How Cold Is Alaska Cruise In May

Alaska’s breathtaking landscapes and unique wildlife attract countless visitors each year. If you’re considering an Alaska cruise in the month of May, you might be wondering just how cold it will be. As the temperature varies significantly throughout the state, it’s essential to take into account the specific regions you’ll be visiting. In general, Alaska in May experiences temperatures ranging from 40°F to 60°F, offering a pleasant and mild climate for your cruise adventure. However, it’s always wise to pack some layers and warm clothing to ensure comfort during any unexpected chilly moments.

Average Temperatures in May

Daytime Temperatures

In May, the average daytime temperatures in Alaska can vary depending on the region you are in. Coastal areas experience milder temperatures, with highs ranging from the mid-50s to the low 60s Fahrenheit (12-16 degrees Celsius). Interior regions tend to be slightly warmer, with daytime temperatures reaching the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit (18-22 degrees Celsius). Mountainous areas, on the other hand, may still have some lingering snow and colder temperatures, with highs in the 40s to 50s Fahrenheit (4-10 degrees Celsius).

Nighttime Temperatures

When it comes to nighttime temperatures in May, Alaska can be quite chilly. Coastal areas typically see lows in the 40s to low 50s Fahrenheit (4-10 degrees Celsius), while interior regions experience slightly cooler temperatures in the 30s to 40s Fahrenheit (0-4 degrees Celsius). Mountainous areas can have even colder nights, with temperatures dropping into the 20s to low 30s Fahrenheit (-6 to 0 degrees Celsius). It’s essential to pack accordingly, especially if you plan to explore during the evenings or participate in any outdoor activities.

Climate Variations

Coastal Areas

Alaska’s coastal areas are influenced by the surrounding ocean and tend to have milder climates compared to other regions. May is the beginning of the cruise season in Alaska, and coastal areas such as Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway experience average temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to low 60s Fahrenheit (12-16 degrees Celsius). The coastal areas are known for their lush rainforests and scenic coastal landscapes, making them ideal for nature enthusiasts and those seeking picturesque views.

Interior Regions

The interior regions of Alaska encompass places like Fairbanks and Denali National Park. These areas have slightly warmer temperatures compared to the coast in May, with average highs ranging from the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit (18-22 degrees Celsius). The interior regions offer unique experiences such as wildlife sightings, hiking in the breathtaking Denali National Park, and exploring the fascinating history of Fairbanks. The long daylight hours in May allow for ample time to immerse yourself in these exciting activities.

Mountainous Areas

Alaska’s mountainous areas include places like Valdez and Glacier Bay. These areas can still experience colder temperatures and even some snow in May, with average highs in the 40s to 50s Fahrenheit (4-10 degrees Celsius). It’s important to note that higher elevations may have more unpredictable weather, so be prepared for varying conditions if you plan to explore this magnificent terrain. Despite the colder temperatures, the mountainous areas offer incredible opportunities for glacier tours and breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks.

Weather Conditions

Sunshine Hours

May in Alaska brings longer daylight hours, providing ample opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities. Coastal areas and interior regions can experience up to 15-17 hours of daylight, while mountainous areas may have slightly fewer sunshine hours due to clouds and potential for rain or snow showers. The extended daylight allows for more time to explore the vast wilderness, engage in wildlife viewing, and take in the stunning landscapes.


Alaska is known for its abundant rainfall, and May is no exception. Coastal areas observe a higher amount of rainfall compared to the interior regions during this month. You can expect an average of 8-10 inches of precipitation in coastal areas, while the interior regions receive comparably less rainfall, ranging from 2-5 inches. Mountainous areas can experience a mix of rain and snow, especially at higher elevations. It’s essential to pack rain gear and waterproof attire to stay dry and comfortable during your Alaska cruise in May.

Wind Speeds

Wind speeds in Alaska can vary depending on the region and specific weather patterns. Coastal areas are prone to higher wind speeds due to their exposure to the open ocean. In May, average wind speeds along the coast range from 5-15 mph. Interior regions tend to have more moderate wind speeds, ranging from 5-10 mph. Mountainous areas may experience stronger winds, particularly in higher elevations. It’s advisable to pack layers and wind-resistant clothing to protect yourself from the brisk winds while exploring Alaska’s stunning landscapes.

What to Pack


When packing for your Alaska cruise in May, it’s crucial to be prepared for varying weather conditions. Layering is key to staying comfortable throughout the day as temperatures can change quite significantly. Pack lightweight, moisture-wicking base layers, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, to manage perspiration. Add warm, insulating layers like fleece jackets or sweaters for cooler mornings and evenings. Additionally, bring a waterproof and windproof jacket to protect against rain and wind. Don’t forget to include a few pairs of comfortable jeans or trousers, along with some casual outfits for indoor activities and evenings.


To protect yourself from the elements during your Alaska cruise in May, consider packing a few essential accessories. A wide-brimmed hat or cap will shield you from both the sun and light rain showers. Sunglasses are also a must-have to protect your eyes from the intense sunlight, especially when out on glacier tours. Additionally, pack a lightweight scarf or neck gaiter to protect your neck and face from windchill. Gloves or mittens can also come in handy, particularly if you plan on spending time outdoors during the cooler evenings.


Choosing the right footwear for your Alaska cruise in May is crucial for comfort and safety. Opt for waterproof and insulated boots or sturdy hiking shoes that offer good traction. These will come in handy during shore excursions and hikes. Additionally, bring a pair of comfortable, closed-toe shoes for everyday activities and evenings on the ship. Consider packing a few pairs of thick and moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry and warm throughout your adventures.

Activities and Attractions

Wildlife Viewing

Alaska is renowned for its incredible wildlife, and May is an excellent time for wildlife enthusiasts to visit. Whether you’re exploring coastal areas, interior regions, or mountainous terrain, there are ample opportunities to spot a variety of wildlife. Keep an eye out for majestic whales, playful sea otters, bald eagles, and brown bears as they emerge from hibernation. Joining a guided wildlife tour or going on a whale-watching excursion will increase your chances of witnessing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Glacier Tours

Alaska’s glaciers are a sight to behold, and May provides an excellent opportunity to experience their grandeur. Explore the stunning Glacier Bay or venture to other glacier-rich areas such as Juneau or Valdez. Take a boat tour or a kayak excursion to get up close and personal with these icy wonders. Immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of towering ice formations, hear the thunderous crack of calving glaciers, and marvel at the vivid blue hues that define these natural wonders.

Hiking and Outdoor Activities

With the arrival of milder temperatures, May is an ideal time for hiking and outdoor activities in Alaska. Lace up your hiking boots and embark on scenic trails that wind through lush forests, meandering rivers, and breathtaking mountain vistas. Explore the stunning landscapes of Denali National Park, witness the awe-inspiring power of waterfalls, and soak in the serenity of nature. Additionally, you can indulge in activities like kayaking, fishing, and taking scenic drives to fully immerse yourself in Alaska’s outdoor splendor.

Cultural Experiences

An Alaska cruise in May allows you to embrace the rich cultural heritage of the region. Take the time to explore the local communities and learn about their traditions, history, and way of life. Visit museums and cultural centers to gain insights into Alaska’s indigenous cultures, art, and craftsmanship. Immerse yourself in the vibrant Alaskan arts scene, attend local festivals and events, and savor the diverse culinary offerings that showcase the unique flavors of the region.

Tips for Cruising Alaska in May

Choose the Right Itinerary

When planning your Alaska cruise in May, it’s essential to choose an itinerary that aligns with your interests and desired experiences. Consider whether you prefer to explore the coastal regions, venture into the interior, or focus on glacier-rich areas. Research the ports of call and shore excursions available to ensure they offer activities you would enjoy. Whether you are seeking wildlife encounters, outdoor adventures, or cultural experiences, selecting the right itinerary will maximize your enjoyment during your Alaska cruise.

Plan for Layering

Alaska’s weather in May can be unpredictable, with varying temperatures throughout the day. It’s crucial to pack and dress in layers to adapt to changing conditions. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add insulating layers for cooler moments, and top it off with a waterproof and windproof jacket. This way, you can easily adjust your clothing as temperatures fluctuate. Don’t forget to bring a hat and gloves, particularly for the chilly evenings. Layering allows you to stay comfortable and enjoy your Alaska cruise to the fullest.

Consider Rainy Days

Given Alaska’s reputation for rain, it’s wise to plan for some wet weather during your May cruise. Pack a lightweight and waterproof rain jacket and pants to keep you dry during occasional showers. Additionally, consider bringing a small umbrella or a waterproof backpack cover to protect your belongings. Embrace the rain and use it as an opportunity to explore rainy-day activities such as visiting museums, enjoying cozy cafés, or immersing yourself in local cultural experiences.

Bring Binoculars and Camera

Alaska’s stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife offer countless opportunities for awe-inspiring moments. Don’t forget to pack a pair of binoculars to enhance your wildlife-viewing experiences. Spotting distant whales or observing soaring eagles up close will be even more magical with binoculars. Additionally, ensure your camera is equipped with a zoom lens to capture detailed shots of glaciers, wildlife, and the mesmerizing scenery. May in Alaska provides ample photographic opportunities that you won’t want to miss.

Advantages of Cruising Alaska in May

Less Crowded

One of the significant advantages of cruising Alaska in May is the reduced number of tourists compared to the peak summer months. May is the beginning of the cruise season, and therefore, the number of visitors is relatively lower. This means you can explore ports of call and popular attractions with fewer crowds. Enjoy a more serene and intimate experience as you discover Alaska’s natural wonders and engage in various activities without feeling overwhelmed by large tourist groups.

Wildlife Sightings

May is an excellent time for wildlife enthusiasts to visit Alaska as it marks the awakening of many species from their winter slumber. Whales start migrating to Alaskan waters, bears emerge from hibernation, and bird populations begin to soar. With the abundance of wildlife in May, your chances of spotting these magnificent creatures are high. Coastal areas, interior regions, and even mountainous areas offer opportunities to observe a diverse range of wildlife in their natural habitats.

Lower Prices

Cruising Alaska in May often offers more budget-friendly options compared to the peak summer months. Since May is considered the shoulder season, cruise lines and other service providers may offer discounted rates or special promotions. This allows you to enjoy the beauty of Alaska while potentially saving on your travel expenses. Take advantage of the lower prices to upgrade your accommodations, indulge in additional activities, or simply save some extra dollars for future adventures.

Disadvantages of Cruising Alaska in May

Unpredictable Weather

While May in Alaska brings milder temperatures and longer daylight hours, the weather can still be quite unpredictable. You should be prepared for a mix of sunshine, rain showers, and even occasional snowfall, especially in mountainous areas. The changing weather conditions can affect outdoor activities and may necessitate changes to your itinerary. It’s essential to have flexible plans and be adaptable to ensure you can still enjoy your time in Alaska, regardless of the weather.

Limited Shore Excursions

As May marks the beginning of the cruise season, some shore excursions may have limited availability or may not be fully operational yet. Some attractions or trails within national parks may still be closed due to snow or other weather-related considerations. While there are still plenty of activities and attractions to enjoy, it’s essential to research and plan your shore excursions in advance. Be aware of any limitations or closures that may affect your desired experiences during your time in Alaska.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time for an Alaska cruise?

While May is an excellent time for an Alaska cruise, the best time can vary depending on your preferences. The peak season for cruising in Alaska is from June to August when the weather is generally warmer, and most shore excursions and attractions are open. However, if you prefer fewer crowds and more economical options, May and September are ideal. May offers the advantage of witnessing the awakening wildlife, while September allows for stunning fall foliage and potential Northern Lights sightings.

Will I see the Northern Lights in May?

While it’s less likely to see the Northern Lights in May due to Alaska’s extended daylight hours, there is still a slim chance of catching this mesmerizing natural phenomenon. To maximize your chances, consider booking an Alaska cruise in late May when the daylight hours are longer. Head to the northern parts of the state, such as Fairbanks or Nome, where the dark night skies increase your likelihood of spotting the ethereal dance of the Northern Lights.

Can I go fishing during an Alaska cruise in May?

Yes, fishing opportunities abound during an Alaska cruise in May. Whether you’re an avid angler or a novice looking for a unique experience, you can participate in various fishing excursions offered in coastal areas and along Alaskan rivers. May provides opportunities for catching salmon, trout, halibut, and other popular species. Check with your cruise line or local excursion providers for fishing options and any applicable licenses or permits required to enjoy this thrilling activity.

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