Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Alaska Cruise Ports in Brief

Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Alaska cruise ports line up in a tidy row that makes it easy to see the beauty of the most northern state of the United States.

They also are a chance to see similar beauty on the British Columbia coastline in Canada.

Many of the seven-night, eight-day Alaskan cruises often embark from Seattle, Washington, or Vancouver, British Columbia, before starting the 2,000-mile journey. They often disembark in either Seward or Whittier near Anchorage. From Anchorage, they usually fly home again.

Other cruisers fly into Anchorage, embark from Seward or Whittier and end their trip in Seattle and Vancouver. A very small number will travel in both locations on 14-night cruises.

The cruise ports on any itinerary are few in number. A typical cruise will stop in some combination of the following ports and destinations:

  • Ketchikan
  • Skagway
  • Glacier Bay
  • Sitka
  • Juneau
  • Seward
  • Whittier

Cruises will usually reach these destinations via the Inside Passage, which is a series of watery straits between islands and the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia and northern Washington state.

Cruise Ports in Brief

Fog hovers over Seward’s picturesque harbor. © 2018 Scott S. Bateman


Passengers embarking from Seattle with some extra time will find quite a few nearby attractions that are worth a visit.

Seattle’s most famous landmark is the Space Needle at 400 Broad Street about two and a half miles from the cruise terminal. If lunch with a view sounds appealing, go to the spinning restaurant at the top of the needle. The best time to go is either late morning or early to mid afternoon to avoid the crowds.

The needle is the center of several other attractions right next to it including the massive Seattle Center, the Pacific Science Center, Museum of Pop Culture, the International Fountain and Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. Seattle Center is the location of major events and activities.


Passengers of ships embarking from Vancouver will find several points of interest in or near the city and the cruise terminal.

Anyone with a brief amount of time may simply explore the Gastown shopping and restaurant district right by the cruise terminal.

People with more time can take a quick and inexpensive metro train to the city’s massive False Creek boardwalk, the popular Granville Island Public Market, the glass elevator to the top of Vancouver Lookout, and Vancouver Aquarium at the 1,000-acre rainforest of Stanley Park in the heart of the city.

Outside of the city, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park has a 450-foot-long suspension bridge that hangs more than 200 feet above Capilano River.


Victoria’s Butchart Gardens is world-renowned for its beauty and worth visiting even for someone without much interest in gardening. Victoria also is known for the attractive Inner Harbour and Royal British Columbia Museum.


Ketchikan flightseeing
Flightseeing is popular in Ketchikan. © 2020 Scott S. Bateman

Ketchikan, Alaska’s fourth largest city, is the next major stop after Vancouver or Victoria. It is on an island along the Inside Passage and known for examples of Native culture.

Attractions include the largest totem pole collection in the world, the Saxman native village and Totem Bight State Park. Misty Fjords National Monument will appeal to hikers with its lakes, granite cliffs and 1,000-foot waterfalls. Some rock walls jut 3,000 feet out of the ocean, according to Travel Alaska, the state’s official tourism agency.


Skagway reached its peak during the Alaskan gold rush in the late 1800s. Today, it is a town of fewer than 1,000 residents. Visitors can tour the old gold rush camps or take a 41-mile train trip to the summit of White Pass

The Red Onion Saloon in the town’s main tourist district was the most exclusive bordello during the gold rush. Skagway also offers Alaskan adventures including hiking, river rafting, dog sledding and horseback riding.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay is one of the most famous attractions on an Alaskan cruise. Ships will slowly explore the narrow passages of the bay for about two hours.

Passengers crowd the decks for photographs of the glaciers known for their blue ice. U.S. national park rangers will board the ships to offer commentary.


Sitka, one of the larger cities on the average cruise, has plenty of history as the oldest town on the West Coast.

It was the capital of Russian America when Russia owned Alaska. Attractions include Sitka National Historical Park, the Russian Block House and the Russian cemetery.


Juneau offers the Mendenhall Glacier, which is an opportunity to see a glacier up close and on foot. The Mount Roberts Tramway right at the cruise port takes visitors to the 1,800-foot top of Mount Roberts for a panoramic view of the area.

More adventurous visitors can try their luck with whale watching and dog sledding. Anyone who wants a less energetic attraction should consider the 50-acre Glacier Garden. Fishing enthusiasts may want to tour the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery.

Hoonah / Icy Strait Point

The next destination for some Alaskan cruises is Icy Strait Point at the town of Hoonah, which lies 30 miles west of Juneau. Daring visitors should see the world’s highest zip line at 5,330 feet long with a 1,300-foot vertical drop.

Other attractions include fishing, the old salmon factory reopened as a museum, bear viewing, whale watching and Native performances.


A small number of cruises include a stop at Yakutat just to the west of Juneau. Visitors will find that the main attraction is 76-mile-long Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world.


The quaint town of Seward with 2,600 residents is often the most northern destination of any Alaskan cruise, although sometimes shorter cruises don’t reach that far north. Seward is nestled between mountains on one side and Resurrection Bay on the other.

The town is known for kayaking, fishing, hiking, the 3,000-foot Mount Marathon (for energetic hikers), and the 587,000 acres of Kenai Fjords National Park.


Ships that don’t disembark their passengers in Seward will likely do so in the nearby Whittier. The town of about 200 people is much smaller than Seward with less shopping and dining.

But like Seward, it has a pretty harbor, boat tours, kayaking and hiking trails among other outdoor activities for anyone who has time before going to Anchorage.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.
June 17, 2022