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The best time to take an Alaska cruise

In:
Category: 
16Dec2020

Want to know when is the best time to go on an Alaska cruise for great weather, low prices, or fewer crowds?

While the short-term future of cruises is still murky at best, eventually cruise ships will be heading back out to Alaska and the beautiful natural scenery to enjoy in Alaska is simply unparalleled.

It is hard to top the majesty beauty of rugged glaciers, plethora of unique animal sightings, or huge mountains. Going on a cruise to Alaska is an extremely popular kind of cruise, because it offers an easy way to see so much in a compact amount of time.

While it is impossible to see and do it all over the course of a one week cruise, Alaska has the power to enchant even brief visitors.  So while you are stuck at home, this may be the perfect time to start planning a cruise to The Last Frontier.

Here is your guide for figuring out the best times to visit for your first (or 50th) Alaska cruise.

The best time for an Alaska cruise to avoid crowds

The Alaska cruise season runs between May and September, but there are definite ebbs and flows to demand and crowds in the ports you will visit.

If you are looking for the months with the lowest crowds in Alaska, try for May or September.  These are the "shoulder season" months, which is when the season begins and ends, and is when you will find less people vying for a cruise. 

Moreover, going during May or September is also when most kids are still in school, which means families are unable to cruise during this period.

The downside to these months is the weather tends to be the most unpredictable, and that can be an issue with possibly impacting your shore excursions.  Most notably helicopter and boat excursions are the most at risk.

Read moreWhat is the best time to cruise to Alaska?

The best months for an Alaska cruise for good weather

The weather in Alaska can, and will, change multiple times per day, but you will find the warmest months to be June, July and August.

The median months will see higher temperatures and longer days for touring, and it represents the limited summer that Alaska enjoys. However, July and August tend to also have higher levels of precipitation.

If you do book a cruise during summer, be sure to plan your shore excursions well in advance to avoid tours selling out.

If you are willing to trade warmth for less precipitation, then go for May. In fact, the end of May and the beginning of June offers some of the best weather in the region throughout the year.

If you want to see snow on the ground, May is the best month for that.

Read moreComparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing in Alaska 2021

The best months for an Alaska cruise for low prices

Alaska is not a cheap cruise, but if you want to save money on your cruise fare, then your best bet is May or September.

For the same reasons May and September feature lower crowds, these months see most often the lowest prices for a cruise because of the combination of colder temperatures and the school calendar.

Read moreWhat is the cheapest month to go on a cruise?

The best time to see the Northern Lights on an Alaska cruise

Few places allow for viewing of the aurora borealis, and the best time see the Northern Lights is in September.

September is the time of year when the sun sets earlier during the cruise season, which means the sky gets darker and makes for the most ideal viewing conditions.

Of course, temperatures during September will be lower than other times of the year, but the opportunity to see the Northern Lights is a real treat.

As mentioned in this article, not only does September provide the opportunity to see the Northern Lights, but you will also enjoy less crowds and likely lower prices on a cruise.

Read moreTop 10 tips for planning your Alaska cruise

The best time to see wildlife on an Alaska cruise

You will see plenty of wildlife during your Alaska cruise throughout the cruise season. The best months to catch a glimpse of the amazing fauna that call Alaska home are the months of June and July. 

  • Moose: Moose give birth around June.
  • Caribou: June is the best month to see herds of caribou
  • Humpback Whales:  June and July is when the humpback whales migrate through Alaska's Inside Passage.
  • Black bears: Spring is ideal because the new vegetation lures back in sheep, mountain goats and black bears. July is also good because that is when salmon runs start to get busy.
  • King Salmon: King salmon runs start in late May.
  • Bird watching: June is when you have the best change to see unusual birds migrating.

Read moreWhat Is an Alaska Inside Passage Cruise?

How to choose the right Alaska cruise itinerary

In:
Category: 
13Nov2020

A cruise to Alaska is one of the most popular kind of cruises, but which itinerary should you pick?

If you have never cruised to Alaska before, you may find the decision of which ship, embarkation port, and itinerary a tough decision.  There are many considerations when choosing an Alaska cruise, but ultimately the decision may come down to budget, convenience, and time.

Before booking a cruise to Alaska, here is what you need to know about picking the perfect Alaska cruise for your family.

Embarkation port

Royal Caribbean offers cruises from two primary ports, Seattle and Vancouver.

Cruises that go from Seattle are more convenient for Americans, because there are more daily flights to Seattle from around the country, and prices are cheaper since a flight to Seattle is a domestic flight.

Flights to Vancouver can be a little more difficult to get (especially direct flights), but you could always fly to Seattle and take the train or a rental car to try to save money.

Cruises from Seattle are roundtrip sailings that begin and end in Seattle. Many cruises from Vancouver can be open-jaw sailings, which means they begin in Vancouver and end in Anchorage. You could book the next sailing to return to Vancouver, but that would require two weeks. Otherwise, you will have to fly to/from Anchorage.

Be sure to consider where your cruise begins and ends the sailing before booking.

Ports you will visit

Where your ship goes in Alaska is also a major consideration, because there are a few different itineraries you can choose.

Cruises from Seattle tend to visit the more common ports, such as Juneau and Skagway, whereas cruises that begin in Anchorage or Vancouver get to visit more remote ports.

Cruisers that sail to Alaska often will tell you the more remote ports offer a more authentic view of Alaska, with more dynamic scenery and varied wildlife.

Of course, Alaska is stunning from any port you visit, and Juneau and Skagway are still beautiful places to visit and explore.

If you are looking to see the most stunning scenery, a cruise that takes you to further north is the way to go.

Ships and price

Royal Caribbean has four cruise ships offering cruises to Alaska, and each has a compelling reason to choose either of them.

Ovation, Quantum, Radiance and Serenade of the Seas sail to Alaska in 2021 and 2022.

The Quantum Class ships (Quantum and Ovation of the Seas) are newer ships, and offer much more to see, eat, and do onboard. They are also priced higher since you are sailing on one of Royal Caribbean's newer cruise ships.

It is important to note that the Quantum Class ships have two indoor pools, one for adults and one for all ages.  The other ships only have an indoor pool for adults.

The Radiance Class ships (Radiance and Serenade of the Seas) are smaller vessels that do not offer all the bells and whistles of the Quantum Class, but are perfectly suited for a port intensive itinerary like Alaska, where the destination is far more important than the ship you are sailing on. 

Moreover, Alaska's constantly changing weather makes outdoor activities on a ship not nearly as important as in the Caribbean.

One other consideration is Royal Caribbean offers land tours that you can add onto Alaska cruises from Vancouver, where you can explore the interior of Alaska before or after your cruise. Land tours are not available with cruises from Seattle.

Generally speaking, the Quantum Class ships will cost you more than a cruise on the Radiance Class ships. The exact price difference will vary from week to week, but you will have to weigh the price versus airfare costs.

Which Alaska cruise should you choose?

Ultimately, the decision on which ship and itinerary to pick comes down to price, dates, and ships.

If you are cruising to Alaska for the first time, many will defer to the Quantum Class ships from Seattle for the convenient travel options to Seattle, ship accommodations, and the fact it is roundtrip.

If you want to see the most authentic and exotic views of Alaska, an open jaw sailing from Anchorage or Vancouver is what you want. You will see much more of the "real" Alaska on these itineraries.

Ultimately, there are no bad choices for which cruise to choose for Alaska. You will find stunning views and really fun explorations in any of the ports. Understanding the differences between the ships and itineraries will ensure you make the right choice for your family.

More Alaska cruise info

Want to learn more about a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska, as well as helpful tips and secrets? Check out these blog posts:

Royal Caribbean releases new Alaska 2022 cruises to book

In:
10Nov2020

Royal Caribbean has released its Alaska 2022 cruises, which are available to book now.

In 2022, Royal Caribbean will send four cruise ships to Alaska, making it another big cruise season for the cruise line in the region.

New Alaska 2022 cruises are available to book between May and September 2022.

According to Royal Caribbean these new sailings are available for Crown & Anchor members on November 10, 2020, and the general public on November 11, 2020.

Ovation of the Seas returns to Alaska in 2022.  She will offer a transpacifc sailing from Sydney to Hawaii in April 2022, and then sail from Seattle and offer 7-night Alaska Glacier cruises.

Quantum of the Seas will also sail from Seattle, and offer 7-night Alaska cruises.  The Royal Caribbean website only lists one Alaska sailing for Quantum, so more could be loaded in later.

Both Quantum Class ships will vist scenic cities and towns along the Northwest coastline, including Victoria, British Columbia; Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau, Alaska.

Radiance of the Seas returns to Alaska again to 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 of the Seas will sail from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Sailing alternating, open-jaw itineraries between Vancouver and Seward, Radiance will introduce a second northbound itinerary that includes a visit to Icy Strait Point – a port owned and operated by native Alaskans.

Rounding out the Alaska deployment will be Serenade of the Seas, which will sail out of Vancouver and offer 7-night Alaska cruises, as well as land tour options. Serenade even has a 7-night Multi Glacier Experience cruise for six weeks of the season.

Guests on board Serenade can extend their stay with Royal Caribbean’s signature CruiseTours, a series of 2- to 6-night pre- or post-cruise land tours led by local experts.

Radiance and Serenade of the Seas will further expand Royal Caribbean’s reach with a fresh take on 7-night itineraries anchored by visits to Haines, Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau and Seward, Alaska.

View the full Alaska 2022 itineraries:

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

More about Alaska cruises

Royal Caribbean cancels 2020 Alaska, Canada/New England and Hawaii cruises

In:
02Jun2020

Royal Caribbean has informed travel agents that due to the Canadian Government restricting all cruise traffic through October 2020, its Alaska, Hawaii and Canada/New England cruises are cancelled.

The cruise line indicated itineraries touching on a Canadian port through October 2020 are suspended.

Similar to other cancelled cruises due to the current global health crisis, Royal Caribbean is offering guests three options:

Lift & Shift: Move your existing booking to next year, protecting the current price/promotion, simply by electing to remain on the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within the same 4-week period of their original cruise date same-time-next-year. Opt-in deadlines are as follows:

  • Sailings departing June 12-July 31, 2020
    • On-or-before June 10, 2020
  • Canada Port closures departing August 1-October 31, 2020
    • On-or-before June 17, 2020

Future Cruise Credit: You client will receive a Future Cruise Credit for 125% of the amount paid, to be redeemed on-or-before December 31, 2021 on sailings through April 2022. This option is automatic and will default if neither of the other options are selected.

Refund: If a refund is preferred, you can opt to receive a 100% refund of their cruise fare. No need to decide now – refund requests are available through December 31, 2020.

Last week, Canada's Public Health Agency announced it was extending its ban on cruises ships with more than 100 people through October 31, 2020.

Canada had originally closed off its borders to all cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers and crew until between April 2 and July 1, 2020.

Without the ability to visit Canadian ports, Royal Caribbean cruises cannot legally offer sailings because of U.S. cabotage laws that require foreign-flagged vessels leaving from a U.S. port of call to first call on a "distant foreign port" before returning to the United States.

Royal Caribbean removes 2020 Alaska and Canada cruises from website

In:
Category: 
31May2020

Royal Caribbean's website no longer has 2020 cruises to Alaska or Canada available to book.

Canada announced on Friday it was extending its ban on cruise ships through the end of October 2020.

While Royal Caribbean has not officially informed guests that sailings that visit Canada between July 1 - October 31 are cancelled, all potentially affected sailings have been removed from being able to be booked on the cruise line site.

When searching for Alaska sailings, no dates in 2020 are available to search, and Brilliance of the Seas 2020 sailings from Boston are all removed, minus a repositioning cruise from Boston to Tampa.

Royal Caribbean indicated a "full update" will be made by Royal Caribbean on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020.

If cruise ships cannot visit Canada, Royal Caribbean cannot legally operate sailings that do not visit a "nearby foreign port" during the sailing, due to the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886.

Thanks to RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Bud Dickson for alerting us to this news.

Haines, Alaska looking for more Royal Caribbean ship visits

In:
Category: 
27May2020

The city of Haines, Alaska wants to expand its relationship with Royal Caribbean in order to get more cruise ships visit the city.

Haines Tourism Director Steven Auch said the city would like to see more ships on a regular basis.

According to KINY radio, Royal Caribbean had an agreement to bring ships to Haines for a few hours when they visit Skagway in summer 2020, but that was before the Alaska cruise season was put on hold.

Mr. Auch believes cruise ships would have a lot of support from businesses and the community to get more visits.

"Royal Caribbean wanted to make sure the community is interested.  Not only did the assembly pass a resolution but we received a flood of emails from the community in support of it," he added.

The 2021 Royal Caribbean schedule has ships headed to Skagway which will spend a few hours per day in the evening in Haines.

Haines would like to see Royal Caribbean make Haines one of their primary stops in 2022.

Will there be cruises to Alaska in 2020?

In:
03Apr2020

Summer cruises to Alaska are one of the highlights of Royal Caribbean's offerings, but the 2020 Alaska cruise season seems in doubt with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

If you have a cruise booked for Alaska this year, here is a look at all the information we know that impacts sailings to The Last Frontier.

No cruises until at least July

Royal Caribbean has already taken a step to cancel all Alaska cruises until July 1, 2020.

On March 24, Royal Caribbean extended its suspension of cruises until May 12, however, they also decided to cancel all Alaska cruises through June 30, 2020.

The decision was based on two primary factors: the ongoing spread of Coronavirus, as well as American and Canadian port closures.

Canadian port closures

A major factor prohibiting any Alaska cruise is the decision of the Canadian government to close its ports to cruise traffic, which means Royal Caribbean's ships cannot enter these ports.

On March 13, Transport Canada announced it would defer the start of the cruise ship season in Canada from April 2, 2020 to July 1, 2020, at the earliest.  This deferral will apply to cruise ships capable of carrying more than 500 passengers and crew members.

There are two primary ports Royal Caribbean relies on for its Canadian cruises: Vancouver and Victoria.

Vancouver is where Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas homeport during the season, while Victoria is a port of call for cruises out of Seattle.

Without access to Canadian ports, it is impossible for Royal Caribbean to operate any cruises, since even sailings beginning in the United States require a foreign port stop at some point in order to be in compliance with U.S. laws.

Port of Seattle delays

In addition to Canadian port closures, the Port of Seattle has delayed its start to the 2020 cruise season.

The Port now expects the launch of the cruise season will be delayed until the resolution of the public health emergency.

As a result of COVID-19, the start of Seattle’s cruise season will depend on the status of the public health emergency and the advice of local, state and federal public health officials.

The CDC has issued a nonessential travel warning and a temporary no sail order for cruise ships, and the State and King County have imposed a number of strict limitations to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Quantum of the Seas to sail to Alaska for the first time in 2021

In:
18Mar2020

Royal Caribbean announced that Quantum of the Seas will sail from the Pacific Northwest for the first time when she calls Seattle home in May 2021.

Quantum will join Ovation of the Seas to offer 7-night cruises, leaving on Mondays.

Quantum’s summer 2021 Alaska itineraries open for sale today. The additional cruises build on Royal Caribbean’s previously announced summer deployment for Ovation, Radiance and Serenade of the Seas, sailing from Seattle, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seward, Alaska.

Quantum of the Seas will begin her Alaska itineraries with a May 10 sailing, and her season will extend through the end of September 2021.

The addition of Quantum of the Seas to the Alaska 2021 season was no simple task, and it appears Royal Caribbean has been working for months to make this change.  A source confirms that the decision to move Quantum was made late last year.

Quantum of the Seas sailed for a brief period out of Bayonne, New Jersey when she debuted in 2014, but since 2015 has been sailing in Asia.

Comparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing in Alaska 2021

In:
24Feb2020

If a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska is in the plans for 2021, then you have four great ships to consider.

Each of these ships offers onboard activities, signature attractions and specialty dining options that will compliment a vacation to the Last Frontier quite well.

Since there are a few different options for a Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise, here is a breakdown of what to expect from each.

Ovation of the Seas

Homeport: Seattle, Washington

Ports: Juneau, Skagway, the Inside Passage and Victoria, BC.

For the third year in a row, Royal Caribbean will send its Quantum Class favorite to Alaska to offer 7-night Alaska Glacier cruises .

Ovation of the Seas is one of the largest ships in the region, offering some of the latest innovations Royal Caribbean is known for onboard the ship. 

  • North Star observational pod takes guests 300 feet above sea level.
  • FlowRider surf simulator
  • Ripcord by iFly sky diving simulator
  • Izumi sushi
  • Chops Grille steakhouse
  • Jamie's Italian restaurant
  • Two70 theater
  • SeaPlex indoor gymnasium that offers basketball, roller skating, bumper cars and more.
  • Indoor pool for all ages
  • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
  • Adventure Ocean childrens programming
  • Nursery for babies
  • Outdoor movie screen

Sailing from Seattle, getting to Ovation of the Seas by air is the least-expensive and most convenient choice of Royal Caribbean's Alaska fleet. Flights within the United States tend to be cheaper to Seattle, compared to Vancouver departures.

Why pick Ovation of the Seas

Ovation of the Seas offers the greatest variety of activities, things to do and dining on a Royal Caribbean ship to Alaska. 

In fact, it is among the newest and largest ships to sail to Alaska, which means guests used to a certain level of amenities on their Royal Caribbean cruises in the Caribbean will not miss a beat.

The indoor pools for guests of all ages and the indoor SeaPlex provide significantly more activities for guests in a place where rain and chilly temperatures are constantly present. Pool deck life on other ships is nearly nonexistent compared to Ovation.

Moreover, the ship sails from the convenient port of Seattle, which makes airfare cheaper and more plentiful for Americans.

    Quantum of the Seas

    Homeport: Seattle, Washington

    Ports: Juneau, Skagway, the Inside Passage and Victoria, BC.

    Quantum of the Seas will sail from the Pacific Northwest for the first time when she calls Seattle home in May 2021.

    Just like Ovation of the Seas, Quantum will offer 7-night Alaska Glacier cruises departing on Mondays. Quantum of the Seas will begin her Alaska itineraries with a May 10 sailing, and her season will extend through the end of September 2021.

    Being a Quantum Class ship, Quantum of the Seas offers a ton to experience onboard, which is perfect for families.

    • North Star observational pod takes guests 300 feet above sea level.
    • FlowRider surf simulator
    • Ripcord by iFly sky diving simulator
    • Izumi sushi
    • Chops Grille steakhouse
    • Jamie's Italian restaurant
    • Two70 theater
    • SeaPlex indoor gymnasium that offers basketball, roller skating, bumper cars and more.
    • Indoor pool for all ages
    • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
    • Adventure Ocean childrens programming
    • Nursery for babies
    • Outdoor movie screen

    Why pick Quantum of the Seas

    Just like Ovation of the Seas, you will not compromise with the onboard experience if you sail on Quantum of the Seas.

    What makes Quantum of the Seas stand apart from Ovation is it is often less expensive than sailing on Ovation of the Seas. This means more money to spend on an amazing shore excursion.

    Quantum sails from Seattle, which makes it easy and inexpensive to get to for most Americans.

    Onboard the ship, you will find plenty to see, do and eat onboard.

    Radiance of the Seas

    Homeports: Vancouver, BC and Seward, Alaska

    Ports: Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Icy Strait Point; the Inside Passage and Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising).

    Radiance of the Seas has been one of the most consistently deployed ships by Royal Caribbean to Alaska, and she returns in 2021 to offer 7-night Northbound/Southbound Glacier cruises, along with 9-13 night Alaskan & Canadian Cruisetours.

    Radiance will alternate her sailings between northbound and southbound routes, which means her sailings begin in one port, and conclude in another port.

    Guests looking to maximize their time in Alaska can opt to add on a landtour that can extend their cruise before or after (or both) to visit destinations inland that would otherwise be unavailable to see on a cruise ship.

    Radiance of the Seas is best known for:

    • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
    • Chops Grille steakhouse
    • Giovanni's Table Italian restaurant
    • Izumi sushi
    • Rock climbing wall
    • Indoor movie theater
    • An abundance of glass walls and windows to provide views of the outdoors
    • Helipad access at bow of the ship for viewing
    • Mini golf
    • Adventure Ocean childrens programming
    • Nursery for babies
    • Outdoor movie screen

    Why pick Radiance of the Seas

    Any cruiser that has been to Alaska multiple times will tell you that Radiance of the Seas has arguably the "superior" itinerary, in terms of what you will see and experience from the ship.  Radiance sails to more ports and sees more glaciers than Ovation of the Seas, which means opportunity to see far more of the impressive and best-known glaciers and wildlife in Alaska.

    A Radiance Class ship is also famous for the views you can enjoy throughout the ship, since glass is incorporated in many places.  Views around the ship while still inside are plentiful.

    If you have the means, an optional land tour can be combined with a Radiance of the Seas cruise to become truly immersed in Alaska.

    Serenade of the Seas

    Homeports: Vancouver, BC and Seward, Alaska

    Ports: Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Icy Strait Point; Sitka, Tracy Arm Fjord (scenic cruising)

    Serenade of the Seas is returning to Alaska for the second year in a row, and she will offer 7-night Alaska Glacier Experience roundtrip sailings from Vancouver, British Columbia.

    An Alaska cruise on Serenade of the Seas will offer sailings that cover 500 miles of shoreline that is the Inside Passage, calling on Ketchikan, Juneau and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, from Vancouver.

    Serenade of the Seas is best known for:

    • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
    • Chops Grille steakhouse
    • Giovanni's Table Italian restaurant
    • Izumi sushi
    • Rock climbing wall
    • Indoor movie theater
    • An abundance of glass walls and windows to provide views of the outdoors
    • Helipad access at bow of the ship for viewing
    • Mini golf
    • Adventure Ocean childrens programming
    • Nursery for babies
    • Outdoor movie screen

    Why pick Serenade of the Seas

    Comparing Serenade of the Seas' sailings to sister ship Radiance of the Seas, the basic difference is Serenade offers a more convenient roundtrip sailing, instead of an open-jaw itinerary.

    Like Radiance, Serenade offers add-on land tours as well to enhance the visit.

    More Alaska cruise info

    Want to learn more about a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska, as well as helpful tips and secrets? Check out these blog posts:

    Video: What to pack for a cruise to Alaska

    In:
    Category: 
    30Jan2020

    Going on a cruise to Alaska means seeing incredible scenery, spotting wildlife, and trying to pack for three seasons in one vacation.

    Many first time cruisers to Alaska struggle with what to bring on their cruise, so here are the important things to bring along for a cruise to Alaska.

    And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

    By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

    So check out the video and then let us know: What is on your must-pack list for an Alaskan cruise?

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