What’s the Best Time to Cruise to Alaska?

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Best time to cruise to Alaska

Looking for the best time to cruise to Alaska? Here are 4 considerations on the best & worst times to plan your cruise!

We love cruising to Alaska. The majesty, silence, and sheer vastness of this great state are unmatched, and visiting by ship allows you to glide past rugged coastlines shrouded in fog that you’d never see on a land vacation to Alaska.

Over the years, we’ve shared our Alaska Cruise experiences, tips on how to prep and pack for Alaska, and our favorite month to cruise to Alaska (keep reading – it may surprise you!), and today we’re sharing the BEST and worst times to cruise to the Last Frontier! We’ve also linked to a powerhouse of Alaska goodness at the end of this article, so be sure to read all the way through!

Unlike other popular cruise destinations like the Caribbean and Mexico, Alaska cruises ONLY take place during a set season. Specifically, you can only cruise to Alaska during the late Spring and Summer months. Cruise ships head to Alaska from April through September (some cruise into October), with most lines cruising mid-May through mid- September. 

NEED HELP PACKING FOR ALASKA? Visit our Amazon Alaska store for all the essentials!

Best time to cruise to Alaska weather

We think there are four main things to consider when choosing the best and worst times to cruise to Alaska. Those factors are weather, cost savings, crowds, and wildlife

With that said, it’s important to share that we don’t believe there’s a bad time to cruise to Alaska. Use this information to learn more about what may be better for YOU, but rest assured that the entire Alaska cruise season offers wonderful opportunities to see the last frontier, and you really can’t go wrong!

Weather– when should you go?

Best time to cruise to Alaska cloudy weather

The warmest months to visit Alaska are typically June and July, with August and September being cooler and wetter. That’s been our personal experience too. While our cruise to Alaska in late August/early September was wonderful, it was far more drizzly than our prior cruises in late May and Early June.

May- the forgotten month!

While May is technically supposed to be one of the cooler months to visit Alaska, don’t overlook it! May can be incredibly beautiful, and is typically far less rainy than the late summer months. Yep, May is our FAVORITE month to cruise to Alaska. In our experience, May is sunny, warm, and crowd-free! The perfect combo for our Alaska-lovin-family. Is May the best time to cruise to Alaska? Well, not for everyone. Some report you’ll see less glacial calving and less wildlife in May, so take that into consideration.

Mid-June to Mid July – Midnight Sun!

One advantage to cruising to Alaska mid-June to mid July is the amazing amount of daylight! There’s a good reason why they call it the land of the midnight sun! For the longest days and most sunlight, visit Alaska 2-3 weeks before or after the summer solstice and longest day of the year, which is June 21st.

Northern Lights?

Best time to cruise to Alaska Northern Lights

How about seeing the Northern Lights in Alaska? Many people want to know if seeing the Northern Lights is possible on a cruise. The truth is, it’s pretty unlikely. While there is a chance that the skies will be dark enough to see them during the second week of September or so, you’re better off booking a land vacation during the winter months to see them. Alaska’s northern lights season is between mid-September and late April, peaking in March. 

Cost Savings & Crowds

Best time to cruise to Alaska cloudy crowds

Visit any cruise line website, and you’ll immediately see that Alaska cruises in the May and September months are typically quite a bit less expensive. 

That’s because April, May, September, and October are considered the “shoulder season” for Alaska cruises. They’re less popular, less crowded and as a result, they almost always offer better “off-season” deals.  We’re not exactly sure why this is, but it would seem that the summer months, when families tend to travel together the most, tend to be more popular- simple supply and demand.

But as we mentioned before when talking about the weather, May can be a FANTASTIC time to visit Alaska. Don’t let the GREAT early season deals fool you into thinking you need to book during the prime months of June, July and August. May is one of our favorite times to visit, and we’ve saved thousands of dollars on Alaska cruises with this strategy! May tends to be more DRY, less crowded AND less expensive. Win, win, win!

Wildlife

Best time to cruise to Alaska Wildlife

What about seeing wildlife in Alaska? We consulted with some experts on this one, because as you can imagine, it’s tricky! According to Alaska.org, Spotting wildlife can be hit and miss and unpredictable in Alaska, but your best bet of getting photos of wildlife ashore is likely late May and early June, when mothers and their calves or cubs tend to be out and about.

However, there is one exception: If you want to do a bear-watching shore excursion, the prime bear season is not until late June or early July.

One quick note about another type of wildlife (eek!)- mosquitoes! If you want to avoid these little blood suckers, visit Alaska during the shoulder season (April, May or September). Mosquitoes haven’t yet hatched in May, and they’ve generally died off by September. Either way, pack some bug spray– trust me on this one. I have first hand experience being a tasty-mosquito-treat on our bear walk in Ketchikan. 

A monthly overview – best time to cruise to Alaska

Alright, let’s sum things up with an overview of each month, and what you can expect so you can determine the best time to cruise to Alaska:

May – Low prices, fewer crowds, less rain, and fewer bugs! Fewer children on ships. Less wildlife spotting in some cases and ice can inhibit glacier visits during this early season.

June– Best chance of glacier calving. More crowds and higher prices. Warmer, drier weather, typically. More families with children traveling. Excursions book quickly- book early!

July- Prime Bear Season! Also, more crowded and expensive as this is when families tend to travel. The best chance of glacier calving and whale sightings.

August- Best chance of glacier calving and whale sightings. The weather is cooling, and more rain/drizzle is possible.

September– Slight possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. Lower prices, few crowds, SALES in port on retail items. Weather is significantly cooler as the month progresses, and rain is more common. Pack a raincoat!

Want more Alaska Goodness?

If you’d like to learn more about the best and worst times to cruise to other destinations, like the Caribbean and Mexico, we’ll link to some helpful resources below, as well as a discount code for our Intro to Cruising Master Class, where you’ll find the BEST cruise travel tips, and get access our Alaska Packing List.

What’s Alaska Like?

Most recently, we cruised to Alaska on Seabourn Cruise line! If you’re looking for unpretentious luxury, this is for you! Follow along on our Alaska Cruise Journey, and see for yourself why we love these cruises so much! See bears in Ketchikan, visit a glacier in Juneau, and ride the rails with us in Skagway!

Pack with us for Alaska!

Our Alaska Packing Playlist features packing and planning videos for your cruise to Alaska. From clothing, outerwear, and gear, to packing carry-on only (GASP!), we’ve gotcha covered.

You can also shop our Amazon store, specifically curated for Alaska, OR watch our latest packing video to have you safe and comfortable on your cruise and flight!