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Expedition Travel Guide for Alaska

Kick-start your planning for an off the beaten track adventure to Alaska. The breathtaking blend of fjords, icebergs, glaciers, and deep forests are Alaska’s signature, maybe only topped by the region's wildlife.

Alaska | A rugged wilderness

Embarking on an expedition cruise to Alaska promises an unparalleled journey into the heart of one of Earth's last frontiers, where untouched wilderness and awe-inspiring landscapes await. From the towering glaciers of Icy Bay to the untamed wildlife of the Inside Passage, each inlet, island, channel and bay unveils a new wonder that make Alaska a must-explore destination.

This guide takes you through the frequently asked questions about travelling to Alaska! Get insider tips on selecting the ideal expedition cruise, and uncover packing tips tailored for Alaska's dynamic climate and terrain. Beyond nature's wonders, immerse yourself in the unique cultures of Alaska's coastal communities. 

Whether you're a seasoned explorer or a first-time cruiser, this guide will help to plan your trip, ensuring that every moment of your expedition cruise in Alaska is infused with discovery, wonder, and the sheer magic of the untamed north.

Know Before You Go

Organising an expedition to Alaska can bring about a number of questions! To help, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions to kick-start your planning.

What do I need to pack for Alaska?

Be prepared for diverse weather and wildlife encounters - with a mixture of thin and warm layers, waterproof/hiking trousers and a pair of sturdy walking shoes.

When is the best time to visit Alaska?

The best time for an Alaska expedition cruise is during the summer months (End of May to August) when mild weather, extended daylight, and abundant wildlife create optimal conditions for exploration and adventure.

How do you get to Alaska?

Flying to Alaska is easy with a number of international carriers flying through either Seattle or Vancouver for a short layover. Depending on the expedition you choose, we have some internal flights included in your voyage.

How will I explore Alaska? What is a typical day like?

One of the joys of an Expedition Cruise is that there is no 'typical day'. Flexibility is crucial when exploring Alaska, as conditions can be unpredictable, and the safety of passengers and crew is the top priority. We aim to provide a mixture of landings, optional and included excursions, and activities both onshore and onboard - so whatever the reasons for coming to Alaska, we have a range of opportunities to immerse yourselves into the culture, nature, and wildlife of America's wild frontier.

Although our expedition ships are small, there are even some limits on where they can reach - this is where our small expedition boats come in. Where the conditions allow, these smaller boats allow us to land on more rugged or remote locations, or simply to cruise along the coastline in search of the unique wildlife that call this home.

Once we arrive onshore, the real exploration begins. For those who want more of an active exploration, you can take to the water in our sea kayaks and paddle through ocean passages, and iceberg lagoons. When we visit Alaskan communities, local guides will teach you about the history and culture of the areas they call home.

Please Note: Actual activities & excursions are subject to availability.

How can I get involved with the Science & Education program?

The onboard Science & Education team will help you unlock your inner scientist with a range of hands-on experiences to better understand the world around you - from researching the microplastics and their impact on marine life to meteorological observations in partnership with NASA. We work closely with organisations, research institutions, universities, and scientists to support and assist in ongoing research through the use of Citizen Science Projects that you can get involved with.

Citizen science projects offer passengers a unique opportunity to actively contribute to scientific research whilst experiencing the unique environment of Alaska. Run by the Science team, we encourage guests to take part in hands-on data collection and observation, providing valuable information for scientific research and environmental monitoring. When you get onboard, speak to a member of our Expedition Team who will be able to provide more information about the projects taking place on board your ship.

Don't just take our word for it! Check out the HX Insiders Facebook Group - where previous guests share their thoughts, tips, and highlights about their time onboard an expedition.

How to find the right voyage for you?

Best Cultural Immersion

Wilderness, Glaciers and Culture | 15 Days

Also available as both a north and southbound sailing, as the name would suggest, this is the best voyage for experiencing the rich and vibrant culture of Alaska.

Sailing from Vancouver to Seward, this itinerary offers multiple opportunities to get ashore, where you can join a range of cultural excursions including the Petroglyph beach of Wrangell, traditional crafts in Haines, or the totems of Sitka.

Best Wildlife Viewing Experience

Inside Passage, Bears and Aleutian Islands | 19 Days

Available as both a North and Southbound sailing, this voyage takes you the full length of the rugged Alaskan coastline from Vancouver to Nome.

By sailing beyond the popular ports in the south of Alaska and into the wilderness, this route travels off the beaten track and provides the most exceptional opportunities to view Alaska's diverse wildlife, including bears, whales, eagles, and more.

MS Roald Amundsen in College Fjord, Alaska. Photo: Oscar Farrera

Set sail for Alaska

With a range of 14 to 19 day expeditions along the rugged Alaskan coastline - we have the perfect expedition to ensure you discover the historic culture, vibrant wildlife and breathtaking natural beauty of America's wild frontier.

See all cruises to Alaska

When is the best time to visit Alaska?

Alaska is the largest state (by land mass) in the United States, and due to its size, the weather can vary dramatically by region and season.

One of the best times to visit Alaska is during the summer months of May to September. Whilst the summer season may be short in comparison to other destinations, temperatures can exceed 70oF (21oC) or drop below 50oF (10oC), especially in the northern regions or near glaciers, so ensure you are prepared for a variety of weather conditions. Summer is also one of the best times to witness the breathtaking natural beauty and wildlife. Many wildlife sightings in Alaska vary throughout the summer; Peak humpback whale season is usually June through early September, while peak coastal brown bear season is typically July through September when the salmon are running. Wildflowers are best viewed from mid-June through August.

On either side of summer (spring and fall), the conditions can be a bit more varied - warm during the day but cold at night. If you are joining a fall/autumn sailing you will be welcomed by the vibrant colours of Alaska's tundra and mountain forests. While it is possible to see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska for much of the year, the light conditions are far more favourable later in the year, further from the summer solstice, as the nights begin to get darker.

The majority of our voyages sail in part through the Inside Passage, a stunning landscape famed for soaring mountains, and the Tongass National Forest - North America's northernmost temperate rainforest. This part of Alaska is heavily influenced by the Pacific Ocean and the conditions coming off the open seas and experiences significant rainfall throughout the year.

What to pack for an expedition cruise to Alaska?

Alaska is the wild frontier of the United States of America, offering adventure and excitement around every headland, island, and bay. The climate in this region can be quite variable, so to ensure you are well prepared for everything you could experience within Alaska we recommend you pack the following:

  • Clothes for warm days and Clothes for cooler days

  • Insect repellent

  • Polarised sunglasses and sunscreen

  • Wind and water-resistant trousers

  • Waterproof gloves

  • Warm hat that covers your ears, and a scarf

  • Worn-in walking boots to use outdoors

  • Lip salve with UV protection

  • Swimwear for use in our on-deck pool and hot tubs

  • A pair of casual shoes for use onboard

Don't forget you will also receive a reusable waterproof bottle, which is yours to keep at the end of the voyage.

How do you get to Alaska?

Located in the Northwest of North America - many flights to Alaska include a layover/transfer at either Seattle-Tacoma International Airport or Vancouver International Airport.

Depending on the expedition you choose to undertake, we have included within the cost of your ticket return flights between Vancouver and Nome (port of departure) which are operated by different Canadian or US airline partners. They usually depart from Vancouver early in the morning and arrive at Vancouver in the evening upon return.

  • On these flights, we only book guests into economy class and no upgrades in higher booking classes are possible.

  • You can travel with checked luggage at a maximum weight of 23 kg, and bring one carry-on bag on board with a maximum of 8 kg.

Please note: that this luggage allowance can differ from the airline you use for your feeder flight to/from Vancouver. We kindly ask you to check your flight baggage terms and conditions and confirm you are within all luggage allowances. We are unable to accept responsibility if you miss your own booked flight to/from Vancouver in the event of a delay of the flight between Vancouver and Nome.

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Penguins perched on the ice of Cuverville Island, Antarctica. Credit: Espen Mills / HX Hurtigruten Expeditions

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