Small vessel adventure cruise and kayak
Photo Credit: UnCruise Adventures

Types of Cruises in Alaska

Types of Cruises in Alaska

It doesn’t get more iconic than an Alaska cruise. As one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world, there’s no wrong way to cruise along Alaska’s shores. From the Inside Passage to the Arctic and from family-friendly to luxury adventures, the majesty and grandeur of the state can be enjoyed in many ways by cruise!

Inside Passage Cruises

Traveling round trip or one-way from either Seattle, WA or Vancouver, B.C. through the southeastern panhandle of Alaska, Inside Passage cruises are the most popular way to cruise in the state. Passengers can enjoy sailing through scenic waterways, witnessing the majesty of glacier-carved fjords, wildlife sightings, and beautiful coastline all along the way. Typical stops include Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Sitka. Alaska’s iconic parks are also part of the package, with Glacier Bay National Park and Tongass National Forest visited enroute! Most cruises typically operate May through September, though cruise dates extend into April and October for some cruise lines. 

Cruise ship in port in Juneau
Cruise ship in port in Juneau

Cross Gulf Cruises

Want to take your cruise a little further? Cross gulf cruises take you through the Inside Passage and then continue on to cross the Gulf of Alaska to the Southcentral region of the state. Cross gulf cruises take passengers from Seattle, WA or Vancouver, B.C. to Seward, Whittier, or Anchorage, or the reverse route. Not only will you see all of the sights the Inside Passage has to offer, you’ll be able to visit more coastline and communities, and then disembark to enjoy land-based activities for as long as you please. Cross gulf cruises are a great option for those interested in pre or post-cruise land tours

Prince William Sound
Glacier and mountain views in Prince William Sound in Southcentral Alaska

Small Ship Adventure Cruises 

Small ship cruises are a great option for visitors looking for the next level of adventure away from the crowds. With experiences like small-group hiking, fishing, and kayaking, these cruises offer visitors the chance to enjoy Alaska and its shores in a more intimate and personalized setting, usually with less than 100 people onboard. Whale watching tours, cultural experiences, glacier viewing, and more are all options on small ship adventure cruises. Many of these cruises focus on fine dining and locally-sourced Alaska food, cultural and environmental sustainability, and wellness experiences. Smaller ships can get off-the-beaten track to visit destinations and ports of call that are inaccessible to larger cruise ships. They typically include zodiacs or other smaller vessels to for up-close views of glaciers and wildlife or to take you out for a day of on-shore adventures, along with kayaks and SUPs for guests to explore on the water themselves. 

Photo Credit: Maple Leaf Adventures
Photo Credit: Maple Leaf Adventures

Private Cruises

For the most customized experience and next-level customer service, private cruises in Alaska are the way to go. These cruises combine the best of luxury and adventure on small vessels – typically on customized expedition and luxury yachts. Personalized itineraries, gourmet meals, luxurious accommodations, and activities suited specifically to your group await you and your family and friends on these all-inclusive sailings. 

Private cruise in Alaska
Photo Credit: Equinox

Family Friendly Cruises

Family friendly cruise options are readily available so visitors of all ages can enjoy Alaska together. Disney Cruise Line specializes in family-friendly sailings, and other cruise lines both large and small offer family-focused sailings and itineraries. Even if you can’t book a family-specific cruise, most of the larger cruise lines offer family packages, family-friendly onboard experiences and shore excursions, kids clubs, kid-friendly dining options, and more for all sailings. 

a mother and daughter on a cruise in Alaska

Arctic Cruises 

For those looking for the ultimate cruising adventure, consider a cruise that visits the remote and beautiful Artic region of Alaska. There are two main ways to cruise to Alaska’s Arctic: on a round trip itinerary departing from Seattle, or by traveling through the Northwest Passage from Greenland to Alaska. These cruises offer the unique opportunity to see Arctic wildlife, visit Indigenous communities, enjoy epic photography opportunities, and more. Both cruise itineraries are about a month long, with limited sailings per season. Due to ice formations and year-round freezing temps, these cruises are only offered for a limited time in summer. 

Arctic cruises from Seattle travel through the Inside Passage, cross the Gulf of Alaska, and then continue on around the Aleutian Islands to cross the Arctic Circle. This immersive itinerary visits four of the five regions of Alaska and stops at less-visited ports of call like Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, and Nome

Departing from Greenland, cruises through the Northwest Passage explore the northern waters of the Arctic Ocean, traveling through the fjords of Greenland, west through Canada’s Arctic coastline and islands, and then along the northern coast of Alaska before ending in Nome

Musk ox outside of Nome
Musk ox outside of Nome. Arctic cruises in Alaska typcally end in Nome. Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Michael DeYoung

Shore Excursions

Alaska cruises both large and small give visitors the opportunity to disembark and explore ports of call and wilderness areas on shore excursions. Depending on your cruise line, some shore excursions are included, while others can be added on to your cruise package. These excursions cater to all levels of activity and interests, from culinary tours to cultural experiences, hiking, fishing, kayaking, ziplining, dog sledding, flightseeing, wildlife viewing, glacier trekking, and more. Don’t miss the opportunity to get up close to the living history of Alaska Native culture, where cultural centers, museums, song and dance performances, and art galleries welcome travelers to learn more about the rich heritage of Alaska’s First Peoples. Visitors can also expect to mingle with locals, take walks through historical towns, taste local cuisine, and purchase Alaska-made souvenirs to take home.

A couple at Creek Street in Ketchikan
Creek Street in Ketchikan, the first port of call on most cruise itineraries.

Post-Cruise Land Tours 

For those who want to get off the boat and see Alaska up close, look no further. Post-cruise land tours are an incredible way to get all the bang for your buck, experiencing all that Alaska has to offer both on and offshore. Cruise companies can add land tours to the beginning or end of your cruise itinerary to further enhance your Alaska experience. These tours typically range from a couple of days to a week and take visitors to some of the top sights of the Southcentral and Interior regions of Alaska by motorcoach or train. Land tours typically begin in Anchorage, Seward, or Whittier and visit top destinations like Kenai Fjords National Park, Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Fairbanks, and more. Transportation, accommodations, and meals are typically included in these all-inclusive packages that can be added seamlessly to your cruise itinerary. 

Alaska railroad train trip
Explore Alaska by train or motorcoach on a post-cruise land tour. 


Alaska: AKA Your Next Adventure

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