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Cruises to Sitka

Sitka (Photo:Ramunas Bruzas/Shutterstock)
Sitka (Photo:Ramunas Bruzas/Shutterstock)

About Sitka

Over the centuries, Sitka -- one of Alaska's most exotic ports -- has reinvented itself over and over again. It's been home to the Tlingit Native Americans, an outpost of the Russian empire and the one-time capital of Alaska. The region is still a center for commercial fishing. Through it all, its residents have always figured out a way to get the best out of their resources. Today, the roughly 8,900 locals still rely on their natural surroundings, but with an eye toward the burgeoning tourism market.

From the moment you arrive, you'll notice that Sitka is different from the rest of Alaska. It's not just the Russian influence that makes the town unique. In addition to the usual commercial fishing and tourism, Sitka's economic livelihood also relies on drinking-water exportation, healthcare and education, including the Alaska State Trooper Academy.

Sitka is located on the west side of Baranof Island -- a 100-mile-long island in the state's panhandle -- and is only accessible by air and sea. The vast Tongass National Forest covers the area outside of town, which only has a roadway along the Pacific coast about 7 miles in either direction. Watching over Sitka from across the sound is Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano and Mount Fuji lookalike.

Although the port's more than 210,000 cruise passengers provide economic stimulus each summer, Sitka is primarily known for the quality and quantity of seafood harvested from its waters and processed in its plants.

Sitka's historic attractions are located within walking distance of downtown. Lincoln Street is approximately 1 mile long, starting at the city's southeast corner (featuring the lookout at Castle Hill) and ending at the Sitka National Historical Park visitor center to the north. The street passes by the historic onion-shaped domed architecture of St. Michael's Cathedral and the Russian Bishop's House as it follows the Sitka Sound waterfront and Crescent Harbor (the multi-slip marina).

The other main street is Katlian Street, a road that follows the waterfront of the Sitka Channel, featuring colorful fishing boats, weathered houses and the essence of a working harbor town.

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DAY 1: Seattle

9 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Sitka, Icy Strait ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Seattle

10 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
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Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
Astoria, Oregon, Sitka ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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DAY 1: Vancouver

7 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Inside Passage, Sitka ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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9 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Juneau, Skagway ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Inside Passage, Sitka ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Icy Strait, Hubbard Glacier ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Sitka, Icy Strait ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Icy Strait ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Juneau, Endicott Arm ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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120 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
Honolulu, Maui ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seward
Visiting:
Sitka, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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25 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Astoria, Oregon, Seattle ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

9 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Inside Passage, Sitka ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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15 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Sitka, Hokkaido ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Icy Strait ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Sitka, Hubbard Glacier ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Juneau, Endicott Arm ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Sitka ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Wrangell ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Juneau, Sitka ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Sitka

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Seattle
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Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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61 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Astoria, Oregon, Seattle ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Juneau, Glacier Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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12 Night
Cruise to Sitka

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
San Francisco, Astoria, Oregon ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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Why go to Sitka?

Pros:

A rich heritage is celebrated in Sitka with a totem pole park, cultural center and traditional dancers.

Cons:

The port is only accessible on certain cruise itineraries.

Bottom Line:

Blending native Tlingit with Russian roots, Sitka is an illuminating window into a remote part of Alaska.

Sitka Cruise Port Facilities?

If your ship doesn't dock about 6 miles outside of town at the Old Dock at Halibut Point, it will anchor and tender you to one of two docks in town: Crescent Harbor, steps from the Harrigan Centennial Hall, which has free Wi-Fi, restrooms and a tourist information desk; or Castle Hill (where Lincoln Street and Harbor Way meet).

If you tender, you'll end up right in town. If you're docked, you'll find a small terminal with several shops (souvenirs, jewelry and fur apparel) and a tent housing the Halibut Point Crab & Brews restaurant. The ship terminal also has restrooms and free Wi-Fi. A free shuttle service runs every 15 minutes and will drop you in town at Centennial Hall.

Good to Know?

Frequent rain is a fact of life in Alaska, and Sitka is no exception, with an average of 100 annual inches. An umbrella, water-resistant coat and shoes are a must. It's also a good idea to dress in layers.

Opening hours -- particularly at St. Michael's Cathedral -- can be capricious, despite the posted times.

Getting Around?

On Foot: Once you're dropped off, Sitka is extremely walkable. Pick up maps, brochures and advice from the information desk located in Harrigan Centennial Hall near Crescent Harbor. You can easily walk to shops, restaurants, St. Michael's Church, the Russian Bishop's House and other attractions.

By Bus: There is a Sitka bus system called RIDE Sitka, but it's primarily designed to serve locals. Buses run from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with three route loops. All routes leave the downtown Crescent Harbor parking lot at 45 minutes past the hour; the Green route also leaves Crescent Harbor parking lot at 15 minutes past the hour.

Fares are extremely affordable for adults and half-price for seniors (age 60 or older), children (ages 6 to 17) or people with disabilities. Day passes are also available.
Several tour companies run shuttles to the Raptor Center and other attractions. Look for signboards in front of Centennial Hall.

By Bike: An active, yet convenient option is to rent a bike from Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop (329 Harbor Drive, across from Centennial Hall). They offer a variety of bikes at about $30 for the day.

By Taxi: There are several local taxi companies whose cabs congregate at Centennial Hall. (You won't find any at Old Dock, but you can call ahead for one to pick you up.) They include Hank's Taxi & Tour Service (907-747-8888), where you might get a song thrown in with your tour; Baranof Taxi and Tours (907-738-4722); Sunset Cab (907-623-0979); and Sitka Checkered Tours (907-738-9417), which operates a classic 1973 Checker Marathon cab.

By Rental Car: Rental agencies are located at the airport, which isn't convenient for cruisers, and with the limited local roads, there's really no reason to rent a car in Sitka. If you insist, you can rent from Sitka Car Rental (907-738-2282), which will arrange to drop a vehicle off at your location upon request.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The local currency is the U.S. dollar. Banks with ATMs are located on Lincoln Street, between St. Michael's Church and Centennial Hall.

Language?

English is spoken by just about everyone, but many Sitkans also speak Tlingit or other native languages.


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2018 Top-Rated Alaska Destinations
  • 2017 Top-Rated Alaska Destinations
  • 2016 Top-Rated Alaska Destinations
  • 2015 Top-Rated Alaska Destinations

Sitka Cruise Reviews

Viking Orion
bteng
Sail Date: Jun 2019
We took the included excursion, then we walked everywhere on our own to explore the Sitka.... Read More
patrout38
Sail Date: Aug 2019
Here is a port where you don't need an excursion. Go to the Sitka Sound Science Center and see the spawning salmon. Walk around the town, eat local!... Read More
Masticon
Sail Date: Aug 2019
Sitka was a pretty cool small town that reminded us of Friday Harbor in the San Juans. Having more time helped but we managed to hit the entire downtown in just a couple hours. I don’t have any particular drive to... Read More
Crystal Symphony
travel mensch
Sail Date: Jul 2019
Sitka was also a great place to watch whales. We took a small boat excursion called the Sitka Marine Adventure. Our pilot was Sonny. He was extremely competent. We saw a sea otter as well as whales. Sitka is THE... Read More
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