When it comes to cruising, there’s nothing quite like sailing to Alaska. The natural landscape is rugged and untouched. Seemingly every turn of the ship is met with dramatic views. And sailing alongside massive mountains dwarfs even the biggest cruise ships.
If you want to cruise to Alaska, you have a wide number of options. So which cruise line is best? Below, we give our picks depending on your needs
In short, if you haven’t visited Alaska, then you don’t quite know what you’re missing. No matter how many pictures or videos you watch, they won’t do the place justice.
When it comes to visiting, there is also no better way to do so than with a cruise. Given that roads are far fewer in this part of the world, you either need to fly or travel by boat to get to most places. On a cruise, you can sail along taking in the natural surroundings while visiting multiple ports in one trip — all while also enjoying the comforts of the ship. Wake up one day and you’ll see a glacier. Then you’ll see Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, and more spots, all in one voyage.
Over the past several years, interest and the number of cruises to Alaska has risen steadily. These days dozens of ships across multiple lines provide an array of options. While any cruise can take you to Alaska, however, not all lines are the same.
That’s why we’ve rounded up the best cruise lines for an Alaskan cruise depending on several different situations that might apply to your vacation.
First, there are some important things to know about the criteria for picking the best lines.
What to Know About Picking the Right Line for Alaska
Not sure which line is for you? Don’t worry if you’re overwhelmed by options as there are a lot out there. It’s helpful to keep a few things in mind.
Most Lines Sail Similar Routes: First, one thing that makes choosing a line simpler is that you don’t have to worry much about itineraries. Not all are the same (there are some ships that sail longer routes that take you deeper into the state), but for most cruises, you’re going to see similar or the same ports. Whereas Caribbean trips may have dozens of different port options including all throughout The Bahamas, Mexico, and more, Alaskan cruises have far fewer. So whether you sail Royal Caribbean or Carnival, Norwegian or Princess, you’re likely to have a roughly similar route.
Price: For some people, money is no object. For the rest of us, it is a major factor in selecting a cruise. The good news is given the fewer ports and routes, no matter what you spend, you’re likely to see similar sights during your cruise. However, there can be significant price differences based on ship, cruise lines, and time of year. Cruises departing before June and after August see lower prices. If budget is important to you, sail during these times.
Amenities/Ships: While price can be a big difference in your cruise to Alaska, perhaps where you’ll see the biggest variance is with the amenities and ships offered. These days cruise lines have put all sorts of different ships in the area, from nearly new mega ships with all the latest bells and whistles to older ships that carry far fewer people and generally have less to do. If you want to ride go-karts on the ship while spotting whales or just want a low-key time on a smaller ship taking in the sights, you can do it all.
Best Overall: Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian sails four different ships to Alaska in 2024, including Encore. The line hits high marks across the board, no matter what you’re looking for in a cruise.
We want to be clear: There is no “wrong” cruise line to sail Alaska. Given the beauty and experience, we’d take a row boat if it meant getting to visit. That said, depending on your specific wants for your cruise, some will be a better fit for you than others. In the case of Norwegian Cruise Line, we think it’s the best all-around option.
Norwegian has put a focus on Alaska for a long time. In the 2024 season, the cruise line shows four ships sailing regularly with another (Norwegian Spirit) making visits on longer trips. Ships include bigger vessels like Bliss and Encore, as well as older and smaller ships like Jewel and Sun. So no matter if you’re wanting all the latest and greatest amenities, activities, and restaurants, or if you want the cruise to be more about the scenery, there is a ship for you. We especially like the observation areas on ships like Encore, which provide a beautiful sweeping view of the landscape while still being inside.
NCL also does a good job of offering a lot of options for cruises. The traditional 7-day round trip tour is well represented. Then there are routes that offer more time by cruising north for seven days before ending in Seward, Alaska and then offering 7-day return voyages south. There are also sailings from both Vancouver and Seattle, offering more options.
Prices also run the gamut. Make no mistake that NCL is often more expensive than other lines. However, if sailing during the shoulder season you can find deals to match any budget. That includes a 9-day sailing aboard Norwegian Jewel round trip from Seattle for $499 per person in October. A 7-day cruise aboard Norwegian Bliss can be had for as little as $549.
Bottom line is that whether the itinerary, the price, the ship, or the amenities is most important to you, NCL has something to offer any traveler to Alaska.
Best for Families: Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean ships — especially the newer and larger vessels — offer a lot for kids and families to enjoy. They earn our pick as the best Alaskan cruise line for families.
A trip to Alaska with kids is something they won’t forget. But there are special challenges when traveling as a family. Namely, kids will want lots to do no matter how jaw-dropping the scenery is where you’re sailing.
That’s why we consider Royal Caribbean to be the best cruise line for Alaska if sailing with children.
The line sails four ships in 2024 to Alaska — Radiance of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, and Quantum of the Seas. All Royal Caribbean ships are known for pushing the envelope of what’s possible on a cruise ship, but Ovation and Quantum are newer and larger vessels that have a lot for kids to do.
This includes everything from bumper cars to Flowrider standing waves (in heated water!) to rock walls to RipCord by iFly (a skydiving simulator). There are even indoor pools available so that swimming is an option even in Alaska.
Brilliance and Radiance of the Seas are older and smaller ships but there are still kid-friendly options like putt-putt and rock walls to climb and arcades. And all ships have dedicated kids areas where children can play while being supervised and parents can enjoy the cruise on their own.
With these four ships you have options from both Vancouver and Seattle, including cruises with land tours added on.
Best Value: Princess
Princess is a cruise favorite with some wonderful ships. Even so, it offers some of the lowest fares you’ll find, making it an ideal value pick.
Is value important to you, then our top pick is Princess. The cruise line sails a large number of ships (we count seven in 2024) to Alaska. That large supply may be why the line offers some of the best prices for Alaskan cruises we’ve seen.
Remember, so much of the reason for cruising this part of the world is the ports and scenery. If that’s what is most important to you and all the lines offer similar itineraries, then it makes sense that you can save and still get a wonderful experience.
That’s not to say the cruise line is less desirable — far from it. We’ve personally sailed Princess (though not to Alaska) and would put it up against any major line in the industry. They simply offer some of the cheapest fares you’ll see.
Princess, for example, offers 7-day round trip cruises from Vancouver starting at just $398 per person (before taxes and fees) for a week in May. Even some cruises at the peak season can be had starting at less than $600 per person.
If you want the best deals, it does seem that sailing from Vancouver runs less expensive than cruising from Seattle. Just keep in mind any transportation cost getting to and from the port before you choose which port to sail from.
Best Luxury: Oceania
Want to sail in luxury? You have a lot of options. If you want a big ship experience, NCL offers The Haven, which is an exclusive and higher-end area aboard some of its ships. Other lines offer a true small-ship experience, sailing the area with anywhere from a few hundred to a little over a thousand passengers. This includes names like Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Viking, and Oceania.
In our opinion, you aren’t going to go wrong with any of these choices. We selected Oceania because we think it offers the best mix of “affordable” luxury with shorter schedules. For instance, many of the luxury cruises to Alaska offer 14-day round trips. Oceania offers round trip cruises aboard Oceania Regatta lasting from 7-12 days, offering both longer cruises and some shorter ones to match any schedule.
You also don’t have to spend as much to have the luxury experience. While not cheap, trips aboard the Regatta start around $2,200 per person for a 7-day cruise. Other luxury brands can be considerably more for a similar length trip. And for that price, you get extras that you don’t normally see on mass market lines. This includes hundreds in shore excursion credit and a beverage package.
Meanwhile, you also get a small ship experience aboard. Oceania Regatta is just 593 feet long and with 670 passengers at double occupancy. If you’ve ever wanted to visit Alaska on a cruise but were wary of mega ships, then a luxury option like Oceania could be for you.
More on the Best Cruise Lines:
- The Best Cruise Lines For Adults & Couples
- The Best Cruise Lines for Kids & Families
- The Best Cruise Line Private Islands & Destinations For Passengers
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