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Cruise ship in Alaska (Photo: Holland America Line)

Compare the 12 Most Popular Cruise Ships in Alaska

Cruise ship in Alaska (Photo: Holland America Line)
Gina Kramer
Melinda Crow

Jan 27, 2020

Read time
15 min read

Among the most popular cruise ships in Alaska, you’ll find a wide range of choices, from mainstream lines to luxury. Price is obviously something you’ll take into consideration when choosing a ship for your Alaska cruise, but what else should you look at? At Cruise Critic, we believe you need facts about dining, staterooms and onboard activities along with where the ship will stop to make the best decision.

With that in mind, we’ve scoured the reviews and built a list designed to help you choose the ship that works best for you and your travel group when you cruise in Alaska. Shall we start dreaming of Alaska?

On This Page

1. Celebrity Solstice Works Well for Couples and Families in Alaska

Celebrity Solstice (Photo: Celebrity)

Celebrity Solstice has one of the best interior architecture designs at sea, and passenger flow is excellent. While the ship's passenger-to-space ratio is standard for the industry, the ship never feels crowded. Celebrity is known for its fabulous dining options and bars, but perhaps the unique feature of Celebrity’s Solstice class ships is the Lawn Club.

This full half-acre of real grass on the top deck offers some of the best views onboard in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. The space includes a hands-on glass blowing studio, games like bocce and mini-golf, lounge chairs and even rentable Alcoves. Celebrity typically attracts sophisticated young adults and middle-aged couples, though you'll notice more families during the summer holiday.


Homeports: Primarily Seattle with occasional cruises from Vancouver early and late in the season.

Ports of call: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Endicott Arm (Dawes Glacier); Tracy Arm Fjord; Victoria, BC; and the Inside Passage (scenic cruising).

Dining Highlights on Celebrity Solstice:

  • Stunning views from the rear-facing Tuscan Grille Italian specialty restaurant.

  • Exclusive dining rooms: Blu for Aqua class guests and Luminae for suite guests.

  • Multiple complimentary venues, including snacks at Café al Bacio, gourmet dogs and burgers at the Mast Grille and all-you-can-slurp ice cream in Oceanview Café.

Sleeping on Celebrity Solstice:

  • Plenty of cabins designed for families cruising Alaska.

  • Specialty cabin categories, including Concierge Class and spa-centric Aqua Class.

  • An abundance of rear-facing Sunset Verandahs – a huge bonus for scenery watching in Alaska.

Coolest Things to Do in Alaska on Celebrity Solstice:

  • Naturalists onboard for high-interest areas.

  • Local performers bring Alaskan culture aboard.

  • Blankets and hot chocolate for nature viewing.

  • Award-winning bars specialize in crafted cocktails.

  • Boutique dining options, from crepes to spa cuisine.

  • Entertainment options combine singing, dancing and aerial acrobatics.

2. Norwegian Encore Visits the Most Popular Cruise Spot in Alaska

Norwegian Encore in Icy Strait Point. (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Norwegian Encore operates seven-night round-trip itineraries from Seattle that include time in Glacier Bay National Park with a park ranger onboard the ship. It’s reason enough to consider this ship.

The 4,000-passenger Encore boasts a handful of the features found on its sisters, Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Jewel, and Norwegian Spirit (which also offers Alaska cruises), as well as its own unique attractions. With a variety of dining, entertainment and recreational options, cruisers will never be bored or hungry.


Homeport: Seattle.

Ports: Juneau; Skagway; Ketchikan; Icy Strait Point; Victoria, BC; and Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm Fjord (scenic cruising).

Dining Highlights on Norwegian Encore

  • Cagney’s delights the tastebuds with a traditional steakhouse or entertain all your senses at Teppanyaki.

  • Get your seafood fix at Ocean Blue with a waterfront view of the scenery.

  • Exclusive restaurant for guests staying in The Haven.

Sleeping on Norwegian Encore

  • Ship-within-a-ship concept called The Haven – an enclave for suite guests.

  • Eighty-two studio cabins for those doing Alaska solo.

  • Seven decks of rear-facing balconies for a view that’s unbeatable in Alaska.

Coolest Things to Do in Alaska on Norwegian Encore

  • Educational guides teach little ones about the state's nature and culture in the kids' club.

  • Alaskan craft beers served in bars throughout the ship.

  • Park ranger-led narration in Glacier Bay.

  • Activities include go-kart racetrack, laser tag and waterslides.

  • Select solo cabins feature virtual ocean views.

3. Holland America Koningsdam is a Quieter Option in Alaska

Koningsdam (Photo: Holland America)

Koningsdam doesn’t have bumper cars or water parks. This is a ship that prides itself on dining and a relaxed, traditional cruising experience. Service and food quality in the complimentary main dining room are top-notch, but for-fee restaurants like Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind make for splurge-worthy romantic dates.

The ship tends to appeal to a more mature crowd, though you will see more families and multigenerational groups on Alaska cruises.


Homeports: Vancouver

Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm Fjord (scenic cruising).

Dining Highlights on Koningsdam

  • Pinnacle Grille serves salmon, halibut and crab legs if you’re looking for a taste of Alaska.

  • No-fee room service (except for a few extra-charge items) is perfect for balcony meals and snacks.

  • A nice blend of casual and dress-up restaurants for an Alaska cruise.

Sleeping on Koningsdam

  • Neptune Suites come with a long list of perks, including the ever-important binoculars.

  • Rear-facing Vista Suites are idyllic on decks four and seven.

  • Family Oceanview rooms make this ship perfect for taking along the kids or grands.

Coolest Things to Do In Alaska on Koningsdam

  • Park rangers and native Huna interpreters on Glacier Bay sailings.

  • Junior Rangers program teaches kids about local wildlife.

  • Live music abounds at the Queen's Lounge, Lincoln Center Stage and Billboard Onboard.

  • Culinary Arts Center offers cooking classes by Food & Wine Magazine.

  • Main pool has a retractable roof for inclement weather.

4. Radiance of the Seas is Loaded With Windows For Alaska Scenic Cruising

Radiance of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

Radiance of the Seas offers Royal Caribbean's best in a more modest size, without sacrificing the variety of dining venues, great kids' programs and adrenaline-pumping activities the line is known for. The 2,112-passenger ship features the line's much-loved Giovanni's Table and Izumi, a 200-square-foot outdoor movie screen, rock climbing wall and a nursery for babies and toddlers.

Passengers range from young couples and singles to families and active retirees.


Homeports: Seward and Vancouver.

Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Sitka; Icy Strait Point; the Inside Passage and Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising).

Dining Highlights on Radiance of the Seas

  • Chops Grille Steakhouse is a must try for a night out.

  • Izumi Asian food is priced a la carte for grab and go when you can’t take your eyes off the scenery.

  • A Brazilian steakhouse (Samba Grille) for when you’ve had your fill of Alaskan seafood.

Sleeping on Radiance of the Seas

  • Oceanview balconies for scenery watching.

  • Plenty of rooms that sleep extras as well as those that connect for families.

  • Plenty of affordable inside cabins for those on a budget.

Coolest Things to Do In Alaska on Radiance of the Seas

  • Bike and Brew: biking, drinking and glacier viewing excursion.

  • Onboard naturalist offers insight into the region's flora and fauna.

  • Crew doles out flannel blankets and hot cocoa on deck.

  • All-weather, indoor, adults-only pool.

  • Activities include a rock-climbing wall and mini golf.

  • Exterior glass elevators have great views.

5. Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas Proves Mega Ships Are Perfect for Alaska

Quantum of the Seas in Alaska (Photo: Melinda Crow)

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas is an ideal family-oriented ship for cruising in Alaska, with its forward-facing solarium area, complete with an adults-only pool, plus a separate family indoor pool. Then there’s the massive indoor activity zone called the SeaPlex featuring bumper cars, laser tag and even pickle ball.

The ship carries just over 4,900 passengers at full capacity and has a layout capable of managing that crowd quite easily.


Homeport: Seattle

Ports: Ketchikan; Endicott Arm Fjord (scenic cruising); Juneau; Victoria, B.C.; Icy Strait Point.

Dining Highlights on Quantum of the Seas

  • Exclusive dining room (Coastal Kitchen) for suite guests and upper-level loyalty club members.

  • Café @ TWO70 is one of the best grab and go eateries at sea, featuring deli style sandwiches and salads, plus breakfast goodies.

  • Plenty of free and additional fee restaurants to keep the whole gang happy.

Sleeping on Quantum of the Seas

  • An insane number of cabin options, so there’s something for everyone on any budget.

  • Forward facing Spacious Oceanview rooms provide a unique view in Alaskan waters.

  • Even though the ship does not have the line’s largest suites, it has a good variety, including multi-deck suites. There’s also a suite lounge.

Coolest Things to Do in Alaska on Quantum of the Seas

  • Take a ride in the North Star gondola that rises out over the water on an extendable arm.

  • Cozy up in the Solarium with a hot toddy from the Solarium bar.

  • Dance the night away in the two-story Music Hall – complete with self-leveling pool tables.

  • Enjoy a thrilling sports-filled evening in the SeaPlex – as a participant or spectator – complete with hotdogs onsite.

  • Quantum is pretty much the only ship in Alaska where you can have a robot mix you a drink.

6. Luminosa is an Intriguing Addition to Carnival’s Alaska Fleet

Carnival Luminosa (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Luminosa is not only new to Alaska, but new to the Carnival fleet. It was recently brought over from Costa, so it has a completely different vibe from Carnival’s other ships. It’s got the Italian flair found on Costa’s ship but has undergone an extensive retrofit to make it feel more at home to Carnival cruisers.

The ship carries a comfortable 2,260 passengers – about the same cozy size as Carnival’s other ships cruising Alaskan waters, which currently include Carnival Spirit and Carnival Miracle.


Homeport: Seattle

Ports: Ketchikan; Sitka; Juneau; Victoria; Tracy Arm (scenic cruising); Skagway

Dining Highlights on Carnival Luminosa

  • Ample choices for variety, whether you stick with included eateries or add in some extra-fee dining.

  • Reviews indicate possibly the best pizza at sea in Alaska.

  • Bonsai Sushi Express makes an ideal takeaway option on busy Alaskan port days.

Sleeping on Carnival Luminosa

  • Carnival’s popular spa suites are a great choice in Alaska, where soaking away your hiking/kayaking muscles is almost a necessity.

  • Has a handful of aft balconies for bi-directional scenery watching in Alaska.

  • Carnival isn’t known for massive suites, but Luminosa has a nice selection of mid-sized suites, as well as an exclusive Serenity Retreat with its own pool.

Coolest Things to Do in Alaska on Carnival Luminosa

  • Possibly the only pasta making lessons at sea in Alaska.

  • The main Lido pool has a retractable roof for inclement weather.

  • A Seuss-A-Palooza character parade keeps the littlest cruisers interested.

  • Naturalist onboard to help with wildlife and glacier identification.

  • Lumberjacks show on the pool deck.

7. Discovery Princess Tops the List of Popular Cruise Ships in Alaska in Terms of Age

Discovery Princess in Ketchikan, Alaska (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Discovery Princess is the newest ship on our list of the most popular cruise ships in Alaska, which makes it a tough competitor in the region. With fleetwide staples such as a lavish adults-only sun deck, Movies Under the Stars (complete with popcorn and cozy fleece blankets) and a partnership with the Discovery Channel, which offers a slew of activities for adults and kids alike, and you've got something for everyone.


Homeport: Seattle

Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Victoria, BC; and Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier (scenic cruising).

Dining on Discovery Princess

  • Look for Alaska seafood bowls served in the World Fresh Marketplace.

  • Don’t miss the Crown Grill – it’s one of the best steakhouses at sea.

  • Room service is still free, and using the line’s app, you can have food delivered anywhere onboard.

Sleeping on Discovery Princess

  • There are only a handful of oceanview cabins on Discovery Princess, so your choices are inside, balcony, or suites.

  • Most of the prime aft balcony cabins are suites, but in Alaska, these may be worth moving up for – particularly the Mini-suites.

  • Skip the forward-facing balconies. Wind when the ship is underway makes them almost useless.

Coolest Things to Do in Alaska on Discovery Princess

  • Local cuisine from served onboard daily.

  • Top-deck party with live music, dancing under the midnight sun and more.

  • Puppies in the Piazza (sled dog puppies come onboard for a day).

  • Equipped with Princess Cruises' new OceanMedallion technology.

  • Chocolate-lovers can enjoy special desserts, wine tastings and spa treatments.

  • Hidden gem: Wake view Pool on deck 15 offers breathtaking views when the weather cooperates.

8. Cunard Queen Elizabeth Brings a Touch of Formality to Alaska

Queen Elizabeth (Photo:Christina Janansky/Cruise Critic)

The Queen Elizabeth captures the spirit of ocean liners of a bygone era, making it a special treat in Alaska waters. The ship is elegant and provides a premium and uncrowded experience for just over 2,000 guests. Unlike the mainstream lines, the QE sails a short season in Alaska, but on longer nine- and ten-night cruises that allow for more in-depth exploration.


Homeport: Vancouver

Ports: Ketchikan; Juneau; Victoria, B.C.; Tracy Arm Fjord (scenic cruising); Skagway; Haines; Glacier Bay National Park (scenic cruising); and Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising).

Dining Highlights on Queen Elizabeth

  • When sailing on the Queen, one must partake of afternoon tea. It’s the real deal.

  • For a real treat, try the in-cabin Champagne breakfast.

  • Alaskan seafood is served throughout the voyage.

Sleeping on Queen Elizabeth

  • Cabins are divided into categories – each with a set of accompanying perks and exclusive dining privileges.

  • Even the lowest Britannia cabin category has premium touches like a half bottle of Champagne on embarkation, robes and slippers, and fresh fruit on request.

  • Aft cabins are all suites.

Coolest Things to Do in Alaska on Queen Elizabeth

  • Enrichment and Cunard cruises go hand in hand, so expect a deep dive into Alaskan food and culture.

  • Dancing is one of the most popular activities on a Cunard cruise, and entertainment includes jazz and classical concerts.

  • There’s a netted golf area for practicing your swing.

  • The ship has an “adult” feel, but there are kids’ clubs for various ages featuring Alaska enrichment.

  • The Native Voices program couples video presentations with native guides onboard the ship.

  • Look for an Alaskan-themed buffet in the Lido one evening.

9. Silver Muse Lets You Cruise Alaska in Luxury

Silver Muse docked in Ketchikan, Alaska (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Silver Muse in Alaska will feel more like they're on a five-star hotel than a cruise ship. The intimate 596-passenger vessel attracts a 55+ crowd. Marble bathrooms come with full-sized bathtubs and separate showers, while passengers can choose from Bulgari or Ortigia amenities. Rooms aside, the ship features high-quality dining and included extras like select wine and spirits.


Homeports: Seward and Vancouver.

Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Sitka; Juneau; Icy Strait Point; Hubbard Glacier; Haines; Valdez; the Inside Passage; Hubbard Glacier and Endicott Arm Fjord (scenic cruising).

Dining Highlights on Silver Muse

  • Two extra-fee restaurants; all other food options are included.

  • In-room dining served course-by-course by your butler is a treat after a long day exploring in port.

  • For a fun meal under the midnight sun on the pool deck (there are heaters and blankets) give Hot Rocks a try.

Sleeping on Silver Muse

  • All rooms on Silver Muse are suites, and most have spacious balconies.

  • Butler service is included in every suite category.

  • Binoculars are provided in your suite.

Coolest Things to Do in Alaska on Silver Muse

  • Complimentary backpacks, water bottles and parkas for excursions.

  • Speakers include noted historians and conservationists.

  • Local Alaskan seafood is incorporated into evening menus.

  • Shore excursions you’d pay extra for on mainstream lines are included on Silver Muse.

10. Regent Seven Seas Explorer is Inclusive Cruising at its Finest

Prime 7 on Seven Seas Explorer (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Seven Seas Explorer is an all-suite ship, and every suite has a balcony with at least 252 square feet of prime Alaska viewing space. This is an all-inclusive luxury ship attracting both mature couples and a few affluent families. Passengers shell out up-front, but enjoy included amenities such shore excursions, specialty restaurants, alcoholic beverages and gratuities.


Homeports: Seward and Vancouver.

Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Sitka; Skagway; Juneau; Icy Strait Point; Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising).

Dining Highlights on Seven Seas Explorer

  • Included specialty restaurants include an amazing chop house.

  • Menus all include Alaskan seafood.

  • Don’t miss the pool deck barbeque.

Sleeping on Seven Seas Explorer

  • Even the smallest suites include butler service and walk-in closets.

  • The ship has twenty adjoining suites for families traveling together.

  • Concierge suites and above have binoculars and cashmere blankets to use during the cruise.

Coolest Things to Do in Alaska on Seven Seas Explorer

  • Lecturers are onboard most Alaska sailings.

  • Enriching kids' program for ages 5 to 17.

  • Alaskan menu items include halibut and king crab legs.

  • 1:1.6 passenger-to-crew ratio means more personalized service.

  • The thermal suite is open to all adult guests. Just picture yourself warming up on a heated lounger.

  • All bathrooms have bathtub/shower combos and L'Occitane bath products.

11. Oceania Regatta Defines Premium Alaska Cruising With 7- to 12-Night Sailings

Oceania Regatta in Alaska (Photo: Oceania)

Oceania Regatta prides itself on fine dining and an upscale yet comfortable ambiance. The 684-passenger ship features creations of celebrity chef Jacques Pepin in the main dining room and two surcharge-free specialty restaurants. No formal nights mean the pressure to dress up for dinner is dictated by fellow passengers, not the cruise line.

Regatta offers an experience that's close to luxury without being all inclusive or priced sky high. Passengers tend to be mature and well-traveled.


Homeports: Seattle, Seward, Vancouver and San Francisco.

Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Sitka; Icy Strait Point; Prince Rupert; Victoria, BC; Hubbard Glacier; the Inside Passage and Outside Passage (scenic cruising); Homer; and Kodiak.

Dining Highlights on Oceania Regatta

  • No added surcharge for the two specialty restaurants.

  • Alaskan cuisine featured on the menus.

  • Don’t skip the lobster mac and cheese.

Sleeping on Oceania Regatta

  • Rooms include inside, oceanview, balcony and suite categories.

  • Umbrellas are provided in every room.

  • There are a pair of aft-facing Concierge Verandah cabins tucked between suites on decks six to eight. 

Coolest Things to Do in Alaska on Oceania Regatta

  • Unique itineraries with "off the beaten path" ports.

  • Main dining room serves fresh Alaskan salmon and halibut.

  • Guest speakers give lectures on history, culture and nature.

  • Spa run by award-winning Canyon Ranch.

  • Range of cabins, from cozy insides to opulent Owner's Suites.

  • Afternoon tea with a string quartet is a real treat.

12. Viking Orion Emphasizes Exploration in Alaska

Viking Orion (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Viking Orion guests will feel the line’s drive to explore upon stepping aboard this 930-passenger ship that treats adventurous-minded travelers to global cuisine with several Norwegian delicacies (a nod to the line's Nordic roots). When it comes time to unwind, there are plenty of places to laze away and soak up the scenery -- all while enjoying the many perks that are included in your cruise fare.


Homeports: Vancouver and Seward.

Ports: Juneau; Ketchikan; Skagway; Sitka; Valdez; Icy Strait Point; and the Inside Passage and Yakutat Bay (scenic cruising).

Dining Highlights on Viking Orion

  • Besides the Nordic menu options, try out one of the best Italian restaurants at sea.

  • The Chef’s Table is included in the fare, and the international cuisine rotates every three days.

  • Viking’s buffet restaurant is second to none – a huge plus in Alaska when long days in port often call for casual dining.

Sleeping on Viking Orion

  • All staterooms on Orion include premium touches like spacious bathrooms with heated floors and automatic lights in closets and near the bathroom door.

  • For the best Alaska views, try for the pair of aft-facing Deluxe Verandah rooms on decks three-five.

  • Spa lovers should aim for a room in the forward part of the ship for the easiest access to the spa and thermal suite, both of which are spectacular.

Coolest Things to Do in Alaska on Viking Orion

  • Naturalists and expert residents come onboard to lead enrichment lectures.

  • Opportunity to talk to survivors of the 1964 Alaska Earthquake, the second-largest earthquake ever recorded.

  • Infinity-edge pool and hot tub on the back of the ship.

  • The spa’s high-end thermal suite is complimentary to all passengers.

  • The covered main pool is perfect for a swim on chilly Alaskan days. 

  • At least one excursion is included in every port.

  • All cruises include an overnight in Seward – a huge travel bonus that eliminates the need for a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay.

  • Pack less for a Viking Orion cruise because there are complimentary laundry facilities on each cabin deck.

Related: The Best Time to Cruise Alaska: A Month-by-Month Guide

Updated January 27, 2020
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