The Best Time of Year for an Alaska Cruise: A Complete Guide

Published: July 9, 2021

If you’re wondering when is the best time to cruise Alaska, you’ve come to the right place. At Alaska Tours, we’ve been helping travelers explore the Last Frontier for over 30 years, and we can confidently say that summer is the prime season for an Alaska cruise.

In this guide, we’ll explore why the summer months, from early May to late September, are the best time of the year for an Alaska cruise. Get ready to discover the beauty, wildlife, and adventures that await during your summer cruise to Alaska.

Why Summer is the Best Time to Cruise Alaska

Alaska’s summer cruise season is a spectacular window of opportunity, with peak popularity between June and August. During these months, the Last Frontier comes alive in all its glory, offering an array of options for visitors. The sheer variety of cruise choices, routes, schedules, itineraries, vessel sizes, cruise lines, on-ship amenities, and price points will make you happy and satisfied. Below, we have outlined why summer is the best time of the year for an Alaska cruise.

Cruise ship coming to port – HAL Collection

The Magic of Alaska’s Summer Sun

In the summer, Alaska basks in the magic of the Midnight Sun, with approximately 20 hours of daylight each day. Cruise ship passengers can comfortably explore in T-shirts and shorts, taking in Alaska’s stunning scenery with its vibrant natural colors. You’ll witness lush green forests, snow-capped mountains, and fields of wildflowers in every hue, from pink and purple to yellow.

As the day winds down, be treated to an absolute summer delight—the deep orange glow of the sunset, a brief interlude before the sun rises high in the sky once more.

A field of purple wildflowers in Alaska

A field of purple wildflowers in Alaska

Wildlife Extravaganza

Summer is when Alaska’s wildlife truly comes to life. It is also the best time to cruise Alaska to see whales. Whales, including the majestic humpbacks and orcas, make their way to Alaskan waters during this season. Numerous bird species, some journeying from as far as Antarctica, fill the skies. Bears emerge from hibernation, foraging for berries and roaming the landscape. Moose, mountain goats, and sheep dot the rugged terrain. Glaciers also get in on the summer action, calving massive chunks into the waters below. The abundance of wildlife in summer creates a captivating spectacle that you won’t want to miss, making it the best time to go on an Alaska cruise.

Playful sea otter in Alaska

Wide Variety of On-Shore Activities

In addition to the favorable climate and wildlife encounters, summer offers various on-shore activities for cruise ship passengers. Alaska’s port communities, including Ketchikan, Haines, Sitka, Skagway, and Juneau, are buzzing with activity during the summer cruise season. Alaska has something to offer whether you’re an adventure seeker or a history buff. You can embark on thrilling excursions like sea kayaking, hiking, biking, or ziplining, allowing you to immerse yourself in Alaska’s stunning landscapes. If you’re interested in local history, you can explore museums, cultural centers, and native villages to delve into the state’s rich history and native heritage. With extended daylight hours, you’ll have ample time to experience it all.

Welcome to Ketchikan sign

Welcome to Ketchikan!

Plenty of Cruise Ship Options

Alaska’s summer cruise season, from early May to late September, boasts several cruise ship options. Whether you prefer a small luxury ship for a premium experience or a large, family-friendly vessel with plenty of amenities, you’ll find the perfect fit for your cruise adventure. Cruise lines offer a variety of itineraries catering to different interests and budgets. With many choices, you can select a cruise that aligns perfectly with your preferences.

Shoulder Season Cruises in Alaska

Discounts and Value

If you’re seeking Alaska cruise discounts and excellent value, consider the shoulder seasons of May and September. During these months, as Alaska’s tourism activity begins to wind down, you can often find deals both on and off the cruise ships. Lower prices and fewer crowds can enhance your overall experience, making it an attractive option for savvy travelers.

Best Time to Cruise Alaska for Northern Lights

An additional perk of opting for a shoulder season cruise, particularly in September, is that it is also the best time to cruise Alaska for Northern Lights. The darkening skies offer a chance to view the Northern Lights from the deck of your cruise ship. It’s a remarkable bonus to an already unforgettable Alaska cruise experience.

Best Alaska Cruises for Different Travelers

For those seeking recommendations, we’ve curated a list of the best times to take an Alaskan cruise based on different preferences:

First-Timers and Limited-Time Visitors

For those embarking on their first Alaska adventure or with limited time, we recommend two outstanding options. The Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise and the Spring Wildlife Alaska Whale Watching Cruise in Ressurection Bay provide an excellent overview of Alaska’s breathtaking scenery and wildlife. These cruises are perfect for travelers looking to make the most of their limited time in Alaska.

Active Adventure Seekers

If you’re an adventure enthusiast seeking an active cruise experience, the Glacier Bay National Park Adventure Cruise and the Alaska Fjords and Glaciers Cruise, are ideal choices. These cruises allow you to explore Glacier Bay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its glaciers, wildlife, and unspoiled wilderness. Get ready for an adventure-packed journey.

Luxury Travelers

For those who crave luxury and personalized experiences, the Northern Passage – Glacier Bay Cruise is tailor-made for you. With smaller ships and fewer passengers, this cruise offers a premium and upscale journey through the wonders of Alaska. Revel in the lap of luxury as you explore the Last Frontier.

Alaska Tours – Your One-Stop Shop for Alaska Cruises and Tours

At Alaska Tours, we’re not just a tour company; we’re your gateway to unforgettable Alaskan adventures. With over 30 years of experience, we specialize in crafting dream Alaska cruises and tours. Whether you seek the mild climate and wildlife encounters of summer, the value and Northern Lights of the shoulder season, or a cruise tailored to your specific interests, we have you covered. Contact us today and embark on a journey through Alaska’s pristine waters, where every season offers its own unique magic. Your Alaska adventure awaits