Alaska

Cruising here is not so much about the glitz and glamour, it’s about nature’s very own spectacular show; the crisp clean air, soaring snow-capped mountains, wild creatures in raw untamed landscapes, and a certain soothing of the soul…

With 3 million lakes, more than 3,000 rivers, 17 of the country’s 20 highest peaks, 100,000 glaciers and 15 national parks, this vast landscape defies imagination. Majestic ice formations, wildlife which truly lives up to its name and culture dating back thousands of years shape this land and offer visitors a truly unique experience.

Cruises to this region are seasonal; most companies offer dates from the end of April to the end of September. Fly from the UK to join your ship in Vancouver (Canada), Seattle (USA), or very occasionally Anchorage (Alaska, USA). Itineraries are mostly 7 days’ duration and are either:

  • round-trip cruises leaving from and returning to the same port, either Seattle or Vancouver.  
  • one-way trips between Vancouver or Seattle and Anchorage (or more usually Whittier or Seward), either south-north or north-south.
  •  cruise tours which combine a 7-day one-way cruise with a 3 to 8-night land tour exploring the Alaskan interior from Anchorage.
The still water of Glacier Bay
Humpback whale

One-way trips include more ports of call, and your cruise will take you much further north, but the disadvantages are that the northernmost part of the journey involves sailing in less well-protected waters and they are more expensive as your flight home will be from a different airport.

Ships departing from Vancouver sail directly through the Inside Passage, the protected waterway between Vancouver Island and the mainland, with more than 1000 islands, fjords, forested shores, granite cliffs and cascading waterfalls, the gateway to the culture, history and sights of the Great Land. Minke, orca and humpback whales are often spotted while cruising, and if you are lucky you may spot bald eagles or tufted puffins too. Departures out of Seattle normally take the open-sea route to the west of Vancouver Island before joining the Inside Passage south of Ketchikan.

You will also find a few cruise companies offering Alaskan cruises from San Francisco, either round-trip or departing/returning via Vancouver or Seattle; itineraries are normally a few days longer to allow for the extra distance at sea.

  • Anchorage

    Anchorage has almost half of Alaska’s total population and is surrounded by some of the most impressive scenery in the world. Denali National Park is to the north, Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords National Park to the south and Chugach State Park right on the doorstep. Cruise companies tend to use the ports of Whittier (60 miles away) or Seward (130 miles), but a few companies use Anchorage port itself. Passengers joining or leaving ships at either Seward or Whittier using Anchorage airport are treated to a transfer through Chugach State Park, and mile after mile of breathtaking Alaskan scenery. A great alternative is to choose a cruise tour option and spend a few days exploring the National Parks pre- or post-cruise, really getting to know this stunning area.  

    Anchorage
  • Denali National Park

    Danali National Park
  • Glacier Bay National Park

    This World Heritage Site is 3.3 million acres of stunning natural beauty just waiting to be explored. Magnificent glaciers, towering mountains, mile after mile of impressively untouched coastline and a bird and wildlife watchers’ paradise. If you are very lucky you may witness a glacier calving – when chunks of ice break off the advancing edge of a glacier into the sea.

    Galcier bay National Park
  • Hubbard Glacier

    Hubbard Glacier
  • Juneau

    A visit to Juneau, capital city of Alaska, is not to be missed. If you don’t stop here by ship you’ll be lucky to see it otherwise – it’s the only state capital in the USA not accessible by car! A key attraction here is the Mendenhall Glacier, an impressive 12-miles long and one of 38 major glaciers that flow from the Juneau Icefield. Mount Juneau provides an incredible backdrop in this stunning landscape where salmon fishing is also a major industry. Make sure you visit the Red Dog Saloon for a famous "Amber Beer".

    Juneau
  • Ketchikan

    Ketchican was built and shaped by the natural resources abundant in the area; salmon fishing and processing and logging are key industries, but it also mines its plentiful deposits of copper, uranium, marble and other minerals. It’s particularly well known as home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world, and many cruise companies offer an excursion to visit the Totem Heritage Center. You may also choose to join a trek up Deer Mountain, or perhaps go ziplining above the Alaskan rain forest.

    Ketchikan
  • Skagway

    Another popular stop is Skagway, home to the Klondike Gold Rush National Park. This is a real Old Western town, with a fine selection of saloon bars and costumed madams waiting to welcome visitors. You can even pan for your own gold and keep what you find - an impressive reminder of your Alaskan cruise holiday! Excursions include tours taking in the White Pass Summit, and even further on into the wild beauty of the Yukon.

    Skagway
  • Whittier

    Whittier is a tiny town, nestled at the base of the Chugach Mountains bordering Passage Canal. Established as a World War II port for cargo and troops of the Alaska Command, Whittier's economy and its 290 residents rely largely on the fishing industry, the port and, increasingly, on tourism.

    Whittier

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