Into the Wild: Luxury Cruises to Alaska

Alaska reigns as one of the cruise industry’s most popular regions for luxury travel. The 49th U.S. state is remote, yet close to home for North Americans. Cruise ships sail to Alaska from convenient departure homeports in Seattle, WA; Vancouver, B.C., Canada; and other West Coast and Alaska ports. Best of all, Alaska is brimming with gorgeous natural beauty and prolific wildlife. For luxury travelers, here’s a sampling of Alaska cruise line options for 2024-2025.

Earlier this year, Silversea Cruises christened its new, 728-passenger Silver Nova, and this new ultra-luxury ship heads for its first season in Alaska this year. The innovative ship’s horizontal design layout opens up huge expanses of glass in interior spaces—advantageous for “soaking in” dramatic Alaska landscapes in interior comfort. The open-deck pool is also positioned much closer to the ship’s starboard side—bringing the destinations closer. Also sailing in Alaska this summer are Silversea’s 596-passenger Silver Muse and 392-passenger Silver Shadow.

Silver Nova offers a seven-day voyage between Seward (Anchorage), AK, and Vancouver, B.C., Canada, on multiple summer dates. Top “digs” aboard? Those are the two 1,324-square-foot Otium Suites, located in a corner position aft on Decks 6 and 7. While in Alaska, Silver Nova will cruise along the scenic Hubbard Glacier, call at Juneau, Skagway, Sitka and Ketchikan, and cruise the Inside Passage. In Juneau, we’d suggest Silversea’s four-hour “Exclusive Luxury Whale Watch” excursion, designed for a maximum of eight guests aboard a private yacht.

Departing from the ship in a private van, guests will take a narrated drive through downtown Juneau to Auke Bay. After boarding the yacht, they’ll begin a whale watching and wildlife adventure in comfort and style. Expert naturalists will help them spot humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, seals, sea lions, bald eagles, seabirds and even potentially bears. As the private yacht motors past glaciers and snow-capped mountains, guests will be treated to Alaskan beer, wine, Champagne, other drinks, local salmon dip and charcuterie. Weather permitting, on the ride back to the ship, guests can snap selfies at the Mendenhall Glacier.

Between May and September 2024 and 2025, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 746-passenger, ultra-luxury Seven Seas Explorer will offer a full season of seven-night, all-inclusive Alaska sailings plus several 14-night sailings between Seward, AK, and Vancouver, BC. For example, on September 3, 2025, the ship will depart from Vancouver, cruise one day along the Inside Passage, then take guests to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Icy Strait (Hoonah), AK, before another day of cruising and arrival in Seward.

For the first time in Alaska during 2023, Regent Seven Seas launched new Epicurean Explorer tours ashore and new cooking classes on board Seven Seas Explorer. Thankfully, those innovative tours continue this year. In Ketchikan, guests can join a chef instructor to visit a family-owned sustainable oyster and kelp farm. They’ll learn how oysters are nurtured and how kelp is harvested in the bay due to extraordinary water conditions. After tastings, participants will return to the ship’s Culinary Arts Kitchen for a 90-minute class about fish cookery techniques.

In its nostalgic “last season,” Seabourn’s 229-passenger Seabourn Odyssey will operate 20 sailings in America’s "Last Frontier" between May and August 2024. While Seabourn stresses that it will continue to sail to Alaska in the future using other ships, this will be Seabourn Odyssey’s final season in the Seabourn fleet. Loyal past guests are expected to head to the "Last Frontier" to sail on this ship one last time. One plus of a Seabourn voyage? It’s the adventurous Ventures by Seabourn program. Its optional escorted Alaska activities include hikes, kayaking, and catamaran or Zodiac rides.

In total, Seabourn Odyssey will operate 12 seven-day itineraries between May and August 2024, sailing northbound or southbound between Vancouver, B.C., and Juneau, AK. Each seven-day voyage can also be combined to create a 14-day round-trip Vancouver voyage. Seabourn Odyssey will also offer two 10-day “Alaska Fjord Odyssey” itineraries, as well as two 11-day “Inside Passage & Alaska Fjords voyages,” scheduled round-trip from Vancouver.

For an in-depth Alaska experience, we’d opt for a Seabourn Journeys pre- or post-cruise package. In 2024, the pre-cruise, five-night “Denali Experience” between Anchorage and Juneau gives travelers a chance to explore Denali National Park and Reserve via road, rail and air.

Viking sails an 11-day “Alaska & the Inside Passage” voyage in summer season 2024-2026. For 2024, the 930-passenger Viking Orion (for 2024) will sail between Seward, AK, (overnight) and Vancouver, B.C., Canada, while in 2025 and 2026, sister ship, Viking Sea, will operate this itinerary. It’s a good itinerary option for “port collectors” as guests will go ashore at Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Juneau and Icy Strait Point. Seven guided tours are included within the cruise fare. Guests will also sail along the Inside Passage and Yakutat Bay.

As with most Alaska cruises, many of Viking’s excursions involve the great outdoors. For instance, in Sitka, Viking’s guests can head out on an “Orphaned Bears and Alaska Life,” “Sitka Sound by Kayak,” “Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest,” “Wildlife Cruise and Fin Island Lodge,” and others. Plus, Viking also offers cultural and heritage focused tours in Sitka.

Silver Nova will offer seven-day voyages between Seward (Anchorage), AK, and Vancouver, B.C., Canada, this summer. Shown here is one of the two Otium Suites. (Silversea Cruises)

Ultra-luxury Crystal is back in Alaska this summer with its 720-passenger Crystal Serenity. For example, the ship sails a seven-night round-trip voyage from Vancouver on July 2, 2024. The ship will travel through the pine-forest-flanked Seymour Narrows to the Pacific Ocean where whales breach, before arriving at Sitka, AK. Then, it’s on to the Klondike-era boomtown of Skagway, AK, before the ship loops around and heads south via the glacial valleys around Endicott Arm, Tracy Arm, and Ketchikan, before returning to Vancouver.

For dramatic scenic views by rail, Luxury Travel Advisor would opt for Crystal’s two-and-a-half-hour “White Pass Summit Tour,” a 40-mile round-trip rail ride rated as moderate in activity. Guests will board the White Pass and Yukon Railway and enjoy a climb from tidewater at Skagway to the 2,885-foot-high White Pass’ summit. During the narrated train journey, guests will traverse two tunnels, ride atop sky-high trestles, and see cascading waterfalls, historic sites and wild scenery. Another fun option in Skagway is Crystal’s “Dog Sledding and Glacier Flightseeing.”

Oceania Cruises’ 670-passenger Regatta will sail to Alaska this year, but coming up next year, the 1,250-passenger Riviera, totally revitalized in 2022, will sail its first Alaska season of seven- to 12-day itineraries in 2025. For those seeking an in-depth experience, we’d recommend Riviera’s 12-day “Wilds of Alaska” itinerary from Vancouver to Whittier, AK, on May 29, 2025. That cruises along Hubbard Glacier and visits Klawock, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), Haines, Juneau, Sitka, Kodiak and Homer. Riviera’s guests will have nearly 300 shore excursion choices within Alaska, plus a generous shore excursion credit.

Offering spacious standard staterooms that start at 291 square feet and sumptuous suites too, the ship is known for its residential-style luxury. It’s also famed for its foodie approach — with one chef for every 10 guests and seven open-seating gourmet restaurants. For Riviera’s 2025 Alaska season, the line has created a new series of chef-led Culinary Discovery Tours in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. They spotlight the state’s unique and thriving food scenes. Guests can opt for craft beer flight tastings with dishes highlighting freshly foraged ingredients or visit a sustainable oyster farm and take a seafood-centric cooking class.

Cunard just announced that it will continue its partnership with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) to provide an extensive speaker line-up for the Alaska 2024 season. An RCGS speaker—an explorer, naturalist, astronaut, Indigenous advocate and others—will sail on every summer 2024 Alaska voyage of the 2,081-passenger Queen Elizabeth, starting June 21.

For instance, Brian and Dee Keating, naturalists and wilderness adventurers, will utilize wildlife films to tell stories about the value and importance of nature on that June 21 voyage. On the July 1 voyage, Andrew Fuestel, an astronaut who served 23 years with NASA, will talk about his three space flights—two on the Space Shuttle and one on the Russian Soyuz rocket. Bringing global awareness to the critical threats facing elephants on the July 11 voyage is Patricia Sims, an RCGS Fellow, award-winning documentary filmmaker, naturalist and founder of World Elephant Day.

In addition to many more RCGS speakers, Cunard has assembled other experts for Alaska voyages. Among them are Alex Debogorski from the History Channel’s reality TV show “Ice Road Truckers,” and Kenton Cool, an adventurer who has climbed Mount Everest 17 times.

Small-ship Ponant offers 10 luxury Alaska voyages of seven to 11 nights this summer on the 264-passenger Le Soleal. Those operate between Sitka or Seward and Vancouver. Luxury Travel Advisor suggests checking out the eight-night “Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage—with Smithsonian Journeys” sailing on July 5, 2024; some other dates are available too. Tailored for English-speaking travelers, these Smithsonian Journeys voyages include the usual elements of the Ponant luxury boutique experience, as well as fares that include transfers to and from the ship; talks and discussions aboard ship by Smithsonian’s world-class experts; a shore excursion or activity in each port of call; and more.

On this sailing, natural history filmmaker John Grabowska and geologist Scott Burns will offer enrichment talks. Ponant’s traveler can hike in Sitka National Historical Park, the world’s largest temperate rainforest; learn about Alaska native culture in Metlakatla, Kake and Sitka; and visit the “little Russia” of Sitka and the “little Norway” of Petersburg. These and other lines offer many voyages to America’s "Last Frontier," a mecca for adventure and nature seekers and close to home without the need for international flights for many North American travelers. 

Alaska brims with naturalbeauty and wildlife. Shown here is a group of wild Steller sea lions just north of Sitka. (Getty Images)

More "Great Land" Adventures

Holland America Line is elevating its Alaska cruisetours for the 2024 season with room upgrades at McKinley Chalet Resort near Denali National Park and a new, included “Klondike Gold Tour” in Dawson City, Yukon. Balconies will be added to 28 riverview rooms, upgrading them to the Denali Suite category, plus a new Deluxe category of 45 non-balcony rooms with suite amenities is being added. Alaska cruisetours combine an Alaska cruise with an overland tour to Denali. Holland America Line is the only major cruise line extending those cruisetours into Canada’s Yukon Territory.

For the first time this summer, Celebrity Cruises is bringing an Edge-class ship to Alaska. For instance, Celebrity Edge will sail a seven-night "Alaska Dawes Glacier" cruise on June 7, 2024, departing from Seattle, WA. The ship will sail to Ketchikan, Endicott Arm, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, B.C. Edge-class ships offer such sumptuous accommodations as two-story Edge Villas plus the world’s first cantilevered lounge at sea, so guests can drink, dine and connect with the destination while seated on a platform off the ship’s side.

Princess Cruises achieved an all-time high in Alaska bookings for January 2024, surpassing any previous January in the line’s history by more than 20 percent. That shows strong consumer demand for Alaska vacations. Four- to 22-day cruises as well as cruisetours are offered for summer 2024, the line’s 55th year in Alaska. Guests can choose to explore the Inside Passage, visit Glacier Bay National Park, and select a voyage departing from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, as well as San Francisco, Seattle, Whittier (for Anchorage), and even Los Angeles.

Families planning an Alaska vacation for next year have a new option with Royal Caribbean International. For the first time, between May and September 2025, the 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas will debut in Alaska with two different, seven-night itineraries that include such locales as Sitka and Skagway. Guests also will have the chance to sail along the Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier, and explore Juneau, and Victoria, B.C., Canada. Onboard thrills include the RipCord by iFly skydiving simulator and the North Star glass observation capsule.

As for a new small-ship experience in 2024, American Cruise Lines will offer a 19-day “Grand Alaska National Parks” cruisetour. Starting in Fairbanks, guests will spend two days in Denali National Park before traveling to Anchorage and exploring Kenai Fjords National Park. Boarding the 170-passenger American Constellation, guests will sail 12 days round-trip from Juneau to Haines, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. Plus, they’ll enjoy cruising the Inside Passage, Frederick Sound, Glacier Bay, Tracy Arm and Wrangell Narrows. Adventure guides will accompany this robust journey. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, UnCruise Adventures and others also offer enticing small-ship Alaska cruises.

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