March 5, 2012
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Cruising Alaska

What you’ll see and do on an Alaskan cruise.

While many people equate cruises with warm-weather destinations like the Bahamas, Alaskan cruises have become a popular staple for sea-going vacationers. Unique wildlife and amazing scenery combine to make Alaska an unforgettable cruise experience.

Soak in the sights

Alaska is rife with natural beauty, including scenic mountains and breathtaking glaciers. If your cruise tour heads into Denali National Park, you may catch a glimpse of Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America. Many cruises include excursions to see the glaciers and partake in deep-sea fishing.

Because Mt. McKinley is so large, it creates its own weather patterns. Although unpredictable cloud coverage may prevent a full view of the mountain, catching a glimpse of McKinley in all its glory is a highly memorable moment.

Watch for whales

Wildlife abounds in Alaska. On any given cruise, you might catch sight of moose, caribou and dall sheep, black bears and grizzly bears, seals, puffins, eagles, and many more. But the biggest draw for an Alaskan cruise is the whales.

Whales start migrating north in February, arriving in Alaska by May or so. Depending on when you take your cruise, you may spot a pretty big variety of whales. From June to early September, common sightings include humpback and minke whales, orcas (also known as “killer whales”), Pacific white-sided dolphins, and harbour and Dall’s porpoises. If you’re looking for bubble-netting humpbacks, your best chances are in June and July.

The shipboard scene

Activities on an Alaskan cruise ship vary according to the cruise line and the size of the ship. Smaller ships, while providing a handful of amenities and activities, often focus more on nature and sightseeing than shipboard happenings. Their size allows them to get closer to the shore and enter fjords that bigger ships can’t.

The larger ships that travel to Alaska offer an on-board experience that’s a vacation in and of itself. Some of the available activities may include:

  • Shopping
  • Gym and spa facilities
  • Broadway-style shows
  • Swimming pools
  • Golf or basketball
  • Ice skating and rock climbing (for Royal Caribbean’s ‘Voyager of the Seas’ line)

Travel tips

As you may expect, the weather in Alaska is not always agreeable. Chilly temperatures and rain mix with the sunshine in summer months. The best strategy for dressing on an Alaskan cruise is a layered approach, as temperatures can range across the board on any given day.

Most Alaskan cruises set sail in the peak season of July, August, and September. There are currently around 30 ships from 13 cruise lines offering Alaskan cruises. Here are a few links to kick-start your planning:

Royal Caribbean

Princess Cruises

Carnival Cruise Lines

Have you had the opportunity to experience an Alaskan cruise? We’d love to hear your story!