There is no other way to say it. Alaska is a beautiful place. It truly has amazing scenery, wildlife and marine life.
Although Alaska is a year round vacation destination, the majority of visitors arrive during the cruising season—primarily mid-May to mid-September. There are benefits and tips to traveling during any part of this season.
The beginning of the Alaska cruising season is mid-May–
- This is a wonderful time to visit, the weather is consistently beautiful, and dry, with the spring sun out for longer periods of time. This abundance of sunshine brings out Alaska’s amazing wildflowers for spectacular viewing.
- This is also a great time to see wildlife (the larger animals are migrating and in lower elevations where the snow has disappeared) and marine life. You can take a shore excursion to see hump back whales for a little extra treat! If you are worried about the mosquitoes (as the summer months in Alaska can be quite ‘buggy’) the night time frosts have killed off most of these pesky insects so they shouldn’t be a problem.
- Another reason to visit during May is because it tends to be a little bit less expensive, you can take advantage of ‘early season’ rates and specials. This is a great way to save a buck or two.
- Something to watch out for is that not all shops will be open until the beginning of June. If you are an avid shopper this is something to think about.
July and August tend to be the ‘high season’–
- This is when the weather is the warmest, it averages 60 to 70 (sometimes even 80!) degrees during the day.
- Something else to consider is that August tends to be the rainiest time of the year in Alaska. There typically is a 50% chance of rain almost every day, as much of coastal Alaska is a temperate rain forest, which gives you the lush greenery. If you would prefer to stay dry, try to visit earlier or later in the season.
- This also tends to be the most expensive time to go, as well as the busiest. All shops will be open.
September marks the end of the season–
- This is the time of year I visited Alaska. The colors are changing and can be breathtaking, especially in the interior of Alaska. The tundra covered in reds, oranges, and yellows is something I will never forget. The chance of seeing wildlife greatly improves in this ‘late season,’ as the larger mammals begin feeding in the lower elevations in an attempt to pack on as much winter weight as possible.
- The weather was warm when I was there, however, it can be chillier than July or August, especially in the evenings. Also depending on when you visit in September some shops may have already closed for the season.
- Many cruise passengers wonder whether they will be able to see the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis, ‘Northern Lights,’ occur most frequently from December-March. The best possible chance to see them while on a cruise is going to be late September. However, they occur with the most frequency the farther north you are. So if you would really like to see the Northern Lights, your best chance will be to take a pre or post cruise tour to Fairbanks where they can be seen most of the year.
TIPS FOR CRUISING IN ALASKA:
- Dress in layers–the climate in Alaska can be hard to predict. It can be warm during the day, but cool in the evenings–can be dry one day and rainy the next. So pack for all seasons, and you are prepared for anything!
- Sunrise can be much earlier during the summer months, if you have trouble sleeping when it’s light outside (some sun can peek its way through the cabin’s black out curtains) pack a sleep mask.
- Views from both sides of the ship are equally incredible. Many people believe that depending on the itinerary, one side is better than the other for viewing. If you are on a one way cruise, there is a stretch of 1-2 days when your ship will be at sea so you would have a better view facing the coast. However, the coastline is often clouded during this stretch. So while there may be slightly more views from one side of the ship, the difference is really not that significant.
- This is one cruise you may want to consider splurging on a balcony cabin (although you can always find a nice spot up on deck for a view), it is an amazing experience to sit on your verandah, with a cup of coffee in hand for a private glacier viewing (don’t worry about the view on the other side, the ship will turn fully around so both sides have views).
- In Alaska, excursions are truly the way to experience the region. The ports are quaint and colorful, but most things you just can’t experience without heading away from the crowds and heading out for an organized tour.
No matter when you visit Alaska it definitely is a MUST SEE destination. There is beauty everywhere you look!
Hope you enjoy it. It truly was my all-time favorite vacation!
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