Updated: Jul 12
TV commercials advertise seeing Alaska on a large passenger ship that holds 2,000 to 5,000+ passengers. Most people think you can only see Alaska on a Holland America, Princess, or Royal Caribbean ship sailing the same stale 7 to 10-day itinerary they've been offering for the past 20+ years. If you're looking for an adventurous and personalized Alaskan wilderness experience, a large ship is not the best option for you. And good news, small ships and small groups have the true adventure you're looking for!
As an adventure specialist, the best way to see Alaska by cruise is a small ship to get the off-the-beaten-track experience you want. I want to compare a few of the key benefits between a small ship cruise line and a major cruise line.
If you’re looking at off-the-beaten path and adventure, UnCruise is AMAZING! Their vessels only host up to 86 guests. This gives their itineraries the freedom to go places large ships are unable to get to! Their itineraries include hiking, skiff boats, paddle boarding, and kayaking. All the adventure equipment from kayaks, paddle boards, and snorkel gear is onboard for guest use. The sports marina opens off the back of the ship giving you instant and easy access to nature.
Shore Excursions: Shore Excursions are included in price! Excursions are organized on board each day; you’ll talk one on one with your expedition team regarding the activities best suited to your interest and activity level.
Dining: Even though you’re on a small adventure ship, the dining is still fantastic. You get well fed with delicious regional cuisine consisting of king crab, salmon, and steaks!
Royal Caribbean is considered to be the top cruise line for family vacations. These ships hold anywhere from 2,000 up to 6,000+ passengers. Royal Caribbean caters a children’s program based on kid’s ages and keeps them entertained onboard. Their huge ships are outfitted with multiple entertainment areas for adults and children. There’s also multiple pools and sport centers on the upper deck to keep you entertained.
Large ship sailing is great for those that love cruising and enjoy cruise amenities such as a plethora of onboard dining, beverages, entertainment, gambling, and shopping. Travelers on large ships see more of the cruise ship and spend more time onboard than actually exploring a destination. Just something to keep in mind!
Shore Excursions: here are some key points about large ship shore excursions.
As with most large ships, your excursions are not included in your cruise fare. Average price for excursions per person range from $150 to $400 depending on what you want to do. You’re looking at adding an additional $2,000 to your vacation cost when you calculate cost of excursions for a family of four.
Large ships are limited in the ports they can visit, so you’ll be exploring the destinations in really large groups from Royal Caribbean alongside other large ship groups. Being herded from place to place while wearing a sticker and following someone around with a stick and a number on it is not the dream Alaska vacation adventurers dream about.
Dining: You have access to two dozen restaurants, including a massive buffet. There’s also multiple lounges and bars though out the ship. Eating and drinking options are endless!
My two favorite small-group adventure companies that offer experiences in Alaska are G Adventures and MT Sobek. Both offer great experiences and a good value for the adventurous traveler. Land vacations are also great to pair with a cruise itinerary. Alaska is half the size of the continental US, so going inland is necessary to complete your Alaska experience.
G Adventures: This company puts together small-group itineraries that average only 8 people per group and a maximum of 15 people! This is the authentic and up-close experience you want when visiting destinations. G Adventures also offers a select few itineraries partnered with National Geographic. The NatGeo itineraries are a collection of unique tours designed to take you deeper into the cultures and habitants of the places explored.
A few suggested Alaska Itineraries from G Adventures:
MT Sobek: As an Adventure Travel Specialist, my personal favorite travel company for adventure is MT Sobek. This company customizes and personalizes any vacation specifically to you, your likes/dislikes, budget, and how to best experience a destination. They consistently deliver fantastic results for travelers and have phenomenal itinerary suggestions that include adventure options to get you started. Since I have a special partnership with MT Sobek, contact me to help plan your own Alaskan itinerary! See below for a few ideas from MT Sobek to see what they can do for you!
A couple suggested Alaska Itineraries from MT Sobek:
With so many ways to experience Alaska, contact me so I can help match your interests, travel style, budget, and travel dates for your best Alaskan vacation! My travel partners offer my travelers additional special perks and values not offered anywhere else!
Contact Travel By Bailey at 504-834-7000 or firstname.lastname@example.org for your Alaskan vacation.