Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Alaska Interior Cruise Tours

Our extra time in Seward included a wildlife cruise © 2018 Scott S. Bateman
Our extra time in Seward included a wildlife cruise © 2018 Scott S. Bateman

Cruises to Alaska aren’t always limited to just to the ports of call. Some cruise lines offer extended tours of the Alaska interior.

Passengers with the right budget can add anywhere from three to eight nights visiting various destinations beyond the coastline. They allow people to see much more of the state including the famous Denali National Park.

Other destinations include Fairbanks, Anchorage, Alyeska (near the Whittier port), Seward, Talkeetna (near Denali), and Kantishna (in Denali).

Cruise lines that offer land tours include Holland America, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean.

To be clear, Alaska cruise passengers may see some of these destinations without the help of a cruise line.

For example, on our first cruise, we ended our trip in Seward, spent two nights there and then went to Anchorage for another night before flying home. This three-night extension was easy to plan on our own and gave us a chance to see what both cities have to offer. Seward was especially enjoyable.

Overnight visitors to Seward can see the Alaska SeaLife Center and Kenai Fjords National Park as we did. We also took a Resurrection Bay wildlife cruise and visited the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center as part of our land transfer between Seward and Anchorage. Anchorage excursions include a city tour and Anchorage Museum.

Cruise lines often include two nights in Denali National Park as part of their land tours. It takes more time to visit because of the four-hour drive north of Anchorage.

The six-million-acre Denali is famous in Alaska because it has Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), the tallest mountain in North America, as well as a wide variety of wildlife including bears, wolves, moose, caribou and sheep. Visitors bike, hike, backpack, mountaineer and photograph wildlife.

Tour Costs

Denali National Park
Denali National Park is a popular shore excursion to the interior of Alaska. Credit: Pixabay license

Passengers can plan these cruise extensions on their own or buy a package from the cruise line. Not surprisingly, the cruise line packages are often more expensive because they offer the convenience of having someone else do all of the planning. The tours also usually have an escort.

Cruise line costs vary widely depending on the time of year, whether it has an escort and based on the number of nights. Planners may find it easiest to estimate costs on a per-night basis.

For example, Princess had one trip including seven days at sea and five days on land for a total of 12 days. The total cost including cabin, taxes and fees was $2,658 per person or $221 per night per person.

One of the cheapest options it had was $138 per night per person including sea and land for a total of 10 nights.

Royal Caribbean takes a somewhat different approach by offering land tours as an add-on option with a separate price. Travel planners should look at each option in terms of the average price per night to get better comparisons.

Budget-minded travelers can use land tour prices from the cruise line websites to decide if they want to plan their own tour instead to save money. In the case of Denali, travel planners can rent a car to get there and book their own hotel rooms.

Tours Before and After

Anyone with the time, energy and money can plan land tours both before and after their Alaska cruise.

Our cruise began in Vancouver, British Columbia, and we spent extra time there to tour the beautiful city. Likewise, we spent time in Seward and then Anchorage at the end of the cruise.

We found both extensions were worth the time and money. Thanks to aggressive planning, we did them on our own and saved money by shopping for less expensive places to stay.

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