There are currently six major Alaska cruise lines: Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, NCL, and Carnival. Each of these cruise lines has a distinct character, so how do you decide which one suites you best?
Holland America is the most traditional and formal of the cruise lines, with the smallest ships of all the major lines in Alaska. Holland America also tends to be very popular with senior cruisers and thus it passenger demographic tends to skew older than the other lines.
Princess is the largest cruise line in Alaska, and it offers a nice mix of tradition and innovation, including a flexible dining plan. Like Holland America, Princess currently sails eight ships in Alaska. However, the Princess ships are quite a bit larger, and they can accommodate almost double the number of passengers.
Princess is also the leader in Alaska cruisetours, and the cruise line owns several wonderful lodges in the Denali National Park region. So if you are considering adding an inland tour to your cruise, Princess is a wonderful option.
Norwegian (NCL) is the most innovative of the cruise lines in Alaska, offering multiple restaurants and incredible dining variety and flexibility with its “Freestyle Cruising” concept. Norwegian also has the newest fleet sailing in Alaska, and their ships have some the most amazing amenities, including rock climbing walls and even bowling alleys. On the down side, they only sail round trip itineraries, so if you want to tour inland Alaska, NCL is probably not for you.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, while offering fewer cruises in Alaska than Princess, do provide exceptional quality and a variety of itineraries, though neither currently offers cruises that stop in Glacier Bay. They do both have ships that visit the Hubbard Glacier, which is a great option as an alternative to Glacier Bay.
Finally, Carnival is the “forgotten” Alaskan cruise line. Carnival does currently have one ship sailing in Alaska, mainly on one-way itineraries between Vancouver and Whittier. I have found that Carnival often has very reasonable prices, so if you are looking for a one-way cruise, check out Carnival, if only for a price comparison.
All these cruise lines are actually wonderful options. Which one you choose depends on what you want to see and what type of on-ship environment you seek. But no matter what type of atmosphere you prefer, from traditional to innovative, there is an Alaskan cruise line for you.