Cruising Alaska in May or September?

#1
Pasadena, CA
102 Posts
Joined May 2016
Hey folks!

I currently have the family booked into an aft Junior Suite on Explorer (and yes, I know there is a controversy about the view from those cabins) for Alaska in May 2017.

But I was daydreaming around on the RCI website this morning and found that I could save nearly $1,000 if we took the same Explorer cabin and sailed the same itinerary in September instead.

Is there some reason why it might be better to sail in May than September? Weather? Bugs? Lack of snow on the ground? We likely won't sail in June, July or August due to cost differential.

All advice appreciated! Thanks!
#2
2,547 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
We usually go in May or September because the cruises are cheaper then.....schools are not out.
If you do not believe in global warming....go to Alaska.
Incredible differences over the last 2 decades.
This year & last year we took the first cruises of the season in the beginning of May.
We stopped in 3 Alaska ports all of which were 70 degrees both years.
Although beautiful, it should not be like that. Of course the are weeks that are cooler.
We also did not have rain & it should rain there all the time.
There was little to no snow on a lo t of the mountain tops.
We were in a glacier bay....do not remember which one...where our cabin steward said he remembered when the ship would be surrounded by slush covering the water around the ship there. We told him we also remembered that.
We took one tour in a boat where the tour operator was pointing to a certain type of tree that was dying out. I did not understand the whole thing but it was something about needing snow to insulate the ground & now it melts & then turns to ice instead.
Alaska is really a crap shoot about what the weather will be. Just dress in layers. If not raining, most of the time a sweater is more than enough.
Glad you are going. It is a guaranteed good time. Do not forget to go to the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau.
Oh yes.....we have had back balconies before & loved them !
#3
Melbourne
415 Posts
Joined Apr 2012
Originally posted by Happyreb
Hey folks!

I currently have the family booked into an aft Junior Suite on Explorer (and yes, I know there is a controversy about the view from those cabins) for Alaska in May 2017.

But I was daydreaming around on the RCI website this morning and found that I could save nearly $1,000 if we took the same Explorer cabin and sailed the same itinerary in September instead.

Is there some reason why it might be better to sail in May than September? Weather? Bugs? Lack of snow on the ground? We likely won't sail in June, July or August due to cost differential.

All advice appreciated! Thanks!
I cant help with May but we just did a 7 day sailing on September the 5th and it rained, and rained and rained. All of our flight excursions where cancelled and we got so wet in Katchiekan that we got sick for the rest of the trip.

i would not do September again, if bears are a wish list, they are gone by september and we missed the salmon run due to the water being stirred up due to the rain.

the good was the cost, much cheaper as you have said, it did clear up for our scenic sailing days through glacier bay at that was amazing, it was also clearer (no rain) in anchorage and fairbanks.

sylva
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#4
Pasadena, CA
102 Posts
Joined May 2016
Originally posted by Naomigruis
I cant help with May but we just did a 7 day sailing on September the 5th and it rained, and rained and rained. All of our flight excursions where cancelled and we got so wet in Katchiekan that we got sick for the rest of the trip.

sylva
Oh no! I'm sorry to hear that you got sick during your cruise! I'll be sure to check the historic rain patterns in May vs. September for western Alaska!
#5
North West NJ
5,337 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
Originally posted by Happyreb
Oh no! I'm sorry to hear that you got sick during your cruise! I'll be sure to check the historic rain patterns in May vs. September for western Alaska!
FYI, you cannot get sick from rain, sleet, snow, cold temperatures....so please don't let that be the deciding factors. I am sorry he/she got sick also, but it was NOT due to the weather.
#7
CP NY, Clearwater FL
12,721 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by Happyreb
Hey folks!

I currently have the family booked into an aft Junior Suite on Explorer (and yes, I know there is a controversy about the view from those cabins) for Alaska in May 2017.

But I was daydreaming around on the RCI website this morning and found that I could save nearly $1,000 if we took the same Explorer cabin and sailed the same itinerary in September instead.

Is there some reason why it might be better to sail in May than September? Weather? Bugs? Lack of snow on the ground? We likely won't sail in June, July or August due to cost differential.

All advice appreciated! Thanks!
September is rainy season
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#8
Pasadena, CA
102 Posts
Joined May 2016
Originally posted by cruisinfanatic
September is rainy season
Got it; but what if I were to tell you that I care more about avoiding mosquitos than avoiding rain?
#9
Elko, NV
1,163 Posts
Joined Sep 2013
Originally posted by Happyreb
Got it; but what if I were to tell you that I care more about avoiding mosquitos than avoiding rain?
You've honestly got little to worry about with the mosquitos, they are a lot worse in the interior (around Fairbanks area) than Anchorage or the panhandle. June and July are the worst months for the mosquitos, May and September should both be fine.

Personally I prefer May or June for Alaska cruises. August into September starts the rainy season. Wildlife is a bit more active June through August than it is in either May or September, largely because of the Salmon runs, but there are moose pretty much year round, and bears can be hit or miss no matter the month.

May might still be a little chilly; Anchorage hillside, the mountains, and other areas that are shaded or high in elevation will likely still have ice and snow in May, but those same places will start getting snow in September.

One other difference is daylight, May has several hours more daylight than September.
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#10
North West NJ
5,337 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
Originally posted by awestover89
You've honestly got little to worry about with the mosquitos, they are a lot worse in the interior (around Fairbanks area) than Anchorage or the panhandle. June and July are the worst months for the mosquitos, May and September should both be fine.

Personally I prefer May or June for Alaska cruises. August into September starts the rainy season. Wildlife is a bit more active June through August than it is in either May or September, largely because of the Salmon runs, but there are moose pretty much year round, and bears can be hit or miss no matter the month.

May might still be a little chilly; Anchorage hillside, the mountains, and other areas that are shaded or high in elevation will likely still have ice and snow in May, but those same places will start getting snow in September.

One other difference is daylight, May has several hours more daylight than September.
Great info! Thank you
#11
Pasadena, CA
102 Posts
Joined May 2016
Originally posted by awestover89

One other difference is daylight, May has several hours more daylight than September.
Ah! For a scenery-focused cruise, number of daylight hours does seem crucial! Thank you!
#12
Maple Ridge, BC
4,312 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Originally posted by cruisinfanatic
September is rainy season
I disagree.... All year long is rainy season in Alaska.

As far as Vancouver and Pacific Northwest, for the last couple of decades Septemebr weather has been a lot better than May. This last year 2016, May was better. You are rolling the dice... Impossible to predict with any certainty whatsoever.

In 2011, I was standing top deck on Rhapaosy entering inside passage to Juneau... Weather was driving rain and 42 degrees... This was 1st week of July.
Fast fwd 2013 sept, 70 degrees in Skagway, orcas swimming beside the ship, zero rain... Fast fwd this year, rain rain rain as the prev poster saiD.
My own personal opinion living in the Pacific Northwest, at same cruise price I would gamble on Sept vs. May.... For $1000 less in Sept this is a no brainer decision!!!!! In my humble opinion, and especially with $1000 in your pocket, I would choose Sept.

P.s. Oct 2 and its 70 degrees and sunny here in Vancouver... But poster above had worse weather one month ago on sept 5... Again, roll the dice. No one can predict.
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#13
Ocala, Florida
2,189 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
I can't wait to visit Alaska - this was a great debate.
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#14
Southeast LA, USA
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#15
Elko, NV
1,163 Posts
Joined Sep 2013
Originally posted by Happyreb
Ah! For a scenery-focused cruise, number of daylight hours does seem crucial! Thank you!
Do keep in mind we still have about 12-13 hours of daylight in September, it's just closer to 18 in May. It's not until November-January that we really get into the limited sunlight.

Originally posted by Hoopster95
I disagree.... All year long is rainy season in Alaska.

As far as Vancouver and Pacific Northwest, for the last couple of decades Septemebr weather has been a lot better than May. This last year 2016, May was better. You are rolling the dice... Impossible to predict with any certainty whatsoever.

In 2011, I was standing top deck on Rhapaosy entering inside passage to Juneau... Weather was driving rain and 42 degrees... This was 1st week of July.
Fast fwd 2013 sept, 70 degrees in Skagway, orcas swimming beside the ship, zero rain... Fast fwd this year, rain rain rain as the prev poster saiD.
My own personal opinion living in the Pacific Northwest, at same cruise price I would gamble on Sept vs. May.... For $1000 less in Sept this is a no brainer decision!!!!! In my humble opinion, and especially with $1000 in your pocket, I would choose Sept.

P.s. Oct 2 and its 70 degrees and sunny here in Vancouver... But poster above had worse weather one month ago on sept 5... Again, roll the dice. No one can predict.
Ketchikan, yes. All year long is the rainy season in Ketchikan since it's a temperate rainforest. But for the rest of the state, and everywhere else that a cruise goes, the rainy season starts in August and goes through September, and into October for the panhandle. That's not to say that you won't get rain other times of the year, you can get rain anytime of year, but it is significantly more likely in September, based on climate data and statistics.

There's nothing wrong with September, I still go out most weekends and hike or do other things, but rain is more probable then. Technically you can enjoy any time; we hiked Denali in February; cold but absolutely stunning.
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#16
Southeast LA, USA
155 Posts
Joined May 2012
I've sailed Alaska in the first/second week of September three separate times and never had weather ruin my cruise. Other than some drizzle from time to time (normal for the Alaskan coastal rain forest), it was sunny, partly cloudy with cool temps. Yes, it was 40ish cold near the glaciers (Hubbard Glacier, College Fjord, Glacier Bay) but never bad seas, bad weather or rained out ports of call. I would definitely return to Alaska in September again. You get to see and experience the same ports for less money than those cruising during the peak season. It's just a no brainer for me but to each their own.
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#17
Richardson, TX
6,843 Posts
Joined Feb 2005
I have cruised to Alaska twice in May and twice in September. I vote for May. There was a chill in the air both times and I loved it. Great trip up the mountain on the train in Skagway with snow flurries at the top.
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#18
CP NY, Clearwater FL
12,721 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by Hoopster95
I disagree.... All year long is rainy season in Alaska.

As far as Vancouver and Pacific Northwest, for the last couple of decades Septemebr weather has been a lot better than May. This last year 2016, May was better. You are rolling the dice... Impossible to predict with any certainty whatsoever.

In 2011, I was standing top deck on Rhapaosy entering inside passage to Juneau... Weather was driving rain and 42 degrees... This was 1st week of July.
Fast fwd 2013 sept, 70 degrees in Skagway, orcas swimming beside the ship, zero rain... Fast fwd this year, rain rain rain as the prev poster saiD.
My own personal opinion living in the Pacific Northwest, at same cruise price I would gamble on Sept vs. May.... For $1000 less in Sept this is a no brainer decision!!!!! In my humble opinion, and especially with $1000 in your pocket, I would choose Sept.

P.s. Oct 2 and its 70 degrees and sunny here in Vancouver... But poster above had worse weather one month ago on sept 5... Again, roll the dice. No one can predict.
Of course (dah), but September has a much higher average rainfall than many other months of cruise season. You can't judge anything just because it was ok in September for you a couple times
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#19
The Netherlands
1,013 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
My experence so far.

May (whole month): High risk of closed roads (snow). Even early June can be risky. The weather can be nice.

September: Rain, closed attractions etc.

Best month (weather/animals): June

My advice: Go for May instead of September.
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#20
North Texas
3,643 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Originally posted by vickiw0318
I have cruised to Alaska twice in May and twice in September. I vote for May. There was a chill in the air both times and I loved it. Great trip up the mountain on the train in Skagway with snow flurries at the top.
Longer days in May too.