Is it better to cruise Alaska aboard a big ship or a small ship?

There's a lot to like about both big ships and small ships. The experience is also distinct enough that many travelers find it easy to decide between the two. Use the info below to help you choose your best Alaska cruise. Note that while these details generally apply, each cruise line and ship is unique.

Big Ship Alaska Cruises

Big ships are a good pick if you like a bustling onboard atmosphere, resort living, and want to see more of Alaska's port towns.

  • Size: Up to 1,000 feet long with 10 to 20 decks. Larger ships can have a very wide range of passengers, anywhere from 1,600 to more than 4,000.
  • Route: One-way glacier routes between Vancouver and either Seward or Whittier. Large ships also sail roundtrip Inside Passage itineraries out of Vancouver or Seattle.
  • Onboard Experience: Floating resorts with a plentiful assortment of amenities and entertainment. There are Broadway-style performances to see, spas to visit, and several restaurants to indulge in. It can be busy on board, especially at meals and before disembarking at ports of call.
  • Activities: Big ships make three to four port calls during a seven-day trip. On these days, you can explore the local area on your own, or take a variety of shore excursions depending on your interests and physical abilities.

Small Ship Alaska Cruises

Small ships are a good pick if you like outdoor activities, educational travel, and want to explore more remote Alaskan coastline.

  • Size: Up to 100 feet long with one to three decks. There are typically fewer than 100 passengers.
  • Route: Many small ship cruises begin and end in Southeast Alaska, often in Ketchikan or Juneau. Small ships typically explore the protected waters of the Inside Passage, although some routes may travel into the open water of the Gulf of Alaska.
  • Onboard Experience: Quieter and more intimate, like staying at a bed and breakfast, instead of a big hotel. Meals are served in a single dining room, and onboard entertainment often comes in the form of presentations about the local area from subject matter experts.
  • Activities: More outdoor excursions like kayaking and hiking, with less frequent ports of call. Smaller ships are also well suited for wildlife viewing.

To learn more about what individual large ships have to offer, start with our Cruise Lines page. You can also use our Alaska Cruise Finder to easily see available ships and their associated itineraries for specific dates, trip length, and route.