Inside Passage versus Gulf of Alaska: Which Cruise is Right for You?


Although it’s in such close proximity to the United States, the glacial beauty of Alaska feels like another world compared to the rest of America. Replete with unbelievable scenery and vibrant wildlife, Alaska offers up plenty for both the intrepid explorer and amateur adventurer.

But when it comes to cruising its vast waters, which way are you going to experience it? Through the narrow waterways of the Inside Passage or further north, through the Gulf of Alaska? When it comes to cruising, Alaska is essentially divided into these two areas. Both provide an opportunity to see this amazing part of the world in all its glory, but which one you go for depends on what you long to see and experience.

Here, we’ll guide you through what to expect from these two areas of Alaska. If you’re researching where to go and can’t decide, be sure to read on for some exploration inspiration.

Inside Passage in Alaska

The Inside Passage

Running through Alaska’s southeast, the Inside Passage collects more than 1,000 islands, sailing past a huge array of idyllic coves and bays, giving you the chance to see some awe-inspiring scenery along the way. If you tend to get a bit seasick, the sheer amount of land in this area keeps the boat stable, meaning fewer wobbly voyages as it traverses its waters. This is something for queasy travellers to definitely keep in mind.

Taking in the likes of Skagway, Ketchikan, and Alaska’s capital, Juneau, some of Cruise1st’s itineraries here also pass through Sitka and Vancouver, British Colombia. While you’re here, you’ll bear witness to animal-populated fjords, verdant forests atop staggering mountains, and a host of glaciers and scenery filled with sea lions, porpoises, and whales. A lot of Alaska is abundant in wildlife, but the Inside Passage has perhaps more than any other area. Perhaps unsurprisingly, too, Juneau has some of the freshest seafood around.

When your ship is in port, here’s where you can truly explore the Inside Passage’s charm and grace in full view. Depending on your cruise line, your shore excursions will give you the chance to check out this area on walking tours and bus tours, as well as other more unusual modes of transport. Why not channel your inner explorer with some sea kayaking, mountain biking, or a trip in a helicopter? You might even be able to immerse yourself in its waters with some scuba diving or snorkelling for that added adrenaline rush.

Some of Cruise1st’s itineraries pass through the Tracy Arm Fjord, a huge fjord south of Juneau, whose sprawling distance is well worth witnessing, while the Ketchikan zipline lets those brave enough explore a rainforest canopy with the aid of a 1,625-metre zipline, the longest of its kind in the world.

The Gulf of Alaska

The Gulf of Alaska

If you’re looking to see more of Alaska, then itineraries across the Gulf of Alaska may be better suited to you. A typical Gulf itinerary will still visit areas of the Inside Passage, but you’ll also stop off at major ports of call, such as Valdez, Seward, and Anchorage, where you’ll be able to check out places like Denali National Park and ride the Alaska Railroad in all its fairytale-style charm.

Be sure to check out the Hubbard Glacier, Alaska’s longest at 122 kilometres. If you’re lucky enough, you might be able to see huge chunks of it cascading into the water below, creating huge explosions of water that provide a truly awe-inspiring spectacle.

Meanwhile, Denali National Park and Preserve, if you get a chance to visit, is an unforgettable jaunt that encompasses 24,464 square kilometres of protected wilderness that visitors can traverse, whether it’s on foot or rafting through its white-water rapids.

Which should you go for?

If you’re content with staying on board for long stretches and are more attracted to serene cruises where you aren’t hopping on and off all the time, then Inside Passage cruises might be better suited to you. That’s not to say you won’t get the chance to explore, as there are plenty of ports of call you’ll stop off at, but for a more relaxed pace, pick a cruise here.

However, many argue Gulf of Alaska cruises give passengers so much more than Inside Passage cruises. In particular, its glaciers are truly spectacular, and for many cruisers, this is a huge selling point. If you have a taste for getting to the heart of new destinations, cruising the Gulf of Alaska is an adventurer’s dream.

Whichever you go for, it’s been said that an Alaska cruise is rarely a one-time-only deal. Its beauty is incomparable, and being tempted back to explore it further is a common occurrence among cruisers. Thanks to its plentiful wildlife and ever-changing beauty, no two visits are ever the same.

We hope this exploration of Alaska’s spectacular climes has helped you come to a decision over which cruise you go for. Looking for more information? Head over to our dedicated Alaska cruise page or speak to our friendly customer care team on 1300 857 345.

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