Last updated: 12:15 PM ET, Wed July 20 2016

Roundtrip to Deep Alaskan Cruise Itineraries

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Jason Leppert | July 20, 2016

Roundtrip to Deep Alaskan Cruise Itineraries

 Photo by Jason Leppert 

It was just estimated that Alaska will be visited by more that one million cruise travelers this year, and those passengers will have several exciting port options to choose from, whether via roundtrip or one-way itineraries, mainstream or expedition.

Roundtrip voyages – most from and returning to Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, Canada or even San Francisco, California – are certainly the most convenient, particularly if those are local homeports. Common routes on such weeklong sailings are through the beautiful Inside Passage. Narrow tree-lined waterways snake through the southern panhandle of the state as majestic mountains rise from the islands to the west and mainland to the east.

There once was a time when Inside Passage itineraries featured the sheltered route almost exclusively as ships headed north and south, but as sea traffic has increased over the years, most cruises now only feature it in one direction, favoring the open Pacific Ocean in other instances. The three most frequented ports-of-call are Ketchikan, Skagway and the capital city of Juneau. Besides the classics, Sitka, Haines, Wrangell and Icy Strait Point are others along the way.

 READ MORE: 5 Reasons to Take an Alaska Cruise 

For those who have never been to Alaska before, the trio of Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau is a great place to start. As scenic cruising alone is a hallmark of such sailings, one of the seven days is usually spent navigating the dramatic Tracy Arm Fjord, inching up to the face of Hubbard Glacier or skirting Glacier Bay in hopes of catching a glimpse of some calving action. Longer roundtrip itineraries, of course, afford time to see even more and stop at additional destinations.

Another option is to extend farther north above Hubbard Glacier on one-way itineraries beginning or ending in the likes of Seward or Whittier. Whereas roundtrip itineraries require at least two days at sea, one-way alternatives spend more time in port. Like a deep Caribbean cruise that may require more flying to get there, the reward can be more exotic ports, perfect for repeat visitors to the Last Frontier.

Off-the-beaten-path ports may include Anchorage, Homer, Nome, Kodiak, Valdez or even Dutch Harbor of “Deadliest Catch” television fame.

 READ MORE: Alaska Cruise Season Kicks Off from Vancouver and Seattle 

Expedition cruises also get to some of these Alaskan destinations and often go beyond. While larger cruise ships can only be accommodated at certain piers or anchorage points, expedition ships can navigate tighter passages and bays. As they are less stringent on set port calls, it’s not uncommon for expeditions to waver from planned routes in order to spend hours whale watching from the ship itself, something not possible from larger vessels.

In fact, expedition cruises combine the best of a traditional cruise and shore excursions in one. Smaller capacities mean a ship like Un-Cruise Adventures’ Safari Endeavour can anchor in a secluded inlet and disembark passengers on a zodiac cruise or for a quick shore landing while others kayak right from the built-in marina.

There are truly so many great ways to see Alaska as comfortably or adventurously as you wish.

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