Alaska cruises are among the most popular cruise itineraries in the world. Offering scenic cruises to the state’s fjords, glaciers and historic coastal towns, it’s no wonder so many cruise lines flock to Alaska each summer. More than half of all tourists to Alaska travel by cruise ship, and it is estimated that approximately 1.5 million passengers will visit Alaska in 2022 alone.
After virtually zero cruise ship passengers in 2020 and numbers just a tenth of the typical passenger level in 2021, 2022 is shaping up to be a more “normal” year for the Alaskan cruise industry.
Passengers visiting Alaska this summer should expect crowds on board and in port. With Royal Caribbean’s ships set to reach full capacity and some Alaskan cruise ports capable of handling more than 15,000 visitors at a time, you might be wondering if it’s possible to avoid the crowds during your next cruise to Alaska.
The good news is that no matter how crowded a ship or port may be, there are always ways to find ways to escape the crowds. Whether it’s opting for a private excursion over one with a large group, exploring on your own, or waking up early to enjoy an emptier cruise ship, here are our top tips to avoid the crowds on an Alaskan cruise.
To wake up early
My best advice for avoiding the crowds on a Royal Caribbean cruise, whether to Alaska, the Caribbean or Europe, is to get up early. Popular morning spots like the Windjammer, Cafe Promenade, and even the hot tubs are much less crowded early in the morning around 7:00 a.m. as opposed to 8:00 or 9:00 a.m.
While waking up early on vacation may seem silly, early mornings on a cruise ship, especially in Alaska, can be extremely peaceful. Having a latte or breakfast and watching the scenery from almost empty public spaces on board is a great way to start the day, and much less stressful than trying to eat from a busy buffet once everything is over. the world is waking up!
Book a balcony cabin
If it’s within your cruise budget, consider booking a balcony stateroom to avoid the crowds on an Alaska cruise. There’s no denying that a balcony makes a cruise vacation better, and having your own private space on board where you can relax and watch the Alaskan scenery can be a huge perk.
If a room with a balcony is out of your budget, you can still have a fantastic Alaska cruise vacation. In fact, a balcony may not be as necessary as you first think. You will have more limited views from a balcony compared to viewing scenery from more scenic areas on board and you may find that you spend less time on the balcony due to cooler temperatures.
However, if maximum privacy is important to you, a balcony might be the best option.
Read more: 6 mistakes and 3 things we did right on our Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska
Find underrated places to watch the scenery
One of the highlights of an Alaskan cruise is seeing the state’s beautiful scenery as you navigate the Inside Passage. Waterfalls, rocky peaks, glaciers and trees dot the Alaskan wilderness, and watching the scenery glide by from the ship is truly awe-inspiring.
Most passengers tend to flock to the pool deck on scenic cruise days, hoping for the best view of the scenery in all directions. Unfortunately, this area can get quite crowded and you may not always be able to find a good vantage point.
So instead of heading to the pool deck, consider looking at scenery from other areas on board. The Promenade Deck, Helipad, Sports Deck Bottom, and indoor lounges like Two70 and the Viking Crown Lounge can have significantly fewer guests than the Pool Deck.
The Windjammer can also be another unexpected place for viewing scenery. Windjammer locations on Royal Caribbean ships have floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic views of the scenery outside. Some ships may even have an outdoor seating area in the Windjammer, which is almost guaranteed to be less crowded than other areas on board.
Book a cruise to Alaska in the shoulder season
If you haven’t booked your Alaska cruise yet but are hoping to avoid the crowds, consider visiting Alaska during the shoulder season. The months of May and September tend to attract fewer people than the summer months of June, July and August.
Because the peak summer months coincide with the school calendar, you tend to see more families and crowds on board and in port. This is also when Alaska’s climate is warmest, resulting in higher demand.
While a cruise to Alaska during the shoulder season may attract fewer people, it can also mean more unpredictable and rainier weather. However, prices during this time can often be much lower than during peak season, allowing for potentially significant savings on cruise fares.
Read more: When is the best time to go on a cruise to Alaska?
Explore the ports on your own
Exploring the ports on your own is always a good way to avoid the crowds, as you won’t be traveling with a large excursion on a shore excursion. Fortunately, Alaska’s cruise ports tend to be small and walkable, giving you easy walking access to city highlights and nature. You can also choose to rent a car, bicycle or scooter to explore the ports more thoroughly on your own.
If exploring on your own, get off the beaten path a bit to avoid the crowds. Most visitors tend to stick to the early streets of town closest to where the cruise ships dock. As you move away from the ship, you will encounter a lot fewer people while still being able to enjoy a nice walk through the city and its surroundings.
If you’re hoping to visit destinations farther from port, like the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, consider visiting independently rather than booking an excursion. A guided tour might sound nice in theory, but being able to explore the glacier and hiking trails at your own pace—and with fewer people in the group—will be well appreciated.
We recommend researching cruise ports in Alaska in advance to get a better idea of what activities are available before your ship docks in port. Here are some of our favorite activities and things to do at Alaska’s most popular cruise ports:
Book an excursion through Royal Caribbean Private Voyages
If you’re looking for a truly private and personalized shore excursion option, consider booking through Royal Caribbean’s Private Journeys. Royal Private Journeys is Royal Caribbean’s shore excursion option for those who want a fully customizable and personalized excursion hosted by the cruise line’s Destination Insiders.
To book a private trip, you must first complete an application form detailing the number of guests in your party, the places of interest you wish to visit and language preferences. Destination Insiders will then use your preferences to customize a private shore excursion that matches your interests.
Private trips have a higher cost than a regular shore excursion, but if avoiding the crowds is important to you, a private excursion may be a good option.
What are your top tips for avoiding the crowds on an Alaskan cruise? Let us know in the comments!