The 8 Best Ships Cruising Alaska This Summerby Donna Heiderstadt | June 14, 2018
It’s June, and you’re still thinking about booking a cruise to Alaska this summer. No problem—there are cabins available. Your dilemma? You can’t decide which ship is right for your family, your cruise style, or your budget.
The good news is there are terrific ships sailing the Inside Passage and beyond through September—including a brand-new megaship with cool onboard activities, several recently refurbished ships that offer good value, and a few small- and mid-size options that provide a more luxurious experience. Here are the best ships cruising to Alaska this summer.
It doesn’t get any buzzier than Norwegian Bliss, the 4,004-passenger ship launched specifically with seven-night Alaska cruises in mind. A key design change from Norwegian’s previous Breakaway and Breakaway Plus-class ships is the removal of cabins to add a massive Observation Lounge on Deck 15 forward. Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and comfy sofas and loungers, it provides a cozy vantage point for scenic cruising when Alaska’s weather doesn’t cooperate. When it does, the top three decks offer lots of family-friendly thrills: a two-level NCL Racetrack (ride for 10 adrenaline-fueled laps), two scream-inducing water slides (Aqua Racer and Ocean Loops), and laser tag. Cruises depart from Seattle and start at $1,199 per person.
If you’re a fan of onboard fun, the 2,124-passenger Carnival Legend is cruising from Seattle to Alaska. The ship might be 16 years old, but it was just refurbished to include many of the complimentary onboard amenities of the line’s newer ships (such as Guy’s Burger Joint, Blue-Iguana Cantina, Serenity Adult-Only Retreat, and Lip Sync Battle), so it’s a great option for cruisers on a budget. And Camp Ocean and Hasbro, The Game Show will keep kids happy between port excursions. From $904 per person for a seven-night cruise.
Yes, Celebrity Solstice turns 10 this fall, but this 2,850-passenger ship—sailing seven-night Alaska Tracy Arm Fjord Cruises this summer—still provides a sophisticated ambience designed with couples in mind (although kids who won’t get cranky without water slides are welcome). A 2016 refurbishment freshened up the public spaces, which include the cabana-lined Lawn Club (featuring real grass) and the adults-only Solarium pool. There are 11 restaurants (six of them complimentary), the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, and 85 percent of the staterooms have verandas, making scenic cruising from the privacy of your cabin more accessible. From $1,199 per person, with cruises departing from Seattle.
Princess has a long history in Alaska, rotating a variety of ships into its seven-night Inside Passage itineraries each summer. This season, the 3,080-passenger Ruby Princess is a top option, especially for foodies. While not new (it debuted in 2008), the ship underwent a refurbishment in December 2015 that added specialty restaurants SHARE by Chef Curtis Stone (for six-course fine dining) and The Salty Dog Gastropub by Ernesto Uchimura (known for its burgers), and it expanded the Chocolate Journeys program by Chef Norman Love. And if you love pizza, Princess’s is among the best at sea. From $748 per person, cruising from Seattle.
If your kids are crazy about Disney princesses and Marvel super heroes, but you’d rather have them breathe in fresh mountain air than theme-park fried food, Disney Cruise Line has a solution. Its 2,713-passenger Disney Wonder is sailing Alaska’s Inside Passage from Vancouver on five-, seven- and nine-night itineraries. Onboard entertainment includes Frozen, A Musical Spectacular; the Marvel Super Hero Academy in Disney Oceaneer Club; Pirate Night, the latest Disney movies; and character meet and greets. And, of course, there’s the frozen wonderland of Alaska’s glaciers and national parks to explore while ashore. From $1,910 per person.
This 2,160-passenger Holland America Line ship, which debuted in 2010, is a perfect choice for traditionalists looking for a mix of the great outdoors and indoor entertainment—from culinary activities to world-renowned music. In Alaska, Nieuw Amsterdam cruises a seven-night Inside Passage itinerary, while onboard America’s Test Kitchen offers cooking classes; B.B. King’s Blues Club, Lincoln Center Stage and Billboard Onboard take guests on musical journeys; BBC Earth Experiences explore the world’s natural wonders; and an art collection valued at more than $3 million enlivens the public spaces. From $1,099 per person, departing from Vancouver.
Regent Seven Seas Mariner
Fresh from a refurbishment, the 700-passenger Regent Seven Seas Mariner offers a luxurious (and all-inclusive) base from which to experience the Alaskan wilderness. The ship has a clubby elegance with updated traditional decor in neutral beiges and soothing blues along with seven restaurants (from the casual Coffee Connection to Prime 7 steakhouse and Chartreuse for modern French fine dining) and evening entertainment that includes five lounges, a theater, and a casino. From $6,399 per person for seven-night itineraries from Vancouver and Anchorage.
If you’re looking for a boutique cruise experience geared toward adults that won’t break the bank, the 684-passenger Oceania Regatta is sailing seven-night Awe of Alaska itineraries from Seattle and a variety of 10-night cruises from Vancouver. Recently refurbished in an updated neo-classical style, this vessel offers traditional touches such as afternoon tea, a coffee bar, and a martini bar, while six restaurants (including the Polo Grill steakhouse, Toscana for Italian, and The Bistro, inspired by family recipes of acclaimed French chef Jacques Pepin) provide plenty of dining options. From $1,899 per person.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.