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The worst months to cruise to Alaska

18 Mar 2024
Jenna DeLaurentis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pool deck radiance of the seas

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

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

Related: Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise guide

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

Mendenhall Glacier

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

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

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

View of glacier

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

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

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

Related: How much does an Alaska cruise cost?

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

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

Alaska sunny skies

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

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

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

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

Mendenhall Glacier

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

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

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

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

alaska view from cruise ship

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

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

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

White Pass Yukon Railway

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radiance pulling into Seward

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

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

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

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

The worst months to cruise to Alaska

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

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