Cruising Alaska - A Starter's Guide

Posted July 9th, 2012

There's a reason why Alaska cruises are so popular among Australian cruisers - so find out why cruising is the best way to experience this beautiful region.

Alaska is a land of unspoiled wilderness, glistening glaciers, abundant forests, towering mountains and exotic wildlife, and it no surprise that this exotic destination is a favourite amongst Australian cruisers. Due to the geography of Alaska, cruising is simply the best way to experience the range of places, sights and towns. You get the chance to see many of the top sights in one convenient, all-inclusive package, and in this article, you will discover all you need to know about cruising Alaska!

Picking your Cruise Ship:

There are a number of options to consider when it comes to deciding on your Alaska cruise.

  • Large Cruise Ships:

If you are after the comfort of a floating, all-inclusive hotel, then this is the choice for you. The larger cruise ships, such as those from Carnival Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, offer you all of the comfort and convenience of a regular ocean cruise on your Alaska cruise. They are able to cover more territory and give you a great overview of the area by allowing you to visit a range of ports to experience the different cultures that make up this great destination.

However, they do offer some limitations - large cruise ships can only stop at the major ports of call, and generally start from Vancouver or Seattle.

  • Small Cruise Ships:
Smaller cruise ships may offer tighter living spaces, bumpier seas and less entertainment options than the larger cruise ships, but they also offer better chances to see wildlife, more land and kayak excursions, great food, a more casual atmosphere and a more intimate portrait of Alaska. These cruise itineraries are more likely to depart from Alaska itself, and they offer cruisers a very authentic experience that allow you to get closer to nature. Cruise lines to consider include America Safari Cruise and Cruise West.
Cruise Season:
Due to the climate of Alaska, cruises are always during the northern hemisphere summer months of May to mid-September. June, July and August are considered the peak season, but May and September are still very popular with Australian cruisers.

The Destination - Alaska:

Alaska is a destination that defies description, but we will try! On an Alaska cruise you will be able to stand witness to the best of Alaska's glaciers and fjords - the moment a glacier calves off a massive iceberg into the tidewater below is something you will remember forever. The abundance of animals you will get to see - whales, otters, moose, bears, eagles - will have you in awe. It is a once-in-a-lifetime dream holiday!

There are a number of different cruise routes you can take to experience all that Alaska has to offer.

  • The Inside Passage:
The Inside Passage is a classic route, and most itineraries offer this over a 7 night cruise, departing from Seattle or Vancouver, up through the Inside Passage. This cruise usually combines visits to a variety of ports in the Inside Passage, such as Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and Sitka, with scenic cruising to view some of the region's glaciers.
Most cruises offer you the opportunity to disembark in port for anywhere from four to eight hours, so that you can spend some time in town, go on an excursion, take a longer inland trip and so on. While cruising, you will be able to sit on the deck and spot bald eagles hunting, humpback whales breaching and glaciers calving. These cruises are in protected waters, so irrespective of the weather, cruise conditions are usually smooth.
  • Gulf of Alaska
These cruises usually include the Inside Passage, and then continue to the Gulf of Alaska, usually cruising from Vancouver to Anchorage, with stops at Seward, the Hubbard Glacier and Prince William Sound. These itineraries offer a broader picture of coastal Alaska, but may be more expensive as they are often one-way cruises.
However, they do also allow you to extend your vacation and add in a land package so that you can see some key attractions, including Kodiak Island, Denali National Park and Fairbanks. Cruises to Anchorage usually dock at the ports of Seward or Whittier, as the tidal flow at Anchorage only allows smaller vessels to visit. The cruise line will usually arrange transfers between Anchorage and Seward/Whittier.
  • Repositioning Cruises:
Repositioning cruises are available to or from Alaska at the beginning and end of each season. They usually combine an Inside Passage cruise with an ocean crossing to Hawaii, or a West Coast cruise down to Los Angeles, San Diego or Mexico.
Cruise/tours:
With so much to see and do, we recommend every cruiser make the most of their Alaska vacation with a cruise/tour. These in-depth holidays usually combine an Inside Passage cruise with a coach or rail tour. Cruise/tours offer you the chance to explore more of this fantastic region, and see it by both land and sea. Key attractions usually include stops in Talkeetna, Denali National Park and Fairbanks.
Alaska is a dream destination that should be on every cruisers bucket list. If this has whetted your appetite, call your Cruise Specialist today on 1300 769 228 to find out more information, grab a great deal and get the best advice on Alaska cruising around!

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