Alaska cruises normally sell for a higher price than the Caribbean. The Alaska cruise season only runs from May through September, and demand is high. In addition, getting to the ship is often more costly than flying to Florida or other cruise embarkation ports. Some cruise ships are sailing from California ports, which might be a cheaper air fare, but a longer cruise. Summer is the big vacation season in the northwest, and many non-cruisers also choose to head to this beautiful part of the world. The shorter season and high demand add up to a more expensive cruise.
Even though Alaska cruises can be more expensive, the joy of seeing this exciting American wilderness is well worth the extra dollars. Many of the large and mid-sized cruise ships sailing to Alaska include cabins with private verandas. Cruisers go to Alaska to see the magnificent mountains, beautiful bays, and wonderful wildlife (like bears, whales, and sea lions) and to participate in some unforgettable shore excursions. In addition, visitors to Alaska get to experience fascinating small towns like Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. How better to see all of this than from your own private balcony? In addition to the verandas, ships cruising Alaska often include huge observation lounges and heated indoor/outdoor pools. You don't have to "rough it" to see all that Alaska has to offer!
There are two great ways to cruise Alaska--on a large or mid-sized cruise ship of 500 to 3000 passengers or on a small ship of a dozen to less than 500 passengers. Both types of cruises have pros and cons. The larger ships have all the extra amenities you could ever wish for, but an Alaska cruise on a small ship provides a more personal look at Alaska and often a better chance to see wildlife from the ship. Either way, Alaska cruise lines offer something for everyone.
Many of the cruise lines offer "cruisetours", which include both a cruise and a land tour of either parts of the interior of Alaska or western Canada. Those with more time should inquire about these cruisetours, since they often represent a good add-on to your Alaska cruise.
Let's look at the large and mid-sized ships sailing to Alaska in 2013.
The Celebrity Solstice is the first in her class to sail in Alaska, and the large ship will reposition to Alaska via French Polynesia, Hawaii, and California after spending the fall and winter in Asia and Australia. The Celebrity Solstice will sail weekly Alaska Inside Passage cruises roundtrip from Seattle, with ports of call in Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, and Victoria and a day cruising in Tracy Arm.
The Celebrity Century sails weekly to the Inside Passage roundtrip from Vancouver, with ports of call in Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Ketchikan, and a day cruising Hubbard Glacier.
The Celebrity Millennium sails between Vancouver and Seward, with ports of call in Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, and a day cruising at Hubbard Glacier.
Celebrity Cruises also offers a cruise/tour land package for passengers who want to extend their time in Alaska.
The Volendam will reposition from Japan in April and then sail 7-day cruises roundtrip from Vancouver with ports of call in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan. The ship also features a day in Glacier Bay. The ship will return to Asia and Australia at the end of the Alaska season.
The Oosterdam repositions from Australia in late March to start the Alaska cruise season in early May. She then sails 7-day cruises roundtrip from Seattle, with ports of call at Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, and Victoria. The ship spends a day in Tracy Arm. The Oosterdam will return to Australia in late September 2013.
The Statendam arrives in Alaska via the Panama Canal. She then sails 7-day cruises between Seward (near Anchorage) and Vancouver, with ports of call at Juneau, Ketchikan, and Haines, and a day in Glacier Bay.
The Zaandam arrives in Alaska after a series of cruises from San Diego to the Mexican Riviera. The ship sails the same itinerary as the Statendam--7 night cruises between Seward and Vancouver.
The Westerdam sails 7-night cruises roundtrip from Seattle. She has ports of call in Victoria, Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, and Glacier Bay.
The Zuiderdam and Amsterdam sail 7-night cruises roundtrip from Vancouver, with ports of call in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. The ship also spends a day in Glacier Bay.
Holland America also has some fascinating cruise tours that combine a seven-day cruise with a tour of the interior of Alaska.
The Norwegian Sun sails 7-day cruises between Vancouver and Whittier (near Anchorage.) The north and southbound itineraries are slightly different, but both include Inside Passage cruising, stopovers at popular ports of call, and the opportunity to do scenic cruising in Glacier Bay or Hubbard and Sawyer Glaciers.
Norwegian also offers land/cruise options for those who wish to extend their time in Alaska.
Many of the Gulf of Alaska 7-day cruises can be combined into a 14-day voyage since the north and southbound itineraries are different.
Princess also offers many land/cruise combination tours, so those wanting to see parts of the interior of Alaska (like Denali Park), might want to add-on a land extension.
The Seven Seas Navigator will arrive in Vancouver in May from San Francisco, following her transit through the Panama Canal from Fort Lauderdale.
At the end of the Alaska cruise season, the Seven Seas Navigator will cruise the from Vancouver to San Francisco and then back through the Panama Canal to New York, where she will do a series of fall cruises to New England and Atlantic Canada.