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Norwegian Cruise Line
May 10 to Aug 31
Alaska is the northernmost and largest state in the US, with much of it actually within the Arctic Circle. With the Aleutian Islands stretching over 2000 km from southern Alaska, out along the southern stretches of the Bering Sea, this land of contrasts has over 50,000 km of coastal cruising for your pleasure.
Cruising season in Alaska is largely confined to the summer months, as one would expect so far north. This is not just due to the climate, but also that many Alaskan tourist-oriented businesses only open during this season. May through August does offer the best weather, reaching a respectable 70° F, but this means you can pick up cheaper cruises in April and September. There are many local cruise operators in Alaska with smaller ships that offer exceptional fjord tours, and these are well-worth considering. These ships can enter the narrowest, most majestic fjords with cliffs towering upwards of 3,000 ft high on either side. For more ocean-going types there are plenty of large companies visiting as well. These include:
The sheer diversity of things to do on Alaskan cruises might leave you unsure where to begin. There is as much to look at on board at sea as on land, with wildlife spotting cruises offering up a naturalist’s dream. Humpback whales gather in droves of the Alaskan coast, as do killer whales, seals and sea lions. Polar bears and bald eagles can always be seen hunting the shorelines and rivers. Venture on a trip inland and there are black bears, caribou, wolves and moose to spot in abundance.
If you are more interested in the lives and cultures of the people who live here, there are plenty of activities to satisfy your curiosity. If you would like to meet local interpreters and soak up Alaskan culture and lore first hand, many cruises offer inland tours as part of their itinerary. You should be aware though, due to the size of the ports of call and the distances involved, you may need to take helicopter or seaplane journeys to get anywhere which can easily rack up expenses. It’s best to take an cruise/inland combined tour package to get the absolute most out of your visit. Princess Cruises are easily the largest company for Alaskan cruises, and their 7-days-cruising, 7-days-in-the-Rockies package, whilst not cheap, is the probably the best example of its type.
Most Alaskan cruises begin at either Seattle or Vancouver, with San Francisco also popular although voyages starting there tend not to venture as far north. Cunard offer one of the ultimate cruises available, in absolute luxury, which begins in Tokyo to tour Japan’s coastline. Then up and around the north to Anchorage, Hubbard’s glacier and a full tour of the Inland Passage, ending in Vancouver. The Inland Passage runs along the Pacific coast of North America, and features thousands of islands. This route, besides being an area of great natural beauty, also offers great protection against the full force of the Pacific Ocean. For this reason it is a standard pathway for nearly all ocean-going ships in the region.
Alaskan destinations usually take in Juneau, Anchorage, Ketchikan, Skagway and Sitka, and some tour operators also visit the Russian coast on their itinerary. Juneau is the capital of Alaska and is certain to surprise you in many ways. It’s the second largest city in the US by area (Alaska has plenty of land) and yet has only about 33,000 inhabitants. It can only be reached by sea or air, because the terrain is so unsuitable for roads and It sits at the foot of 3,500 ft mountains that support a vast 30-glacier-spawning icefield. It is a truly awe-inspiring setting and the most popular point on many cruise-lover’s Alaskan tour.
Whatever you choose, your activities will all be set against a backdrop of fjords, glaciers, mountains, rivers, lakes, vast forests and even, yes, gently smoking volcanoes to marvel at should you choose to cruise the Aleutians.