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When to Go to Alaska


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We are looking to rebook our cancelled trip.

 

When is the best time to go during the cruise season?  What are the advantages/disadvantages of each time frame, especially the end and start of the season.  

Edited by Schonert
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Disadvantages of start/end of the season is that you might not get into the inlets for glacier viewing. Even late May can be too early. I think June/July are ideal because you also get a good chance for wildlife.

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17 minutes ago, 1025cruise said:

Disadvantages of start/end of the season is that you might not get into the inlets for glacier viewing. Even late May can be too early. I think June/July are ideal because you also get a good chance for wildlife.

Clarification-  Glaciers- This is ONLY true of Tracy Arm. And many itineraries don’t go there and there is also Endicott Arm that can be easily substituted.   Wildlife can be seen the entire season.   

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I suggest you determine- first- what you wish to see and do?   What brings you to Alaska?   If you know that-  the choice could be made for you.  Include if you are doing mainland Alaska touring.    
 

It isn’t a simple list there are overlaps and priorities you’ll have to make.    End of season however can be dismal with cold, rain and lack of daylight.  It’s also extending a few weeks later than previous.  Example I was just there end of August and it was down to the 40’s at night 50/60’s during the day.    These also aren’t the bargains they used to be.   I used to pick them up always in addition to sailing earlier in the season.     Some activities are also shut down.    
 

Early season does have that picturesque snow covering and wake up beauty.   But fishing is poor and no salmon runs as example.   
 

 

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We prefer late May/early June as well though we do miss some things (salmon, limited offerings from some tour providers).  We’ve been in May, June, July and August—the earlier we go, the less crowded it seems. Though that may change in these crazy times!  We’ve had better weather in early June and I’ve found hotel prices in Vancouver and Seattle are less expensive than in July or August.

 

I teach at a university whose semester ends every year in mid-May.  It’s been our tradition for the past 10 years to take an Alaskan cruise as soon as I submit the final grades!  So yes, May/early June may be more enjoyable for emotional reasons as well! 😁

Edited by disneyochem
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I have seen the same crowd numbers during the Alaska cruise season.  Ships run full.   I sailed 6 weeks last season from second week of May to mid June.  Port numbers of people similar.     
 

Again-   Take a look at your entire planning-  especially if mainland Alaska is on the visit.   I don’t consider Denali until I can get to Eielson which is June 1.    I certainly do enjoy the earlier visits-  But I always return during the SAME trip and get to Ellison.   That would not be done by most people.      I actually favor-  greatly mid August through early September.  Fall colors,  incredible wildlife opportunities.   Just fantastic beauty.   
 

I have gone in every timeframe of the cruise season.    It’s all great.    So I will caution again-   Consider what you want out of your trip-  first- including all your touring.   Take your time-   You are going to find-  jumping into initial plans is many times a mistake.    The more you find out-  changes what your priorities are.  🤩🤩🤩.   

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Sorry, but the question is incomplete.  Do you plan on a round-trip cruise to Southeast Alaska, or a one-way cruise followed (or preceded) by time on land?  Because if it's the latter, then timing becomes even more of an issue, depending on what you plan to see or do in addition to the cruise.

 

Popular land touring (or land + air) destinations like Denali National Park, other destinations in southcentral and interior Alaska, or destinations in the west and north (accessible by plane) have very different climate profiles over the course of "cruise season."  Wildlife sightings, presence of mosquitoes, tourist pressure on limited infrastructure (for example bear viewing) can all vary hugely depending on the month.

 

So let us know if this is just a cruise or cruise + land, and we can be more helpful.

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5 hours ago, Budget Queen said:

Again-   Take a look at your entire planning-  especially if mainland Alaska is on the visit.  

 

Budget Queen is offering good advice.  Some sightseeing is more satisfyingly accomplished at different times of the year.

 

I usually cruise during July and August.  I have wanted to sail late in the season to see the Fall colors.  Has yet to happen.  Because I have family in Alaska, I have spent several days at Christmas with them.  The winter scenery is simply beautiful and there are opportunities to do things then that can't be done in any other season, i.e. driving out onto a frozen lake and ice fishing.  Temperatures?  How about a -16 degrees with wind on Christmas Day.  I was wearing 5 layers of clothing including a parka and I was still cold!

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7 minutes ago, rkacruiser said:

The winter scenery is simply beautiful and there are opportunities to do things then that can't be done in any other season, i.e. driving out onto a frozen lake and ice fishing. 

Sadly - we can do those things back home and I am guessing you can also.

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Whether or not there isn’t a shoulder season anymore for Alaskan cruises, the companies do have cheaper fares in May/early June.  We frequently save hundreds by sailing early in the season.  And, sometimes ships aren’t full and we get free upgrades on board.  We sailed out of SF last May on Princess.  Was upgraded from an inside cabin to a balcony.  Cruise wasn’t full.

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23 hours ago, Coral said:

Sadly - we can do those things back home and I am guessing you can also.

 

It depends upon the Winter.  But, somehow it just isn't the same as doing those things in Alaska.  The winter scenery is better there than it is in Ohio, I think.  

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On 9/18/2020 at 4:04 PM, Schonert said:

We are looking to rebook our cancelled trip.

 

When is the best time to go during the cruise season?  What are the advantages/disadvantages of each time frame, especially the end and start of the season.  

We are looking at a 14 day round trip from Vancouver.  Want to give more time for Covid concerns, so although we had booked in May this year, we are thinking to book late Aug early Sep to give more time for the virus to run its course/vaccines or something.  We do know how to bundle up for cold.  I have noted the comments about rain late in the season.

 

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16 hours ago, Schonert said:

 We do know how to bundle up for cold.  I have noted the comments about rain late in the season.

 

You may find checking the Juneau Harbor web cam interesting as to the weather you might find at this time of the year.  The temperature is also shown.

 

In my opinion, Juneau has had an exceptionally rainy Spring and Summer with more rain free days recently.  Temperatures have been fairly consistent in the 50's; rarely have I noticed a 60 degree temperature this Summer and I have been checking that web cam on a regular basis.  

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I would caution against,  relying too much on current weather and using it to speculate in the future.   Alaska has extreme variables.   And especially for those-  who  aren't tolerant of the unpredictability may want to consider other itineraries.    There is NO 'norm".    I've seen it all over the years.   Rarely it's perfect weather,  out of my 80++ cruises there,  It's less than 5 "perfect"  trips.    So over 80 had at least 1 day of rain.  🙂   A couple 7 out of 7  rain days.   🙂   🙂   

 

What's fascinating about Alaska,  for me,  and the tremendous draw I have to return over and over-  IS the unknown and unpredictability.     I truly mean-  I ALWAYS see something new.     

 

So perhaps-   go well prepared with your attire and enjoy the unknown.  🙂   

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On 9/21/2020 at 8:18 PM, Schonert said:

We are looking at a 14 day round trip from Vancouver.  

Do you have a particular cruise in mind, or are you thinking about back-to-back 7-day cruises to/from Seward or Whittier?

 

Regardless, it's unlikely you'll have time for any surface/land/air travel since 14 days on the ship(s) won't allow for enough time to make it to places like Denali or the interior.  That simplifies your options (a little) since the logistics will be easier, and if you're weathered out of some activities on the way north, chances are you'll visit some/most of the same places on the return.  

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