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Alaska Cruises: Tips on Travel to Juneau, Alaska

Look for bears, take a hike, see the nation's largest forest or visit a fjord, take a smaller boat out to find whales, or sidle up for a beer at a local brewery. There's no shortage of adventure and fun to be had in Juneau....
8 minute read | Mar 5, 2020
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    If you've made it to Juneau, you're already a bona fide explorer. There's really no easy way to get here - unless you are traveling by way of cruise ship. Cruising Alaska is the best ways to see the 49th state.

    While it's easy to think of Alaska as a lot of ice, it's also got more coastline and more inland water than any other state. Also, the ice is some of the most spectacular ice you can see from the gray-blue expanse of the Juneau icefield and Mendenhall Glacier to the floating bobs that glide past your ship as you sail the Inner Passage.

    From Juneau, look for bears, take a hike, see the nation's largest forest or visit a fjord, take a smaller boat out to find whales, or sidle up for a beer at a local brewery. There's no shortage of adventure and fun to be had in Juneau.

    When to Go to Juneau

    Most people head to Juneau in the Summer. Don't worry about missing out on dazzling glass for water or peaks made of ice. Even in July, you'll want a sweatshirt at least in your bag or backpack to trudge around this port city and its nearby landmarks or attractions. There's plenty of glacial magnificence even in the warmer months.

    Alaska's Best Weather

    By the time Summer rolls around, Alaska receives up to 19 hours of sunlight each day. Not all of this sunlight is blazing - even at mid-day, the brightest element is the reflection of the sun on the water or ice - but it's enough to enjoy wearing sunglasses at 9:30 at night for a fun selfie.

    As you sail the Inner Passage, you might experience a little mist or fog, especially in mornings, but the temperatures are between 60 degrees all the way up to 80 degrees at times, so enjoy the sights and scenery as you cruise from port to port.

    Peak Seasons for Alaska Travel

    You can only cruise to Alaska in the Summer, because in the Winter, the weather is too harsh. Summer features clear blue skies on nice days, wildflowers, and active wildlife.

    Top Three Things to Do in Juneau

    With a broad array of shore excursions available for you in port, you'll have plenty of choices for wonderful things to do. Explore these top recommendations for your time in Juneau.

    1. Mendenhall Glacier

    A visit to Mendenhall Glacier gives you the opportunity to get up close and personal with a massive blue and white glacier. Since the ice is constantly shifting, every trip here is unique.

    What you see when you go is different than what others may ever get to see, so take lots of pictures. Some excursions take you right onto the glacier, while others hike nearby for great views.

    2. Mount Roberts Tramway

    If views are a key component to your cruise vacation, ascend high above the port and up to the peak of Mount Roberts. At the top, there's a visitor center and a hiking trail to Gastineau Peak.

    This cable car ride is for the adventurous. Views going straight down the mountain are intense.

    3. Tongass National Forest

    Take an excursion to Tongass National Forest, the largest in the United States at 16.7 million acres. This is a temperate rainforest, so it's damp and features a biodiverse canopy, but the temperature remains cool compared to a tropical rainforest.

    Since the area is so remote, you may be able to see flora and fauna you might not see elsewhere, like bears, wolves, black-tailed deer, eagles and more. The forest is just south of Juneau and shares a border with Canada.

    Juneau's Local Landmarks and More

    Beyond the major highlights of Juneau remains a world of adventure, ecology, water features, natural wonders, animal life, and more. Pack in as much as you can while you're here.

    Nugget Falls

    A walk to Nugget Falls is a great add-on to a day at Mendenhall Glacier. The hike is about two miles, so give yourself the time to enjoy it and you'll be rewarded with an Alaskan beach, glacial views and the experience of the waterfall, cascading over gray rocks.

    Tracy Arm Fjord

    Some travelers enjoy light-hearted disputes over whether Tracy Arm Fjord or Mendendall Glacier are a better Alaskan excursion.

    Fewer cruisers make it to the fjord, in favor of seeing a glacier, but the drama of the pristine, 27-mile fjord is a jaw-dropper for many.

    Whale Watching

    Whale watching throughout Alaska is incredible. Since most people travel to this region in the summer, you'll be right on time for the whale migration season, which runs from approximately April to September.

    Keep your eyes peeled for humpbacks or orcas. Your strongest chances of seeing whales may be on an excursion with a marine biologist or another wildlife specialist who knows where to look and how to spot signs, but your cruise ship captain may share potential wildlife-sighting spots as you cruise, too.

    Glacier Gardens

    Take a look at what happens when human ingenuity meets the wilds of Alaska's flora and foliage at this garden attraction. Check out bonsai-styled Alaskan rainforest trees, plant-art installations, and more as you learn about each of the native plants from long-time locals and experts.

    Alaska Brewing Company

    Get a taste for the local brew culture when you visit the Alaska Brewing Company, where this state-favorite beer is brewed and bottled. Take tours, sample flavors that haven't hit the market and select a few souvenirs to take back home - or at least back to the ship.

    Selecting Your Cruise to Juneau

    As you discover all that makes Juneau excursions an exciting part of your Alaska cruise, take the time to consider which cruise line might be best for you and your family or other traveling companions.

    Holland America

    Holland America has eight cruise ships that can take through Alaska. With departure ports that include Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver and Seward, it's easy to find a base camp for the beginning of your trip. Some of these cruises head to Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada for additional exploration.

    Princess Cruises

    Princess Cruises, you can enjoy one-way or round-trip Alaska cruise vacations, so if you're interested in adding overland portions--even a night or two can enhance your trip--this is a great choice. Princess has cruise tours that allow you to choose from high-level guided excursions to on-your-own exploration with touchpoints for your comfort.

    Celebrity Cruises

    Celebrity Cruises to Alaska for top-notch shore excursions throughout Juneau and the surrounding area, plus a concierge-style list of places to hang out in port on your own if you want to blend in with the locals after a raring morning on the icefield or seeking wildlife.

    Royal Caribbean

    Reserve your cruise on Royal Caribbean for shore excursions into Juneau and the surrounding area that give you a chance to meet locals, see more of what life is really like in Alaska and learn about Juneau's culture as it relates to the environment and history.

    Get the Extras on Juneau

    Discover a few helpful miscellaneous facts about Juneau and Alaska in general to help you finalize your decision to cruise the Inner Passage.

    Who Would Love Juneau?

    Juneau is a wonderful cruise port destination for all sorts of travelers, but just like any destination, some travelers will love it more than others. See if you and your traveling companions fit the type or are ready to break a few molds.

    Outdoorsy Types

    Anyone who loves the outdoors is bound to have a fantastic time in Juneau. From Tongass National Park to Mendenhall Glacier, there's lots to do outdoors here. Look for bears, catch salmon, hike or learn about local history on a walking tour.

    Animal Lovers

    To see some of the most majestic wildlife there is, head to Alaska. Shore excursions from Juneau can get you positioned in the spots most likely to see bears, elk, moose, whales and more. While there are never guarantees to see wildlife, Juneau is a close bet.

    Cruise Travelers

    Alaska sees many travelers who may not have considered the 49th state as a vacation destination by land, but once they realize they can arrive and continue onto a string of amazing ports, they're ready to pack their bags. Enjoy the wilds of Juneau and the comforts of cruising.

    What Time Is It in Juneau?

    The time in Juneau is known as Alaska Time, which is one hour behind Pacific Standard Time and four hours behind Eastern Standard Time. Even though the sun is highly visible or barely there for long stretches of days, the tracking of the hours remains consistent against a world clock.

    Where Is the Midnight Sun?

    To officially see the Midnight Sun, you'll have to travel above the Arctic Circle, which is 66 degrees north latitude, whereas Juneau is just above 58 degrees north latitude. The sun stays out very late in the Summer, though. If you've never experienced such Northerly latitudes, you'll still be impressed.

    What Money Is Used in Alaska?

    Alaska is a state in the United States, so the official currency is the US dollar. Since it's so close to Canada, you may sometimes receive change that includes Canadian coins. This isn't something locals worry about, so you can accept the coins as you wish.

    Do I Need A Passport To Visit Alaska?

    Americans do not need a passport to visit Alaska, a US state, although you should bring yours on your cruise if your plans include travel to Canada, Russia or other foreign countries. Nationals of other countries need a passport and any required visas to enter the US.

    Related: A Guide to Seward, One of Alaska’s Best Port Cities

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