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Best Alaska cruises

10 incredible cruises to Alaska and Canada

A s many cruise regulars will know, voyages can take you to some of the world’s most exciting and far-flung corners. Here is our pick of some of the most exciting adventures you can have on the water in Alaska and Canada.

Prices were correct at the time of publication and include flights unless otherwise stated.

1. The Canadian Rockies and Alaska

Among the established mainstream operators to the region, Princess Cruises carries more passengers than any rival, thanks to the number of departures – no fewer than 113 this year, across six ships. Departure ports include Seattle, Vancouver, Whittier and San Francisco. Among its attractive offerings are “Land and Sea” options. These include the Denali Explorer (the most popular such trip, which takes you to Alaska’s Denali National Park); independent pre-booked tours (On Your Own); luxury land tours (Connoisseur); and trips to more remote regions, such as the Kenai Peninsula (Off the Beaten Track).

Its most tempting variation for 2017 is the Heart of the Rockies on Star Princess, a 14-night trip that combines a seven-night Voyage of the Glaciers cruise, northbound from Vancouver to Whittier, with seven nights in the Rockies (Calgary to Vancouver) and a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer train.

From £4,006 per person excluding flights; departures in June, July and August 2017 (0843 374 4444;

2. Alaska to Vancouver

Seabourn returns to Alaska in 2017 after 15 years’ absence with six “ultra-luxury” itineraries. Some of these itineraries have predictable ports of call (Juneau, Ketchikan), but more unusual and interesting stops (Sitka, Haines, Wrangell) are available on longer voyages (usually aboard the 450-passenger Seabourn Sojourn). These include the 14-day Ultimate Glacier and Fjord Adventure from Seward to Vancouver. But the key to any Alaskan cruise, where ports are often secondary, is excursions, and here Seabourn is part of a trend for more expedition-style excursions that allow for hiking, kayaking, “wet” Zodiac landings and more specialist on-board lecturers and guides. These excursions will be available at Tracy Arm and Misty Fjords, two of Alaska’s great scenic highlights. There is also a four-day fully escorted Denali Experience, featuring luxury accommodation and travel in a flightseeing plane in Denali National Park.

An 11-day Ultimate Alaskan Sojourn departing in June 2017 from Vancouver costs from £3,699 per person excluding flights (0843 373 2000;

3. Alaska learning cruise

Luxury line Regent Seven Seas has also invested in its excursions, and its ships. The Seven Seas Mariner, for example, was revamped in 2014 and is in Alaska for many of the company’s 20 sailings here this year. More to the point, in a region where there is much to learn, Regent has an acclaimed lecturer, Terry Breen, on every cruise: he has 20 years’ experience of sailing the Inside Passage to Alaska.

Regent also works with the Smithsonian Institution on its Smithsonian Collection, a varied programme of lectures, discussions and Q&A sessions with a range of on‑board experts.

A 14-day Northern Frontiers cruise with Terry Breen and the Smithsonian Collection costs from £7,619 per person, round trip from Vancouver, departing May 24 2017 (02380 682280;

4. Anchorage to Vancouver

Crystal Cruises has 11 straightforward-looking Alaskan cruises this year, either round trip from Vancouver or one-way Vancouver to Anchorage (the latter is an advantage as you see more of Alaska and have the chance to extend your trip from Anchorage). But its cruises score highly in several respects: its Serenity and Symphony ships, for example, are excellent mid-size options (about 1,000 passengers each) and rate highly for food and service. The August 8 departure from Vancouver to Anchorage also segues straight into a 32-day Northwest Passage cruise from Anchorage to New York, which, like Seabourn, will also offer expedition-style excursions: some 100 passengers completed both voyages on the equivalent 2016 cruise.

A seven-day Vancouver to Anchorage cruise, departing August 8 2017, costs from £1,878 per person. Excludes flights (020 7399 7601;

5. Alaska and Vancouver Island

Norwegian Cruise Line offers another point of difference in 2018 when it takes delivery of a new 4,000-passenger ship, Norwegian Bliss, specially designed for Alaskan cruising. Furthermore, its home base for the summer cruising season will be Seattle (many Alaskan cruises depart Vancouver), offering the chance for pre- or post-cruise exploration of the city and its Pacific Northwest hinterland. The ship’s seven-day itineraries will also include two less-frequented ports of call: Skagway in Alaska and the pretty city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, Canada.

A seven-night round trip from Seattle on Bliss, with weekly departures from June to September, costs from £939 per person. Excludes flights (0333 241 2319;

6. Disney family cruise

If you’re travelling with children to Alaska and want a cruise with a good range of family-friendly ships and shore activities, then Disney Cruises has introduced a seven-night Alaskan itinerary for 2017, round trip from Vancouver. The addition of the Hubbard Glacier provides one of the region’s great scenic highlights, and though most other ports of call are unexceptional, Icy Strait Point, with its big zip-line and whale-watching opportunities, is particularly child-friendly. Disney’s Junior Ranger educational programme and its on-board facilities for children and teenagers are major considerations on Alaskan cruises, where two or more days at sea are the norm.

From £6,167 for a family of four sharing a cabin, departing July 17 (0800 171 2317;

7. Child-friendly expeditions

Lindblad Expeditions is known for its comfortable small-ship (62-passenger) expedition-style cruises operated in conjunction with National Geographic. With more than 30 years’ experience in Alaska, its educational element is especially strong, and recently the line has made a big effort to attract families. It offers child-friendly menus, movie nights and children-only science and leisure activities. It has three dedicated Family Cruise departures this year between Juneau and Sitka, with additional educational programmes and other child-friendly activities. Lindblad also offers an exceptional variation on standard itineraries by including three days in Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands en route from Seattle to Sitka. The islands are renowned for their wildlife, unspoilt landscapes and Native Canadian heritage.

An eight-day Family Cruise departing July 2 2017 costs from £4,800 per person; a 15-day Alaska with Haida Gwaii cruise from £8,900 per person, departing May 13). Excludes international flights (001 800 397 3348;

8. Juneau boat journey

Among the region’s smallest family-friendly operations is Alaskan Small Ship Cruises, whose luxury 12-berth boat, MV Sikumi, specially built for Alaskan waters, offers cruises in and around Juneau, but can also be privately booked for tailor-made, multi-generational family groups. Meals and excursions can be customised (and are inclusive), and the Sikumi also offers all the benefits of small-ship cruising in one of the most diverse areas of the Inside Passage region.

Six days from £4,850 per person or £36,500 full charter, with sailings between June and September. Price excludes flights (001 970 217 6359;

9. Off-the-beaten track Alaska

Alaskan cruises usually mean big ships, which in turn means calls at the same big ports regardless of the company involved. Small-ship and expedition cruising itineraries allow for a wider range of destinations as well as a pathway to scenery inaccessible to larger vessels.

Silversea’s 12-day cruise from Seward to Vancouver aboard the 130-passenger Silver Explorer visits parts of the region virtually unheard of on other cruises, among them Yakutat; Elfin Cove, which lies on the northern shore of Chichagof Island; the Inian Islands, a group of scenic islands located in the frigid waters of Icy Strait; Sergius Narrows and Metlakatla.

From £6,345 per person, departing August 25 2018, excluding flights (0844 251 0837;

10. New Viking cruise from Vancouver to Alaska

Viking Cruises is building more ocean ships, and makes its Alaska debut in 2019 with the yet-to-be-launched, 930-passenger Viking Spirit – and the cruises are already selling fast. The 10-night route is from Vancouver to Seward or vice versa, and takes in a good array of ports and scenic areas. Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau and Skagway are among the more familiar names, but there’s a few more unusual ones too. At Icy Strait Point, the old fish canning factory has been restored; sailing around Yakutat Bay will reveal one of Alaska’s formidable glaciers; Valdez is a former Gold Rush port. Along the way there will be chances to take scenic flights and even fish for salmon.

From £4,385 per person departing May to August 2019 (0800 298 9700;

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Other articles

How to Travel From Vancouver to Alaska, USA Today

How to Travel From Vancouver to Alaska Travel Tips

The way to Alaska from Vancouver offers some of the most spectacular scenery in North America. (Photo: Jupiterimages/ Images )

Related Articles

Traveling the little developed and sometimes remote areas between Vancouver and Alaska can be a life-changing experience. Mountain ranges, meadows, forests and glaciers become scenic highlights along a trip into North America's "last frontier." Since the trip spans two countries, special attention needs to be paid to using public services such as ferry systems and highways. Additionally, unpredictable weather and freezing temperatures during late fall to late spring months limits your travel options as roads can be treacherous and cruises move to warmer ports.

Step 1

Depart Vancouver, heading north on Provincial Route 97, known as the Cariboo Highway, to Prince George, British Columbia and the junction of Highways 16 and 97. This leg of the trip takes approximately 10 hours.

Merge onto BC Highway 97 north. Follow the highway through Fort Nelson, British Columbia and Whitehorse, Yukon to the Yukon Territory/Alaska border. Depending on conditions, this segment will take approximately 20 hours.

Continue north into Alaska on Yukon Highway 1, also known as the Alaskan Highway. This highway terminates in Delta Junction, Alaska. From Delta Junction you can continue on the AK-2 to Fairbanks.

Step 1

Book a cruise originating in Vancouver. Alaskan cruises are offered May to September by Princess Cruises, Holland America, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Cruise the British Columbia and Alaskan coasts and inside passages. Itineraries vary, but your cruise may stop in several Alaskan ports, such as Skagaway, Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau.

Disembark at Whittier, Alaska, just outside of Anchorage, or Seward, Alaska, depending on your ship.

Typical Weather

Step 1

Make a reservation and pay your deposit 14 to 28 days in advance for a ferry to Alaska. Ferries depart outside of Vancouver in Bellingham, Washington or Prince Rupert, British Columbia for more than 30 Alaskan destinations.

Drive south on Highway 97 to Bellingham, Washington, then merge with the I-5 Freeway. You will cross the Canada/U.S. border. Alternatively, you can drive north on Provincial Route 97 to Prince George, British Columbia. Merge onto Provincial Route 19/Trans Canada Highway to Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

Board an Alaska Marine Highway System ferry at either the Port of Bellingham or Prince Rupert.

  • Check the ferry schedule closely before booking your trip to make sure you are on the right route to your desired destination in Alaska. Not all trips stop at all ferry terminals.
  • Reserve your cabin at the same time that you reserve your ferry trip. If you don't want to sleep in a cabin, the ferry has a public recliner lounge area for sleeping.
  • Check road conditions with the British Columbia Highway Road Report and the Alaska 511 Road Report before driving to Alaska to avoid running into road closures or weather hazards.
References About the Author

Nadia Nygaard has been writing and editing since 2005. She is published in "Farm and Ranch Living" and has edited projects as diverse as grant proposals, medical dissertations and tenant law handbooks. She is a graduate of the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in English and women's studies.

Photo Credits
  • Jupiterimages/ Images

  • Attribution: NancyHeise; License: public domain

  • Vancouver to Alaska Cruises

    Vancouver to Alaska Cruises

    Experience Breathtaking Beauty Crusing From Vancouver to Alaska

    There are few experiences in the world that offer the rich luxury and the breathtaking natural beauty as cruising from Vancouver to Alaska. From Vancouver’s well-deserved honor as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, to the rugged mountains and friendly towns of Alaska, and the unbelievable glaciers in between, there is a reason that the Inside Passage, as the Vancouver-Alaska cruise is known, is one of the most popular cruises in the world.

    Travelers can choose from a number of stops, cruise companies, travel itineraries and sights when they book one of these amazing Inside Passage cruises. Major cruise lines that travel from Vancouver to Alaska include Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Cruise West, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Peace Boat, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Silver Sea.

    Cruise Ship at Canada Place

    Whether you choose the popular 7-day cruise, the more relaxing 14-day cruise or any number of days in between, an Inside Passage cruise is sure to be the trip of a lifetime. With the number of cruise lines and ships leaving Vancouver Port daily, it’s possible to find a trip custom-made for your interests and lifestyle. See the awesome Northern Lights, watch wildlife in one of the world’s last untouched wilderness areas, witness ancient glaciers shifting as they tower above you, explore friendly Alaska cities like Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikanand perhaps spend a few extra days in Vancouver, a city rich in culture, arts, entertainment and shopping.

    One of the wonderful things about cruising from Vancouver to Alaska is that once you’ve chosen your cruise, the hard part is over. Once you’re on board, everything is taken care of. There are no hotel reservations to worry about, maps to decipher, or serious decisions to be made. You can relax and let the staff take care of you while you enjoy the scenic wonders of the Inside Passage.

    Canada and the U.S. have made it easy for travelers to cruise between Vancouver and Alaska, but travelers should be prepared. U.S. citizens can no longer travel with just a picture ID. A passport, or both a government-issued picture ID and a birth certificate are now required for everyone over 18. U.S. citizens under 18 must show a birth certificate. For U.S. citizens, there is also a “U.S. Direct” program that shortens the customs process. Details about this special program are available from your cruise line.

    Travelers from most other countries, including the U.K, must have a valid passport or Visa to enter Canada and the United States. Information on documentation requirements for specific countries is available for Canada, or from your cruise line.

    Vancouver Port officials recommend that travelers allow one hour for processing of customs and international travel paperwork. Typically this process is less than an hour, but you wouldn’t want to miss the cruise of a lifetime because of a long line at customs.

    See the blue-green glaciers, witness wildlife in action and take the trip of a lifetime – Cruise from Vancouver to Alaska!

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  • Best cruise ship for round trip from Vancouver? Alaska Forum

    Best cruise ship for round trip from Vancouver?

    I'd like to go on a round trip cruise from Vancouver on one of the major cruise lines. I'm a bit overwhelmed with the vast number of choices. Originally I was going to book Celebrity Infinity but it is out of Seattle and I heard the views are not quite as good on the cruises to/from Seattle.

    Could you please recommend a cruise that leaves/returns to Vancouver?

    One of the complaints about the Seattle cruise is that it has to stop in Victoria which people often think of as a wasted stop, especially because it's later in the day and not very long. The other complaint is when the cruise doesn't follow the inside passage.

    You really need to look at the itineraries and see which ports appeal to you. You should go to the Cruise Critic web site; read the cruise reviews, port reviews, ship reviews, etc. Might help you with your decision.

    I have nothing but the highest praise for HAL from our trip last year. One of the advantages with HAL is that their ships are about half the size of the ships used by the other lines and this allows them to navigate closer to the glaciers. Another is that their ships have a fantastic forward viewing lounge called the Crows Nest which is one deck higher than the Navigation Deck with large glass windows all around. We found it to be a great location to spend time on the cruising days viewing the passing scenery.

    Service was absolutely first rate, the service staff were fantastic, great port times (last year at least), and access to Glacier Bay NP which I understand is not available with some other cruise lines.

    I didn't realize that the HAL ship was much smaller than the others (Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, etc).

    I did read that the HAL ships had more comfortable mattresses and the rooms were all internet ready.

    I went on cruise critic but most everybody seems to love alaska but not love their cruise ship.

    Ha ha. Now you might see why I rarely go to CC.

    HAL ships generally have a capacity of about 1200 passengers, while nearly all the others have 2200 or more.

    You have to get the cruising mentality out of your head for Alaska and consider it a very comfortable way to travel to some great places and see fantastic sights. The ship is just a method of transportation.

    Also consider that you will only be on the ship for the cruise to the first port, then the ship skips from port to port overnight, so sea time is minimal in the seven days.

    Unfortunately, from my previous experiences with CC, many there do not seem to understand this and may be looking for a different shipboard expeience.

    Just my opinion.

    Thanks for your insight, Camden.

    I'm actually not a cruise fan to begin with. I just want to be comfortable (doesn't have to necessarily be luxurious).

    Being able to get closer to the glaciers and have a better view trumps any amenities that a cruise ship may have.

    Right now I'm leaning towards HAL Zuiderdam's round trip cruise from Vancouver.

    Hey, we think alike. On board stuff was of not much interest to us either for our first (and probably last) cruise. I did attend a very interesting talk by the ships' engineer about the technology of the modern cruise ships, and also very much enjoyed a performance of cultural dances and songs by the crew members, who were mainly from the Philippines, representing all the different cultures of their areas.

    I am not saying that HAL is any better than other cruise lines, mate, only that our experience with them was absolutely great.

    We just got back from a WONDERFUL Alaskan cruise aboard the HAL Ryndam. I can't say enough good things about our experience. Service was outstanding, the sailing was outstanding, the scenery was outstanding.

    We were parked next to some larger ships in several Ports, I was glad that we chose HAL. It was a more intimate experience. We never felt like we were overcrowded.

    I would also like to commend HAL for their organization. We rarely waited in lines, we were off and back on the ship quickly, luggage made it to our room quickly and made it to our final destination just as they said it would.

    Ya' know, for every bad experience there is a good and it is all about what *you* are looking for in your cruise experience. For me, if/when we cruise again I will be checking out a HAL cruise.

    Is HAL Holland American Cruises? I'm thinking about a cruise to Alaska next summer and your description of this cruise line sounds good.

    HAL = Holland America Line

    Just returned from an Alaskan cruise aboard the Zuiderdam - round trip from Vancouver. You might want to take note that a lot of the cruise lines have opted out of sailing from Vancouver and will be cruising from Seattle instead for next years sailings in 2010. - I can't remember if Holland America is one of them. Disney Cruise lines have just announced they will be sailing round trip cruises out of Vancouver but starting in 2011. Also note depending on what time of year you are planning on cruising will depend whether or not you will get to cruise near the glacier's in Glacier Bay as cruise ships are not allowed in the bay during certain times of the year due to the harbour seals having their pups and using the glacier as their nursery.

    Best cruise ship for round trip from Vancouver? - Alaska Forum

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