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Best Rated Alaska Small Ship Cruises

Alaskan adventures come in all shapes and sizes, so if you’re planning a cruise to Alaska, there are countless options to select between. From massive ships nearly 1,000 feet long to Alaska small ship cruises, the Last Frontier offers something for every type of traveler.

That said, there are distinct advantages to selecting small ship cruises to Alaska over larger boats. Smaller cruise boats are more intimate, helping you make friends and also connecting you with the water below — on large ships, it’s easy to forget that you’re even on the ocean; not so with small ship Alaska cruises.

Another huge benefit of Alaska small ship cruises is that these boats are able to navigate tight waters that prevent large ships from entering. This gives you access to a more wild and untouched Alaskan experience.

Here, pristine waters reverberate with life, animals migrate across the shores and distant peaks are clad in dazzling glaciers — the welcoming spirit of Alaska is palpable.

Ready to begin your journey? Continue reading to learn more about the best small ship Alaska cruises offered by AAA.

Why Alaska Small Ship Cruises Are Worth Experiencing

Alaska cruises have grown significantly in popularity over the last decade. As the largest U.S. state by area at 665,384 square miles, Alaska boasts 6,640 miles of coastline, making it an ideal destination for cruising and land expeditions. This vibrant corner of the USA is packed with vast frontiers, rivers and natural harbors all ripe for exploration.

But why should you browse small ship cruises in Alaska instead of the big boats? Small ships enable you to enjoy the same beautiful panoramic views that big boats offer, but with the added ability to get up close and personal with the rugged Alaskan landscape. Also, by nature, small ship cruises are less crowded than big boats, providing a more relaxing and rejuvenating cruise environment.

Still on the fence? Here are some of the top reasons why you should select one of AAA’s best-rated small ship Alaska cruises for your next adventure:

Enjoy a More Luxurious and Inclusive Experience

Alaska inside passage small ship cruises offer a relaxed atmosphere, with more window and balcony options — a smaller, narrower boat means fewer interior cabins and more water-view staterooms.

Also, in contrast to the Bellagio atmosphere of large ships, smaller boats can take on a boutique, luxury hotel feel. This means well-maintained, state-of-the-art facilities, price-included gratuities, free shore excursions and more.

More Flexible Itineraries and Close-to-Shore Sailing

Big boats tend to stick to large, popular ports and are extremely rigid in their itinerary. Small ship cruises in Alaska, on the other hand, are able to adjust schedules for unexpected sightseeing opportunities. Even better, while large boats are forced to sail far out from land in the deep ocean, small cruise boats can hug the shore during their trip.

A Focus on Exploration and Adventure

Whereas large boats prioritize on-ship activities, Las Vegas-style festivities and function more or less like a floating resort, small ship cruises emphasize off-ship exploration, appreciation of nature and a greater variety of active shore excursions.

Intimate, Personalized Service

Large boats tend to deliver adequate but impersonal service — wait staff and guides will be polite but aren’t going to go the extra mile to make you feel welcome. On the other hand, small ship cruises to Alaska prioritize personalized service, with the crew and shore guides doing their best to help you feel comfortable and at home onboard.

More Authentic Shore Excursions

In contrast to chaotic, large group excursions, Alaska cruises on small ships ensure that shore excursions are intimate and memorable. With fewer passengers to divide their attention, tour guides are able to devote more effort towards creating a high-quality, more personal experience for guests.

Fewer passengers also means that shore excursions will be more time-efficient, enabling you to see and do more during each excursion.

Easier to Make Friends

The intimate nature of small ship cruises allows passengers to cross paths more easily and make connections more rapidly. So whether you’re traveling solo or with a partner, you can be certain that at the end of your cruise you will leave with a group of enthusiastic adventure-loving friends.

Many passengers on small ship cruises value good conversation and quality travel experiences. This makes it very easy to form effortless friendships with like-minded passengers.

Spend Less Time in Line

Waiting in line is undoubtedly one of the most tedious aspects of going on a cruise.

Embarkation, debarkation, tendering (when smaller boats carry passengers from the ship to the shore) and waiting for your turn at the buffet all require standing in line — sometimes for extended periods.

Small cruises mean that far less time is wasted in line, giving passengers more time to mingle with others and enjoy land-based excursions.

Alaska Rainbow
Alaska Rainbow, Edb3_16/Getty Images

Best Small Ship Alaska Cruises

AAA offers some of the best rated small ship Alaska cruises on the market. With over a century of experience coordinating adventures around the globe, AAA has mastered the skill of creating truly memorable small cruise experiences.

Some of the best small ship cruises to Alaska offered by AAA are detailed in the following sections. Keep in mind that dates, amenities and itineraries are subject to change.

1. Concierge Alaska Wildlife and Frontiers Cruise

This 11 night cruise is aboard the lavish Regatta, a nearly 600-foot ship with nine decks and more than 300 elegant suites. Decked out with elaborate furnishings in every room, a cruise aboard the Regatta is a full immersion into a true life of luxury.

The ship offers four upscale restaurants, eight lounges, and a grand dining hall adorned with chandeliers.

An Alaskan cruise aboard the Regatta includes the following ports of call:

  • Day 1: Seattle (embarkation). Birthplace of grunge music, hipster aesthetics, and coffee connoisseurs, spend a couple of hours exploring Seattle before embarking on your cruise.
  • Day 2: the Outside Passage (cruising). Spend the day peacefully cruising the Pacific (Outside Passage) on your way to Alaska.
  • Day 3: Ketchikan. Celebrate your first day in Alaska by visiting Misty Fjords National Monument or getting lost in Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary’s ethereal beauty.
  • Day 4: Juneau. Juneau is filled with wild, untouched nature scapes. Go on a tour of Mendenhall Glacier or visit Glacier Gardens Rainforest to get a taste-test of the magical beauty that fills Alaska.
  • Day 5: Skagway. Visit the charming home to gold-rush-era buildings now preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
  • Day 6: Icy Strait Point. The next stop on your cruise is Icy Strait Point, a port that is bursting with activities for every kind of traveler. The port features more than 20 unique tours, including one to a historic salmon cannery.
  • Day 7: Sitka. Visit Alaska Raptor Center or Fortress of the Bear to immerse yourself in the quiet nature of Sitka while giving yourself opportunities to spot wildlife.
  • Day 8: Prince Rupert, B.C. This idyllic port is a gateway to rugged wilderness experiences, like bear watching at the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary.
  • Day 9: the Inside Passage (cruising). Enjoy sailing through this stunning archipelago on your trip back to the continental US.
  • Day 10: Victoria, B.C. This city is a slice of Europe in America, featuring picturesque colonial architecture, vibrant shopping streets, gorgeous gardens, and many other sights.
  • Day 11: Seattle (disembarkation).

Click here to learn more about this exciting Alaska small ship cruise.

2. Northwest Passage Cruise – In the Wake of the Great Explorers

A 26 day cruise that introduces you to the wild natural beauty of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, AAA’s Northwest Passage Cruise will satisfy your craving for frosty fjords and majestic arctic wildlife.

This cruise will be carried out aboard the MS Roald Amundsen, a 459-foot ship that was built in 2019. The MS Roald Amundsen is a cutting-edge hybrid ship, enabling it to cut down on CO2-emissions by around 20% and making it a superior, more eco-friendly way to cruise Alaska.

This is considered a small ship cruise as the MS Roald Amundsen can only accommodate just over 500 passengers.

Ports of call on this cruise include:

  • Day 1: Vancouver, B.C. (overnight stay)
  • Day 2: Nome, Alaska (embarkation)
  • Day 3-7: At sea
  • Day 8-17: the Northwest Passage
  • Day 18: Labrador Sea (Baffin Bay & Davis Straight)
  • Day 19: Ilulissat
  • Day 20: Sisimiut
  • Day 21-22: Labrador Sea (cruising)
  • Day 23: Red Bay
  • Day 24: Corner Brook
  • Day 25: At sea
  • Day 26: Halifax (Nova Scotia)

Visit this page to learn more about this small-ship adventure to Alaska.

3. Alaska’s Inside Passage Cruise

This nine-day cruise comes in two options: northbound and southbound.

Both cruises are taken aboard Silversea’s Silver Muse. The ship offers seven passenger decks, a fitness center, spa, jogging track, complimentary WiFi, and butler services.

Being a relatively small ship in comparison to the majority of cruise vessels enables passengers aboard the Silver Shadow to get the full, luxury experience. The ship is outfitted with ample state-of-the-art amenities and customer-focused staff who are there to make your cruise the lavish vacation you’re longing for.

While both the southbound and northbound cruises give you ample immersion into the wild, natural beauty of Alaska, you may prefer one over the other due to slight itinerary differences. Both cruises’ itineraries are detailed below to help you choose the best one for you.Your Northbound cruise includes the following ports of call:

  • Day 1: Vancouver, B.C. (Fairmont Waterfront tour)
  • Day 2: Vancouver, B.C. (Stanley Park, Gastown, Kitsilano Neighborhood, embarkation)
  • Day 3: Ketchikan (cruising)
  • Day 4: Ketchikan (on-shore)
  • Day 5: Sitka
  • Day 6: Skagway
  • Day 7: Juneau
  • Day 8: Juneau (Hubbard Glacier cruising)
  • Day 9: Seward/Anchorage (disembarkation)
  • Day 10: Journey home

Your Southbound cruise stops at the following ports of call:

  • Day 1: Vancouver, B.C. (Hotel Captain Cook tour)
  • Day 2: Kenai Fjords National Park (embarkation)
  • Day 3: Ketchikan (Hubbard Glacier cruising)
  • Day 4: Juneau (passenger’s choice of sightseeing)
  • Day 5: Skagway (historic railway & dog sledding)
  • Day 6: Skagway (sightseeing)
  • Day 7: Ketchikan (on-shore excursions)
  • Day 8: Juneau (B.C. coastal cruising)
  • Day 9: Vancouver (disembarkation & sightseeing)
  • Day 10: Journey home
Wine on board of cruise
Photo courtesy of Oceania. 

Small Ship Cruises Alaska FAQs

If you are leaning towards booking a small Alaska cruise, here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding small ship cruises.

How Many Guests Can a Small Cruise Have?

The average cruise ship carries around 3,000 passengers — far from most people’s definition of intimate. A small cruise, on the other hand, may have closer to two or three hundred passengers aboard (though, technically speaking, small cruise ships may be able to carry up to 1,000 passengers).

The benefits of embarking on a small, intimate cruise are numerous and give passengers a more luxurious, relaxing experience.

What Is the Best Time to Do a Small Cruise in Alaska?

The best time to cruise Alaska depends on the excursions you want to have, the weather conditions you want to experience, and the crowds you are willing to endure.

Peak cruising season runs from May through September, during which time droves of other tourists will also be congregating at Alaska’s top sights of interest. Even though passengers during this season will have to content themselves with sharing Alaska’s beauty with others, it is the ideal time to catch the best weather for sightseeing and exploration.

If you intend to do a small cruise to Alaska during peak season, make sure that you get your dates locked in and tickets booked well in advance so that you don’t miss out on your Alaskan adventure.

What Amenities Are Provided on a Small Ship Cruise?

Many small ship cruises to Alaska include food, lodging, and on-shore excursions in the booking cost. Other amenities such as WiFi, spa, and onboard entertainment may be included or may be purchased at an additional cost.

The amenities that are included with the purchase of your cruise ticket will depend on the specific cruise package that you buy.

If you have any questions about which amenities are included in AAA’s small ship cruises to Alaska, get in touch with one of our seasoned travel agents today.

What Kinds of Wildlife Will I See During My Alaskan Cruise?

The Last Frontier boasts miles of untouched wilderness inhabited by rare arctic wildlife. Because small cruise ships have the ability to hug the coastline more closely, passengers aboard smaller cruises often see more wildlife than those aboard larger vessels.

Some of the animals that passengers aboard an Alaskan cruise may see include polar bears, whales, walrus, eagles, harbor seals, sea otters, Kodiak brown bears, and puffins.

What Should I Pack For My Small Alaskan Cruise?

While your packing list may vary depending on the season that you visit Alaska during, here are 10 general things that you should never embark on an Alaskan cruise without.

  • Lightweight jacket (preferably waterproof)
  • Clothes that can layer easily
  • Beanie
  • Waterproof shoes or boots
  • Gloves
  • Binoculars
  • Waterproof day bag
  • Insect repellent
  • External battery charger
  • Water bottle

What Kinds of Excursions Do Small Ship Cruises Provide?

While on-shore excursions depend on the cruise that you book, many Alaskan cruises include the following types of excursions.

  • Nature walks
  • Fishing excursions
  • Helicopter rides
  • Glacier trekking
  • Horseback riding
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking or canoeing
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Scenic railway excursions
  • Ziplining

If there are specific excursions that you hope to participate in, you should look at cruise itineraries to find one that includes the activities that you would like to do.

Should I Plan My Small Ship Alaska Cruise Myself?

Whether this is your first or fifth Alaskan cruise, having a convenient, professional platform to book through can eliminate stress and ensure that you get the vacation experience that you want.

As a busy individual, you deserve to have a seasoned travel expert take care of the logistics for you so that you can sit back and fully enjoy your time off.

Book a Small Ship Cruise to Alaska With AAA

With AAA’s travel expertise to assist you, you can enjoy a luxurious cruise experience in Alaska’s glorious fjords and glaciers. The Last Frontier truly is a wonderland of nature and wildlife just waiting to be discovered.

If you would like one of AAA’s professional travel agents to assist you in booking your intimate Alaskan cruise, get in touch by calling or emailing one of our travel agents today.

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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