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Now Is the Best Time to Score a Cheap Alaska Cruise for 2021

alaska cruise ship iceberg
McKayla Crump

We’re officially into winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. Most of the U.S. has seen its first snowfall — even a blizzard or three — so it’s unlikely many of us are daydreaming of an immediate Alaskan getaway. Right now, however, is the best time of year to start planning an Alaskan trip.

Every December through March, Alaskan cruise lines offer some of their best deals of the year. It’s called “wave season,” and it’s like an ultra-extended holiday sale that lasts into early spring. Most cruises and travel agents (yes, they still exist) depend heavily on early bookings. Right now, they’re offering substantial discounts and incentives to start filling up their summer routes. Interior cabins can be found for as little as $100 per person per day. Plus, most lines offer better upgrades, onboard credits, free Wi-Fi, and more. It’s the best time of year for customers to actively bargain. Travelers working with an agent should feel free to push hard for complimentary upgrades like spa treatments, free excursions, or drink and dine packages.

The vast majority of Alaska cruise passengers travel during July and August when the weather is mildest. For budget-seekers with flexibility, cruising during shoulder season (in May or September) is often cheaper. The downside is that the weather is less predictable then, and it’s almost guaranteed to be colder. Average temperatures in either month rarely rise above 50 degrees. The upside is that May is historically the driest month of the year in Alaska, and September is ideal for catching the fall foliage.

Nearly a dozen new ships and 30 ports of call will be added to the state’s cruise “roster” in 2020. That means more places to visit, more ways to get there, and — the best part — more competition among cruise lines for your travel dollars. Princess Cruises, for example, is offering a 14-day, roundtrip Inside Passage tour from Los Angeles to Glacier Bay, starting at $1,279 per person for interior rooms. Likewise, Norwegian is offering a seven-day northbound trip from Vancouver to Glacier Bay starting at $649. Even after taxes, fees, and port expenses, either deal totals around $100 daily per person.

It goes without saying that climate change is real, and so is its effects on the world’s most extreme destinations. While we’re not into fear-inspired “disaster travel,” the clock is undoubtedly ticking on the 49th state. Future generations may look at today’s Alaska — rich in wildlife and pristine natural landscapes — in history books, wondering where it all went wrong. So, if visiting the state has long been on your bucket list, now is the time to start planning. (Just don’t read too much into the Alaska Triangle. Chances are, you’ll be fine.)

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