Alaska Cruise: When to Go?

  Alaska has it all: glaciers, wilderness, whales, wolves, forests, rivers, eagles, and mountains, all combining to create a stunning experience for those on an Alaska cruise. Long days of sunlight and relative warmth make summer a perfect time to travel to America’s largest state. As all the locals know, however, Alaskan weather is defined by its unpredictability, with sunny days turning suddenly stormy—and vice versa!

When cruising the south central and southeastern coasts, be prepared for wet weather and mild maritime temperatures. Alaskan summers rarely get hot, but can be comfortably warm with temperatures ranging from the lower 60s to the lower 70s. The best months to cruise Alaska are July and August, when the temperatures are at their highest and the weather is generally more sunny. July and August are also prime months in terms of wildlife viewing. Brown bears come out to fish along the rivers during these months, and moose can be seen feeding in lakes, ponds, and along rivers from spring throughout the summer. Also be on the lookout for seals and dolphins, which are easily seen from the deck of your ship. And of course, one cannot forget about the whales!

Fortunate travelers may have the chance to see beluga whales or even one of the three pods of orcas which frequent Alaskan waters in the summer. Then there are the one thousand humpback whales that spend their summer feeding in southeast Alaska, and those on a cruise in July or August have a good chance of seeing them as they traverse Frederick Sound. As summer shifts to fall, some of these massive beauties stop in the waters near Sitka to build up their food reserves before heading south to the tropics.

Summer may be prime travel time, but there are also advantages to taking an Alaska cruise during the shoulder seasons of May/June and September. Though the weather may be somewhat cooler and wetter, the tourist crowds are smaller, the mosquitoes fewer, and the daylight hours more regular, with no midnight sun to interfere with one’s sleeping patterns. The spring months are prime for spotting moose (particularly in the Kenai Peninsula) and Dall sheep as they move down the slopes for better grazing, while September is ideal for sighting humpback whales, spawning salmon, and caribou migrating to their winter feeding grounds.