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Luxury Alaska Cruises: All You Need to Know

Melinda Crow

Last updated
Apr 12, 2024

Read time
7 min read

Luxury Alaska cruises may surprise you with their offerings, and more importantly, with their comparative affordability. Your dream of splurging on a high-end Alaska cruise may not be as impossible as you think.

Cruises in Alaska on any cruise line can come with a hefty price tag. For starters, the port fees are higher than in the Caribbean. Plus, adventurous port excursions can be costly. Those two things alone mean even a bargain-priced cruise fare can end with a whopping bill.

The good news is that Alaska luxury cruises generally come with things mainstream cruise lines would charge extra for, like some shore excursions, gratuities, alcohol, specialty dining, Wi-Fi and often even airfare included in the price of the cruise. And that's not all; they also entail impeccable service, access to butlers and concierges, along with fewer passengers and more intimate, personalized shore excursion experiences.

What is the best luxury cruise to Alaska? Below, we'll break down what luxury Alaskan cruises are, which lines offer them and what sets the offerings of those lines apart from what you'll find with more mainstream lines.

The Luxury Alaska Cruise Experience: What to Expect

Besides the long list of fare inclusions, there are other reasons to consider a luxury Alaska cruise. Luxury cruise lines sailing to Alaska often call on more off-the-beaten path places. For example, Seabourn routinely calls on Wrangell, as well as the Inian Islands on its Alaska itineraries, neither of which are common stops for most mainstream Alaskan cruise lines.

Luxury ships are also able to get closer to glaciers than their mainstream counterparts, visiting the rarely-seen North and South Sawyer Glaciers at the end of Tracy Arm Fjord, for example.

Further, a higher-than-average crew-to-passenger ratio means cruisers can expect stellar service on their luxury Alaska cruise. Think hot beverages at the gangway after chilly days in port or teams of local experts and photographers brought onboard to help you learn and experience as much as possible about the Last Frontier. The cruise fare may be higher, but you're paying for a better overall experience.

Finally, if a more adult experience is what you prefer, you're in luck. Alaska cruises typically draw fewer children than Caribbean sailings; luxury Alaska cruises draw even fewer.


The Best Luxury Alaska Cruise Lines

Although several luxury lines sail in Alaska, they don't always offer consistent voyages in the region. A handful, in fact, offer Alaska port calls as part of longer itineraries that incorporate other cruise destinations like Asia or Russia, or even transpacific crossings that call on far-flung places like Dutch Harbor.

High-end Alaska cruise lines also tend to rotate various ships through Alaskan waters -- changing ships from season to season. It's also worth remembering that Alaska cruises have a short season, typically offered only from May through September, but sometimes extending into April and October.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises primarily operates week-long cruises between Vancouver and Seward, but Regent occasionally offers longer itineraries. Early and late season cruises are typically extended repositioning sailings. All Regent cruises are all-inclusive, including free shore excursions and free domestic airfare.

Seabourn combines luxury pampering with adventures. While Seabourn's Ventures by Seabourn expedition excursions come at an added cost, they take passengers deeper into the real Alaska than many of their contemporaries.

Silversea has long maintained a presence in Alaska, often with multiple ships. Look for both seven- to ten-night one-way cruises, and an occasional fourteen-night loop. Choose between their door-to-door fares with airfare or an otherwise inclusive fare without the air called port-to-port. A noteworthy feature on Silversea is butler service for all cabin categories.

Crystal offers a limited number of Alaska cruises, but if you snag one, expect the ultimate in luxurious cruising. Fares are all-inclusive of tips, Wi-Fi, most specialty dining and some excursions.

Premium Cruise Lines for Alaska Luxury Cruises

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

Other lines, including Oceania Cruises and Viking, straddle the realm between premium and luxury offerings in Alaska. These lines typically offer more space per guest than the big mainstream ships and blend varying levels of inclusivity into their fares. This can range from inclusive beverages and gratuities to complimentary internet and even, in some cases, a handful of complimentary shore excursions.

Cunard Line offers primarily mainstream accommodations, but its Princess Grill and Queen's Grill suites are worthy competitors to any luxury vessel, with private dining rooms, lounges and deck spaces.

Some small ship cruises in Alaska offer additional options for a high-end Alaska cruise with lots of inclusions. Ponant and Hurtigruten offer expedition-style luxury while American Cruise Lines brings relaxed luxury and spaciousness to coastal Alaska cruising.

Mainstream Lines Offer DIY Luxury Cruises in Alaska

If large ships with robust entertainment programs and extensive children's programs are more your cup of tea (or that of your traveling party), you can still enjoy a luxury Alaska cruise vacation -- in a luxury suite. Several mainstream Alaska cruise lines offer top-of-the-line staterooms or suite complexes that allow for exclusive access to higher-level perks that usually come standard on luxury cruises.

Look for bonuses like access to concierge and butler services, free alcoholic beverages, in-cabin treats, preferred seating in the theater, special lounge access, invitations to exclusive parties, private dining in dedicated restaurants, spa amenities and special, complimentary access to private pool or deck areas onboard.

Holland America Line and Princess Cruises are regarded as the Alaska cruise experts, with the most ships in the region and years of experience under their belts. Holland America's suite occupants get perks like exclusive breakfasts in the Pinnacle Grill, free laundry and dry cleaning, priority boarding for tenders and access to the private Neptune Lounge that stocks snacks throughout the day.

Princess Cruises treats its suite occupants to in-cabin DVD players, a private concierge lounge, complimentary laundry and dry cleaning, and a one-time mini-bar setup.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line offers suite passengers and those booked in The Haven suite complex access to a private restaurant, exclusive pool area and cocktail bar. Other extras include pillow-top mattresses, priority seating at shows, priority boarding for tenders and the services of a concierge and 24-hour butler.

Celebrity Cruises' take on the mainstream-gone-luxury concept is The Retreat. Those booked in suites in The Retreat have access to a dedicated restaurant; premium beverage packages; unlimited specialty dining; free Wi-Fi; free mini-bar setup; and concierge services. Edge-class ships feature some of the most luxurious suites at sea, including two-story Edge Villas with private plunge pools.

Luxury Alaska Cruise Experiences in Port

Whether you're on a luxury Alaska cruise or not, you can have luxury experiences in port. Due to Alaska's amazing scenery and climate, the region brings with it some of the most expensive shore excursion options. These include flightseeing and heli-hiking, which takes passengers hiking on glaciers or tundra via helicopter.

Tours in Alaska can range from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000 per person in some cases, but they're solid choices if you want to spare no expense when making your Alaskan cruise a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Luxury Alaska cruise lines kick the offerings up a notch with more exclusive, immersive and tailored experiences like private cars for hire so you can plan your own day in port (drive the Yukon Highway, check out a remote lodge, etc.) and volunteer opportunities in local communities.

So, What Does a Luxury Alaska Cruise Cost?

Silver Whisper docked in Haines, Alaska (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Silversea Cruises Silver Whisper in Haines, Alaska (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

We selected a peak-season cruise from a handful of the choices mentioned above and found that for a luxury experience in Alaska featuring the adventures of your dreams – Bering Sea crab fishing, kayaking, riding the Scenic White Pass train, up-close glacier watching, or flightseeing -- expect the cost to start at $1,000 per person per night. Prices go straight upward from there, based on the size of the suite.

Luxury cruise lines have the highest base fares, but include more excursions, often everything except flightseeing or private tours. Premium lines have slightly lower cruise fares but only include a handful of tours in each port. Mainstream lines do little (if anything) to help guests mitigate the excursion costs, even in pricey suites.

The best news, though, is that the similar final cost across the options means no one should rule out the possibility of stepping up to a premium or luxury Alaska cruise.

Publish date March 05, 2020
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