Alaska tour news & travel advisory  

When is the Best Time to Cruise to Alaska?

Published: July 9, 2021

Many of our Alaska travelers call us with this question and of course, from our perspective, there’s never a bad time to visit Alaska! But if your preferred form of transportation to the Last Frontier is aboard a cruise ship, summer is the season to select for your Alaska cruise. Alaska’s summer months are when the state is humming and at its breathtaking best with the widest choice and depth of different experiences available to visitors. Seemingly every aspect of Alaskan life, from wildlife to wildflowers, springs into gear and beams with energy as they’re powered by the Midnight Sun.

Summer Cruises to Alaska

The summer cruise season in Alaska runs from early May-late September, with peak popularity between June and August. These summer months feature the most Alaska cruise options from West Coast ports for visitors, and that’s a great thing as cruise choices include numerous routes, schedules and itineraries, sizes of vessel, cruise lines, on-ship amenities, with a wide range of price points.

Cruise ship coming to port – HAL Collection

Summer is also the best time to choose an Alaska cruise because of all of the on-shore adventures and Alaska shore excursions that help fulfill your travel companions’ cravings for off ship activities from kayaking to wildlife tours, dogsledding on a glacier to culinary fun. And with all of the comforts onboard and activities onshore, summer cruises to Alaska are perfect fits for all types of travelers, from soloists and couples to groups and families that are small to multigenerational.

In the Alaska summer season, the magical Alaska summer sun shines about 20 hours each day. Cruise ship passengers can stroll around in T-shirts and shorts and the comfortably warm days encourage cruise passengers to experience Alaska’s landscapes, observing its wide range of natural colors, lit up by fields of wildflowers. You’ll see miles of thick trees that are topped in every hue of green, bright white snow blankets set upon massive and intimidating granite mountaintops and fields of flowers in pinks, purples, yellows. A real summer treat is the deep orange glow that appears when the sun finally sets, if only for a brief time before rising high in the sky again.

Wildlife activity in the water, on land and in the air is also at its most active in the summer. Whales and many bird species have made their way north for their annual migrations, some coming as far as Antarctica. Bears roam around following their winter hibernations noshing on grass and searching for berries, moose are on the loose, and sheep and mountain goats show up as bright white dots on Alaska mountain slopes. Even the glaciers get in on the summer action as they make spectacular splashes as chunks the size of cars calve down into the waters below. Now that’s a breathtaking treat!

Playful sea otter in Alaska

In summer, the handful of Alaska port communities where certain cruise ships dock – Ketchikan, Haines, Sitka, Skagway and Juneau – are open for business and fun, waiting with welcoming arms for cruise ship visitors. Restaurants and shops of all sorts are stacked with specials and staffed for busy days. Adventurous operators are equally excited to give passengers thrills and chills with every imaginable Alaska shore excursion, from rainforest ziplining to inspiring kayaking to wildlife viewing and so much more. Museums and cultural centers are open, too, for those wanting to learn the history and Alaska Native heritage of the areas. And the hiking, biking and walking range offer something for everyone, from easy to hardcore.

Welcome to Ketchikan!

Shoulder Season Cruises in Alaska

The summer shoulder travel windows of May and September also offer opportunities for Alaska cruise discounts and bang-for-your-buck values on and off the cruise ships as Alaska’s tourism activity ramps begins to ramp down. And as an added bonus, you just might spot the Northern Lights from the deck of your cruise ship if traveling in September. It’s been known to happen!

Here are our best recommendations for Alaska cruises:

“Best Alaska Cruises” for first-timer visitors/limited time:

Inside Passage Cruise from Vancouver, Canada

Holland America Cruise to Hubbard Glacier

“Best Alaska Cruises” for adding pre/post-independent land tours to include National Park’s:

Glacier Bay Discovery Cruise – Northbound

Glacier Bay Discovery Cruise: Southbound

“Best Alaska Cruises” for Active Adventure Seekers:

Glacier Bay Tongass National Forest Exploration Cruise

Alaska Glacier Cruise

“Best Alaska Cruises” for a touch of Luxury:

Northern Passage – Glacier Bay Cruise

Got more questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re Alaska travel experts and we’re happy to help