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Alaska Cruises

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An Alaska cruise takes travelers through some of the world's most remote, untamed wilderness and allows up-close experiences with wildlife like brown and black bears, moose, otters, and majestic bald eagles. Whale watching from a small cruise ship reveal humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, puffins and sea lions. The landscape of Alaska is as wild as the animals. Choosing a small ship Alaskan cruise instead of a massive cruise ship is critical as you'll be able to discover isolated inlets only accessible by small ships and explore further in zodiacs and sea kayaks that take you through a labyrinth of glaciers, icebergs, fjords and rivers inaccessible by large cruise ships. Adventure Life's Alaska cruise experts will help you craft the perfect trip crafted to your precise intrests, budget and schedule.

10 Best Alaska Small Ship Cruises for 2019

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10 Best Alaska Small Cruise Ships for 2019

Ship NameMax PassengersFromSummary
Le Soleal264$5340Cruise the polar regions in luxury aboard the Le Soleal. This small ship carries 224 passengers in luxurious accommodations with first class …
Safari Quest22$4295The Safari Quest provides guests with intimate adventure experiences, comfortable staterooms and public spaces with ample room to get away from it …
Safari Endeavour84$4395The newly refurbished expedition vessel Safari Endeavour's three decks provide ample outside viewing opportunities and relaxing public spaces for …
Wilderness Adventurer60$2995Wilderness Adventurer is an expedition ship capable of nimble exploration through nature's most dramatic hideaways. Offering her 60 passengers an …
National Geographic Quest100$3010The National Geographic Quest is a state-of-the-art expedition ship accommodating 100 guests in 5 different categories of fully equipped cabins. It …
Baranof Dream49$3995On the Baranof Dream, experience warm yacht-style cruising surrounded by knowledgeable, genuinely friendly staff and accompanied by interesting …
Chichagof Dream74$4195The sleek Chichagof Dream was recently renovated and makes its inaugural voyage in 2016. Accommodating up to 74 passengers in 37 cabins, the ship …
Island Spirit32$4500The Island Spirit carries up to 32 passengers overnight in 17 comfortable staterooms. Each room has a private bath and shower, as well as a minimum …
Admiralty Dream58$3795The 58-passenger Admiralty Dream is a small ship with a shallow draft and stately pace of cruising so that nothing will be missed in the narrow …

Best Deals on Alaska Cruises for 2019

Trip NameSaveFromDaysNext DepartureSummary
Alaska Fjords & Glaciers$500$37958Jun 29, 2019Begin your 8-day Alaskan journey in the state's capital, Juneau. This cruise takes you through some of Alaska's most dramatic landscapes with …
A Remarkable Journey to Alaska, British Columbia & Haida GwaiiSavings$1090015Sep 2, 2019In just 15 days aboard the Sea Bird, explore Alaska's Inside Passage, coastal British Columbia, and Haida Gwaii on this small ship adventure cruise. …
A Remarkable Journey to Alaska, British Columbia & Haida GwaiiSavings$1090015Aug 24, 2019Explore the Inside Passage, coastal British Columbia, and Haida Gwaii on this two week cruise onboard the Sea Lion. Enjoy visits to Glacier Bay …
Exploring Alaska's Coastal WildernessSavings$59908Jun 22, 2019See the iconic wildlife—whales, bears and eagles—amid secluded coves and towering forests. Explore massive glaciers, kayak scenic coastlines, and …
Alaska's Glacier Bay & Island Adventure$300$41958Jun 30, 2019Sail through Alaska's Glacier Bay on this 8-day astounding cruise! View the spectacular scenery and wildlife of America's last frontier as you visit …
Exploring Alaska's Coastal WildernessSavings$69908Jun 22, 2019Explore massive glaciers, kayak scenic coastlines, encounter incredible and varied wildlife, and see the hidden wonders of Alaska. This exclusive …
Treasures of the Inside Passage: Alaska and British ColumbiaSavings$999014Aug 31, 2019Explore the San Juan Islands, British Columbia’s Inside Passage, and Southeast Alaska on this exciting 14-day voyage. Enjoy exclusive encounters …
Exploring Alaska's Coastal WildernessSavings$69908Jun 23, 2019Explore Southeast Alaska aboard National Geographic Venture on its 8-day expedition from Juneau to Sitka. Opportunity to hike over the spongy earth …
Treasures of the Inside Passage: Alaska and British ColumbiaSavings$999014Sep 8, 2019Board National Geographic Venture on this 14-day cruise to linger in the temperate rainforests and wildlife-rich channels of British Columbia, and …
Northeast Passage: An Unforgettable Voyage from Norway to AlaskaSavings$3475025Jul 17, 2020Embark on a 25-day expedition crossing the Northeast Passage with a mission to explore the Siberian shores and far northern archipelagos that brims …

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Cruising Alaska - Major Ports of Call & Transportation

We feature both cruises and land-based tours that visit all corners of the expansive wilderness of Alaska. Here's a list of the most popular gateways for our small ship cruises and cruise extensions:
  • Juneau: The most frequented port for accessing Alaska's Inner Passage, Juneau is a good airline hub for both Delta and Alaska Airlines and you can get direct flights from Seattle if you're traveling from the continental US or catch a ferry of the Alaska Marine Highway if you want a more scenic way to arrive via the enthralling Pacific coast.
  • Ketchikan:  The  southeasternmost city in Alaska is the embarkation and disembarkation point for many small Alaska cruises. The city borders the Misty Fjords National Monument where you sail through rocky fjords, snow capped mountains, waterfalls and salmon spawning streams. 
  • Sitka: In the northwestern area of Alaska's Inside Passage and a frequent stop on small ship cruises. Many cruises either begin or end here, and you can fly via Delta or Alaska Airlines or even take a ferry from Seattle, Washington or British Columbia.
  • Anchorage: This is home to the biggest and most trafficked airport in Alaska, making it an ideal gateway to the country with hundreds of daily flights from global destinations. Denali National Park can be accessed through Anchorage as well as Fairbanks.
  • Seward: In southern Alaska, the port city of Seward is a gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park where glaciers snake down the valleys where fjords calve into the Pacific Ocean creating exceptional whale and dolphin habitat 
  • Seattle: In the US state of Washington, travelers embark upon small ship cruises visiting the archipelago of Inside Passages of Canada and Alaska. 
Alaska’s Top Small Ships & Expedition Cruises

Adventure Life's Alaska cruise experts pick their favorite small cruise ships for exploring the Alaskan wilderness. These are classic small expedition ships specially designed for cruising the small harbors and coves of the Alaskan coast.
  • Wilderness Adventurer - mixing a classic Alaska adventure cruise with hiking, railroad excursions and even a chilling arctic snorkeling experience (optional!), the Wildnerness Adventurer is an excellent choice for active travelers. This small expedition ship is equipped with kayaks, drysuits, snorkeling gear, paddle boards, inflatable boats, a fishing boat, trekking poles, and overnight camping gear.
  • Island Spirit - a small 36 passenger ship that is ideal for those who cherish peace and quiet, as it's the only boat that uses batteries during the night instead of a noisy generator. It's also considered one of the more ecologically friendly small ship cruise options.
  • Wilderness Discoverer - is the slightly larger (76 passenger) sister ship of the Wilderness Adventurer, so it appeals to the same type of active type of traveler. It's small enough to navigate tight coves while being more stable in the water than the smaller boats.

The Ultimate Small Ship Luxury Cruises to Alaska

The French cruiseline Ponant's fleet is ultra-modern and stylish with French-style cuisine and service and has unique itineraries to off-the-beaten-path areas of Alaska. Here are some of our favorite cruises:
  • Arctic Alaska on Le Boreal - is a 15-day expedition cruise starting in Nome, crossing the Bering Strait into Russia and finally disembarking in Seward. Highlights of this luxury cruise are viewing brown bears at Hidden Harbor, in Katmai National Park and meeting the local Inupiat, Aleut, Inuit, Yupik, and Chukchi people.
  • In the Wake of Pioneers on Le Soleal - is a luxurious 15-day cruise embarking in Nome sail to the remote Pribilof Archipelago in the middle of the Bering Sea, then explore the Aleutian Islands Archipelago before visiting Sitka, Prince Rupert and the western coast of British Columbia, culminating in Vancouver.
New Alaskan Cruise Ships for 2018-2019

We're excited to bring you even more of the remote Alaskan wilderness with these shallow-hulled small cruise ships designed for accessing narrow inlets and bays of Alaska's Inner Passage and beyond. These small ships are perfect for those who come to Alaska in search of a deep personal connection with the true Alaska - it's wilderness and people.

S.S. Legacy -  a newly refurbished 88-guest vessel with an ambiance emulates an early Victorian steamer with carved wooden accents and a Grand Salon complete with a dance floor, full bar, and old-world charm. Exquisitely appointed with period decor, the S.S. Legacy's four decks provide ample outside viewing opportunities and relaxing public spaces for gathering with new found friends.

The Admirality Dream - provides warm yacht-style cruising through the Inner Passage surrounded onboard by knowledgeable, genuinely friendly guides & staff. Explore Saginaw Bay by kayak or hike along the shoreline.

Baranof Dream - Embark on this 49 passenger vessel capable of accessing the best of Glacier Bay National Park, Skagway, Thorne Bay, Frederick Sound, Petersburg, Juneau, and more ports of call. 

Alaskan Dream - This small 36-passenger cruise ship is designed especially to allow the vessel to easily navigate narrow channels and passages like a yacht while maintaining the level of service and the cuisine as good as a larger ship.

The Wildlife of Alaska
In the expansive and pristine wilderness of Alaska, you will find some of the country's most majestic animals around every turn. The majority of the wildlife here are mammals, since their thick fur coats or layers of fat in the case of marine mammals allows them to withstand the cold Alaskan winters. From Glacier Bay National Park to the Inside Passage and all of the millions of acres of wildlife reserves and national parks, it seems impossible to visit Alaska without witnessing these impressive creatures:
  • Land mammals: Grizzly & black bears and the elusive polar bears are sights to behold, as well as moose & caribou, and smaller furbearing animals like marten, mink, wolves, and sheep.
  • Marine mammals: Humpback whales, orcas, belguas, bowhead whales, seals, sea lions, otters, and walrus can all be found here.
  • Birds: Bald eagles & golden eagles are the most famous, but you'll also find ptarmigans, loons, owls, swans, and puffins. 
  • Fish: There are five species of salmon that thrive in these cold northern waters, making up an important part of the food chain.
Alaska Cruises from Seattle
A popular route for Canadian cruises starts or ends in Seattle, Washington and navigates British Columbia en route to or from Alaska. You'll likely get to explore:
  • Seattle - Washington's biggest city, right on Puget Sound and surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of the Pacific Northwest.
  • Friday Harbor - a tranquil seaside town with the fascinating Whale Museum.
  • San Juan Islands - an excellent place to spot orcas
Alaska Cruises from British Columbia
Get a taste of the pristine Canadian wilderness as you either embark or disembark along the Inside Passage of British Columbia, where you'll see whales, dolphins, bears, deer and other wildlife on hikes, kayaking, and zodiak excursions. The popular ports of call here include:
  • Vancouver - a major Canadian port city on the Pacific & British Columbia's biggest city.
  • Prince Rupert - North America's deepest natural harbor and the "Gateway to the North."
  • Johnstone Strait, Alert Bay, & Seymour Narrows - not only an excellent place to spot orcas, but also a treasure trove of well preserved indigenous culture.
  • Gulf Islands - a wildlife paradise in the Strait of Georgia.
  • Princess Royal Island - fjords & inlets define the largest island in Brtish Columbia.
What to Pack for your Alaska Cruise
So you've got your cruise booked and your plane tickets purchased, which just leaves one question - What to pack for an Alaska cruise?

Clothes: Pack with plenty of layers, starting with a hooded, windproof, and waterproof jacket on the outside and then a sweater, and shirt. Hiking boots or closed-toe shoes with ankle support are also important. Undergarments and socks that will keep you warm are just as important as a good jacket. Having some decent gloves and a warm hat is a necessity also. On your Alaska cruise, pack for practicality over fashion!

Summer clothes might also be necessary, depending on where you're going and the time of year. Be sure to ask us if you have any questions.

Accessories: Don't forget a camera and all of its accessories, a good pair of binoculars, polarized sunglasses, and alarm clock & watch, a good backpack for day-hikes.

Toiletries & other items: Sunscreen & insect repellant, any special soaps, lotions, or conditioners you use, motion sickness medication (just in case!). 

Explore Glacier Bay

As its name indicates, this is one of the best places in the world to see and hike across the electric blue glaciers of the Great North! Located in Alaska's famed Inside Passage, you will be able to see these ice giants up close, with a special permit that accompanies your cruise ticket. 

Calving: This is when a large mass of ice on the glacier's shelf splits off and crashes into the water. You will see this rare phenomenon from the safety of your boat as these massive pieces of ice break away and form independent icebergs. Many say that the best place to see this is the Margerie Glacier, with an impressive length of 21 miles.

Wildlife: humpback whales, puffins, bears, eagles, goats.

Other popular destinations exclusive to Adventure Life cruises:
  • Icy Strait, Grand Pacific Glacier, Johns Hopkins Glacier, and the trailhead at Bartlett Cove.
Temperature and Climate on Alaskan Cruises
  • Far North: Frigid winters (yearly average low in February of -22F) and cold summers (yearly average high in July of 45F); no sunlight in December & 24 hours/ day in July.
  • Interior: Frigid winters (yearly average low in January of -18F) and warm summers (yearly average high in July of 72F); 5 hours of sunlight in December & 20 hours/ day in June.
  • Southwest: Very cold winters (temperatures between 0-15F) and brisk summers (temperatures between 40-62F); 5 hours of daylight in December and 18 in June.
  • South Central: Cold winters (temperatures between 9-21F) and brisk summers (temperatures between 48-62F); 6 hours of daylight in December & January and up to 18 in June & July.
  • Inside Passage: Mild winters (yearly average low in January of 22F) and brisk summers (yearly average high in July of 65F); 4 hours of sunlight in January & 18 hours/ day in June.
Did you know...?
  • At its closest point, Alaska is only 50 miles from Russia.
  • One of the first people to spot Alaska was Danish explorer Vitus Jonassen Bering in 1741.
  • In 1867, Secretary of State William Seward bought the entire territory from Russia for 2 cents per acre, which ended up being just $7.2 million. 
  • The purchase of the Alaska territory at the time was ridiculed in the US congress as unnecessary, earning it the nickname "Seward's Folly."
  • The highest peak in North America can be found here - Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley), with a peak altitude of 20,320 feet above sea level.
  • The borough of Juneau (where the state's capital can be found) is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island.
  • Despite being the biggest of the United States, it is the least densely populated, with an average of just two people per square mile.
  • The largest oil field in North America is Prudhoe Bay on Alaska's northern coast.

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Alaska Cruise FAQs for 2019

Do I need a visa to travel to Alaska?
As US state, US citizens only need a valid photo ID. If you are planning to travel from Europe, Britain, Canada, or Australia, then there is not a visa requirement, but you need to have your passport. If you are traveling from a different part of the world, you should check the travel requirements with your country's state department.

Is tipping customary in Alaska?
Since Alaska is a US state, tipping is considered customary in the service industry (like restaurants), but if you tip and how much is always an individual decision. It is recommended that you do leave a gratuity for the ship, captain, and guide if you are on a cruise.

What is the internet access like in Alaska?
In major port towns, you will be able to get strong, fast internet access and find accessible WiFi hotspots. However, most ships don't have internet access and our expeditions explore the national parks and the more remote wildernesses that characterize a great majority of Alaska, so you might go for several days or even most of your trip without internet access.

Can I use my cell phone while in Alaska?
Contrary to popular belief, Alaska's cell coverage is improving significantly in recent years. Major US carriers from the continental states like Verizon and AT&T are gaining ground and establishing strong cell and 3G networks. Of course, in the back country, where many of our tours are based, you will encounter huge mountains and stretches of vast wilderness where you will not have a signal.

Do I need a power adapter/ converter?
Alaska has the same sockets as the rest of North America - three-prong grounded 110V outlets. If you have devices that are 220-240V or that are not compatible with North American plugs, you will need an adapter and/or converter that is Type B.

Can I drink the water in Alaska?
The tap water in Alaska is considered potable and safe to drink. On cruises, confirm with your Adventure Life agent. 

What is the most common way of paying for things in Alaska?
Alaska uses the US Dollar and paying with credit cards is pretty commonly accepted. It is possible that some smaller stores and businesses only accept cash, so you should have some on hand just in case. 

Should I purchase travel insurance for my trip?
We recommend you check out our Once You're Booked page for more information on buying travel insurance - it's always nice to know that you have it just in case.

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