Alaska – The Ultimate Cruise Destination

Two people sight seeing on an Alaskan cruise.


You might have heard of Alaska from the movie Into The Wild or The Proposal. Often referred to as "The Last Frontier," Alaska is an unparalleled cruise destination, captivating the hearts of adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. Nestled in the far northwest of North America, Alaska offers a unique blend of awe-inspiring landscapes, rich wildlife, and a culture deeply rooted in its Indigenous heritage. Its vast wilderness — think towering mountains, pristine fjords, and expansive glaciers — makes it an ideal setting for an unforgettable cruise experience. 


In this blog post, we embark on a virtual journey from the breathtaking glaciers of Alaska to the mesmerizing Northern Lights. Join us as we unravel why Alaska isn't just a cruise destination — it's a canvas of natural wonders waiting to be explored.  


As always, our team at NorthStar Travel is here to assist you in planning an unforgettable travel experience! Be sure to reach out to us and we’ll get started on planning your dream winter getaway together.   


You deserve to experience everything this world has to offer. 



The Magnificent Glaciers of Alaska 

Alaska boasts some of the world's most spectacular glaciers, each telling a story of centuries-old ice formations and natural wonders. The sheer scale and beauty of these glaciers contribute to Alaska's reputation as a premier cruise destination


Here are some of the most notable glaciers: 


  • Hubbard Glacier: The colossal Hubbard Glacier is known for its dynamic nature, calving events, and immense size, creating an awe-inspiring backdrop. 

  • Glacier Bay: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay is a place where visitors can witness the grandeur of Margerie Glacier and the ever-changing landscapes of the surrounding glaciers. 

  • Tracy Arm Fjord: Home to the Sawyer Glaciers, known for their deep blue hues and dramatic ice formations. 



The Unique Experience of Glacier Viewing from a Cruise Ship 


You might be wondering – why should I take a cruise to best experience Alaska? Great question! Here’s why: 


Panoramic Views 

Experience unrivalled panoramic views as the ship navigates through icy waters, surrounded by towering glaciers on either side. The comfortable deck spaces are equipped with viewing areas and seating, allowing you to relax while taking in the breathtaking landscapes. The vastness of the glaciers creates an immersive atmosphere, providing a sense of serenity and connection with nature. 


Calving Spectacle 

Imagine the thrill of witnessing calving events, where massive chunks of ice break off the glacier's edge and crash into the water below. Sends a shiver up your spine just thinking about it! Worth noting are the dramatic sounds accompanying calving, from the cracking of ice to the thunderous splash as the ice meets the water, creating a sensory-rich encounter. 


Naturalist Commentary 

Learn from the knowledgeable onboard naturalists who provide valuable insights into the geological and ecological aspects of the glaciers. Naturalists offer passengers a deeper understanding of the glaciers' formation, their role in shaping the landscape, and the ecological significance of these icy wonders. The commentary enhances the overall experience, turning glacier viewing into an interactive and educational journey that fosters a greater appreciation for the natural world. 



Chasing the Northern Lights 

Imagine the night sky above Alaska transformed into a canvas of vibrant colours, a celestial dance known as the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. This enchanting phenomenon captivates observers with its ethereal glow and dynamic movements. 



Best Times and Locations for Northern Lights Viewing During a Cruise 


Seasonal Considerations 

The magic of the Northern Lights in Alaska unfolds best during fall and winter, when the nights stretch longer, and darkness blankets the region.  


Strategic Cruise Routes 

Navigating remote and less populated areas, these routes ensure minimal light pollution, enhancing the brilliance of the Aurora Borealis against the dark Alaskan night sky. This deliberate planning guarantees you will have a heightened and immersive experience, allowing you to witness the full splendour of the celestial phenomenon. Sailing through these strategic pathways promises an unforgettable journey. 


Person in a yellow jacket in Alaska looking at the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis)


Aurora Hotspots 

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, can be observed in various locations around the world within the polar regions. In Alaska, some of the renowned aurora hotspots include: 


  • Fairbanks: Positioned under the "Aurora Oval," Fairbanks is one of the best places to witness the Northern Lights in Alaska. Its northern latitude and relatively clear skies contribute to frequent and vibrant displays. 

  • Anchorage: While further south than Fairbanks, Anchorage still offers opportunities to witness the Northern Lights, especially during periods of high auroral activity. 

  • Denali National Park: The remote wilderness and dark skies of Denali National Park make it an excellent location for aurora viewing, providing a pristine backdrop for the lights. 

  • Nome: Located on the western coast of Alaska, Nome's position near the magnetic pole increases the chances of observing the Northern Lights, particularly during geomagnetic storms. 

  • Talkeetna: This small town with minimal light pollution is often favoured by aurora enthusiasts for its clear night skies, making it an excellent location for viewing the Northern Lights. 



Tips for Optimizing the Chances of Witnessing the Northern Lights 


  • Take Nighttime Excursions: Participate in cruise line-organized nighttime excursions for land vantage points. 

  • Be Aware of the Weather: Alaskan weather is unpredictable at best. Monitor weather conditions for clear skies. Constantly check the weather forecast and be flexible with plans.  

  • Photography Tips and Tricks: We know you want to get the best shot of the lights. Capture the enchanting Northern Lights with these photography tips: 

    • Use a tripod for stability 

    • Opt for a wide-angle lens with a low f-stop 

    • Set a high ISO 

    • Shoot in RAW format 

    • Experiment with manual focus 

    • Adjust shutter speeds for desired effects 

    • Choose shooting locations away from light pollution  


Have Patience and Be Persistent 

Alaska is a wild place, so it rarely follows an itinerary. Be patient, as the Northern Lights may not be visible every night. Be persistent and willing to wake up during the night for potential displays. We promise you, it’s worth it! 



Best Cruise Destinations in Alaska 

Alaska offers many cruise destinations, each with its unique charm. Explore iconic ports like Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway, each promising a distinct Alaskan adventure. 



Juneau: The Capital Adventure  

Juneau, Alaska's capital, is a treasure trove of natural wonders. From the majestic Mendenhall Glacier to the panoramic views from Mount Roberts Tramway, Juneau seamlessly blends history, culture, and outdoor exploration. 



Ketchikan: The Salmon Capital  

Known as the "Salmon Capital of the World," Ketchikan beckons with its rich maritime history. Stroll along Creek Street, visit Totem Bight State Historical Park, and witness the lively Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show for a true taste of Ketchikan's uniqueness. 



Skagway: Gateway to the Klondike  

Step back in time in Skagway, the gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush. Traverse the historic White Pass & Yukon Route Railway and explore the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, immersing yourself in the tales of frontier adventure. 



Glacier Bay National Park  

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay National Park offers an unparalleled natural spectacle. Marvel at breathtaking glaciers, witness diverse wildlife, and embrace the serenity of this pristine wilderness. 



Practical Tips for Cruising in Alaska 



Best Time to Cruise Alaska 


  • Summer Splendor: Experience Alaska's peak season from May to September, offering milder temperatures and extended daylight hours. Witness blooming wildlife, active glaciers, and enjoy several outdoor activities. 

  • Consider Shoulder Seasons: There are so many benefits of cruising in May and September, such as potentially fewer crowds and the chance to witness the breathtaking Northern Lights. We talk more about shoulder seasons in this blog post so be sure to check it out.



Packing Tips for an Alaska Cruise 


  • Layered Clothing: Pack layered clothing to adapt to variable Alaskan weather. Think waterproof and windproof outer layers, insulated clothing, and breathable base layers. 

  • Comfortable Footwear: Bring sturdy, waterproof footwear suitable for on-deck exploration and on-shore excursions. Be prepared for diverse terrains and weather conditions. 

  • Binoculars and Camera: Pack binoculars for wildlife observation and a high-quality camera for capturing stunning landscapes and wildlife encounters. 

  • Essentials for Excursions: Pack essentials for excursions, including backpacks, water bottles, and snacks, ensuring they can fully enjoy on-shore adventures. 

  • Safety Equipment: Pack bear spray, a first aid kit, navigation tools and a flashlight. It never hurts to be prepared! 



Advice on Choosing the Right Cruise Package 


  • Consider Cruise Length: Consider the duration of the cruise, taking into account personal preferences and the desired level of exploration. 

  • Explore Excursion Options: Research and choose cruise packages aligned with your interests, such as wildlife viewing, glacier exploration, or cultural experiences in port cities. 

  • Luxury vs. Budget Cruises: There are differences between luxury and budget cruise options. Discuss the pros and cons of each with your travel advisor, to align your choices with preferences and budget constraints. 

  • Onboard Amenities: Consider onboard amenities and entertainment options, which contribute significantly to the overall cruise experience. 


As always, our team at NorthStar Travel is here to assist you in planning an unforgettable travel experience! Be sure to reach out to us and we’ll get started on planning your dream winter getaway together.   


You deserve to experience everything this world has to offer. 




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Mike Snider
Name: Mike Snider
Posts: 51
Last Post: May 12, 2024