Alaska is considered one of the last great wildernesses -- and navigating all your cruise choices to see as much as you can be overwhelming. Alaska is also notoriously expensive, so it's no wonder that many travelers prefer an all-inclusive cruise for their vacation to the 49th state.
There are several ways that you can design an all-inclusive cruise in Alaska. You can go on a luxury cruise ship where everything is included in the price. You can book an upscale or mainstream ship and stay in a suite that has more amenities bundled in the fare. Or you can go with a small expedition ship that might not have a fancy onboard experience, but which offers an up-close and personal adventure in Alaska's wild and remote places.
We'll break down what the pros and cons are of each choice when planning a luxury cruise to Alaska.
First, what makes an all-inclusive cruise in Alaska? For most people, it means that once you get onboard, many of the big decisions are taken care of for you. You don't have to worry about spending extra for drinks, alternative restaurants, Wi-Fi or gratuities.
Beyond that, some lines offer even more in their fares. Think a choice of shore excursions, a hotel room before your cruise, airfare to Alaska, free laundry, butler service and transfers to your hotel or ship from the airport (and vice versa). Many lines allow you to extend this all-inclusive way of travel to pre- or post-cruise tours into Denali National Park and Alaska's interior.
There's a certain ease to paying one fare and not having to worry about individual charges. Transportation in Alaska can be expensive, and the distances are vast; the northern ports of Seward and Whittier, where many cruise embark from, are about two hours from Anchorage, for example. So having your transfers included in your fare is a definite perk. Similarly, everyone loves free internet. And on an Alaska cruise, where getting wet and muddy on excursions happens more than you think, having access to free laundry is a huge bonus -- plus it saves on bulky packing.
Some of the other amenities that come with an all-inclusive cruise in Alaska are more of a personal decision. Even people who love a drink packages on Caribbean cruises may find that they aren't partaking as much in Alaska, where you tend to take more strenuous outdoor excursions and get up earlier. There isn't as much "sitting around in a bar" time on an Alaska cruise, compared to other cruises (and we'd argue that if you're going to do that, it's more fun to find a local Alaskan watering hole than staying on the ship).
You could also debate the value of included shore excursions; it depends on how big you're going with your cruise overall and what your interests are. If you're the kind of person who wants to go flightseeing or take a helicopter to the top of a glacier followed by a crab feast, you're going to be paying extra for that excursion anyway. Generally, any tour that requires someone with extra professional certification for an airplane, helicopter or boat is going to be an additional charge, no matter what cruise line you're on. Inclusive tours, if there are any, are likely to be low-impact tours like walking and motorcoach sightseeing.
Luxury cruise lines tend to have the most inclusions in their fares -- and those fares can be steep. It's worth taking a look at exactly what you're getting and doing some comparison shopping to make sure you're spending for the things you really want.
Regent Seven Seas has the most inclusions in their Alaska cruises, with almost every amenity that we mentioned above as part of the fare: gratuities, Wi-Fi, airport transfers, economy airfare, shore excursions, all beverages on the ship and in your suite, and all onboard restaurants. In 2023, the line is placing one of its more luxurious ships, Seven Seas Explorer, in Alaska; passengers who book will be assured that their accommodations at sea far surpass anything that you'd find on land.
On our June 2022 sailing, we found that the included excursions were hit and miss. We loved the Adventure Hike at Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, and a combo tour in Ketchikan that took in both the popular Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show with a stop at the Saxman Native Tlingit Village gave us a nice overview of the local culture. The Gold Creek Salmon Bake in Juneau, however, was a dud -- we would have been better off eating on the ship or in town.
We were also not thrilled with the Hilton, the included hotel that Regent partners with in Anchorage. While there aren't a lot of choices in Anchorage before a cruise, we would have preferred the Captain Cook, which Princess and Holland America Line use for their cruise tours.
The inclusion that proved to be a winner with Regent: Unlimited laundry, done that day and delivered to your room pressed in a box. If you have a family and are spending lots of time outdoors, this could be your most valuable perk.
Other all-inclusive luxury lines that operate in Alaska are Silversea and Seabourn. Both lines have newer ships in Alaska -- Silversea has Silver Muse, in addition to the older Silver Whisper, while Seabourn Odyssey and the new expedition ship Seabourn Venture represents Seabourn. All ships are smaller than the 738-passenger Explorer, with Silver Muse carrying 596 guests and Silver Shadow much smaller at 388 passengers. Seabourn Odyssey has space for 458 guests, while Venture carries 264.
Silversea has made its inclusions in Alaska similar to Regent's. On Silversea, you'll get all transfers (including those from your home to the airport), economy-class flights, a hotel the night before, gratuities, all drinks onboard and a shore excursion in each port. Silversea also boasts butler service for all suites onboard and caviar on demand; a few of its specialty restaurants do carry an extra fee. If you book a higher-level suite, you get premium Wi-Fi in your fare.
Seabourn includes dining in all restaurants, gratuities, Wi-Fi, all drinks onboard and in your suite, butler service for all rooms and caviar on demand in its fares. Transfers are not included if you don't book your airfare through Seabourn. While the line does not include shore excursions in its fare, it does have special Ventures by Seabourn expedition excursions to purchase that are more adventurous, including zodiac, kayaking and catamaran tours, led by the ship's own onboard team of specialists. The ship also has special complimentary Caviar on Ice Party that makes your all-inclusive cruise in Alaska an event, as well as a Seabourn jacket for all cruisers.
Several cruise lines in Alaska are considered "premium," meaning that they have some amenities included in their fare but not all.
Of these, the closest to all-inclusive is Viking Ocean. The line gives passengers free Wi-Fi; beer, wine and soft drinks at lunch and dinner; specialty coffees and bottled water; and a complimentary shore excursion in every port. There's also self-serve laundry onboard, as well as one of the best thermal spas at sea that's open to all guests. You'll pay for your own gratuities. Transfers from airport-to-pier are also extra, unless you book your air through Viking.
Windstar has an All-Inclusive Pricing option that gives you unlimited alcoholic beverages, unlimited Wi-Fi and all gratuities. This is not the base fare -- you'll have to select this option when you book, which will raise the overall price somewhat.
Oceania Cruises has a pricing option called OLife Choice where you receive 2-for-1 cruise fares, free roundtrip airfare with transfers and a choice of one amenity, ranging from a package of eight shore excursions, a beverage package or up to $800 in onboard credit. This is a particular good all-inclusive option if you're on an itinerary making lots of port stops.
Most of the familiar mainstream cruise lines sail to Alaska and while none of them are all-inclusive when it comes to booking a standard cabin, that often changes if you book a suite.
HAL offers a "Have It All" fare that gives you a Wi-Fi package; a signature drink package and a certain number of complimentary nights in specialty restaurants and shore excursions, depending on how long your trip is.
Princess has introduced Princess Premier, a fare class that gives you unlimited Wi-Fi for up to four devices; a beverage package; two specialty dining meals; and digital downloads of photos taken onboard.
Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean all have a range of perks for their top suites that can make booking one of these rooms closer to an all-inclusive experience.
In Norwegian Cruise Line's Haven suite complex, passengers receive butler service; their own special pool, bar and restaurant; an unlimited beverage package; free meals at specialty restaurants and Wi-Fi, as well a shore excursion credit.
Celebrity Cruises doesn't have any of its new Edge-class ships based in Alaska until 2024. Still, if you book a suite on the other ships, you receive Always Included perks such as a premium drink package; streaming Wi-Fi; gratuities, a shore excursion credit and onboard credit that you can spend elsewhere on the ship. Suite class and spa class guests also have their own restaurants onboard -- Luminae and Blu. The latter have included access to the ship's Persian Garden thermal suite.
Not all Royal Caribbean cruises in Alaska have an option to make your sailing all inclusive, but Quantum of the Seas ship, does. If you book a Star Class suite, you will receive a drink and specialty restaurant packages, as well as Wi-Fi and the butler services of a Royal Genie. The smaller Brilliance of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas do not offer Star Class suites.
Another option in Alaska: small expedition ships that might not have all the dining and entertainment options of the big ships, yet more than make up for that with wildlife and nature-intensive cruises.
Be warned: small expedition ships can carry price tags just as high as the luxury and premium cruises. But in many ways, you get so much more when you choose one of these all-inclusive options -- a real close-up view of Alaska that's hard to duplicate otherwise.
These cruises often stop in smaller ports such as Wrangell, Petersburg, or the native village of Kake, and moor in remote natural areas such as Misty Fjords or the remote shores of Baranof Island. You also get better and more personal in-depth programming from the onboard naturalists, expedition guides and cultural interpreters.
The Norwegian cruise and expedition company Hurtigruten has its 528-passenger expedition ship MS Roald Amundsen in Alaska. On its expedition cruises, you receive a hotel night in Anchorage before your cruise; transfer to Seward with a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center; complimentary Wi-Fi; house beer, wine and sodas at two of the onboard restaurants during meals; a reusable water bottle; and loan of boots, trekking poles and equipment (you also receive a wind and water-resistant jacket). If you're in a suite, you can also dine for free at the a la carte restaurant Lindstrom. Passengers on Roald Amundsen can also choose from an interesting range of included shore excursions, some of which are not offered on other cruise lines, such a visit to the Sons of Norway hall in Petersburg.
American Queen Voyages has its first expedition ship, the 186-passenger Ocean Victory, in Alaska. The ship is almost entirely all-inclusive, with unlimited beverages; a hotel night before the cruise; Wi-Fi; ground transfers; use of hiking sticks; and at least one included excursion per port. The ship also has a luxury feel to it, with an onboard infinity pool and small spa.
Lindblad Expeditions has long been a pioneer in Alaska small ship cruising and with its National Geographic credentials, it's a favorite of those who enjoy having access to world-class photographers onboard. All shore excursions and sightseeing entrance prices are included in your fare, as are all the onboard activities and presentations. Non-alcoholic drinks are included but you'll pay for alcoholic drinks. Gratuities, laundry, and Wi-Fi are not included.
UnCruise Adventures is another veteran expedition cruise line that really immerses you into the wilderness; you'll have opportunities to hike, kayak, paddleboard or snorkel (yes, snorkel!) almost every day. The ships are under 100 passengers, but luxury lovers need to know that the vessels are on the rustic side -- comfortable and cozy, not flashy and lavish. Your fare includes transfers and all drinks including alcohol (with plenty of local libations on tap), as well as use of all the outdoor gear. Wi-Fi is included but not always available.
Last but definitely not least, Alaskan Dream Cruises is about as Alaska as you can get, as the cruise line is run by the well-known Allen family who run excursions around the state. The fleet of small expedition ships is diverse; the 12-person Kruzof Explorer is a repurposed crab boat! Fares on Alaskan Dream include all of your excursions, which often cap off with a king crab and salmon feast at privately owned Orca Point Lodge; a glass of house wine and beer at lunch and dinner; use of gear such as rain jackets, rain pants and boots; transfers and Wi-Fi (if available). Gratuities are not included.
As you can see, there are a wide range of options for your all-inclusive Alaskan cruise. What you decide to pick should be based on what's most important to you.
Don't splash out for a cruise with unlimited alcoholic beverages if the house wine or beer is just fine. Or if you'd prefer to choose your own excursions, you might want a line that has a lower base fare so you can put your money toward those pricey once-in-a-lifetime experiences.