Everything You Need to Know Before you Book a Cruise to Alaska

I think everyone needs to book a cruise to Alaska at least once in their lives. Alaska is such a beautiful destination and you can get a real feel for the state by making several stops in the area ports. I recently went on a week-long cruise hosted by Holland America and here is everything you need to know before you book a cruise to Alaska.


Everything You Need to Know Before you Book a Cruise to Alaska 


When is the Best Time to Take a Cruise to Alaska?

The Alaska cruise season is May-late September/early October. July and August are the high seasons with the most travelers {on a normal year}, this is because temperatures are often warmer and there is more of a likelihood that you will catch a sunny day or two in there, though it's not guaranteed.

Can I See the Northern Lights on a Cruise to Alaska?

The short answer is probably not. However, there is a slight possibility that you might catch them at the tail end of the season. You can call guest services and let them know that you'd like to get a middle-of-the-night wake-up call if they become visible. But the chances are slim.

Can I See Whales on a Cruise to Alaska?

Probably! There were whale sightings daily that I was aware of, but you do need to keep an eye out and know what you are looking for. To be honest, I thought I'd see whales breaching and frolicking by the cruise ship living their best whale life, and honestly, it's more just whale spouts you see slowly disappearing in the distance. 


Are the Seas Rough on an Alaska Cruise?

Surprisingly, I didn't find that they were but we were on an Inside Passage itinerary {Juneau, Glacier Bay/Icy Strait Point, Sitka, and Ketchikan}. There were a few open ocean days where I did feel the boat moving, but for the most part, a cruise to Alaska sails in protected inside waters making it pretty smooth sailing. 

Don't miss this post: Where to Stay in Seattle Before or After a Cruise


What is the Best Cruise Line for Sailing Alaska?

Holland America has nearly 75 years of experience sailing Alaska and includes more visits to Glacier Bay National Park than any other cruise line. It's established relationships with local communities and partnerships with Glacier Bay National Park and the native Huna Tlingit guides who come on board to provide expert insight into the history and culture.

What is the Best Alaska Cruise Itinerary?

Honestly, you can't go wrong visiting any ports in Alaska. I really liked sailing the inside passage because there was so much to see, the water was relatively calm {I was worried a bit about motion sickness}, and the ports of call were all great.  If I were to look into taking another cruise to Alaska, I'd look into the land & sea cruise that Holland America offers. You'll have to make this decision on your own, but like I said, I don't think you can really go wrong.


What's the Best Side of the Ship to Be on?

We stayed on the starboard side {the right side of the ship} and had beautiful views. The cruise ship actually makes a rotation in Glacier Bay National Park so that both sides have equal viewing opportunities. But you aren't a tree! You aren't stuck where you are, so feel free to move around to get the best view of what you want to see, that's why I don't think it really matters. 

Do I Really Need a Balcony Room?

Personally, I don't think I'd cruise without one. Cruise ship rooms aren't known for being spacious, so having a balcony actually gives you more personal private space. I'm always cold and didn't think I'd spend much time on our balcony, especially in open waters when there is a constant breeze, but Holland America provides wool blankets in every room to use on the balcony and I found them especially helpful on those cold glacier days. 

Alaska is such a beautiful itinerary that you will want to be outside to enjoy the view. And having a private balcony is such a nice splurge. 

What Floor Should I Book My Room On?

The lower you are the better chance you have at seeing wildlife. I learned that from the National Park Ranger who came on board in Glacier Bay National Park. He suggested that if we wanted to see animals, get lower on the ship. Our stateroom was on the fourth floor and I thought it was perfect. We would often catch whales spouting in the distance and could watch seals swimming and salmon jumping.


How Much Should I Budget for Shore Excursions?

The shore excursions on Holland America are top-notch. There were so many to choose from for all ages and ability levels. I was traveling with my 16-year-old son, so we booked the more adventurous excursions like a helicopter ride to the Mendenhall Glacier and a zipline through a rainforest. In order to take advantage of a few excursions, I'd budget around $500-$1,200 per person for your trip. This is all very dependant on what you want to do of course, but ask yourself how many times you'll be going to Alaska and having this experience? Most of the experiences you can have from excursions in Alaska are experiences you can't have anywhere else, so add this into your budget. Enjoy while you can!


Will I Swim on the Cruise Ship?

Packing a bathing suit will take up next to no room, so why not pack it? We actually used the {heated} pool and hot tub on one of the port days. We had enjoyed our day in town and were grateful that the boat was mostly empty. It was a nice way to relax on the boat. You may not find yourself hanging out at the pool the way you would on a Caribbean cruise, but it might surprise you that you want to hop in for a bit!


This is probably just the tip of the iceberg {see what I did there!} in an attempt to answer your questions, but this should give you a lot to think about and will hopefully steer you in the right direction so you can start planning that dream trip to Alaska. 

If you want to explore Alaska outside of a cruise, my friend Alec has some great resources.
Check out this post: My Top 5 Favorite Experiences Visiting Amazing Alaska

What other questions do you have for me? Shoot me an email at rachel@rachelteodoro.com or reach out on social media, I'm @msrachelteodoro all over and I'll do my best to answer it.

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