7 Tips For Choosing The Best Alaska Cruise

7 Tips For Choosing The Best Alaska Cruise
Cool domestic destinations like Alaska are hot choices for vacations next year. Alaska cruises are experiencing strong bookings and a number of cruise lines are positioning some of their most exciting new ships in Alaska. Given the level of demand for future Alaska cruise vacations, it’s wise to start planning your Alaska cruise now.

It’s not surprising that Alaska cruises are such a hit with today’s travelers. Alaska is filled with stunning scenery, incredible wildlife and amazing adventures. Peak Alaska cruise experiences include viewing massive glaciers and snow-covered mountains, seeing humpback whales and bears, fishing for halibut and salmon, dining on delicious seafood, learning about Alaska’s gold rush history, and so much more. There are a number of Alaska cruises to fit every age group and interest, so it’s important to pick the right one.

Here are seven great tips to help you choose the best Alaska cruise for you and get the most out of your Alaska vacation experience:

1. Set your Alaska cruise goals and budget upfront. Before doing anything, think about the kinds of experiences you want to have in Alaska, who’s coming with you, and your budget for the trip. These factors will have a major impact in choosing the best cruise line and ship for your Alaska cruise. A small ship Alaska cruise allows vacationers to explore some of Alaska’s most remote destinations, often visiting places that large ships can’t reach. On the other hand, large ships offer more attractions on board including indoor pools and other amenities, a wide variety of entertainment, a dazzling array of dining options and extensive programs for children and families.

2. Use a good cruise travel agent. Top-notch cruise travel agents can help vacationers select the right Alaska cruise experience, save money, and monitor cruise line sales after booking to obtain potential upgrades and more. A great travel agent will assist you in selecting the best ship and Alaska cruise itinerary for your needs and interests. Sharing your Alaska cruise goals and budget with your travel agent will help the process go smoothly. In addition, a top cruise travel agent will help in choosing the perfect stateroom and will be there to assist if you need help with your booking in the future.

3. Pick the right ship. When choosing the right ship for your Alaska cruise, it’s important to understand the ship and its amenities, the types of vacationers it attracts, and the Alaska itinerary on which you’ll be sailing. Some of the industry’s newest cruise ships will be sailing in Alaska next year. These massive ships feature a wide variety of attractions and amenities including multi-level race tracks, laser tag arenas, huge observation lounges, scores of specialty restaurants, Broadway-style entertainment and more. Other ships place more of their focus on enrichment activities. Smaller ships carrying less than a hundred passengers may be the preferred choice for those seeking a less crowded, more personalized Alaska cruise experience. While these ships may not offer as many onboard amenities as their larger counterparts, the focus is on fully experiencing Alaska outdoors. These ships often include popular activities such as kayaking, zodiac boat tours, hiking and other adventures as part of their cruise fare.

4. Select the best itinerary. Think about your goals, who you’ll be cruising with and the type of Alaska cruise experience you’re seeking. Then do your research and talk with a knowledgeable travel agent about the right Alaska voyage for you. Alaska cruise itineraries vary significantly and include round-trip Inside Passage sailings from Seattle and Vancouver and one-way Gulf of Alaska voyages beginning or ending in Anchorage. Round-trip fares out of Seattle or Vancouver may be significantly less expensive than those that include Anchorage as an arrival/departure point, which may tip the scales towards an Inside Passage itinerary for budget-conscious travelers. Some sailings, particularly those on Holland America Line, include visits to famed Glacier Bay National Park with an additional option of taking a boat excursion into magical Tracy Arm. Others offer either Glacier Bay, Tracy Arm or Hubbard Glacier. Smaller ship itineraries often visit smaller ports of call and include plenty of time exploring Alaska’s isolated wilderness areas where wildlife sightings may be more plentiful. Do your research and choose the cruise itinerary that works best for the experiences you’re seeking. If you’re interested in seeing more of Alaska’s wildlife and wilderness, consider Alaska cruise itineraries offering pre- or post-cruise land tours to spectacular Denali National Park.

5. Choose the optimal time to cruise. Alaska cruises tend to be cheapest during the shoulder months of late April/May and September. Flights also tend to be less expensive and Alaska’s ports are often less crowded during these times as well. The unpredictable weather during these shoulder months can be a concern for some vacationers, however. Late June and July are the most expensive times for Alaska travel, as they can offer some of the best chances for wildlife sightings. August is also popular, particularly for salmon fishing and other related activities, but the weather may include more rain. Take time to research Alaska’s seasonal activities and weather patterns, review the all the options, and talk with your travel agent to choose the best cruise for you and your group.

6. Include your top ports of call. Each of Alaska’s ports of call offer a wide variety of experiences, adventures and cultural perspectives. It’s important to research the various port options and shore excursions in advance before choosing your Alaska cruise, as itineraries and opportunities can be quite different. Keep your goals in mind and if you’re traveling with your family or a group of friends, review the options with everyone before making final selections. In addition, it’s helpful to choose your embarkation and debarkation ports wisely as well. Seattle may be preferred by those seeking a U.S. port of departure. Round-trip flights can also be cheaper from U.S. cities when compared with Vancouver, and the city offers numerous attractions to explore. On the other hand, if anyone in your group is prone to seasickness it’s important to take that into account when choosing your Alaska cruise. Alaska cruises navigating the Gulf of Alaska and the unprotected waters from Seattle can often encounter rough seas. An Inside Passage Alaska cruise from Vancouver may be the best option for those who get seasick easily.

7. Check airfares carefully. Alaska cruise flights can be expensive. Before choosing your Alaska cruise, price out air travel options to and from popular cruise departure ports to see what works best for you. Your travel agent can help. If you encounter a significant price difference in flights between embarkation/debarkation ports, that may influence which Alaska cruise itinerary you choose. If you have frequent flyer miles, this might be a good time to use them. Make sure to book your flights as early as possible for the best availability and schedules.

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