After posting record cruise visitor numbers in 2023 and breaking records across several ports of call – including homeports like Vancouver, Canada – the 2024 Alaska cruise season is shaping up to be one of the most interesting and successful in years.
From an elongated cruise season to new ships heading north to lavish hotel upgrades and infrastructure developments, here’s what cruisers can look forward to in The Last Frontier in 2024.
Norwegian Cruise Line will kick things off on Saturday, April 6, 2024, when Norwegian Bliss arrives in Seattle to start the 2024 Alaska season off. For the first two weeks, Norwegian Bliss will sail unopposed in Alaska until other vessels begin to sail over from Asia later that month.
Norwegian will also be the last line with scheduled cruises to Alaska next year: Norwegian Jewel will depart Seattle for the last time on October 28, 2024 – a very late season indeed on the notoriously-stormy Pacific Ocean.
The big news (literally) next year is that Celebrity Cruises’ revolutionary Celebrity Edge will be deployed to Alaska for the first time in its history. Launched in 2018, the 2,918-passenger ship is as notable for its unique design and walls of glass-windowed lounges as it is for the Magic Carpet: a bright-orange cantilevered platform that functions as an enclosed dining and bar venue and tender embarkation landing.
Celebrity Edge will be primarily based out of Seattle, where it will sail weeklong roundtrips to Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Dawes Glacier, and Victoria, British Columbia. A special one-off sailing will depart from Vancouver and end in Seattle on May 11, while a return voyage on September 13, 2024 will sail from Seattle and end in Vancouver.
The ship will be joined by fleetmates Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Summit on sailings out of Vancouver and Seattle, with roundtrip cruises and one-way sailings between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska on offer again for the 2024 season aboard Celebrity Summit.
For those looking for a longer sailing to Alaska, Holland America Line really delivers the goods in 2024.
Out of approximately 100 sailings to The Last Frontier, the line is pulling out all the stops with Westerdam’s 28-day “Alaska Arctic Circle Solstice” cruise. The nearly month-long cruise departs roundtrip from Seattle and calls on Anchorage, Dutch Harbor, Skagway, Homer, Juneau, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Nome, Seward, Sitka, Valdez and Wrangell.
Westerdam also calls on Prince Rupert, British Columbia and visits Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier, Prince William Sound, and even Little Diomede Island – one of two islands situated in the Bering Sea between the Alaskan mainland and Siberia. It’s counterpart, Big Diomede Island, is barely two miles away but is owned by Russia.
Can’t make it in 2024? Not to fear: Holland America is deploying Westerdam on a similar itinerary again in 2025.
If 28 days on a ship is a touch too long, Holland America is also running a series of 14-day cruises from Vancouver aboard Nieuw Amsterdam. These call on Seward, Anchorage, Kodiak, Valdez, Juneau, Skagway, Wrangell and Ketchikan and include visits to Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier.
The line also continues to offer a program of weeklong Alaska cruises sailing from both Vancouver and Seattle in 2024.
Rockslides in 2022 and 2023 caused havoc for one of Skagway’s most popular docking spaces: the mountainside Railroad Dock. And while mitigation work in 2023 involved controlled demolition, chain slide guards and a network of shuttle busses, barricades and passenger walkways, the 2024 cruise season is looking better for the former Gold Rush town as FEMA declared it would provide Skagway with $19.9 million to solve the problem.
The town plans to use the money – which will cover three quarters of the overall total cost – to secure the Railroad Dock and avoid having to bus passengers from one end to the other; an expensive and costly solution that no one liked.
There are other improvements coming for Skagway’s terminal facilities as well: the Ore Dock on the north end of town will also see improvements and upgrades to better handle both passenger and freight traffic coming into Skagway, thanks to a $17 million grant from the Canadian Yukon territory that borders Skagway.
Those looking to extend their northbound or southbound Alaska cruise might want to consider a stop at Alaska’s secluded Alyeska Resort, situated 45 minutes south of Anchorage in the town of Girdwood.
Cruise Critic had the opportunity to stay at the Lodge earlier in the summer of 2023 and found it to be a unique and luxurious mountain hideaway that’s wholly different from the usual Alaskan hotel experience. The Resort boasts hot springs mineral pools, a sumptuous Nordic spa, an elevated four-diamond restaurant situated atop the mountain, and two brand-new “Veilbreaker” skybridges situated 2,500 feet above the mountain valley.
Now, for 2024, the Resort is unveiling its new Black Diamond Club Suites that Cruise Critic had the chance to experience last summer. These 36 newly-refitted rooms that range in size from 325 square feet to a whopping 1,971-foot Presidential Suite come equipped with a 50-inch smart screen television, Nespresso machine, Dyson hair dryer, luxury jersey robes and slippers, bathroom amenities by Bamford, luxury linens and a pillow menu to cater to individual sleep style.
The Resort was acquired by Canadian company Pomeroy in 2018 and has expanded its facilities substantially in that time. Access to the cruise port of Seward is available by car or the far-more-scenic Alaska Railroad.
While it won’t be done for some time, visitors to Juneau in 2024 are likely to notice a buzz of activity on the north side of the harbor: the construction of a new $150-million development on the waterfront that will include a brand-new cruise terminal.
Branded as Aak’w Landing, Norwegian Cruise Line purchased the land in 2019 and gave it to Huna Totem Corporation, which built and manages the popular Icy Strait Point port of call.
The new development, which will be located off Egan Drive on the northwestern side of Juneau and will sit outside the downtown area, is expected to house a cultural and science center, retail space and underground parking, in addition to the new pier.
Alaska’s scenery may stay as grand as ever, but these are just a few of the major developments scheduled for The Last Frontier in 2024. To find and book the perfect Alaska cruise, be sure to use Cruise Critic’s very own Find a Cruise tool.