Alaska cruise ports combine rich history with beautiful scenery and gives passengers the chance to learn a little more about this wonderful region.
Sadly though, standard cruise itineraries do not visit every port and you need to choose your cruise wisely if there is a particular port of call you wish to visit.
So, to help you choose the itinerary that suits you most, we have written a quick guide on our favourite Alaska cruise ports below. Please note that most cruises to Alaska will not depart from these ports (with the exception of Juneau), but instead depart from either California or Washington State.
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Below are the main ports of call during an Alaska cruise. We do not include any of the starting ports outside of Alaska such as Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles etc.
We have also only included ports in which you actually disembark your cruise ship. As such, places like Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm Glacier are not included.
Located in the Southeast region of Alaska within the Inside Passage, Juneau is the State's capital and third most populated city in Alaska. The city cannot be reached by road and must be accessed via boat or seaplane. During the summer season, Juneau is without doubt the most busy cruise port as many expedition ships and cruise liners depart from here.
The city boast a number of galleries and some excellent shops. The Juneau Ice field nearby is one of the main attractions as makes for a great hiking excursion. There are also plenty of flight seeing tours that depart from here. If you want a fun time with the family then try your hand at gold panning down at Gold Creek or take a local whale watching trip.
Almost every main line cruise itinerary in Alaska will make a stop at Juneau. Usually you'll get plenty of hours to explore the city and take part in some shore excursions. Only a couple of expedition cruise itineraries do not stop in Juneau.
Located above Juneau and Haines is the picturesque town of Skagway. This little town first came aline during the Alaskan gold rush era beginning in 1897. You would be forgiven for thinking it's still 1897 when you walk down some of the streets for some of the saloons and hotels have changed little. This gives the town a great outpost feel and offers history lovers plenty of site seeing opportunities!
Skagway's White Pass & Yukon train route is one of the most famous in the world and definitely one of the most scenic. The train line climbs to the 2,865-foot and gives stunning views across glaciers, mountain peaks and lush forest. Another popular activity is dog sledding. You an take a helicopter tour up to Denver Glacier where you are dropped off for a fun few hours dog sledding over the ice and snow.
Like Juneau, Skagway is also visited on almost every main line cruise itinerary. This is mainly because the Yukon train and dog sledding excursions are so popular.
Ketchikan is a lovely and historic town that offer bucket loads of charm. It's definitely not your typical 'American' town though and has a very rustic feel to it. There are more totem poles here anywhere in the world and plenty of art and craft shops to keep passengers happy. Although it's quite small and the dining options are not numerous, the character of the town really makes it shine.
Salmon fishing here has always been a big part of the industry and there is still not many places as good as Ketchikan to fish. Five varieties of North Pacific salmon are found in the area and there are plenty of tours and guides who will take you out. We would also advise checking out the fascinating Totem Heritage Centre for some local culture or taking the nearby zipline tour.
Because of its unique charm, Ketchikan is offered on almost every Alaska cruise itinerary, no matter what cruise line you sail with.
For history lovers, there is no better place in Alaska than Sitka. The struggle between the invading Russians and native Alaskans left a fascinating legacy and one that can still be explored today throughout the town. Although it's history is one of conflict, Sitka these days is a friendly and charming town with a wealth of things to do.
Thanks to its protected waters, the kayaking and scuba diving around Sitka is breathtaking. You can also take a sea otter and wildlife tour which enables you to see otters, seals, opposes, brown bears and eagles in one tour. For a relaxed few hours you could walk around the 107 acre Sitka National State Park.
Sitka is rarely visited on main line cruises from Seattle ( except on Holland America). However, there are a number of options from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises that depart from Vancouver.
Anchorage is the biggest city in Alaska and offers visitors the chance to take in the theatre, explore numerous museums, or explore the vast Alaska wilderness on the doorstep of the city. To get into the spirit of Alaskan culture visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center which boasts loads of activities and displays to suit the whole family.
The 3 hour train journey between Anchorage and Seward is one of the most spectacular in the world, but it is one-way. You could also take a Blackstone Glacier Adventure Cruise which visits the beautiful Prince William Sound. The wilderness around Anchorage is also one of the best places to witness the Northern Lights of you visit during winter.
Very few cruises make port in Anchorage. However, there are plenty of one-way trips from Seward to Vancouver, so you could fly into Anchorage and take the gorgeous train journey to Seward before boarding your cruise.
One of the oldest cities in Alaska, Seaward is located within the magnificent Prince William Sound. Acting as a gateway to the Kenai Peninsula, Seward is now a very popular place for visitors to explore. The Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the most stunning locations in all of America and offer breathtaking scenery.
When visiting Seward we highly suggest you take a look around the Alaska Sealife Center where you can learn more about the marine life of Alaska and see porpoises, voters and seals. The area is also great for kayaking and Resurrection Bay even has its own colony of puffins!
Many of the major cruise lines offer one-way cruises that depart in Seward and finish in Vancouver or vice versa. Princess, Celebrity and Norwegian are the three main contenders.
Located near Glacier Bay, Icy Straight Point has a strict one ship at a time policy which makes this wilderness location feel even more remote and calm. All five species of Pacific salmon can be found around the point and, where there are salmon, there are bald eagles. Although the town is small and offers little in the way of things to do, the historic cannery has been restored by the Icy Straits Packing Company which gives a great glimpse into the town's history.
The real draw card of Icy Straight Point is the marine life. This area is a haven for whales and there are plenty of whale watching tours you can choose from. There is also one of the longest ziplines on earth here spanning a massive 5,330-feet!
Very few round cruises stop at Icy Straight Point. However, most one way cruises from Seward to Vancouver (or vice versa) will make port at Icy Straight.
Known as the sunny spot of the Southeast, Haines is one of the most beautiful locations in Alaska. When making port, you'll see the stunning scenery that surrounds the town. However, few cruises actually make port here, preferring the nearby town of Skagway.
If you do visit, one of the best things to do is to take a river cruise up to the famous Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve where you'll get the chance to meet some of the lovely birds up close. The town is also famous for the huge amounts of bald eagles that arrive in November.
Princess Cruises offer occasional round trips from San Francisco that stop in Haines. Both Holland America and Crystal Cruise offer longer (and more expensive) roundtrips from Vancouver that make port here.
If you have any queries or questions regarding Alaska cruise ports, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below. If you would like to read our top tips for your Alaska cruise, please click here. To learn more about Alaska cruise tour packages, click here.
Thank you and happy travels!
Expedition Cruise Team
Burnham started his career as a professional tennis player before retiring due to injury. Since then Burnham has thrown himself into adventure travel. He has cruised to some of the most iconic and obscure parts of the planet.