The best Alaska cruise for every type of traveler - The Points Guy (2024)

Even with a season that only runs from April through October, Alaska draws roughly 40 big cruise ships and dozens of smaller cruise vessels each year, making it one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world after the Caribbean and Europe. The best Alaska cruises range from off-the-beaten-path voyages on vessels carrying fewer than 100 passengers to weeklong jaunts through the Inside Passage aboard megaships that hold thousands.

It can be hard to figure out which cruise ship will deliver your idea of a "bucket list" experience in The Last Frontier. A lot comes down to your travel style, preferences and budget.

Some travelers demand luxury Alaska cruises, while others don't mind going less fancy if it means close encounters with bears and other creatures in the wilderness. Some look for romance, while others want to introduce the kids or grandkids to glaciers and eagles, gold panning and sled dogs.

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The good news is there's a ship in Alaska for you no matter your taste or style. Here's a beginner's guide to the best Alaska cruises to help you narrow down your choices.

Best for megaresort fans: Ovation of the Seas

The best Alaska cruise for every type of traveler - The Points Guy (1)

Royal Caribbean is known for its floating megaresorts, which carry thousands and are big on amenities, glitz and a certain amount of glamor — think flashy casinos, high-tech shows and lavish spas. Dining and drinking venues number in the dozens, while amusem*nt park features thrill the kids and adrenaline-seekers.

The line always stations one or two Quantum-class ships in Alaska for the season. On the 4,180-passenger Ovation of the Seas, you can order a drink from a robotic bartender, try simulated skydiving or surfing experiences, and take a ride in a glass capsule that travels high above your ship on a mechanical arm — a weird and wonderful way to see the Alaska scenery. Adults can linger in the glass-walled Solarium, relaxing in the indoor pools and whirlpools, while their kids zoom around the SeaPlex in bumper cars.

Ovation of the Seas sails round-trip from Seattle on seven-night cruises, but the exact itinerary varies by week. The ship cruises Endicott Arm for scenic views of Dawes Glacier and typically visits three Alaska ports and Victoria.

Related: A beginners guide to picking a cruise line

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Best for land and sea adventures: Koningsdam

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Holland America Line has offered Alaska cruises for 75 years and is clearly a market leader. The line tops the list in terms of cruises, as well as cruise tours, which combine time sailing with overnight stays on land. The company operates its own lodges, rail cars and motorcoaches for exploration of Alaska's interior and beyond.

Related: The coolest things to do on an Alaska cruise

The line will send six ships to Alaska in 2024, with tour offerings to Denali, Fairbanks and Anchorage. However, it's the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam that offers some of the most interesting cruise tour itineraries out there.

The ship offers nine- to 14-night cruise tours that head into the Canadian Yukon, following the route of the Klondike Gold Rush from Alaska to northwestern Canada. You'll sail from Vancouver to Skagway, with a stop in Glacier Bay National Park then travel to Whitehorse and Dawson City in the Yukon before continuing on to Fairbanks (the gateway to Arctic Alaska), Denali National Park (home to North America's largest peak) and Anchorage.

On board, enjoy live music at Billboard Onboard and B.B. King's Blues Club, play a game of pickleball on the outer deck or enjoy fine dining at numerous restaurants serving sushi and Asian cuisine, steak, seafood, Italian fare and Dutch treats.

Best for families: Disney Wonder

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If you're traveling with young kids in Alaska and want an activity- and entertainment-packed experience, make a beeline for Disney Cruise Line and its Alaska-based Disney Wonder. The ship has an extensive children's program, high-quality entertainment, and such activities as water slides and play areas.

Cabins are designed with families in mind and include split bathrooms (one with a toilet and sink, the other with a shower/tub combo and sink), as well as sofabeds and bunks to sleep four in a cabin. Disney-themed restaurants and attentive wait staff take the stress out of family mealtimes.

Bonus: Everyone's favorite Disney characters will be on board for shows and meet-and-greets. Goofy might even make an appearance as you admire soaring eagles, blue icebergs and glaciers.

Related: 5 best cruise lines for families

Best value Alaska cruise: Radiance of the Seas

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When cruise lines send a fleet of ships to Alaska for the summer, the older, smaller ships tend to offer more reduced prices than you'll find on the lines' larger and newer ships.

Royal Caribbean's 20-year-old ship Radiance of the Seas mainly sails weeklong, one-way cruises between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska, with prices below $100 per person, per night, for inside and outside cabins on many departures.

However, its late-season September 2024 sailing from Seward to Vancouver is the cheapest Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise of the season. At the time of this guide's posting, it started at just $456 per person for an inside cabin. (Generally, you'll find better deals from April to early June and in September than you will in the height of summer.)

Related: Best time to cruise Alaska

The ship might not have all the crazy attractions of its Alaska counterpart Ovation of the Seas, but it still offers kids clubs, outdoor movies, indoor adults-only solarium, rock-climbing wall, themed parties and multiple dining venues — making it a great value for the price.

If you're looking for other surefire ways to save, inside and ocean-view cabins are often much cheaper than balcony cabins on Alaska cruises. Those private verandas are highly desirable, with everyone seeking views of the wilderness, snow-capped peaks and glaciers. As those reserves get low, the prices tend to get higher.

Bargain seekers should either book early for these accommodations or choose inside, outside or guarantee cabins (where you don't pick your room location) to save more.

Best for Alaskan adventure: Wilderness Legacy

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If adventure is what you crave on an Alaska cruise, you should seek out the small ships of UnCruise Adventures. All of the line's itineraries boast an active component, but its "Wild, Woolly and Wow" itinerary claims to be "the most active back country itinerary" of UnCruise's 2024 Alaska cruises.

A day aboard the 86-passenger Wilderness Legacy might start out with a hike to a glacial lake followed by an early-evening kayak adventure in Thomas Bay. Or, you might enjoy a bit of scenic cruising by LeConte Glacier (where the big ships don't go) then continue the fun with hiking and biking the trails of Ideal Cove. Guided skiff tours will take guests in search of Alaskan wildlife in remote bays and secret coves.

Big ships can only offer deckside viewing of the marvels of Glacier Bay, but UnCruise Adventures sends its ships to the rarely visited outback. In Fern Harbor, Dundas Bay or No Name Cove, passengers can get up close to the natural wonders with birding expeditions, paddleboarding, beach walks, and more hiking and kayaking.

The seven-night itinerary sails round trip from Juneau.

Best for multigenerational groups: Discovery Princess

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Alaska has become a hot spot for multigenerational family travel, with grandparents taking their kids and grandkids of all ages on a memory-making holiday. Princess Cruises is a line that offers something for everyone, and its Alaska-based Discovery Princess is our top choice for family reunion groups.

The two-year-old Discovery Princess sails round trip to Alaska from Seattle, a convenient U.S. home port for families to fly or drive to. Its "North to Alaska" program will delight kids with sled dog puppies in the ship's Piazza, and lure their parents and grandparents with local seafood on restaurant menus and onboard cultural programming with Alaska residents.

While the kids enjoy Discovery Princess' spacious children's and teens' clubs, the adults might linger over a craft co*cktail or enjoy a massage in the onboard spa. The family can come together for meals in a variety of casual and fine dining restaurants, and enjoy original production shows as the ship sails between ports.

Best for luxury lovers: Seabourn Odyssey

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If you envision sipping Champagne as you watch a glacier thunderously calve into the sea, consider booking an all-inclusive luxury cruise on a Seabourn ship.

The 450-passenger Seabourn Odyssey throws a dash of adventure into its luxurious surroundings. In addition to offering passengers complimentary Champagne and caviar and housing them in spacious suites, the ship boasts an onboard expedition team and does a posh version of expedition cruising in Alaska, using inflatable Zodiac craft and kayaks.

Seabourn calls its program Ventures by Seabourn. Experts onboard these sailings include naturalists, biologists and other scientists who are members of the expedition team. They lead the outdoor activities and provide passengers with a deeper insight into Alaska. Once guests finish communing with nature, they can indulge in gourmet cuisine in multiple restaurants, enjoy a complimentary co*cktail or relax in an upscale spa.

Seabourn Odyssey sails both one-way itineraries between Vancouver and Juneau and round-trip itineraries from Vancouver. It visits popular Alaska ports like Ketchikan and Sitka, as well as less-touristed destinations like Wrangell, Prince Rupert (a port city in Canada) and Rudyerd Bay. Note that the ship is departing the cruise line after its Alaska season, so this is your last chance to sail on the elegant cruise ship.

Related: The 4 best luxury cruise lines for elegance and exclusivity

Best for off-the-beaten-path travel: National Geographic Quest

The best Alaska cruise for every type of traveler - The Points Guy (9)

If you're looking to get away from the mega-cruise-ship crowds, the best Alaska cruise for you might be with Lindblad Expeditions. The 100-passenger National Geographic Quest (and its twin, National Geographic Venture) frequents off-the-beaten-path destinations in Alaska on weeklong itineraries between Juneau and Sitka.

Guests can explore the small fishing town of Petersburg or search for orca and humpback whales in Frederick Sound. Lindblad has special permits to bring passengers into the wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the Tongass National Forest, beyond what the big ships can offer. A hike on Chichagof Island is the perfect opportunity to spot bald eagles in the wild.

One day is even dedicated to serendipitous exploration. The ship's captain has the flexibility to seek out the best remote islands and bays for beachcombing, tide pooling, hiking and kayaking adventures.

As long as you don't mind a mellower environment where lectures and impromptu guitar singalongs replace casinos and show productions, you'll be right at home as you deeply experience coastal Alaska.

Best for solo travelers: Norwegian Bliss

The best Alaska cruise for every type of traveler - The Points Guy (10)

Solo travelers don't always have to pay double to cruise Alaska on their own. Several ships feature cabins designed and priced for one. Several Norwegian Cruise Line ships feature cozy studio cabins designed and priced for one person, and the 4,004-passenger Norwegian Bliss offers 82 solo rooms on its round-trip Seattle cruises to Alaska.

These solo cabins get our vote because they're located in a complex where a private lounge encourages mingling. Lone travelers can also meet their shipmates while waiting to hop into a race care on the ship's go-kart track, at a showing of "Jersey Boys" or over a muddled drink at the Sugarcane Mojito Bar.

The ship sails seven-night cruises from Seattle, visiting Dawes Glacier, Sitka and Icy Strait Point, as well as Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

  • The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
  • The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
  • 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
  • 15 ways cruisers waste money
  • 15 best cruise ships for people who never want to grow up
  • The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The best Alaska cruise for every type of traveler - The Points Guy (2024)


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