Alaska cruise

When is the Best Time to Go on Alaska Cruise to See Bears, Glacier Calving and More

If you’re planning to take an Alaska cruise, it’s important to choose the right time to go to experience all the amazing sights that Alaska has to offer. From bear watching to whale watching, glacier calving, and the Northern lights, there are many things to see during your cruise. Based on what you want to experience, below are the best times to take an Alaska cruise. After all, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you want to make sure you make the most of it! I’m also sharing my cruise port and sea day planner as a free printable below.

The Best Time for Alaska Cruise to See Bears 

  • Mid-July to Mid-August

Witnessing bears attempting to catch salmon in a river is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you simply cannot miss if you are in Alaska. This is one of the most incredible things you can do in the state. 

The best time to see bears in action is from mid-July until mid-August, which is also the salmon run season. During this period, millions of mature salmon swim upstream from the ocean to the rivers where they were born. 

I was fortunate to see bears by the river trying to catch salmon in the wild during an Alaska cruise in August. It was truly an amazing sight. This is the tour I took to see the bears

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Best time to go on Alaska Cruise

The Best Time for Alaska Cruise to See the Salmon Runs

  • Early May to September

The best time to see salmon swimming upstream is from early May to September, as this is when the salmon runs in Alaska take place. 

Different species of salmon run at various times of the year. 

For an unforgettable experience, I suggest taking a shore excursion where you kayak on the river during the peak salmon run. You’ll be able to kayak next to hundreds of salmon swimming upstream from the ocean to the rivers where they were born. It truly is a once in a lifetime experience! Check out this kayaking shore excursion from Skagway.

The Best Time to go on Alaska Cruise for Whale Watching

  • May to September

Whale watching is an extremely popular activity for those who are cruising in Alaska. You’ll be able to see a variety of whales such as humpback whales, killer whales, gray whales, and beluga whales. 

The best time for whale watching in Alaska varies depending on the species you want to see. 

For example, humpback whales can be seen year-round, while gray whales migrate to Alaska during the summer months.

Generally, peak summer, when the days are long and there is plenty of food for the whales, is the best time. Check out this whale watching shore excursion from Juneau.

The Best Time for Alaska Cruise to See Nesting Eagles

  • April to June

Alaska is home to the highest concentration of bald eagles in the country. It’s so abundant that you can see bald eagles perched on trees or even scavenging trash cans!

I personally had a close encounter with a bald eagle when I was coming out of my cruise ship in Juneau. A bad eagle flew just above my head (I’m not that tall, I’m 5’3″!) It was both thrilling and scary to be so close to a wild eagle!

It’s also possible to see bald eagles nesting during your Alaska cruise. They typically have young ones in April and their speckled fledglings can be spotted from May to June. I suggest you bring your binoculars with you, so you get a close look at the bald eagle’s nest! Here is shore excursion to spot bald eagles from Skagway. 

The Best Time for Alaska Cruise to See Newborn Moose

  • Late May to Early June

Late May to early June is the best time for spotting adorbable baby moose (calves) on your Alaska cruise. If you do encounter them, make sure to keep a distance of at least 50 feet and avoid disturbing a lone calf, as its mother is likely to be close by.

Best time to go on Alaska Cruise

The Best Time to Go on Alaska Cruise for Good Weather

  • Mid-June to August

If you’re looking for good weather on an Alaska cruise, your best bet is to go in July, followed by June and August, when it’s warmer, and there’s less rain.

For those who prefer warmer temperatures ranging from 50° to 70° Fahrenheit, and longer days with up to 22 hours of sunlight, a summer Alaskan cruise is ideal. 

You will also see more wildlift in a summer Alaska cruise. From late June through mid-August, brown bears and moose can be spotted feeding in ponds, lakes, and along rivers in Alaska. 

Summer is also perfect for whale watching, as beluga whales, humpback whales, and pods of orcas frequently appear in Alaskan waters, along with dolphins and seals.

The Best Time for Alaska Cruise to Avoid Crowds

  • May and September 

If you’re looking for a more peaceful cruise, away from the crowd, take an Alaska trip in late May or early September. Not only will the crowds be smaller, but the cruise fare will also be lower since these are the shoulder seasons. Plus, there will be fewer kids on board because they’ll be back in school. 

In early September, you can still catch the tail end of the spawning salmon season and spot humpback whales. 

If you’re debating between May or September, keep in mind that May is slightly cooler, but gets significantly less rainfall but you’ll see less wildlife in May.

The Best Time to Go on an Alaska Cruise to See the Northern Lights 

  • Early April or Late September

There are only a few places in the world where you can witness the breathtaking display of colors in the sky, also known as the northern lights or aurora borealis, and Alaska is one of them. If you time your Alaska cruise right, you may be fortunate enough to see it. The northern lights are more commonly seen during the winter, but it’s still possible to catch a glimpse of them during your cruise. 

If you plan your cruise around early April or late September, close to the fall equinox on September 21, your chances of seeing the northern lights will be higher. Plus, if you head farther north in Alaska, you’ll increase your chances of seeing this spectacular natural light show.

Best Time To Cruise in Alaska to See the Midnight Sun

  • Mid-May to Mid-July

Did you know that Alaska experiences a unique phenomenon where daylight lasts for 24 hours straight for two months around the summer solstice? It’s incredible to imagine daylight at midnight! 

If you’re planning an Alaska cruise, the best time to experience the midnight sun is from mid-May through mid-July- cruise three weeks before or after June 21, the summer solstice.

Best Time to Go on an Alaska Cruise to See Glacier Calving

  • June, July and August

Witnessing Glacier Calving is an awe-inspiring experience that is simply unforgettable. The sight of ice breaking off from glaciers and plunging into the sea, accompanied by the deafening sound of thunderous roars, is simply breathtaking. 

To increase your chances of experiencing this natural wonder during your Alaska cruise, plan your trip during the warmest months of July, June, and August. Check out my Alaska cruise packing list with free printable to help you pack. I’m also sharing my Alaska Cruise Mistakes to Avoid.

Free Port & Sea Days Planner

Get Your Free Cruise Port and Sea Days Planner

Sign up once and you will get access to ALL exclusive content on this website. After unlocking the printable, just save the printable image and then print it. Use it to plan your shore excursions on port day and activities on sea days. I hope you like it!

Cruise Port & Sea Days Planner
Cruise Sea Days Planner

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