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8 of the best small ship cruises to Alaska

Cruise Advice

What is 'small' when it comes to cruise ships? It means different things to different people, but for us, small comes down to an attitude, a state of mind, and a way of behaving. Read on to discover the best small ship cruises to Alaska.

Our favourite 'small' ships in Alaska range from Ponant's sleek Sister Ships to the spacious indulgence of Regent's Seven Seas Explorer, carrying 746 lucky guests. Whichever you choose, it's still a far cry from those giant vessels you may have seen plying the waters off Alaska, with passenger capacities higher than the number of residents in some of their ports of call.

On board a small ship cruise you can expect charming and attentive service, great food, fellow passengers of a similar mindset, and comfortable accommodations. Ashore, what you experience will definitely depend on the ship you choose.

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska

Visiting Alaska by ship is an extraordinary experience, and whilst certain ports might be very busy indeed - Juneau for example - it is comparatively easy to find yourself in a remote wilderness which feels as if it has never been visited before.

So if you are choosing a classic cruise ship, it's all about the shore excursions (although of course food, service and levels of comfort are going to be important to you too). Here, without further ado, are 8 of the best small ship cruise lines operating in Alaska.

Best small ship cruises to Alaska

1. Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Seven Seas Explorer will replace Seven Seas Mariner for Alaska voyages for summer 2024 and 2025, providing an excellent combination of comfortable spacious suite living with excellent dining choices and a whole selection of excursions included in the fare, unusual for a classic cruise ship.

This is one destination where you're going to want to take loads of organised trips, so with up to 43 excursions on offer on a 7-day itinerary, you can really get your money's worth. There will also be guest lecturers and a great family programme.

best small ship cruises to Alaska

2. Silversea

For an intimate but stylish Silversea Alaska trip you can't go far wrong with Silver Muse, with 596 guests, or the new 728-guest Silver Nova, accommodated in suites with butler service. With magical scenery and adventurous experiences ashore, and superb comforts and service on board, you have an appealing combination.

Itineraries range between 7, 10 and 11 days, with the opportunity to explore extensively, whilst a choice of at least eight dining venues on board guarantee a great experience. One shore excursion is included per port.

best small ship cruises to Alaska

3. Seabourn

Seabourn Odyssey and Quest accommodate 450 guests in spacious suites, with excellent dining choices and service. Overlaid on Seabourn's classic cruise foundation is an expedition-style enhancement focused on Alaska's nature, history, forestry and wildlife.

On sailings featuring Ventures by Seabourn excursions, you share your voyage with a knowledgeable, experienced expedition team of scientists, scholars, naturalists and more who aim to give you an in-depth understanding of the history, ecology and culture of the places you visit. Excursions are at an additional cost.

Seabourn Sojourn in College Fjord, Alaska

4. Crystal Cruises

Newly-relaunched Crystal Cruises will return to Alaska with Crystal Serenity in July and August 2024. After extensive refurbishment which will see the guest accommodation enlarged and a huge amount of space, plenty of facilities, and lots of small restaurants and bars - including the return of Nobu Matsuhisa - guests on their Alaska voyages will enjoy a combination of comfort and thrilling itineraries.

Sailing between Seward (Anchorage) and Vancouver - with some round-trip from the latter - on 7-night itineraries, you'll call in at all of the state's most famous ports of call, including the Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Skagway and Ketchikan. Shore excursions come at an additional cost.

5. Ponant

Ponant's super-chic 260-guest yachts Le Soléal and L'Austral are a Francophile adventurer's dream - all that is best in French style and elegance, with an English-speaking environment and a stunning destination.

You will travel in comfortable sea-view accommodation, and enjoy gourmet cuisine. Pick from expedition-style itineraries in remote territories with extraordinary landscapes and varied wildlife, or cruise-style operations on the captivating Inside Passage route between Juneau and Vancouver. Excursions are included in the fare on those itineraries designated as 'Expeditions'.

6. Oceania Cruises

Oceania's recently refurbished 684-guest Regatta offers a great selection of Alaska itineraries, including a number of round-trip voyages from Seattle, with direct flights from London making the journey much easier for UK cruisers.

If you book on Oceania's OLife Choice promotion you get to choose from a menu of added values, including selected complimentary shore excursions, and you can also splash out on more exciting options including seaplane flights.

Oceania Regatta in Alaska

But if you want to feel like an intrepid explorer, go instead for one of the expedition ships offered by our sister company Mundy Adventures.

On these cruises you will meet wildlife on deserted beaches, watch glaciers calve in a timeless and ancient landscape, and hike through untouched rainforest in the footsteps of the Tlingit people. Here are the best expedition cruise lines in Alaska.

7. Lindblad Expeditions

Founded by the father of ecotourism, Lars-Eric Lindblad, this thoughtful company has been in alliance with National Geographic since 2004, and offers an unparalleled opportunity to travel with the finest expedition teams in travel.

Their extensive and innovative programme of Alaska cruises give you plenty of choice, so ask us for advice on the best one for you, from the 62-guest Sea Bird or Sea Lion, to the more recently introduced 100-guest National Geographic Quest. Excursions are included in the fare.

Lindblad Expeditions - National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska

8. UnCruise Adventures

If you're after comfort rather than luxury on your Alaska cruise, adventure specialist UnCruise Adventures operates small ship expeditions in Alaska with a focus on local culture, active participation and wildlife viewing.

Every day you will be out and about, exploring by kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard, or hiking ashore with an expert naturalist guide. UnCruise's fleet of small ships range from tiny (the 22-passenger Safari Quest) to very small (the 84-passenger Safari Endeavour). Itineraries are completely different to those of conventional cruise ships in the area, and excursions are included in the fare.

UnCruise Adventures - Wilderness Explorer in Misty Fjords, Alaska
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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