When Is The Best Month To Cruise To Alaska

If you’re dreaming of embarking on an unforgettable cruise to the breathtaking landscapes of Alaska, you may be wondering when the best time to go is. The answer to that question lies in understanding the unique weather patterns and natural wonders that make this destination so special. From the stunning midnight sun in June to the spectacular displays of wildlife in August, each month offers its own distinct charm and experiences. So, let’s take a closer look at the calendar and find out when is the best month to cruise to Alaska and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Choosing the Best Month to Cruise to Alaska

Alaska is a captivating destination that offers breathtaking landscapes and wildlife encounters. When planning a cruise to Alaska, choosing the best month to go is key to ensuring a rewarding experience. There are several factors to consider, such as weather conditions, wildlife viewing opportunities, availability and pricing, cruise itineraries, must-visit ports of call, events and festivals, as well as packing tips and inland excursions. By taking these considerations into account, you can make the most of your Alaskan adventure.

Considerations for Choosing the Best Month

Summer vs. Shoulder Season

The summer months of June, July, and August are the peak season for cruising to Alaska. During this time, you can expect warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours. However, the shoulder season months of May and September also offer unique advantages. May brings the arrival of spring, with blooming wildflowers and a chance to see bears coming out of hibernation. September, on the other hand, showcases the stunning fall foliage and fewer crowds.

Personal Preferences and Interests

Your personal preferences and interests should play a significant role in choosing the best month to cruise to Alaska. If you enjoy warmer weather and bustling ports, summer months may be ideal for you. On the other hand, if you prefer quieter surroundings and the opportunity to witness the changing seasons, the shoulder season months may be a better fit.

Budget Constraints

Budget constraints can also influence the choice of the best month to cruise to Alaska. Peak season rates tend to be higher, but they offer a wider selection of cruise options and onboard amenities. Shoulder season discounts can provide more affordable options, allowing you to experience Alaska’s beauty without breaking the bank.

Availability of Time

Considering the availability of time is crucial when choosing the best month to cruise to Alaska. Longer cruises typically cover more ground and offer the chance to visit more ports of call. If you have limited time, it may be more beneficial to opt for a shorter cruise, focusing on specific destinations and experiences.

When Is The Best Month To Cruise To Alaska

Weather Conditions

Late Spring (May)

Late spring in Alaska brings milder temperatures and the awakening of nature. May is a magical month when the landscapes begin to burst with color, as wildflowers start blooming. It is also an ideal time for wildlife enthusiasts, as bears emerge from hibernation during this period. However, weather can still be unpredictable, and some attractions and excursions may not be fully operational yet.

Early Summer (June)

June offers longer daylight hours and milder temperatures, making it an excellent time to explore Alaska. This month is known for its vibrant greenery, as the landscape comes alive with lush vegetation. Wildlife viewing opportunities abound, and you may witness the annual salmon runs. However, June can still have occasional rain showers, so packing rain gear is essential.

Mid-Summer (July)

July is the peak of Alaska’s summer season, with extended daylight hours and warmer temperatures. It is an ideal time for outdoor activities and wildlife sightings. Cruise passengers can expect sunny days, with temperatures ranging from the 60s to 70s Fahrenheit. This month provides optimal conditions for exploring glaciers, hiking, and enjoying the lush scenery.

Late Summer (August)

August offers similar weather conditions to July, with pleasant temperatures and extended daylight hours. It is an excellent time to witness the calving of glaciers and observe migrating whales. Late summer also brings the opportunity to see bears fishing for salmon in the rivers. However, as the month progresses, temperatures begin to cool, hinting at the approaching fall season.

Early Fall (September)

September marks the beginning of fall in Alaska, when the landscapes transform into vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold. It is a quieter time of the year, with fewer tourists and lower prices. Wildlife is still abundant, and the bear-viewing opportunities continue. However, the weather becomes more unpredictable, with occasional rain and cooler temperatures.

Wildlife Viewing Opportunities

Whale Watching

Whale watching is a highlight of an Alaskan cruise, and several months offer excellent opportunities for sightings. From May through September, you can spot humpback whales, orcas, and other marine mammals as they navigate the waters of the Inside Passage and the Gulf of Alaska.

Bear Sightings

Alaska is home to a large population of bears, and spotting these majestic creatures is a thrilling experience. Late spring and early summer (May and June) are prime months for bear sightings, as they come out of hibernation and search for food. July and August also offer chances to observe bears fishing for salmon in the rivers.

Bird Watching

Alaska boasts a rich variety of bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. From May to September, you can witness the arrival of migratory birds, such as bald eagles, puffins, and a myriad of waterfowl. The coastal regions and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge are particularly rewarding for bird enthusiasts.

Salmon Runs

Witnessing the annual salmon runs is a unique experience in Alaska. From June to September, you can observe salmon swimming upstream to spawn. This phenomenon attracts various species of birds and bears, creating incredible wildlife spectacles. Rivers such as the Brooks River in Katmai National Park and the Chilkoot River near Haines are prime locations for salmon runs.

Glacier Calving

Alaska’s glaciers are a sight to behold, and witnessing glacier calving is a breathtaking experience. The active months for glacier calving are typically June to August. Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, and Tracy Arm Fjord are popular destinations where you can witness this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon.

When Is The Best Month To Cruise To Alaska

Availability and Pricing

Peak Season Rates

Peak season for Alaska cruises is during the summer months of June, July, and August. The demand is high during this time, leading to higher prices. If you are looking for a wide selection of cruise options, onboard amenities, and the hustle and bustle of busy ports, peak season may be the best choice for you.

Shoulder Season Discounts

For those who want to experience Alaska without the peak season crowds, shoulder season discounts offer more affordable options. The months of May and September provide lower prices while still allowing for beautiful scenery, wildlife sightings, and a variety of shore excursions.

Last-Minute Deals

If you are flexible with your travel dates and willing to take a chance, last-minute deals can provide significant savings. Cruise lines occasionally offer discounted rates for unsold cabins closer to the departure date. However, availability may be limited, and your itinerary choices may be more restricted.

Booking in Advance

Alternatively, booking your Alaska cruise well in advance can ensure the best selection of cabins and itineraries. By securing your spot early, you can also take advantage of any early booking promotions or discounts offered by the cruise lines.

Cruise Itineraries

Inside Passage Cruises

Inside Passage cruises are among the most popular choices for exploring Alaska. These itineraries typically depart from Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, Canada, and navigate through the scenic waterways of the Inside Passage. Along the way, you will encounter majestic glaciers, charming coastal towns, and abundant wildlife.

Gulf of Alaska Cruises

Gulf of Alaska cruises offer a more extensive and immersive experience. These itineraries often include ports such as Seward, Whittier, or Anchorage, allowing you to explore the breathtaking landscapes of the Kenai Peninsula and visit Denali National Park. You will have the opportunity to witness the rugged coastline, towering mountains, and diverse wildlife.

Northbound vs. Southbound Cruises

Alaska cruises can be divided into two main routes: northbound and southbound. Northbound cruises typically start from Vancouver and end in Seward or Whittier, allowing travelers to enjoy the awe-inspiring glaciers of Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier. Southbound cruises follow the opposite route, beginning in Seward or Whittier and concluding in Vancouver.

One-Way vs. Round-Trip Cruises

One-way cruises offer a chance to explore more extensive regions of Alaska, as they cover different ports of call in each direction. Round-trip cruises, on the other hand, begin and end at the same port, providing a convenient option if you prefer a more straightforward travel itinerary.

Cruise Duration

Cruise durations can vary, ranging from a few days to two weeks or more. The duration of your Alaska cruise will depend on the ports of call, activities you wish to participate in, and the time you have available. Longer cruises allow for a more comprehensive exploration of Alaska, while shorter cruises offer a taste of the region’s highlights.

When Is The Best Month To Cruise To Alaska

Must-Visit Ports of Call


Known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” Ketchikan is a charming port town that offers an abundance of outdoor activities and cultural experiences. Explore the historic Creek Street, go salmon fishing, visit the Totem Heritage Center, or embark on a wildlife tour to see eagles and bears.


As Alaska’s capital, Juneau is a bustling city with a unique blend of natural beauty and urban amenities. Visit the Mendenhall Glacier, take a tram ride up Mount Roberts, explore the Alaska State Museum, or go whale watching in Auke Bay. Additionally, the annual Alaska Folk Festival in June is a must-attend event for music enthusiasts.


Skagway is a small town that takes you back in time to the Klondike Gold Rush era. Explore the historic downtown, visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, or embark on an exhilarating adventure on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad.


Sitka offers a rich history and stunning natural scenery. Explore the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, visit the Sitka National Historical Park, or take a boat tour to see sea otters, sea lions, and whales. The Sitka Summer Music Festival in June is a delightful event for classical music lovers.

Victoria (Canada)

Although not in Alaska, Victoria is often included as a port of call on Alaska cruises. This charming city on Vancouver Island offers beautiful gardens, historic architecture, and the famous Butchart Gardens. Explore the Inner Harbour, visit the Royal BC Museum, or enjoy high tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Events and Festivals

Alaska Folk Festival (Juneau)

The Alaska Folk Festival is an annual week-long event held in Juneau, celebrating traditional music and dance. Musicians from all over the state gather to share their talents, while locals and visitors enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and lively performances.

Golfing Under the Midnight Sun (Fairbanks)

Fairbanks hosts a unique golfing event that takes advantage of the extended daylight hours of the Alaskan summer. Golfers participate in a tournament under the midnight sun, experiencing the thrill of playing golf well into the evening hours.

Kodiak Crab Festival

The Kodiak Crab Festival is a popular annual event held in May on Kodiak Island. This lively festival celebrates the rich fishing heritage of the island and features delicious seafood, live music, carnival rides, and various activities for all ages.

Sitka Summer Music Festival

The Sitka Summer Music Festival is a renowned event in the classical music world. Held in June, this festival brings talented musicians to Sitka for chamber music performances, educational workshops, and captivating concerts in beautiful venues.

Gold Rush Days (Juneau)

Gold Rush Days is an annual event in Juneau that commemorates the Klondike Gold Rush. Visitors can enjoy themed parades, live music, gold panning competitions, and historical reenactments, immersing themselves in the exciting era of Alaska’s gold rush history.

When Is The Best Month To Cruise To Alaska

Alaska Cruise Packing Tips

Layered Clothing

Alaska’s weather can be unpredictable, so packing layers is essential. Opt for lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics that can be easily layered to add or remove as needed. This will ensure your comfort throughout the day, as temperatures can vary significantly from morning to evening.

Rain Gear

Alaska is known for its rain, so it is wise to pack waterproof gear such as a rain jacket, pants, and waterproof shoes or boots. This will keep you dry during outdoor activities and excursions, allowing you to fully enjoy the stunning landscapes even in wet conditions.

Binoculars and Cameras

Binoculars are a must-have for wildlife enthusiasts, as they allow for a closer look at Alaska’s incredible fauna. Additionally, bringing a camera with extra batteries and memory cards will ensure you capture all the unforgettable moments during your cruise.

Sturdy Footwear

Alaska’s terrain can be rugged, with various outdoor activities and excursions requiring sturdy footwear. Pack comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots that provide support and traction to explore the wilderness with ease.

Sunscreen and Bug Spray

Even on cloudy days, UV rays can still penetrate through, so it is crucial to apply sunscreen with a high SPF. Additionally, Alaska does have its fair share of bugs, especially during the summer months, so packing bug spray will help keep those pesky mosquitoes at bay.

Medications and First Aid

Remember to pack any necessary medications, as well as a small first aid kit for minor injuries and ailments. Even though cruise ships typically have medical facilities on board, it is always good to be prepared with basic medical supplies.

Electrical Adapters

If you are traveling from outside North America, bring electrical adapters to charge your electronic devices. Alaska and Canada use Type A and Type B electrical outlets, so make sure you have the appropriate adapters for your devices.

Essential Documents

Don’t forget to carry your passport or other identification documents, as well as any necessary visas or travel permits. It is also advisable to have photocopies of these documents, stored separately from the originals, in case of loss or theft.


Choosing the best month to cruise to Alaska involves considering various factors such as weather conditions, wildlife viewing opportunities, availability and pricing, cruise itineraries, must-visit ports of call, events and festivals, as well as packing tips and inland excursions. By keeping these considerations in mind, you can plan a memorable Alaskan cruise that matches your preferences and guarantees an unforgettable journey through the stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife of the Last Frontier. Whether you prefer the warm summer months, the quieter shoulder season, or the vibrant colors of fall, Alaska’s charm awaits you whenever you embark on your Alaskan adventure.

When Is The Best Month To Cruise To Alaska