Alaska: The Inside Passage

Alaska Hubbard Glacier

What’s the best way to experience authentic Alaska? Take a cruise! The scenery of Alaska and the convenience of cruising are a perfect match, whether you choose an Inside Passage itinerary, an expedition trip or a voyage on both land and sea, Alaska will not disappoint.

The Ports of Call are varied; Haines, Icy Strait, Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Prince Rupert, Seattle, Sitka, Skagway, Vancouver, Victoria, Whittier.

Choosing an Itinerary

There are essentially two Alaska cruise itineraries — the Inside Passage and the Gulf of Alaska. The first is primarily a seven-night round trip voyage from Seattle or Vancouver. Princess, Crystal and Silversea also offer 10-night and 12-night versions out of San Francisco. The Gulf itinerary is a seven-night one-way cruise between Seattle/Vancouver and Seward/Whittier, the two ports for Anchorage. An occasional misconception among would-be cruisers is that a Gulf of Alaska itinerary does not offer passengers the opportunity to visit the Inside Passage ports. It does. The gulf in question is that stretch of water north of Glacier Bay and the south side of the Kenai Peninsula, where the Anchorage ports are located. To get between those ports and either Seattle or Vancouver, it is necessary to pass along the Inside Passage coastal strip so a typical Gulf of Alaska cruise will probably include the likes of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.

A word of caution: If you are going to run into choppy seas it’s more likely to be in the open waters of the Gulf of Alaska than in the largely protected stretch of the Inside Passage.

Best Time To Go

The weather in Alaska is always a factor. Although the season lasts through the summer, it’s not prudent to expect warm weather all the time. This isn’t Florida! But, for less crowded conditions, the early and late seasons are preferred. And the weather can be most accommodating. Just ask anybody who’s meandered through Glacier Bay on a cruise ship in May — in short sleeves. It does happen! May, in fact, is one of the driest months in the Inside Passage region. Of course, “driest month” is a relative term in places such as Ketchikan, which gets 155 inches of rain a year. (Only nine inches in May!)

Temperatures during the season may not be balmy but they’re generally livable. The trick is to dress in layers of clothing so that you can peel off slowly as the thermometer dictates and don’t forget that umbrella!

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