Alaskan cruises are really spectacular – the dramatic scenery, the wildlife, the quaint towns – it’s a breathtaking part of the world. And not just because the cold air takes your breath away!
But which side of the ship should you be looking to book for your Alaska cruise? Is the port side or the starboard side better?
In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Which side of the ship is best on an Alaska cruise?
The side of the ship that’s best for an Alaska cruise depends on your itinerary and sailing direction. If travelling northbound, a starboard-side cabin will give you more views of the glaciers and ports. For southbound cruises, a portside cabin would be preferred.
Alaska is a gorgeous part of the world for the three things I mentioned in the intro – the towns, the glaciers and the wildlife. The view of the towns doesn’t matter too much, because you’ll get a much better look at them when you visit the port. It’s nice to have a view across the town as you approach, but it’s not essential.
With the wildlife, you never know from which side of the ship you might see a pod of dolphins or a whale, so again it doesn’t really matter too much either way.
But the glaciers and the natural scenery are a major reason people love to cruise to Alaska, and for that you’ll only get a good view from your cabin if you’re on the correct side of the ship as you sail past.
This means you want land to be outside your cabin, with the Gulf of Alaska – the ocean – on the opposite side.
And for northbound cruises that’ll mean a cruise on the starboard side of the ship, whereas for southbound cruises you should aim for a portside cabin.
Having trouble remembering which side of the ship is starboard or port side? You’re not the only one, don’t worry.
Here’s my guide to 9 easy ways to remember port and starboard so that you don’t get confused when booking your Alaskan cruise holiday.
What are the main departure ports for Alaska cruises?
There are four main departure ports for cruises to Alaska – Seattle in mainland US, Vancouver in Canada, and then Seward and Whittier in Alaska itself.
Cruises from Seattle and Vancouver are northbound, or may be a round-trip. Cruises from Seward and Whittier are almost always southbound.
You can see these ports on the map below…
A lot of the cruises from Seattle are shorter trips – 7-night cruises that are round-trips that don’t make it as far as Anchorage and Seward. Instead, they focus on the Alaska cruise ports nearer the Canadian border, such as Juneau, but will typically include seeing at least once glacier.
On these cruises, it doesn’t particularly matter which side of the ship you’re on because you’ll usually get a good view on both legs of the journey.
Cruises from Vancouver are more likely to be a one-way trip to Seward or to Whittier, although there are some longer itineraries that are round-trips. And then the cruises from Seward and Whittier are almost always exclusively one-way, southbound cruises to Seattle or Vancouver.
It’s important to know all this so that you can understand your itinerary easier and plan whether you want to book a specific side of the ship or not.
Which side of the ship is best for northbound Alaska cruise?
A northbound Alaska cruise would be best experienced from the starboard side of the ship. This keeps the land and glaciers of Alaska on the same side as your cabin, meaning you can enjoy the stunning scenery from the comfort of your room or balcony.
Obviously it depends on which cabin type you book as to whether it matters – I’ll cover that more below. But remember that if you end up with a port side room then it’s not the end of the world. It’s never a far walk from a lounge or an open deck that offers the same stunning views.
Which side of the ship is best for an Inside Passage Alaska cruise?
It doesn’t matter which side of the ship you’re on for a cruise through the Inside Passage. As the name suggests it’s a passage where you’re surrounded by land on the starboard side and islands on the port side – the scenery on both sides is equally stunning.
There are some key ports in the Inside Passage, including Wrangell, Petersburg and Juneau, so if you’re travelling northbound you’ll get a better view of those from the starboard side. But the towns can be enjoyed as you wander through them on the port day – so the port side will be just as good in terms of the actual scenery.
The only difference is when cruising past Glacier Bay at the northern end of the Inside Passage. Here you might want to be on the starboard side as you’ll get more of a view, though the ship will often circle the area to give everyone a great photo opportunity.
Which side of the ship is best for an Alaska cruise from Seattle?
Alaska cruises from Seattle will either be northbound one-way, or round-trip cruises. For one-way northbound cruises, you should book a starboard cabin, to make sure you get the best views of the land. For roundtrip cruises, it won’t matter as the port side gets great views on the return leg.
It’s always important to review your itinerary and trace the route that your ship will be sailing so that you know for sure which side of the ship you want to book on.
In most cases it’s pretty straightforward – the ship will travel northbound in a fairly straight line from Seattle, so you know you should be on the starboard side for the best views.
But check whether it is only going through the Inside Passage on the return leg – if that’s the case then the port side may be marginally better, although you’ll be surrounded by scenery on both sides of the ship.
What cabin type is best for an Alaska cruise?
The best cabin types for an Alaska cruise are those with a balcony since you’ll get a completely unspoiled view of the amazing scenery around you. Ocean-view cabins are good but aim for a cabin with a large window so you can properly soak in the view.
The whole discussion of which side of the ship is better for an Alaska cruise is moot if you are on a budget and plan on booking an inside cabin. Those cabins don’t have any kind of view at all so the side of the ship doesn’t make a difference.
Depending on the ship, there may be ocean view cabins you can book but check what kind of view they offer. Some of the cheapest cabins might only have a porthole which offers a terrible view. Some will have a picture window and some may have a full floor-to-ceiling window – those would be the best cabins to really soak up the scenery if you’re set on an ocean view.
But a balcony will always be the best choice – either a balcony cabin or a suite with a balcony. Your view is unspoiled, and you can look down over the railing if there are any swimming creatures along the sides of the ship, something you might struggle with from a window.
Just brace yourself for the weather though – you won’t be sitting on your balcony in a bikini like you would be in the Caribbean or Mediterranean. You’ll want to keep warmer clothes near the sliding balcony door if you want to slip out and enjoy the view, especially early in the morning or late at night.
Suites will have larger balconies, but on an Alaska cruise, this might not be important to you. A smaller balcony where you can stand and take in the glaciers and mountains may be all that you need, so weigh that up when deciding how much you want to spend.
But what about ship location? It’s not just about port and starboard side. A forward cabin – one near the front of the ship – might limit you to only accessing your balcony when the ship is in port and not moving, due to the winds. Whereas an aft cabin with a view to the rear of the ship is often the most treasured.
If you book an aft-facing balcony, you don’t need to worry about port or starboard side. You’ll get an amazing view regardless. And the same can be said of some forward-facing cabins. There are some ships which have ocean view cabins right at the front of the ship with huge windows – they’d be a good choice too.
In terms of deck, you’ll want a higher deck, provided you aren’t prone to seasickness. This will offer the longest-reaching views, and in Alaska that’s well worth it. Lower decks are still good choices, but you won’t get the same kind of view.
What are the best ports of call to see from your cabin on an Alaskan cruise?
The key ports of call for an Alaska cruise – in terms of the natural scenery – tend to be Juneau, Glacier Bay, the Hubbard Glacier, Seward and Anchorage
This is important if you’re on a round-trip cruise that travels both north and south. You might think that it doesn’t matter which side of the ship you book in that case, but it may do.
You’ll want to check which ports you’ll visit when travelling north, and which you’ll visit on the return leg. If most of the best ports are on one leg of the journey then you’ll want to book a cabin on the side of the ship that’ll give you the best view of those.
With some of these ports, it doesn’t actually matter. Ships that visit the Hubbard Glacier tend to do a 360-degree sail around, so you’ll get a view of the glacier from all angles. And with Anchorage, the port is surrounded by amazing scenery on all sides.
But for Juneau – which includes the Mendenhall Glacier – Glacier Bay and Seward, plus the sailings in between them, you’ll want to make sure you are on the right side of the ship as you cruise to them, ideally.
Suggested read: Guide to Alaska Cruise Ports
Is it worth paying extra to choose your cabin on the ‘right’ side?
Whether it’s worth paying the extra to choose your cabin on the ‘right’ side of the ship for an Alaska cruise depends entirely on you and what’s important to you.
If you’re on a tight budget, it might be better to book on the ‘wrong’ side of the ship, since you can save money and still have a lovely sea view, and the chance of seeing swimming dolphins or a whale.
And remember it’s not like you’re missing the view on the ‘right’ side of the ship – you just need to leave your cabin to enjoy it, and find a lounge or deck space on the opposite side.
But if you have the budget for a ‘right’ side room then it is pretty special – having the curtains open and waking to views of white glaciers is a magical experience.
There’s no single right answer, because it also depends on whether you’re someone who likes to spend time relaxing in their cabin, or if you’re only in there to sleep, shower and change. If most of your time is spent relaxing elsewhere on the ship then there’s no reason to pay more for a better view.
Ultimately, you just need to remember that if you want a cabin facing the Alaskan scenery, then get a starboard side one for northbound itineraries, and a port side one for southbound itineraries.
Cabins on the ‘right’ side may be more expensive though, so if you’re happy walking a short distance to a deck or lounge, then you can save by choosing one on the ‘wrong’ side.
But if you’re dead-set on getting the full Alaska experience from your balcony, just make sure you check the itinerary to know which side of the ship is right for you.
- What Is A Baked Alaska Parade?
- The Best Deck on a Cruise Ship
- 7 Cruise Ship Deck Names (And Why They’re Called That)
How useful was this post?
Click on a star to rate it!
Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0
No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.
As you found this post useful...
Can we keep in touch on social media?
I'm so sorry that this post wasn't useful for you!
Let's make it better!
Could you please tell me how I can improve it?
Northbound Alaska cruises sail up the coastline through the Inside Passage and along Hubbard Glacier, so your best view of Alaska's scenic landmasses are likely on the starboard side of the ship. Southbound Alaska cruises are the opposite.Is it better to be on the port or starboard side of a cruise ship? ›
If you'd rather see the sunrise while sailing south or east, staying on the port side is your ideal choice as well. Choose the starboard side for the opposite situation: sunsets are visible on southbound and eastbound sailings while sunrises are visible on northbound and westbound cruises.Is it better to go north or south on Alaska cruise? ›
There's no difference in northbound and southbound itineraries. The stops along the way are the same no matter which you choose, so it's really about personal preference, and which lines up best with your travel plans.What is the best deck to stay on on a cruise ship? ›
If you're after views, the best room on a cruise ship will be a balcony cabin at the ship's rear end. Aft balcony accommodations at the ship's corners are also the largest and often give more outside area than conventional balcony cabins, allowing you to enjoy both the beautiful views and the extra space.Is it worth having a balcony on an Alaskan cruise? ›
Having a balcony cabin allows you to take in the passing mountains, glaciers, picturesque towns, wildlife, and so much more right from the comfort of your room. A balcony also makes for the ultimate space to get those once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities.What is the best cabin location for an Alaska cruise? ›
If you are cruising north, it's best to select a starboard (or right side) stateroom since the land is on that side. When sailing south from Alaska to Vancouver or Seattle, choose a port (left side) stateroom. Of course, this only counts for staterooms with windows or balconies.Is it bad to be on the top deck of a cruise ship? ›
A major bonus of being near the top of the ship is the view. The higher the deck, the better and, often, more panoramic the view. Cabins on top decks aren't always the best on the ship, but many suites and specialty cabin categories are typically located on upper decks.What is the best months to cruise Alaska? ›
Traditionally, July and August have been considered the best time to cruise to Alaska, as these months offer warm sun, long days, and abundant wildlife.Will I see the northern lights on an Alaskan cruise? ›
This makes April through September the best time to cruise to Alaska to see the northern lights, especially near the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, when activity peaks. Now that you know when and where to go to see the northern lights, you can start preparing to enjoy the incredible experience.How many days is best for an Alaskan cruise? ›
The sweet spot for an Alaska vacation is seven to 10 days. If you're traveling on a land tour only, in seven days you can go all the way from Kenai Fjords National Park to Denali National Park with plenty of time for day-long guided excursions along the way.
Balcony cabins on cruise ships are more spacious due to the outside space. They have spectacular ocean views, fresh sea air, and a private seating area. Although these cabins are more expensive, the rewards of a private balcony sometimes outweigh the cost. If it fits within your budget, balcony cabins are worth it!Where are the best and worst cabins on a cruise ship? ›
Best "Low-Motion" cabins
The "best cabins for seasickness" are located at the ship's edges (top decks, bow, and stern). The worst area in the front section, as the bow is first hit by waves. Higher deck front cabins fell more the up and down motion, while for the aft cabins the motion is less noticeable.
Rear-facing balcony cabins are among the best balcony cabins on any ship. Often, their balconies are bigger than balconies on side-facing cabins and they also feel quiet. There are far fewer balcony cabins at the back of a ship than on the sides of a ship, so you don't hear a lot of noise from your neighbors.Do you dress up for dinner on an Alaskan cruise? ›
Dinner or “Smart Casual” clothes
During dinner in the ship's main restaurant, cruisers will dress according to Celebrity Cruises' dress code. Women can wear a smart dress, skirt, pants, or jeans with a casual top, and men can dress in pants or jeans with a short-sleeve sport shirt.
A typical Alaska Cruise can cost between $600 and $5,000 per person, depending on the length of your cruise, the type of cruise you choose, and your room choice. We recommend budgeting an additional $1,000 to $1,500 per person for shore excursions to get the most out of your Alaskan cruise.Do you need an umbrella on an Alaskan cruise? ›
Skip the Umbrella
Yes, rain in some parts of Alaska can be frequent. Still, it's best to leave the umbrella at home. You'll be all set with a hood on your all-weather jacket or a weatherproof hat that can pull double duty by protecting you from the rain and sun.
It's a matter of personal taste. Some people don't like open-jaw flights (flying into one city and out of another), and so prefer the round-trip Inside Passage route. Others don't mind that and enjoy the additional glacier visits of the Gulf cruise itineraries. It's entirely up to you.What is the best position on a cruise ship? ›
You want to be as close to the pivot point as possible to feel the least movement. Avoid cabins near the front (bow) or back (stern) and on decks higher than the middle deck of the ship. So, on a ship with fourteen passenger decks, your best options are below deck seven.Where do you leave out of for an Alaskan cruise? ›
There are 4 ports that most Alaska cruises depart from: Seattle, Vancouver, Seward and Whittier. Other ports such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Juneau are used less frequently.What is the safest floor on a cruise ship? ›
The best deck on a cruise ship to avoid seasickness is the lowest passenger deck. This is because the top of a ship sways from side to side much more than the bottom. To avoid motion sickness, choose a cabin close to the waterline.
If seasickness is a worry of yours, the best way to avoid that is getting a room in the center of the ship. As cruise ships tend to bob on waves and slightly roll from side to side, the heart of the ship is its only part that stays virtually in the same place.What is the average cost of a 7 day Alaska cruise? ›
A typical 7-day Alaska vacation costs around $3000 per person—a little over $400 per day.Is it cold on Alaska cruise ship? ›
Weather typically ranges from the 30s to a high of around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. May itineraries invite guests to pack sweaters and jackets for easy layering.Do you see icebergs on an Alaskan cruise? ›
You'll have the chance to observe glacial calving as sizable chunks of ice fall into the water. You'll also notice icebergs ranging from a few inches tall to three stories floating by your Princess Cruises ship.What clothes to wear on northern lights cruise? ›
A well-insulated, windproof jacket is a must, as are insulated trousers or salopettes in cold conditions. If the weather is likely to be wet, you'll need waterproofs. Some local suppliers, such as snowmobile operators, will loan one-piece thermal suits to put on over your jacket and trousers.Do the northern lights happen every night in Alaska? ›
You may be surprised to find out that Alaska is the only place in North America where the northern lights happen every day. When traveling to Alaska many wonder where to see the northern lights in Alaska. There is Anchorage and the surrounding area provides great viewing opportunities for Alaskan northern lights.Do the northern lights happen everyday in Alaska? ›
The northern lights actually occur 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but you need to be at the right place at the right time to view them – preferably in what's known as the auroral zone. This location falls within an area that covers a radius of approximately 1,550 miles around the North Pole.What is the average age for Alaska cruise? ›
While cruising attracts many different types of travelers, they share some traits. Nationwide, cruise passengers tend to be slightly older than other vacationers, with a median age of 47, and 54 for Alaska.How cold is an Alaskan cruise in June? ›
Alaska Cruise Weather: June
If you're planning an Alaska cruise in June, temperatures average a low of 45 and a high of 62. June is tied with July as the least rainy month, with Ketchikan receiving an average rainfall of less than 7.5 inches.
The wild beauty seen along the coastline on a Alaska cruise is something that travelers will remember for the rest of their lives. Rocky strips of land between the water and stands of old growth trees are common sights from the deck of a cruise ship.
There are no rules that say that passengers on cruise ships can't sleep on their balconies. That said, cruise lines do generally advise against it. Despite this many people enjoy sleeping on their balconies and you won't have any problem doing so if you want to.Is it better to stay on a lower deck on a cruise ship? ›
The most stable part of the ship is its lowest point of gravity, so on a lower deck, at the center. You'd feel a lot less motion here than, say, in a stateroom on the upper decks a long way forward or aft (towards the back of the ship).What's the difference between a veranda and a balcony on a cruise ship? ›
French Balcony cabins have floor-to-ceiling glass doors, while Verandah cabins have larger outdoor spaces with chairs and tables where guests can relax in the fresh air and enjoy their own private view of the river.What is the noisiest part of a cruise ship? ›
Cruise cabins near the elevator or stair access points are some of the noisiest staterooms at sea and their location will lead to a lot of noise during most parts of the night and therefore, should be avoided.Where not to sleep on a cruise? ›
- Interior Cabins That Are Cramped and Often Windowless. ...
- Cruise Ship Cabins With Obstructed Views. ...
- Noisy Cabins. ...
- Cabins With No Privacy.
1. Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Regent Suite. The Regent Suite onboard Seven Seas Explorer, Seven Seas Splendor and Seven Seas Grandeir was designed to be the most luxurious at sea. At 4,443 square feet, its footprint is larger than that of the average American home.Can people see you on cruise balcony? ›
People will see you
Balconies are not always as private as you might think. Some cruise ships have balconies that are overlooked, either by other balconies or by the public deck above. Meanwhile, others might have dividers to the left and right that aren't entirely opaque.
- Norwegian's Prima class: 230 sq. ...
- Disney's Magic class: 215 sq. ...
- Holland America's Vista class: 212 sq. ...
- Royal Caribbean's coming Icon class: 205 sq. ...
- Disney's Triton class: 205 sq. ...
- Disney's Dream class: 205 sq. ...
- Carnival's Excel class: 205 sq.
The forward is subject to the most movement out of anywhere on a ship. And the higher the deck, the more pronounced that rolling and swaying motion tends to feel. Movement at the aft is a bit less drastic than the forward, but still isn't the most stable place for those who are prone to seasickness.What kind of jacket do you wear on a cruise to Alaska? ›
A light puffer jacket would travel well for an Alaskan cruise as well. If you don't pack a rain jacket and find that the Alaskan weather is too cold for you to handle, every port will be selling fleece-lined, waterproof jackets that are embroidered with 'Alaska'.
You'll need a sturdy pair of hiking boots or shoes to tread upon Alaska's mountainous terrain, which can be muddy or even snowy during cruise season. Member sue450 recommends bringing "a pair of waterproof hiking shoes (they look like tennis shoes but the Gore-Tex makes them absolutely waterproof).Is there a formal night on Alaska cruise? ›
Formal wear: Anticipate two formal nights per week. Ladies wear a cocktail dress or gown and gentlemen don a suit and tie or tuxedo. Smart-casual wear for dinner: Slacks and collared shirts or sweaters for men. Skirt or trousers, sweater or blouse for women.How much money should you take on a 7 day cruise? ›
As a general rule, plan to have $50 to $100 each day in the local currency. Also, you may want to bring an extra $20 a day for tipping crew members. Make sure to include smaller bills for tips. Fifty to a hundred dollars a day should be enough to cover small purchases, tips and snacks at each port.Is it good to carry cash on a cruise? ›
In addition to security, it's also helpful to have cash as some places — such as smaller souvenir shops or taxi cabs — don't accept credit cards. Credit card usage simply isn't as widespread as it is in the United States.Is food free on Alaska cruise? ›
The main dining room and cruise ship buffet will always be included in your cruise fare, though a few specialty items might cost extra. Most upscale or sit-down specialty restaurants incur an extra fee, either a flat cover charge or a la carte pricing per item.Do I really need a balcony on an Alaskan cruise? ›
“If ever there was a cruise itinerary built for a balcony, it's an Alaskan cruise. The landscapes are incredible and there's a high probability you'll see whales. We recommend you find a room with a balcony and avoid the inside staterooms.Will my cell phone work on a cruise ship in Alaska? ›
Alaskan cruises stop in ports like Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. Since these are U.S. ports, your cell phone will work just as it would anywhere else in the United States — and have the same charges for data, texts, and calls.What is the best room on a cruise ship for motion sickness? ›
To reduce motion sickness, choose a stateroom in the middle of the ship on a lower deck. You will feel any sway of the ship less in this section. Although it may seem counterintuitive, if you're worried about seasickness on a cruise, book a stateroom with a window or a veranda.Should I cruise to the port or starboard of the Panama Canal? ›
If you're heading from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean, opt for the port side of the ship (the left side). If you're transiting from Pacific to Atlantic, obviously you'll want to starboard (right) side. This way, you get to see Panama City as you pass by.Why do sailors use port and starboard instead of left and right? ›
Since port and starboard never change, they are unambiguous references that are independent of a mariner's orientation, and, thus, mariners use these nautical terms instead of left and right to avoid confusion.
Port or starboard staterooms
If you're going down a scenic coastline in one direction, know which side of the ship will face it. That way, you'll know whether to choose a port room, which is on the left side of the ship, or a starboard room, which is on the right side of the ship, to get the best views.
Suites: If you're looking for luxury on your cruise, suites offer the most space and best room locations, often with separate living and sleeping areas. They generally feature large balconies, and extra amenities and perks. In other words, a suite can be considered the best cabin on any cruise ship.Where is the quietest room on a cruise ship? ›
Light sleepers, take note: The best place to be if you want the best chance of not being bothered by noise is a cabin that is surrounded by other cabins. This means a cabin that has a cabin directly above it and a cabin directly below it, as well cabins on both sides.Is it better to do prepaid gratuities on a cruise? ›
Benefits of Prepaying Gratuities
The biggest advantage is simply getting the charge out of the way. By paying the charge at the same time you pay your cruise, it's one less cost that will hit your onboard account while you are cruising. Another advantage is that cruise lines regularly raise gratuity amounts.
- Choose food and drinks carefully. Eat only foods that are cooked and served hot. Avoid food that has been sitting on a buffet. ...
- Wash your hands. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and before eating.
To recap: Most beach-seeking expats gravitate toward Panama's Pacific Coast for convenience. But Panama's Caribbean Coast boasts the best beaches. And if you're an intrepid sort, it may be well worth your time to check it out.Why take a cruise to the Panama Canal? ›
The creation of the Panama Canal is fascinating, and a cruise to this area allows you to truly immerse yourself in the history surrounding this massive undertaking. Learn about the canal's numerous “locks” and how they lower and raise ships, allowing them to sail from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean or vice versa.Do cruise ships use the Old Panama Canal? ›
While some cruise ships sail through the entire Panama Canal, others only go halfway. Full-transit cruises sail from the Caribbean to the Pacific (or vice versa), traversing the entire length of the Panama Canal with you onboard.Do ships always dock on the port side? ›
Cruise ships will have docking facilities on both port and starboard sides, and often it's up to the captain as to which way to dock based on their direction of approach and sailing direction once they set sail, among the layout and regulations mentioned above.Why is port on the left? ›
The left side is called 'port' because ships with steerboards or star boards would dock at ports on the opposite side of the steerboard or star. As the right side was the steerboard side or star board side, the left side was the port side.