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Compare: 12 Cruise Ships in Alaska (Photo: Holland America Line)

Compare: 12 Cruise Ships in Alaska

It's hard not to revert to hyperbole with Alaska. Here lie more than enough towering snow-capped mountains, breathtaking calving glaciers, extraordinary wild animals and quirky (if overtrafficked) frontier towns to wow hundreds of thousands of cruisers annually. With more than two dozen mainstream ships plying Alaska's island-filled southeast region from May to September, passengers certainly have options.

This chart features a representative from every major line in the mainstream and luxury markets, from the intimate and upscale Silver Shadow to new mega-ships like Norwegian Bliss. (For those who'd prefer to cruise with no more than 100 passengers, see our rundown of small-ship cruise lines in Alaska.)

Each of the 12 ships, which were hand-picked based on their popularity among all cruise options in Alaska, caters to a different type of traveler. Families on a budget might find the most "bang for their buck" onboard Carnival Legend, while couples looking to splurge can pamper themselves with Crystal Symphony's lavish suites and all-inclusive fine dining.

Familiarize yourself with the biggest contenders' itineraries, exclusive regional offerings and more to determine which is the best Alaska cruise option for you.

Note: Click on a ship name to get more info and read hundreds of cruise reviews.

Updated January 4, 2019

Cruise Ship in Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska

It's hard not to revert to hyperbole with Alaska. Here lie more than enough towering snow-capped mountains, breathtaking calving glaciers, extraordinary wild animals and quirky (if overtrafficked) frontier towns to wow hundreds of thousands of cruisers annually. With more than two dozen mainstream ships plying Alaska's island-filled southeast region from May to September, passengers certainly have options.

This chart features a representative from every major line in the mainstream and luxury markets, from the intimate and upscale Silver Shadow to new mega-ships like Norwegian Bliss. (For those who'd prefer to cruise with no more than 100 passengers, see our rundown of small-ship cruise lines in Alaska.)

Each of the 12 ships, which were hand-picked based on their popularity among all cruise options in Alaska, caters to a different type of traveller. Families on a budget might find the most "bang for their buck" onboard Carnival Legend, while couples looking to splurge can pamper themselves with Crystal Symphony's lavish suites and all-inclusive fine dining.

Familiarize yourself with the biggest contenders' itineraries, exclusive regional offerings and more to determine which is the best Alaska cruise option for you.

Note: Click on a ship name to get more info and read hundreds of cruise reviews.

Nieuw Amsterdam at sea

Nieuw Amsterdam

You won't find any rock climbing walls or quirky pool games on Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam, which prides itself on dining and a relaxed, traditional cruising experience. Service and food quality in the complimentary main dining room are top-notch, but for-fee restaurants like Pinnacle Grill (which now features a Sel de Mer pop-up venue once per week) and Tamarind make for splurge-worthy romantic dates. The ship tends to appeal to a more mature crowd, though you will see more families and multigenerational groups on Alaska cruises.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: Seattle, Seward and Vancouver
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Victoria, BC; Skagway; Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm Fjord (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • Park ranger and native Huna interpreters on Glacier Bay sailings
  • Junior Rangers program teaches kids about local wildlife
  • Alaskan salmon dishes available every night

Ship Wows

  • Live music abounds at the Queen's Lounge, Lincoln Center Stage and Billboard Onboard
  • Culinary Arts Center offers cooking classes by Food & Wine Magazine
  • Main pool has a retractable roof for inclement weather


Ruby Princess Sky Deck

Ruby Princess

Thanks to a dry dock that welcomed new features like the Salty Dog Gastropub, Princess Cruises' Luxury Bed Collection and the "Voice of the Ocean" show (a spin-off of NBC's "The Voice"), Ruby Princess offers a fresh take on "The Love Boat" line. Pair that with fleetwide staples such as a lavish adults-only sun deck, Movies Under the Stars (complete with popcorn and cozy fleece blankets) and a partnership with the Discovery Channel, which offers a slew of activities for adults and kids alike, and you've got something for everyone.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: Seattle and Los Angeles
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Victoria, BC; and Glacier Bay National Park (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • Local cuisine from restaurants like Tracy's King Crab Shack in Juneau and Skagway's Bonanza Bar and Grill served onboard
  • Top-deck party with live music, dancing under the midnight sun and more
  • Puppies in the Piazza (sled dog puppies come onboard for a day)

Ship Wows

  • Broadway productions by award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz
  • Chocolate-lovers can enjoy special desserts, wine tastings and spa treatments
  • Hidden gem: Terrace Pool offers breathtaking wake views

Photo Tour of Ruby Princess


Norwegian Bliss

An Alaska-themed hull design, alfresco restaurants and a 20,000-square-foot observation lounge are just a few of the reasons Norwegian Bliss is one of the best cruise ships to sail The Last Frontier (as well as the biggest). The 4,000-passenger ship, which debuted in April 2018, will boast a handful of the features found on its sisters, Norwegian Escape and China-based Norwegian Joy, as well as its own unique attractions. With a variety of dining, entertainment and recreational options, cruisers never get bored or hungry.

Itineraries

  • Homeport: Seattle
  • Ports: Juneau; Skagway; Ketchikan; Victoria, BC; and Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm Fjord (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • Educational guides teach little ones about the state's nature and culture in the kids' club
  • Alaskan craft beers served in bars throughout the ship
  • Park ranger-led narration in Glacier Bay

Ship Wows

  • "Jersey Boys" Broadway-style show headlines main theater
  • Activities include go-kart racetrack, laser tag and waterslides
  • Select solo cabins feature virtual ocean views


Radiance of the Seas in Alaska

Radiance of the Seas

With a variety of dining venues, great kids' programmes and adrenaline-pumping activities, Radiance of the Seas offers Royal Caribbean's best in a more modest size. The 2,112-passenger ship features the line's much-loved Giovanni's Table and Izumi Japanese Cuisine, a 200-square-foot outdoor movie screen, rock climbing wall and a nursery for babies and toddlers. Passengers range from young couples and singles to families and active retirees.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: Seward and Vancouver
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Icy Strait Point; the Inside Passage and Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • Bike and Brew: biking, drinking and glacier viewing excursion
  • Onboard naturalist offers insight into the region's flora and fauna
  • Crew doles out flannel blankets and hot cocoa on deck

Ship Wows

  • All-weather, indoor, adults-only pool
  • Activities include a rock climbing wall and mini-golf
  • Exterior glass elevators have great views

Photo Tour of Radiance of the Seas


Celebrity Solstice in Victoria

Celebrity Solstice

Anyone familiar with Southampton-based Celebrity Silhouette, will feel right at home on Celebrity Solstice (the first in class), which has one of the best interior architecture designs at sea, and passenger flow is excellent. While the ship's passenger-to-space ratio is standard for the industry, the ship never feels crowded. Celebrity is known for its fabulous dining options and bars, but perhaps the unique feature of this or any other ship is the Lawn Club. This full half-acre of real grass on the top deck offers some of the best views onboard in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. The space includes an alfresco dining venue serving up fresh barbecue, games like bocce and mini-golf, and lounge chairs perfect for soaking up sun when the weather permits. Celebrity typically attracts sophisticated young adults and middle-aged couples, though you'll notice more families during the summer holiday.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: Seattle and Vancouver
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Tracy Arm Fjord; Victoria, BC; and the Inside Passage (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • Naturalists onboard for high-interest areas
  • Local performers bring Alaskan culture aboard
  • Blankets and hot chocolate for nature viewing

Ship Wows

  • Award-winning bars specialise in crafted cocktails
  • Boutique dining options, from crepes to spa cuisine
  • Entertainment options combine singing, dancing and aerial acrobatics

Photo Tour of Celebrity Solstice


Disney Wonder

The 1,754-passenger Disney Wonder is the pinnacle of family-friendly Alaska cruising. The line has tailored the experience onboard (kids' programming, dining) and off (unique, if pricey, shore tours) to appeal to cruisers of all ages. The ship, with its ocean-liner-style exterior and Art Nouveau interior, makes a statement: "elegance" and "family friendly" don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: Vancouver
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Icy Strait Point; Tracy Arm Fjord and Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • "Frozen" deck party includes themed dining, dancing and games
  • Educational Junior Ranger program for kids
  • Fun photo op: characters dress up in outdoor gear

Ship Wows

  • Most cabins feature split bath setup
  • Unique dining scheme: rotate among three venues with the same waiters
  • Multiple adults-only spaces for daytime and after-hours fun


Carnival Legend

Carnival Legend

Full of "Fun Ship" touches like the Camp Ocean kids club and the Green Thunder water slide (pray for warm, sunny weather), Carnival Legend is a great value for families on a budget. The 2,124-passenger ship offers a variety of free alternative restaurants, activities and entertainment. Munch on celebrity chef Guy Fieri's famous burgers or indulge in Caribbean fare at the Key West-inspired RedFrog Pub after a game of mini-golf. Competitive families will also enjoy Hasbro, the Game Show, during which groups can compete against each other in a series of games for a chance to win prizes.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: Seattle and Vancouver
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Victoria, BC; and Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm Fjord (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • Onboard naturalist alerts passengers to wildlife sightings
  • Special menu with local delicacies
  • Educational games and crafts teach kids about Alaskan culture

Ship Wows

  • Adults-only Serenity hot tubs are perfect to soak up views
  • Seuss at Sea program for kids with parade, story time
  • Dine at Bonsai Sushi, one of our favorite sushi restaurants at sea

Photo Tour of Carnival Legend


Silver Shadow in Alaska

Silver Shadow

The 382-passenger Silver Shadow is an intimate, all-suite, all-inclusive luxury vessel with one of the most generous space-to-passenger ratios in the industry. There's also one crew member for every 1.3 passengers, who are accommodated in cabins ranging from 287 to 1,435 square feet. Suites are larger than the industry average, when it comes to luxury cruise lines, and bathrooms include double-basin vanities, Bvlgari amenities and full bathtubs and separate showers. Cabins aside, the ship features high-quality dining and included extras like select wine and spirits. Passengers are mostly well-to-do, older adults.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: Seward and Vancouver
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Sitka; Wrangell; Homer; Victoria, BC; the Inside Passage; Hubbard Glacier and Tracy Arm Fjord (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • Complimentary backpacks, water bottles and parkas for excursions
  • Speakers include noted historians and conservationists
  • Local Alaskan seafood is incorporated into evening menus

Ship Wows

  • La Dame is the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea
  • All accommodations are suites, most of which have balconies
  • Butler service included in every suite category


Seabourn Sojourn

Seabourn Sojourn

Luxury meets adventure on Seabourn Sojourn's Alaska cruises. The 462-passenger all-inclusive ship boasts a country club atmosphere with pampering service, and itineraries are packed with scenic cruising and lesser-known ports. Even better, you don't have to worry about missing any of the views, as all the ship's cabins face the outside. While restaurants and public spaces are opulently designed, the ship maintains a comfortable, friendly vibe.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: Seward and Vancouver
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Sitka; Wrangell; Haines; Inian Islands; Rudyerd Bay (Misty Fjords); Icy Strait Point; Tracy Arm Fjord or Endicott Arm (scenic cruising); Prince Rupert; Klemtu and Alert Bay, BC

Alaska Exclusives

  • Ventures by Seabourn naturalists lead guided kayak and Zodiac tours
  • "Caviar on Ice" deck party (twist on Caviar in the Surf)
  • Passengers receive complimentary all-weather jackets

Ship Wows

  • Restaurants offer dishes by Michelin-star chef Thomas Keller
  • Six outdoor whirlpools are perfect for soaking up the views
  • Intuitive service and all-inclusive fares


Seven Seas Mariner exterior

Seven Seas Mariner

Every cabin on the 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner is a suite with a balcony and at least 252 square feet of space. The upshot: This is an all-inclusive luxury ship attracting both mature couples and affluent families. Passengers shell out up-front, but enjoy included amenities such as return airfare, a luxury hotel stay, shore excursions, speciality restaurants, alcoholic beverages and gratuities.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: San Francisco, Seward and Vancouver
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Sitka; Skagway; Icy Strait Point; Wrangell; Astoria (Oregon); Prince Rupert; Victoria, BC; Hubbard Glacier; Tracy Arm Fjord; Sawyer Glacier; the Inside Passage and Outside Passage (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • Award-winning lecturer Terry Breen onboard most Alaska sailings
  • Enriching kids' program for ages 5 to 17
  • Alaskan menu items include halibut and king crab legs

Ship Wows

  • 1:1.6 passenger-to-crew ratio means more personalized service
  • Dining options include steakhouse and French restaurant
  • All bathrooms have bathtub/shower combos and L'Occitane bath products


Regatta

Oceania Regatta

Oceania prides itself on fine dining and an upscale yet comfortable ambiance -- and Regatta is no exception. The 684-passenger ship features creations of celebrity chef Jacques Pepin in the main dining room and two surcharge-free speciality restaurants. No formal nights mean the pressure to dress up for dinner is dictated by fellow passengers, not the cruise line. Regatta offers an experience that's close to luxury without being all inclusive or priced sky high. Passengers tend to be mature and well-traveled.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: Seattle, Vancouver and San Francisco
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Sitka; Icy Strait Point; Wrangell; Haines; Astoria; Prince Rupert; Victoria, BC; Hubbard Glacier; the Inside Passage and Outside Passage (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • Unique itineraries with "off the beaten path" ports
  • Main dining room serves fresh Alaskan salmon and halibut
  • Guest speakers give lectures on history, culture and nature

Ship Wows

  • Spa run by award-winning Canyon Ranch
  • Range of cabins, from cozy insides to opulent Owner's Suites
  • Afternoon tea with a string quartet is a real treat


Ship Exterior on Crystal Symphony

Crystal Symphony

The 848-passenger Crystal Symphony touts "big ship" amenities such as a variety of restaurants and entertainment (including a nightclub and new "song and dance meets comedy" theatre production). Its refined ambiance, exclusive-access excursions and included perks, such as wine, spirits and gratuities, attract a discerning crowd, mostly empty nesters and retirees. Crystal also stands out with its Creative Learning Institute, including classes ranging from language to filmmaking. When it's time to chow down, passengers can choose from a variety of dining options, such as Umi Uma & Sushi Bar helmed by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa; Prego, Crystal's signature Italian restaurant; a nightly, pop-up Brazilian churrascaria in the buffet; and Waterside, the ship's redesigned main dining room.

Itineraries

  • Homeports: Vancouver and Whittier
  • Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Sitka; Prince Rupert; Victoria, BC; Icy Strait Point; Glacier Bay National Park; Tracy Arm Fjord; the Inside Passage and Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising)

Alaska Exclusives

  • Visits a variety of scenic cruising destinations
  • Expedition team onboard includes National Geographic expert
  • Optional voluntourism opportunity in every itinerary

Ship Wows

  • Accommodations boast sleek, Four Seasons-esque design
  • Select "Pure" rooms designed for cruisers with allergies
  • One of the best afternoon teas at sea

Photo Tour of Crystal Symphony

Find a Cruise
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The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalised service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your holiday style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive holiday experience, while Oceania draws travellers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.
How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks
Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. Autumn -- or "Fall" in North America" -- foliage enthusiasts, for instance, will find September and October the best time to take that Canada/New England cruise, whereas water sports-lovers (and families) much prefer to sail the region in the summer when school is out and temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travellers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your holiday schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.