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  • Writer's pictureJoyce

When it Comes to Cruising Alaska, Differences Matter

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

If nature is your happy place, then Alaska is a must. The spectacular scenery of snow-capped peaks, glaciers, and emerald fjords is endless. It’s where eagles soar and bears and moose roam. Humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, and seals flourish in the productive ocean.

There are resort lodges accessed by float planes, road-tripping, or excellent land tours, but cruising is the most popular way to visit Alaska. With Alaska’s vast terrain and limited roadways, you’ll see more of Alaska on a cruise. Plus, you can usually spot awesome marine life from cruise ships. Did you know there are no roads in or out of Juneau, or that it’s one of the best places to witness humpback whales bubble feeding?

With so many cruise options, how do you choose? A good travel advisor will find out what your preferences are and then match you with the best for you. That’s what we do at The Vacation Resource.

There are three basic types of cruise itineraries for Alaska.

Inside Passage itineraries are most often round-trip Seattle, but sometimes round-trip Vancouver, and generally visit the popular ports of Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, or Sitka. There are several round-trip itineraries that could include additional ports.

Northbound or Southbound week-long cruises usually travel Vancouver to/from Anchorage, Whittier, or Seward so that guests can also add a land trip to Denali National Park or other Alaska lodges. These cruises usually visit the same ports as the Inside Passage so if you don’t plan to add a land trip, avoid the longer Anchorage or Fairbanks flight and choose the Inside Passage. Longer northbound or southbound cruises may include Haines, Wrangell, or other scenic spots.

Expedition cruises are on smaller ships that generally do not visit traditional ports and spend more time exploring nature by Zodiac with activities such as hiking, kayaking, or SUP. You could miss some of the usual excursions, one example is the White Pass Rail, but you will optimize your chances to see wildlife. If you want to dog sled, you might have a chance if you add a stay in Juneau pre- or post-cruise.

There are different types of cruise lines, too. Just as hotels and resorts can vary, cruise lines also have their differences.

Do you want to spend more time observing wildlife?

Do you want all the fun goings-on of mainstream cruise lines with numerous shore excursion options?

Are you bringing the kids and want a super children’s program?

Are you going on a multi-generational cruise and want a ship grandma can get around but has activities to keep the kids busy?

Do you want a large suite with an all-inclusive luxurious experience?

How about a small ship with fewer guests that can also go to places larger ships can’t go?

I have a comparison of all the cruise lines in Alaska. Contact me to see which one is best for you.

Find out about Expedition Cruising here: What is Expedition Cruising? (

Check out UnCruise Adventures and their winter trip here: Want to Explore Alaska Where Locals Haven’t Been? (

The Vacation Resource

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