What’s the Best Cruise Ship to Alaska?
Alaska is the wildest and most remote state in the U.S. Known as the "Last Frontier," it is blessed with giant glaciers, Arctic tundras and secluded islands. And the best way to see them all is on a cruise ship.
There are several small and large cruise lines that operate in Alaska, but not all of them are equal. Choosing the right cruise line will guarantee that your money is put to good use — and you'll definitely need to cash out a significant amount for the privilege of exploring the state's cold waters.
Ready for a grand adventure? Here are all the 13 cruise lines that go to Alaska, ranked from "meh" to "book right now."
13. Disney Cruises
Disney cruises make for a fun family trip where the kids are entertained enough to let parents have three seconds of rest. Ships have fun activities for the whole family and, most importantly, spas where you can actually relax.
The problem is that we don't see why anyone would choose a Disney cruise for Alaska of all places. Will your kids appreciate the majesty of fjords? Probably, but on this cruise line, they'll be too distracted by Mickey and friends to even care. If your heart is set on Alaska, choose another cruise. If it's set on a Disney cruise, choose another destination.
12. Carnival Cruises
Living up to its name, Carnival Cruise line is, well, a carnival. You can count on over-the-top entertainment, large rowdy crowds and chaotic energy. But, is this what you want from a cruise ship to Alaska?
The loud party seems better fitted to Miami, Florida, (where Carnival is headquartered) than to the tranquil shores of Alaskan islands. Though the casino is fun and the shows are flashy, both seem like a waste of time when compared to the power of the Last Frontier's untamed wilderness.
As with Disney, we have nothing against Carnival Cruise itself. We just don't think it fits Alaska too well. That said, it does offer a good value, so if price is more important than quality, this could be a good option.
11. Royal Caribbean Cruises
Another carnivalesque cruise line, Royal Caribbean pulls out the fireworks for their Alaskan adventures. You'll sail aboard the Ovation of the Seas, one of the largest cruise ships on the entire planet! Onboard, you'll find water parks, climbing walls, cocktail-serving robots and shows that include impressive aerial performances.
That's amazing for the two entire days you spend at sea as you make your way from Seattle, Washington to the north. For the rest of the trip, it mostly just means you'll have to make gigantic lines just to get offshore. This often translates to limited time actually enjoying the beauty of your destination.
If you want a Vegas-style show, go to Vegas. It'll actually be cheaper than a cruise to Alaska.
10. Norwegian Cruises
Like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, Norwegian's biggest selling point is its casual atmosphere and extravagant amenities. You can enjoy laser tag, a race track and large waterslides. Kids definitely love it, which is always a good thing.
Our advice? Take them to a local laser tag place rather than spending multiple thousands of dollars for this.
Long lines are, again, the bane of your existence and will significantly cut your onshore time. If Norwegian ranks higher than its competitor cruise lines it's because of a single thing: the Chocoholic buffet.
9. Oceania Cruises
Oceania's Alaska cruises usually have fewer than 700 passengers, so you won't be spending two entire hours just disembarking from the ship. The cruise line also has a youth program to keep kids occupied while teaching them about the magic of Alaska's nature.
In the meantime, you can rest for a bit in your cabin or enjoy the cruise's amenities. That's a win for everyone. (Except, maybe, the person stuck entertaining everyone else's kids. But at least they get paid to cruise to Alaska!)
If what you want is a party, this is not the cruise line for you. There are fun entertainment options, but they can't match the wild atmosphere of other lines like Carnival. Though by now you probably know that, for us, this is not the purpose of an Alaskan trip.
8. Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises straddle the line between a party cruise and a retiree cruise. You won't feel like you're at Ultra in Miami, but you also won't be spending the time playing bridge and Mah Jong. Instead, you'll get to enjoy some of Broadway's best plays, try your luck at the casino or enjoy movies at night.
As a run-of-the-mill alaska cruise, Princess is fine. But it doesn't have enough to make it stand out as memorable.
7. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
If you have deep pockets or are willing to go into debt for an amazing adventure, you'll like Regent Seven Seas. For a steep price, you get the privilege of being on a relatively small cruise ship of only 700 passengers.
As we've said, this means less time in lines and more time seeing the beauty of Alaska up close. But beyond that, it means getting to visit even more remote parts of the state where larger cruise ships simply can't go.
This is the cruise line for those who want a cultural experience rather than a party at sea. Instead of shows and random entertainment options, Regent Seven Seas offers educational opportunities like classes and lectures from marine biologists and other experts who will help you appreciate the places you're visiting.
Don't worry, it won't all be serious. There's still an award-winning spa, and alcohol is included in the price.
6. Silversea Cruises
We love Silversea's Alaskan cruises for their sheer elegance and peacefulness, which are coherent with the surroundings of the remote state. This is the cruise to take if you want to wine and dine in luxury. Have we mentioned you can gaze at glaciers from your cabin's private veranda?
That said, it's definitely not the right choice for everyone. Semi-formal wear is still expected, which not everyone is a fan of, and there are no activities specifically geared towards kids.
We would recommend it for adults traveling child-free who want to immerse in interesting educational programs and take in Alaska's almost overwhelming tranquility.
5. Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises combines some of the best things other cruise lines have. It is elegant and luxurious without being overly formal and restrictive; it has entertainment options without being tacky about them; and it offers educational classes and cooking demonstrations.
Plus, there is a health-conscious restaurant and a relaxation room perfect for bougie cruisers who don't believe that vacation is the perfect time to break routines and diets.
While we like its balance of not being too loud — again, why go to remote Alaska for loud parties? — we draw the line at silent discos. We get that there's a time and place for silent discos, but with literally no neighbor for miles, why the need for a silent dance party?
We simply can't support that, so we were forced to deduct a couple of points from Celebrity.
4. Holland America Line
If you can afford it, Holland America provides some great Alaskan cruise experiences. The cruise line has six ships making the passage northward, most of which pass by Glacier Bay National Park, a remote preserve visited by less than 700,000 people per year.
Passengers rave about Holland America's food. If you've ever been on a cruise, you know this is a big plus, especially for a line with big ships.
There definitely won't be climbing walls and laser tag, but in their place are performances straight from New York's Lincoln Center, a blues club and fun educational learning experiences relevant to Alaska.
3. Discovery Voyages
Large ships can provide fun entertainment and endless dining options, but there is something almost magical about small ships, particularly in extreme landscapes.
Discovery Voyages is a cruise line that is based entirely in Alaska, so you can rest assured that every person of the crew knows the landscape and the culture like the back of their own hand. You'll also be sharing the ship with only 11 other passengers. Yes, that absolutely means that lines are non-existent and that you'll probably form a tight bond with everyone on board.
Rather than entertain people on board, the cruise line makes sure to entertain them with activities in the great outdoors. Wildlife viewing, kayaking, hiking and photography classes are all part of the experience.
Oh, and you'll really be able to go into the nooks and crannies of glaciers that others only wish they could reach.
2. Hurtigruten Expeditions
Hurtigruten has made a name for itself in the world of cruising by focusing entirely on sailing in the Arctic and the Antarctic. If you want to know that the people managing the ship are prepared for icebergs and rough weather, this is the cruise line for you.
Every Alaskan cruise on Hurtigruten combines the Alaska experience with a trip through British Columbia, with most ships setting sail from Vancouver, Canada. This means that you'll also get to see some gorgeous parts of Canada that other ships on here simply skip.
The cruise line claims it is the "ideal choice to actively explore the wild nature of Alaska." Aboard a small ship, you'll dock in historic towns, visit indigenous communities and learn about wildlife from the onboard experts.
As the name suggests, UnCruise aims to be the anti-cruise of the industry. It uses very small ships with only 70 passengers, so if 700 is too many and 12 is too few, this might be the Goldilocks happy medium.
Activities focus on outdoor adventures, with whale watching, skiff rides, kayaking and hiking as well as education about native Alaskan culture and life. And if you are brave enough for it, you can participate in a polar plunge, which is supposed to be great for your health — not that we'd ever be strong enough to try it.
This is definitely one of the priciest cruises to Alaska. Hey, quality has a steep price. But the good news is that every cruise is all-inclusive. That means that all meals (which are excellent), drinks (alcoholic or not), shore excursions, admission to national and state parks, and even airport transfers are included.
If you can swing the price, this is the best cruise ship to Alaska.