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The Alaska Cruise Season

Tips on when to go and what to wear.

Alaska is a seasonal, as opposed to year-round, cruise destination, with the season generally running from May through September, although some smaller ships start up in April. May and September are considered the shoulder season, and lower fares are offered during these months. We particularly like cruising in May, before the crowds arrive, when we've generally found locals friendlier than they are later in the season, when they're pretty much ready to see the tourists go home for the winter. Late September also offers the advantage of fewer fellow tourists clogging the ports. The warmest months are June, July, and August, with temperatures generally around 50° to 80°F during the day, and cooler at night. You don't need a parka, but you will need to bring along some outerwear. June 21 is the longest day of the year, with the sky light virtually all night. June tends to be drier than July and August. April and May are drier than September, although in early May you may encounter freezing rain and other vestiges of winter. If you are considering traveling in a shoulder month, keep in mind that some shops don't open until Memorial Day, and the visitor season is generally considered over on Labor Day (although cruise lines operate well into September).