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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 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 interests, budget and schedule.

10 Best Alaska Small Ship Cruises

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Our 10 Favorite Alaska Small Cruise Ships

Ship NameMax PassengersFromSummary
Le Soleal264$1970Cruise the polar regions in luxury aboard the Le Soleal. This small ship carries 224 passengers in luxurious accommodations with first class …
Wilderness Explorer76$4495The Wilderness Explorer is equipped for action, adventure, and exploration. As with her sister “Wilderness” ships, its interior complements the …
Safari Quest22$4595The 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$3195Wilderness Adventurer is an expedition ship capable of nimble exploration through nature's most dramatic hideaways. Offering her 60 passengers an …
National Geographic Quest100$3100The 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 …

Best Deals on Alaska Cruises for 2021

Trip NameSaveFromDaysNext DepartureSummary
Alaska's Inside Passage Sojourn$1500$639510Jul 10, 2020Sail through Alaska's Inside Passage on this 10-day Alaskan cruise on the Chichagof Dream. Visit the ports of Sitka, Juneau, Wrangell, and visit …
Inside Passage & Glacier Bay Wilderness Cruise$400$499513May 10, 2021Travel the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay on this 13-day small ship cruise. Whales and wildlife, kayaking and hiking. Thirteen days take you through …
Alaska Fjords & Glaciers$400$44958Jun 6, 2021Sail through some of Alaska's most dramatic landscapes with opportunities to view a myriad of wildlife on this magnificent 8-day voyage. Visit local …
Alaska Fjords & Glaciers$400$31958Jul 11, 2020Discover Alaska's eastern coves on this 8-day cruise aboard the Wilderness Adventurer. Kayak, hike, and paddle board through the pristine waters and …
Glacier Bay National Park Adventure$400$44958May 30, 2021Aboard the Wilderness Explorer on an incredible 8-day expedition to Alaska. Discover the epic ice giants of the world-renowned Glacier Bay National …
Northern Passages & Glacier Bay$400$62958May 22, 2021Embark on the SafarI Endeavour for an 8-day cruise to Glacier Bay National Park, Chichagof Island, and Peril Strait as you cruise from Juneau to …
Alaska's Glacier Country$400$62958Aug 7, 2021Make the most out of this 8-day cruise aboard SS Legacy as you explore the wilderness and encounter marine animals by kayaking, paddle boarding, and …
Glacier Bay National Park Adventure$400$38958Apr 25, 2021Join the Wilderness Discoverer on this exceptional 8-day Alaskan Cruise where you'll discover Glacier Bay National Park, a 3,223,384 acre park …
Inside Passage & Glacier Bay Wilderness Cruise$400$489513May 18, 2021Travel the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay on this 13-day small ship cruise. Whales and wildlife, kayaking and hiking. Thirteen days take you through …
Eastern Fjords & Glacier Bay Cruise—Ultimate Expedition$400$854515May 30, 2021Experience 15-days of glaciers, whale watching, Native culture, and Glacier Bay National Park aboard the Wilderness Explorer

Top Luxury Alaska Small Ship Cruises

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 …
Northeast Passage: An Unforgettable Voyage from Alaska to Norway$3475026Aug 11, 2021Embark on a 26-day expedition crossing the Northeast Passage with a mission to explore the Siberian shores and far northern archipelagos that brims …
On the Trail of the Gold Prospectors: Juneau to Vancouver$55908Jun 21, 2021Discover magnificent landscapes marked by the Gold Rush as you sail aboard Le Soléal from Alaska to British Columbia
On the Trail of the Gold Prospectors: Juneau to Vancouver$55908Jun 21, 2021This exceptional itinerary aboard Le Soléal will take you from Alaska to British Columbia to discover magnificent landscapes marked by the Gold Rush.
On the Trail of the Gold Prospectors: Juneau to Vancouver$62908Jul 5, 2021Follow in the footsteps of the gold prospectors on this 8-day cruise. Le Soléal will take you from Alaska to British Columbia, to discover …
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 …
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 …
The Northwest Passage$4198025Sep 7, 2021The Northeast Passage or Northern Sea Route is one of the longest maritime routes in the world and was discovered in 1880 by Swedish explorer Adolf …

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Most Popular Luxury Alaska Cruise Ships

Ship NameMax PassengersFromSummary
Le Soleal264$1970Cruise the polar regions in luxury aboard the Le Soleal. This small ship carries 224 passengers in luxurious accommodations with first class …
Le Boreal (CDP)264$3980A superb mega-yacht with 132 cabins, the Le Boreal is the fruit of blending French service and sophistication with Italian engineering. Emphasizing …
Le Commandant Charcot270$13960Le Commandant Charcot is a polar expedition ship that navigates into Arctic and Antarctic places that are rarely visited by others. Its innovative …
Silver Explorer144$5670Embark on a luxurious expedition to the best far-flung destinations in the world aboard Silver Explorer, a purpose-built expedition ship unlike any …
National Geographic Endurance126$10990National Geographic Endurance is a 126-passenger expedition cruise ship that was built for polar navigations providing an extremely smooth ride under …
L'Austral264$1190The L'Austral, sister ship to the Le Boreal, is the fruit of Italian expertise and French sophistication. A superb mega-yacht with 132 cabins, the …
Silver Cloud Expedition260$6210The newly refurbished Silver Cloud is the most spacious and comfortable ice class vessel in expedition cruising. Its large suites, destination …
Scenic Eclipse228$6895Scenic Eclipse is the World’s First Discovery Yacht and the first ocean cruise ship from the Scenic fleet. Launched in August 2019, Scenic Eclipse …

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Alaska Cruise Destinations - Major Ports of Call & Transportation

Some of the most popular destinations frequently visited on an Alaska cruise include:
  • 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. 
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.
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.

 
New Alaskan Cruise Ships for 2020-2021

We're excited to bring you even more of the remote Alaskan wilderness with these new shallow-hulled small cruise ships designed for accessing narrow inlets and bays of Alaska's Inner Passage and beyond.

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.

Kruzof Explorer - a small former fishing vessel with a capacity for 12 fortunate guests was launched in 2019. Its small size and seaworthiness permits navigating in shallow waters reaching inlets and bays that larger ships can't. 
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 & British Columbia

A popular route for Alaska cruises starts or ends in Seattle, Washington and navigates to 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.
     
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.
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.
     
  • 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.
Alaska Fun Facts
  • At its closest point, Alaska is only 50 miles from Russia.
  • One of the first Europeans 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 2020-2021

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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