Skip to Content

Alaska Cruise or Land Tour: Which Should You Do?

Alaska Cruise or Land Tour: Which Should You Do?

Alaska is a bucket list destination for countless people. The abundant wildlife and jaw-dropping scenery are enough to take your breath away. As you plan your trip to this dreamy location, one significant choice you’ll have to make is how you want to see it. Do you want to see Alaska via cruise or land exploration?  This article will help you decide.

Alaska Cruise Versus Alaska Land Tour: At-a-Glance

Before you decide if you want to go on an Alaska cruise or see this beautiful state on land, you should know what you hope to get out of your trip. Each trip offers its advantages and disadvantages. 

The Call of the North: Journey to the Arctic Ocean | Go North Ep 1

A cruise takes away a lot of the planning stress and allows you to simply go along for the ride. One downside is giving up much of your control. If you decide you’d like to explore an area for a bit longer, you don’t get that option. To avoid a costly mistake, you need to ensure you’re back aboard the ship by a predetermined time.

Seeing Alaska via land gives you more freedom. You can go deeper into the heart of Alaska, giving you a glimpse of often-overlooked beauty. While you gain more freedom, you do have to do a lot more planning. You have to book hotels or campsites, plan your meals and even plan your excursions. 

You don’t have to plan everything from scratch. We’ve taken the guesswork out of your travels with our Complete Guide for Planning Your RV Trip to Alaska.

Comparison

To help you decide which travel route is best for you, we’re sharing a few details you’ll want to consider before you book your trip. Hopefully, this will give you a better grasp of the type of trip you want to experience. 

Up Close with Katmai National Park Bears - Adventures in Homer & Seward, Alaska | Go North Ep 15

Wildlife Variety

Are you hoping to cross a moose while on an eight-hour hike, or would you prefer to see a bear on a wildlife sightseeing excursion? Seeing wildlife while experiencing Alaska via a cruise will be different than seeing it via a land trip.

If you choose to do an Alaska cruise, you must be very intentional about your wildlife sightings. Research tours that take you to well-known wildlife hangouts. Those who tour Alaska via land can still choose to see wildlife but also have the option to allow it to happen a bit more organically due to fewer time constraints. 

Solo or Group Travel

Those who are traveling in larger groups will likely tour a bit differently than solo and couple travelers. Solo and couple travelers can move about with little effort and often less planning. You can hop from activity to activity easily. This can make it a bit easier to travel on land. 

Group of Alaska tourists on a cruise ship
Cruises are a good choice for large groups as you won’t have to coordinate every detail of the trip – the cruise line does that for you!

Generally, groups are a bit tougher to coordinate. Depending on the size of your group, you might have a tough time traveling together without needing to break up your group. Tours can sometimes get capped at a small number of people. Cruises are great for groups as they’re accustomed to accommodating even large groups. 

Pro Tip: If you’d rather travel via land with a large group, consider an RV Caravan Tour.

On Your Own or Follow an Itinerary

Are you the kind of person who likes to just show up? Do you prefer to let someone else handle the details? If so, a cruise might be the most enjoyable option.

Cruises do a great job of putting together plenty of activities where the only effort you need to put in is simply showing up. On the flipside, cruises can be frustrating for those who like to wing it as you only have so much time while in port. 

Alaska cruise ship with mountainous landscape in background
Consider whether you like to explore at your own pace or have a set schedule when deciding on cruise or land travel.

Maybe you don’t like adhering to someone else’s schedule. If this sounds like you, you’re likely best off on your own when it comes to your activities. Those who don’t like being held to time constraints or want the option to extend or shorten an activity may prefer to travel on their own on land. 

Costs

Alaska isn’t cheap. This will be true regardless of whether you choose to see Alaska via cruise or land. A cruise will offer a more inclusive fee structure, allowing you to know exactly what you’ll spend.

A land trip will be much more variable in cost but allows you to customize your spending based on your budget

How to Plan and Budget for an Alaska RV Trip & What it Cost Us to Go | Go North Explore More

Time of Year

People live in Alaska year-round, but for the most part, visitors stick to the summer months for exploring. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cruise outside of the May-September time frame. If you’re hoping to visit outside of those months, you’ll likely be limited to a land trip. 

The best time of year to visit Alaska largely depends on what you want to see and do while you’re there. Learn more here: What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Alaska?

Ocean or Mountains

A cruise by nature takes place on the water. This means you’ll remain along the coast. The Alaskan coast is beautiful and offers stunning sights, amazing fishing, and marine wildlife viewing. That said, it’ll be near impossible to venture too far inland when seeing the state through a cruise due to needing to reboard each evening.

Denali Highway & Denali National Park| Go North Ep.10

If the coast is your thing, a cruise is perfect. If you would rather dig your hiking boots out to explore the mountains, you may want to skip the cruise. 

Alaska Cruise Versus Land Tour: The Winner

No one vacation is going to be perfect for everyone. However, we do think there’s a clear winner for certain situations. 

Best Overall: Alaska Land Tour

To really dive deep into what Alaska has to offer, you need to see it from the land. Ideally, you’ll have several weeks to gain an appreciation for this vast land bustling with mountains, lakes, rivers, and seemingly endless wildlife. Even if you have time constraints, seeing Alaska by land doesn’t confine you to just the coast. 

Cait and Tom in Alaska
We had the time of our lives exploring Alaska on land, but it did take an extraordinary amount of planning.

An Alaskan land tour allows you to see parts of Alaska that many don’t experience. You can explore those hard-to-reach locations. That said, you can still explore the coastal areas if desired; you just won’t be limited to them. 

Best for a First-Time Visitor: Alaska Cruise

If you’re taking your first trip to Alaska and have limited time, you should consider an Alaskan cruise.

Taking the cruise will allow you to focus on having a great time without the stress of planning attractions and transportation. This lets you take in the wonderful sights and excursions stress-free. Let the cruise line handle the details, and you’ll be able to sit back, have a drink, and watch the awe-inspiring landscape pass by. 

Many travel destinations get overstated and overhyped. Alaska lives up to its reputation, however. There’s a reason why so many people have put this magnificent destination on their must-see travel list.

Woman viewing the Alaska coastline from a cruise ship deck
First-time Alaska visitors will appreciate seeing the northernmost state without all the stress of planning.

Have you explored Alaska? If so, did you see it via cruise or land? Drop a comment below.

Become A Mortons On The Move Insider

Join 10,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!

Read More From The Mortons:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Kelley Miller

Thursday 21st of October 2021

My first trip to Alaska was on a cruise. It was 7 days on ship, and 5 days on land, including Denali. It was the best of both worlds mostly and a great introduction to the state. Can't wait to go back in my RV!

Usha

Monday 25th of July 2022

@Kelley Miller, i am planning an Alaska tour...can you guide me..would love to do cruise and land tour

Mortons on the Move

Saturday 23rd of October 2021

That sounds awesome!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.