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Alaska Small Ship 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 such as brown bears whale watching, and much more. Nome is a big port city that is usually part of the Northwest Passage, British Columbia, and the Bering Sea. 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 interests, budget, and schedule.

10 Best Alaska Small Ship Cruises for 2021

Alaska Cruises & Tours (79 Results)
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Trip NameFromDaysNext DepartureSummary
On the Trail of the Gold Prospectors: Vancouver to Juneau$63208Jun 14, 2021This fantastic 8-day cruise will take you from British Columbia to Alaska, to discover magnificent landscapes marked by the Gold Rush aboard the Le …
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On the Trail of the Gold Prospectors: Juneau to Vancouver$62908Jun 21, 2021This exceptional itinerary aboard Le Soléal will take you from Alaska to British Columbia to discover magnificent landscapes marked by the Gold Rush.
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Fire & Ice in the Arctic$1234015Sep 21, 2021Board Le Boréal for an unforgettable 15-day expedition cruise to discover the wonders of Arctic Alaska. Enjoy the chance to sail the Bering …
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The Northwest Passage$4198025Sep 7, 2021The brand new Le Commandant Charcot hosts this novel 25-day Arctic expedition cruise to the north of Russia via the legendary Northwest Passage. This …
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Kangerlussuaq to Nome 2021$4460025Aug 24, 2021Join Silver Cloud on its 25-day expedition cruise following the routes of pioneering explorers as you cross from Greenland to Alaska. Along the way, …
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Wildlife and Forests of Alaska$880013Aug 23, 2021Discover some of Alaska’s stunning landscapes and the incredible wildlife they contain. Board the luxury ship Le Soléal for a 13-day expedition …
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Our 8 Favorite Alaska Small Cruise Ships

Ship NameMax PassengersFromSummary
Wilderness Explorer76$4495The Wilderness Explorer is equipped for action, adventure, and exploration. As with her sister “Wilderness” ships, its interior complements the …
Safari Quest22$4695The Safari Quest provides guests with intimate adventure experiences, comfortable staterooms and public spaces with ample room to get away from it …
Safari Endeavour84$4495The 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$3200The 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$3995The sleek Chichagof Dream was recently renovated and makes its inaugural voyage in 2016. Accommodating up to 74 passengers in 37 cabins, the ship …
Admiralty Dream58$2695The 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 …

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Alaska Cruise Starting and Ending Destinations & Flights

The below cities have airports that connect with the continental US and Canada and are the embarkation or disembarkation points for Alaska small ship cruises. They are also some of the most frequently visited destinations on an Alaska cruise:
  • 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. 
  • Seattle & Vancouver: travelers embark upon small ship cruises visiting the archipelago of Inside Passages of Canada and Alaska. These are also sometimes referred to as repositioning cruises as the ships sail from their home in Seattle in the spring, spend the summer sailing the waters of Alaska, then return home to Seattle in the fall. 
Not sure which destinations, itinerary, or ship to choose for your Alaska adventure cruise? Just contact a trip planner for expert advice. We are happy to help you plan the perfect trip.
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 (only in the far north) are sights to behold, as well as moose, caribou, and smaller furbearing animals like marten, mink, wolves, and dawes sheep.
  • Marine mammals: Humpback whales, orcas, belgua whales, bowhead whales, harbor seals, , sea lions, sea 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.
Best Alaska Small Ship Cruise Lines for 2021
  • Uncruise Adventures
  • Linblad Expeditions (National Geographic)
  • Ponant
  • Alaska Dream Cruises
  • Silversea Expeditions
Alaska Cruises from Seattle & Vancouver

A popular route for Alaska cruises starts or ends in Seattle, Washington and/or Vancouver  and navigates through British Columbia en route to or from Alaska. These are frequently referred to as "repositioning cruises" as ships transition from other regions to or from Alaska and frequently are a good bargain.

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 motorized raft 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 British 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!). 

 
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.
     
  • Southeast & 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.

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Alaska Cruise Travel FAQs

How much does an Alaska cruise cost?

The price of Alaska cruises vary dramatically depending on the size of the ship, the length of the cruise, and the number and quality of excursions. Massive cruise ships with thousands of passengers may have packages as low as USD $500 per person, whereas small ships that focus on wildlife and nature experiences start at around USD $2500 per person.  

Do I need a visa to travel to Alaska?

As a 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, or for your guide and drive if on a land tour.

Do I need a power adapter/ converter?

Alaska has the same power outlets 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 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 networks. Of course, in the backcountry, where many of our tours are based, you will encounter huge mountains and stretches of vast wilderness where you will not have a signal.

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.

Will there be Internet access on my Alaska cruise?


In major port towns, you will be able to get strong, fast internet access and find accessible WiFi hotspots. Most ships do have internet access (check with your Adventure Life trip planner), though 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.

How far in advance should I reserve an Alaska cruise?

Most of the top-tier small cruise ships fill up many months in advance, so in order to have the best selection, and even access to early bird deals we recommend reserving 6-9 months in advance. 

How long should I spend in Alaska

For many, an Alaska cruise is a once in a lifetime adventure, and the more time you spend exploring Alaska, the better chance you have of seeing more wildlife. That said, you'll need a minimum of 6 days for a cruise though a trip of two weeks is recommended that combines an expedition cruise with a trip to the wild Alaskan interior, such as Denali National Park.

Alaska Cruise Travel FAQs

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.

Alaska Cruise Travel FAQs

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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