The best Alaska cruises for couples
What is the best Alaska cruise for couples? If I could only do one Alaska voyage with my spouse, I know which one I would pick: A seven-night sailing out of Juneau on one of UnCruise Adventures' small ships.
I love the adventure focus of these tiny, no-frills ships, which hold fewer than 100 people and focus on getting travelers into remote parts of Southeast Alaska for hiking, kayaking, whale watching and other outdoorsy pursuits.
That said, an Alaska cruise with UnCruise (so named because its cruises are designed to not be like a typical cruise) isn't for everyone.
For more cruise guides, news and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter.
If your idea of the perfect couples cruise to Alaska is being pampered at every turn (and you're not worried about your budget), you might want to sign up instead for a sailing with an ultra-luxury line such as Silversea Cruises, Seabourn or Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
If you're looking for an Alaska cruise for couples that won't break the bank, I'd probably steer you to one of the Holland America ships sailing north to Alaska out of Seattle.
In short, there's no one answer to the question of what's the best Alaska cruise for couples. Many cruise ships and itineraries could fit the bill, depending on your vacation preferences.
Here we list our top picks for the best Alaska cruises for couples.
An off-the-beaten-path Alaska adventure with UnCruise
You've probably never heard of UnCruise Adventures. It's such a tiny brand that all the customers who sail the line in a year probably wouldn't fill a single giant Royal Caribbean ship. But if you're a couple looking to get off the beaten path in Alaska for adventure, it's the ship-based travel company you want to get to know.
Specializing in Alaska trips, UnCruise operates a fleet of super-tiny vessels — the biggest carries just 86 people — that are so small they can go to remote, outdoorsy parts of Southeast Alaska that no big ship could visit. We're talking tiny bays surrounded by miles of forests where you'll be the only ones around. Or a tiny native settlement that is home to just hundreds of people.
The main focus of UnCruise sailings in Alaska is the Great Outdoors. The company is known for trips into wilderness areas of Southeast Alaska, where passengers can enjoy hiking, kayaking and wildlife-watching. You'll go days without seeing anyone else but the handful of people on your vessel.
On an UnCruise Adventures trip, the vessel serves as a floating adventure platform that can get you into the most remote areas in a small-group setting. The vessels carry skiffs for exploring and landings, kayaks, paddleboards and other adventure toys.
Related: The 18 best small cruise vessels sailing the world
Just don't expect anything too fancy. UnCruise vessels are comfortable but no-frills. Many were built decades ago when cruise vessels were more spartan. On most of the vessels, you'll find a single casual dining area, a lounge that doubles as a bar and basic cabins. That's it. What you're paying for is where the ship can get you and the adventure of it all.
By their very nature, these are trips that mostly cater to couples. In fact, because of the adventure focus of the daily activities, the line restricts children on board to those at least 8 years old. The small vessels also do not have any family-focused attractions on board like you'd find on bigger cruise ships.
Note that UnCruise Adventures' nine small vessels break down roughly into two categories. Ships with Wilderness in their names are more no-frills and described as expedition vessels; those with Safari in their names are higher-end and touted as boutique yachts. My favorites are the Wilderness vessels, which are less pricey, on average. But to each his own.
A luxury Alaska trip with Silversea Cruises
Couples who want the ultimate in pampering when exploring The Last Frontier — and for whom money is no object — might want to look at an Alaska cruise on one of several ultra-luxury ships that sail regularly to Alaska. They cater mostly to older couples and solo travelers and draw relatively few families, though you do sometimes find some children on board.
Silversea Cruises is the leader in this market, with two ships sailing to Alaska in any given year. For the 2023 season, the line is sending one of its newer ships, the 596-passenger Silver Muse and the older, 382-passenger Silver Whisper to Alaska. But in 2024, it'll swap in its newest, snazziest vessel, the 728-passenger Silver Nova, for Silver Whisper. That'll give it the most modern fleet of luxury ships in the state.
Other ultra-luxury lines that operate in Alaska are Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn and Scenic Luxury Cruises, each of which sends one vessel to the state for all or at least part of the summer season.
Related: The 8 best luxury cruise lines for elegance and exclusivity
What all three of the Silversea ships that will sail in Alaska over the next two years have in common is that they offer large, elegant and supremely comfortable suites (and every cabin is a suite on these ships); pampering service (that fancy suite comes with its very own butler); and gourmet cuisine of the sort you find at the finer restaurants in big cities.
Among the standout dining options on board is the modern French eatery La Dame, which offers a Michelin star-style evening that showcases ingredients like France’s sublime Limousin beef, presented with a flourish. The Atlantide restaurant offers such delicacies as caviar and lobster presented beautifully and at no extra cost.
Or if you want to have caviar in bed, your butler will only be too happy to arrange it — and will deliver it with white gloves and in full tuxedo tails.
In short, think of these ships as floating Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton hotels. They offer those sorts of lodging experiences with the pricing to match.
A low-cost sailing from Seattle with Holland America
Looking for the best cruises to Alaska for couples on a budget? My picks are the seven-night sailings to the state that Holland America offers out of Seattle.
Often, the lowest starting prices for any cruise to Alaska are these sailings, both on an absolute and per-day basis.
For the 2023 season, for instance, many Holland America sailings to Alaska from Seattle are available for under $750 per person for seven nights, as of this guide's posting. I even found some as low as $429 per person for a weeklong cruise.
That's even lower than the typical starting prices for Alaska voyages offered by Carnival Cruise Line, which is the low-cost leader for sailings out of most U.S. ports. When I was pricing voyages for this story, I found few Carnival sailings available for under $750 per person, with most Carnival sailings starting around $800 per person or more for seven nights.
Related: The ultimate Alaska cruise guide
With a history in Alaska that goes back more than 70 years, Holland America is one of the longtime leaders in cruises to the state (along with its sister brand, Princess Cruises), and its target market is couples (skewing to the older side, with lots of retirees) rather than families.
Holland America bases two ships in Seattle for cruises to Alaska: the 2,104-passenger Eurodam and 1,964-passenger Westerdam.
A land-and-sea hybrid trip with Princess Cruises
If you're a couple looking to see more of Alaska than its coastal areas, a hybrid trip combining a cruise with a multi-day land tour to inland areas is your best bet. These "cruisetours" are a specialty of Princess Cruises, as well as its sister company Holland America.
Princess has particularly robust offerings when it comes to such trips because it operates five wilderness resorts in Alaska that it incorporates into its itineraries. The resorts are spread across such iconic inland destinations as Denali National Park and the Kenai Peninsula.
Princess also has its own fleet of buses and rail cars to take you from its ships to its resorts, with all such transportation included in its packages.
The line sells 24 cruisetour itineraries that add three to 10 nights of land touring to a seven-night cruise. The options include Denali National Park-focused "Denali Explorer" routings that include a seven-night cruise; a scenic train ride to Denali National Park; two to four nights at a Princess lodge at Denali National Park; and an additional one or two nights in Anchorage or Fairbanks, Alaska, or both. These trips range from 10 to 13 nights in total.
In addition, Princess offers longer and more far-ranging "Off the Beaten Path" routings that add nights at the remote Copper River Princess Lodge in eastern Alaska near Wrangell-St. Elias National Park or the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge on the Kenai Peninsula. These trips range from 13 to 15 nights in total.
Even longer "Connoisseur" cruisetours combine stays at up to five Princess lodges in multiple locations around the state and last up to 17 nights.
Related: The coolest things to do on an Alaska cruise
All cruisetours are offered in conjunction with one-way voyages between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Alaska — something that Princess offers in abundance each summer during the short Alaska cruise season.
Many of the ships that sail on such itineraries have permission to visit Glacier Bay National Park, a highlight of any Alaska trip. Princess takes more guests to Glacier Bay National Park than any other cruise line, as 74% of all its itineraries include a visit to the park.
A more in-depth Alaska escape with Viking
For couples looking for a more in-depth exploration of Alaska's coastal areas than most lines offer, Viking may be the perfect choice. A relative newcomer to Alaska sailings, the upscale cruise brand operates longer Alaska sailings than is the norm, with every one of its Alaska departures lasting at least 10 nights.
The longer sailings allow for calls in a broader mix of coastal Alaska towns than you'll find on the seven-night itineraries that are more typical for cruises to Alaska. In addition to stops at classic Southeast Alaska cruise destinations such as Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, Viking's 10-night Alaska itineraries include a visit to Valdez, Alaska — a less touristy coastal town known for its fishing boat fleet that's home to fewer than 4,000 people — and a cruise into little-visited Yakutat Bay.
Most Viking sailings to Alaska also begin or end with an overnight call in Anchorage, which is too far north for ships on seven-night Alaska itineraries from Seattle and Vancouver to reach. Passengers can visit attractions in and around the city that they couldn't see on the sailings offered by almost every other line.
Viking, notably, offers included-in-the-fare tours in every one of these ports, allowing every passenger on board to get a guided experience during stops without paying extra. (Generally, Viking voyages are highly inclusive, keeping with its “no nickel-and-diming” philosophy.)
Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Viking cruise
On board, Viking’s programming revolves heavily around what the line calls “cultural enrichment” — lectures by experts on topics related to the places its ships visit (in this case, Alaska), as well as cultural and culinary offerings that often have a local tie-in.
Indeed, Viking is known for catering specifically to a certain type of thoughtful, inquisitive, generally older traveler who is as interested in learning while on vacation as being pampered. Agewise, its sweet spot is travelers (mostly couples) who range from 55 to 75 years in age. So, if you're on the younger side, this might not be the perfect couples cruise for you.
What Viking ships don’t offer is a lot of onboard amusements aimed at families and younger travelers. In fact, the line doesn’t even allow children under the age of 18 on its ships. It’s one of the only major cruise brands in the world with such a rule. That makes it by definition a cruise line for couples as well as some solo travelers.
For 2023 and 2024, Viking will base one ship in Alaska during the summer (the 930-passenger Viking Orion), but it'll expand in 2025 with a second vessel (the 930-passenger Viking Sea). In addition to 10-night sailings to Alaska, the ships occasionally offer longer, 22-night sailings that extend beyond Alaska all the way to Japan.
More than a dozen major cruise lines operate Alaska cruises during the spring, summer and fall, giving couples wanting to explore the state on a cruise a wide range of choices.
What is the best Alaska cruise for couples? There is no one right answer. It's defined by your personal interests and travel style, with the best Alaska cruise for you and your companion depending on how much adventure you prefer on a vacation, how much luxury you require, your budget and more.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- 8 cabin locations on cruise ships you should definitely avoid
- Which cruise brand is best for you? A guide to the most popular lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your first cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways that cruising newbies waste money on their first cruise
- The 15 best cruise ships for people who never want to grow up
- Cruise packing list: The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise