It wasn’t that long ago that Alaskan cruises were a niche segment of the market. Today, millions of cruise passengers set sail from ports like Seattle and Vancouver, headed up to see some of the most beautiful, rugged, and remote terrain in the world.
What’s good news for cruise passengers is that the booming popularity of Alaskan cruises has led cruise lines to quickly add capacity to the market. These days you can find ships from every major line sailing the route during the summer.
And with more cruise lines and routes, it also means more ships and choices for your sailing. Even if you want to set sail on some of the newest and largest ships in the world — which historically haven’t sailed Alaskan routes — these days you can find them.
That of course leads to the question of which ship is the right one for your Alaskan cruise? Having so many options can make it confusing on picking which ship is best for your trip. If you’re not sure which one you want to sail on, here are some things to keep in mind when finding the right ship for you…
Traveling With a Family? What Is There to Do On Board?
If you’re an older couple, then simply having a number of choices of restaurants and a spot to watch the scenery go by might be plenty for you. But if you’re traveling with a family — or you’re active and always on the go — then you want to see what all there is to do on the ship.
This is where newer and larger ships can be your best option. Newer ships built in the last decade have pushed hard to have more things for you to do while at sea. After all, you’re going to be spending a week on the ship. You don’t want the kids to get bored by the end of the second day. Stick to the newer ships which will have the most amenities.
Is There a Warm Swimming Area?
If you’re getting on a cruise ship, you likely have thoughts of swimming pools, sunbathing, and lounging around with a drink in your hand. Things aren’t quite like that on an Alaskan cruise. Even on warm days it doesn’t get that warm on the ship… and nights can be downright cold.
Still, you don’t want to be on a cruise ship for an entire week and not go swimming. That’s why you want to check if your ship has a warm spot to swim. Of course, every cruise ship will have hot tubs. If that’s all you need, then great. But some ships go above and beyond with covered pools. For instance, the Solarium on many Royal Caribbean ships is an adults-only area that has a covered swimming pool. The appeal is that you’ve got a warm spot to swim on those cool Alaskan days.
Can I Get a Balcony Cabin… At a Reasonable Rate?
Balcony cabins are in high demand when sailing to Alaska and for good reason. They give you your own personal spot to sit and watch some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world pass by. Sure a balcony cabin isn’t absolutely required, but it’s highly suggested.
That’s why you want to see if you can afford a balcony cabin at a reasonable rate. Already Alaskan cruises are generally more expensive than the more common trips to the Caribbean and Bahamas. Meanwhile, the headline rates you see advertised for trips are for the lowest-cost interior cabins. It’s not unusual for balcony rooms to be 50-100% more per person than the interior cabin cost. If you’re sailing to Alaska, we suggest making sure you can afford a balcony cabin and not just the interior room.
What Options Are There for Viewing the Scenery?
As mentioned above, part of the mystique of sailing Alaska is seeing some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. So it makes sense that you want to ensure you have a great place to watch from. And while balconies and the open decks of the ship offer viewing spots, they also aren’t great when the weather is cool or wet. Remember that ships are often underway, creating breezy conditions. Add in cool weather and it means you’ll quickly be heading indoors.
Instead some ships, such as the Norwegian Joy, have spots like the Observation Lounge. The multi-story glass window provides a spot at the front of the ship to sit inside but still be engulfed by the surrounding views. This way you can take in Alaska without leaving the comfort of a climate-controlled space.