Alaska Inside Passage Cruise Itinerary Comparison

An Alaska Inside Passage cruise sails through the Alaska panhandle. You will also hear this area referred to as Southeast Alaska. This narrow strip of the state runs from the Canadian border in the south to just above Skagway in the north.

The route uses channels and straits between islands, fjords and the mainland. It offers great scenic beauty, snowcapped mountains, forests, waterfalls and glaciers. The islands that make up the western side afford protection from the storms and open waters of the Pacific Ocean. Because of this shelter the Inside Passage offers smooth sailing with very little risk for seasickness.

Aside from the area's beauty, you also have the opportunity to learn more about the history of the region. The area was known to explorer’s which is evident in the following examples of some of the ports encompassed on this route. Explore the great Alaska Gold Rush of 1898 in Skagway, experience the capital city, Juneau, and townships (Sitka, for instance,) influenced by the former Russian presence or discover the Tlingit and Haida Native cultures of Ketchikan.

This is some of the best scenic cruising in the world and the wildlife viewing is also plentiful, with eagles, puffins, porpoises, seals, sea otters and whales.

The Gulf of Alaska, the other major cruising area, is the curve of land stretching from the Kenai Peninsula to just north of Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage. It is located in the Southcentral region of the state.

The entire shoreline is a rugged combination of forests, mountains and tidewater glaciers (glaciers that terminate in water.) One of your glacier viewing opportunities on this route will be College Fjord. Located in Prince William Sound and named after Ivy League colleges these 16 sparkling rivers of ice will surround you.

Our favorite, on the Gulf itinerary, is Hubbard Glacier. It’s the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska (76 miles,) with open calving faces over 6 miles wide. Spectacular.

Terminus ports on the Gulf route are Seward and Whittier for Anchorage.

Besides the additional glacier viewing opportunities on this route it is the logical choice if you are planning a land tour either before or after your cruise.

The most important thing to remember, booking a Gulf cruise does not mean you don’t visit the Inside Passage.

I know, I know – this is confusing. The real difference between an Alaska Inside Passage cruise and The Gulf of Alaska cruise is the route. The Gulf route is one-way, either Northbound or Southbound, between Vancouver and Whittier or Vancouver and Seward. The Inside Passage route is round trip from Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco.

Which itinerary is better?

It’s really up to you. If you prefer round-trip flights instead of flying into one city and out of another, which can also add to the ticket price, then select the Alaska Inside Passage cruise. If you don’t mind splitting up the air for more glacier viewing opportunities then choose the Gulf of Alaska route. Do what makes you happy and matches your personal tastes.

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson

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