When you think of cruising, you’re likely thinking of warm weather, blue water, and sandy beaches. But cruises travel literally the entire planet, with trips to many more places than just Caribbean beaches.
Case in point: Alaskan cruises.
Over the years the popularity of these trips has blossomed as word gets out about how amazing they are. Instead of just sailing from port to port, drinking margaritas, and sitting on the beach (not that there is anything wrong with that!), Alaskan cruises take you to some of the most remote places on Earth.
Along the way you can see scenes that are impossible to see any other way, including dramatic landscapes and wildlife. Anecdotally, we have never heard anyone say anything except rave about Alaskan cruises they’ve sailed on… and that includes us.
Of course, with that rising popularity there is an entire cruise industry that’s happy to help take you on your trip. These days nearly a dozen major cruise lines offer summer trips, with ships and routes seemingly added every year.
Having so many options is both a blessing and a curse. While it provides the opportunity for you to pick a cruise that’s perfect for you, it can also overload you with a lot of choices, making it hard to figure out which cruise you should book.
To help you out, we’ve listed our suggestions for cruise lines below based on several categories from affordability to the type of ship your sail.
In This Article...
If You Want Affordability
Is money the most important factor for your cruise to Alaska? First things first, be prepared to spend more than you would for a comparable Caribbean cruise. It’s not unusual to find week-long Caribbean cruises starting for under $500. Similar length cruises to Alaska are often twice as much during the busy summer season.
If you are interested in the cheapest Alaskan cruises, then your best option is to 1) sail during the “shoulder” season and 2) look for cruises aboard Holland America.
The Alaskan cruise season runs from April through September. For cheaper prices look for trips in either of those months, but also in May. June, July, and August tend to be more expensive — often hundreds of dollars more for the same cruise.
As for cruise lines, they are usually similarly priced but there does seem to be some lower rates on Holland America. Still, don’t forego looking at other cruise lines as they might have cheaper deals for your specific schedule.
As an example, we found several trips aboard Holland America departing Vancouver in June (a busy time of the season), starting at $479. Trips on many other lines (and even other ships in the Holland America fleet) during that time are closer to $700 per person as a starting price.
One thing to watch for is that some cruise lines offer one-way cruises to Alaska (say, going from Seattle to Whittier, Alaska). These trips are often much cheaper as they are only one leg of the trip, but require booking a second journey back to your original port.
If You Want Luxury Cruising
Your options for cruise lines sailing Alaska range from mass market lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean to more exclusive lines like Princess and Celebrity. If you’re wanting to sail in luxury, your best option is likely Oceania Cruises.
Oceania sails the Regatta on trips from Seattle. The Regatta hold just about 700 passengers, with roughly one crewmember for every two passengers. Compare that to some of the large cruise liners that can hold more than 4,000 guests.
The cruise lines definitely targets a clientele more interested in luxury. From 1,000 thread count sheets on the beds to cotton robes and slippers to afternoon tea, Oceania caters to higher-end cruisers. Just know that you will pay for that luxury. The cheapest cruises on the line start around $2,000 to sail from Seattle to Alaska.
If You Have a Tight Schedule
It can sometimes be stressful matching up a cruise line’s schedule with your own vacation days. After all, many people are limited on exactly when and how many days they can take off. Luckily cruise lines sail constantly throughout the summer, but some lines do sail more regularly than others.
That said, the best thing to do if you have a tight schedule is to open up your search to as many cruise lines as possible. While there are about a dozen cruise lines sailing Alaska on any given year, many sail multiple ships.
For example, Princess Cruises offers trips to Alaska aboard seven different ships during the 2023 Alaskan season.
And across all lines you can reach Alaska on trips ranging from as little as five days to multi-week journeys. As well, departure ports can be from San Diego to Whittier, although Seattle and Vancouver as the most popular.
In other words, by keeping your options open to all cruise lines you’ll have literally hundreds of options on potential cruises to fit your schedule and budget.
If You Are Sailing Alaska With Kids
For many people a trip to Alaska is a family vacation where parents and kids all get to experience one of the most stunning places on the planet. And while years ago cruising Alaska may have been geared more toward older travelers, these days cruise lines are putting ships in there are that have broad family appeal.
Should you be interested in a family cruise, then your best options are Disney or Royal Caribbean.
Of course, Disney is well-known for being a family friendly cruise line and offers trips to the region from Vancouver. But for older children like teens, Disney may be a little to “kid-ish.” As well, the cruise line is known for providing an amazing experience, but also carries a higher price tag. For instance, the cheapest Alaska trip in 2023 runs about $1,100 in cruise fare per person.
If you have older kids or want to spend a little less, then Royal Caribbean offers a good option. With their Quantum-class ships like Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas, there is a lot for kids to do onboard, from the Flowrider standing wave to iFly to bumper cars, and more. Let’s be honest, kids won’t be as excited about the scenery as parents, so keeping them entertained is important.
Importantly, either line also appeals to family cruisers giving kids others their age to be around during the trip.
If You Want a Big, Newer Ship
If you’ve taken many cruises, then you know that the cruise ship you sail can make or break your trip. After all, even if you hit several ports, you are still on the ship for the vast majority of your cruise. That’s one reason why many cruisers prefer to sail on the newest ships. These ships are not only larger — offering more space around the ship — but also offer the latest in amenities.
If you want to sail upon the latest and greatest ships, then you’ll want to look at either Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Royal Caribbean offers cruises aboard the Ovation of the Seas, one of the largest cruise ships in the world. Launched in 2016, the ship measures more than 1,140′ long and can carry more than 4,000 passengers. On board, you’ll find many of Royal Caribbean’s most famous innovations including the Bionic Bar (a robotic bartender), the North Star (a viewing pod that rises above the ship), the Flowrider (don’t worry, it’s heated), bumper cars, and more than a dozen places to eat. As well, Quantum of the Seas is a sister ship offering many of the same features.
Meanwhile, Norwegian offers sailings aboard the Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore, both built in the last few years. These ships hold 4,000 passengers as well, and measures more than 1,000′. They offer many of the latest features, including a go-kart race track at sea and large observation areas that are ideal for sailing Alaska.
Summing Up Your Choices for Alaskan Cruises
As you can see, your best choice for an Alaskan cruise can vary depending on your biggest priority. The main thing to keep in mind? Don’t let the number of options keep you from having a great time. Trips to Alaska are highly popular and no matter which cruise line you choose, you are likely to have a memorable vacation that you won’t soon forget.
More on Cruising Alaska:
- Alaskan Cruise Packing Checklist: 80+ Things To Bring (Printable)
- Complete Guide to Taking an Alaskan Cruise (What It’s Like)
- 44 Must-Have Alaskan Cruise Tips, Tricks, and Secrets