Guests explore by zodiac from the ship National Geographic Sea Bird, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska, USA
Photograph: David Vargas

The best Alaska cruises for every type of traveler

Whether you're in it for the sightseeing, wildlife spotting or relaxing among glaciers, there's an Alaska cruise for you

Lauren Dana

Alaska is among the most popular summer vacation destinations since it’s (pretty much) the only time of year the state offers warm, sunny weather and hours of extra daylight (on my summer 2022 trip here, I remember looking at my iPhone and being surprised that the sun still hadn’t set by 9pm!). In my opinion, cruising is, by far, the best way to experience the massive state and all the beauty it has to offer since you won’t need to drive or hop on a handful of flights; plus, you’ll only need to unpack once! (The views, of course, are just the icing on the proverbial cake.)

As you scroll through our top picks for the best Alaska cruises, it’s worth noting that most options include scenic cruising through Alaska’s Inside Passage, a 500-mile-long coastal route world-renowned for its wildlife, glaciers and postcard-worthy scenery. (I’ll never forget the awe I felt when watching a whale breach from the 11th deck of my cruise ship or the glacier-studded views I ogled from the comfort of my private balcony.)

Below, I’ve broken down the best Alaska cruises for every type of traveler, including budget-conscious cruisers, adventure-seekers and luxury lovers alike.

RECOMMENDED: The best cruises from the U.S.

Best Alaska cruises

1. Holland America Line’s Alaskan Explorer

Best overall experience

Cruises from: Seattle (roundtrip)
Sailing dates: May through September 2024

I was fortunate enough to cruise Alaska with Holland America back in August 2022 aboard the line’s uber-popular, aptly named Alaskan Explorer itinerary. Cruising roundtrip from Seattle, the seven-day journey features scenic cruising through Stephens Passage before arriving in Juneau, where my sister and I embarked on my favorite shore excursion of the trip: A dog sledding adventure! The following day, we cruised through Glacier Bay before arriving at Icy Strait Point for a few hours, which we spent whale-watching—to this day, it is one of my most cherished travel memories. Afterward, we headed to Sitka, where we went rafting and spotted wildlife like puffins and adorable sea otters before wrapping up the adventure in the final two ports of call, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia.

The onboard offerings were equally impressive, with nightly live music and some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever eaten (Holland America is the first cruise line to serve 100 percent fresh and certified sustainable Alaska seafood on board). Just this year, the line unveiled its Glacier Guarantee: Guests are guaranteed to visit a glacier during their sailing; otherwise, they’re entitled to a Future Cruise Credit equal to 15 percent of their cruise fare.

2. Celebrity Cruises’ Alaska Dawes Glacier

Best upscale option

Cruises from: Seattle (roundtrip)

Sailing dates: May through August 2024

Celebrity Cruises offers an upscale onboard experience with plenty of chic hangout spaces, stylish restaurants and contemporary staterooms. For the first time, the spectacular 2019-era Celebrity Edge—known for its 29 restaurants bars and lounges plus innovative spaces like the Magic Carpet, which the line has deemed “the world’s first cantilevered, floating platform that reaches heights of 13 stories above sea level”—will homeport in Seattle. She’ll cruise to Alaska via the seven-night Alaska Dawes Glacier itinerary, including scenic sailing through Endicott Arms and the Inside Passage. As you can likely tell by its name, guests aboard this itinerary will cruise alongside the striking Dawes Glacier, which stands over 600 feet tall and can be further inspected via a thrilling shore excursion. Ports of call include Juneau, Skagway and Victoria (British Columbia).


3. Crystal’s Vancouver to Vancouver

Best luxury cruise

Cruises from: Vancouver (roundtrip)
Sailing dates: July 2024

For a truly memorable Alaska sailing, splurge on Crystal’s seven-night Vancouver to Vancouver itinerary—and thank me later. As you can guess by its name, the 740-passenger Crystal Serenity will sail roundtrip from Vancouver, cruising through Canada’s glacier-studded Seymour Narrows before calling on Sitka and Skagway, respectively. Afterward, you’ll enjoy scenic cruising through the Endicott Arm fjord before one last port stop in Ketchikan. While in port, cruisers can embark on bucket-list-worthy excursions such as wildlife spotting tours, kayaking adventures and fishing. The on-board programming is equally impressive: All passengers, regardless of their room category, enjoy private butler service; Wi-Fi; a selection of wines, champagne, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages like water, soft drinks and specialty coffees; free gratuities; and one complimentary reservation to each of the two specialty dining restaurants, including the first and only Nobu at sea (yes, that Nobu).

4. Lindblad Expeditions–National Geographic’s Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness

Best for wildlife spotting

Cruises from: Juneau to Sitka and vice-versa
Sailing dates: May through September 2024

Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic have teamed up to offer a handful of one-of-a-kind Alaska sailings specially suited for true adventure-seekers. The Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness itinerary, which sails from Juneau to Sitka and vice-versa (depending on your desired sail date), invites cruisers to experience Alaska’s natural landscapes and wildlife up close and personal with guidance and unique insight from an onboard expedition team. Along the way, partake in adventures like hiking through forests, cruising around icebergs via Zodiac, or searching for puffins and mountain goats in Glacier Bay National Park. Little ones can also partake in the fun: Children and teens can learn more about Alaska’s landscapes and wildlife with the National Geographic Global Explorers family program. Cruisers will sail on one of two 100-person vessels, National Geographic Quest or National Geographic Venture, both offer a shallow draft that, per the website, allows the ships’ captains to “navigate the inner reaches and provide more intimate experiences.”


5. Alaskan Dream Cruises’ 2024 Ice of the Inside Passage

Best small-ship option

Cruises from: Sitka to Ketchikan

Sailing dates: May through August 2024

This brand-new itinerary from Indigenous-owned Alaskan Dreams Cruises is ideal for cruisers craving an authentic small-ship experience. The eight-day voyage departs from Sitka aboard the 49-passenger Baranof Dream. From there, you'll enjoy scenic cruising through Glacier Bay National Park. It’s also worth noting that, because of the ship’s small size, guests can gain an up-close view of seven different glaciers, including Margerie, Grand Pacific, Mendenhall, Sawyer, South Sawyer and Dawes glaciers, plus a high-speed jet-boat excursion to LeConte Glacier.

After cruising Glacier Bay National Park, it’s off to Juneau, followed by more scenic sailing through the Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm fjords (the latter can be explored via kayak or skiff expedition). This itinerary is also unique since it includes a Kasaan stop where guests can immerse themselves in Alaska's native culture by visiting the Haida community. The final port of call, Ketchikan, is known as “The Salmon Capital of the World.”

6. Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Flavors of Alaska

Best value

Cruises from: Vancouver to Seward

Sailing dates: June 2024

Cruise the Last Frontier in style with Regent Seven Seas aboard the Seven Seas Explorer, which offers all-suite accommodations equipped with private balconies for soaking in the glacial views. While there are several Alaska itineraries to choose from, Flavors of Alaska, which sails from Vancouver to Seward, is among our favorites since it includes (pretty much) all of Alaska’s most popular ports of call, including Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Icy Strait Point, with Hubbard Glacier scenic cruising. As such, it’s an excellent choice for first-time visitors to Alaska. It’s also worth noting that this particular voyage offers up to 50 free excursions, including rainforest and glacier hikes, whale-watching adventures, kayaking and fishing. While this luxury cruise line isn’t cheap, it offers excellent value with numerous amenities already included in the price, such as specialty dining, transfers between the airport and ship, an open bar package, roundtrip air on domestic flights, gratuities and two-for-one fares.


7. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Alaska: Dawes Glacier, Juneau & Ketchikan

Best for families

Cruises from: Seattle (roundtrip)
Sailing dates: May through September 2024

Norwegian Cruise Line is renowned for its casual, come-as-you-are atmosphere—for example, there are no set dining times—and breadth of activities and amenities. As such, it’s safe to say this mega-ship line is ideal for families of all ages. This summer, gather the family for an epic Alaska sailing aboard the aptly named Norwegian Bliss, which offers thrilling activities like go-kart racing and laser tag. The itinerary is equally impressive as the vessel itself: After setting sail from Seattle, it’s off to scenic Sitka. The following day, you’ll explore Juneau before scenic cruising through Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. Passengers will then visit Icy Strait Point (home to the state’s largest native Tlingit village, as well as awe-inspiring wildlife, including orcas and humpback whales, which, if you’re lucky, can be spotted straight from the ship). The final Alaskan port of call, Ketchikan, is renowned for its colorful Creek Street, a former red light district turned tourist attraction, where you can also spot salmon swimming upstream (and even the occasional otter or two). Before heading back to Seattle, you’ll visit Victoria, British Columbia, which just so happens to be one of my favorite ports of call thanks to its charming shops and restaurants coupled with its bustling food scene (fun fact: It’s home to the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada).

8. Viking Cruises’ Alaska & The Inside Passage

Best adults-only

Cruises from: Vancouver to Seward

Sailing dates: May through September 2024

Viking is renowned for its adults-only, all-inclusive cruises (think free spa access; Wi-Fi; one shore excursion per port; wine and soft drinks with onboard lunch and dinner; all-balcony accommodations). Cruisers aboard the line’s 11-day Alaska & The Inside Passage itinerary—where nobody is below the age of 18—enjoy visits to popular ports of call like Juneau, Sitka, Icy Strait Point, Skagway and Ketchikan, along with a stop in Valdez, a small fishing town known for its glaciers, waterfalls and scenic hiking trails, before disembarking in Seward, aka the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. The line is also known for its immersive shore excursions, including a visit to Saxman Native Village and animal encounters at the Alaska Sealife Center.



9. Royal Caribbean’s Southbound Alaska & Hubbard Glacier

Best budget option

Cruises from: Seward to Vancouver

Sailing dates: May through September 2024

Royal Caribbean is known for its laid-back ambiance and bucket-list sailings aboard its mega-ship fleet, which offer something for everyone, be it water slides, skydiving simulators or escape rooms. With fares ranging from $299 to $625 depending on the date, the seven-night Southbound Alaska & Hubbard Glacier aboard Radiance of the Seas—which offers completely complimentary activities like a rock climbing wall and Broadway-caliber entertainment, not to mention 11 dining options and several bars and lounges—is a great way to experience The Last Frontier without breaking the bank. After embarking in Seward, passengers will enjoy scenic cruising around Hubbard Glacier, followed by port stops in Juneau, Skagway, Haines (famous for its majestic wildlife, including bears and eagles), Icy Strait Point and Ketchikan. Before disembarking in Vancouver, travelers are in for one final treat: Scenic cruising through the Inside Passage.

10. Princess Cruises’ Seven-Day Inside Passage (with Glacier Bay National Park)

Best for foodies

Cruises from: Seattle (roundtrip)
Sailing dates: May through September 2024

Culinary connoisseurs can sail to Alaska aboard Discovery Princess, which is among the newest Princess ships to cruise Alaska this season, and the Seven-Day Inside Passage (with Glacier Bay National Park) is one for the books since it calls on Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria (British Columbia), along with scenic cruising through Glacier Bay National Park. Also, as part of the line’s “North to Alaska” programming, passengers can partake in unique culinary experiences, including Cook My Catch at the new specialty seafood restaurant, The Cach by Rudi. This unique offering allows cruisers to consume their very own fresh catch caught on a fishing excursion. Foodies can also partake in an onboard salmon cooking demonstration led by expert chefs, along with a four-course seafood feast at the Crab Shack, a lunch pop-up found in the World Fresh Marketplace.

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