When Is The Best Time To Visit Alaska
For long, light days and the best chance of fine weather, June is the best time to visit Alaska. Migrating whales and birds are arriving, bears are foraging along rocky shorelines and temperatures are warming up. However, every month of Alaskas short season has compelling reasons to visit, whether you want to see the salmon spawning, spot bear cubs or try glacier trekking.
Main photo: Mendenhall Towers, Tongass National Forest
Best Time Of Year To Take An Alaskan Cruise: Price
Alaska cruise fares fluctuate considerably depending on a few factors. Pricing can range widely depending on the cruise line, ship, itinerary, and time of year.
The Alaskan cruise season generally runs from late April/early May through the end of September. As with most seasonal cruise regions, the shoulder season is when prices tend to be the lowest. For those looking to save money, the best time of year to take an Alaskan cruise would be either early in the season or late in the season. Besides having lower fares, you will have greater choices for cabins and can score the perfect mid-ship balcony at a reduced cost.
If you travel towards the end of the season, you may be able to score some great deals on souvenirs too as many of the local shops run sales to get rid of merchandise before closing for the season. Another perk of sailing in September is that you will have a chance at seeing the Northern Lights. On our September cruise, we were told to be on the lookout for the Northern Lights on two separate nights, but we never did see them.
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When To Cruise The Inside Passage
Stretching from Puget Sound in Washington into the Gulf of Alaska, the Inside Passage offers over 500 miles of jaw-dropping scenery teeming with wildlife. Shaped by huge glaciers, this passage is over 100 miles wide in parts, encompassing more than 1000 islands.
Cruise there and you can enjoy everything from towering mountains to deep fjords, remote island visits and, of course, glaciers. This haven for wildlife is a must-do for fans of wildlife spotting and bird watching, plus active cruisers who want to try a variety of outdoors pursuits.
You can spot migrating animals and enjoy blooming wildflowers in the forests during spring. Summer is the main mating season, when you can spot seals lazing on the ice and watch young birds learning to fly. Youll also have the best chance of seeing whales during summer. If you want to go hiking, visit from mid-summer onwards once the terrain has thawed.
Bear in mind the Inside Passage is known for its high rainfall all year and pack accordingly.
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Featured September Cruises To Alaska
Increase your chances of seeing fall foliage on an Alaska Southbound Glacier Cruise itinerary that sails from Seward, Alaska down to British Columbia. The northern ports youll visit along the way may already be showing signs of autumn, and by beginning in Alaska, you can enjoy a couple of days before your embarks to explore on land when the first signs of the impending Alaskan winter are just starting to show.
Viewing Any Wildlife In Their Natural Environment Is A Privilege Please Be Respectful Of The Animals And Your Own Safety By Following These Tips:
- Give wildlife plenty of space – avoid crowding. Never approach a bear, always allow them room for retreat.
- Let them know you’re there – avoid surprising. If you are hiking through bear country, make your presence known – especially where the terrain or vegetation makes it hard to see. Make noise, sing, talk loudly or clap. If possible, travel with a group. Bears are wary of humans and will go out of their way to avoid them.
- Don’t share your lunch – avoid attracting. Store your food properly, do not leave it out or neglect to dispose of trash. Feeding bears, moose, and some other wildlife is illegal in Alaska except under terms of a permit issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
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Alaska Whale Watching Season
Whales can be seen from small ships to Alaska throughout the small ship cruise season of May through September. Orca and minke whales are residents so they may be found at any time of year. But most travelers want to see humpbacks and if you fall into this category, then you must plan your trip accordingly.
When to see humpback whales in Alaska? The first humpbacks begin to arrive in Alaska about late April and early May. These are typically the adult males that can make the long migration the fastest. They are followed by younger males, females and finally mothers with calves arriving in late May and early June. Small ship cruises in May will likely view whales, but they will be individuals or smaller groups of two or three spread about looking and waiting for food.
When is the best time to see whales in Alaska? The best time to cruise Alaska for whales is from mid-June through mid-August.
Why is mid-June through mid-August on an Alaskan cruise the best time to see whales? Sunlight from long midsummer Alaskan days causes a bloom of phytoplankton which serves as the base of Alaskas rich marine food chain. Strong currents bring nutrients from deep below to mix with oxygen-rich water near the surface resulting in huge blooms of zooplankton , krill and small fish such as capelin, candlefish and herring.
Wildlife Seasons In Alaska
It’s possible to see wildlife any time of the year in Alaska. Migratory birds return to the state as early as April, and new growth draws caribou, mountain goats, black bears and Dall sheep out into areas where they are easily seen. Autumn is the mating season for moose, goats, caribou and muskoxen, and even winter offers a chance to spot deer, sheep and mountain goats in a landscape where vegetation doesn’t obscure the view.
That being said, summer is almost certainly the best time to see a wide variety of Alaska wildlife. Brown bears fish for salmon along streams, deer and moose with calves are frequently spotted along roadsides, seal calves are born on coastal islands, and an incredible variety of birds can be seen in areas all over the state. The summer months also offer the most agreeable weather, with average daily highs in the 60s and 70s.
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Alaska Cruise In April
Expect to pay around $1,200 per person for a seven-day Alaska cruise. The season doesn’t really kick off until late in the month, and you’ll have to consider factors like weather and wildlife visibility before dropping your money on an April cruise. There are also far fewer lines and itineraries available, keeping prices a bit higher than you might expect.
Alaska Weather in April: While April is considered one of the driest months of the year in Alaska, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed sun and clear skies. Southeast Alaska, where most April cruises sail, is a rainforest, and there are still plenty of light showers and fog to be found. Temperatures are relatively mild, with daytime highs in the upper 40s and into the 50s depending on where you’re visiting and cloud cover. You will still see snow on the ground in the mountains.
Hours of Daylight in April: Alaska sees about 11 hours of daylight in April, though toward the end of the month in Southeast Alaska you can expect up to 13 hours.
The Best Time To See The Northern Lights On An Alaska Cruise
Few places allow for viewing of the aurora borealis, and the best time see the Northern Lights is in September.
Of course, temperatures during September will be lower than other times of the year, but the opportunity to see the Northern Lights is a real treat.
As mentioned in this article, not only does September provide the opportunity to see the Northern Lights, but you will also enjoy less crowds and likely lower prices on a cruise.
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What Will The Weather Be Like During My Cruise
Though weather can be hard to predict, especially in Alaska, there are trends thatll help you know what to expect during your summer cruise. So, check the weather before you pack, but these will give you a guesstimate:
Ketchikan: Alaskas first city is also widely known as the rainiest, with 153 inches per year. High temperatures during June, July, and August are typically in the mid-60s. The shoulder season of May and September is generally about 5-10 degrees colder.
Ketchikan Rain Gauge, AK
Sitka: Still in the heart of the Tongass Rainforest, but slightly less rainy, Sitka gets 131 inches of rain per year. High temperatures average in the high 50s to low 60s from June to September, and low 50s in May.
The capital of Alaska sees average highs in the upper 50s and low 60s in May through August, with September highs averaging in the low 50s. Its much less rainy than the previous two at 62 inches, but its still pretty common.
Icy Strait Point: This port near Hoonah has average highs in the upper 50s and low 60s in May through September. Same as Juneau, the rain averages 62 inches. If youre taking a shore excursion from here, be sure to check specific packing recommendations.
Icy Strait Point, AK
Skagway: Its a little warmer and a little less rainy in the land of infamous Soapy Smith, with high averages in the upper 50s and lower 60s May through September and an average rainfall of 27 inches annually.
Best Time To Go On An Alaskan Cruise To See Northern Lights
If you want to see Northern Lights in Alaska, the best time to go on an Alaskan cruise is the month of September.
If you plan your Alaskan cruise in September, besides witnessing one of natures wonders, you may also end up grabbing last minute cruise ticket deals.
For the best sighting of Aurora Borealis, you can visit Fairbanks, which is geographically under the auroral oval, the spot where Northern Lights are seen most frequently.
The best time for seeing the aurora during Alaskas winter is 11:30 p.m.3:30 a.m. so make sure you are out there staring at the sky.
While you will witness the Northern Lights during your Alaskan cruise, you may have to sacrifice some wildlife experience because some parts of Denali National Park close in September.
The Gulf of Alaska is the choppiest during this period and if you tend to get seasick, we suggest you plan your Alaska cruise during the calmer months.
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Best Time To Cruise Alaska To See Whales
Published: by Kelly Stilwell Â· This post may contain affiliate links
When is the best time to cruise Alaska to see whales? This is probably the number one question people ask about cruising the Great Land.
After all, seeing whales in the wild is a bucket list trip for almost everyone. I’ve seen whales off the coast of Vancouver a couple of times, but I’ve never seen anything like this in real life. Can you even imagine?
Why Cruise To Alaska
Taking a cruise to Alaska takes away some of the guesswork with planning. You can enjoy the majestic mountains, gushing waterfalls, and magnificent wildlife from a ship. Humpback whales are prolific in Alaska waters, along with harbor seals, porpoises, and orca.
Sitka, Hoonah, and Juneau are not accessible by road should you opt to travel by RV. So, by cruising, you can see towns and the all-important tidewater glaciers, which are not reachable by road.
While larger cruise ships tend to lean toward floating resorts, book a smaller vessel for a more intimate experience. Should you cruise to Alaska from Vancouver, youll enjoy the calmer waters of the inside passage, which are incredibly scenic.
Unlike the Caribbean, vessels sail close to land so that you can savor the views of picturesque islands canopied with evergreens.
In the summer, Alaska experiences the midnight sun, which means youll enjoy maximum daylight hours. In northern cities like Fairbanks and Anchorage, the sun doesnt set until 11:42 pm and rises less than 5 hours later.
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Which Cruise Line Has The Best Alaskan Cruise
Most cruise lines follow a similar itinerary so the best cruise for you really depends on the style of ship you prefer small and luxurious, like Seabourns boutique ships, or something bigger, like the smart ships of Celebrity Cruises. Princess Cruises and Holland America Line have seamless cruise-and-stay itineraries including the Denali National Park, where both lines own their own wilderness lodges, and scenic rail journeys on the Rocky Mountaineer. Hurtigruten offers a more expedition-style voyage, with shore excursions by Zodiac, as well as guided hiking and kayaking. UnCruise Adventures takes you right off the beaten track in tiny ships, visiting locations where you wont see any other vessels.
Best Time To Go On An Alaska Cruise Best Price Weather And Wildlife
Alaska cruise season is five months long from May to September.
During these five months, the scenario changes every week.
Every week, one there are noticeable differences in weather, wildlife, and cruise pricing.
Therefore, the best time to go on an Alaskan cruise is rather subjective.
The best time to board an Alaskan cruise depends on whether youre looking for cheap Alaskan cruise options, or the best wildlife experience, or the maximum daylight to enjoy the scintillating Alaskan views.
To help you pick your best time for an Alaskan cruise we have broken down the conditions to expect in three parts.
Best time for an Alaskan cruise if you are interested in:
- Best Alaskan cruise prices
- Best exposure to Alaskan wildlife
- Best Alaskan weather conditions
Our month-by-month break up of what to expect during an Alaskan cruise will help you take an informed decision.
If you are in a hurry to know whats the best time for a cruise to Alaska, here is our short answer: Any month is a good month to be on an Alaskan cruise.
However, the locals of Alaska, and those who are part of the Alaskan tourism industry suggest the most favorable time for an Alaskan cruise is between 20 May to 10 June.
This period offers the most beautiful Alaskan weather for a cruise. Besides, there is less crowd as the kids are still in school.
For a more detailed answer to the question What is the best time for an Alaskan cruise continue reading.
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Cost Of Alaska Cruise In September
This is a low-demand period because the schools have re-opened and families with kids cant go on cruises anymore.
If you are lucky you may end up grabbing a last-minute Alaska cruise deal from one of the travel agents.
If cost is a concern for you, this is the best time to go on an Alaskan cruise.
However, dont leave the booking to last minute because nowadays everybody wants to cut costs by traveling in the shoulder season.
Whens The Best Time To See The Northern Lights On An Alaska Cruise
Seeing the northern lights from the cruise ship is a rare occurrence, but if youd like to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis from the balcony on your stateroom, then you need to book a trip in late September or early October.
To maximize your chance of witnessing the northern lights, get off the boat and join a land excursion to Fairbanks. The aurora season in Fairbanks lasts from the end of August to April and the lights can be seen four out of five nights if the sky is clear.
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What Is The Best Time To See Wildlife During An Alaska Vacation
There may be no better place in the United States to see wildlife than Alaska. This state alone is home to 15 national parks, and its federally-protected lands cover an area the size of California. Suffice it to say, wild animals in Alaska have a lot of room to roam. The trick is knowing where to see them and when.
So When Is The Best Time To Visit Alaska
Considering everything stated above, we advise travelers that June 15 through August 15 is the best time to go to Alaska. But not everyone can schedule their trip during this time and as weve noted, each season has its benefits. If you plan your trip during the peak season, then plan ahead and book early as these are the dates that sell out first.
For more information on when to visit Alaska, view our How to Choose Your Alaska Cruise guide. If you are still looking for advice on the best time of year to visit Alaska, just give us a call, our experts are ready to help.
This guide on the best time to visit Alaska is amongAdventureSmithExplorations extensive collection of travel guides the content is regularly updated by our team for accuracy. Visit our Alaska Travel Guidesfor even more resources and inspiration in planning your Alaska trip.
Have a question about the best time to visit Alaska? Use the comments below and well answer ASAP.
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