How to Choose an Alaska Cruise for 2023 - The Pampered Cruiser (2024)

If you’re subject to any advertising, you will have noticed that the sales cycle for next year’s Alaska season is in full swing. We’re expecting it to be busy – Alaska was completely closed in 2020, almost closed in 2021, and in 2022, the uncertainty caused by Canadian Government regulations discouraged booking until it was too late. So, 2023 will be busy in the nation’s largest state.

All the cruise lines operate in Alaska, and they broadly fall into three categories:

Mass Market – these are the big-ship lines, and the cheapest way to visit Alaska. These trips offer a more ‘standard’ experience – but the scenery and wildlife in Alaska are spectacular regardless of how you get there.

Just about all the mass market cruise itineraries visit Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Occasionally, we see port stops in Sitka or Icy Strait Point.

Several of the big-ship lines have excellent packages for Alaska. Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess are the lines to look at, particularly if you want to extend your cruise on land to Denali National Park.

Expedition – If you want to get off beaten path, and get out in zodiac boats, kayaks, or maybe just do some light hiking in Alaska, an expedition ship might be more appropriate. These itineraries tend to go where the other ships in Alaska DON’T go, and the onboard experience is closer to the luxury offerings.

Don’t be put off by the word “expedition” – if you can get in and out of a bathtub unassisted, and can walk up two flights of stairs, you meet the fitness requirements for an expedition voyage.

American Queen Voyages and Hurtigruten are good choices for casual expedition in Alaska.

Luxury Small Ship – Many parts of Alaska can only be accessed by ship, and the small-ship luxury lines appeal to those who want to see this incredible part of the world, but don’t see themselves fitting into either of the two categories above and/or may not consider themselves to be ‘cruisers’. These cruise lines are all-inclusive, and the quality of food, service and amenities exceeds those found at the world’s best hotels. They are also remarkably casual (especially in Alaska). It seems that those who are ready, willing, and able to pay for a higher quality product don’t like to play dress-up.

Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, and Viking are examples of luxury small ships that visit Alaska.

After you’ve chosen which one of those three cruise types is best for you, there are other decisions to made. Choosing amongst all the options in Alaska is a bit like Lithuanian language lessons, so here’s a Cheat Sheet:

WHEN? The tourist season runs from late April through to early October, and there is no “best” time to visit, just a series of trade-offs:

  1. April, May and early June have lots of daylight hours, are usually light on rain, and with fewer crowds. If you are going to Denali, it is also possible you won’t be able to get all the way into the depths of the park until the beginning of June.
  2. June, July, and August have reliable weather (although the further north you go, the more subject to rain you are starting in July). There are also more crowds, and you’ll find it to be a bit more expensive in these months.
  3. September and October things get a bit quieter again, but the later in the season you go, the fewer daylight hours you get, and you are more subject to rain and colder weather.

CRUISE, LAND, or BOTH? You can do round-trip cruises out of Seattle or Vancouver, but those trips only go halfway up the coast. This might be fine if you’re just looking for a taste of Alaska, but many people who do these cruises vow to return to see the rest of the state, especially Denali National Park. If you’re going to go to the time and expense of visiting Alaska, I recommend doing a cruise with a land extension to Denali National Park (and including other points if you have time).

NORTHBOUND or SOUTHBOUND? If you’re not doing one of the round-trip cruises, the endpoints of your trip will be in Anchorage or Fairbanks in the north, and Seattle or Vancouver in the south. It’s a matter of personal opinion as to which is preferable but remember that the northern end of the trip involves a much longer flight. Vancouver is closer to Mexico than it is to Anchorage and flying from Seattle to Fairbanks or Anchorage takes about 4 hours. You’ll want to consider whether that longer day of air travel should be pre-vacation or on your way home.

LENGTH OF TRIP? There really aren’t any Alaskan cruises shorter than 7 nights because of the huge distance you are covering. The land extensions are an additional 3 days to 8 days. If you’re going to Denali, keep in mind it is about an 8 hour trip by train or motor coach from the port, and the park itself is larger than Massachusetts. If you choose a 3-day land extension, plan on spending most of that time on a bus just getting to and from the park. The most common land extension is 5 nights, which makes for a more comfortable pace.

SEATTLE or VANCOUVER? Both these cities are spectacular in their own way, but logistically, they are very similar. Vancouver has a larger cruise ship port and airport, but Seattle is better served for domestic flights. In both cases you will need a passport. These two cities are only about 100 miles apart, so this should be your last criteria, after you’ve decided on all the ones above.

Today’s Travel Opportunities

Here are today’s travel opportunities with an example of each of the three modes of cruise ship travel mentioned above.


If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to see Alaska, on a medium-sized ship, then Celebrity could be the right choice for you.

  1. Departing Vancouver on May 26, 2023 for 8-days
  2. Visit Vancouver, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, and the Hubbard Glacier before finishing in Anchorage.
  3. Veranda Rooms from $1740 per person including all drinks, on board gratuities, and Wi-Fi.
  4. Add a 5-night post-cruise land package to Denali for $1542 pp (Visit Alyeska, Denali, Talkeetna)

American Queen’s Ocean Victory

If you’d rather avoid the gift shoppes in the bigger Alaskan ports, and would rather get out in Alaskan nature, then American Queen’s Ocean Victory might be a good choice for you.

  1. Departing Sitka May 15, 2023 for 13-days.
  2. Visit Sitka, Endicott Arm, Tracy Arm, Kake & Frederick Sound, Petersburg, Wrangell, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Kynoch Inlet, and Vancouver
  3. Window Staterooms from $5858 per person, and Balcony staterooms from $6258 pp.
  4. Includes pre-cruise hotel night, open bar, unlimited kayaking and zodiac boating, Wi-Fi on the ship
  5. $299 Air Supplement available.


If you like the traditional comfort of a luxury small ship, then SilverSea is currently offering a 2-category upgrade.

  1. Departing Anchorage on May 25, 2023 for 8-days
  2. Visit Anchorage, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Ketchikan, before finishing in Vancouver
  3. Window stateroom from $3550 per person and balcony staterooms from $3950 pp.
  4. Add round-trip flights, and transfers (at your home airport, as well as in Alaska) for $1150 pp.
  5. Includes open bar, gratuities on board, a shore excursion in every port, PLUS a $300 per person on board credit.

Quiet Season Mediterranean Flash Sale – FREE FLIGHTS

This one is hot off the presses – Viking is trying to fill up its last few rooms on some Mediterranean cruises this November and December 2022. This is great if you’re looking for a getaway in the next few months, and you like Europe when it’s not completely overrun with tourists. The Catch: you must book by September 19, and payment in full will be due shortly after that.

Rome to Barcelona – for 1 week. Departures in November 2022

  1. Visit Rome, Florence (Overnight), Monaco, Marseille, Montpellier, and Barcelona (overnight).
  2. Veranda rooms from $2599 per person
  3. INCLUDES round trip economy airfare

Athens to Rome – for 1 week in November 2022.

  1. Visit Rome, Naples, Sicily, Crete, Ephesus, and Athens (overnight)
  2. Veranda Rooms from $2999 per person
  3. INCLUDES round trip economy airfare

Athens round-trip – for 11 days in December 2022

  1. Visit Athens (overnight), Volos, Thessaloniki, Ephesus, Rhodes, Santorini, Crete, Nafplio.
  2. Veranda Rooms from $3799 per person
  3. INCLUDES round trip economy airfare

Remember the Viking price includes all taxes and fees, airport transfers, a shore excursion in every port, beer/wine with meals, and wifi on the ship. The prices above are for a 270 square foot veranda stateroom.

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I look forward to hearing from you.

Sue Bradley

How to Choose an Alaska Cruise for 2023 - The Pampered Cruiser (2024)


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