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I have been on 20 Caribbean cruises but want to book my first Alaska cruise.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of booking in May?  If not May then what month and why?  Thanks for any help.

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Posted (edited)

I go to Alaska every year since 2008, and usually in May for amazing photos.

 

Historically, May is the driest month in this temperate rain forest.  The month also has snow still on the tall peaks, many baby creatures experiencing new life, whales are arriving back from Mexico and Hawaii with their new calves, and travel prices are low since kids are still in  school.

Edited by Crew News
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Agree...May is also our favorite month to do an Alaska cruise....four so far with another booked for 2022.

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I'm totally new and don't know where to begin.  We too have cruise the Caribbean numerous times and are planning for May 2022.   Any suggestions are welcome.  

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2 hours ago, junglecat said:

I'm totally new and don't know where to begin.  We too have cruise the Caribbean numerous times and are planning for May 2022.   Any suggestions are welcome.  

 

If time and money allow, spend some time on land before or after the cruise. There is SO much to see in Alaska that you won't see during your cruise. My wife and I spent a week on land before our cruise 4 years ago. We will be going back next year for (at least) two weeks spent touring Alaska. We will not be spending any time on a cruise ship, the entire time will be spent on a land tour.

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One of the classic questions about Alaska is whether to do a land tour before or after a cruise.  Those who have done both usually recommend do the land tour first, then cruise.  The cruise will give you some opportunity to "catch your breath" and do a bit of resting after the land tour.  There is so much to experience in Alaska that it is easy to wear oneself out touring.  

 

My Alaska cruises have all been in June, July, or August.  But, that is because I have family in Anchorage and I need to fit my visit with their schedules.  I have traveled to Alaska at Christmas time--and that is a whole different experience!

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We also enjoy cruising Alaska in May.  One consideration if doing a land tour as well as the cruise is going to Denali. The shuttle buses don’t begin until May 20 and only go to Toklat at that time. The buses to Eielson (mile 66) begin on June 1 which is the minimum most suggest. If cruising in May-late May, it is sometimes better to do a NB cruise first which may allow for catching the early June Eielson shuttles.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've only cruised Alaska once and went the end of June/early July.  We did our own land based tour the week before the cruise and went that late in the year specifically because we wanted to get at least as far as the Eielson Visitors Center inside Denali National Park.  We ended up going all the way to Wonder Lake which was pretty cool, but the mosquitoes there were horrible!  We were on our land tour at the Summer Solstice that year and there was a Super Moon the same day - just INCREDIBLE seeing that moon with Denali in the background.  It was kind of neat also that it never truly got dark - more like only a dusk.  I'm not sure if we would have been able to trek on a Matanuska Glacier in May, but that was another really cool thing we got to do.  By the time we finished our land tour, we really did need the cruise to kind of catch our breath before starting again at our first port.

 

Enjoy Alaska.  I hope to get back there one day and spend another 2 weeks - one on land and one on a ship.

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May and September are great! We really like September because there are very few

children and your chances of reaching the glaciers are increased. In September,

we were able to reach all of the way down Tracy Arm for the Sawyer Glacier (pretty sure that is

the one). It was gorgeous! And the stores have great sales for their close outs for the season.

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3 hours ago, nini said:

May and September are great! We really like September because there are very few

children and your chances of reaching the glaciers are increased. In September,

we were able to reach all of the way down Tracy Arm for the Sawyer Glacier (pretty sure that is

the one). It was gorgeous! And the stores have great sales for their close outs for the season.

 

The weather in September can be hit or miss. When I did 2 entire Alaska seasons in a row, both years we experienced 70kts + storms. Not too many pax eating meals when we exited Icy Strait.

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9 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

 

The weather in September can be hit or miss. When I did 2 entire Alaska seasons in a row, both years we experienced 70kts + storms. Not too many pax eating meals when we exited Icy Strait.

ANY month can be hit or miss. The OP asked about other months besides May. So I addressed it with the suggestions of much fewer children and our experience.

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11 hours ago, nini said:

ANY month can be hit or miss. The OP asked about other months besides May. So I addressed it with the suggestions of much fewer children and our experience.

 

Having sailed in Alaska multiple times every month, during cruising season, and Northern BC Waters year round, I am well aware the weather patterns on the NW Coast.

 

In my experience, I consistently experienced the onset of winter storms, with major storms every September. Yes, it can be 70 kts one week and brilliant sunshine the next week, but major storms significantly worse than the 25 to 40 kts experienced during the earlier summer months.

 

Yes, the OP asked about other months, I just provided additional information as while September has many benefits, it also has potential negatives, especially for those susceptible to ship motion. 

 

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1 hour ago, Heidi13 said:

 

In my experience, I consistently experienced the onset of winter storms, with major storms every September.

 

To add my experience to your post, the worst sea conditions that I have experienced was a departure from Vancouver during the 3rd week of September with the first port being Petropavlosk.  Storms and very stormy seas began the next day West of Vancouver Island.  Then, the next day or so was nice.  Then, more very rough seas as we crossed the Gulf of Alaska and along the Aleutians and occasionally West of the Aleutians.  

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8 minutes ago, rkacruiser said:

 

To add my experience to your post, the worst sea conditions that I have experienced was a departure from Vancouver during the 3rd week of September with the first port being Petropavlosk.  Storms and very stormy seas began the next day West of Vancouver Island.  Then, the next day or so was nice.  Then, more very rough seas as we crossed the Gulf of Alaska and along the Aleutians and occasionally West of the Aleutians.  

 

Our son did the North Pacific crossing 2 years in a row, when he worked for Princess, experiencing some really terrible weather with over 70 kt winds and very rough seas.

 

In Northern BC waters, a quick storm followed by sunshine wasn't that uncommon. Even in Georgia Strait, I have had to steer weather courses in the summer months.

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10 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

 

Having sailed in Alaska multiple times every month, during cruising season, and Northern BC Waters year round, I am well aware the weather patterns on the NW Coast.

 

In my experience, I consistently experienced the onset of winter storms, with major storms every September. Yes, it can be 70 kts one week and brilliant sunshine the next week, but major storms significantly worse than the 25 to 40 kts experienced during the earlier summer months.

 

Yes, the OP asked about other months, I just provided additional information as while September has many benefits, it also has potential negatives, especially for those susceptible to ship motion. 

 

Sorry, I do not hold a meteorology degree. I can only  contribute my experiences. And we also saw the Northern Lights on August 28, 2000. I know, that is not supposed to happen either.

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10 hours ago, nini said:

Sorry, I do not hold a meteorology degree. I can only  contribute my experiences. And we also saw the Northern Lights on August 28, 2000. I know, that is not supposed to happen either.

Neither do I, but I was a Captain in these waters for almost 30 years. Yes, the NL can be visible, but it is rare at that time of year.

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13 hours ago, nini said:

Sorry, I do not hold a meteorology degree. I can only  contribute my experiences. And we also saw the Northern Lights on August 28, 2000. I know, that is not supposed to happen either.

 

I saw very very faint aurora on a cruise in late August.  I also saw them on a trip to Fairbanks and points north in February.  There was a BIG difference in the intensity.  The ~8 day Feb trip was taken specifically to see the Aurora and it was worth every cent of the several thousand dollars that it cost.  The aurora I saw in late August was hardly worth getting out of my cabin to see them.

 

DON

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3 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

Yes, the NL can be visible, but it is rare at that time of year.

 

I had one experience of seeing the Northern Lights in what was an odd situation, I think.  This was during an inside passage cruise in July.

 

The fog horn began to sound late one evening.  Looking out my porthole, there was nothing visible but fog.  Neat!  I thought.  Still dressed, I put on a jacket and headed topside to see this event.  The Noordam (not the current one) had her side closest to the sea in fog; the other side:  the sky was clear and the Northern Lights had appeared.  A shimmering green and blue; didn't last for more than a few minutes.  Simply a case of being in the right place at the right time!  

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9 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

Neither do I, but I was a Captain in these waters for almost 30 years. Yes, the NL can be visible, but it is rare at that time of year.

Well, I am jealous! Maybe in my next life I will choose to be a Captain on the sea (truly)!

When we saw the NL, it was so very special because it was on what would have been my Dad's 85th birthday.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 3/15/2021 at 4:46 PM, Glaciers said:

We also enjoy cruising Alaska in May.  One consideration if doing a land tour as well as the cruise is going to Denali. The shuttle buses don’t begin until May 20 and only go to Toklat at that time. The buses to Eielson (mile 66) begin on June 1 which is the minimum most suggest. If cruising in May-late May, it is sometimes better to do a NB cruise first which may allow for catching the early June Eielson shuttles.

 

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We’re doing our first Alaska cruise/land next May.  We’ll be at Denali May 16 and 17.  When you say shuttle buses don’t run until May 20, does this mean we’re not getting in or do private buses go in?  This is so new and confusing.

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