Who's Who in Alaskan Cruises - 6 Major Players

Last Updated: May 14, 2024

If you are thinking about taking a cruise to the final frontier, you’ll need to consider more than you would in other parts of the world. Alaska can be drastically different depending on the time of year you visit. The best time to visit is generally a much shorter time frame than other destinations, like the tropics. Also, the best time in Alaska will depend on what you want to see and do. 

For example, May and September mark the beginning and end of the tourist season. Both months will be cooler, but cruise prices and crowds will also be lower. So, if cooler weather doesn’t bother you, but crowds do, consider booking your cruise for May or September. Keep in mind though, that the rain increases through the Summer, so May will typically be dryer than September. 

If seeing certain animals is important to you (or avoiding mosquitos) then a whole other set of parameters will be important. Be sure to thoroughly research times of the year, and assess what is most important to you on your Alaskan adventure.

A humpback whale breaches the ocean surface in cold waters

Once you have decided what time of year you would most like to visit the state, it’s time to match your needs up with a cruise line that can satisfy them. Here we will go over some of the pros and cons of the major cruise lines operating in Alaska. 

For more information, or if you have additional questions, be sure to give our expert travel agents a call, and they can help you piece together the perfect Alaskan vacation.

1. Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises is a well-known premium cruise line made popular in 1977 by the television show “The Love Boat” which featured the Pacific Princess. Since the beginning, Princess has been a pioneer in the cruising industry. We mention Princess first because they have consecutively been rated #1 in Alaska cruising. This could be because they are the only cruise line in the region that owns their own properties in Alaska. 

One property, the Princess Wilderness Lodge, is located within a mile of the entrance to Denali National Park. You will take the Princess train directly from the ship to the lodge, where you can stay for a couple of nights, enjoying Denali to the fullest. Just note the lodge experience is available as an extra cruise tour and is not included in the cruise fair.


  • Excellent food including at the buffet
  • More mature clientele overall
  • Large amount of ship choices and destination choices
  • Only cruise line to own their own lodge


  • Entertainment targeting an older demographic
  • Less onboard attractions like water slides and rock walls than other lines
Princess Cruises

2. Holland America Line

Holland America Line is known for having mid-size ships and appealing more to an older cruiser due to their adherence to some traditional cruising customs. More enrichment activities such as cooking classes, classical entertainment, lectures etc. is what you will find onboard a Holland ship, as well as a more subdued, mature atmosphere. 

However, they do have a children's program called Hal at Sea. One amazing perk of Holland America is they are the only cruise line offering cruise tours in the Yukon. If seeing this intriguing region is on your bucket list, then Holland America is your line!


  • Smaller Ships that get closer to the action
  • Sophisticated entertainment
  • Excellent collection of artwork
  • Only cruise line doing tours in the Yukon


  • No large attractions like water slides and bowling alleys
  • Dress code and other more formal requirements in some settings
Westerdam, Holland America Line

3. Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean is a household name in cruising and is best known for having the largest cruise ships at sea. They currently have three ships cruising in Alaska including the very popular, Ovation of the Seas. Royal Caribbean ships are usually larger than other cruise lines with more activities and entertainment options onboard. 

The largest of their ships in Alaska is the Ovation which also features a NorthStar. The NorthStar is an innovative observation pod that allows riders to get a 360-degree view, nearly 300 feet above sea level. Keep in mind the NorthStar is only available to ride while in port.


  • Tons of entertainment options for all ages and tastes
  • Can be an economical option
  • A range of ship sizes and features


  • Very large ships which can be a destination in itself, but overwhelming if large isn't your thing
  • Younger demographic with more kids on board potentially
NorthStar Gallery, Royal Caribbean

4. Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line is a great option in Alaska for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that the cruise line currently has their newest ship, the Norwegian Bliss, cruising in Alaska. The Norwegian Bliss is famous for the largest go-cart race track at sea. 

The two-level track is sure to excite everyone, from kids to adults. Also on board the Bliss, you'll find more fresh entertainment, such as a laser tag course and ice bar. The other reason Norwegian makes a great option in Alaska is their generous “Free at Sea” promotions which include reduced rates for 3rd and 4th passengers. Their motto is “Feel Free” and they certainly give you a lot of free offers.


  • Very family focused cruise line with plenty for kids to do
  • Freestyle dining, no dining times to choose from like on other lines
  • Range of ship sizes to suit any taste


  • Norwegian Bliss is very large with a lot of attractions but a less intimate feel
  • More kids onboard than some other lines
Encore, Norwegian Cruise Line

5. Disney Cruise Lines

Disney Cruise Lines needs no introduction and is a great option for Disney lovers, or anyone who wants a very family-oriented cruise. Not only will you be able to meet Disney characters on board, but the entire cruise is Disney themed, from the restaurants to the onboard decor. 

If being immersed in all things Disney while sailing to your favorite locale sounds perfect, then Disney is for you. Also, Disney Cruise Lines is the only cruise line at sea that offers fireworks from the ship. If that isn't magical we don't know what is!


  • Disney lovers delight with Disney-themed restaurants and activities onboard
  • Child/family focused
  • Excellent food
  • Only cruise line approved for fireworks at sea.


  • More expensive, but kid pricing is available
  • More interaction with staff onboard (less quiet time in public)
Disney Wish

6. Celebrity Cruises

Owned by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises is a cruise line known for implementing creative, but
tastefully modern ways to entice their guests. Their newest ship the Celebrity Edge has the Magic Carpet, a venue that changes mood, function, and even location. 

The floating platform reaches thirteen stories above sea level, has a full bar, space for live music, and more. The Edge is brand new, and not yet in Alaska, but the Celebrity Solstice is. The Solstice has its own innovation, with the Lawn Club, a real grass relaxation area on the top deck, complete with mini-golf.


  • Great entertainment
  • Enrichment focused
  • Cruise tours available


  • No large waterslides/attractions
  • More mature feel, although they do have youth programs
Celebrity Edge

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