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24 Alaska cruise tips to follow in 2024

17 Apr 2024
Jenna DeLaurentis

The 2024 Alaska cruise season is quickly approaching, and we’re sharing 24 of our most helpful Alaska cruise tips that you need to follow.

Alaska cruise tips

Are you preparing for your Alaska cruise this summer? Whether you’re confused about what to pack or overwhelmed with the dozens of shore excursion offerings, the planning process can quickly seem more stressful than enjoyable.

Fortunately, after nearly a dozen Alaska cruises, our staff are well versed in the ins and outs of cruising to Alaska. From booking your pre-cruise hotel to utilizing Seattle’s stress-free luggage service, here are our top 24 tips for an Alaska cruise this year.

Read more: 50 Alaska cruise tips

If you haven’t booked shore excursions yet, book them ASAP

Mendenhall Glacier

Shore excursions in Alaska result in truly exceptional memories, whether you book a whale watching tour in Icy Strait Point or a helicopter ride in Juneau.

Due to the popularity of excursions on an Alaska cruise, they can fill up quickly, so it’s important to book excursions well ahead of time. If you have not yet booked excursions for your 2024 Alaska cruise, book them as soon as possible.

The last thing you want to happen is have your dream excursion sell out, leaving you scrambling to find other plans. Plus, excursions tend to only get more expensive over time, so booking early helps you lock in a lower price.

You don’t have to book your excursions through Royal Caribbean

jeep rental in Juneau Alaska

Speaking of excursions, it isn’t necessary to book excursions through Royal Caribbean. While booking shore excursions on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website is convenient, you might find more options (or lower prices) by booking through independent tour operators.

Search for shore excursions on websites like and, and compare them to what you see on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner. If prices are lower, or if there’s availability on a tour that’s sold out on the Cruise Planner, there’s no harm in booking through a third party.

Related: 7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion

Of course, you’ll want to look at the terms and conditions of each tour operator before booking. Check the tour’s cancellation policies—and whether or not they provide a guaranteed arrival back to port before your ship's departure—before booking.

Research low-cost things to do in port if you’re on a budget

Yakutania Point in Skagway

Even though booking shore excursions is popular on an Alaska cruise, you can still have a great time in port without an organized tour. If you’re on a budget (or would simply prefer to explore without a large group), research which activities are offered in each Alaskan town.

In Sitka, for instance, you can enjoy a leisurely walk through the Sitka National Historic Park, which comes at no extra cost and is within walking distance from the town center. Likewise, you could take a shuttle bus to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau for $45 roundtrip, which is much cheaper than excursions booked through the cruise line.

Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the best free and low-cost activities to do in each Alaska cruise port, which should help give you some ideas.

If you haven’t booked travel arrangements yet, now is the time

Seattle aerial view

Hopefully, if you have an Alaska cruise booked this summer, you’ve already booked your airfare to and from the cruise port. If you have not done so yet, we recommend booking flights as soon as possible.

More often than not, flight prices will increase significantly as your travel date approaches. Waiting to see if the price drops almost always results in paying more for your flight, so it’s important to get your flights booked to avoid wasting money.

Leave plenty of time to make it to the airport on disembarkation day

When scheduling your return flights, don’t book a flight too early on disembarkation day.

Although your cruise itinerary might say you arrive at 6AM on disembarkation day, this does not mean you can get off your ship at 6AM. It takes time for your ship to dock, get cleared by local authorities, and prepare for disembarkation. If all goes to plan, you could start disembarking by 7AM, but unexpected delays could cause a later disembarkation time.

Related: Guide to Seattle cruise port for Alaska cruises

Therefore, booking a flight too early in the day could cause you to miss the flight if you encounter delays. Stressing over making it to the airport in time is not worth it; instead, the general rule of thumb is to avoid booking flights before noon.

If your cruise ends in Seward, you’ll want to schedule even more time to catch your flight, as it takes several hours to get to Anchorage from Seward.

Book your pre-cruise hotel stay

Hotel in Vancouver Canada

Because you will arrive in your embarkation city the night before your cruise, remember to book your hotel stay sooner rather than later. When booking a hotel in Seattle or Vancouver (or Anchorage/Seward for one-way itineraries), you will want to book a hotel in a convenient location.

If your flight doesn’t arrive until 11PM the night before your cruise, it probably isn’t worth it to travel to the city center. Instead, consider a hotel near the airport so you can simply land and head straight to bed. For those arriving earlier in the day, though, it’s worth it to find a hotel downtown for easy access to tourist sites.

Figure out your transportation logistics to and from the airport, hotel, and cruise port

Check-in Vancouver Port

In addition to airfare, you’ll also want to figure out transportation logistics on land, which can vary from one embarkation city to another.

In Seattle, for instance, you’ll want to research the best way to get from the airport to your hotel, and from your hotel to the cruise port. In most instances, a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft is the most convenient option. However, your hotel may also provide a shuttle, or you could even take the light rail from the airport to downtown.

If your cruise is a one-way itinerary that starts or ends in Seward, Alaska, transportation logistics require more pre-planning. The closest major airport to Seward is Anchorage, which is over two hours away by car. Due to this, you might want to consider taking a Royal Caribbean shuttle or the train from Seward to Anchorage, which must be scheduled in advance.

Regardless of where your cruise starts and ends, it’s always better to plan transportation logistics ahead of time to avoid any surprises and confusion upon arrival.

Plan exciting activities in Seattle or Vancouver before your cruise

Pike Place Market in Seattle

One of my favorite aspects of cruising to Alaska is the pre-cruise stay in Seattle or Vancouver. Not only do both of these cities offer breathtaking natural scenery, but they boast an impressive amount of things to do within the city, too.

You’d be surprised by how many activities you can fit into a pre-cruise stay in Seattle or Vancouver. Even if you arrive at 3PM the day before your cruise, you will have around twenty hours in either city before embarkation begins.

Because of this, take a look at the main attractions in your embarkation city. You might enjoy shopping at Pike’s Place Market and visiting the Space Needle in Seattle, or enjoying a relaxing stroll through Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Consider upgrading to a balcony cabin or trying RoyalUp

While a balcony is not a requirement on an Alaska cruise, there’s no denying a balcony cabin is nicer than an interior cabin on such a scenic itinerary. If you booked an interior or oceanview cabin for your 2024 Alaska cruise, consider upgrading to a balcony before your sail date.

Related: 8 reasons a balcony cabin is worth it to book on a cruise

There’s no harm in asking your travel agent to check the price of a balcony cabin. If the price to upgrade won’t break your budget, why not upgrade?

Alternatively, you can try to bid on a cabin upgrade through Royal Caribbean’s RoyalUp program, although there’s no guarantee your bid will be successful.

Start shopping for cold weather clothing now, as winter gear may be on sale

serenade docked in haines

As summer approaches, many retail stores will discount winter wear like gloves, jackets, and hats. If you haven’t already bought the clothing and accessories recommended for an Alaska cruise, now is the time.

If you’re unsure what to pack for an Alaska cruise, check out our comprehensive packing list.

Shop for jackets at your local thrift shop

Woman wearing jacket in Alaska

If you live in a warm climate or don’t wear winter jackets often, consider purchasing gently-used cold weather gear at a thrift shop or on eBay. There’s really no need to spend hundreds of dollars on new winter gear just for an Alaska cruise, especially if you’re traveling with children who will quickly outgrow clothing.

Browse a local outdoor consignment shop or search for used clothing on websites like Facebook Marketplace or eBay to find the best deals.

Don’t forget to pack short sleeve shirts and sunscreen

Skagway Alaska

On my Alaska cruise last June, it was nearly 80 degrees on several port days—I spent the day sweating while walking around Skagway. Having packed only long sleeve shirts and pants for my Alaska cruise, I regretted not bringing more lightweight clothing.

Related: The best time to visit Alaska

Just as Alaska’s weather can be unpredictable in terms of rain and snow, you may also encounter surprisingly warm weather, particularly in the peak summer season. This is another reason why layers are so important—you never know when you’ll need that t-shirt over your winter jacket.

Buy the right footwear, and wear your new shoes before the cruise begins

Pool deck on an Alaska cruise

When packing for an Alaska cruise, we recommend bringing a pair of sneakers that are water resistant. Unless you plan on doing some serious trekking in each port, there’s no need to bring hefty hiking boots or rain boots. A pair of sneakers made from a water-resistant material will keep your feet dry and warm under most weather conditions.

If you’re purchasing new shoes, it’s crucial to wear your shoes around the house and out on walks before the cruise to avoid painful blisters once onboard.

Order essentials ahead of time, like binoculars and motion-sickness remedies

woman using binoculars on a cruise ship

Outside of clothing, there are other essentials you should pack for an Alaska cruise. While not required, bringing items like motion-sickness medication, binoculars, and cabin essentials like outlet adapters are helpful to have handy.

Ordering these items on Royal Caribbean Blog’s Amazon Storefront is the easiest way to shop, as you can find everything in one place. Despite Amason’s speedy delivery, we still recommend ordering these essentials well ahead of time in order to ensure you’re not scrambling to order items and pack at the last minute.

If you haven’t booked a 2024 Alaska cruise yet, you can still find a cheap last-minute deal

Radiance of the Seas docked in Skagway

One of our favorite “tricks” when planning an Alaska cruise on Royal Caribbean is to take advantage of cheap last-minute sailings.

Cheap cruises are never a guarantee, but one trend we have noticed in the past few years is that Alaska cruises in the shoulder season are often heavily discounted at the last minute.

In 2022, for example, I booked the cheapest Alaska cruise I could find on Radiance of the Seas. The cruise fare was only $240 for an entire week with $293 in taxes and fees. Having booked the cruise only three months before I sailed, it offered a fantastic value.

Remember to book pre-cruise add-ons before you board

Planning to book cruise add-ons like drink and specialty dining packages? One must-do before you board an Alaska cruise in 2024 is to pre-purchase these add-ons.

While you can purchase packages once onboard, the cost may be significantly higher than what you could have booked ahead of time. Plus, because you can cancel add-ons for a full refund up to 48 hours before your sailing, you have flexibility in case you change your mind on these purchases later on.

Hone your photography skills prior to sailing

girl taking picture on phone

Alaska’s landscapes are spectacular, so you’ll want to brush up on your photography skills before your cruise.

Whether you’re cruising with an elaborate mirrorless camera or just your cell phone, it’s hard to take a bad photo of somewhere as beautiful as Alaska.

Nonetheless, it’s helpful to know the basic rules of photography before setting sail. Practice taking pictures at home and watch a few beginner photography tutorials on YouTube to ensure you have the skills needed to take that perfect shot.

Watch a ship tour of your cruise ship to become acquainted with the vessel

Ovation North Star AK Experience

Royal Caribbean sends four cruise ships to Alaska each season, and each ship varies from one another. Although ships in the same class, such as Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas, share similarities, they still offer varied dining venues, entertainment, and decor.

One of the best ways to become acquainted with Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships is to watch a full tour of the ship on YouTube. On our YouTube channel, we have full, high definition tours of each Royal Caribbean ship sailing to Alaska.

Watching a ship tour will help make your first few days onboard stress-free, as you will already have a general understanding of what is offered onboard, as well as the location of popular venues.

Reserve entertainment ahead of time, and stick to shows early in the week

Show in Two70

If you’re cruising to Alaska on a Quantum Class cruise ship, you can book reservations for select entertainment shows prior to your cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website.

When booking entertainment reservations, we recommend sticking to shows earlier in the week. If, for instance, a show is offered on the second, fifth, and last evening of the cruise, try to book the first day available.

Should your cruise encounter rough seas, an itinerary change, or another unforeseen circumstance, there’s a chance a showtime could get canceled or rescheduled. Booking reservations for earlier in the week ensures you have wiggle room in case of an unanticipated schedule change.

Maintain a positive mindset about the weather

Skagway Pier

Cruising to the Caribbean? If so, you can almost always expect warm temperatures and, aside from a chance of rain, pleasant weather conditions.

In Alaska, on the other hand, you will want to lower your expectations when it comes to weather. It’s challenging to predict whether your cruise will encounter sunny skies and 70 degrees, or seven days of straight rain. Sure, booking your cruise in June usually results in better weather compared to one in September, but weather conditions are never guaranteed.

Related: The worst months to cruise to Alaska

Instead of getting upset over a cold, rainy day in port, maintain a positive attitude. Find a cozy saloon to enjoy a warm Irish coffee, or bundle up in your rain gear and make the most of the day.

Consider booking a later dining time

dessert in the dining room

Dinner in the Main Dining Room is a traditional part of any cruise experience, but think twice before selecting your dining time.

If you’ve opted for Traditional Dining in the Main Dining Room, you will be assigned the same table and dining time for each evening of the cruise. Those who eat dinner early at home might opt for the earliest time slot, around 5 or 5:30PM, but we recommend considering a later dining time instead.

Related: How Royal Caribbean's Main Dining Room works and what to expect

As your ship sails away from each port of call in Alaska, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Inside Passage, and you won’t want to miss sailaway each evening. However, sailaway times often overlap with the early dining time, meaning you’ll miss these scenic sailings if you're in the Main Dining Room.

To ensure you don’t miss out, consider booking a later dinner time, or simply eat dinner elsewhere on the nights the sailaway overlaps with your dining time. The Windjammer buffet can be an excellent place to enjoy dinner in Alaska, as the buffet has floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the venue, in addition to outdoor seating on select ships.

Use Seattle airport’s port valet service when disembarking in Seattle

suitcases in hallway

One of my favorite Alaska cruise “hacks” is to utilize Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s luggage valet service.

Dreading transporting your luggage from the cruise terminal to the airport check-in desk? If your Alaska cruise ends in Seattle, you may be in luck. Royal Caribbean and the Port of Seattle offer a luggage valet service, which allows you to bypass standard airport check-in.

Instead of transporting your luggage to the airport yourself, bags are collected outside your stateroom door in the evening prior to disembarkation. The bags are then delivered and checked onto your flight on disembarkation morning, meaning you won’t see your bags again until you arrive at your home airport.

Although the service comes with a small fee in addition to any airline baggage fees, it offers unparalleled convenience for travelers.

Disembark your ship early on each port day to avoid crowds

busy cruise port in Ketchikan

As Alaska cruises have grown in popularity, the crowds have grown as well. It’s not uncommon for there to be three, four, or even five cruise ships docked in Alaska's ports at once.

No one enjoys navigating crowds, but it’s almost inevitable when cruising to Alaska. If you want to avoid the highest crowds, we recommend disembarking your ship early on each port day.

Related: Top ways to avoid crowds on an Alaska cruise

On most itineraries, you will arrive in port in the morning. While it could be tempting to sleep in, we advise starting your port day earlier rather than later. Crowds only increase throughout the morning and early afternoon, so if you want the best chance of exploring port without thousands of other passengers, your best bet is to disembark as soon as the gangway goes down.

Read as much Alaska cruise advice as you can before your cruise begins

Jenna's dad in Alaska

If you made it to the end of this article, chances are you’re already following our final tip on this list, and that is to read as many tips as you can about Alaska cruises before you set sail.

It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, so there’s no harm in reading articles and watching YouTube videos to help you prepare for your Alaska cruise.

Doing research will help you pack correctly, plan your travel logistics without any issues, and book that once-in-a-lifetime excursion you’ve dreamed about for years.

In search of even more content to prepare for your upcoming cruise? Check out more of our Alaska cruise tips and advice:

24 Alaska cruise tips to follow in 2024

Jenna DeLaurentis enjoys exploring new ports of call around the world on a cruise ship, learning about new cultures, discovering beautiful landscapes, and trying diverse cuisine. She loves to get active while at port, whether cycling through mountains in the Caribbean or scuba diving under the sea.

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