Luxury Cruising Alaska's Inside Passage

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Advisor - Kelly Weinstein
Curated By

Kelly Weinstein

  • Alaska

  • Cruises

  • Active Travel

  • All-Inclusive Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Sightseeing

  • Outdoors

  • Mountains

snow glaciers on the edge of an icy ocean
Curator’s statement

Alaska is home to some of America’s natural wonders including 17 of the 20 highest peaks most notably, the Denali which over 20,000 feet high, the most glaciers and over 40 volcanos. The sheer size of Alaska makes it nearly impossible to see all that this state has to offer but in summer, cruise ships descend on the coastline with people trying to catch glimpses of the beauty of this state. If you're like me, I don't love to feel "herded" and there are many luxury options for you to see this wild and amazing state.

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Where to stay

Day 1: Alaska Cruise Experience

Luxury Cruising Alaska's Inside Passage - Day 1: Alaska Cruise Experience

When my family and I decided to visit Alaska for the first time, we opted to take a weeklong cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner to cruise the Inside Passage, a coastal route that weaves through the islands of the Pacific Northwest and American Fjord land. By no means is Regent the only cruise line on the water – in fact, there are more than 16 different cruise lines that offer itineraries ranging from 7-14 days. Our choice to cruise with Regent was simply that it was a smaller, more upscale option that skewed a little older since my mom wasn't going to be sliding through a waterpark anytime soon.

The best time of year to cruise in Alaska is July and August because the days, which start a bit cooler, warm up and stay light until close to midnight. While cruising isn't for everyone, it is undeniably the best way to see the Alaskan Shore and get a taste of the Alaskan wilderness.

We embarked on our journey from Vancouver, BC and arrived in the small fishing town of Ketchikan. This is the state's southernmost town with a total population of approximately 8,100 people – as shocking as this might be, this is the 6th most populated city in the entire state! The town has the largest collection of standing totem poles and largely relies heavily on fishing and canneries for its economy. We took a half-day tour into the Misty Fjords and saw wildlife teaming everywhere we looked – bald eagles were like NYC pigeons they were so abundant, seals and sea lions were playing and basking in the sun, and brown bears roamed the rocky shorelines.

Day 2: Glacier dog sledding

snow mountains

The following day we stopped in Juneau, the Capital of Alaska. This is the “big city” for Alaska but it’s the only capital that has no roads leading to it from the rest of the state or the rest of our country!

Here we took a helicopter to the Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest where we met up with a dog sledding team who keep their dogs on the glacier throughout the summer months so that they can train for the Iditarod. Dog sledding is the state sport in Alaska. We were fortunate enough to take a ride with the dogs, talk to the trainers and even snuggle some new puppies. Oh, and let’s not forget the spectacular view!

Day 3: Zipline adrenaline rush

stream runs through the forest

In Skagway, we learned more about the gold rush era as many of the buildings have been preserved and now serve as retail stores for the passengers of the many ships that come through. While the retail proved to be lackluster, we did take an adventure to the Grizzly Falls Zipline and raced over waterfalls through the forest sometimes so quickly we couldn’t catch our breath.

Day 4: Whale watching wonder

whale tail in the ocean next to the mountains

On what was to be our last true day of Alaskan exploration, we stopped in Icy Strait Point. Unbeknownst to many, this is now a privately owned tourist trap. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity were the first lines to stop there and then subsequently – many of the others like Princess, Norwegian, Oceania and Regent did as well. They have a cannery, some shops, and various activities but ironically, at this faux town, our final excursion was the highlight of the trip.

Whale Watching in Icy Strait proved to be a showstopper. Orcas and Whales, babies and mothers were jumping out of the water like acrobats, breaching and swimming as if the almost freezing water was a “day at the beach”. It was one of the most magical sights I’ve ever seen.

Day 5: Spectacular Hubbard Glacier

lake in the valley of a forest

Our last day, while spent packing a bit with the help of our amazing butler (Go Regent!!) but also viewing the Hubbard Glacier. We had to stay further out than the captain wanted to because of the falling ice into the sea but to say that it was impressive would be an understatement!

Day 6: Farwell Alaska!

small motor boat in a mountainous snowy region

Arriving in Seward on the last day, we disembarked and drove to Anchorage to get our flight back to the states. If I were to do it all over again, I would have extended the trip and taken the ship back, Anchorage is FAR from home, a flight to Seattle averages over 3 hours and that is generally the connecting point for many other major cities in the US. Alternatively, starting your journey in Seward would be a nice way to take this cruise as well, ending your journey back on the mainland of the US.

Need to Know

For more travel inspo, check out Fora's guide, 4-Day Itinerary in Seward: Alaska's Gateway to the Kenai Fjords.

This is part of our ongoing series on travel in Alaska and our longer series on cruises.