The Alaska cruise season is a little over six months long, but choosing the best time to cruise Alaska is surprisingly not that simple. Drastic changes in weather, cruise prices, wildlife and seasonal excursions all vary from late April through October -- the overall best time of the year to cruise in Alaska -- making it a challenge to decipher the best month for an Alaska cruise.
To help you find the best time to cruise to Alaska, Cruise Critic is breaking down the Alaska cruise season month by month to help you plan your bucket-list trip. Read on for average Alaska cruise prices, things to do in Alaska and everything else you'll need to decide which is the best month to cruise Alaska for you.
April Alaska Cruise Prices: Expect to pay around $1,200 per person for a seven-day Alaska cruise. The season doesn't really kick off until late in the month, and you'll have to consider factors like weather and wildlife visibility before dropping your money on an April cruise. There are also far fewer lines and itineraries available, keeping prices a bit higher than you might expect.
Alaska Weather in April: While April is considered one of the driest months of the year in Alaska, that doesn't mean you're guaranteed sun and clear skies. Southeast Alaska, where most April cruises sail, is a rainforest, so there are still plenty of light showers and fog to be found.
Temperatures are relatively mild, with daytime highs in the upper 40s and into the 50s depending on where you're visiting and cloud cover. You will still see snow on the ground in the mountains as well.
Hours of Daylight in April: Alaska sees about 11 hours of daylight in April, though toward the end of the month in Southeast Alaska you can expect up to 13 hours.
Top Things to Do in Alaska in April: While the Alaska cruise season is creeping ever earlier into April, the towns along Southeast Alaska itineraries are still quite sleepy and you may not find all shops and restaurants opened or fully staffed.
That's especially true in Skagway, where snow can keep the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad only traveling a few miles due to snowed-in tracks. Juneau is an exception, as it's the state capital and always buzzes.
Alaska Wildlife in April: Much of Alaska's wild side is still sleepy in April, so don't expect to see bears, caribou or salmon in the southeast. Bald eagles are plentiful, and there will likely be some humpback whales as well as orcas, sea otters and sea lions in the waters as you cruise Alaska's Inner Passage during April.
Alaska Fishing in April: While salmon aren't running in April, you'll be able to snag a wide array of lake and river trout in Alaska's waters in April. Halibut season is officially open in April as well, though you'll have better luck catching one later in the year.
What to Eat in Alaska in April: Alaska is still emerging from the long, cold and dark winter in April, so don't count on farmer's markets or direct-to-table fruits, vegetables or herbs. Instead, opt for picking up the various jellies, jams and candies that are made from local summer and fall harvests, like salmonberry, spruce tip or blueberries.
Alaska Cruise Prices When You Visit Alaska in May: May can have bargains for Alaska cruises even though the month is nearly part of peak season. You'll find prices between $1,100 and $1,200 on average, as there are more options on different classes of cruise ships available throughout the month compared to April.
Weather in Alaska in May: May is the driest month of Alaska's cruise season with just a 25 percent chance of rain. Average highs are in the mid-50s with lows in the upper 30s and lower 40s. While Alaska weather in May offers lower chances of rain you’ll still need to come prepared for wet or cold weather.
Hours of Daylight in Alaska in May: By mid-May, you can expect around 17 hours of daylight in Southeast Alaska (Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan). As you travel farther north, the days will be even longer. To fully enjoy the daylight hours, be sure to pack your jackets and other cold weather gear to be prepared for the weather in Alaska in May.
Top Things to Do in Alaska in May: If you have the extra cash to spare, opt for one of the few cruises that visit Kodiak Island in May. The reward? Timing your visit with the Kodiak Crab Festival, which takes place on Memorial Day Weekend every year.
Alternatively, birders might want to time their cruise with the Copper River Shorebird Festival, which takes place early in May in Cordova. Check ahead to make sure your itinerary will stop here, as it's usually only featured on longer 14-day cruises to Alaska.
Alaska Wildlife in May: Shorebirds are easy to spot during May in Alaska, as migrating colonies arrive in full. Gray whales are likely to be seen on whale watches, as will humpbacks and orcas, particularly in the waters of Southeast Alaska. May is one of the best times to cruise Alaska for whales.
On dry land, bears are more common in May, though not as frequently spotted as they are in peak summer.
Fishing in Alaska in May: King salmon runs start in late May and the season runs through September. Arctic char are numerous this time of year and you'll also have luck scoring almost every type of trout in May (the Copper River in Cordova is a great trout fishing spot).
Even if you're a seasoned fisherman, we recommend using a local guide to help find you the best fishing spot.
What to Eat in Alaska in May: If you aren't heading to Kodiak to consume crustaceans until your heart's content, you'll want to stick to seafood and any local jams, jellies and honey that you see stocked in local shops.
You will find local asparagus on some menus in southeast towns later in the month, and fiddlehead season also begins in Alaska in May. However, most of Alaska's tastiest fruits and vegetables aren't on offer until later in the summer.
Weather in Alaska in June: June in Alaska brings mild temperatures and relatively dry skies. Highs are in the low 60s degrees and lows are in the upper 40s. Compared with the rest of the summer months, the weather in Alaska in June is optimal and shore excursions are less likely to be rained out.
While the weather in Alaska in June brings out the flowers and even greener scenery, expect mosquitoes to be biting. Alaska temperatures can be unpredictable, so come prepared with the proper wardrobe.
Cruise Prices When Visiting Alaska in June: Cruises to Alaska get more expensive in June, with the average cost of a seven-day cruise above $1,300. Nearly every major and mainstream line cruises to Alaska in June, so you'll have your pick of price points and may even find itineraries under $1,000.
You can expect fewer families and crowds in early June than you'll find in July and August, helping keep demand and prices down just a bit.
Hours of Daylight in Alaska in June: Like the rest of the summer, June days are long in Alaska. Expect an average of 19 hours of daylight (and even more on the summer solstice). If you want to fully enjoy the long hours of sun, be sure to pack a variety of clothes to prepare for the weather in Alaska in June.
Top Things to Do in Alaska in June: If you're an avid angler, consider a June Alaska itinerary that visits Seward, when the town hosts the Seward Halibut Tournament. For good times on dry land, check out the Sitka Music Festival, which spans almost the entire month in this popular cruise port.
Wildlife to Look For in Alaska in June: Moose, caribou and shorebirds are visible across Alaska in June. Moose also give birth to their young in June, though spotting calves is rare and you need to be careful around adults when the little ones are present.
If you want to spot herds of caribou, book an Alaska cruise that puts you in range of Denali National Park. And with salmon runs in full force, you can catch fishing bears in the southeast.
Alaska Fishing in June: King, silver and sockeye salmon can be found in Alaska during June. Northern pike also run from June through September, while halibut fishing kicks into full gear in mid-June.
What to Eat in Alaska in June: Alaska's herbs and greens begin coming into season in June, along with delicious pie fillings like cherries, boysenberries and rhubarb. Look for local specialties in cafes around your port.
Alaska Weather in July: If you like mild temperatures, Alaska in July is for you. Expect highs in the mid 60s and sometimes into the 70s, with lows in the 50s. The tradeoff? The wet season kicks into high gear, with the state averaging around 12 inches in July.
Cruise Prices for Alaska in July: July is one of the most expensive months to cruise to Alaska, with seven-day itineraries above $1,300. It's the peak of Alaska's peak cruise season and things will be busy.
If you're on a budget, stick to interior rooms and look for the big cruise ships, which tend to have more inventory. Summer Alaska cruises fill up quickly, so always book well in advance.
Hours of Daylight in Alaska in July: Alaska's Inside Passage gets about 17 hours of daylight in July, while more northern destinations will see close to 19.
Top Things to Do in Alaska in July: Many events around the state mark the Fourth of July. If you're the active type, or just want to cheer on those who are, check out the Mount Marathon Race in Seward.
As the name suggests, the race goes directly up the steep slopes of Mount Marathon (and back down). The mountain is over 3,000 feet high. If you'd like something more relaxed, Anchorage, Juneau and Homer all have great Independence Day parades and events.
Other adventurous activities, such as hiking trails, open up in the summer months. Hatcher Pass typically opens up in July, depending on the specific Hatcher Pass weather conditions. Mt. Denali is another option for cruisers, but be sure to check on the Mt. Denali weather with your cruise line.
Alaska Wildlife in July: July is the best month in Alaska for spotting much of the state's incredible wildlife. Salmon runs (and the bears that hunt them) plus amazing birding are almost everywhere and you can spot the pups of fur seals and Steller sea lions at the beginning of the month, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Alaska Fishing in July: King salmon can still be caught in early July; sockeye run through the month. Silver or coho salmon also begin their run in July, while pink salmon appear in the middle of the month.
What to Eat in Alaska in July: July is when Alaska's growing season kicks into high gear. Strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, gooseberries and tons more will begin to find their ways onto your plate if you eat in port.
Weather in Alaska in August: In August, rain is likely in Alaska on more than half of the days in the month. You should expect some washouts on shore excursions. Daytime average high temperatures are in the low- to mid-60s in August and lows are in the upper 40s and lower 50s.
Weather in Alaska in August may keep some cruisers away, but there are still many excursions and experiences to enjoy.
Cruise Prices for Alaska in August: Cruises to Alaska in August are generally cheaper than in June and July. Expect average seven-day Alaska cruise prices around $1,150. Keep your eyes open for Alaska cruise deals later in the month, as peak season starts to wane.
Hours of Daylight in Alaska in August: There are around 15 hours of daylight in Alaska in August.
Top Things to Do in Alaska in August: The Alaska State Fair, which takes place in the Mat-Su Valley, starts in late August and typically runs into early September. There are also plenty of food- and wildlife-centered events throughout the month (more on that below).
Alaska Wildlife in August: Alaska's bears are still in full view throughout August as they search for salmon and berries, which are still bountiful. Bald eagles can also be seen congregating near salmon-spawning streams in August. Later in the month, you can spot plenty of other birds around freshwater sources before they flee for warmer climates.
Alaska Fishing in August: In Alaska, pink salmon run until mid-August and silver salmon run through the entire month. Seward's Silver Salmon Derby is always the second week of the month, one of the oldest and largest fishing derbies in the state. In late August, Dolly Varden trout have been known to practically jump into fishing boats on the Upper Kenai.
What to Eat in Alaska in August: August is berry season in Alaska, from salmonberries to cloudberries and the most famous of them all, Alaska's blueberries. You'll find festivals celebrating them across the state, with some of the most well-known at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, as well as Ketchikan.
Weather in Alaska in September: Temperatures in Alaska start to drop in September, with averages in the mid-50s and lows in the low-40s. On top of that it can be even rainier than August, with up to 20 days of precipitation. That could put a few of your excursions at risk of being rained out.
Weather in Alaska in September can be unpredictable, so plan your trip accordingly.
Alaska Cruise Prices in September: Prices for September Alaska cruises average around $1,000 for a seven-night itinerary. Cruise season starts to wind down in September, and coupled with children head back to school, leading to less demand.
You can also look for a last-minute Alaska cruise deal, though keep in mind that with Alaska's cruise season growing longer, interest in Alaska September cruises is rising.
Hours of Daylight in Alaska in September: Expect 12 hours of daylight during September in Alaska.
Top Things to Do in Alaska in September: If your Alaska cruise is in early September, there's a chance that you might be able to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights on your cruise to Alaska if you can get to Fairbanks or points farther north. Time and weather conditions play a major role, but it's a highlight of cruising to Alaska at the end of the summer.
September weather in Alaska may be unpredictable but with the right preparation you can enjoy all the exciting events.
Alaska Wildlife in September: According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, mating season for moose, goats, caribou and muskoxen begins in the fall (from September through October).
Despite the weather, it's also a great time for seeing moose and other animals at Denali National Park, and bears can be seen near berry patches and streams with salmon. There will still be whales in Alaska's seas in September, though numbers will start to decrease later in the month.
Alaska Fishing in September: Silver salmon and halibut seasons run through September in Alaska for anyone hoping to add a fishing adventure to their cruise.
What to Eat in September: September is mushroom season in Alaska. Check out the Cordova Fungus Festival, which takes place every September. You can expect lots of locally sourced food, expert talks and -- of course -- plenty of mushrooms.
Alaska Weather in October: Alaska's October temperatures aren't the coldest of the year, but you should expect a chill in the air. Temperatures in Southeast Alaska, where most October itineraries will sail, are similar to late April and May.
Expect highs in the 40s and possibly 50s, with lows in the 30s. October is one of the wettest months in Alaska, so prepare for low clouds and rain. Alaska weather in October is manageable if you pack the right gear and protective clothing.
Alaska Cruise Prices When You Visit Alaska in October: Depending on your cruise style, prices will range widely, though October is significantly less expensive than summer months for cruising to Alaska. A 7-night cruise averages around $1,000 without inclusions or extras.
Cruisers can typically enjoy Alaska in October at lower rates than the Alaska summer cruise season prices.
Hours of Daylight in Alaska in October: You can expect an average of 10 to 11 hours of daylight in Southeast Alaska during October, though that will vary depending on how far north you travel. Later in the year, the majority of the day passes in darkness.
Top Things to Do in Alaska in October: Alaska's October calendar isn't as full as other months, but you'll find Oktoberfest in Anchorage if you're a fan of brats and beers. October 18 marks Alaska Day, when the state became part of the United States. Head to Sitka to join in the multi-day revelry.
Wildlife to Look For in Alaska in October: Bear sightings will be less likely in October, as one of the state's must-see animals begins the process of hibernating for the winter. Mating season for animals like caribou and moose continues into October as well, but you'll likely have to be far north for those sightings. It should be easy to spot bald eagles in the fall and whale watching is possible (though you'll need more luck than in summer).
Alaska Fishing in October: You'll still be able to catch rainbow trout and silver salmon during October in Alaska. Don't expect the same bounty or diversity of catches that you might find earlier in the year, though.
What to Eat in Alaska in October: Winter squash and rhubarb are the must-eats if you're after local Alaska food in October, and you'll find beets, cabbage and sprouts as well. Keep your eye out for mom-and-pop shops selling various jams, pies and other delicious creations as well.
Alaska’s cruise season is seven months long, from April to October. During the cruise season, popular cruise lines assist travelers in enjoying all of the unique sights, wildlife, excursions, events and food.
Alaska is a special place to cruise because it’s very different from standard tropical cruise destinations. Cruises to Alaska don’t occur during the months of January, February, March, November and December. The dark and cold winters are not ideal for cruises because travelers aren’t able to enjoy the wonders of the state of Alaska.
To truly enjoy an Alaskan cruise, cruisers can visit from April to October when daylight hours, weather and wildlife are better. Explore Alaskan cruises and learn more about each fun-filled trip to the 49th state.