When is the best time to cruise Alaska?

When traveling to the final frontier, determining the best time to cruise Alaska is crucial for several reasons, including weather, cost, and wildlife sightings.

This guide discusses the best time to cruise Alaska and everything you should know before sailing to this stunning state.

Princess cruises alaska The Best Time to Cruise Alaska
Princess Cruises sails into Glacier Bay National Park, a highlight of Alaska. (Photo: Princess Cruises)

The peak season for Alaska cruises (May-September)

The summer months of May through September make up the peak season for Alaska cruises.

You’ll experience the best weather and wildlife sightings during this time, with higher temperatures and more daylight hours.

This is also the busiest time of year—so if you want to avoid larger crowds, consider traveling outside the peak months.

The first cruise ships typically begin arriving in Alaska in the last week of April or the first week of May. The entire Alaska-based fleet will arrive by mid-May.

Then at the end of the season, cruise ships begin repositioning to other destinations around the first week of September, with the last cruises sailing by late September (this varies by the cruise line).

Once the Alaska season ends, the ships return to different regions, including Asia, Australia, the Mexican Riviera, and the Caribbean.

Best weather months in Alaska

Sitka Alaska foggy
A foggy start to the day in Sitka, Alaska

One of the many misconceptions about Alaska is its cold weather. However, the summer months see a temperature range from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

It does rain almost every day in mid-summer along Alaska’s coast. It surprises first-time cruisers, seeing the southeast quadrant of the state can be a coastal temperate rainforest. The wettest month is August.

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Late April to mid-May can be cool, with snow caps still visible on the mountain peaks.

September is also cooler, but thanks to the occasional drop of rain and daily average temperature, it becomes much damper, colder, and less pleasant than earlier in the summer.

Pro Tip: For the best weather to cruise Alaska, you’ll want to consider mid-May to late July, with the late June to mid-July period being the ultimate choice.

Best time to cruise Alaska for nature viewing

A grizzly bear in Haines, Alaska
A grizzly bear in Haines, Alaska

If you cruise early (late April, early May) or very late (September) in the Alaska season, you may miss out on excursions, shopping, or experiences. Longer days in mid-June give you the most daylight to explore.

Most glaciers can be calving in August as the temperatures peak, but you’ll likely experience the fantastic phenomenon during the season.

Glacier Bay National Park is the most popular glacier viewing opportunity, so look for an itinerary that includes this stop.

A person taking pictures of glaciers in Alaska
A person taking pictures of glaciers in Alaska

For wildlife viewing in Alaska, you’ll want to consider mid-July to mid-August. These are the months when salmon spawn and the bears are feasting.

If you prefer whale watching, visit Alaska along the coast during August. Birds, including bald eagles, are visible all summer, but their activity declines when the cool September weather sets in.

Pro Tip: For the best time to cruise Alaska to see wildlife, you’ll want to cruise in early August when bear and whale sightings are at their peak.

Editor’s pick

View of the welcome sign in Ketchikan, Alaska
View of the welcome sign in Ketchikan, Alaska

What’s important to you and your family can significantly impact the best time to cruise Alaska. If we have to pick, we’d recommend the experience of Alaska in June. Who would want summer crowds, a rainy season, and high prices during peak times?

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