Getting to & Around Alaska: By Cruise
Alaska has more coastline than the rest of the United States combined. Seeing the varied landscapes, abundant marine wildlife, and tidewater glaciers by cruise ship is one of the top ways to travel to and around Alaska.
Cruising is the most popular way to explore the state for good reason. Cruise passengers travel in all-inclusive comfort on ships of all sizes and on itineraries of varying length, with abundant tour options in established ports of call. Cruise ships fall into two basic categories: large and small. Large cruise ships generally offer lavish entertainment, shopping, excellent meals, and extensive shore excursions to create a seamless travel experience. Small ships offer more individualized services with custom or specialty itinerary options, often with a focus on adventure or luxury experiences.
The Inside Passage is the most popular cruise route in Alaska. Inside Passage cruises venture along Alaska’s southeastern coast, guarded from rough seas by hundreds of islands. Cruise itineraries are generally seven to ten days, typically departing from Seattle or Vancouver, BC. Alaska land and sea cruise packages include round-trip or one-way itineraries, and often include post-cruise land tour options on a train or motorcoach for travelers wanting to continue their Alaska exploration. The most popular time to cruise is June – August, and cruises typically run May – September.
In addition to enriching and entertaining experiences onboard the ship, Alaska cruises are known for the wide variety of shore excursions and opportunities to explore the scenic port towns visited along the way. Cruise ship travelers enjoy tour options for all interests and activity levels including Alaska Native cultural tours, hiking, fishing, kayaking, flightseeing, history tours, dog sledding, food tours, and so much more.
Northbound cruise routes usually stop first in Ketchikan, followed by Juneau (Alaska’s capital city), Skagway, and visit Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. While these are the most visited places in the Inside Passage, other communities visited by cruise ships include Hoonah, Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg, Prince of Wales Island, and Haines. Longer cruise ship itineraries continue on to cross the Gulf of Alaska and end in port communities in Southcentral Alaska including Anchorage, Seward, and Whittier.
For more independent visitors interested in traveling to and around Alaska on the water, the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system starts in Bellingham, WA and connects to over 35 coastal communities in the Inside Passage, Southcentral, and Southwest Alaska. Ferry passengers can walk on or bring their car or RV.
Plan Your Trip
Alaska is a land of superlatives and adventure. Explore five distinct regions and varied travel routes and modes of transportation as you plan your Alaska getaway.
Explore by Region
Alaska’s far north features the country’s only Arctic ecosystem; northern lights dance above the snowy tundra in winter, while birds and caribou graze during long summer days.
The Inside Passage in Southeast Alaska is home to breathtaking temperate rainforests, protected waterways, and glaciers reaching into deep coastal fjords.
The Interior Region is a quintessentially Alaska landscape, bounded by high mountain ranges (it’s home to Denali) and crisscrossed by glorious river vistas.
Southcentral Alaska is home to vividly diverse wilderness landscapes – from beaches to mountaintops to fjords – as well as half the state’s population.
Southwest Alaska’s islands, river deltas, and mountains teem with fish and wildlife.
Alaska: AKA Your Next Adventure
Where will your Alaska adventure take you? Order our Official State of Alaska Vacation Planner and plot your course.