When is The Best Time to Take a Cruise to Alaska

Not going to lie, a cruise to Alaska wasn't really that high on my list of things I wanted to do in terms of travel experiences. Mostly because I'm always cold and I didn't want to trade my summer months, the only time I know it will be warm in my home area, for unpredictable gloomy weather, something we generally get nine months out of the year! But I was pleasantly surprised and definitely converted after taking a cruise to Alaska from my home port in Seattle. Alaska has some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes, majestic glaciers, and untouched beauty, not to mention abundant wildlife. I can see why a cruise to Alaska is usually high on people's bucket list! That being said, most people have very high expectations for these types of trips, and they want them to be perfect, so I can see why choosing the best time to embark on an Alaskan cruise can be a bit daunting. We are going to dig into a few different factors and look at some pros and cons so you can make an informed decision that will be best for you and your family! Are you ready?


When is The Best Time to Take a Cruise to Alaska


Start here: Everything You Need to Know Before You Book a Cruise to Alaska

Alaska Cruise Season Overview

The cruise season in Alaska typically runs from late April to early October. Each month within this range offers unique experiences and opportunities, so the "best" time to cruise ultimately depends on your priorities and preferences. 

There are a few departure ports that most Alaska cruises leave from, Seattle and Vancouver. These both cover the very popular inside passage cruise. 

Choose Seattle if you want to travel without the hassle of a passport. If you are traveling to Vancouver, you will need a passport for entry. 

Choose Vancouver if you tend to get seasick since the sailing will be exclusively in the inside passage where the waters are calm. 

When to Set Sail on a Cruise to Alaska

cruise to alaska when to set sail

Late April to May


Lower Prices

The beginning of the season often features more affordable fares and special promotions, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious travelers.

Fewer Crowds

With school still in session and the weather still unpredictable, there are generally fewer tourists during this time, allowing for a more serene and relaxed atmosphere. Keep in mind though, April is often a common spring break holiday. 

Spring Wildlife

As nature awakens from its winter slumber, you'll have the chance to witness wildlife in their springtime activities. Whales begin their migration, and it's a prime time for bird watching.


Cooler Weather

Temperatures can be quite chilly, especially in late April and especially while sailing. The highs generally range from the mid-40s to mid-50s. Pack warm clothing and lots of layers and prepare for brisk conditions and rainy dreary days. 

Limited Shore Excursions

Some attractions and excursions may not be fully operational yet, as the season is just getting underway. Things that are weather dependant {like flightseeing through glacier helicopter tours or seaplanes} may have to cancel for safety reasons creating disappointment.

Check out this post: Is a Cruise to Alaska a Good Trip for Teens?



Mild Weather

June marks the beginning of warmer weather, with average temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to the mid-60s. Though the weather is still unpredictable, you might be surprised by a warm sunny day here and there! It can be a comfortable time to explore both on and off the ship.

Long Days

Alaska experiences nearly 18-20 hours of daylight in June, giving you plenty of time to soak in the stunning scenery and participate in various activities.

Lots of Wildlife

This is a fantastic month for wildlife enthusiasts. You'll have excellent chances of spotting humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, seals, and a variety of bird species.


Increasing Prices

As the weather starts to improve and school start their summer break, demand for cruises increases, which means higher prices and more crowded ships.

Unpredictable Weather

Living in the Pacific Northwest for the past 20+ years, I know how unpredictable the weather can be in this area. You'll likely see a lot of cloudy days during this month.

Exploring Juneau, Alaska: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go!

July to August


Warmest Weather

July and August are the warmest months in Alaska, with temperatures often reaching the mid-60s to low 70s. It's the perfect time for outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. 

Peak Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife is at its most active during these months. Salmon runs are in full swing, attracting bears to rivers and streams. You'll also have excellent opportunities to see moose, caribou, and various marine life. 

Festivals and Events

Summer is a time of celebration in Alaska, with numerous festivals, cultural events, and local fairs taking place. These events offer a glimpse into Alaskan culture and traditions.


Highest Prices and Crowds

July and August are the peak months for tourism in Alaska. Expect higher cruise fares, expensive plane tickets, crowded ports, and fully booked shore excursions. Popular attractions can be overrun with tourists too!


Have you heard about the mosquitos that are as big as your head? Yep, they are in full force in the warmer summer months, especially inland and in the forested areas. This stuff is great if you want to spray your clothes and gear before you go, and this is great for warding them off while you're out and about.

September to early October


Fall Foliage

As the season starts to change, you can see Alaska's landscapes painted with vibrant fall colors. The foliage is especially stunning in early September.

Lower Prices

As the season winds down, cruise fares typically decrease, offering good value for travelers looking for a bargain.

Northern Lights

The chances of witnessing the Northern Lights {Aurora Borealis} increase as the nights grow longer. While it's never guaranteed, this natural light show is a pretty spectacular bonus!


Cooler Weather

Temperatures begin to drop again, with the averages ranging from the mid-40s to the mid-50s. The weather can be more unpredictable, but you can likely expect increased chances of rain and cloud cover.

Reduced Daylight

By late September and early October, the days are getting noticeably shorter, which can limit the amount of time you have for outdoor activities.

Limited Excursions

Similar to the start of the season, some excursions and attractions may close or operate on a reduced schedule as the season starts to come to an end.

Don't Miss This: The Best Cruise Excursions on a Cruise to Alaska


Factors to Consider

When deciding the best time to take a cruise to Alaska, consider the following factors:

Weather Preferences

If you prefer warmer weather and longer days, late July through early September will be your best bet, with the sweet spot being anytime in August. For those who enjoy cooler temperatures and don't mind shorter daylight hours, April, May, and late September offer unique advantages.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife enthusiasts should consider timing their cruise to coincide with peak migration and activity periods. June and  July are ideal for whale watching, while bear sightings are more common during salmon runs in July and August.

Please note that wildlife is wild, so there is still no guarantee, but you can set yourself up for success and the possibility!


If budget is a primary concern, look for cruises in the shoulder seasons {late April, May, and September}. These times generally offer more competitive pricing and special deals, allowing you to experience Alaska without breaking the bank.

Also: If you are local to the Seattle port like I am or the Vancouver port, take a look at the standby program through Holland America. If a cruise is not sold out, you can put your name on a standby list for $49 per person per day for an inside or oceanview room for $79 per person per day for a veranda room. You will be notified up to two days before sailing, so you will have to be ready to be in port quickly and likely within driving distance to make things easier.


For a more tranquil experience with fewer tourists, consider cruising in the early or late parts of the season. Late April to May and September to early October typically have fewer crowds, providing a more intimate experience with nature.

Specific Interests

If you have specific interests, such a photography, hiking or cultural events, research the best times to enjoy these activities. Photographers may prefer the dramatic lighting and colors of early spring or fall, while hikers might enjoy the warmer and drier conditions of midsummer.

When I went on a cruise to Alaska with my teenage son, flightseeing was high on the list of activities. Knowing that flying is very weather-dependent, we positioned ourselves for a cruise in August to give us the best chance to get up for a view from the air.

Cruise Itineraries and Ports of Call

Understanding the typical itineraries and ports of call can also help you choose the best time for your Alaskan cruise. Popular ports include:

Juneau: Known for the Mendenhall Glacier and whale-watching tours
Ketchikan: Famous for its totem poles and the Misty Fjords National Monument
Skagway: Offers a glimpse into Alaska's gold rush history and scenic railway excursions.
Glacier Bay National Park: Renowned for its stunning glaciers and abundant marine life.
Seward: A gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park and incredible wildlife cruises

Different cruise lines offer various itineraries, ranging from round-trip voyages from Seattle or Vancouver to one-way journeys that start or end in Anchorage. Consider the ports of call and shore excursions offered during different times of the season to find the itinerary that best matches your interests. 

Don't Miss This: What I Wish I Packed on My Cruise to Alaska

Ultimately, the best time to take a cruise to Alaska will depend on your personal preferences and priorities. Each month within the cruise season offers unique advantages and experiences, from the awakening of spring wildlife to the vibrant colors of fall.

For the best weather and the longest days: Consider cruising late July through early September.
For lower prices and fewer crowds: Look at late April, May, and September.
For peak wildlife viewing: Plan your trip for June and July
For a chance to see the Northern Lights: Consider late September to early October

No matter when you choose to go, an Alaskan cruise promises to be an unforgettable adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes, incredible wildlife and so many unique cultural experiences that you'll forget you're still in the United States!

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