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Royal Caribbean Alaska excursions: Recommended tours for each port

In:
12 Jun 2024

After you book an Alaska cruise, your next question might be which shore excursions are the best to book.

Alaska shore excursions

Alaska is known for its natural wonders, and many people want to maximize their time in Alaska by going on the best tours that allow them to see the major highlights. Whale watching, dog sleds, glacier viewings, historical tours, and many more are the most requested excursions cruisers want.

Our team has been on various Alaska cruises over the years, and we've experienced many different tours. Plus, our readers have shared their own recommendations for the best options.

Note: We make no guarantees about any of these tours. It's a list to consider based on feedback and our experiences. Book these tours at your own risk.

Here's our list of recommended cruise ship excursions to help make your search easier.

Juneau shore excursions & tours

Whale in Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier & Whale Watching Combo Tour: You'll get to see the two best things in Juneau: whales and glaciers. Website

Mt. Roberts Tramway: If the weather is clear, you can easily take the Mt. Roberts Tramway to the summit and enjoy spectacular views below. This is not a full-day tour, so you could combine this with another tour.  Website

Whale watching with Jayleen's Alaska: Many cruisers recommended this tour company, and it has received high accolades, including being named the #1 Water Tour in Juneau, Alaska. Website

What watching with Alaska Tales Juneau: Another highly rated whale watching tour, where you can not only view whales, but they offer a money-back guarantee if you don't see any. Website

Whale watching with Harv & Marv: Another often recommended whale watching tour. They also offer lighthouse tours. Website

Jeep tour: Take a self-guided tour of Juneau in your own Jeep Wrangler. There's a GPS and narration provided to allow you to move as fast or slow as you want. Website

Sled Dog Discovery: Dog sledding is a great family-friendly tour that combines history and the opportunity to meet the dogs. Website

Glacier and Guided Walk: If you're feeling adventurous, try a helicopter tour that brings you to Mendenhall Glacier. Website

Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter & Dog Sledding: Take a helicopter flightseeing tour with dogsledding and land on the lower level of the Herbert Glacier. Website

Read more: Top 10 things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Ketchikan shore excursions & tours

Misty Fjords

Misty Fjords Flightseeing Tour: See this glacier-carved wilderness from the air. It's everything Alaska is known for in one. Website

Ketchikan All In One: Small group tours that offer wildlife viewing, salmon fishing, and learning about the indigenous heritage of the area. Website

Kayak Eco-Tour: Kayaking is a fun way to get close up to many of the natural wonders, and it's easy to pick up (even if you've never done it before). Website

Combo helicopter tour: See the best views of the mountains and valleys surrounding Ketchikan Lakes and Mahoney Falls. Website

Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show: An entertaining spectacle of lumberjacks showing off their skills of carving wood using chainsaws, tree-climbing gaffs, and six-foot saws. Website

Totem Bight and Rain Forest Tour: Learn about the native history of Ketchikan while exploring a rainforest. Website

Fishing expedition: If you want to try to catch halibut, salmon, and more, a deep sea fishing expedition might be what you want. Website

Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour: Educational & interactive Alaskan fishing tour meant to evoke the same style of fishing as seen in Deadliest Catch. Website

Skagway shore excursions & tours

White Pass and Yukon Railway, Skagway, Alaska

White Pass Scenic Railway: By far the most popular excursion in Skagway, see beautiful views from the comfort of the train. Website

Skagway Musher's Camp and Sled Dog Adventure: Go on wheeled dogsleds that are pulled by a team of sled dogs, and then meet puppies after. Website

Ghosts and Goodtime Girls walking tour: Storytellers take you around town to share what it was like for the women of the Klondike Gold Rush. Website

E-Bike rental: Get around Skagway on your own with an e-bike. Website

Jeep tour: Explore Skagway and the nearby Yukon Territory in a Jeep rental, which includes, maps, mile-by-mile guide as well as an interactive tour guide. Website

White Pass Train & Bike Tour: Take the White Pass train up, and then bike back down. Website

Sitka shore excursions & tours

Totem

Whale watching with Captain Gary: Many people swear by Gary, who is from Sitka and knows the area well. Website

Fortress of the Bear: Animal rescue center, that includes bears. Many tours include a stop here, but you can do it yourself if you prefer. Website

Alaska Raptor Center: A medical treatment center for eagles and any injured wild birds. Website

Small group wildlife and scenic boat tours: Offers the chance of viewing seals, sea lions, sea otters, whales, porpoises, and Sitka black tail deer. Website

Wildlife Quest & Fin Island Lodge: Boat tour to see wildlife, including sea otters, whales, and coastal brown bears. Lunch at Fin Island. Website

Totem Trail & Sitka Historic Park: The Totem pole park offers a hike through the rainforest. Website

Haines shore excursions & tours

Haines, Alaska

Chilkoot Lake Nature and Wildlife Viewing: Opportunity to see a turquoise lake surrounded by snowy mountain peaks, a salmon-filled river flowing into the sea, and important Tlingit cultural sights. Website

Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve: Run by the State of Alaska, has around 100 bald eagles you can see at once. Website

Kroschel Films Wildlife Center: Photo opportunities and close encounters with lynx, wolves, wolverines, caribou, foxes, and much more. Website

Icy Strait Point shore excursions & tours

Orca

Icy Strait Point ZipRider: Go across six 5,330’ ziplines that will let you soar 300 feet above the rainforest below. Website

Whale watching with Glacier Wind Charters: See humpback whales, along with other wildlife. Website

Whale watching with Icy Strait Whale Adventures has a custom-built whale-watching vessel that has large windows that allow unrestricted viewing while getting up close and personal to whales. Website

Whale watching with Hoonah Travel Adventures offers an intimate small boat experience to their customers that have large viewing decks and oversized sliding windows. Website

Fishing charter: Offers group and private fishing trips. Website

Tree Top Adventure Park & Ropes Course: Self-guided courses with varying difficulty levels that allows you to advance through the obstacles at your own pace. Website

Why aren't there Royal Caribbean shore excursions on the list of recommended tours?

Kayaking in Alaska

There are two reasons we did not include shore excursions sold by Royal Caribbean on this list.

First, it's difficult to ascertain if a specific tour sold by one ship on a particular sailing is the exact same tour as another sold on a different sailing and/or ship. Truthfully, it just wasn't practical to come up with a list given the generic names Royal Caribbean gives to their tour names and verify it's the same tour for anyone else booking it.

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with Royal Caribbean's shore excursions and I've often booked them myself. It was just easier to come up with a list of third-party vendors.

In addition, Royal Caribbean's tours are operated by third parties that the cruise line vets. The cruise line acts as a "middle man" in organizing it, so one way or another, you're going to end up with a third-party tour.  

In many cases, if you do a Google search for the Royal Caribbean Alaska shore excursion the exact tour appears from the vendor.

Granted, booking with Royal Caribbean does include certain benefits, such as ensuring the ship will wait for you if your tour is late getting back. 

How to book Alaska cruise excursions

When it comes to booking an excursion for an Alaska cruise, you have two main options: book through Royal Caribbean directly or with an outside provider.

Booking through Royal Caribbean

Booking directly through Royal Caribbean tends to be more expensive, but is a safe option in terms of reliability and cancellation policies. Royal Caribbean vets tour operators thoroughly before offering an excursion to guarantee you’ll have the safest, most authentic experience possible.

On the chance a Royal Caribbean excursion runs late, the cruise ship will wait for the tour group before leaving port. If for some reason the ship is unable to wait, Royal Caribbean will make arrangements and cover the cost of the tour group's return to the ship.

Read more: Is it better to book excursions through the cruise ship?

Booking through Royal Caribbean directly also tends to be convenient, as all excursions are listed directly on the Cruise Planner site. You won’t have to browse the internet and read reviews from independent companies prior to booking an excursion. Plus, if you have onboard credit, you can put that toward an amazing excursion!

Booking through an independent provider

While there are several pros to booking an Alaska cruise excursion through Royal Caribbean directly, booking through an independent tour operator can provide a wider range of excursion options, lower prices, and smaller groups.

Read more: Top ways to avoid crowds on an Alaska cruise

Simply put, there are many more shore excursions available in Alaska than the limited supply offered by Royal Caribbean. A quick search on Tripadvisor or Viator for Alaska cruise excursions will result in far more choices than what may be offered on your cruise.

Ketchikan charter boats

Royal Caribbean excursions tend to be priced higher than independent excursions because the cruise line receives a cut of the excursion cost from the tour operator. Booking on your own eliminates the middleman, often leading to more affordable prices.

While the cruise ship will not wait for you if you’re running late on an excursion through an independent provider, this is a rare scenario as reputable tour providers have years of experience getting tour groups back to the ship on time. In addition, tour operators may offer similar cancellation policies to Royal Caribbean on the chance your cruise itinerary changes.

Read more: 5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own

How much do shore excursions cost in Alaska?

While it’s possible to find great deals on cruise fares to Alaska, shore excursions can often be more expensive than what you are used to on a Caribbean cruise. Knowing how much you’re willing to spend on Alaska cruise excursions can better help you budget your vacation while still having an incredible cruise experience.

Shore excursions can run anywhere from $50 to well over $500. To give an example of how varied prices can be, here are a few sample prices you may see for Royal Caribbean excursions:

Juneau

  • Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest ($158.99/adult, $110.99/child)
  • Helicopter Glacier Walkabout ($406.99)
  • Mendenhall Glacier River Rafting ($141.99)
  • Mount Roberts Tramway ($59.99)

Skagway

  • Klondike Bicycle Tour ($115.75)
  • Ghost and Goodtime Girls Walking Tour ($45.99)
  • White Pass Scenic Railway ($140.99/adult, $74.99/child)
  • Glacier Discovery by Helicopter ($379.00)

Sitka

  • Taste of Sitka ($78.99/adult, $62.99/child)
  • Siginaka Islands Cruise & Kayak Adventure ($163.99/adult, $125.99/child)
  • Tongass Forest Nature Hike ($84.99/adult, $60.99/child)
  • Native Cultural and Historical Tour ($55.99/adult, $42.99/child)

Prices of shore excursions through independent providers are often cheaper than Royal Caribbean’s pricing, so be sure to look outside of Royal Caribbean for better deals.

Do I need a shore excursion on an Alaska cruise?

It’s not necessary to book a shore excursion on an Alaska cruise. In fact, some passengers prefer to explore on their own to have maximum freedom over activities, dining, and travel pace. While excursions are an “easy” option due to the fact that all logistics are handled by the tour operator instead of yourself, they can be a bit too limiting for some travelers.

Read more: Top 50 tips for planning your Alaska cruise

Luckily, Alaska cruise ports are small and walkable, allowing visitors to experience the town’s history, culture, and nearby nature on foot. Even Juneau, the largest Alaska cruise port, still has plenty of walkable areas and ways to get around without booking an excursion, such as the Goldbelt Tramway and Mendenhall Glacier shuttle bus.

Some activities, like kayaking, whale watching, and ziplining, tend to be easier with a shore excursion than without, as all equipment, lifejackets, transportation, etc. is provided for you. Others, like hiking, visiting museums, and trying Alaska’s cuisine can easily be done without a pre-booked excursion.

What to bring on an Alaska cruise excursion

Packing for an Alaska cruise excursion is a bit more complicated than bringing a beach towel and flip flops. You’ll want to make sure you are prepared for any weather conditions you may face so you remain comfortable and warm throughout the day.

Read more: What to bring on a cruise to Alaska?

Clothing

Family on Alaska tour

Packing layers is key on an Alaska cruise. Depending on the month you’re cruising to Alaska, packing a t-shirt or long sleeve shirt as a base layer is essential. Even though you’ll be surrounded by glaciers, it can get relatively warm in southeast Alaska, especially in the summer months.

A waterproof jacket is another necessity, as rain is extremely common to encounter on an Alaska cruise. Instead of an umbrella, wear a waterproof jacket with a hood that you can take on and off throughout the day.

Read more: What should I pack for a cruise to Alaska?

Woman wearing jacket in Alaska

Packing a warm layer is also important in case of chilly temperatures. Sweatshirts, sweaters, and down jackets will keep you warm on the coldest of days!

Choose your footwear carefully before an Alaska cruise excursion. If your excursion involves hiking through the rainforest, tennis shoes with non-slip soles or hiking boots will be helpful. If you’re just planning to walk around town, regular sneakers will be fine. It’s a good idea to make sure the shoes you pack for an Alaska cruise are water-resistant. Having water seep through your shoes is very uncomfortable!

Accessories

Bringing a waterproof or water-resistant daypack on an Alaska cruise is essential to ensure your electronics, identification, and any other valuables remain protected throughout the excursion.

Packing a warm hat and gloves is also recommended, particularly if you’re cruising to Alaska in the shoulder season months of May and September.

Read more: What it’s like to go on an Alaska cruise at the end of the season

binoculars

Binoculars can be another great item to pack for an Alaska cruise excursion, as they give you the chance to view Alaska’s wildlife and scenery up close. Bringing binoculars will definitely come in handy if you book a wildlife excursion.

Sunscreen and sunglasses are also important to pack. While you may not associate an Alaska cruise with needing protection from the sun, it can be strong on sunny days, as sunlight shines not only from the sky but also from glaciers and snow. A travel-sized sunscreen container should be adequate for an Alaska cruise.

You may also want to consider packing snacks to bring with you on your excursion, especially if traveling with kids. Alaska shore excursions can be more active than what you’re used to, so having a bag of trail mix or granola bars on hand is helpful.

More Alaska cruise resources:

Alaska cruise excursions: Recommended tours for each port

7 Things Cruisers Wish They Packed for Their Alaska Cruise This Year

In:
03 Jun 2024

What are the things people who went to Alaska on a cruise wish they brought with them?

Things people wish they packed for Alaska

With the Alaska cruise season in full swing, many people are excited to have a great cruise, but worry about what they need. If you're unfamiliar with the beautiful region, packing can still pose a challenge.

To pack the right items and clothing for a cruise, you have to understand the climate and the time frame in which you are cruising.

Read more: Alaska cruise packing list

Pool deck in Alaska

In the Alaska Royal Caribbean Cruises Facebook group, user Lindsey Parks asks for advice from other cruisers who've recently sailed to Alaska. "For anyone who has gone [on an Alaskan cruise] recently (like within the last week), what's something you learned you should have packed?" she wrote.

Other Facebook users jumped to her assistance, sharing items they wish they'd packed, or items they were grateful they brought.

To help fellow cruisers prepare for their upcoming Alaskan voyage, we've compiled a list of the 7 top items people wish they'd packed. 

Please note that we’ve linked items on Amazon in this article, which contain an affiliate link. This affiliate link costs you absolutely nothing extra, but Royal Caribbean Blog makes a small commission if you purchase the item through the link. Shop more on our Amazon Storefront.

1. A rain jacket

Woman wearing jacket in Alaska

Although Alaska's weather improves in the spring and summer months, rain is always a possibility.

July and August are usually the wettest months, but it could rain at any time during a summer cruise.

Cruisers commented that they wished they had a rain jacket or poncho to protect them from the downpour.

The big attraction of an Alaska cruise lies in the access to beautiful natural wonders, unique wildlife, and real-life glaciers.

Rainy day in Boston

All of these attractions require you to be outside to see them, and on a cruise, you're limited to a few hours to explore.

If you're looking forward to certain natural attractions, packing a rain jacket or umbrella will ensure that you will see them, rain or shine.

Read more: I went on a 7-night cruise to Alaska. Here are 16 things that surprised me the most.

Our pick

Our recommendation is to pack a waterproof rain jacket. For women, they could pick up the Columbia Arcadia Ii Jacket. For men, try the Glennaker Rain Jacket by Columbia.

If you have kids, try the Columbia Boys' Rain Jacket or the Girls' Switchback li Jacket.

2. Waterproof shoes

water-shoes-stock

Along those same lines, many Facebook users commented that they should have packed waterproof sneakers or hiking shoes.

They would be helpful for "even just going through the town," Kimberly Helfant wrote.  "Icy Strait Point was rainy and muddy."

Icy Strait Point is a Native-owned private cruise port, with popular shore excursions.

Hoonah-Icy-Strait-Point

From whale-watching tours to gondola rides, there are many popular shore excursions to experience there.

Cruisers will find themselves walking a lot while at this port, starting with disembarking off the ship and continuing into museums or following their shore excursion groups.

Having the right footwear will enhance your stamina for the entirety of the port day and save you from getting wet socks! 

Our pick

Sperry makes really good boots you can wear anywhere in Alaska, such as the Women's Saltwater Lux Boot and Men's Cold Bay Chukka Boot.

3. Moisture-wicking socks

Multiple commenters said they wished they'd packed moisture-wicking socks, winter socks, or more pairs of warm socks.

On an Alaskan cruise, where hikes and walks are popular methods of viewing the scenery, lots of quality pairs of socks will be essential.

Read more: I packed for my Alaska cruise in a carry-on suitcase. Here's what I packed and how you can do it too.

St KItts volcano

Good-quality, warm socks work together with your sneakers or hiking shoes to control odors and reduce the risk of blisters.

Moisture-wicking socks also help your feet stay warm because they won't get cold and damp. 

This keeps away infection and ensures that you won't get sick on a cold hike.

Our pick

The Fox River Wick Dry Explorer Socks came highly recommended by other cruisers because they wick moisture away from your skin so you're able to stay warmer longer.

4. Warm leggings

BJ Cannon wished she packed "warmer leggings, not the thin ones."

For those used to living in warmer weather, packing for a colder destination can be a challenge.

You might assume "leggings" just means thin, workout clothing.

Read more: We asked our readers what one thing they wish they packed for their cruise

Glacier in Alaska

In reality, you should look for warm, thick fleece or wool leggings. These will properly trap the heat, and work as great layering pieces.

For especially cold days, wear warm leggings under a pair of jeans or snow pants, and you'll feel nice and toasty.

Our pick

Try the Hixiaohe Women's Casual Sherpa Fleece Lined Warm Leggings for something to pack on your Alaska cruise.

5. Binoculars

binoculars

Amy Ehrhardt commented that she should have packed binoculars, "especially for whale-watching excursions."

A pair of good binoculars can ensure that you don't miss any of the beautiful sights of nature throughout the cruise.

Read more: What to bring on a cruise to Alaska? 8 things you'll want to take with you

Whale in Alaska

They also allow you to sightsee even from the deck of a cruise ship.

You might not be able to see bald eagles, bears, whales, or the details of an icy glacier with the naked eye, but a pair of binoculars will bring them all into sharp focus.

There are so many exotic attractions to spot, so pack binoculars to ensure that you can see them clearly, even from the deck of the cruise ship. 

Our pick

For most people, an inexpensive but good quality pair of binoculars makes sense, such as the Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars.

6. A sweater

"I found the ship to be colder than I expected," Christine Stalker said.

"The main dining room was particularly cold—I needed a sweater over my sleeveless dress on formal nights."

While you might not expect a summer cruise to Alaska to be cold enough for hoodies or sweaters, don't forget about the climate of the cruise ship.

Cruise ships are unique in that you'll spend plenty of time indoors on your vacation—in a cabin, at dining venues, and watching shows in theaters—but won't be able to control the temperature.

Quantum-Docked-Victoria-BC

The air conditioning on cruise ships can run colder than some passengers would prefer, so it's important to stay prepared.

Especially if you're planning on bringing lighter clothes, such as tank tops or sleeveless dresses, pack a light jacket or sweater, just in case you start feeling chilly.

Our pick

Try bringing a light fleece jacket that you could easily wear around your Alaska ports, or on the ship.

7. Magnetic hooks

cabin-magnetic-hooks

An Alaskan voyage calls for lots of big items, like coats, hats, and gloves.

Hanging these items up on the steel walls of your cabin can save a considerable amount of space.

Kanetha Hysinger Foster commented that she used magnetic hooks "to hang coats, lanyards, binoculars, etc."

Read more: 24 Alaska cruise tips to follow in 2024

When you might be low in space in a small cruise cabin, using hooks to hang your things is a great way to store them in easy reach. 

Our pick

Make sure you pick magnetic hooks that can hold a little bit of weight, such as magnetic hooks with swivel carabiners.

7 things cruisers wish they packed for their Alaska cruise

I went on a 7-night cruise to Alaska. Here are 16 things that surprised me the most.

In:
15 May 2024

Royal Caribbean's 2024 Alaska cruise season just began, and I took a week-long trip to experience it.

Elizabeth went to Alaska on a cruise

Growing up, my family exclusively cruised to the Caribbean, primarily on Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class. Having matured and wanting to see more of the world, I've started to broaden my horizons, which is why I booked a 7-night cruise to Alaska on Quantum of the Seas! 

Now that I've returned from the trip and settled back into my daily routine, I find myself missing the snow-capped mountains, lush greenery, and crisp air more than I thought I would! It was tough returning home to 75° weather in North Carolina. 

As with any cruise, however, it wasn't without its pros and cons. Here are 16 things that I loved and hated about my Alaska cruise aboard Quantum of the Seas. 

I hated the embarkation process

Quantum-Check-in-Seattle-1

In the past, I've always arrived at the cruise terminal to be greeted by porters ready to assist me with my larger pieces of luggage. This wasn't the case in Seattle. After we got out of our Lyft, we were instructed to step to the side amidst a long line of passengers who had just disembarked. 

After that, there was little instruction regarding where to drop off our bags. One port employee told us to head inside the terminal; however, I thought that seemed strange. Turns out that it was his first day on the job and he wasn't too informed. 

As we made our way back towards the crowd, we saw a ton of suitcases condensed near a kiosk, so we figured that was probably where we needed to go. 

Read more: 30 cruise ship embarkation day do’s and don’ts

Quantum-Check-in-Seattle-2

Rather than have porters readily available, guests checking in must drop their bags off themselves. If you happen to forget your luggage tags— don't worry! There's a kiosk with a port agent available to assist you. It, however, is separate from the line to drop off bags. 

Thankfully, the check-in process inside the terminal was much more organized. We were through security and on the ship in no time, even though we arrived about 45 minutes prior to our scheduled arrival appointment. 

Disembarkation was a complete 180. Though we didn't have a super early flight, we wanted to be off the ship relatively early, as I had to check a bag and didn't know how long the line at the airport would be. Initially, group 15 was estimated to be able to disembark around 8:40am; however, we were called while eating breakfast around 8:05! 

Read more: 15 Royal Caribbean boarding process tips

Quantum-Disembarkation

The only difficult part was figuring out where the rideshare pickup was. We saw one line and learned that it was for a shuttle to the rideshare area. Instead of waiting, we decided to take the short 5-minute walk and were en route to the airport in no time, arriving a little after 9:10am. 

I loved Two70 

Starwater-Two70-Quantum

Having sailed on Celebrity Ascent recently, Two70 reminded me of Eden. The floor-to-ceiling windows made it a great place to take in all of the amazing scenery while staying warm. Plus, guests don't have to leave for lunch, as the Café @ Two70 is just steps away. 

In addition to being a great place to relax, it hosted a lot of ship-sponsored activities, ranging from the sailaway party to Bingo, lectures, dance parties, original production shows, and more. If you're cruising on Quantum, there's a chance you'll visit Two70 at least once!

My dad and I grabbed a light lunch at Café at Two70 a few times throughout the cruise, and we enjoyed listening to a live band one evening after dinner. Starwater, the only show onboard requiring reservations, is also held in Two70, rather than the Royal Theater. 

I hated the virtual balcony

Quantum-Cabin-1

Truthfully, hated is a strong word. I didn't hate my cabin as much as I wished I had splurged on a balcony, especially considering my dad was tagging along. It was his first time staying in an interior room, and though he didn't mind the experience, he wouldn't cruise without a balcony again. 

When sailing somewhere as scenic as Alaska, having a balcony can truly make or break your experience. There were times we wished we had the ability to open up the door and step outside on our personal verandah, rather than getting dressed to sit on the upper decks. 

While I appreciated the virtual balcony more than a standard interior room, as I was able to see whether it was rainy or not before going outside, it's impossible to fully appreciate Alaska's beauty from a screen. 

Read more: I went on a 7-night Alaska cruise and stayed in a windowless cabin for $1,900. Here's what our 166-square-foot room was like

I loved RipCord by iFly

Elizabeth-RipCord-iFly

Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class ships are the only cruise ships in the world to feature a skydiving simulator. On port days, guests can take advantage of a complimentary one-minute flight, while a two-minute session on port days costs around $100 per person. 

Unsure if we'd like the experience or not, my dad and I didn't want to shell out $200 for the RipCord, so we booked an included session while the ship was docked in Icy Strait Point. To be honest, I'm surprised my dad was willing to do it! 

I got the hang of the basics pretty quickly, and while I thought it was a neat thing to do on a ship, I wouldn't have paid for it. There's an iFly center about 20 minutes from my apartment that charges $140 for four flights, which I think is a much better deal. If, however, your schedule allows you to take advantage of the complimentary sessions, I'd recommend giving it a shot! 

I hated the Windjammer

Quantum-Windjammer-Stir-Fry

When it comes to cruise ship buffets, I tend to avoid them. They're usually way too crowded for my liking, and there are higher-quality options elsewhere on the ship. 

Overall, my dad and I agreed that the Windjammer onboard Quantum was probably our least favorite. My dad remarked how the quality of the buffet seemed to have gone downhill since his last cruise onboard Harmony of the Seas in 2018. 

There was only one dish that was particularly good, while everything else was slightly below average, in our opinion. Laksa, a noodle dish that's popular in Southeast Asia, was served one afternoon, and my dad thought it was so delicious he got a second bowl! 

Read more: 11 things you should never do at a cruise ship buffet

I loved sailaway

Quantum-Sailaway-Seattle

Having departed from Florida more times than I can count, bundling up for a chilly sailaway from Seattle was a welcomed change. In fact, since the sailaway party was held in Two70, the top decks were pretty empty.

I had no desire to watch passengers dance while the ship departed Washington, so my dad and I grabbed a drink from the pool bar and watched the skyline disappear. 

Sailing into the mountains was more enjoyable than listening to blasting music, which can be done on any cruise! 

I hated the unorganized shore excursions and long lines to disembark the ship

Alaska-Icy-Strait-Disembark

Our arrival into Icy Strait Point was slightly delayed due to the strong winds that we encountered en route from Seattle. By 12:00pm, passengers were getting a bit angsty, as they were ready to get off the ship. 

The line to get off the vessel snaked through the Royal Esplanade before we were cleared to disembark. Those who arrived after 12:45pm found themselves waiting past the pub. When we were finally cleared, it was almost like a scene from The Hunger Games

The only other disembarkation process I've seen that was more chaotic was on a cruise onboard Carnival Elation when we were waiting to tender to Half Moon Cay. 

Alaska-Excursion-Line-1

The next day, we had a Royal Caribbean-sponsored excursion in Skagway. Our scheduled meeting time at the Royal Theater was 8:15am; however, when we arrived, we found a line that extended into the shopping area. 

As we were checking in, they began instructing passengers to leave the theater and descend to Deck 3, where we'd walk from the front of the ship to the aft's gangway. One passenger was distraught by this, claiming that there should have been a more centralized meeting point. 

As we made our way to the gangway, a mother and daughter tried to leave their cabin, only to be greeted by a hoard of guests! 

I loved the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, as well as Skagway in general

White-Pass-Skagway-Excursion

After the chaotic disembarkation process in Skagway, we boarded a train car for a three-hour ride along the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway. Though rainy and foggy, we didn't let the weather impact our excitement to ascend 3,000 feet up the summit. 

Everything from the greenery to the blanketing snowfall was pictureworthy. When packing for my Alaska cruise, I didn't expect to see so much snow. In fact, I've never seen that much snow in May! Though I'm sure the pass is equally beautiful in the latter half of the season, the snowfall made it seem more magical. 

I'd recommend sitting by either the front or back of the train car, as you're allowed outside when ascending and descending the mountain. Otherwise, you'll be walking back and forth quite a bit, as the best views were outside, especially when passing through the tunnels and seeing the train car snake around the track. 

Skagway-Alaska

When we arrived back in Skagway, we got off at the depot in town, rather than returning to the cruise terminal. Though we encountered the worst weather of the cruise while docked, we wanted to walk around the quaint town and find some delicious seafood for lunch. 

We stumbled upon the Skagway Brewing Company and decided to give it a shot, especially since my dad loves to try local beer. While the most expensive meal of our trip, coming in at around $200 for two people, it was worth every penny. 

Everything from the fresh crab legs to crab artichoke dip and cajun french fries was delicious! Plus, we had a great conversation with a local employee, who told us that she drives her children two hours into Canada for swim lessons since Skagway doesn't have a pool! 

Read more: Local’s guide of what to do in Juneau, Alaska

I hated Icy Strait Point

Hoonah-Icy-Strait-Point

Again, hate is a strong word. It's hard to truly hate anything on a cruise, especially when sailing somewhere as beautiful as Alaska! 

Icy Strait Point has a lot to offer cruise passengers, from whale-watching tours to the world's largest ZipRider. If, however, you don't thoroughly research the port, you might be left disappointed. 

Looking back, we should have booked a whale-watching excursion in Icy Strait Point, visiting just Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau and having some time to explore the area around the port. Instead, we did both activities in a single day, opting to go off on our own while docked in Icy Strait Point. 

The-Crab-House-Icy-Strait-Point

After a mediocre lunch at the Crab House, we purchased shuttle tickets to the nearby town of Hoonah. 

While it was neat to see how those in remote Alaska live (I can't imagine paying $50 for Kirkland brand K-Cups!), we heard other passengers rave about the excursions they took, whether they were booked through the cruise line or not. 

I loved Sonic Odyssey

Sonic-Odyssey-Quantum

Between Starwater and Sonic Odyssey, I'd recommend the latter in a heartbeat. While I didn't dislike Starwater by any means, it started off much slower. It didn't seem to captivate much of the audience until the female singer began her "Diamonds" cover. 

Sonic Odyssey, however, was interesting before it even began. It was hard to ignore the long harp stings that extended over the lower level of the Royal Theater. 

The Earth Harp was developed by William Close, and, according to our Cruise Director, there are only five individuals capable of playing it, one of which was on our cruise! 

Sonic-Odyssey-Quantum-2

Everything from the talented violinist to the wall of drums was entertaining, and the singers harmonized incredibly well. Truthfully, it was my favorite original production I've ever seen on a cruise ship! 

I hated that the North Star wasn't operational 

Quantum-North-Star

I knew that the North Star was out of commission before I boarded; however, that didn't completely eliminate the disappointment I felt as I passed the gigantic arm while walking on the top decks throughout the sailing. 

Supposedly, the North Star is out of commission for the entirety of the 2024 Alaska season, so those with later sailing dates shouldn't get their hopes up. 

While there are tons of other activities to do, being unable to ride the North Star, an amenity exclusive to Quantum Class ships, was a letdown, especially when sailing through Alaska.

Quantum-North-Star-2

I bet the views from the unique observation capsule would have been amazing, whether at sea or when docked in port! 

I loved sailing through Endicott Arm

Endicott-Arm-Alaska-Quantum

I'm usually not the most pleasant morning person. Though I prefer mornings to nights, as I'm far more productive when the sun's out versus when it's dark, it takes a lot to get me up early.

However, when we were sailing through Endicott Arm, I only hit snooze once; I wasn't going to miss the breathtaking scenery of the fjords. Thankfully, and I mean THANKFULLY, there was coffee nearby in the Solarium, so I was able to caffeinate moments after leaving my cabin at 5:30am— there was no reason to hang out in the cabin when passing beautiful snow-capped mountains and icebergs. 

It was one of the most memorable mornings of the cruise. Neither my father nor I had seen an iceberg in person before that moment, and though we were only able to get a glimpse of Dawes Glacier, I can see why scenic cruising is just as appealing as thrilling shore excursions in Alaska. 

I hated that we weren't able to get too close to Dawes Glacier

Dawes-Glacier-Alaska

Speaking of Dawes Glacier, we weren't able to get too close due to all the ice. Before the cruise, I knew this was a possibility, as Alaska is just now warming up after the winter. 

Considering that the base fare for our 7-night cruise was just $950 per person, including gratuities, I thought this was a fair compromise. Rather than sailing close to the Glacier, we cruised to Alaska relatively cheaply, putting more money towards add-ons like excursions and specialty restaurants. 

Still, like the North Star, I was optimistic and hoping that my gut feeling would be wrong and that we'd end up being able to approach Dawes Glacier. 

I loved the specialty restaurants onboard

Wonderland-Desserts-Quantum

Overall, I wasn't a fan of the included dining experience on Quantum of the Seas. Though nothing was inedible, there wasn't really anything worth writing home about, either. After two dinners in the Main Dining Room, I was grateful we had decided to pre-book two specialty restaurants, in addition to Jamie's Italian for lunch. 

From the juicy filet mignon at Chops Grille to the decadent desserts at Wonderland and fresh pasta at Jamie's, they were easily the best meals we had onboard. 

Growing up, we'd typically splurge on a single specialty dinner on our vacations; however, as I've matured and begun to cruise frequently without my dad and sister, I've started to appreciate specialty restaurants more. In fact, they're becoming more of a priority, as the main dining experience can become repetitive to frequent cruisers.

Chops-Quantum-3

Out of the three we tried, Jamie's was our least favorite— it's hard to beat perfectly cut steaks, jumbo shrimp cocktails, and the unique experience at Wonderland. 

Read more: How does specialty dining work on Royal Caribbean?

I hated how everything closed on the last evening

Schooner-Bar-Quantum

As we pulled into Victoria, British Columbia, we noticed that the majority of bars began to close. Though we expected certain amenities, namely the casino and onboard shops, to close due to local regulations, I had never seen so many bars closed on the final night of the cruise, especially around 4:30/5:00pm! 

Having spent so much time in the Harp & Horn Pub listening to live music throughout the week, we were upset that the pub didn't reopen until 10:30pm. Knowing we had a long travel day ahead, we didn't feel like waiting, especially since the singer wasn't scheduled to perform. 

Note that if you're planning on doing any gambling, it's important that you check the Cruise Compass for times, as you don't want to miss the last chance to visit the cashier and receive your winnings! 

Quantum-Docked-Victoria-BC

Likewise, those who want to do some last-minute shopping shouldn't bank on hitting up the shops late on the last night. Instead, prioritize purchasing all of your souvenirs early on the last day.

I loved seeing the Northern Lights

Northern-Lights-Quantum

Seeing the Northern Lights is a bucket list item for many, and I was lucky enough to cross it off of mine during my cruise onboard Quantum of the Seas. As we sailed through the Inside Passage, we got a glimpse of the lights thanks to the extreme geomagnetic storm that made its way toward Earth. 

Though friends and family back in the continental United States saw the Nothern Lights, too, they didn't witness them illuminating the snow-capped mountains of Alaska, which was such a unique and once-in-a-lifetime sight. 

They were certainly worth staying up until 2:00am to see, even if I had been awake since 5:15am to take in all of the scenery of the Endicott Arm fjord. 

Read more: Photos of the Northern Lights from cruise ship passengers that dazzle at sea

24 Alaska cruise tips to follow in 2024

In:
17 Apr 2024

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 GetYourGuide.com and ShoreExcursionsGroup.com, 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

Comparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing to Alaska in 2024

In:
28 Mar 2024

Ready to go to Alaska on a cruise ship in 2024?

For adventurous travelers and nature enthusiasts, an Alaskan cruise is a captivating experience on their bucket list.

Royal Caribbean offers a collection of ships specifically designed to give you an unforgettable experience in Alaska.

This year’s fleet of vessels and their itineraries have been released, and we’ve developed a comparative guide to each one.

Read more: Royal Caribbean Alaskan cruise guide

The Alaska cruise season runs from late April through September 2024, catching the warm weather of the summer months.

The sailings offered range from 6 all the way to 12 nights, with both round-trip and one-way itineraries.

This 2024 season, Royal Caribbean will be sending Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, and Radiance of the Seas to Alaska. 

Quantum of the Seas

Quantum of the Seas

Homeport: Seattle, Washington

Ports: Juneau, Skagway, Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, Sitka, Victoria 

This summer, Quantum of the Seas will sail to Alaska as the biggest ship in the region. 

She will begin with a 7-night Alaska Adventure on April 29th, 2024, sailing from Vancouver, British Columbia to Ketchikan, Sitka, Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier, Juneau, Victoria, to Seattle, Washington.

quantum-of-the-seas

After that, Quantum will make Seattle, Washington her home, continuing 7-night roundtrip Alaska adventures that leave and return on Mondays.

Exact itineraries vary by sailing, but each roundtrip sailing includes a stop at Juneau, Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier, and Victoria, British Columbia.

Quantum’s last Alaska sailing for the 2024 season is scheduled for September 23rd, 2024.

Standout features:

Side of Quantum of the Seas
  • North Star observation capsule
  • FlowRider surf simulator 
  • RipCord iFly skydiving simulator
  • Broadway-caliber performances
  • Bionic bar
  • Two70 theater
  • SeaPlex indoor sports center
  • Indoor pool for all ages
  • Adults-only indoor Solarium
  • Aventure Ocean children’s area
  • Rock-climbing wall 
  • Laser tag
  • Royal escape room

Why choose Quantum of the Seas?

Quantum of the Seas debuted Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class in 2014.

This ship pushes the boundaries of cruise innovations and adventures.

With a capacity of 4,095 guests and 1,500 crew members, she is a large ship with plenty of room for an immersive Alaska experience.

One major highlight of Quantum of the Seas is the North Star observation capsule, which offers stunning views from 300 feet above sea level. In addition to the potential for stargazing, this is a marvelous opportunity to witness Alaska’s landscapes.

When it comes to onboard activities, Quantum offers something for all ages, from simulated skydiving to bumper cars. 

She also includes two outdoor pools, two indoor pools, and four hot tubs, ensuring that everyone has somewhere to swim, even during inclement weather.

Seattle is also a convenient homeport for Americans (particularly those living on the West Coast) who prefer not to travel to Vancouver.

Ovation of the Seas

Ovation of the Seas in Sydney

Homeport: Seattle, Washington

Ports: Juneau, Skagway, Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier, Ketchikan, Sitka, Victoria, and select stops in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

The exact ports vary by sailing, but every Ovation cruise includes stops at Juneau and Skagway, Alaska. 

Ovation’s first cruise on May 8th, 2024, will be an 8-night trip starting in Vancouver, British Columbia, and disembarking in Seattle, Washington.

In 2024, she will be returning to Alaska with round-trip 7-night Alaska glacier cruises based out of Seattle.

These Alaska glacier cruises depart and return on Fridays, with two Alaska cruise ports, one scenic and sightseeing day at Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier, and one port day at Victoria, British Columbia.

Some itineraries visit a third port in Alaska (like Sitka or Skagway) instead of Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier. 

Ovation’s last Alaska cruise for the 2024 season will be on September 6th.

Standout features:

Bionic Bar on Ovation of the Seas
  • North Star observation capsule
  • FlowRider surf simulator 
  • RipCord iFly skydiving simulator
  • Broadway-caliber performances
  • Bionic bar
  • Two70 theater
  • SeaPlex indoor sports center
  • Indoor pool for all ages
  • Adults-only indoor Solarium
  • Aventure Ocean children’s area
  • Rock-climbing wall 

Why choose Ovation of the Seas?

Ovation of the Seas is a Quantum-Class ship launched in 2016. 

With a capacity for 4,095 guests over 2,091 staterooms, she promises a dynamic cruise experience.

You can expect standout activities and innovative features from Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class ships.

Royal Caribbean designed their Quantum Class ships with cutting-edge innovations prepared to sail in both warm and cold weather.

With two indoor pools, an indoor sports center, and a variety of hot tubs onboard, Ovation is the perfect ship for a luxurious Alaska vacation.

For the foodies, Ovation of the Seas boasts access to six specialty restaurants: Chef’s Table, Jamie’s Italian, Izumi Sushi, Chops Grille, and Wonderland.

Adrenaline-pumping activities and live, Broadway-caliber performances ensure that you’ll never have a dull moment onboard.

Brilliance of the Seas

Brilliance of the Seas side docked

Homeport: Vancouver, British Columbia 

Ports: Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Haines, Tracy Arm Fjord (Sawyer Glacier), Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier 

Brilliance of the Seas will offer 7-night round-trip Alaska Inside Passage sailings in 2024.

The Alaska Inside Passage is a series of coastal waterways that weave through the Southeastern panhandle of Alaska.

The exact ports vary by sailing, but this inside passage cruise promises an up-close look at the glacial giants of Alaska, from the large Hubbard Glacier to the calving Dawes.

The Hubbard Glacier is an impressive 400 feet tall. Because of its remote location, being able to see it on a roundtrip cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Standout features:

Pool on a cruise ship
  • Three acres of windows and glass elevators for outside views 
  • Solarium indoor pools for adults
  • Indoor movie theater and outdoor movie screen
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Mini golf
  • Children’s pool area and waterslide
  • Sports court and jogging track
  • Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, Izumi Sushi, Samba Grill, Rita’s Cantina 
  • Video arcade 
  • Adventure Ocean children’s area 

Why choose Brilliance of the Seas?

Brilliance of the Seas provides an intimate, port-focused cruising experience.

On an Alaskan cruise, Brilliance of the Seas has the benefit of many indoor amenities and large windows and glass elevators for viewing.

You can see the wonders of the landscape around you without ever going out onto a cold, windy deck.

Alaska’s breathtaking scenery is best explored from the comfort of your cruise ship.

Sailing on Brilliance of the Seas also provides you the opportunity to see Hubbard Glacier, one of the most famous glaciers in Alaska. 

Overall, Brilliance of the Seas offers a combination of comfort, convenience, and adventure, making it an excellent choice for experiencing the beauty and wonders of Alaska via cruise ship.

Read more: I spent 10 days in a 170 square foot windowless cabin for $202 per night: take a look inside my Brilliance of the Seas stateroom

Radiance of the Seas

Homeports: Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seward, Alaska

Ports: Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, Haines

Since her launch in 2001, Radiance of the Seas has sailed to Alaska nearly every summer.

Radiance’s smaller size allows her to fit into more ports than other cruise ships are able to. Her Alaska cruises are the most port-intensive itineraries Royal Caribbean has to offer.

Not only that, but Radiance’s cruises are one-way, not roundtrip.

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska waters

Some of her itineraries start in Vancouver and disembark in Seward (or vice versa).

These one-way sailings allow the ship to visit even more ports.

Also, guests who sail on one-way cruises can spend more time on land, exploring that location before or after the cruise.

Radiance of the Seas will offer one-way Alaska sailings this summer, with 7-night Northbound and Southbound cruises. Usually, these cruises will depart on Fridays, visiting four Alaska ports with a scenic viewing day at Hubbard Glacier.

Standout features:

  • Three acres of windows and glass elevators for outside views 
  • Solarium indoor pools for adults
  • Indoor movie theater and outdoor movie screen
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Mini golf
  • Children’s pool area and waterslide
  • Sports court and jogging track
  • Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, Izumi Sushi, Samba Grill, Rita’s Cantina 
  • Video arcade 
  • Adventure Ocean children’s area 

Why choose Radiance of the Seas?

Radiance’s charm lies in her smaller size.

An intimate Radiance-Class ship, she offers capacity for 2,500 passengers and just 894 crew members.

This smaller setting offers a quiet, relaxed atmosphere, with the potential to develop a close-knit ship culture between guests and crew members.

Radiance of the Seas

Despite her smaller size, Radiance still packs plenty of activities and amenities. Guests can enjoy soaring glass elevators, the adults-only indoor Solarium pool, and movies at the indoor cinema.

With these indoor shelters and the possibility of visiting diverse, beautiful ports, Radiance makes for the perfect timeless ship to visit Alaska on.

One-way cruises also ensure that you have plenty of time to explore the wonders of Canada and Alaska before or after your cruise.

The worst months to cruise to Alaska

In:
18 Mar 2024

Alaska is one of the most popular cruise destinations, but what are the worst months to book a cruise to the state?

worst months to cruise alaska side by side image of cruise ship and alaska scenery

From picturesque glaciers to charming small towns, cruising to Alaska is a dream for many. Over 1.5 million tourists visit the state by cruise ship each year, so each month of the short cruise season sees an impressive amount of visitors.

Even so, not every month will offer the same Alaska cruise experience. Some months, such as June, offer the most daylight hours and increased crowds, whereas September brings more days of rain but fewer passengers in each port.

If you’re planning a cruise to Alaska, it’s important to know the worst months to visit the state so you can plan the right itinerary for your travel needs. Keep in mind, though, that the “worst” month to visit Alaska can differ from person to person.

Some cruisers may love the lower prices during months with the worst weather whereas others will be happy to pay a premium for a higher chance of sunshine.

The worst months to cruise to Alaska for weather are April, early May, September, and October

pool deck radiance of the seas

Theoretically, the worst months to cruise to Alaska would be during the state’s long, cold, and dark winter. Cruises, however, are not offered during this time. Royal Caribbean’s Alaska cruise season runs roughly from early May to late September each year—some cruise lines may offer itineraries in April and October.

April marks the start of the Alaska cruise season for select cruise lines, and it’s among the driest months in southeast Alaska. Temperatures, however, are quite chilly, with highs around 48 degrees.

Related: Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise guide

As spring continues, you’ll find warmer temperatures in May, but the weather can still be unpredictable. Whereas you may encounter sunny skies and comfortable temperatures one week, the following week could be full of rainy days. Nonetheless, late May can be a great month to cruise the state, as there are not as many crowds since the school year is still in session. Additionally, daylight hours are among the season’s longest.

Mendenhall Glacier

Like May, cruising to Alaska in September is great for avoiding crowds, but the weather may not be in your favor. The month sees some of the highest precipitation all year, although there’s a higher chance of nicer weather during the first half of the month.

October is perhaps the worst month to cruise to Alaska. Not only is October the rainiest month, but days are far shorter than during the summer, and the average high is under 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, this makes cruising to Alaska during October unpredictable, leading to an increased chance of itinerary changes and excursion cancellations.

The cheapest months to cruise to Alaska are the months with the worst weather

View of glacier

It’s no surprise that the worst months to cruise to Alaska are also the cheapest. Depending on the ship and itinerary, it’s possible to save thousands of dollars on an Alaska cruise by sailing in the shoulder season.

Let’s compare the price of a 7-night Alaska cruise on Quantum of the Seas, for instance. After price checking on Royal Caribbean’s website, we found the following prices for the total cruise fare for two adults in an interior cabin, including taxes and fees:

  • July 22 sailing: $3,098
  • September 9 sailing: $1,600

Related: How much does an Alaska cruise cost?

While you won’t always see such a drastic price difference between the peak season and shoulder season, prices are almost always cheaper during the “worst” months to cruise to Alaska. For those traveling on a budget, it may be worth it to cruise to Alaska during April, May, September, or October.

The best months to cruise to Alaska are June, July, and August

Alaska sunny skies

The peak summer season offers ideal conditions for visiting Alaska—June, July, and August are the best months to take an Alaska cruise. During the summer you can enjoy long daylight hours, ample wildlife viewing opportunities, and a higher chance of sunny weather.

June sees little precipitation compared to later in the season, offering ideal conditions for exploring the state’s natural wonders, whether hiking on a glacier, whale watching, or kayaking through pristine mountain lakes. Additionally, summer solstice means the sun may not set until as late as 10 PM, providing more time to watch Alaska’s scenery from the ship.

Related: 50 best first time Alaska cruise tips for a perfect vacation

Weather remains pleasant in July and August, with highs in the low to mid 60s. Wildlife viewing opportunities are in abundance during this time of year as well. Passengers will have a greater chance to spot whales and bears in the summer than the shoulder season, which is a highlight for many cruising to Alaska.

Mendenhall Glacier

One downside of booking a cruise during the “best” months to visit Alaska, though, are the increased crowds. Not only are ships likely to be fully booked during the summer, but there will be more ships in port, too.

The busiest Alaska cruise ports, such as Juneau, may see up to seven cruise ships in a single day! This makes the most popular attractions significantly more crowded than during the shoulder season.

Even so, most passengers find the increased crowds to be an easy trade off for the long hours of sunshine and more predictable weather during Alaska’s summer.

Even if you pick a “bad month” to cruise to Alaska, you can still have an unforgettable cruise experience

alaska view from cruise ship

Alaska is one of the world’s most breathtaking destinations, and you’re guaranteed to be awestruck by the state whether cruising in chilly April or sunny July. Even if you sail to Alaska during one of the “worst” months to visit the state, you can still have a remarkable cruise experience with the right mindset.

Expecting sunny skies and long hours of daylight on a cruise in late September is not realistic. Likewise, hoping for perfect weather in Alaska’s early season may leave you disappointed. Having the right mindset is crucial when visiting Alaska during these months.

It’s raining on the day of your much-anticipated excursion in Skagway? Just go with the flow. The winds are too strong to ride a helicopter to Mendenhall Glacier? Don’t let it ruin your day—find something else fun to do instead.

White Pass Yukon Railway

Having a back-up plan (and wearing the right outdoor gear) can help you navigate any unexpected scenarios that may occur.

Plus, there’s no guarantee you’ll encounter bad weather on an Alaska cruise, regardless of the month. It’s possible to enjoy a week of sunny skies on a cheap cruise in September and cold, rainy weather during the middle of summer!

Related: Alaska cruise packing list: What to pack for your sailing

Lastly, there are a few benefits to cruising to Alaska during the shoulder season. Fewer ships sail to Alaska in April, May, September, and October, resulting in fewer passengers in port. In addition, spring offers the chance to spot wildlife like grey whales and orcas, while fall brings an increased chance of seeing the northern lights.

Like any cruise, an Alaska cruise is all about what you make of it. Maintaining a positive attitude while exploring the Last Frontier will help you make the most of your experience.

Regardless of when you book an Alaska cruise, you should book travel insurance

Radiance pulling into Seward

Travel insurance is an important purchase on any cruise vacation. All passengers cruising to Alaska, no matter the month, should purchase a travel insurance policy before sailing.

No one wants to encounter a medical emergency or travel mishap on a cruise vacation, but it’s always a possibility. Not only does travel insurance cover scenarios like lost baggage and canceled flights, but it also covers things like medical care onboard and emergency evacuation.

You could miss your connecting flight to Seattle, sprain your ankle while walking in Ketchikan, or lose your baggage on your return trip home. While everyone wants their vacation to go smoothly, it’s always better to be prepared with travel insurance.

For more information on purchasing travel insurance for your Alaska cruise, regardless of the month you’re visiting, check out the following guides:

The worst months to cruise to Alaska

Photos show why taking an Alaska cruise is worth it

In:
24 Feb 2024

A Royal Caribbean cruise provides an opportunity to see some of the most stunning natural landscapes still on Earth.

Alaska cruise photos

Alaskan itineraries will take you to glaciers and into fjords, and give you the opportunity to learn about diverse history and culture. 

From majestic scenery to exotic wildlife to delicious seafood, there’s so much to enjoy on a cruise to this rugged state.

However, planning a vacation can still intimidate the new cruiser. 

Alaska glacier walk

Are you still balking at the cost and magnitude of an Alaska cruise?

To show why cruisers love these itineraries so much, we asked readers on our Royal Caribbean Blog Facebook page to share the best Alaska cruise photos.

After sifting through hundreds of submissions, we’ve gathered 13 photos that show why taking an Alaska cruise is worth it.

Read more: Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise guide 

Bryan Lamb’s submission shows Mendenhall Glacier, in Juneau, Alaska. 

Almost all Alaska cruises will include a stop at the state’s capital city, Juneau.

Home to only 32,000 people, this small city is a great place to stop and explore.

One of its most popular attractions is the Mendenhall Glacier. It can be accessed via helicopter, boat, or car, and is only 20 minutes from downtown Juneau.

A shuttle bus is even located directly outside the pier where the ship docks in Juneau.

Mendenhall is a 13-mile-long receding glacier, one of the closest to an Alaskan port.

The recreation area offers five walks and hikes to choose from and an informative visitor’s center.

You can even take the 1.5-mile trail to Nugget Falls, a 377-foot waterfall. 

No matter which path you take, you’ll see stunning views of eagles in the trees, huge mountain peaks, or glacier calving across the lake.

Steve Cohen shared this photo of a cruise ship sailing by a snowy mountain.

One major benefit to choosing an Alaskan cruise is the stunning landscape and scenery that will surround your cruise ship.

Unlike a stay on land, on a cruise, you’ll be directly transported to and through these incredible sights, without even needing to lift a finger.

Lush forests, bubbling waters, and soaring mountains will all be visible right from the decks of the ship!

Alaska’s natural beauty suspends travelers in awe, as these photos show.

Imagine sailing through these massive mountains while having access to all the accommodation, dining, activities, and entertainment onboard a cruise ship. 

Your route is pre-planned for you, making a cruise to Alaska a convenient, streamlined way to visit. 

Allison Schwarz’s photo, captioned “along the Klondike Highway,” is a gorgeous example of the landscapes you’ll see on an Alaskan cruise.

Looking at this picture, you can practically feel the fresh air and smell those sweet flowers.

Looking for somewhere to escape those hot summer months?

During the summer, you may struggle to find a vacation that suits you. Your home is hot and humid, and you’re spending more and more money on A.C. every day.

The Caribbean begins a humid, dangerous hurricane season in June. 

To solve your problems, a cruise to Alaska provides the perfect opportunity to visit a cooler place.

Alaskan cruise season usually runs from April to October, with July and August being the most popular times. You do have a shorter sailing window when it comes to avoiding the extreme winter weather, so take advantage of a cruise to Alaska this summer.

Read more: Royal Caribbean releases new 2025 Alaska cruises to book 

Renee Gibbons shared this photo from Ovation of the Seas in June 2022.

Royal Caribbean currently sends Ovation of the Seas on Alaska cruises. This Quantum Class ship provides a lot of facilities to enjoy, whether indoors or outdoors.

No matter the weather, you’ll find something to love.

The state-of-the-art ship has indoor pools, the SeaPlex, an indoor skydiving simulator, and countless other activities.

Whether you’d like to lounge by the pool and watch glaciers go by, or try some fine dining, there’s a lot to enjoy on a Quantum Class ship.

Read more: I cruised on the oldest and newest cruise ships to Alaska: here’s how they compare

Lisa Wolfe’s son plays with sled dog puppies in Skagway, Alaska. 

“Highlight of my son’s trip. It still makes me smile,” she commented.

You can expect unique, memorable shore excursions on your Alaska cruise.

Whether you love the outdoors, want an exhilarating adventure, or love learning about other cultures, there’s something special for everyone.

Skagway is located north in Alaska’s Inside Passage and is packed full of tours involving Alaska’s gold rush history.

The sled dog camp tours are one such popular excursion. There, guests can experience the state sport of dog sled racing firsthand, and meet sled dog puppies.

You’ll be pulled by a team of 14-16 huskies, all led by a competent team of mushers. 

And afterward, you get to meet these charming puppies!

This cozy submission was shared by Marilyn Wescott

While the sight of campfires, snow, and mountains may not come to mind when you think of a cruise, you can find that and more in Alaska.

Beaches, snorkeling, and pools are almost synonymous with cruising. But what if the heat and sand don’t appeal to you, or you’re just sick of humid beaches?

Alaska is the perfect refreshing destination for hikers, nature lovers, or long-time cruisers looking for something new.

You’ll be able to find unique excursions, such as ziplining, train rides, rafting tours, glacier viewings, historic museums, and wildlife sanctuaries.

Read more: I tried the cheapest Alaska cruise I could find: here's how it went

And it doesn’t all have to be expensive! We’ve written a guide to cheap and free things to do on an Alaskan cruise.

“Leaving Icy Strait [in] July 2023,” Angie Foil Haeny commented. “We are ready to go again!”

Icy Strait Point is a smaller cruise stop that offers an intimate chance to study nature and history near Hoonah, Alaska.

The town has been founded, owned, and operated by the Huna Tlingit Native Alaskans since 2004. 

Popular outdoor attractions include whale-watching and ziplining.

You can also learn more about the culture and history of the Huna Tlingit people by visiting the Native Heritage Center Theater and viewing songs, plays, and dances.

Read more: Alaska cruise ports guide

Joan Firchow Peet’s submission shows a big chunk of ice calving off Hubbard Glacier.

Your Alaska itinerary will include at least one opportunity to see a majestic floating glacier.

One of the most popular glaciers to visit is Hubbard Glacier, a 400-foot tall and 6 miles-wide tidewater glacier.

It has been nicknamed the “Galloping Glacier” due to how swiftly and frequently it calves ice. In fact, the glacier is quickly advancing at 80 feet per year!

You can see this glacier on a cruise by first sailing into Yakutat Bay.

Read more: Hubbard Glacier vs. Glacier Bay: which glacier is better to see on a cruise?

Carlos Varela’s photo of a brown bear in the snow sparks a little jealousy. What a cool snapshot to share with friends and family!

Have you ever seen a brown bear? What about a humpback whale, a sea otter, a bald eagle, a mountain goat, or a harbor seal?

Yes, Alaska is home to these unique animals and more.

Cruise ships offer access to wildlife excursions like whale-watching or bear-spotting tours, so you’re guaranteed a chance to get up close and see these creatures with your own eyes.

Alaska’s diverse ecosystems provide a view into the untouched parts of nature.

Andrea Hancock shared this photo of kids looking out over a balcony at a marvelous view.

To get this perspective outside your bedroom window, you’d want to book a balcony stateroom on your Alaska cruise.

But it’s not a requirement!

The best type of cabin for your cruise depends on what your travel preferences and needs are.

If you’re a budgeter looking forward to spending time out on the ship or on land, an interior cabin is a cheap, efficient option.

Traveling with family and kids who want their privacy? You can book two connecting rooms for extra living space.

For luxury, try a suite stateroom such as a Loft Suite.

Joelle Hotte captioned this picture: “Mom and baby at the end of an incredible whale-watching tour in Juneau.”

Whale-watching is just one of many incredible tours you’ll have the opportunity to take on your Alaskan cruise.

This picture makes us want to hop straight on a ship to Alaska! 

But, before you go, there are a few things you’ll want to prepare for.

For example, shore excursions like these can get expensive, adding it when it comes to creating a marvelous vacation.

To save money, look for last-minute cruise deals in the shoulder season, starting in March or April.

You’ll find lower fares on the Radiance Class ships that sail to Alaska: Radiance of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas.

Christina Topp’s family is all bundled up with smiling faces. 

Wondering what you should pack on an Alaska cruise? It’s not as difficult as it might seem.

We recommend packing lots of layers. Start with base layers, such as T-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, and leggings. 

Next, make sure you have some warm layers: pullovers, sweaters, fleece jackets, and crewnecks. Anything with down or fleece in it is likely to keep you toasty!

Make sure you also have something with a waterproof layer, like a rain jacket.

For bottoms, bring thick jeans and fleece leggings.

Read more: I’ve been on 5 Alaska cruises, and I see people making the same 12 mistakes: here’s how to avoid them

Ruth Madewell submitted a photo of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad Train, a popular attraction in Skagway, Alaska.

If you’re passionate about history or just want to learn more about Alaska's vibrant heritage, then there’s plenty for you to explore on an Alaskan cruise.

You can wander charming coastal towns, visit indigenous communities, or witness historic sites like in Skagway.

Booking a train ride on the White Pass Railroad offers a scenic route towards Canada’s Yukon territory. On your journey, a guide will offer nuggets of information about frontier Alaska, Skagway’s gold rush history, and modern insight into the town today.

Royal Caribbean releases new 2025 Alaska cruises to book

In:
01 Nov 2023

You can now book a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska in 2025. 

Royal Caribbean released its Alaska cruises for the 2025 cruise season, and they're now available to book on the Royal Caribbean website. You can also speak with your travel agent.

Like in previous years, the cruise line will have four ships in Alaska during the 2025 season: Anthem of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, and Serenade of the Seas.

Alaska cruise itineraries on website

The ship lineup for Alaska is a bit different this year, as Anthem of the Seas begins her first Alaska run ever, and Serenade of the Seas returns to the Alaska region.

Here's a look at Royal Caribbean cruises to Alaska in 2025

The new Alaska 2025 cruises are available to book between May and September 2025.

Anthem of the Seas in Spain

Anthem of the Seas will sail from Seattle and offer 7-night Alaska cruises.

Quantum of the Seas will also sail from Seattle, sailing 7-night cruises.

Both ships will visit popular Alaska ports, such as Skagway, Juneau, Sitka, and Icy Strait Point.  They also feature glacier viewings of Dawes Glacier, weather permitting. Depending on which sailing you pick, the itinerary will vary slightly.

Both Radiance Class ships will offer cruises from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Radiance of the Seas will offer 7-10 night Alaska cruises that can also combine with Land Tours to offer immersive visits to Alaska, including in-land destinations such as Denali. 

Radiance is sailing alternating, open-jaw itineraries between Vancouver and Seward.

Serenade of the Seas in Alaska

Serenade of the Seas will sail primarily 7-night roundtrip cruises, including cruises that visit Hubbard Glacier.

Be sure to consult the Royal Caribbean website or your travel professional for further assistance with itinerary options and booking.

Related50 Best First Time Alaska cruise tips for a perfect vacation

What's the difference between open-jaw and round-trip cruises?

If you choose an open-jaw cruise, you will have different embarkation and disembarkation ports. This allows you to visit ports that you would not be able to on a round-trip cruise from Seattle. 

Cruisers who sail to Alaska claim that the more remote ports offer a more authentic view of Alaska, with more dynamic scenery and varied wildlife.

Rather than booking airfare to and from Seattle, you will have to book two one-way flights, which can often be more expensive. Plus, Anchorage is about 125 miles from Seward, so you will have to account for a 2+ hour drive from the airport when you either begin or end your one-way cruise. 

RelatedHow to choose the right Alaska cruise itinerary

Something else you should know about an open-jaw sailing is you must have a passport for an open jaw cruise. You cannot use a birth certificate and government ID for these types of sailings.

RelatedDo you need a passport for a cruise?

Booking early is key if you want to score the lowest pricing

Whale watching in Sitka, Alaska

The lowest pricing for Alaska cruises tends to be when itineraries are released. While you can usually find a good deal on shoulder season sailings, if you have hopes of sailing during the peak of the Alaska cruise season (i.e., June-July), you should book as early as possible. 

Additionally, some highly desirable cruise cabins sell out quickly. If you want to book a specific stateroom, like a suite or aft balcony cabins on Radiance Class ships, you will not want to wait too long to place your initial deposit. 

RelatedPros and Cons of booking a cruise early vs last-minute

More about Alaska cruises

What to bring on a cruise to Alaska? 8 things you'll want to take with you

In:
20 Oct 2023

If you're used to visiting the Caribbean, you will want to know what to bring on a cruise to Alaska that might be different from anywhere else.

Alaska cruise ship

Having cruised to the last frontier, I quickly learned that there's a different approach to packing for an Alaska cruise.

You likely already know planning for a cruise to this region is different than other sailings. And while a summer cruise up to Alaska will not be frigid or even as far north as you might imagine, there are nuances to planning a great cruise.

A good mantra for any traveler is to be prepared, and you certainly don't want to get to Alaska only to realize you should have brought something truly important. Maybe it's something to enhance your trip, or it could be a real game-changing tool. In either case, learning about what you need now can save time.

Woman on Alaska cruise

While we have a comprehensive Alaska cruise packing list, I thought about the things that you really should consider bringing that would not be obvious. Here's my list of eight important things to bring with you to the 49th state.

Read more50 Best First Time Alaska cruise tips

You will find in this article links to products that we receive a small commission for when you purchase them. This costs you absolutely nothing extra, but the small commission helps support our site.  As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Binoculars

Eagle Beach

You'll be surrounded by nature's beauty throughout your Alaska cruise, and a pair of good binoculars can really make a difference.

From the bald eagles that are pretty much everywhere, to whale sightings, remote villages, and even bears, there is a lot to spot.  While you might be able to get a glimpse with the naked eye, having binoculars makes a world of difference.

Binoculars are so helpful for kids because they can really get a sense of detail when trying to view nature.  Adults can enjoy them too for the same reason, and with the benefit of having a little more patience to look around.

Glacier

When you get close enough to see a glacier, binoculars are so important so that you can see the jagged edges of ice. Plus, the colors pop so much more when viewed closely.

Read moreTop 5 binoculars for an Alaska cruise

Waterproof and thermal insulated jacket

Kids on an Alaska cruise

If you buy one piece of clothing for Alaska, it should be a light and insulating waterproof jacket.

The weather will change a lot during your cruise, even hourly, and you'll need to adjust to it.  And it will likely rain too, but because it changes so often, you will need the right clothing.

Nugget falls

On my first cruise, I bought a Columbia 2-in-1 jacket that was insulated and also waterproof. The only thing worse than being wet and is being wet and cold!

You will likely hear about the importance of layering on an Alaska cruise, and the outermost layer should be a good all-weather jacket to keep you dry. Don't get something puffy or bulky. You want a jacket that can be easily folded up or tied around your waist when the sun comes back out later.

Read moreAlaska cruise outfits: ideas of what to wear

Waterproof shoes

Flowers in Alaska

I didn't think about my footwear when planning my first Alaska cruise, and I regretted not having waterproof shoes.

Not only can it rain, but you'll encounter puddles and damp trails in the towns you visit.  Plus, some of the terrain may be slippery or not paved.

Hiking trail in Alaska

It makes sense to get a pair of hiking shoes that are waterproof to keep your feet dry no matter where you go.  

I can deal with wet hair and even wet clothing, but wet feet turn cold quicker (thanks to being in the extremities of your body) and that will sour almost any outdoor experience.

Read more6 mistakes & 3 things we did right on our Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska

Sunglasses

When you imagine visiting Alaska, is a bright shining sun what you picture? Probably not, but there's plenty of sunshine too.

Summer in Alaska is a lot sunnier than most people anticipate, and you will actually need to bring sunglasses with you.

If you have plans to visit a glacier by helicopter or seaplane, sunglasses are essential to avoid the glare of the sun off the surface of the ice.

Insect repellant

I've got to be real with all of you and warn you that mosquitos are an unfortunate reality of going to Alaska in the summer, especially during the warmest months.

There are plenty of mosquitos around Alaska throughout the summer.  In fact, there's a running joke that the mosquito is the unofficial state bird of Alaska. Given how much wetlands, slow moving rivers, and stagnant pools there are, it's a prime breeding ground for them.

Mosquitoes are usually worse inland than on the coast, so bringing insect repellent is extra important for those doing a Cruise Tour to Denali and other interior destinations before or after their cruise. 

Skagway, Alaska, pier with Serenade of the Seas docked

It's a good idea to pack a can of insect repellent spray, wipes, or lotions.  There are many varieties, but you should buy one before you leave from home to ensure you don't pay higher tourist prices in Alaska.

Another option are mosquito-repellent wristbands because of how easy they are to use, especially for kids. 

Of course, you could also wear long sleeves and pants to avoid giving mosquitos a target to land on, but there's always exposed skin somewhere.

Read moreThe weirdest Alaska cruise questions

Waterproof backpack

Jenna's dad in Alaska

Just like how rain can make you wet, it can also get your belongings wet, so it's important to have a waterproof backpack with you when you go on shore.

When I sail to the Caribbean, we might bring a beach bag, but a backpack elsewhere seems unnecessary. 

Read moreWhat to bring on a Caribbean cruise

In Alaska, however, backpacks are far more useful because you will need somewhere to put extra clothes, souvenirs, binoculars, and other important items.

Water resistant backpacks should be sufficient in most scenarios, although 100% dry bags can be a safe option, too (affiliate links included here).

Some backpacks are able to be packed down into a very small size (affiliate link), which can be helpful for those traveling on airplanes or with limited room in their suitcase.

Sleep mask

Alaska sunset

People aren't exaggerating when they say it doesn't get dark in Alaska.  During the summer, the sun stays up well into the night and might only go down for a few hours before rising again.

Whether you're a light sleeper or night, the natural light could interfere with your sleep routine and some people find it quite difficult to fall or stay asleep with the light coming in from their cruise ship balcony or window.

It's a good idea to invest in a quality sleep mask so that you can have it pitch dark when you sleep.

I used the Manta Sleep Mask (affiliate link) for my first transatlantic flight to go on a European cruise earlier this summer, and it worked perfectly.

Water bottle

reusable-water-bottle-stock

You already know how important it is to stay hydrated, but I found I was getting parched far more often in Alaska than elsewhere.

Even hiking on flat paths will drain you, and having water makes such a difference.

I think it's a great idea to also bring with you a reusable water bottle that you can bring on any shore excursion with you.

Our staff love the Hydro Flask (affiliate link) as their top pick for bringing on a cruise.

16 cheap and free things to do on an Alaska cruise to avoid spending hundreds on shore excursions

In:
14 Aug 2023

Shore excursions on an Alaska cruise can quickly ruin any budget. For those cruising to the 49th state on a budget, it can be challenging to figure out what to do in port without breaking the bank.

Alaska activities for free

Activities like whale watching, helicopter rides, dog sledding, and scenic flightseeing excursions may be bucket-list activities to try on an Alaska cruise, but they certainly aren’t cheap. Fortunately, instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars on these tours, there are a plethora of low-cost—or even free—ways to spend your day in Alaska cruise ports.

The most commonly visited cruise ports in Alaska include Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, and Ketchikan, and each of these ports offers low-cost activities ranging from hiking trails to museums, aquariums, and even glacier visits.

If you’re hoping to keep costs down but still have a wonderful experience while visiting Alaska, it’s helpful to know what options are available in each port.

Here are 16 cheap and free things to do in Alaska’s four most popular cruise ports.

Cheap and free things to do in Skagway

Skagway is a small town located at the most northerly part of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Situated on mainland North America just fourteen miles from Canada, Skagway is stunning, with tall, snow capped peaks dominating the landscape.

Skagway is most known for its role in the Klondike Gold Rush, and many attractions in Skagway showcase the town’s gold rush history, including the famous White Pass & Yukon Route Railway and the Gold Rush Cemetery.

Plenty of activities in Skagway are free, and here are some of our favorite things to do in this charming small town.

Gold Rush Cemetery and Lower Reid Falls

Skagway is known for its Gold Rush history, and you can walk to the Gold Rush Cemetery for free. The cemetery is located a half hour walk from downtown Skagway, or you can take the Skagway SMART bus for $5 each way. Information on the bus—and a map of bus stops—can be found here.

The Gold Rush Cemetery has no entrance fee, and while at the cemetery you can read stories about those buried there. As a place with such a unique, “wild west” history, many of the stories are quite surprising, and they allow you to get a glimpse of what Skagway was like in the town’s early days.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Skagway, Alaska

Another free activity is the 5-minute walk to Lower Reid Falls—the trailhead begins at the Gold Rush cemetery. There is no cost to visit the waterfalls, and the walk is well suited for both novice and experienced hikers. Once there, you can marvel at the three tier, 40-foot high waterfall.

Browse exhibits at the Skagway Museum

Another free activity in Skagway is to visit the Skagway Museum, which aims to preserve the history of the Skagway and Taiya Valleys.

At the museum visitors can enjoy exhibits on the region’s history, including information and artifacts from the Gold Rush era. Located just a block off of Broadway, the main tourist street in Skagway, getting to the museum is convenient for all cruise passengers.

Although entrance to the museum is free, a small donation (a few dollars will do) is recommended.

Lower and Upper Dewey Lake

More experienced hikers may want to consider hiking to Lower and/or Upper Dewey Lake.

Lower Dewey Lake is the easier hike of the two, and the trailhead to both starts just a five minute walk from downtown. The hike to Lower Dewey Lake is three miles with 793 feet of elevation gain, and hikers are rewarded with serene, untouched nature in all directions.

Related: Alaska cruise packing list: What to pack for your sailing

Upper Dewey Lake continues onward from Lower Dewey Lake and is the most challenging day hike on this list. It is only recommended for experienced hikers. Although the hike isn’t overly technical, there is over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Passengers should ensure they have enough time to complete the hike before their cruise ship departs, as it usually takes around 5-8 hours depending on your fitness level.

Walk to Yakutania Point

Another one of my favorite free things to do in Skagway is walk to Yakutania Point. If you’re not up for an intense day of hiking, the brief, relatively flat walk to Yakutania Point makes a nice option.

Yakutania Point sits on the tip of a peninsula at the end of the Lynn Canal, and it offers wonderful views of the cruise port, town, and nearby mountains. It’s arguably the best selfie spot in all of Skagway.

To access Yakutania Point, simply walk over the pedestrian bridge west of downtown (near the Skagway airport). From there, you can walk roughly ten minutes to reach the point. If you’d like to continue further along the trail, consider walking to Smuggler’s Cove for even more pristine views.

Cheap and free things to do in Juneau

Franklin Street

The capital of Alaska may only have a population of 32,000, but that doesn’t mean it's lacking in things to do.

Juneau is a popular port for expensive excursions like whale watching tours and helicopter rides to glaciers. However, there are still more than enough cheap or free ways to spend a day in the city, and here are five of our favorites.

Visiting Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier is the most popular place to visit on any cruise to Juneau—I'd argue it can't be missed. Just 13 miles from downtown, the glacier is easily accessible to cruise ship visitors without the need to rent a car or take an expensive helicopter ride.

The cost to visit Mendenhall Glacier is just $5, which includes access to the trails and visitor center. That being said, I have never encountered a place to pay the fee on my four previous visits to the glacier, although I never visited with a guided tour.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Unfortunately, while accessing the glacier area comes at a low cost, getting to the glacier is another story. Most passengers not on an organized shore excursion opt for the glacier express bus, which has regularly scheduled shuttles between downtown Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier for $45 round trip.

Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle from Cycle Alaska—e-bikes are available—and ride the 13 miles to the glacier yourself, which is primarily on bike paths.

There is the option to take a public city bus to the glacier, but the ride takes around an hour as opposed to the usual thirty minutes. Additionally, the bus stop closest to the glacier, on Dredge Lake Road, is still a half hour walk away from the visitor's center. At only $2 per adult, however, it’s still an option for those on an extremely tight budget.

Stroll the Boardwalk and South Franklin Street

Downtown Juneau is scenic, with a picturesque waterfront and magnificent peaks surrounding the city. Right in front of where cruise ships dock downtown is a boardwalk perfect for taking a stroll and admiring the views.

If you don’t have anything planned for your day in Juneau, consider walking around downtown and relaxing on a bench or table on the boardwalk. One of my favorite things to do is grab a tasty treat—such as a block of fudge from the nearby Alaska Fudge Company—and enjoy dessert at one of the waterfront tables on the boardwalk.

Grab a drink at the Red Dog Saloon

While not entirely free, consider grabbing a drink from the Red Dog Saloon, a wild west-style saloon just a few minutes’ walk from the cruise terminal.

The Red Dog Saloon will immediately transport you to Juneau’s mining era, with western-style architecture, live entertainment, and eclectic decor, such as the framed gun from Wyatt Earp, known for his 1881 gunfight in the wild west of Arizona.

Related: Tips for taking an Alaska cruise on a budget

The signature drink to try at the Red Dog Saloon is the Duck Fart, a shot made with Kahlúa, Irish cream, and Crown Royal. At around $7.50 per shot, it’s well worth the cost to enjoy the ambiance and music at the Red Dog Saloon.

Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Visiting a museum is the perfect way to stay warm on a chilly, rainy day in Alaska. The Juneau-Douglas City Museum, located next to the Alaska State Capitol building, costs just $6 for adults and is free for kids 12 and younger.

At the museum guests can browse exhibits on Juneau’s history, Native Tlingit culture, Juneau’s geography, the state’s mining history, and more. Walking tours are also offered, although with the exception of the state capitol tour, they come with a cost of $31.50 per person.

Hike to Mount Roberts (or to the tramway station)

Outdoorsmen and women looking for a challenge should consider hiking to Mount Roberts, a 3,819 foot mountain towering over downtown Juneau. Not for the beginner hiker, the Mount Roberts trail has over 3,700 feet of elevation gain, but the views are definitely worth the climb.

The trailhead begins on the outskirts of downtown Juneau, a 25-minute walk from the cruise port area.

If you don’t want to climb all the way to the top of the mountain, you can instead climb to Gastineau Peak, where you’ll find activities and amenities like a Nature Center, restaurant, cultural theater, and additional hiking trails. This area is the top of the Mount Roberts tramway, which takes guests from downtown Juneau up the mountainside on a cable car.

If you’d like, you can choose to ride the tram back to downtown Juneau instead of hiking down the mountain.

Cheap and free things to do in Ketchikan

Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s “First City” as it is the first Alaskan city you’ll encounter while traveling north. Due to its southerly location, Ketchikan is usually the first or last port of call in Alaska on a cruise.

Although there are several excursions you could book in Ketchikan, such as a visit to the Misty Fjords National Monument, many of the town’s most popular activities are free of charge.

This makes Ketchikan an easy port to visit without spending much (if anything) extra on activities.

Creek Street and Married Man’s Trail

Almost every visitor to Ketchikan takes a walk along Creek Street, the former red-light district in the town’s gold rush era. Buildings on the street were constructed over the water along a wooden boardwalk, and signs next to the buildings provide insights into Ketchikan’s history.

Strolling Creek Street is completely free, although certain attractions along the street may charge an entrance fee. You might even spot wildlife in the creek as well, including salmon and sea otters.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska

As you near the end of Creek Street, the boardwalk continues upwards into the rainforest, which is known as the Married Man’s Trail. Once used by married men to conspicuously reach the red-light district, the path is now a free way to explore Ketchikan’s nature.

Whereas most of the views on the path are blocked by trees, it’s still a fun and quick activity to do on any visit to Ketchikan.

Tour Dolly’s House Museum

Another low-cost activity is found on Creek Street, and that is a tour of Dolly’s House Museum.

Dolly was one of the most famous madams working on Creek Street between 1919 and 1954. After prostitution was deemed illegal, she continued living in the house until moving to a nursing home. Her colorful, historic house has been maintained throughout the past few decades, transporting visitors to another era altogether.

Admission to tour Dolly’s House is just $10, making it an affordable way to spend an hour or so during your port day.

Tongass Historical Museum & Totem Heritage Center

Two museums in Ketchikan, the Tongass Historical Museum and Totem Heritage Center, should definitely be on your to-do list. For only $9 per person, you can purchase a pass to visit both museums.

The Tongass Historical Museum, located in the center of downtown, tells the story of Ketchikan’s history and culture and includes a collection of old photographs and artifacts.

The Totem Heritage Center focuses on the history and artistic traditions of the native Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples. The museum showcases a collection of totem poles, art pieces, and photography collections.

A free shuttle bus is operated between the two museums (along with other attractions). To find the bus, look for a bus that says "Downtown Shuttle" or ask a staff member at the museum.

Cheap and free things to do in Sitka

Sitka is the only Alaska cruise port facing the open ocean instead of the Inside Passage, and its location on the remote Baranof Island has influenced its history for over 10,000 years.

Sitka offers a quintessential Alaska experience, as the town allows visitors to easily explore nature, spot wildlife, and stroll through the charming downtown area.

Because most tourist attractions are located within close proximity to each other, it’s easy to explore Sitka without an organized tour. Not only that, but many of these attractions come with a low cost, meaning you can enjoy your day without ruining your budget.

Sitka National Historic Park

Starting in downtown, you can walk to the entrance of the Sitka National Historic Park in just fifteen minutes. This 113-acre park preserves the site of a battle between the Native Tlingit people and Russian traders, and includes several miles of easy, flat walking trails in the lush green rainforest.

A must-visit trail is the Totem Trail, a mile-long path with 18 Tlingit and Haida totem poles.

Of course, like any hiking trail in Alaska, visitors should be cognizant of any wildlife in the area and take precautions when walking through the forest.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Sitka, Alaska

Sitka Sound Science Center

A great activity for a chilly weather day in Sitka is to visit the Sitka Sound Science Center. The science center is just ten minutes from downtown by foot and has an admission cost of $12 for adults and $10 per child.

At the science center you can get up close to aquatic creatures in the center’s aquarium—which include touch tanks—and take a tour of the facility, which teaches visitors the role of salmon and aquaculture in Southeast Alaska.

The Sitka Sound Science Center is one of the best kid-friendly activities in Sitka, and you can purchase admission online ahead of time or once you arrive.

Visit Fortress of the Bear and the Alaska Raptor Center on your own

Two wildlife attractions are extremely popular in Sitka: Fortress of the Bear and the Alaska Raptor Center.

Fortress of the Bear is a bear sanctuary that rescues and cares for orphaned bears. While there, visitors can observe the bears’ behavior and view them in a safe environment, unlike in the wild!

The Alaska Raptor Center, on the other hand, is a bird rehabilitation facility that rescues and rehabilitates injured birds of prey, including bald eagles, snowy owls, and red-tailed hawks.

Related: What is the best time of year to see wildlife in Alaska?

Visiting both sites is common on many shore excursions in Sitka, but these often come with a steep price tag of $70-100. Instead, opt for a ticket on a shuttle bus, which leave regularly from the Sitka Visitor Center, conveniently located right where shuttles from the cruise port drop passengers off downtown.

For $20, you can ride to both sites on the shuttle bus, although the admission fee of each center is not included. Fortress of the Bear charges $15 per adult, $5 for youth aged 8-15, and children 7 and under are free. The Alaska Raptor Center charges $15 per adult, $6 for youth aged 6-12, and children 5 and under are free.

If you visit both sites with the shuttle bus, the cost is $50 per adult, which is cheaper than any shore excursion offered.

Explore Russian influence in downtown Sitka

There are three free attractions in downtown Sitka that provide insights into the city’s Russian influence. As the former capital of Russian Alaska, Sitka once had around 700 Russians living in the town before Alaska was sold to the United States in 1867.

The first free attraction to visit is the Russian Bishop’s House, a National Park Service building that was once the center of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska. The Russian Bishop’s House is one of the last surviving buildings with Russian colonial architecture in the United States.

You should allocate around an hour to visit the building, as it features museum exhibits and offers a guided tour. We recommend visiting in the early morning to sign up for a time slot, as there’s no guarantee a walk-in will be accepted.

Another free attraction downtown is the Baranof Castle State Historic Site, which was the location where Alaska was formally handed off to the United States. Atop this small hill are informational boards on Sitka’s history along with some of the best views you’ll see in all of the region.

Lastly, visiting St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral is another way to learn more about Sitka’s history, as visitors can browse the cathedral’s unique architecture and artwork. The church was originally built in the 1840s but was rebuilt in 1976 following a fire, and it’s one of the best representations of Russia’s cultural influence in Alaska in the 19th century.

Note: St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral requests a $5 donation per visitor.

Looking for more inspiration on what to do in Alaska's cruise ports? Check out these articles:

16 cheap and free things to do on an Alaska cruise
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