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Ultimate Alaska cruise guide

In:
19 Apr 2022

While on an Alaska cruise you can view some of the world’s most majestic scenery, spot amazing wildlife, taste delicious seafood, and learn about Alaska’s history and culture.

Alaska truly is one of those places you have to see to believe, and a Royal Caribbean cruise is a fantastic way to visit the Last Frontier. Planning a vacation to Alaska means knowing where you want to visit, what you want to do in port, and how to save money along the way.

In this comprehensive guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know about planning an Alaska cruise to ensure you have the best vacation possible and make memories to last a lifetime.

In this guide:

Alaska cruise ports: Where can I go on an Alaska cruise?

Cruises to Alaska visit ports primarily along Alaska’s Inside Passage, visiting small, picturesque towns, some of which are inaccessible by road.

Juneau is the most commonly visited Alaska cruise port and state capital. It is the largest town visited in Alaska on a cruise and offers the most excursion options of any Alaska port. Activity highlights in Juneau include whale watching, exploring Mendenhall Glacier, and riding the Goldbelt Tramway up Mount Roberts. Don’t forget to taste local seafood, either, with Juneau’s king crabs, salmon, and halibut among the best in the world.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Ketchikan, the southernmost Alaska cruise port, is a quaint waterfront town surrounded by the Tongass National Forest. The town’s gold rush history alongside its Native culture offers a chance for visitors to experience Alaska through history. Walking through Creek Street can give insights into the town’s historic red light district, and visiting the Saxman Totem Park provides a lesson on the Native Tlingit peoples’ culture and traditions. Kayaking, hiking, the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, and walking through downtown are all great options for a day in Ketchikan as well.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska

Skagway is further north in Alaska’s Inside Passage and, while small, is filled with Alaska's gold rush history. Located on the Lynn Canal, panoramic vistas surround Skagway and the town is a gateway into Canada’s Yukon Territory. Many passengers choose to ride the White Pass & Yukon Railroad, taking visitors through a mountain pass once climbed by those hoping to strike it rich in the gold-rush era. Others may choose to cross the border into Canada, kayak the Lynn Canal, or rent a scooter and explore Skagway on their own.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Skagway, Alaska

Sitka is home to a blend of American, Tlingit, and Russian influences and was once the capital of Russian Alaska. A visit to the Baranof Castle State Historic Site is an option for spending the day in Sitka, which was where the formal transfer ceremony of Alaska from Russia to the United States took place. Strolling along the forest at the Sitka National Historical Park is a popular activity, too, which preserves the site of a battle between the Tlingit people and Russian traders. Downtown Sitka is a charming place to walk around, where you can view the city’s cultural influences on every street.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Sitka, Alaska

Icy Strait Point, while less commonly visited on an Alaska cruise, offers a chance to get closer with nature in a tranquil environment. The port, near the town of Hoonah, is Alaskan Native owned-and-operated, founded by the Huna Tlingit Native Alaskans in 2004. Getting close to nature and wildlife is recommended while in Icy Strait Point, with whale watching and ziplining popular activities to book. Cultural excursions are another option, where guests can learn more about the Huna Tlingit people through song and dance at Icy Strait Point’s Native Heritage Center Theater.

Haines, Alaska is a relatively new port for Royal Caribbean cruises to visit. Located on the way to Skagway along the Chilkoot Inlet, Haines is a small port accommodating just one large cruise ship at a time. Kayaking, hiking, hunting, and wildlife viewing are all popular activities in Haines. Flightseeing tours can be booked from Haines to visit sights like Glacier Bay, one of the most beautiful glaciers in Alaska.

Victoria, British Columbia is a port visited on Alaska cruises departing from Seattle. While in Canada and not Alaska, Victoria still offers an array of landscapes and culture to explore. Visiting the Butchart Gardens is a popular destination in Victoria, where visitors can wander among 55 acres of floral display that date back to 1904.

Visiting glaciers on an Alaska cruise

Outside of port stops where passengers disembark the ship, Alaska cruises offer scenic cruising days to glaciers along the Inside Passage. Passengers do not disembark the ship on these days. Instead, the ship slowly sails within a view of a glacier, often completing a 360 degree turn to ensure all guests onboard can have an excellent view of such amazing scenery. There’s also the opportunity to spot harbor seals, wolves, bears, and other wildlife that call these areas home.

Tracy Arm Fjord is another glacier visited on scenic cruising days. The deep, narrow passage of the Tracy Arm Fjord travels over 30 miles alongside the Tongass National Forest, with the twin Sawyer Glaciers at the end of the passage.

Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier will surely impress cruise passengers, featuring a scenic sail through the Endicott Arm Fjord followed by a panoramic view of Dawes Glacier, a 600 foot tall, half-mile wide active icecap.

Hubbard Glacier is a glacier commonly visited on an Alaska cruise. Located in Disenchantment Bay, Hubbard Glacier is an astonishing sight. The glacier’s ice is 400 feet tall, 76 miles long, and 1,200 feet deep.

Depending on your cruise itinerary, there may be a chance to book an excursion on a scenic cruising glacier day. Some glaciers offer a “Wilderness Explorer” excursion, during which passengers disembark the cruise ship and embark a small vessel, allowing them to get up close and personal to glaciers. Be sure to check if this shore excursion is available on your Alaska cruise.

Alaska cruise departure ports: Which embarkation city should I choose?

Most Alaska cruises depart from either Seattle or Vancouver on round-trip 7-night sailings. Some cruises to Alaska are one-way only, though, starting in Vancouver and ending in Seward, Alaska or vice versa. This is to allow for pre and post-Cruisetours to Alaska or Canada, allowing guests to experience more inland destinations like Denali National Park and Reserve and Banff National Park.

Deciding whether to start your cruise in Seattle, Vancouver, or Seward is one of the first decisions you make when planning an Alaska cruise.

If you’re from the United States and have to fly to an Alaska cruise port, flying to Seattle tends to be cheaper than getting to Vancouver or Seward. A passport isn’t necessary when cruising out of Seattle, either, although it is recommended.

Related: Top 20 tips for planning your Alaska cruise

Cruises departing from Seattle include a stop in Victoria, British Columbia, as the Jones Act requires foreign-flagged cruise ships to visit a foreign port when departing from the United States. Therefore, cruises leaving from Vancouver tend to include more port stops in Alaska itself as there is no legal obligation to stop in Victoria.

Starting your cruise in Seward is recommended for those who plan to travel in the interior of Alaska ahead of time, whether independently or on one of Royal Caribbean’s organized Cruisetours. One-way Alaska itineraries tend to be more port-heavy, as well, as there is less distance to cover than on a round trip sailing.

Smaller ships tend to sail from Vancouver whereas larger ships sail out of Seattle. This is due to the fact that Quantum Class ships are unable to fit under Vancouver’s Lion Gate Bridge outside of a very low-tide. Therefore, ships like Radiance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, and Enchantment of the Seas sail out of Vancouver instead.

Best itinerary on an Alaska cruise

There is no “perfect” itinerary for an Alaska cruise, and one itinerary is not necessarily better than another. While cruise ports do differ in history, local attractions, and size, many ports offer the same type of excursions to book. Activities like whale watching, kayaking, nature walks, museums, and food tours are available in nearly every cruise port.

Likewise, every Alaska cruise will sail through the Inside Passage, meaning you won’t miss the state’s beautiful scenery on any itinerary. Oftentimes it’s just as enjoyable sitting on the pool deck and watching Alaska’s scenery pass by as it is to explore the ports you visit!

Being flexible on an Alaska cruise is important, especially when it comes to your cruise itinerary. High seas and storms can change your port stops at the last minute. Oftentimes another port is visited in place of your original destination. If this happens, be flexible! You may end up enjoying the replacement port even more than you would have enjoyed the original itinerary.

Related: How to choose the right Alaska cruise itinerary

Best time to cruise to Alaska

The Alaska cruise season generally runs from April to October, and each month offers its own advantages and disadvantages. While there is no best time to cruise to Alaska, knowing what to expect in terms of weather, wildlife, and activities is helpful before booking your cruise or shore excursion.

Cruising to Alaska in the early season, April and May, brings lower crowds and prices. Expect to see daily temperatures with highs in the mid 50s and lows around 40 degrees. Less rain is expected during the early season, as April, May, and June are among the driest months of the year in Alaska. (However, this is Alaska, so don’t forget to pack a rain jacket!). Daylight hours will increase each day leading up to the summer solstice, with daylight hours from 4AM to 10PM in late May.

Alaska’s peak cruise season is from mid-June to August, coinciding with the school vacation schedule. During the summer, visitors can expect to see the warmest temperatures and most hours of daylight. More crowds are to be expected during the summer, too, both onboard and in port. Making sure you book shore excursions early is important when cruising to Alaska during the peak season to ensure tours do not sell out.

Related: When should I book my Alaska shore excursion?

The fall shoulder season in Alaska is during the month of September. As days become shorter and temperatures cool down, cruise crowds and prices tend to be lower. Wildlife is harder to spot during the fall and rainier weather is likely. That being said, it’s possible (though not guaranteed) to see Alaska’s northern lights in September, which is a plus for those planning an Alaska cruise in the fall.

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

Alaska cruise activities: What to do in port

Alaska cruises tend to favor outdoor activities, whether getting active on a hike or taking a relaxing canoe ride down a river. Exploring the state’s mountains, glaciers, trails, and lakes is a fantastic way to spend a day in port, although choosing the best tour to book can be a tough decision.

Related: Best things to do on an Alaska cruise

Whale watching tours are one of the most popular shore excursions to book on an Alaska cruise, as many visitors hope to catch a glimpse of some of the largest mammals on Earth. A variety of whales are able to be spotted on an Alaska cruise, including grey whales, killer whales (orcas), and humpback whales.

Certain ports, such as Juneau and Icy Strait Point, tend to offer better whale watching opportunities than other Alaska cruise ports. Be sure to read our whale watching guide before booking your whale watching excursion to ensure you book it at the right port and time of year.

Visiting glaciers is another recommended activity on an Alaska cruise. Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau is the most easily accessible glacier for cruise passengers, where visitors can view the glacier from easy walking trails and visit the Nugget Falls waterfall. Most cruise itineraries to Alaska will include a scenic cruising day at a glacier as well, such as Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier or Hubbard Glacier.

Related: Visiting Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau

Active cruisers will enjoy kayaking through Alaska’s fjords and lakes, hiking on glaciers, and biking through the rainforest. Magnificent scenery can be viewed on day hikes up Alaska’s dramatic mountain peaks or when paddling a kayak near glaciers.

Animal lovers are in luck on an Alaska cruise, too, as they can choose from a plethora of wildlife-viewing excursions. Outside of whale watching tours, cruisers can visit the Fortress of the Bear to observe Alaska’s black bears, the Sitka Raptor Center to learn about the state’s birds of prey, and wildlife cruises during which seals, sea otters, salmon, and eagles may be spotted. Dog lovers will enjoy learning about dog mushing, Alaska’s state sport, and go dog sledding on top of a glacier!

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

Other popular excursion options on an Alaska cruise include:

  • Salmon bakes
  • Cultural tours to learn about Alaska’s Native Tlingit people
  • Ziplining through the rainforest
  • Rafting
  • Fishing
  • Walking around historic towns
  • Relaxing at restaurants and saloons

Which Royal Caribbean ships sail to Alaska?

Royal Caribbean sends 4-5 cruise ships to Alaska each summer, with each ship offering a different layout, amenities, dining options, entertainment, and stateroom options. Some of Royal Caribbean’s smallest and largest cruise ships sail to Alaska, so it’s important to consider which ship works best for you before booking an Alaska cruise.

The following ships will sail to Alaska in 2022 and 2023:

  • Ovation of the Seas (Quantum Class)
  • Quantum of the Seas (Quantum Class)
  • Radiance of the Seas (Radiance Class)
  • Serenade of the Seas (Radiance Class)
  • Enchantment of the Seas (Vision Class - 2023 only)

Both the most technologically advanced, large Quantum Class ships and the smaller, more traditional Radiance and Vision Class ships will offer a wonderful Alaska cruise experience. 

Related: Comparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing to Alaska in 2022 and 2023

Most ships Royal Caribbean sends to Alaska offer plenty of indoor features, meaning the ship can be enjoyed in all types of weather. From each ship’s enclosed, temperature-controlled Solariums to the indoor pools on Quantum Class ships, guests can enjoy their ship even in the chilliest of temperatures.

Quantum Class ships can be a great choice for families, as they feature the SeaPlex, an indoor sports court and arcade where guests can enjoy activities like bumper cars, circus school, rollerblading, basketball, volleyball, and more. They also feature RipCord by iFLY, an indoor skydiving simulator, and the North Star, a 360 degree observation pod taking guests 300 feet above sea level.

Vision and Radiance Class ships offer a more traditional cruising experience. While there are still activities for guests of all ages onboard, there are less options overall for dining, staterooms, entertainment, etc. Smaller cruise ships offer more itinerary options in Alaska, though, visiting destinations such as Haines, Icy Strait Point, and Hubbard Glacier.

Related: What’s the difference between a large and small cruise ship?

Like any cruise ship, there may be a better ship choice for your family depending on what you are looking to do and experience as part of your vacation.

Most people going on an Alaska cruise are most interested in the destinations, with the ship choice a secondary consideration. Given the long hours spent in port, having a ton of activities or whizz-bang features may not be as important.

However, families with kids are always going to appreciate having more options available to them, especially on sea days.

Royal Caribbean Cruisetours: Visit inland Alaska and Canada

In addition to a 7-night Alaska cruise, you can extend your trip with a land-based tour. Known as pre or post-sailing Cruisetours, these extended trips can range between 9 and 13 nights, including the 7-night cruise.

Highlights of a Cruisetour include visiting Alaska’s biggest city of Anchorage, going back in time at a former gold mining boomtown, traveling by train on the scenic Wilderness Express, or marveling at the unbelievably high mountain peaks of Denali National Park.

Cruisetours in Canada are also offered, which feature a comfortable overnight train ride through the Rocky Mountains and visits to Jasper and Banff National Parks, including an overnight stay at Lake Louise.

While Alaska’s Inside Passage provides awe-inspiring views of Alaska’s fjords, glaciers, and mountains,  cruisetours offer the opportunity to see more of Alaska or Canada, which you can book before or after your one-way cruise in Alaska.

Cost of an Alaska cruise

Your budget for an Alaska cruise can affect your ship choice, sailing date, stateroom category, excursion options, and onboard add-ons. Knowing how much Alaska cruises cost in advance is helpful to ensure you can budget and save for such an incredible vacation.

Related: How much does an Alaska cruise cost?

There is no set cost for an Alaska cruise. Cruise fares are dynamic, with prices constantly shifting based on demand. The shoulder seasons of May and September will see the lowest prices whereas June, July, and August see the highest cruise fares.

A 7-night cruise for two adults in an oceanview stateroom on Serenade of the Seas in July may be around $2200 whereas the same cruise in September can be around $1600. Newer ships, such as Ovation of the Seas, will often be priced $300-500 more expensive than smaller ships on a similar itinerary.

Related: 45 ways to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Newer cruise ships have more balcony staterooms available, though, so balcony staterooms on ships like Quantum of the Seas are not usually significantly more expensive than interior or oceanview cabins. As smaller ships like Radiance of the Seas have far fewer balconies available, booking a balcony stateroom on a small ship can be much more expensive than other cabins.

Shore excursion prices can quickly add up while on an Alaska cruise. While booking early will help lock in a low price, some Alaska shore excursions are simply more expensive than others. Activities like helicopter tours, luxury whale watching, and dogsledding can easily cost a few hundred dollars per person.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save money in port. Royal Caribbean offers more budget-friendly excursions that still take you to some amazing destinations. As an example, a wildlife safari and bear viewing tour in Haines will run around $89 per adult, whereas a ride on the White Pass Scenic Railway in Skagway is around $100 per person.

Exploring ports through independent tour operators or on your own is another option. All Alaska cruise ports have complimentary attractions and nature activities right near where the ship docks, so it’s not always necessary to book an excursion.

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

What to pack for an Alaska cruise

Packing for an Alaska cruise does not have to be stressful. A bit of research and preparation will get you far when deciding what to bring on an Alaska cruise.

Packing layers is essential, as the weather can change rapidly… and several times per day! Having the following layers is recommended, especially on port days:

  • Base layer: t-shirt, jeans, yoga pants
  • Warm layer: fleece, down jacket, sweater, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt
  • Waterproof layer: thin waterproof jacket

Related: What should I pack for a cruise to Alaska?

Those cruising to Alaska in the peak of summer may find the weather surprisingly warm, making it comfortable to wear just a t-shirt during the day. Those cruising in the shoulder seasons, on the other hand, will want to make sure they have warm layers in case of inclement weather.

Water-resistant shoes are also a must, as many excursions take guests through hiking trails or near lakes and streams. In addition, water-resistant shoes can be a lot more comfortable and warm on rainy days in port.

Other accessories, such as binoculars and cameras, are nice to have as well, whether when on an excursion or watching scenery from onboard the cruise ship.

When should I book an Alaska cruise?

Booking your cruise in advance is always a good idea, but Alaska cruises are so popular that you really need to book early to get the prices. Ideally, if you can book your cruise at least 12 months in advance, you will likely get some of the best prices.

In fact, when Royal Caribbean announces new Alaska itineraries is the best time to book. Royal Caribbean almost always announces new Alaska cruises in late November for the season to come in two years.

If you want to book a balcony or suite, then booking early becomes even more important. Since so many people value a private balcony on Alaska cruises, demand for these categories is even higher than on Caribbean or European itineraries.

The same can be said for booking shore excursions, too. Booking shore excursions early ensures you can pay the lowest price possible and reserve a spot on a tour on the chance it sells out.

Related: When should I book my Alaska shore excursion?

When should I book my Alaska shore excursion?

In:
15 Apr 2022

Planning an Alaska cruise usually involves booking shore excursions in the state’s magnificent destinations, whether to go whale watching, visit a glacier, or take a train into the mountains, but when is the best time to book an Alaska shore excursion?

Let’s dive into our best tips for booking shore excursions on an Alaska cruise that will help ensure you pay the least amount of money and have the widest variety of tours to choose from.

Book early, reprice later

It’s recommended to book shore excursions as soon as possible after booking an Alaska cruise. This helps ensure the tour you want to book does not sell out and that you pay the lowest price possible for a shore excursion when booking through Royal Caribbean.

Waiting for the price to go down on a shore excursion is never the best idea, as you are always able to cancel a shore excursion and immediately rebook it on the Cruise Planner if you see a lower price.

For example, if you book a whale watching tour for $179.99 and it is later priced at $149.99, you can cancel and rebook without penalty, saving $30 in the process.

Additionally, tours can and do sell out on occasion. Royal Caribbean may sometimes add more tour options or spots to an excursion, but this is not guaranteed. Therefore, if you find something you really want to do while on an Alaska cruise, be sure to book the tour right away.

In fact, some excursions may have various time slots to choose from, with excursions offered in the morning or afternoon. Booking early ensures you can select the time slot that works best with your schedule.

Related: Best things to do on an Alaska cruise

Research excursions in advance

Having an idea of what types of activities and tours are available in each Alaska cruise port is helpful to know before you book your cruise. Not only can this influence your itinerary choice, but it cuts down on research time after booking the cruise, meaning you can save time and book excursions while they are still available.

Juneau, for example, offers some of the best whale watching opportunities on an Alaska cruise whereas Canada’s Yukon territory can be visited on a cruise to Skagway. Ketchikan offers excellent hiking, kayaking, and cultural activities whereas Sitka excursions can provide insights into Russian Alaska and the town’s history.

Deciding which shore excursion to book ultimately depends on your budget and interests. A full-day hike with 3,000 feet of elevation gain can sound like a dream for some passengers and a nightmare for others! Likewise, those prone to seasickness will want to research tours that do not involve small boats, and passengers with kids will want to find the best kid-friendly excursions available.

What to do in Alaska cruise ports:

Related: Alaska cruise whale watching guide & tips

Booking excursions onboard

Every Royal Caribbean ship has an area onboard where guests can inquire and book shore excursions once the cruise begins. On some ships this is a standalone venue whereas on other ships it is located at Guest Services.

We don’t recommend waiting to book excursions once onboard because the price may be higher than booking an excursion prior to your cruise. While there is the advantage of being able to speak directly with Shore Excursions staff about tour options, you will be limited to what excursions still have spots available.

If you already have an excursion booked but have questions or concerns about the tour, though, you can speak to the Shore Excursions staff onboard to get any questions answered or find a different excursion.

Related: Cruising to Alaska: What I did right and wrong

Why are there no excursions available?

If you booked your cruise far enough in advance, excursions and other cruise add-ons may not yet be available in the Cruise Planner. Check periodically in the time leading up to your cruise to see if excursions are listed. Once you see them listed and know what excursion to book, book right away to ensure you get a spot and a good price.

Royal Caribbean may add additional excursions to the Cruise Planner, so check periodically to see if there are any new, exciting excursions available that you want to book.

Can I cancel my Alaska shore excursion?

According to Royal Caribbean’s tour cancellation policy, excursions can be modified or cancelled up to 48 hours prior to port arrival without any penalty. However, tours involving flights, trains, special events, overnight stays, hotel stays, and Private Journeys must be cancelled at least 30 days prior to your sailing date. Cancellation penalties may apply if guests do not adhere to these rules.

If you are booking an excursion through an independent provider, check with the tour operator for cancellation information and policies.

Top 10 things to do in Sitka, Alaska

In:
13 Apr 2022

Sitka is a common port on Royal Caribbean cruises to Alaska, located on the western side of Baranof Island and directly facing the Pacific Ocean. Offering a blend of Russian, Tlingit, and American cultures, Sitka offers everything from breathtaking day hikes to historic monuments.

If your Alaska cruise visits Sitka, it’s a great idea to learn about what activities are offered in town so you can make the most of your day in port. Let’s take a look at the best activities to do on a cruise to Sitka.

Fortress of the Bear

Photo credit: Fortress of the Bear

Fortress of the Bear is a bear rehabilitation facility, offering a second chance at life for orphaned and sick brown bears in Alaska. 8 bears are currently housed at the facility: Toby, Lucky, Chaik, Smokey, Bandit, Tuliaan, Nuka, and Nikishi.

Fortress of the Bear has a three-quarter acre habitat in the Tongass National Forest, and visiting the facility offers the opportunity to get within just 25 feet of Alaska’s brown bears in a natural setting. Visitors can view bears from a large, covered viewing platform and learn about the bears from on-site naturalists.

Visiting Fortress of the Bear is an excellent activity for those hoping to catch a glimpse of Alaska’s brown bears and support an organization working to improve the lives of young bears that have been orphaned.

Spot marine life

A cruise to Sitka, much like other Alaska cruise ports, brings the opportunity to spot majestic wildlife, particularly in the ocean waters.

You’ll find tour operators offering whale watching shore excursions throughout the season. While Sitka may not be as popular for whale watching compared to ports like Juneau or Icy Point Strait, it still offers the opportunity to spot humpback whales, otters, sea lions, seals, and a slim possibility of spotting orcas.

One excursion that may be of interest to animal lovers is the “Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest” tour, which brings guests on a three-hour boat ride through Sitka Sound to spot sea otters, sea lions, porpoise, seals, bald eagles, whales, bears, and other types of wildlife. A naturalist guide accompanies the group as they sail through picturesque mountain scenery, offering insightful information about Sitka’s ecosystem and history.

Kayak Sitka Sound

Kayaking is a sport popular for visitors to Alaska, allowing the chance to explore the state’s breathtaking scenery and wildlife from the water. Kayak excursions in Sitka take visitors to nearby destinations including Sitka Sound and the remote Siginaka Islands.

While traveling via kayak, visitors have the chance to spot wildlife both above and below the water including otters, sea lions, bald eagles, jellyfish, and crabs. Kayak excursions to Sitka Sound even give visitors the chance to kayak with views of Mount Edgecumbe, a 3,201 foot volcano west of Sitka.

Alaska Raptor Center

Bird lovers will enjoy a visit to the Alaska Raptor Center, a rehabilitation facility for injured raptors. The Alaska Raptor Center works to rescue and rehabilitate hawks, owls, eagles, and other birds of prey.

Visitors to the Alaska Raptor Center will have the opportunity to witness these majestic birds fly through the air and learn more about the center’s work to help raptors regain strength and independence before being released back into the wild.

The Alaska Raptor Center can be visited on your own or through a shore excursion.

Walk around the historic town

If you don’t want to plan an organized excursion while in Sitka, consider walking around town on your own. VisitSitka.org provides a list of historic sites to discover around town, from the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society to the Russian Block House.

The Sheldon Jackson Museum makes for an interesting activity in Sitka, which houses a collection of Alaska Native ethnographic material including totems, baskets, masks, and traditional clothing.

The Sitka Sound Science Center is another activity to add to a day exploring town. The center’s small aquarium houses sea urchins, anemones, starfish, rockfish, sculpins, salmon, a wolf eel, and more. There’s also interactive exhibits and a skeleton of an adolescent killer whale on display.

Outside of museums, monuments, and educational centers are plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shopping.

Discover Sitka’s Russian influence

Sitka was originally inhabited by the Native Tlingit people. In 1799, Russian explorers settled Old Sitka, much to the dismay of the Native people. Russians were victorious during the 4-day long Battle of Sitka in October 1804, though, and established a settlement named Novo Arkhangelsk (New Archangel).

The city grew in the early 1800s, and it was officially designated the capital of Russian America in 1808. Russians remained in Sitka until the land was transferred to the United States in 1867, following Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War.

Visitors to Sitka today can discover the remnants of Russia’s influence in Sitka by visiting monuments and tasting Russian cuisine.

The Russian Bishop’s House is a popular spot to visit, which was the residence of Ivan Veniaminov, the first Bishop of Alaska and the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska. Today the Russian Bishop’s House has been transformed into a museum, offering artifact displays and information about daily life in Russian Alaska.

Another popular spot to visit is St. Michael Cathedral. While technically a reconstruction of the original church following a fire in 1966, St. Michael Cathedral is a designated National Landmark giving insights into Russia’s influence in Alaska.

Those looking to taste Russian-influenced cuisine while in Sitka may enjoy Pel’Meni, a casual, quick-serve Russian dumpling restaurant serving beef and potato dumplings topped with curry powder, butter, sriracha, rice vinegar, and cilantro.

Visit the Sitka National Historical Park

The Sitka National Historical Park is a 113-acre waterfront park in Sitka that preserves the site of a battle between the Native Tlingit people and Russian traders.

The park is free to visit and within walking distance from downtown Sitka. It includes nature trails, a visitor center, and a theater showing a video about Sitka’s history.

A popular trail at the park is the Totem Trail, a mile long walkway through the forest that has eighteen hand carved Tlingit and Haida totem poles. Also in the park is the Russian Memorial Trail, leading visitors to the grounds of the Battle of Sitka. Visitors can explore the trails on their own or join a guided walk with a park ranger.

Visiting the Sitka National Historical Park can be a relaxing way to spend time in Sitka while taking in the surrounding nature and history.

Visit the Baranof Castle State Historic Site

Photo credit: Jrozwado

Take in the best views of Sitka from the Baranof Castle State Historic Site, also known as Castle Hill. The formal transfer ceremony of Alaska from Russia to the United States occurred on top of Castle Hill, making the Baranof Castle State Historic Site an integral part of Alaska’s history and transformation.

Castle Hill was originally inhabited by the Native Tlingit people who built a fortification on the land. From 1804 to 1967, the site was occupied by Russians, at which point Alaska was officially transferred to the United States.

As the site is accessible from downtown Sitka, it makes for an easy activity to add to your day exploring the town.

Go on a day hike

Like all of southeast Alaska, Sitka is surrounded by mountain peaks emerging dramatically from the ocean below. Visitors looking to explore Sitka’s nature are in luck, as there are a variety of day hikes to choose from.

A top rated trail in Sitka is the Mount Verstovia Trail, a 4.5 mile out and back hike leaving near downtown Sitka and to the peak of Mt. Verstovia at 3,300 feet. A challenging hike with several thousand feet of elevation gain, this hike is not for beginners, although it offers unparalleled views of Sitka’s scenery. Most hikers will stop at Picnic Rock (2,550’) as the trail to the top of Mt. Verstovia from there is unmaintained. 

If you’re looking for something easier, consider Sitka’s Cross Trail, an accessible gravel-paved trail for cycling and walking. The trail is 3.8 miles each way and connects through Sitka’s neighborhoods and tourist destinations, offering a tranquil place to walk while remaining close to town.

Passengers looking to get extra active may enjoy the “Sitka Bike and Hike” excursion, which brings guests on a 4 mile bike ride along the shore of the Pacific ocean and 1 mile hike through the rainforest.

Eat and drink your way through town

Photo credit: Ludvig's Bistro

A wonderful way to experience Sitka’s cultural melting pot is through food and drink. Cuisines from around the world can be found in Sitka, from upscale Mediterranean to quick-service seafood.

If you’re interested in a fancier sit-down meal while in Sitka, consider dining at Ludvig’s Bistro, the highest rated restaurant in town. Menu highlights at Ludvig’s Bistro include Wild Alaskan Paella Mixta, Rockfish n Chips, Ludvig’s Chowder, Bistro Steak, and Tuscan Scallops.

For a more casual meal, head to Ashmo’s food truck for fish and chips, salmon mac and cheese, and black cod over rice.

Looking for a drink? Check out Ernie’s Old Time Saloon for a variety of beers on tap or a cocktail. On days with particularly cold weather, spend some time in one of Sitka’s coffee shops to warm up with a coffee and pastry.

More information on what to do in Alaska's cruise ports:

Top 10 things to do in Ketchikan

In:
08 Apr 2022

Ketchikan is the southernmost port in Alaska visited on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Known for its fresh seafood, Native culture, and gorgeous scenery, this small town is often a favorite among those cruising to Alaska.

Ketchikan is a port that is easy to explore with no prior planning, as the town’s center is very walkable, offering many dining options, museums, walking trails, souvenir shops, and activities. Nonetheless, it’s always helpful to have an idea of what opportunities are available in your port of call to ensure you have the best day possible.

Here’s a list of our top ten activities to do on a cruise to Ketchikan. From hiking through nature to learning about the town’s history and Native people, there’s sure to be an activity waiting for you in Ketchikan.

Walk through Creek Street

Wandering through Ketchikan’s historic Creek Street is a must on any visit. The town’s infamous red-light district in the past is now a scenic walkway, offering the chance to learn about Ketchikan’s history.

Creek Street is famous for its history and unique over-the-water architecture. The district was founded around 1903, when the Ketchikan Town Council ordered all brothels to relocate to the east side of town. A popular spot for the many young single (and married) men working men in Ketchikan, houses of prostitution were active on Creek Street throughout the first half of the 20th century.

Outside of Creek Street’s fascinating history is a beautiful walk through unique, colorful buildings with shops and museums. As it is located right over a creek, you’ll also have the chance to spot wildlife such as salmon and otters playing in the water.

If you continue out of Creek Street into the woods, you’ll run into Married Man’s Trail. Named after the married men who would take a more conspicuous path to Creek Street as opposed to being seen on the walk in town, this is a short nature trail that offers nice views of town while walking through the forest.

Tour Dolly’s House Museum

The most famous attraction on Creek Street is Dolly’s House Museum. A brothel turned museum, Dolly’s House was the home of Dolly Arthur, a madam working in Ketchikan between the years of 1919 to 1954, at which point prostitution became illegal. Despite the average Ketchikan worker bringing home around $1 per day, it wasn’t uncommon for Dolly to earn $75 or more each day.

Dolly’s House was particularly popular in the prohibition area, when she sold small portions of liquor at a high price. This was common at the houses on Creek Street, as they often had a secret door beneath the house allowing liquor to be brought in. Dolly’s House is still filled with Dolly’s belongings and furniture just as she left it when she moved into a nursing home.

Deer Mountain Trail

Of all the mountain peaks near Ketchikan, Deer Mountain will likely be the one to catch your eye the most. Peering down at the town of Ketchikan and your cruise ship while docked is the pointy, 3001 ft. peak of Deer Mountain.

If you’re looking to break a sweat while in Ketchikan, consider hiking to the peak of Deer Mountain. While a challenging hike, hard work will be rewarded at the top of Deer Mountain, with panoramic views of surrounding islands and mountains, the city, lakes, and rainforest.

The roundtrip hike is around 6.5 miles, but as there is 3000 ft. of elevation gain, hikers should budget 5-6 hours for the roundtrip hike depending on fitness level.

The trailhead is located 1.3 miles from where cruise ships dock in Ketchikan, but it is a very steep walk through town to get there. Taking a taxi to the trailhead is an option for those who have more limited time or who want to save their energy for the trail itself.

Get active

Photo credit: SoutheastExposure.com

Outside of hiking, there are plenty of other ways to get active in Ketchikan. Whether kayaking, ziplining, or canoeing, getting active can be a fantastic way to explore more of what Ketchikan has to offer.

The “Tatoosh Islands Wilderness Kayak Adventure” takes guests on a guided kayak tour of the Tatoosh islands with the chance of encountering bald eagles, seals, whales, sea lions, and otters.

The “Rainforest Canoe & Nature Trail” excursion also brings guests out on the water, but aboard a 37-foot canoe instead of a kayak. Following a canoe ride is a nature hike where visitors can learn more about the native flora and fauna of Tongass National Forest.

Those looking for a more thrilling adventure may be interested in the “Rainforest Canopy and Zipline Expedition,” where guests fly through eight zip lines across a rainforest canopy.

The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

Photo credit: Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

The Great Alaskan Lumberjack show is a lumberjack competition (yes, that’s a real thing), in which Alaskan lumberjacks put their chopping, sawing, tree climbing, log rolling, and axe throwing skills to the test.

Unique, funny, and entertaining, the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is sure to be something you have never seen before.

The lumberjack show is located near where cruise ships dock in Ketchikan and lasts only around an hour, making it a nice option to add to other activities during the day. Tickets can be purchased via a Royal Caribbean shore excursion or at the door.

Learn about Tlingit culture and history

While an Alaska cruise brings stunning landscapes and wildlife, there is also the opportunity to learn more about southeast Alaska’s Native culture and history.

The Saxman Native Village is a small community near Ketchikan and a popular destination for passengers interested in Native culture to visit. Here guests can learn about the Tlingit peoples’ history, culture, and ways of life through a local guide, dance performance, and visit to the Beaver Clan House.

Visits to the Saxman Totem Park are recommended as well, home to one of the largest collections of authentic and handmade totem poles in the world.

Tour the Misty Fjords National Monument

22 miles east of Ketchikan is the Misty Fjords National Monument, a natural array of cliffs, fjords, and 3,000 ft. mountains emerging straight up from the ocean. The area is a dense rainforest complete with waterfalls and glacial lakes, as well as abundant wildlife.

Visiting the Misty Fjords is a popular tour in Ketchikan, as it allows passengers to get a closer look at Alaska’s nature and scenery in a small vessel. Guests travel along the Behm Canal to Rudyerd Bay and view New Eddystone Rock, a 237 ft. pillar of basalt sticking out of the water, along with the stunning scenery and wildlife found on either side of the fjords.

Visiting the Misty Fjords National Monument via seaplane is an alternative tour option. These tours take guests on a small seaplane for an hour-long ride around the Misty Fjords, offering unparalleled views of this remote wilderness area from above. Seaplane tours include a water landing, sure to be a unique experience for most passengers.

Alaska Bear Adventures

Another adventure by air takes guests to scenic, remote destinations near Ketchikan that offer a high chance of spotting bears and other wildlife.

Bear-sighting tours, such as the “Alaska Bear Adventure by Floatplane” tour, include a floatplane ride to Neets Bay followed by a short trail to an observation deck. Here guests have the opportunity to watch bears feasting on salmon in the rainforest.

Due to the floatplane transportation, these tours tend to come at a higher cost than other excursions.

Go fishing

Alaska is a dream destination for avid fishermen, and fishing is possible for cruise passengers visiting Alaska. Local fishing companies can be chartered for a day while in port, offering the chance to customize fishing excursions on the water.

Rockfish, cod, herring, salmon, and halibut are popular throughout the Ketchikan area, although salmon and halibut are the most common. 4 and 6 hour fishing charters are usually available for those arriving to Ketchikan by cruise ship.

Fish processing is available for those who would like to take their catch home and enjoy tasty Alaskan seafood after their cruise is over. Fishing excursions can also be booked through Royal Caribbean directly.

Enjoy Ketchikan’s culinary scene

You’re likely to have some down time during the day in Ketchikan, especially if you did not plan any organized tours for the day. Luckily, the town offers a variety of places to eat and drink, taking in local culture and cuisine while enjoying delicious food.

The Alaska Fish House is sure to be a busy lunch spot while in Ketchikan, offering some of the freshest seafood in town. From fish tacos to salmon chowder and Alaskan king crab, this is the place to eat in Ketchikan if you want to try Alaska’s seafood.

If you’re not interested in seafood, Ketchikan offers other types of cuisines. There’s Chico’s Mexican restaurant which, despite its name, is said to have the best pizza in town. If you’re in the mood for a burger, don’t hesitate to try Burger Queen, a no-frills restaurant serving up fish and chips, big burgers, and milkshakes. 

If you’re looking to enjoy a beer, check out the Bawden Street Brewery. Located a short walk from the cruise ship, Bawden Street Brewery is the only microbrewery in Ketchikan and focuses on ales, saisons, and sours. While a small brewery, it offers a relaxing way to wind down after a busy day in port prior to boarding the ship.

Top 10 things to do in Skagway, Alaska

In:
04 Apr 2022

The small town of Skagway is a popular port on an Alaska cruise. Despite the town’s small size and population of just 1,240 people, Skagway boasts some of the most adventurous activities available on an Alaska cruise.

White Pass train in Skagway

From a journey into Canada’s Yukon territory to rafting the Taiya river and exploring nearby destinations via scooter, cruisers are sure to find interesting activities to do while in Skagway.

If you have an Alaska cruise booked that visits Skagway, here are 10 ideas for what to do with your day there in order to get the best out of this small, scenic town.

White Pass & Yukon Railroad

Perhaps the most popular activity to do in Skagway is book a ticket on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad. There are a few options for taking a train ride in Skagway, with roundtrip train rides between 2-8 hours.

The most common train ride to book is the journey on the White Pass Railroad, which takes passengers north of Skagway in the direction of Canada’s Yukon Territory. Booking the train all the way to the White Pass Summit is recommended for maximum scenery viewing opportunities. 

During the train ride, a local guide tells stories of frontier Alaska, Skagway’s gold rush history, and what life is like in Skagway today. The train cars are heated and offer large windows as well as outdoor observation areas.

Don’t worry about picking the best side of the train once you get onboard. Once the train reaches the top and turns around, passengers will switch seats to ensure everyone gets to see the best views of the scenery from out the window. That being said, if you want the most dramatic views on the way up, the left side of the train would be better.

While it is possible to purchase a train ticket via the White Pass & Yukon Railroad’s website, it is recommended to book directly through Royal Caribbean as this allows you to board the train right near where your cruise ship docks.

Read more about taking the White Pass & Yukon Railroad here.

Visit the Yukon Territory

Skagway is the closest Alaska cruise port to Canada, with the border between Alaska and Canada’s Yukon territory just 14 miles away. Because the Yukon territory is so remote, those looking to visit this part of Canada may want to take advantage of the opportunity to do so while in Skagway.

You can visit the Yukon territory through a guided tour that brings you through stunning wilderness, turquoise blue mountain lakes, and a visit to the tiny town of Carcross across the border. Alternatively, you can opt to rent a car in Skagway and explore on your own.

As a plus, by visiting the Yukon, guests will have the opportunity to take a picture with the iconic “Welcome to Alaska ' sign found at the Canada-United States border.

Read more about visiting Yukon from Skagway here.

Rent a scooter or motorcycle

Photo credit: Skagway Scooters

If you’re looking for a thrilling adventure, consider renting a scooter or motorcycle in Skagway to explore as much as possible in just one day.

Skagway Scooters offers hourly scooter and motorcycle rentals to cruise ship passengers. Renting a scooter, unlike a motorcycle, is possible with a regular driver’s license.

The benefits of exploring Skagway via scooter are that you can explore the town and surrounding areas at your own pace and have complete control over where you go during the day.

A popular route to take on a scooter is to leave the town of Skagway and continue along the waterfront Taiya inlet via Dyea road. Another option is to follow the Klondike Highway north out of town and through the mountains. Whichever route you take, spectacular views will certainly be in abundance.

Skagway Scooters provides a map along with a free lesson prior to your ride in order to ensure all visitors feel comfortable on their scooter before leaving.

Ziplining at Grizzly Falls

Passengers traveling with kids or simply looking for something different may be interested in a zip lining excursion at Grizzly Falls.

Excursions to Grizzly Falls meet at the cruise dock before a scenic drive to Dyea, Alaska. Upon arrival in Dyea, guests will transfer to an all-wheel drive vehicle, ascending a rugged mountain road with views of the rainforest and waterfalls.

After a safety instruction at the top of the mountain, guests will be attached to the zipline and fly through Alaska’s scenery and waterfalls on 10 zip line courses. A series of suspension bridges are also available for guests to take photos and spend more time enjoying the views around them.

Float the Taiya River

Photo credit: Shore Excursions Group

Just west of Skagway is the Taiya River, where rafting and float excursions can be found.

Most float tours are relaxed, with a guide paddling down the river and passengers enjoying the scenic views around Skagway. The guide points out wildlife and native plants throughout the tour along with telling stories of the region’s history.

Some rafting tours are paired with a short hike on the Chilkoot trail, allowing for both an active and tranquil excursion.

Walking tour of Skagway

While the mountains and scenery around Skagway are massive, the town is quite small, making it easy to explore it all in one day. Those without an excursion planned or who have free time to spare after a tour may choose to wander around the historic streets of Skagway.

Visitors to Skagway can explore the town without a plan or use a self-guided walking tour.

Alaska.org has a free, interactive walking tour map available on their website that makes exploring Skagway a breeze. With 23 separate places listed, the map provides details on each of the major sites to see in town.

Food and drinks in Skagway

We recommend booking shore excursions in the morning on an Alaska cruise to allow for free time exploring, eating, and drinking in Alaska’s ports during the afternoon.

One of the best ways to wind down after a busy day in Skagway is to enjoy the town’s restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops.

Skagway Brewing Company, a three story building with a 1,500 square foot beer garden, tasting room, gift shop, and restaurant, is a great place to do this. The brewery’s signature beer is the Spruce Tip Blonde Ale, made from young spruce tips hand-picked during Alaska’s spring season.

The on-site restaurant has an extensive menu of fresh Alaskan seafood, classic American sandwiches, burgers, and pastas.

If you're looking for a restaurant specializing in seafood, be sure to check out the Skagway Fish Company. Their signature dish is the Jumbo Alaskan King Crab Leg. Halibut, shrimp, oysters, crab cakes, salmon burgers, fried chicken, and steak are available as well.

Those with a sweet tooth are in luck on a visit to Skagway, too. From homemade fudge at the Alaskan Fudge Company to Alaskan fry bread at Klondike Doughboy, there’s sure to be a dessert to try as you walk around town.

Go on a day hike

Skagway is surrounded by hiking trails, making the town’s surrounding area a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

The most well known hiking trail in Skagway is also the most historic, the Chilkoot Trail. This is a 33-mile path that was an expedition route during Alaska’s gold rush era, in which thousands of people crossed from coastal Alaska into interior Canada. The route was originally followed by the native Tlinget people in the area, who showed the route to gold prospectors in the late 1800s.

While cruise ship passengers do not have time to do the entire trail in one day, of course, shorter day hikes of the Chilkoot trail can be a fun active, adventure that provides a historical perspective as well.

Beyond the Chilkoot trail are several other day hikes located near the center of Skagway.

The Lower Reid Falls and Gold Rush Cemetery hike is a beginner-friendly trail that takes visitors to the Lower Reid Falls waterfall just outside of Skagway. The hike is approximately four miles roundtrip and leaves from downtown Skagway, making it an easily accessible trail that should take around one hour each way.

If you’re looking for something a bit more strenuous, try the trail to Lower Dewey Lake. The trailhead starts just to the east of downtown Skagway and begins with a steep, 500 ft. elevation gain ending at Lower Dewey Lake. Spectacular mountain and water views surround the trail as you loop the lake for the next 3.6 miles.

Helicopter and glacier tour

While helicopter tours to Mendenhall Glacier are popular in Juneau, cruising to Skagway also brings the opportunity to see Alaska’s scenery from above.

Helicopter tours leaving from Skagway generally visit either Chilkat Glacier or Denver Glacier. Prior to landing on the glacier is a scenic tour during which visitors can admire Skagway’s spectacular scenery, whether the rainforests, waterfalls, or snowy mountain peaks. Upon landing on the glacier, most tours will either include a guided glacier hike or dog sledding expedition.

While helicopter tours are not the most budget friendly shore excursion in Alaska, they offer a way to see the state’s scenery from a completely different perspective and are sure to make for a memorable experience in port.

Visit Davidson Glacier via wilderness safari

The “Glacier Point Wilderness Safari” excursion takes guests on a journey to Davidson Glacier, located southeast of Skagway. This excursion can be a great tour option for those who would love to get up close and personal to a glacier without going on a helicopter.

To arrive at Davidson Glacier, guests take a catamaran through the Lynn Canal. It’s possible whales will be spotted during the boat ride and a naturalist will be onboard with the group to share information about the area's wildlife and nature.

Once guests have reached the glacier, they will board a 31-foot voyager canoe to get up close and personal with the glacier.

Top 10 things to do in Juneau, Alaska

In:
01 Apr 2022

Nearly all Royal Caribbean cruises to Alaska include a stop in Alaska’s picturesque capital city of Juneau. Whether hiking at Mendenhall Glacier, booking a whale watching tour, or traveling by floatplane, Juneau and the city’s surrounding area boast a variety of outdoor and cultural activities for cruisers to enjoy.

While Juneau is Alaska’s second most populous city, its population is only around 32,000, making it a comfortable destination to explore on a day in port. Surrounded by ice fields, mountains, and waterfalls, Juneau is a favorite port for many on an Alaska cruise.

Choosing what to do in Juneau on a cruise can be a difficult decision in the planning process, as the city offers a wide range of options for all interests and fitness levels. Let’s take a look at the best activities to do on a cruise to Juneau.

Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area

One of the most popular places visited by cruise passengers in Juneau is Mendenhall Glacier. While the glacier can be accessed via helicopter or boat, most visitors arrive by road to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area.

The recreation area is quite big, with five short walks and hikes to choose from as well as an informative visitor’s center. Stunning views are available in every direction, whether spotting eagles in the trees, marveling at huge mountain peaks, or taking in glacier views across the lake.

A recommended trail at the recreation area is the trail to Nugget Falls, a 377 foot waterfall located near Mendenhall Glacier. This is a popular trail due to its short length of just 1.5 miles roundtrip on a gravel path.

You can purchase a tour that visits Mendenhall Glacier, but we recommend taking a taxi or shuttle bus so you can explore on your own time. A shuttle bus can be found right outside the pier once you dock in Juneau, with round trip tickets around $45 per person.

Helicopter glacier tour

Alaska’s nature is breathtaking, and a great way to truly grasp the scale of Juneau’s mountains and glaciers is by helicopter. The most common spot for helicopter tours in Juneau is Mendenhall Glacier.

Helicopter tours usually include either a guided walk on the glacier or a dog sledding excursion. Guests on a helicopter tour will wear glacier boots for a secure walk around the ice and marvel in the spectacular scenery of Juneau’s icefields.

Helicopter tours are not cheap, with prices around $340 per person or more. Despite the higher cost, though, they are often a highlight of an Alaska cruise, offering a completely unique experience that cannot be replicated at the majority of cruise ports around the world.

Whale watching excursion

Juneau is one of the best Alaska cruise ports for whale watching, with humpback whales being most commonly spotted. Around 600 humpback whales call the waters near Juneau home in the summer months, leading to many sighting opportunities for cruise passengers.

Whale watching tours are offered through Royal Caribbean shore excursions or can be booked directly through local providers. Some tours combine whale watching with tours of Mendenhall Glacier, salmon bakes, and additional wildlife viewing opportunities.

Tour operators will often give a $100 cash refund (or partial refund) to guests on the chance that no whales are spotted on a tour. During the summer months, though, spotting whales on a tour is very common so a refund is rare.

Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway

The Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway brings riders from 56 feet above sea level to 1,800 feet up Mount Roberts (about halfway up the mountain). 

At the top of the tram, passengers can view downtown Juneau, the Chilkat Mountains, Gastineau Channel, Douglas Island, and Admiralty Island.

The Goldbelt Tram provides more than just a scenic view once at the top, though. On top of the mountain are hiking trails, tourist shops, a Nature Center, and a restaurant. An accessible trail is available as well.

Ambitious hikers may want to hike the rest of the way up Mount Roberts via a trail near the top of the tram which leads to the peak.

The Goldbelt Tramway is located about a five minute walk from the ship in Juneau, making it a convenient activity for guests to enjoy. The tramway is $45 for adults, $30 for children ages 3-12, and free for children 2 and under. The price includes unlimited rides up and down Mount Roberts throughout the day. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the ticket counter once in Juneau.

Red Dog Saloon

Established in Juneau’s mining era, the Red Dog Saloon is an iconic place to grab a drink near the cruise port in Juneau. Filled with eclectic decor and memorabilia including a historic gun, paper currency from around the world, and a walrus oosik, the Red Dog Saloon is a fun place to hang out while in Juneau.

The menu at the Red Dog Saloon includes three signature drinks: the Duck Fart shot, Glacier Margarita, and Miners Scratch Hard Lemonade. In addition to signature drinks are beers, wine, liquors, cocktails, and nonalcoholic drinks. A food menu is available as well.

Hanging out at the Red Dog Saloon is great to do on days when the weather is particularly cold and rainy, or before you board the ship after a long day exploring Juneau.

Take a floatplane

Taking a floatplane from Juneau while on a cruise can take you to destinations further away from the city less visited by tourists. They also give a completely different perspective of Alaska’s scenery than what you can see from the cruise ship.

Some floatplane excursions take off in Juneau, fly around the area, and land back in Juneau. Others, such as the “Brown Bear and Wildlife Search by Floatplane” excursion, include a stop at a remote stream with high concentrations of brown bears. The plane lands near the stream, allowing guests to catch close-up glimpses of brown bears in their natural habitat before flying back to Juneau.

With aerial views of the Juneau icefield, glaciers, waterfalls, rainforests, and mountain peaks, flying on a floatplane is sure to be an unforgettable excursion.

Kayak near glaciers

Juneau’s nearby scenery provides some of the best kayaking experiences visitors can experience anywhere, and kayaking excursions are a popular choice for those looking to get active.

Popular kayak spots in Juneau include the Mendenhall wetlands and Smuggler’s Cove. Guests hoping to get a closer look at Mendenhall Glacier will be in luck on a kayak, with some tours offering loops of Mendenhall Glacier Lake.

Kayaking can also get visitors closer to wildlife, offering the opportunity to spot whales, seals, salmon, otters, and more from the water.

Go hiking

Outdoorsy cruisers will love the access to both beginner and challenging hiking trails near downtown Juneau. Aside from the excellent trails at the top of the Goldbelt Tramway and Mendenhall Glacier are other day hikes to consider.

One of these is Perseverance Trail, a 4.6 mile out and back through the forest, offering views of the valley and waterfalls along the way. The hike’s trailhead can be accessed via a steep, 1 mile uphill walk or taxi.

Those looking for a shorter, more casual walk may be interested in the Gold Creek Flume Trail, a 1.4 mile out and back hike. Much of the trail is on a boardwalk and is suitable for beginners and kids while still offering wonderful views in all directions.

Learn about and experience dog sledding

Dog sledding tours are a popular excursion choice for animal lovers in Juneau, offering the chance to learn more about dog mushing, Alaska’s state sport.

It’s estimated that dog mushing has been a reliable form of transportation in the Arctic for thousands of years, though the earliest archaeological evidence of dogsledding is dated around 1,000 A.D. Today the sport is popular throughout Alaska, with the state home to the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a long distance sled dog race traveling from Anchorage to Nome.

While dog mushing is traditionally a winter sport, there are still ways to experience it while on an Alaska cruise.

Some tours will begin with a helicopter tour over Juneau, landing on Mendenhall Glacier for a dog sledding ride on top of the glacier. Others will travel via shuttle bus to Juneau’s Musher’s Camp, where visitors can meet and cuddle with husky puppies before a mile-long ride through the forest.

The helicopter and dog sled combo tends to be on the higher end of excursion prices, whereas a visit to the Musher’s Camp comes at a more reasonable price.

Read more about a sled dog excursion here.

Eat seafood

Photo credit: Tracy's King Crab Shack

While Royal Caribbean cruise ships offer fantastic dining options, don’t forget to taste local cuisine while on an Alaska cruise, specifically Alaskan seafood.

The most popular restaurant for visitors to try is Tracy’s King Crab Shack. Located right near the cruise port, Tracy’s King Crab Shack, as the name implies, focuses on dishes made with king crab. From king crab legs to crab bisque and crab cakes, this is a go-to spot for many hoping to taste the freshest Alaskan seafood around.

Photo credit: The Salmon Spot

If you’re hoping to try salmon while in Juneau, look no further than The Salmon Spot. While it’s easy to miss this small food stand at first glance, The Salmon Spot offers fresh salmon patties, salmon burgers, and salmon chowder. As a plus, it’s conveniently located near the cruise port, making for a quick, delicious meal before heading on an excursion or back onboard.

Another option for tasting Alaskan salmon is through a salmon bake. Some excursions in Juneau may include an Alaskan salmon bake, where guests can dine on salmon, chicken, and side dishes in the rainforest.

Alaska cruise whale watching guide & tips

In:
31 Mar 2022

A whale watching tour is one of the most sought after shore excursions on an Alaska cruise, and for good reason. Viewing some of the largest mammals on earth in their natural habitat is breathtaking and one that will be a highlight for many on an Alaska cruise.

Whale watching in Juneau

Deciding where to book a whale watching excursion, what to bring with you, and what to expect can be confusing, so here are a few tips and tricks to make your whale watching experience as unforgettable as possible.

Types of whales to see in Alaska

There are four main types of whales to see in Alaska: humpback whales, gray whales, killer whales (orcas), and beluga whales.

Humpback whales are the most common to spot on a whale watching excursion, and are most prevalent in June and July.

If you’re traveling to Alaska in the early season, you may be able to spot gray whales as they migrate further north. Gray whales are most likely to be seen in late April to early May.

Killer whales, or orcas, can sometimes be spotted on a whale watching excursion as well. Orcas are quick moving animals, though, and have more unpredictable movement patterns than humpback whales, so they are less common to see.

Beluga whales are unlikely to be spotted on an Alaska cruise, as they spend their time further north in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean. Occasionally they may go as far south as Turnagain Arm near Anchorage, but it is highly unlikely you will spot a beluga whale on a typical southeast Alaska cruise itinerary.

Other whales, such as minke and fin whales, are present in Alaska although far less common to see on a whale watching excursion.

Best ports for viewing whales in Alaska

While it’s possible to view whales in any Alaska cruise port, two of the most popular whale watching destinations are Juneau and Icy Strait Point. Both locations are home to feeding grounds for humpback whales, making sightings extremely common.

Juneau is the most popular whale watching port. Not only is it a more common port stop than Icy Strait Point, but it offers the biggest chance of spotting whales.

That being said, Juneau is a port offering an abundance of other activities to enjoy, from hiking at Mendenhall Glacier to the Goldbelt Tram Cable Car and drinking in saloons. Some guests opt not to book a whale watching tour in Juneau and instead book it in a port where there are less excursion and activity options.

In Icy Strait Point there are fewer excursions to choose from, leading many to save whale watching for their day in this port instead.

Seward, Alaska is another recommended port for whale watching. If you are doing a one way cruise to or from Alaska, consider a whale watching tour in Seward before or after the cruise. This can be a good option for guests interested in other excursions while on the cruise but still wanting to book a whale watching tour before heading home.

Although not in Alaska, Victoria, British Columbia can be another excellent port for whale watching.

It’s common for whale watching excursion providers to offer a guaranteed whale sighting. If you do not end up seeing a whale, they may offer you a partial cash refund. Be sure to read your tour operator’s policies before booking to be aware of the details.

Whale watching in your cruise departure port

If you don’t want to book a whale watching tour while in Alaska, consider booking one in your cruise departure port. Both Seattle and Vancouver offer whale watching opportunities, so this can be a nice way to add another day of excitement to your vacation before or after a cruise.

Plus, by booking a whale watching tour in your departure port, more time is opened up while in Alaska to book other types of shore excursions.

Viewing whales from the cruise ship

If a whale watching excursion is out of your budget, you are prone to seasickness on small vessels, or you prioritized other activities while in port, you may still be able to spot whales while on an Alaska cruise.

While the ship is sailing through the northern Pacific waters, whales can sometimes be spotted from the ship. This can happen in the open ocean on the way to or from Alaska, or while the ship is sailing through the Inside Passage.

When whales are spotted by the captain, an announcement will be made on the loudspeaker to let guests know there are whales near the ship. When this happens, expect a flood of guests quickly heading to the outside decks eager to catch a glimpse of whales.

The best spots onboard to watch whales from the ship are from a private balcony, Promenade deck, upper pool deck/running track, and outdoor area at the Windjammer.

Bring binoculars

It’s a good idea to bring binoculars on an Alaska cruise regardless of if you booked a whale watching tour or not. Alaska’s scenery is so vast that sometimes a closer look through binoculars at mountains, glaciers, and wildlife is helpful.

The same is true on a whale watching excursion. Pack a pair of binoculars with you for your tour to ensure you can catch the best glimpse of whales if they happen to be far away. While a binocular is not necessary for every person in your travel party, having a pair to share with the group is recommended.

Get your camera ready

Make sure your camera and phone battery are fully charged before your whale watching excursion. Photography aficionados may want to bring a full camera setup with a telephoto lens to ensure they can capture the best pictures possible.

Whichever camera you bring, though, remember to spend some time away from the lens and view whales without the use of a screen or camera viewfinder. While capturing photos is something you may value, it’s just as important to spend time during the excursion away from your electronics.

Seasickness medication or remedies

Whale watching boats are usually quite small and can encounter choppy waters. Even on the smoothest of days, the rocking of a small boat can make some passengers feel seasick.

If you are prone to seasickness, don’t hesitate to pack seasickness remedies with you for your whale watching excursion, whether medication or natural remedies.

Whale watching excursions with other activities

Some guests may want to go whale watching but combine the tour with other popular activities in port. This gives the opportunity to not only spot whales, but experience what else a port has to offer.

In Juneau, for example, you can book the “Mendenhall Glacier, Whale Watching, and Wildlife Quest” excursion which brings you on a whale watching tour followed by free time to explore Mendenhall Glacier. This can give guests the best of both worlds by experiencing two of Juneau’s most popular attractions.

In addition, some excursions may not be listed as a ‘whale watching excursion’ but may offer the opportunity to spot whales. In Icy Strait Point, guests can book a kayaking excursion that brings them on a tour through the waters of Port Frederick. This is a route commonly followed by humpback or killer whales, so passengers will have a chance of spotting whales while on a kayak.

Planning a cruise to Alaska? Be sure to read more of our tips for an Alaska cruise:

What it's like to go on an Alaska cruise in the early season

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

How much does an Alaska cruise cost?

How different is an Alaska cruise vs Caribbean?

What should you bring on an Alaska cruise?

In:
26 Mar 2022

Packing for an Alaska cruise can seem daunting at first, but in reality, it just requires a little more preparation than going on a cruise elsewhere in the world.

Once you have an idea of the clothes you should pack for an Alaska cruise, you may wonder which gadgets and accessories to bring. Items like a waterproof bag, binoculars, and sunscreen can make your Alaska cruise experience a lot more enjoyable.

This list will help you decide which items to bring on an Alaska cruise to enhance your experience and avoid any potential mishaps along the way.

This post contains affiliate links, however, all opinions expressed are exclusively my own. As an Amazon Associate, Royal Caribbean Blog receives commission from qualifying purchases.

Water resistant day pack

It’s important to have a waterproof or water resistant day pack to bring with you in port. The weather can rapidly change in Alaska, with rainfall often sporadic and unpredictable.

Likewise, many shore excursions on an Alaska cruise take place near the water. Whether on a whale watching tour or kayaking, keeping your electronics and valuables dry is a must.

Water resistant backpacks should be sufficient in most scenarios, although 100% dry bags can be a safe option, too.

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

Binoculars

Binoculars may not be an item used regularly at home, but they are especially nice to have on an Alaska cruise.

You never know what the day’s sights may bring in Alaska. Whether you want to catch a closer glimpse of a glacier, eagle, or even a bear, you’ll be grateful to have binoculars.

Binoculars are a budget-friendly item and the most basic pair will work for the majority of cruisers. Here is a pair of binoculars we recommend taking with you to Alaska.

Camera for an Alaska cruise

Alaska is a dream destination for photography enthusiasts. Spectacular landscapes and wildlife are in abundance on an Alaska cruise, tempting many cruisers to pack their best camera equipment.

If you already have a camera at home, be sure to pack both a wide angle and telephoto lens to ensure you can capture the best of Alaska’s scenery and wildlife.

If you are looking to purchase a camera to take with you on an Alaska cruise, here are a few entry-level cameras to consider:

It’s not necessary to buy a whole set of professional camera equipment before a cruise, though. Most new phones have excellent picture quality, and there are even attachable lenses made specifically for phones that can improve wide angle or close-up shots.

Waterproof case for cellphone

Similar to a water-resistant daypack, having a waterproof case for a cellphone can be handy. With a waterproof case, you’ll be able to take photos and videos of Alaska’s scenery or wildlife no matter the weather conditions. 

You can wear these waterproof cases around your neck, too, which allows for easy access to your phone’s camera when on an excursion.

Snacks

Port days in Alaska are often long and active, so having a few snacks packed in your bag can be helpful. While taking fresh food off the ship is generally a no-no, bringing pre-packaged snacks like granola bars and trail mix is permitted.

Packing snacks is a great tip if you are traveling to Alaska with kids, too, as they may get hungry and cranky during the day.

Sunscreen

While Alaska may have unpredictable weather and rain during your cruise, the sun can get strong in the peak summer months. Sunlight also reflects off of snow and ice, so spending a few hours outside on a sunny day can lead to an unfortunate sunburn later on. 

You won’t need as much sunscreen as you would use on a Caribbean cruise, but having a small pack of sunscreen with you will be convenient when the sun comes out.

Mosquito repellent

You may come across mosquitos during your Alaska cruise, especially if you are traveling to Alaska in the middle of summer. And while they likely will not be swarming around the ship while at sea, you run the risk of being bit while in port.

The good news is that mosquitos are more prevalent at dawn and sunset, which coincides with the times guests are on the ship instead of on land. However, it’s still a good idea to pack insect repellent with you for an Alaska cruise to help mitigate any mosquito issues. 

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. 

Seasickness medication

An Alaska cruise can be more likely to encounter high winds while at sea compared to a Caribbean or European cruise. Rougher seas are more common in the shoulder seasons of May and September compared to the summer, but can happen at any time.

Even in the roughest sea conditions, most passengers will be fine. However, if you are prone to seasickness or are nervous, it might be a good idea to bring remedies with you to Alaska, such as a Sea-Band or dramamine. 

Cards, games, and books

Just like all Royal Caribbean cruises, there are endless activities and events happening throughout the day. Alaska cruises tend to have a more relaxed vibe, though, with many passengers opting to sit near a window or outside and watch the scenery pass by.

Bringing a pack of playing cards or games can be a great way to pass time as you sail to Alaska and through the Inside Passage.

A few nice spots to play cards while at sea are at the back of the Windjammer between meal times or at a quiet lounge onboard, such as the Schooner Bar or Viking Crown Lounge.

Packing a book is also a great item to bring with you on an Alaska cruise. While Royal Caribbean ships have libraries onboard, book selections are limited (recently the onboard library has been closed due to Covid-19 protocols).

Peaceful reading spaces onboard are at Two70 on Quantum Class ships and at the lounges in the aft of deck 6 on Radiance Class ships.

What it's like to go on an Alaska cruise in the early season

In:
16 Mar 2022

Royal Caribbean’s Alaska cruise season runs from May to September each year. And while there is no best time to go on an Alaska cruise, cruising to Alaska in May or early June is considered the early season.

Serenade of the Seas Alaska

Choosing when to go on an Alaska cruise depends on your schedule, budget, and preference, and each month offers a different experience. No matter which month you visit Alaska, you’re likely to be amazed by the state’s vast landscapes, historic towns, and wildlife. 

The early cruise season in Alaska is often overlooked due to the fact that it does not fit in the school vacation schedule and that temperatures may not be as high as in the peak of summer. However, visiting Alaska in the spring brings plenty of opportunities to explore the state’s vast landscapes, culture, and wildlife.

Here’s an overview of what to expect on an Alaska cruise in the early season.

Weather in Alaska in the spring

Passengers with a cruise booked to Alaska in the early season will encounter some of the best weather found all year. While the spring does not bring the highest temperatures of the Alaska cruise season, there is less rain than other times of the year.

Cruise passengers can expect to see lows of around 40 degrees fahrenheit and highs in the mid-50s. And while April, May, and June are the driest months of the year in southeast Alaska, packing a waterproof jacket and water-resistant daypack is still important to ensure you remain dry and comfortable while exploring.

The early season brings plenty of daylight, too. Depending on the port you’re visiting, daylight hours in May can range from 4AM to 10PM. This provides just enough sunlight to fully enjoy each day without having your sleep patterns drastically altered.

Wildlife

The early season in Alaska brings ample wildlife viewing opportunities. As the snow melts and days become longer, the wildlife comes to life as well.

The annual salmon run begins in May each year, when heaps of salmon swim upstream to spawn. This can be viewed near creeks and streams in each Alaska cruise port, although there may not be as many salmon to see compared to later in the season. Bears may be spotted during May as well, as they tend to hang out near streams during the salmon run.

Those with a cruise booked very early in the season (late April or early May) may have the chance to spot gray whales on an excursion, as they are usually the first whales to arrive each season. In May, guests have a better chance of spotting killer whales in the Alaskan waters compared to other months.

Cruising to Alaska in the early season will also bring fewer mosquitos than in late June through August.

Cheaper prices and less crowds

Cruising to Alaska in April, May, and early June is in less demand than the peak summer season. Because the temperatures are not as high and school is still in session, prices tend to be lower for the first few weeks of the season.

As an example, the price for a balcony cabin on a 7-night cruise to Alaska on Serenade of the Seas in May is $815 per passenger, whereas it is $1,193 in July. This isn’t necessarily always the case, as cruise prices can fluctuate greatly from sailing to sailing, so there is always a possibility of scoring a good deal during the peak season, too.

Shore excursions may be priced slightly lower during the early season, and onboard capacity can be lower as well. With fewer kids and families onboard, the ship and ports you visit may be quieter than during peak season. 

Cruise Tours

Passengers who want to spend more time exploring Alaska may decide to book a pre or post-cruise land tour. These are 2-6 night land-based tours before or after a 7-night cruise that visit a selection of destinations in inland Alaska or Canada.

The most popular tours are those that visit Denali National Park and Reserve in addition to other Alaskan towns such as Fairbanks and Talkeetna.

If you are planning to do a Cruise Tour, it’s important to note that they usually do not operate until late May. As Denali National Park and Reserve opens to visitors in late May each year, the earliest cruise with a Cruise Tour usually departs the last week or two of May.

Cruise Tours that visit destinations in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada operate earlier in the season, though, with some offered in early May.

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

In:
17 Feb 2022

An Alaska cruise provides the opportunity to spot some of the state’s remarkable wildlife. Luckily, the peak time to view Alaska’s wildlife coincides with the cruise season.

From April to September, wildlife viewing opportunities are plentiful throughout the state. Whales, bears, otters, sea lions, eagles, and other marine and land animals can be spotted during your Alaska cruise.

The best time and place to view each animal depends on many factors including migration patterns, hibernation, and food sources. If viewing wildlife is important to you on an Alaska cruise, it’s a good idea to know when and where you can view Alaska’s wildlife best.

Bears

Alaska is home to more bears than any other state. Black bears, brown bears, and polar bears call Alaska home. While polar bears do not migrate far enough south to see while on a cruise, passengers may have the opportunity to spot black or brown bears.

The best time to see bears in Southeast Alaska is from July through early September. 

Each summer season, Alaska sees an influx of salmon swimming upstream to spawn. And where there are salmon, other types of wildlife are often present. Bears can most easily be spotted feeding on salmon nearby creeks and streams. 

One of the best ways to see bears in Alaska is through one of Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Tours. By going inland and touring destinations such as Denali National Park and Preserve, your chances of spotting grizzly bears and black bears are higher. Plus, you will have the opportunity to spot wildlife such as caribou, moose, and wolves as well.

On an Alaska cruise to Sitka, guests can book the “Best of Sitka” tour which goes to the Fortress of the Bear for wildlife viewing. This is a bear rescue center whose mission is to rescue bear cubs that are orphaned or sick and bring them back to health.

Visitors at Fortress of the Bear can get within 25 feet of Alaska’s brown bears to observe the animals’ behaviors and personalities.

There are more exclusive bear watching excursions available as well. Those with a high interest in seeing bears in their natural habitat can choose to visit Admiralty Island near Juneau.

Passengers will be taken to the island’s wilderness via a float plane. Since the island is home to one of the highest density populations of brown bears and eagles in the world, wildlife is likely to be spotted.

Of course, those hiking in Alaska or exploring the outdoors without a guide should be extra vigilant and knowledgeable on bear safety.

Whales

The types of whales you are likely to spot on an Alaska cruise depends on the month of your sailing.

If you’re sailing to Alaska in the peak summer months of June and July, you are more likely to spot humpback whales. An estimated 500 humpback whales call the Alaska Inside Passage home during the summer. 

While technically part of the dolphin family, many cruise passengers are eager to spot a killer whale in Alaska. The best time to see Killer whales on an Alaska cruise is in May and June. They are commonly found near Ketchikan, Juneau, and Seward. 

Grey whales are prevalent in southeast and southern Alaska in the late spring. Those with an Alaska cruise booked in April or early May are more likely to see these whales, as they begin migrating to the colder northern Alaska waters in late April.

Spotting a blue whale while on a cruise to Alaska is quite rare, but those lucky enough to see them will most likely be cruising during the late summer months of July and August. Blue whales tend to hang out in the open water as opposed to near the shoreline.

Sea Lions and Otters

Steller sea lions do not migrate when the weather is frigid, so they can be spotted year-round in Alaska. The best time to see sea lions, though, is early in the spring until the end of July.

You can spot Steller sea lions throughout southeast Alaska, but it is recommended to take a wildlife tour excursion for the best chance of seeing these animals up close.

Both playful and adorable, sea otters can also be spotted on an Alaska cruise. Sea otters do not migrate long distances, so they can be spotted year-round in Alaska. The best place to find sea otters while on a cruise is in streams and creeks near the ocean. 

Eagles

There are an estimated 100,000 bald eagles in the world, with around 30,000 calling Alaska home. A bald eagle is one of the most recognizable birds in the world, and many people are eager to spot an eagle during their Alaska cruise.

An eagle’s diet consists mainly of fish, so the best place to spot an eagle is in the trees near a body of water. Luckily, an Alaska cruise means that you are nearly always surrounded by tall trees and water, so be sure to get out your binoculars.

You can spot eagles year-round in southeast Alaska, as the temperate rainforest provides an ideal habitat for the bird. They are most commonly seen during the salmon run in mid-summer, when they feed off the scraps of fish left by bears.

You may also wish to take an excursion to view eagles. The “Sitka Cultural Discovery and Alaska Raptor Center” brings guests to visit the Alaska Raptor Center, where injured eagles and other birds are rescued and rehabilitated.

Outside of eagles, there is no shortage of bird watching opportunities on an Alaska cruise. Southeast Alaska is a temperate rainforest, and with that comes hundreds of species of birds that migrate to and from the state each year. There are an estimated 470 species of birds in the state.

Tips for spotting wildlife in Alaska

Wildlife can be found not only while exploring a port, but also at sea. Oftentimes, the captain will announce on the livespeaker when whales or other wildlife can be spotted from the ship. When this happens, expect a crowd of excited passengers to form on the outside decks hoping to catch a glimpse of the animals.

An important tip when hoping to view wildlife in Alaska is to remain flexible. Tour operators can never guarantee you will see a pod of orcas, humpback whales breaching, a grizzly bear eating salmon in the stream, or an eagle soaring through the trees.

Wildlife can be unpredictable, especially if you are cruising to Alaska in the shoulder season. However, you may also be surprised by how easy it can be to find wildlife, too.

Whether you’re eating lunch on a sea day and the captain announces there are whales swimming alongside the ship, walking in Ketchikan and suddenly seeing otters playing in the stream, or traveling in a bus and passing an eagle in its nest, you never know when and where you will spot wildlife on an Alaska cruise.

The best tip we can give, though, is to pack binoculars with you on your Alaska cruise. Having the ability to view the animals “close-up” when you are technically far away will make your wildlife viewing experiences much more personal and exciting. 

Read more tips and information about cruises to Alaska:

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