With more than 550,000 miles of untouched wilderness, more coastline than the rest of the United States combined, and more than a dozen mountain ranges, it's no wonder Alaska has been ranked as one of the top 10 cruise destinations in the world. A cruise up the Inside Passage, which stretches from Washington to the Gulf of Alaska, offers travelers the opportunity to explore the communities that comprise Southeast Alaska and view the region's picturesque beauty up close.
Alaskan Inside Passage Cruise Options
Alaska's cruise season is from mid-May through the end of September, with June, July and August being the most popular months (and that popularity is reflected in the prices). Most cruises have land/sea packages, allowing you to add pre- or post-cruise excursions to Denali National Park or the Yukon Territory.
Land excursions at each port of call, such as ziplining adventures, kayaking or hiking, are available. These can be booked for an additional fee through the cruise ship, or you can book these yourself with tour providers.
Prices listed do not include taxes or airfare and are for interior rooms. Rates increase for ocean view, balcony rooms or suites. Check each cruise line for packages that include airfare.
Holland America Line
Take your pick of three different week-long, round-trip cruises or a two-week round-trip on Holland America Line.
In addition to the usual ports of call - Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and time spent cruising through Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm - departures from Vancouver include time spent cruising through Frederick Sound. There's also a one-way cruise that departs from either Vancouver or Seward and includes a stop in Haines, dubbed The Adventure Capital of Alaska.
Prices start from $499 per person for an interior room.
In between viewing Juneau's Mendenhall Glacier and learning about Southeast Alaska's Native culture in Ketchikan, enroll in Holland America's culinary arts school or get some tips on how to make your Alaskan adventure photographs pop with a digital photography class.
Winner of the 2013 Travel Weekly Reader's Choice Award for best Alaskan cruise, Princess Cruises offers one-way and round-trip cruises departing from San Francisco, Seattle, Anchorage or Vancouver.
Depart Seattle or Vancouver, British Columbia for a seven-day round trip that includes ports of call in Skagway, the capital of Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia. A ten-day round trip from San Francisco includes a stop at Icy Strait Point in Hoonah, a private port that offers 21 different shore excursions and a glimpse in to Alaskan rural living.
One-way departures from Anchorage or Vancouver include Hubbard Glacier and Prince William Sound as you cruise to your disembarkation point of Vancouver or Anchorage.
Prices start at $599 per person for an interior room.
Princess Cruises offers a variety of amenities, from nightlife and shopping to spas and fitness centers. Explore the ship's art gallery or get in to a literary debate with fellow passengers in the book club. When you're hungry, stop in one of the many eateries, from casual to fine dining.
Royal Caribbean cruises Alaska's Inside Passage on its ship Radiance of the Seas.
Choose from two seven-day, one-way cruise options between Seward and Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit Juneau, the Gold Rush town of Skagway, Icy Strait Point (located in Hoonah), Skagway and Ketchikan, choosing from a variety of land excursions at each port of call.
Packages start at $619 per person for interior rooms up to $12,000 for a two person, two-room suite.
Enjoy both complimentary and specialty dining options while on board. The Radiance of the Seas also has a wide variety of activities and amenities, including shopping, miniature golf, rock climbing, a spa and a fitness center. You'll never be at a loss for something to do between ports of call.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) offers seven day or nine day round-trip cruises with departures from Seattle and Vancouver.
The seven day Glacier Bay cruise, a round trip from either Seattle or Vancouver, includes stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, as well as time spent cruising the waters of Glacier Bay. Norwegian also offers a nine day Glacier Bay cruise that includes a stop at Icy Strait Point in Hoonah.
The seven day Sawyer Glacier cruise includes the same ports of call, along with travel time to Sawyer Glacier, part of Tracy Arm Fjord.
Prices start at $749 per person for an interior room.
Dancing, music, stage and comedy shows and children's programs are just some of the onboard amenities with NCL, along with casual to fine dining options.
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Cruise Lines offers seven and eight day cruises of Alaska's Inside Passage, with ships departing from Seattle or Vancouver.
Ports of call for each cruise option include Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. The seven day Glacier Bay cruise, a round trip which departs from Seattle, includes a stop in Victoria, British Columbia, as well as time spent cruising through part of the 3.3 million acres that comprise Glacier Bay National Park.
An eight-day Glacier Bay Cruise, which embarks in Vancouver and disembarks at Seattle, includes time spent sailing through Tracy Arm Fjord, located 45 miles south of Juneau.
Prices begin at $729 per person.
What Un-Cruise Adventures lacks in amenities compared to the larger ships, they make up for with access to the Inside Passage's inner corridors. This company's smaller ships can get closer to glaciers and enter narrow coves and inlets that are impossible for larger ships to get in, offering travelers a unique view of Alaska's beauty.
Un-Cruise Adventures offers seven to 21 day cruises between Seattle and Juneau, as well as between ports of call in Southeast Alaska. This allows you to spend more time exploring the area and exploring places passengers on larger cruise ships cannot.
Cruises between Juneau and Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka, Sitka to Ketchikan, or a trip through Glacier Bay National Park allow passengers to explore the area via kayak or skiff and go onshore to hike the Tongass National Forest, something you just can't do on the larger cruise ships.
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Dining is casual and nightlife options range from pub style to elegant lounges, depending on the ship you're on. Inflatable skiffs, kayaks and paddle boats are available on all but one ship, so you can get out and explore the region's unique beauty.
Cruise of a Lifetime
Whether you want an up-close, personal look at Alaska's Inside Passage that will allow you to commune with nature or a more luxurious experience that offers plenty of onboard activities, there are plenty of cruise options to fit any budget and travel style. With the ability to add one or more of the dozen of shore excursions that await at every port of call, you can ensure your Alaskan cruise vacation will be a trip of a lifetime.