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Travel bucket list idea:

Cruise Alaska

  • Alaska, United States of America (USA)

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 06 February, 2024

Dazzling in its raw, remote beauty, Alaska is compelling for lovers of wildlife and the outdoors. Visiting by ship gives you access to vast, creaking tidewater glaciers and days on deck marvelling at mile upon mile of pristine forest of spruce and hemlock against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.

The marine life is spectacular; sightings of whales and dolphins are almost guaranteed. You’ll also be on the lookout for bears, cute sea otters, seals and majestic bald eagles.

This is an active traveller’s dream, with hiking, kayaking, zip-lining, salmon fishing and mountain biking on offer, but Alaska has a fascinating cultural scene, too, from the ornate totem poles and Russian architecture around Sitka to the colourful Gold Rush history in Skagway.

Logistics

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: Min 7 days

Getting there & doing it

Cruise ship is the easiest way to access isolated towns like Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka and Whittier. Doing this independently would involve long overland journeys or local flights.

Big-ship cruise lines operate from Vancouver, Seattle and Seward (for Anchorage), either round-trip or one-way. All of these are easy gateways into which to fly. As well as the forested islands of the Inside Passage, you’ll spend at least one day up close to magnificent glaciers, sometimes in Glacier Bay, where 11 rivers of ice creak and calve into the milky water.

All of these cruises spend a day in a Canadian port, too, usually pretty Victoria. Lines like Princess Cruises and Holland America are a good choice as they package add-ons with scenic train rides and their own lodges in Denali National Park.

Small-ship lines like UnCruise and Hurtigruten offer a more expedition-like experience, taking you way off the beaten track for hiking and kayaking, away from the ports, which get busy in high season.

When to do it

Alaska’s cruise season runs from May to September. The weather is always unpredictable; you’re not here for a suntan. June and July is salmon spawning season, when bears come to the rivers to feast, increasing your chances of a sighting.

Who to go with: tour operators

4

Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

Holland America Line [Alaska]

  • Alaska, United States of America (USA)

International cruise operator especially known for its outstanding Alaskan cruises, with exclusive options for land-based excursions using the line’s own lodges in Denali National Park.

Princess Cruises [Alaska]

  • United States of America (USA)

The world’s second largest cruise operator, and one of the most experienced operators in Alaska. They offer a creative shore excursion programme and a comprehensive range of tours, using its own lodges in Denali National Park.

Silversea Cruises [Alaska]

  • Monaco, Cote d'Azur, United States of America (USA)

Some of the most luxurious small ships at sea, between 50-300 rooms, all-inclusive onboard and offering butler service for every cabin; this is the way to see Alaska in style.

UnCruise Adventures [Alaksa]

  • United States of America (USA)

Small ship expedition specialist, taking you right out into the Alaskan wilderness for hiking, kayaking, SUP and exploring by skiff.