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Compare: 12 Cruise Ships in Alaska (Photo: Holland America Line)
Cruise ship in Alaska (Photo: Holland America Line)

The 11 Most Popular Cruise Ships in Alaska: A Comparison

Compare: 12 Cruise Ships in Alaska (Photo: Holland America Line)
Cruise ship in Alaska (Photo: Holland America Line)
Contributor
Melinda Crow

Last updated
Jun 14, 2023

The list of most popular cruise ships in Alaska includes a wide range of choices, from family-friendly mainstream lines, to slightly quieter options preferred by couples and solo cruisers. The best ships for Alaska cruises, however, are those that adapt to that changing clientele, offering rooms, activities and enrichment suitable for all cruisers.

At Cruise Critic, we know that no travel group fits a set mold and that only you know what your cruise needs are for any given trip. To help you choose, we’ve included sleeping, dining, and activity options for each of the 11 most popular cruise ships in Alaska.

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Celebrity Solstice (Photo: Celebrity)
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 sailings in Alaska.

Celebrity Solstice Offers Popular Alaska Itineraries with Abundant Dining and Cabin Choices

Solstice sails from Vancouver, calling on Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Endicott Arm (Dawes Glacier), Hubbard Glacier and the Inside Passage (scenic cruising).

Dining highlights on Celebrity Solstice include stunning views from the rear-facing Tuscan Grille Italian specialty restaurant. Multiple complementary venues are available for all guests, including snacks at Café al Bacio, gourmet dogs and burgers at the Mast Grille and all-you-can-slurp ice cream in Oceanview Café. The ship also has exclusive dining rooms Blu for Aqua-class guests and Luminae for suite guests.

Sleeping on Celebrity Solstice includes plenty of cabins designed for families cruising Alaska. For those looking to step up a notch in amenities and services, specialty cabin categories like Concierge Class and spa-centric Aqua Class fill the bill. And let’s not forget an abundance of rear-facing Sunset Verandahs -- a huge bonus for scenery watching in Alaska.

Popular things to do in Alaska on Celebrity Solstice include naturalists onboard for high-interest areas. Local performers bring Alaskan culture aboard. The ship offers blankets and hot chocolate for nature viewing -- or up your hot beverage game with crafted cocktails. Evening entertainment options keep up the pace with singing, dancing and aerial acrobatics.

Norwegian Encore in Icy Strait Point. (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
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 in the Norwegian fleet, including Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Spirit, some of which also rotate through Alaskan itineraries some years. With a variety of dining, entertainment and recreational options, cruisers will never be bored or hungry.

Norwegian Encore Features Popular Alaskan Round-Trip Cruises from Seattle

Encore homeports in Seattle, with itineraries that visit Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Victoria, B.C., Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm Fjord (scenic cruising). Seven-night round trips from Seattle provide an easy start and finish for an Alaskan cruise -- with airfare that often is lower than alternatives.

Dining highlights on Norwegian Encore include Cagney’s, which delights the taste buds with a traditional steakhouse. Teppanyaki brings the far east onboard with dinner and a show. Get your seafood fix at Ocean Blue with a waterfront view of the scenery. And don’t forget that guests staying in The Haven have an exclusive eatery.

Sleeping on Norwegian Encore includes a ship-within-a-ship concept called The Haven -- an enclave for suite guests. One of the most popular Alaska cruise cabin offerings is Encore’s eighty-two studio cabins for those cruising solo. For those looking for the best views without worrying about which side to be on, there are seven decks of rear-facing balconies for a view that’s unbeatable in Alaska.

Popular things to do in Alaska on Norwegian Encore include educational guides that teach little ones about the state's nature and culture in the kids' club. Plus, there’s Park ranger-led narration in Glacier Bay. Between ports, guests can sip on Alaskan craft beers served in bars throughout the ship. And Encore is well-known for its top-deck activities like go-kart racetrack, laser tag and waterslides.

3. Holland America Koningsdam May Be One of the Best Ships for a Quieter Alaska Cruise

Koningsdam (Photo: Holland America)
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. Holland America typically loads Alaska waters with multiple ships. Look for favorites like Westerdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Zaandam and Eurodam.

Koningsdam Serves Up a Taste of Alaska, Both On and Off the Ship

Koningsdam homeports in Vancouver, visiting all the most popular Alaska cruise ports like Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm Fjord (scenic cruising).

Dining highlights on Koningsdam include Pinnacle Grille, which serves salmon, halibut and crab legs if you’re looking for a taste of Alaska. The line offers free room service (except for a few extra-charge items) that's perfect for balcony meals and snacks while you watch the scenery. The ship has a nice blend of casual and dress-up restaurants for an Alaska cruise.

Sleeping on Koningsdam comes with multiple cabin choices, including Neptune Suites with their 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.

Popular things to do in Alaska on Koningsdam: Park rangers and native Huna interpreters share a wealth of knowledge on Glacier Bay sailings. The Junior Rangers program teaches kids about local wildlife. Live music keeps guests entertained as the ship sails to the next port. The Culinary Arts Center offers cooking classes by Food & Wine Magazine. Plus, and the 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 (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.

Radiance of the Seas Is One of the Best Ships for One-Way Alaskan Cruise Itineraries

Passengers range from young couples and singles to families and active retirees. Radiance sails seven-night, one-way routes between Seward and Vancouver. It calls on Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Icy Strait Point, the Inside Passage and Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising).

Dining highlights on Radiance of the Seas include Chops Grille Steakhouse, 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. And Radiance has only one of two Brazilian steakhouses in the fleet. Try Samba Grill when you’ve had your fill of Alaskan seafood.

Sleeping on Radiance of the Seas means plenty of Oceanview balconies to choose from for scenery watching. Plus, there are an abundance of rooms that sleep extras, as well as those that connect for families. And for those on a budget, there are affordable inside cabins.

Popular things to do in Alaska on Radiance of the Seas include Bike and Brew excursions featuring biking, drinking and glacier viewing. Onboard naturalists offer insight into the region as you cruise. The crew cheerfully dole out flannel blankets and hot cocoa on deck. The ship has an all-weather, indoor, adults-only pool. For entertainment onboard, the ship has the line’s signature rock-climbing wall plus mini golf.

5. Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas Proves Mega Ships Can Be Perfect for Families in Alaska

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

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

Quantum of the Seas Makes Cruising Alaska Easy from Seattle, with All the Bells and Whistles Families Crave

Quantum homeports in Seattle, operating seven-night round-trip itineraries that visit all the popular Alaska cruise ports like Ketchikan, Endicott Arm Fjord (scenic cruising), Juneau, Victoria, B.C. and Icy Strait Point.

The best ships for Alaska cruises offer enough dining options to keep the gang happily fed between ports. The dining highlights on Quantum of the Seas include an exclusive dining room (Coastal Kitchen) for suite guests and upper-level loyalty club members. Plus, Café @ TWO70 is one of the best grab and go eateries at sea, featuring deli style sandwiches and salads, plus breakfast goodies.

Sleeping on Quantum of the Seas comes with an insane number of cabin options, so there’s something for everyone on any budget. Choices include forward-facing Spacious Oceanview rooms that 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.

Popular things to do in Alaska on Quantum of the Seas include rides in the North Star gondola that rises out over the water on an extendable arm. For a little less excitement, the best spot to cozy up with a hot toddy is in the adults-only Solarium with some of the best indoor cruise ship views of Alaska.

After dark, dance the night away in the two-story Music Hall -- complete with self-leveling pool tables. Or enjoy a thrilling sports-filled evening in the SeaPlex -- as a participant or spectator -- complete with hotdogs onsite. Take note that Quantum is pretty much the only ship in Alaska where you can have a robot mix you a drink.

6. Luminosa Rounds Out Carnival’s Alaska Fleet with a Slightly Different Spin on Fun

Carnival Luminosa (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)
Carnival Luminosa (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Luminosa may not have quite the same attributes as the rest of the Carnival fleet. But its Italian flair coupled with an extensive retrofit to make it feel more at home to Carnival cruisers, makes it a fun fit for Alaska cruises. The ship carries a comfortable 2,260 passengers -- about the same cozy size as Carnival’s other ships cruising Alaskan waters, like Carnival Spirit.

Luminosa homeports in Seattle, operating seven-night round-trip itineraries that include Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Victoria, Tracy Arm (scenic cruising), and Skagway.

Dining highlights on Carnival Luminosa include ample choices for variety, whether you stick with included eateries or add in some extra-fee dining. Reviews say the ship possibly offers the best pizza at sea in Alaska. And Bonsai Sushi Express makes an ideal takeaway option on busy Alaskan port days.

Sleeping on Carnival Luminosa features Carnival’s popular spa suites -- a great choice in Alaska, where soaking away your sore muscles from hiking/kayaking is almost a necessity. There are a handful of aft balconies for bi-directional scenery watching in Alaska. And while Carnival isn’t known for massive suites, Luminosa has a nice selection of mid-sized suites, as well as an exclusive Serenity Retreat with its own pool.

Popular things to do in Alaska on Carnival Luminosa include possibly the only pasta making lessons at sea in Alaska. The main Lido pool has a retractable roof for inclement weather, something only a handful of Carnival ships offer. A Seuss-A-Palooza character parade keeps the littlest cruisers interested. And don’t miss the naturalist talks onboard and even a lumberjack show on the pool deck.

7. Discovery Princess Sets the Bar High Among All the Princess Ships in Alaska

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

Discovery Princess is the lead ship (and one of the newest) in one of the best cruise line fleets in Alaska. Princess is a tough competitor in the region with multiple ships to choose from, including Grand Princess, Ruby Princess, Sapphire Princess and Royal Princess. Fleetwide staples include lavish adults-only sun decks and Movies Under the Stars (complete with popcorn and cozy fleece blankets).

The line’s partnership with the Discovery Channel offers a slew of activities for adults and kids alike, so you've got something for everyone.

Expect Homeport Ease, Plenty of Choices and Innovative Pricing on Discovery Princess

Discovery Princess offers round-trip cruises from a homeport in Seattle, with itineraries that include Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Victoria, BC, and Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier (scenic cruising).

Dining on Discovery Princess includes surprises like Alaska seafood bowls served in the World Fresh Marketplace. Don’t miss the Crown Grill during your cruise. It’s one of the best steakhouses at sea.

Princess offers upfront inclusive pricing plans that let you decide how much to include in your cruise fare -- or how much to leave off. Some of the scaled pricing plans include not only drinks, Wi-Fi and gratuities, but bonus extras like free room service and casual dining choices that normally have a charge.

Sleeping on Discovery Princess has you mostly choosing from insides, balconies or suites, with only a handful of oceanview staterooms. Most of the prime aft balcony cabins are suites, but in Alaska, these may be worth moving up for -- particularly the Mini-suites. The general advice is to skip the forward-facing balconies. Wind when the ship is underway makes them almost useless.

Popular things to do in Alaska on Discovery Princess are eating -- local cuisine is served onboard daily – and dancing under the midnight sun. Top-deck parties with live music get you in the groove throughout the sailing. Possibly the best onboard activity is Puppies in the Piazza where sled dog puppies come onboard for a day. Hidden gem not to miss: The wake view Pool on deck 15 offers breathtaking views.

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

Queen Elizabeth (Photo:Christina Janansky/Cruise Critic)
Queen Elizabeth (Photo:Christina Janansky/Cruise Critic)

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 mostly longer cruises that allow for more in-depth exploration.

Expect the Best of Alaska and Cunard When They Come Together

The Queen Elizabeth homeports in either Vancouver or Seattle, depending on the year. Itineraries include stops in 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 include the can’t-miss afternoon tea and in-cabin Champagne breakfast. Alaskan seafood is served throughout the voyage.

Sleeping on Queen Elizabeth means choosing from a cabin category -- 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. For a full rear-facing view, expect to book a more expensive choice because aft cabins are all suites.

Popular 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. Silversea Brings One of Its Newest Ships to Alaska for a Luxurious Experience: Silver Nova

Silver Nova sails under a blue sky. (Photo: Silversea)
Silver Nova sails under a blue sky. (Photo: Silversea)

Guests on Silver Nova in Alaska will feel more like they're on a five-star hotel than a cruise ship. The 728-passenger vessel attracts a 55+ crowd. Marble bathrooms come with a choice between Bulgari or Ortigia amenities. Rooms aside, the ship features high-quality dining and included extras like select wine and spirits.

Silversea typically deploys two of its best ships for Alaska cruises. Also look for Silver Muse and Silver Moon alongside Silver Nova. All Silversea ships offer either door-to-door inclusive fares or port-to-port.

Silver Nova Lets You Cruise Alaska in Luxury

Silver Nova operates seven-night one-way routes with homeports in Seward and Vancouver. Ports it visits include Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier and the Inside Passage. Look for longer routes on Silver Moon and Silver Muse, visiting Haines, Valdez and Wrangell.

Dining highlights on Silver Nova include three extra-fee restaurants, while 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 (there are heaters and blankets) give Hot Rocks a try.

Sleeping on Silver Nova is as luxurious as it gets. All rooms on Silver Nova are suites, and most have spacious balconies. Butler service is included in every suite category. Binoculars are provided in your suite.

Popular things to do in Alaska on Silver Nova revolve around immersion. 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 Nova.

10. Regent Seven Seas Explorer Is One of the Best Ships for Inclusive Alaska Cruising

Prime 7 on Seven Seas Explorer (Photo: Cruise Critic)
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 as shore excursions, specialty restaurants, alcoholic beverages and gratuities.

Seven Seas Explorer Offers All-Suite Luxury and Enrichment

The ship runs seven-night one-way routes, as well as a handful of longer sailings. It homeports in Seward and Vancouver, visiting the ports of Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Juneau, Icy Strait Point and Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising).

Dining highlights on Seven Seas Explorer include an amazing chop house. Menus on Alaska sailings all include local seafood. And don’t miss the pool deck barbeque.

Sleeping on Seven Seas Explorer means choosing a suite is simple because all rooms are suites. 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. All bathrooms have bathtub/shower combos and L'Occitane bath products.

Popular things to do in Alaska on Seven Seas Explorer include lecturers onboard most sailings, as well as an enriching kids' program for ages 5 to 17. Alaskan menu items include halibut and king crab legs. The thermal suite is open to all adult guests. Just picture yourself warming up on a heated lounger.

11. Viking Orion Emphasizes Exploration in Alaska with 10-Night, All-Adult Sailings

Viking Orion (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Viking Orion (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Viking Orion guests will feel the line’s drive to explore upon embarking 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.

Viking Alaska Cruises Include Overnights Onboard the Ship in Seward

Viking sailings feature an extended version of Alaska one-way sailings, with more ports visited, more scenic cruising and an overnight in Seward (no matter which direction you cruise) that allows guests to explore Anchorage. Orion homeports in Vancouver and Seward. It visits Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Valdez, Icy Strait Point, and the Inside Passage and Yakutat Bay (scenic cruising).

Dining highlights on Viking Orion include Nordic menu options, but don’t miss one of the best Italian restaurants at sea. The Chef’s Table is included in the fare, with international cuisine that 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 is like no other cruise line. 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. For easy access to the included thermal suite, aim for a forward stateroom.

Popular things to do in Alaska on Viking Orion include naturalists and expert resident lecturers. Don’t miss the infinity-edge pool and hot tub on the back of the ship. Plus, the covered main pool is perfect for a swim on chilly Alaskan days. At least one excursion is included in every port. You can even pack less for a Viking Orion cruise because there are complimentary laundry facilities on each cabin deck.

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