A Beginner’s Guide to the Best Time to Cruise to Alaska

By Ryan | Destinations

Nov 19
best time to cruise to alaska

Alaska, one of the most unique and popular cruise destinations in the world should definitely be on your travel bucket-list! Cruising between majestic snow-capped mountains while surrounded by glorious whales, glaciers, panoramic vistas, fjords, and inlets gives you a chance to connect with the rugged nature. All of that can be a dream come true if you can figure out the best time to cruise to Alaska.

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The raw beauty of Alaska, its glorious wildlife, its natural beauty and its mystique attracts over one million visitors a year, all giddy and excited to embark on this adventure and sail along the glaciers and waterways.

Waking up, heading out to your balcony and having your cup of coffee as you watch humpback whales breach next to your ship, and bald eagles hunt for their preys is bound to be a life-changing experience. Cruising Alaska gives you an entirely different sight-seeing experience!

You’ll be able to explore the scenery, and even disembark in multiple ports to explore around town, get familiar with the culture of indigenous people, or even go hiking!

With that being said, timing is the biggest gamble when it comes to cruising to Alaska. It’s very important to know when the best time to cruise Alaska is!

When Is The Best Time To Cruise Alaska?

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Planning a cruising trip to Alaska is a hassle on its own, but you’ll find plenty of companies that are willing to organize everything – from the route, the excursions you’ll make, where you’ll land and much more. The only thing you’ll be fairly uncertain of, even when on the cruise, will be the weather.

You’ll find that wildlife sightings change with seasonal changes, the weather varies dramatically, and the scenery incredibly differs from one season to another. So before you pick out your cruise deal, make sure you know exactly what experience you want to have to be able to decide the best time to cruise Alaska.

Due to extremely harsh winters, the cruise seasons runs from the end of April until the beginning of October, as it’s practically impossible to cruise your way in winter due to unsafe circumstances, and frigid weather.

The summer in general experiences comfortable weather, beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife sightings! The best time to cruise Alaska in general is from May to September, and the exact date depends on your preference! Let’s look at what each month has to offer.

From June to August (Summer Months)

June

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This is one of the best times to cruise Alaska with extremely long days that run from 3:30 am up until 10:30 pm. The days are long, sunny and warm and you’ll be able to go salmon fishing, watch bears in their natural habitat and enjoy the sun shining on the terrains ahead of you. It’s a great opportunity to see moose, Dall Sheep and bald eagles.

Of course, from June up until August is the height of the travel season to Alaska, so don’t expect anything less than soaring prices. If you get even slightly annoyed by rain, June is the ideal month for you being one of the driest times to cruise Alaska. June is also particularly beautiful for whale watching.

Tip: Try to book your trip so it coincides with June 21, the longest day of the year!

July

This is without a doubt, the best time to cruise Alaska. The weather is warm enough to wear shorts and a t-shirt in the morning and you’ll be able to see all types of wildlife in abundance.

The rivers will be running with salmon, the brown bears will be out in the open, and the whales will be putting on shows just for you!

Of course, advanced reservations are imperative and it’s advisable to book your trip half a year ahead.

August

August is another great month to cruise Alaska, although a little bit rainier, but It’s also warmer than June and it’s the best month out of the entire year to see the bears.

May and September (Shoulder Season)

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May

May sees the beginning of the cruising season, the weather is warming up, the ice is still melting, the scenery is slowly turning from icy and white to colorful and green and there is very little rain.

The more you move into the summer months, the more rain you’re going to experience. You’ll be watching beautiful snow-capped mountains and incredible juxtapositions between the blooming spring and the shivery winter.

If you’re on a tight budget, it’s advisable to cruise in May as the prices are relatively lower than those of the summer months, and you can get really good deals. It’s not the best time to cruise Alaska, but it gives you the best of both worlds.

It might be a little early for fishing, bears and whales – but if that is not your top priority then the experience of watching nature come alive and bloom will be enriching and beautiful!

September

In September, cruise season is still on, but it’s the second rainiest month of the year, so the entire experience might be a tad bit uncomfortable. It’s another great shoulder month you can book in if you want to have lower prices, but wildlife viewing would have tapered off a bit, and the weather would be a little bit cooler than the previous months.

The Type of Wildlife You’ll be Seeing in Those Months

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  • Moose: The best time to see moose is definitely in May, where you’ll be able to spot a lot of moose and Dall Sheep
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    Humpback whales: Even though you’ll be seeing all types of whales in the months of June to August, the best time to see humpback whales is in September since they’ll be migrating. 
  • Brown bears: July and August are definitely the best two months for brown bear sightings as they come to feed on the salmon in the rivers. They’re also the perfect time to see beluga whales!

Best Time To Visit Alaska In General

If you’re going to visit Alaska in the summer, then the best thing to do is cruise around. However, if you’re set on experiencing the notorious Alaskan winter, then these are the best times to go!

The roughest winter months of Alaska are from January to April, when the nights are extremely long and the entire country goes into a state of hibernation. It’s not advisable to visit in these months as you won’t be able to participate in any winter sports since a lot of the lodges are closed.

Read more : Best Time To Visit Canada: A Guide To Help You Decide When To Travel

November – February

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If you’re going to travel to Alaska in the winter, make sure your dates fall in these months! They are lively, festive months, the ice-skating rinks are open, the snow is falling spectacularly, and there are plenty of winter sports activities to be done! You’ll be able to have winter tours, go dog-sled riding, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, ice fishing and so much more!

The winter months are also perfect for the Northern Lights viewing!

Tips For Your Cruising Trip

  • Make sure you plan your cruise early on
    You need to make sure that you book early on, as the earlier you book the better deals you go. Normally, it’s advisable to book an entire year in advance!
  • Pick your cruise line depending on your interests
    There are usually so many ships sailing Alaska, and plenty of companies that offer cruising trips. It’s very important to make your research on which cruise ship and company are the best to ensure a comfortable, fun experience for you.
  • Choose your route
    What do you want to see? Glacier touring? Overland touring to Denali? Which departure port do you prefer? These are all things that you need to consider before planning your trip.
  • Make sure you book on-shore excursions
    If you’re going to Alaska anyway, you night as well explore the city, its glaciers, dog sled, hike up a mountain and connect with its wilderness.
  • You need a cabin with a balcony!
    Yes, it is going to cost you more, but the experience of having a balcony is highly rewarding and highly recommended. You will be met with constant gorgeous views, and a chance of having a little private getaway in your own room!
  • If you want to save money….
    If you’re on a tight budget – book in the shoulder season. This means, either travel in May or September!

Conclusion

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With all that Alaska has to offer in scenery, excursions, and experiences, it is not a surprise that you’d want to book your cruise trip right now!

To wrap this all up and help clear your confusion, the absolute best time to cruise Alaska is in June and July, where the weather is warm, the wildlife is abundant and the scenery is magnificent!

Please comment if you have any questions or ideas about the best time to cruise Alaska!

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Ryan Smith, a solo traveler, and founder of MrAbroad.com with a bunch of friends. I love going outside, reading books and talking to people.