Big: 'Norwegian Bliss'
The cruise biz is buzzing about Alaska’s newest and largest cruise ship, which will debut in June. The Norwegian Bliss holds 4,004 passengers and 1,716 crew members, and features some grandkid-friendly firsts for an Alaska cruise — including an open-air laser tag course and the largest go-kart track at sea. Adults can check out the Cavern Club, modeled after the legendary Liverpool hot spot and featuring a Beatles cover band. If you're more intrigued by the scenery, the ship offers a 20,000-square-foot observation lounge.
Cost: The lowest prices are $969 per person for an inside room (an ocean view starts at $1,479; a balcony at $1,599) for a seven-night cruise departing on June 2, for example. It departs from Seattle, and stops include Juneau, Skagway and the Sawyer Glacier. On any cruise, prepare for hidden charges: Taxes, fees, and port expenses can cost from $150 to $250 per person.
Midsize: Royal Caribbean International’s 'Radiance of the Seas'
Big views are plentiful on this 2,466-passenger ship, which features floor-to-ceiling windows, glass elevators and a nine-story glass-enclosed atrium. “You always have a front-row seat to the Alaskan wilderness on this ship,” says Don Bucolo, editor in chief of EatSleepCruise.com. Radiance of the Seas was refurbished in 2016 and boasts an outdoor movie screen and a rock-climbing wall. Travelers can choose a northbound or southbound route, departing from Seward or Vancouver. The ship passes through the Inside Passage (a habitat area for wildlife such as eagles, sea lions and whales) and along the 76-mile-long Hubbard Glacier.
Cost: The cheapest fare for a four-night cruise starts at $499 per person for an interior cabin (an outside view is $599; the balcony is $799). It leaves from Vancouver on Sept. 6. The lowest fare for a seven-day cruise — departing from Vancouver on May 18 — is $679 for an interior cabin ($962 for an outside view; $999 for a balcony).
Midsize: 'Coral Princess'
This 2,000-passenger ship won eight prizes in CruiseCritic.com’s 2018 Cruiser’s Choice Awards, including best shore excursions, best value, and best overall cruise for the midsize category. The shore excursions include not only the usual wildlife tours, but cultural activities — such as watching a lumberjack competition — and fishing trips. The seven-day cruises depart from Anchorage and Vancouver. Another good midsized option: the Holland America Westerdam, a 1,916-passenger ship that won three prizes in the Cruiser’s Choice Awards. Holland America’s modern, midsized ships evoke the golden age of ocean liners, says Anne Vipond, author of Alaska by Cruise Ship, with nostalgic touches such as teak promenade decks lined with steamer chairs.
Cost: The best prices are in May: A seven-day cruise on the Coral Princess departing from Anchorage on May 16 starts at $448 per person for an interior room ($558 for an ocean view; $998 for a balcony). How much do prices rise in summer? For a cruise departing July 18, an interior room starts at $1,059 per person.