The 8 Best Alaska Cruises For Every Travel Style (2024)

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Susan B. Barnes, Contributor

Forbes Vetted

A trip to Alaska is at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists, and for good reason. From the oft-shrouded Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, to the aurora borealis, nature’s greatest light show, as well as opportunities to spot wildlife like moose, bear, wolves, whales, sea lions, sea otters and more, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in this state, which derives its name from the Aleut word “Alyeska,” meaning “great land.” To truly see it all, the best way to explore Alaska is by ship, and the best Alaska cruises have quickly made The Last Frontier one of the most in-demand cruise destinations in the world.

Alaska cruises first made their debut in 1881, when the Pacific Coast Steamship Company began cruising the Inside Passage aboard its two ships, the Ancon and the Idaho. Today, with over 20 cruise lines and small ships sailing Alaska’s waterways, there are plenty of options for travelers to choose from during the Alaska cruise season, which runs every year from April through October. If you’re planning a bucket list trip, we’ve selected the best Alaska cruises for every type of travel style in 2024, from the adventure-focused to the super luxurious.

Best Alaska Cruise Overall: Holland America Line, Nieuw Amsterdam

Nieuw Amsterdam

Recommended Itinerary: Nieuw Amsterdam, 7-day Glacier Discovery
Departures: May-September 2024
All-Star Amenities: Wide range of balcony accommodations; signature Mariner's Dream beds with plush Euro-top mattresses; pickleball courts; five specialty dining restaurants; private balcony breakfast or dinner; couples’ packages

Coming off of its 150th anniversary year, Holland America Line has been sailing to and around Alaska for more than half that time—75 years. The cruise line’s Alaskan expertise is evident in many ways, including holding the most permits to visit Glacier Bay National Park than any other cruise line, as well as onboard wildlife experts on each ship who host daily programs to help passengers search for and find animals in their natural environments. Holland America Line’s “Alaska Up Close” deeply immerses guests in local cultures through onboard programs and activities, and shore excursions. On all of its Alaska cruises, a Huna Native Interpreter comes aboard Holland America Line ships to share the history of the Tlingit people.

In 2022, the cruise line was the first to receive Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) certification, meaning its Alaska-bound ships serve only fresh, certified sustainable and traceable wild Alaska seafood. The 7-Day Glacier Discovery itinerary is offered both northbound and southbound, both of which include cruising the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, and calling upon Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.

Best Luxury Alaska Cruise: Cunard, Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

Recommended Itinerary: Queen Elizabeth, Alaska, 11 Nights
Departures: June-September 2024
All-Star Amenities: Art Deco elegance; complimentary in-cabin robes and slippers; tea and coffee service; breakfast in bed; traditional afternoon tea; gala evenings; specialty dining restaurants; garden-like games deck

The storied Cunard cruise line, with more than 180 years of seafaring history, returned to Alaska after nearly 30 years when it arrived back in the Great Land in 2019. In addition to the White Star service Cunard passengers have come to expect, the 2,081-passenger Queen Elizabeth’s itineraries sail to Alaska with style, calling upon Juneau, Kodiak, Skagway, Prince Rupert, Seward, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Sitka and Haines along the way. In addition to more than 140 shore experiences that immerse guests into this magical destination, Cunard invites explorers, travel writers and locals onboard to share their passions and knowledge. The cruise line takes inspiration from Alaska with special local dishes served in its onboard restaurants, and the return of the Ice White Ball, a formal gala affair with a glacial twist.

Best Alaska Cruise For Families: Disney Cruise Line, Disney Wonder

Disney Wonder

Recommended Itinerary: Disney Wonder, 7-Night Alaskan Cruise from Vancouver
Departures: May-September 2024
All-Star Amenities: Wide range of balcony accommodations; Broadway-quality shows; specialty dining restaurants; adults-only pool and hot tub; spa and salon

Disney Cruise Line set sail in 1998 with its first three- and four-night trips to the Bahamas and made its way to Alaska in the spring of 2011. The cruise line, which is celebrating its Silver Anniversary at Sea, offers 23 five-, seven-, eight- and 9-night round-trip Alaskan itineraries aboard the Disney Wonder, all of which depart from Vancouver. As on all Disney Cruise Line sailings around the world, its Alaska cruises feature spacious cabins with split bathrooms; kids clubs for ages three to 17; all meals, including snacks and room service; Broadway-quality stage shows and more. Shore excursions range from adventures like zip lining, hiking and rafting to seaplane exploration, photo safaris and high teas. Adults can enjoy themselves on an Alaskan Disney Cruise, too, with adult-exclusive dining; an adult-only pool and hot tub; fitness center; and Senses Spa & Salon.

Best Alaska Cruise For Couples: Princess Cruises, Royal Princess

Royal Princess

Recommended Itinerary: Royal Princess, 7-day Voyage of the Glaciers
Departures: May-September 2024; May-September 2025
All-Star Amenities: Wide range of balcony accommodations; Reserve Collection mini-suites; The Sanctuary, an exclusive adults-only retreat; Princess Luxury Beds in every cabin; private balcony breakfast; a handful of speciality dining options; romance packages

Nicknamed “The Love Boat,” Princess Cruises has been sailing to Alaska for more than 50 years, and is a terrific choice for couples looking to get away from it all. While onboard, Princess immerses its guests into the sites, sounds, tastes and history of the 49th state through its award-winning North to Alaska programming. Life onboard is made easy, too, with the cruise line’s revolutionary Medallion technology that not only keeps people traveling together connected, but makes buying gifts in ports a snap by charging purchases back to your cabin. The cruise line’s Voyage of the Glaciers itinerary offers two glacier viewing experiences, as well as a voyage across the Gulf of Alaska to see Prince William Sound, known for its abundance of marine and coastal life. Guests can extend their Alaska cruise with three- to 10-day day pre- and post-cruise tours.

Best Value Alaska Cruise: Royal Caribbean, Radiance Of The Seas

Radiance Of The Seas

Recommended Itinerary: Radiance of the Seas, Northbound Alaska & Hubbard Glacier
Departures: May-September 2024
All-Star Amenities: Wide range of balcony accommodations; most glass of any Royal Caribbean ship; rock climbing wall; movies under the stars; Bottomless Galley Brunch with sparkling wine; specialty dining options; Solarium, and adults-on indoor/outdoor retreat with whirlpools; Vitality Spa & Fitness Center

Enjoy all Alaska has to offer without breaking the bank when you set sail with Royal Caribbean, which boasts a 28-ship fleet that sails to Alaska on 59 different itineraries, ranging from six to 13 nights, ensuring an itinerary that’s just right for you. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll be ready for an Alaskan adventure, whether that means flying through the tree tops on a zip line, keeping binoculars at-the-ready on a whale watching trip, or settling into your cabin to watch the rugged landscape pass by your window. Make the most of your cruise by keeping an eye out for pop-up sales that can save you even more money—you can even use those savings to indulge in a pre- or post-cruise tour.

Best Small Ship Alaska Cruise: Alaskan Dream Cruises, Chichagof Dream

Chichagof Dream

Recommended Itinerary: Chichagof Dream, North to True Alaska Expedition
Departures: May-September 2024
All-Star Amenities: Small-ship experience with just 76 passengers; 5-night itinerary; travel with like-minded adventurers and hands-on enthusiasts

Alaskan-owned and -operated Alaskan Dream Cruises dates back to 1970 when its parent company, Allen Marine, founded by Bob and Betty Allen, launched with the St. Michael. In those days, Bob ran the boat while Betty and her children served treats and tea to their guests. Today, Allen Marine operates 30 vessels, including the five ships that make up the Alaska Dream Cruises fleet, all of which accommodate between 12 and 76 cruise passengers. Each of its all-inclusive, small-ship itineraries is designed to immerse its guests into true Alaska through excursions and adventures in Southeast Alaska; because of their small sizes, they can call upon more remote destinations, leaving the crowds behind. Knowledgeable expedition leaders serve as personal guides on every voyage, sharing their expertise in biology, geography and ecology, as well as sharing about the lifestyles and legends of Southeast Alaska’s local cultures. Life aboard Alaskan Dream Cruises’ five ships is casual and relaxed, meals feature fresh Alaskan fare, and everyone strives to provide opportunities for guests to make personal connections to the region’s places and people.

Best Inside Passage Alaska Cruise: Hurtigruten Expeditions, MS Roald Amundsen

MS Roald Amundsen

Recommended Itinerary: MS Roald Amundsen, Inside Passage, Bears, and Aleutian Islands
Departures: July-September 2024
All-Star Amenities: Balcony accommodations; fine dining for suite guests; complimentary WiFi; onboard hot tub, infinity pool and sauna; onboard Citizen Science Program

With an expedition heritage that dates back to 1896, it’s no wonder Hurtigruten Expeditions found its way to Alaska. The cruise line with a keen focus on exploration, adventure and science has two of its hybrid technology ships—MS Roald Amundsen, built in 2019, and MS Fridtjof Nansen, built in 2020—sailing the waters that surround The Great Land. Each of the ships features an observation deck, library, science center, hot tub, pool and Explorer lounge, as well as a bar with floor-to-ceiling windows so you never miss a thing. An expedition team of Alaska experts join each voyage, hosting lectures about the areas the ships visit and guiding passengers on outings like nature walks through rainforests and kayaking trips around the foot of a glacier. Guests learn about the cultural heritage of remote communities and focus binoculars to spot bears, whales, caribou, moose, deer, wolves, birds and more. The MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen embark on 14- to 19-day Alaskan voyages between May and September.

Alaska Cruise With The Most Adventurous Excursions: UnCruise Adventures

UnCruise Adventures

Recommended Itinerary: Wilderness Legacy, Glaciers & Tranquility, Alaska’s Adult-Only Adventure
Departures: April-September 2024
All-Star Amenities: Beer and wine tastings; complimentary drinks; hot tub; onboard naturals and guides; onboard launch platform for kayaks and paddleboards

For nearly 30 years, UnCruise Adventures has embarked on voyages with a mission to provide its guests with an enriching adventure travel experience that inspires an appreciation of local cultures and the natural world. Founded in Alaska in 1996, the company has a strong pretense in The Great Land with seven-, 12- and 14-night itineraries that set sail April through September. This year, the cruise line added five new Alaskan itineraries, including the adults-only Glaciers & Tranquility and Winter Sports Alaska, with a focus on downhill and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, whale watching and spotting the Northern Lights. Whichever itinerary you choose, you can be sure to have a plethora of adventurous excursions at your fingertips, right from the ship. One day could find you paddleboarding in the morning and hiking in the afternoon, or maybe kayaking and taking a skiff out later in the day to try and spot wildlife. For the daring, there’s even a chance to go all-in with a polar plunge. All excursions are led by experienced expedition teams, who provide all the equipment needed to make the most of your time in Alaska.

About Susan B. Barnes, Your Alaska Cruise Guide

I’m a Florida-based freelance travel and lifestyle journalist who has embarked on more than a dozen cruises, including several to Alaska. As a traveler, I am just as comfortable bicycling through Italian olive groves and SCUBA diving the wall of sharks in French Polynesia as I am sipping bubbles in a Champagne house and dining at Michelin-starred restaurants. I enjoy diving into topics, interviewing expert sources and sharing stories in interesting and engaging ways for publications like Forbes Vetted, AARP, AFAR, Condé Nast Traveler, Forbes Travel Guide, Garden & Gun, Global Traveler, Southern Living and Wine Enthusiast.

The 8 Best Alaska Cruises For Every Travel Style (2024)
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