A visit to the Last Frontier is an experience every nature lover should have at least once during their lifetime. Alaskan cruises offer a unique combination of wilderness and luxury, making them an ideal way to see the state -- and for much of Alaska, the only way. Alaska's Inside Passage is a magical string of pristine emerald islands that can't be accessed by road. You'll glide through still waters teeming with aquatic life while Alaska's cruise season starts in May and lasts through September. Although peak season is during the months of June and July, the months before and after peak season also have their benefits.
So what's the best time to cruise Alaska? The answer isn't going to be the same for everyone.Here's what you can expect during different parts of the cruise season.
The Month of May
May is when cruise ships return to Alaskan after an absence of seven months. The weather in May is a little colder than in June and July, and the ships won't be as full of passengers as they are during peak season, making May a good choice for those seeking a less crowded cruise experience. Whale watchers in particular are rewarded by deciding to cruise in May because this is when the pods of orcas are migrating and it's easy to spot them jumping through the waves from the deck of a cruise ship.
However, May is not a good choice for those who are planning on combining their with a land tour to Alaska's interior because Denali National Park doesn't open until June.
Peak Season: June and July
Good weather is never really guaranteed during any time of the year in Alaska, but June and July generally have the warmest temperatures of the year. June and July both have incredibly long, vibrant sunsets that literally linger for hours due to the angle of the sun. This time frame also offers longer overall days than the other options. It's also a prime time for shore excursions such as fishing for Alaska salmon or paying a visit to a bear-watching platform.
Autumn in Alaska
Autumn in Alaska starts as early as the first week of August. This is generally when the seasonal rains start to fall, and although most people prefer to see Alaska under a bright, sunny sky if at all possible, storm watchers may be particularly enthralled by visiting the Last Frontier during this time of year. However, it's important to keep in mind that Alaska has also experienced autumns with plenty of beautiful balmy days. Another advantage of visiting Alaska in autumn is that the nighttime skies are dark enough in September to see the Northern Lights. Bargain seekers love cruising Alaska in autumn because the retail stores in the port cities put everything on sale, so you can get everything from Alaska Native ivory and soapstone carvings to Alaska-themed clothing at extremely cut-rate prices. Just like during May, cruising in September involves smaller crowds.
No matter when you decide to take your Alaskan cruise, you'll return with memories that will last the rest of your life.