and eating that lunch as we passed through is still very vivid in my mind. Keep in mind that the cruise ships don't go that fast so you will have plenty of time to see all the sites and they time out the trip so you reach your major destinations at the best time of the day. We left Vancouver in the afternoon on the first day and cruised all night and the next day and it wasn't until the 2nd morning on board that we reached Juneau. Rates start at about $750 for an inside room, then move up to $850 for an oceanview, $1200 for a balcony, and $1600+ for a suite. For Alaskan cruises I suggest splurging on a decent size room with a balcony. Unlike other cruises that go into warm weather spots like the Caribbean where you will be on the decks most of the day enjoying the sunshine, in Alaska the weather can be cold and rainy so having a warm room to sit and look out at the scenery can be a huge plus. As I mentioned before, when we entered Glacier Bay for the day, the weather was really cold and my wife retreated to our room to view much of the glaciers since standing on the deck in 40 degree weather wasn't that comfortable. We had a room with a sitting area and a nice sized balcony that we could sit out on as well. It was worth the extra money to have that option in Alaska. We feel that the Norwegian Cruise Lines are the best fleet to cruise with while visiting Alaska. Find out more about their ships down below and cruising options. In terms of the best pricing, we used a local cruise travel agent that got us a pretty good deal with the price of the cruise plus our airfare. Sites like Alaskacruises.com offer discount prices and cheap deals on Alaska cruises on ships from Holland America, Princess, Majestic America, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Silversea. We have heard that the last minute specials and promotions can save you nearly 40% if you are willing to go on the spur of the moment. Cruise lines have their ups and downs, so definitely don't pay full price since discounts are available almost everywhere. Costco members enjoy some tremendous savings cruises that go all over the world - look into joining just for this reason alone.

Norwegian Cruise Lines:

Currently, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) offers three 7-day cruise trips into Alaska either via Seattle or Vancouver, Canada. They do either Sawyer Glacier or Glacier Bay. I have never been to Sawyer Glacier, but I can personally attest to how incredible Glacier Bay is with the massive glaciers that surround you and the whales that swim in the bay. The 3 ships that cruise for Norwegian are the Pearl, Star, and Sun. Rates range from $679 (inside room) up to $2399 for the suites. Keep in mind that you will have to pay your airfare to get to Seattle or Vancouver since that is not covered by the cruise line. Also, your aloholic beverages will be an extra cost on the cruise. You can view all the details for Norwegian Alaskan cruises online at NCL.com. The website is well layed out with easy to read menus - find out prices, shore excursions, restaurants choices on each ship, detailed itineraries of where and when you will be stopping, and onboard entertainment like shows and casino games. Overall, our experience on Norwegian was memorable and worth the money. If you want to read more independent reviews on Alaska cruises then visit Cruisereviews.com, Tripadvisor.com or About.com. A map of the Inside Passage has been supplied below so you can see just where the ships cruise through.

Ketchikan:

One of the cool things about Alaska is all the history that exists within this huge state and from first hand knowledge, not a lot has changed over the last 100 years or so. Ketchikan is one of those small towns that is great to visit. The old boardwalk along Ketchikan Creek offers up shops and small cafes. You can rent kayaks and float down the creek if you want. We did the Ketchikan Cultural Discovery shore excursion and saw more bald eagles than anywhere else on the trip. The Totem Bight State Park and the totem poles located at the Heritage Center were huge. Ketchikan has some great tourist shops so be sure to buy any last minute souvenirs in town before embarking back on the ship.

Skagway:

Skagway was just what I thought Alaska would look like when we entered port. The forest, high mountains and water was exactly like I had imagined. We decided on the White Pass Scenic Railway as our shore excursion and the cost was roughly $110/each. This narrow-gauge railroad served the mad rush to the Klondike in 1898. The scenery through valleys, across trestles, and through tunnels was movie like. The views are "to die for" as many have quoted on this trip. While standing on the back train car taking photos, I was fortunate enough to see the only black bear I would see on the entire trip. It was just standing next to the tracks watching the train go by. Skagway is a pleasant little town and definitely a highlight of our cruise. You can also do a Dogsledding & Glacier Flightseeing Via Helicopter for $470/each. The combined helicopter tour plus dog sledding was "breathtaking" per quite a few people that did it. Perhaps next time, but at almost $500 a person, this was the most expensive excursion we came across.

Juneau:

Mendenhall Glacier is the only drive to glacier in the world and certainly worth a visit when in Juneau. The excursion from the ship took about 3 hours round trip to Menhenhall Glacier. You take a small trail to get a closer look of the glacier and the blue colors that exist in the glacier are amazing. Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is perhaps the most modern city we visited on the cruise with regular shopping areas and houses. You can do whale watching or take a helicopter ride up to Mendenhall Glacier and take a guided tour while walking on the glacier itself. The helicopter tour is about $275/adults and the regular glacier tour is only about $55. I preferred the other towns we visited in Alaska over Juneau simply because they felt more historical and less built up.