Thinking about a cold weather destination like Alaska in the dead of the winter may seem counterintuitive. When the thermometer at home hovers around 0 degrees, it's much more enticing to envision images of palm trees swaying to soft tropical breezes on a tranquil beach than icy glaciers surrounded by icy peaks.
But winter is not only a great time to think about booking a cruise to Alaska; it's also the best time. Alaska's cruise season runs from May through September, so your window of opportunity to snag a good deal is smaller than a cruise to the Caribbean or even the Mediterranean. And although there is no shortage of cruise lines operating in the Last Frontier, the state doesn't see the levels of cruise traffic that you'll find in the previously mentioned regions, especially during high season. Inventory can be, therefore, limited and on high demand.
That means timing is of the essence when booking an Alaska cruise, and the timing is now. Read on to brush up on the reasons that make winter the right time to think about Alaska, and for more tips on how to land a good deal.
The period from late December to early March is not just winter in the Northern Hemisphere; it's also Wave Season. This very fitting maritime term is what the cruise industry uses to refer to the time when cruise lines roll out some of their most enticing deals, incentives and perks.
Naturally, Wave Season is not limited to Alaska itineraries. In fact, most mainstream cruise lines will advertise their warm weather itineraries more heavily during this period to take advantage of travelers' daydreams about escaping the cold temperatures of winter. But if you dig deep enough (which is to say, not all that deep), you'll see a healthy selection of Alaska itineraries to choose from.
And this year has been no exception, with several cruise lines already putting their best foot forward on Wave Season deals with Alaska in the mix. Royal Caribbean, for instance, is offering 30% off each passenger and kids sail free deals on numerous itineraries, including Alaska.
Sister brand Celebrity Cruises' Wave Season cruise deal (or as the line calls it, the Semi-Annual Sale) is another, with 75% off the second guest's cruise fare, plus up to $800 off per stateroom and up to $800 in onboard credit. The deal is good for itineraries stretching as far out as April 2025, giving cruisers the opportunity to find an Alaska cruise deal for both 2023 and 2024 seasons.
Princess Cruises also includes select Alaska itineraries as part of its Best Sale Ever wave season deal, with discounts of up to 35% off on cruise fares and up to $150 OBC. Similarly, Cunard has rolled out discounts of up to 30% on fares as well as up to $2,000 in onboard credit. And Holland America Line, another brand known for its Alaskan itineraries, is using Wave Season to promote its Have it All package with fare discounts, stateroom upgrades, free fares for kids and reduced deposits.
Wave season deals aren't limited to mainstream lines. You can also find alluring offers applicable to Alaska itineraries on upscale brands. Silversea Cruises, for example, is offering discounts of 10% to 20% on new bookings and up to 40% on select expedition cruises to Alaska, among other destinations. Also in the luxury realm, Oceania Cruises' Wave Season deal includes up to $800 in onboard credit per cabin plus the option of one OLife Choice amenity.
To stay on top of all the deals that cruise lines are rolling out this year, check out our Wave Season Deals article.
Outside of each cruise line's established Wave Season deals, you can also periodically come across interesting deals from cruise lines on numerous Alaska itineraries.
The key to understanding what makes a good deal for an Alaska cruise is having a sense of what different cabin categories cost. It's worth noting that, generally speaking, the cost of an Alaska cruise tends to be higher than other popular regions like the Caribbean or the Mediterranean.
Inside cabins below $90 per person per night can be considered a deal, as can oceanview cabins for less than $100 per person/per night. Given Alaska's breathtaking landscapes, it's no surprise that balcony cabins are quite coveted among cruisers. Finding one for less than $150 per person per night is a sign of a deal worth considering.
Although a good indicator, cabin price is not the only factor consider when searching for an Alaska deal. Perks and incentives also serve to sweeten deals, and can include free onboard credit, drinks or wi-fi packages, free gratuities and more. Better yet, look out for deals offering both discounted cabin fare and additional incentives (not unlike the types of offers available on Wave Season).
For instance, we recently found a 7-night voyage on a balcony cabin onboard Norwegian Jewel for $849 per person (about $120 per person, per day), that also includes up to $1,400 in free onboard credit.
Cruise Critic's Deal Tool can help you keep track of the latest and greatest offers out there, and we rank them using the Cruise Critic Deal Score so you can see which bargains have the highest value. Moreover, you customize the parameters of your deal score to include the details -- like onboard credit, fare discount, free drink packages, reduced deposits, etc. -- that are most important to you. Remember that prices change and fluctuate daily, so be sure to check often.
Happy deal hunting!