Alaska Cruise Options Return for Summer 2021 - My Family Travels

The restart of the US cruise industry has taken a major step forward now that some Alaska cruise options will resume in mid-summer. Ships will sail from Seattle without any port stops in Canada.  

Princess Cruises shore excursion in Alaska visits sled dog puppies.
Meet sled dog puppies on a Princess Cruises shore excursion in Alaska. Photo c. Carnival Cruise Lines

Based on recent guidance from the CDC and close collaboration with Alaskan officials, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Carnival and others plan to resume guest cruise operations for a partial season. The news follows the temporary waiver of the Passenger Vessel Services Act, allowing cruising in Alaska without mandatory ports of call in Canada. (Read more about complicated cabotage laws here.)

Holland America's Oosterdam in Alaska
Holland America will sail in Alaska in 2021, taking families to Glacier Bay. Photo c. Holland America Line

Alaska has long been a hugely popular cruise destination. According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the number of cruise visitors to Alaska exceeded 1.3 million in 2019 aboard 37 ships.

Amy Hurley of Boston recalls cruising in Alaska with three generations of her family. Outside of Ketchikan, she had a jaw-dropping moment – the kind you dream about. “We saw four whales spiraling down to create a whirlpool to get food and jump up with their mouths open,” said Hurley, 50, a hospital fundraiser. “It’s rare, and we saw them do it four times. That was pretty amazing. Cruising is a great way to see Alaska.”

Safety Protocols in Place for All Alaska Cruise Options

Passengers aboard Holland America Line's ms Zaandam line the forward deck as they view Margerie Glacier
Passengers aboard Holland America Line’s ms Zaandam observe Margerie Glacier while cruising in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. Photo by Andy Newman for HAL.

The good news is that several major brands will have at least one ship sailing round-trip, likely starting in late July. These Alaska cruise options, for the most part, are available for guests who have received their final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination. (Crew vaccinations will be in accordance with CDC guidelines.)

If you plan to travel to Alaska with children under 12 years who are not yet able to be vaccinated, consider the very popular Holland American and Princess land tours. These land-only tours, previously sold as add-ons to cruises to showcase more of Alaska’s interior, are wonderful options for exploring America’s last frontier.

Alternatively, some of the Alaska cruise options will allow younger children to sail with proof of a negative COVID-19 test result prior to embarkation.

Major Cruise Lines’ Alaska Sailings

Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas in Alaska.
Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas has her “Northstar” viewing pod overlookng Alaska. Photo by S. Burke for RCL

Late July sees Carnival Cruise Line starting weekly departures from Seattle on July 27. Their seven- and eight-day Alaska cruise options continue until Sept. 14.

Princess Cruises will resume operations in Alaska starting July 25 through Sept. 26, with seven-day cruises onboard Majestic Princess, a Medallion Class ship. Its cruises will visit signature ports, glaciers and attractions in Alaska including Glacier Bay National Park, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.

Holland America Line will resume its cruise operations to Alaska with seven-day itineraries aboard Nieuw Amsterdam, calling at Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Sitka and Ketchikan, with scenic cruising in Alaska’s iconic locales, including Glacier Bay and Stephens Passage. The first cruise for the brand is scheduled to depart July 24, with 11 Saturday departures that will operate through Oct. 2.

Royal Caribbean International will have two ships in Alaska this summer, Serenade of the Seas beginning July 19 and Ovation of the Seas on Aug. 13. Sister cruise line, Celebrity Cruises, will have one ship, the 2,000-passenger Celebrity Summit, plying Glacier Bay. Beginning July 23, this ship, part of a $500 million fleetwide makeover, will embark on a series of nine sailings through mid-September, and then reposition to the Caribbean, via a 16-night Panama Canal sailing, where she will begin a series of four- and five-night itineraries. Each of the lines’ week-long Alaska cruise options will cover the 49th state’s major waterfront landmarks and natural attractions.

Norwegian Cruise Line also will have Alaska cruise options with 11 week-long voyages from Seattle beginning Aug.7 on the Norwegian Bliss sailing through Oct. 16.  Guests will benefit from the second cruise pier in Icy Strait Point, a collaboration with Alaska Native-owned Huna Totem Corporation that initially was scheduled to open last summer. There will be additional shore excursions, including the world’s largest ZipRider zip line and the most accessible coastal brown bear viewing platforms in southeast Alaska. 

Small Ship Alaska Cruise Options

Alaska port on a quiet day.
Alaska port on a quiet day.

The complex legal and public health issues that stalled the major cruise lines left smaller companies with vessels carrying fewer than 250 people unaffected. Check your travel agent or search online for availability on other, smaller Alaska cruise options. Lines such as Lindblad Expeditions, Ponant and Uncruises offer a variety of itineraries, many with more active and adventurous land and sea excursions.

Stay tuned to our special Cruise with Kids section for the latest cruise ship news.

Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.