Skip to Content

Alaska Hawaii Cruises: An Epic Guide To A Dream Vacation

Alaska Hawaii cruises might seem like an odd combination of destinations, but they sail to two popular areas on most people’s bucket lists. It’s like a Ying and Yang, sweet and sour, or in this case, cold and hot.

These cruises offer an excellent opportunity to savor the pristine landscapes of Alaska and the tropical paradise of Hawaii all in one trip. 

An Alaska Hawaii cruise delivers in all departments for adventure seekers, wildlife enthusiasts, nature lovers, or those seeking to relax and unwind.

Holland America Westerdam in Ketchikan

For some, it’s the perfect Alaska cruise itinerary, with the added bonus of beach time and warm weather at either the beginning or end of the journey.

One of the biggest draws of cruising to both destinations is the chance to see gorgeous scenery unique to each region. From the jaw-dropping tidewater glaciers in Alaska to the beautiful waterfalls of the Big Island, guests will enjoy contrasting ecosystems.

Overview Of Alaska Hawaii Cruises

These cruises, which cover two distinct parts of the United States, are prime destinations in North America. Alaska offers the opportunity to see bears, moose, humpback whales, and other wildlife in their natural habitat.

Alaskan coastal cities are quaint, filled with a rich history of the Yukon gold rush, and blend the American, Russian, and Tlingit cultures.

During the warmer segment of the journey, passengers can visit an active volcano, snorkel in coral reefs, and soak up Polynesian culture.

While these cruises offer contrasting landscapes and may be the draw for most guests, the regions’ cultures are just as important. 

Castle Hill cannon
Castle Hill cannon in Sitka

Attend a Tribal Cultural Dance in Icy Strait Point, watch a totem pole carving in Ketchikan, or visit Castle Hill in Sitka to see where the American flag was raised for the first time after the US purchased Alaska from Russia.

In Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center showcases the influence of Polynesia. A visit to the Iolani Palace allows guests to learn about the downfall of the last royal family, and attending a traditional luau will enable them to learn a hula dance.

No matter what your interests are, cruising to Alaska and Hawaii provides an unforgettable way to enjoy two fascinating global places.

Popularity And Appeal

Cruise lines didn’t always offer this diverse itinerary. In the past, guests could only see Hawaii and Alaska by doing back-to-back cruises at the start or end of the Alaska season.

The problem was that these shoulder-season Alaska cruises experienced cold weather. Imagine going from 85F to 40F or vice versa in the span of a week. If you’re not a fan of extreme weather changes, a Hawaii Alaska cruise may not be suitable.

A cruise ship in Ketchikan
A cruise ship in Ketchikan

Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Lines offer Alaska Hawaii cruises between June and October, but their schedules vary each year.

Cruise Length

The length of these itineraries can vary depending on the cruise line and stops. Depending on your flexibility and vacation time, pick from 15 to 51 days.

You can also extend the cruise by traveling from Hawaii to Australia or vice versa. These longer cruises are favored by retired folks, who enjoy the time at sea as much as the port days.

It’s important to note that crossing the Pacific Ocean takes five sea days, which may factor into your decision to go. I have crossed four times and found the sea days a great time to relax before and after hectic port days.

On my four transpacific crossings, I experienced calm seas and had no fear of sea sickness. While ocean crossings can be rough, the Pacific often has calmer seas than the Atlantic.

A typical 15- or 16-day itinerary will split eight to nine port days across the different states. Expect 12 port days on the longer 20-day cruise. In Alaska, some cruise to Hubbard Glacier or Glacier Bay, while not all itineraries include a glacier sighting.

Norwegian Sun in Seattle, Washington
Norwegian Sun in Seattle, Washington

The majority of these Hawaii Alaska cruises either start or end in Vancouver, British Columbia. Due to the Jones Act, vessels registered outside the United States can’t begin and end their journeys without visiting a foreign port.

One exception is Holland America Westerdam’s August 31, 2025 itinerary. This 28-day roundtrip cruise from Seattle, Washington, spends a day in Vancouver.

Planning Your Cruise

When planning an itinerary to Hawaii and Alaska, several factors must be considered, most importantly, what to pack.

Choosing The Right Cruise Line

Choosing the right cruise line and ship is crucial to ensure an enjoyable experience. Some offer more luxurious accommodations, while others cater to families with children. 

For Alaska, most passengers prefer a small to mid-sized vessel, which can maneuver in fjords and tight waterways much easier. 

However, a larger ship offers more amenities to keep the boredom away on the Pacific Ocean crossing. These vessels can include multiple dining options, entertainment venues, bumper cars, and even water parks. Finding the happy balance between the two can be challenging.

Crossing the Pacific Ocean on a cruise ship
Crossing the Pacific Ocean on a cruise ship

The Norwegian Sun and Holland America Westerdam offer extended sailings to two states. These older vessels, 2001 and 2004 respectively, have a passenger capacity of around 2000. 

The Norwegian Sun, known for its vibrant atmosphere and diverse dining options, and the Holland America Westerdam, renowned for its elegant decor and refined service, provide unique experiences.

If a larger vessel is preferred, booking a back-to-back itinerary at the start and end of the Alaska season is possible. The Celebrity Solstice and Edge, Royal Caribbean Brilliance and Ovation of the Seas, and Disney Wonder offer these itineraries.

Celebrity Solstice in Vancouver, BC
Celebrity Solstice in Vancouver, BC

Some cruise lines classify a back-to-back as one cruise, not two. Ask about this scenario when booking since a single cruise may not comply with the Jones Act. 

I’ve met some guests who were asked to disembark in Victoria, BC, after their Alaska cruise. They had to make their way to Vancouver to reboard the ship the next day. 

Determining The Length Of Your Cruise

Budget and how much vacation time will determine the length of cruise possible. If a longer itinerary is preferred but out of budget, consider cost-cutting by booking a lower-category stateroom and exploring ports independently.

Longer cruises offer more port days, which is preferred by the majority of cruise guests. Remember to factor in higher gratuities, drink packages, and Wi-Fi expenses.

Packing For Both Hot And Cold Weather

Packing for a cruise to Alaska and Hawaii can be tricky since Alaska’s climate is unpredictable, and Hawaii always has hot, sunny weather.

Visiting Juneau in July
Visiting Juneau in July

For the Alaska segment, pack easily removable layers to adjust to the changing daily temperatures. A moisture-wicking base layer is a good starting point. Then, layer with sweaters, fleece jackets, and a waterproof and windproof jacket. 

Remember a hat, gloves, and a scarf for added warmth. For shore excursions, comfortable footwear, ideally waterproof, should suffice. For avid hikers, hiking boots with ankle support and collapsible hiking poles are essential.

Alaska is known for its stunning landscapes and wildlife, so having a good DSLR camera with a zoom is preferred. I take both a smartphone and a Nikon camera. My Nikon is my go-to camera for whale watching and wildlife photos where I need a zoom.

I recommend a pair of binoculars with at least 8x magnification and a wide field of view. They provide better opportunities to see whales, bears, and other wildlife.

When packing for the Hawaii segment, select fast-drying clothing items and natural fibers for breathability. 

One of the main draws of visiting Hawaii is its beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters. With opportunities to go snorkeling, boating, kayaking, and beach-going, pack appropriate swim and beach gear. This may include swimsuits, cover-ups, flip-flops, and a dry bag.

It is essential to pack reef-safe sunscreen, as the Hawaiian sun can be intense. Sun protection should also include sunglasses, a hat, aloe vera, and a Rashguard UPF 50 shirt. 

We love our short and long-sleeved Rashguards. They block the sun’s rays while being lightweight, breathable, and dry quickly.

Brian wearing a Rashguard shirt in Hawaii
Brian wearing a Rashguard shirt in Hawaii

While Hawaii tends to be quite casual, include attire for the evening such as sundresses, khaki pants, and collared shirts. Bringing a light jacket or sweater for cooler evenings is also a good idea.

Packing for both Alaska and Hawaii may require a varied list of clothing, but doing laundry during the trip can save on luggage space. Cruise ships have laundry options, whether self-serve or laundry, for a fee. By washing during the cruise, you can pack half as much.

Embarkation And Debarkation

Most of these repositioning cruises start and end in Honolulu, Seattle, and Vancouver. Depending on the traveler’s passport, they may need an Eta or Esta to visit Canada or the United States. 

If staying before or after the cruise, each port has its highlights and places to see. In Honolulu, don’t miss the humbling visit to Pearl Harbor. 

Located near the cruise port, visitors can pay their respects at the Arizona Memorial, explore the Bowfin submarine, and explore the Missouri battleship.

Seattle, Washington, has its highlights, which include the Pike Street Market, Chihuly Garden & Glass, and the iconic Seattle Space Needle.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge, Granville Island, and Grouse Mountain are the top attractions in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Key Ports of Call

Kahului Harbor on Maui, Kona and Hilo on the Big Island, and Nawiliwili on Kauai may be the ports of call in the Hawaiian Islands. Each destination offers its own attractions and distinct charms.

Waimea Canyon, Kauai
Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Kauai, often called the “Garden Isle,” boasts stunning landscapes featured in the Jurassic Park movies. Waimea Canyon, often called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, is a must-see. Its lush landscape of rust and green is a mini version of the monotone formation in Arizona.

While the Big Island has two ports, they contrast in weather and scenery. Kona, the hot, dry side, offers snorkeling and water activities.

Hilo, one of the wettest areas in the United States, is known for its lush scenery and stunning waterfalls. Arriving here allows for waterfall chasing and exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Alaska ports of call are about the outdoors, wildlife, and adventurous activities. Ketchikan, Alaska’s “First City,” is renowned for its rich Native American culture and has the largest collection of totem poles globally.

Since it is near the Canadian border in southeast Alaska, most ships visit it first. Like Hilo, it’s a very wet city, averaging over 230 days of precipitation annually.

Juneau, the capital offers a diverse range of activities from visiting Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching tours, to dog sledding on ice or dirt and the opportunity to pan for your own gold.

Mendenhall Glacier and Lake
Mendenhall Lake and Glacier

Skagway emerged from the Yukon Gold Rush. Its activities are centered around its history, and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway is the town’s top attraction.

Outdoor enthusiasts might prefer Sitka, which is on Baranof Island. It has a rich history as Alaska’s first capital, and much of it is still visible today. The top activities here are kayaking, hiking, the Alaska Raptor Center, and a wildlife quest to see otters.

Icy Strait Point, Alaska’s newest port, has plenty of green space and no real town. The main draws are whale watching, bear watching, and its adventurous zip line.

Alaska Hawaii Cruises: Are They Right For You?

Cruises to both Hawaii and Alaska cover more days than the standard 7-day itinerary. While they cost more money, the price per day usually equates to a bargain since repositioning cruises requires multiple flights.

While packing for contrasting weather can be challenging, you can start with the cold and enjoy the heat at the end of the trip. Who says opposites don’t attract?

Glacier Bay and Kaulua Ranch, two places to enjoy on Alaska Hawaii cruises