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How To Choose A Cabin For An Alaska Cruise

A forward cabin for an Alaska cruise gives first views of where you are sailing

Alaska is the ultimate cruise destination, with jaw-dropping vistas and untouched landscapes. One of the best ways to see Alaska and its tidewater glaciers is by cruise ship. After choosing an Alaska itinerary, and picking a cruise line, then comes the decision of deciding on a stateroom. 

Do cabin type and placement make a difference? Choosing a cabin for an Alaska cruise is more challenging than other cruise destinations.

Living in Vancouver, Canada, allows me to sail to Alaska without flying anywhere. I can literally drive to the cruise terminal and be there within the hour. Having sailed to Alaska five times, I’ve become a master packer, know which excursions to book, and have a better knowledge of booking the right stateroom.

I have stayed in an inside, outside, and balcony cabin for different reasons in my five sailings.

Balcony Vs Non-Balcony?

Some Alaskan-bound adventurers believe not having a balcony stateroom is a mistake. Although, others might view it as silly because the weather isn’t warm like the Caribbean. 

An aft of a cruise ship and Glacier Bay National Park

During a cruise, passengers use their balcony to read a book, enjoy the sun without the crowds, have coffee in the morning, or wine at night.

While the Alaska weather is much different from the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, there are still considerable benefits to having a balcony off your stateroom.

Unlike other cruising areas in the world, much of the majestic Alaska scenery is viewable right from your cruise ship. Cruise ships travel within sight of land most of the journey, so having a balcony means avoiding the crowds on deck, especially when you’re next to a glacier.

Balconies are sheltered, you stay dry should it rain. Balconies allow for wildlife spotting within arms reach of my stateroom and not have to carry around a camera bag to capture those moments.

With a balcony, you can set up your camera with a tripod and be ready for those killer shots when they represented themselves.

A balcony cabin for an Alaska cruise offers great views
A balcony cabin for an Alaska cruise offers great views

When cruising by a glacier, there is no need to worry about which side of the ship is best. In Glacier Bay National Park and Hubbard Glacier, the captain will turn the ship to give equal viewing to both sides.

If you plan to spend some time looking for wildlife, balcony staterooms are ideal for an Alaska cruise. Even though I’ve had balcony staterooms in various destinations, I find I use it more in Alaska than the Caribbean or Mexico.

Interior Cabins For An Alaska Cruise?

If you’re cruising to Alaska on a strict budget or like complete darkness to sleep, interior cabins are best. I was on a tight budget on my first cruise to Alaska. While I could afford the balcony stateroom, I chose to take an inside instead.

I used the money I saved to splurge on an expensive dog sledding tour on Herbert Glacier. Looking back, was it the right decision? Absolutely, because the dog sledding excursion was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will cherish forever.

If you’re traveling alone and on a tight budget, deciding on a cruise line for Alaska is a tough decision. I suggest you look for cruise ships with single cabins.

Choosing a single cabin prevents you from paying the pesky single supplement price. Although, inside cabins are popular with solo cruisers due to the single supplement being lower priced than a costlier outside or balcony stateroom.

The Alaska season is short; from May to September and during the summer solstice, the sun sets very late and rises ridiculously early.

In fact, some areas experience 20-plus hours of daylight. If you’re sensitive to sunlight, a balcony or outside stateroom might not be suitable.

Should you choose an inside cabin, it’s important to note; that these are usually the smallest on the ship. In fact, some cabins don’t have room for a couch, maybe just a tiny desk and chair instead. 

Organization and storage are key. Make sure you pack an over-the-door organizer to store small items, strong magnetic hooks to hang things on the walls and utilize packing cubes

Outside Cabin For An Alaska Cruise?

An outside cabin is an excellent choice if you dislike the complete darkness of an inside but don’t want to pay for a balcony.

Outside cabins are generally larger than inside staterooms which helps with storage. While your window cannot be opened for fresh air, you will have the benefit of having natural daylight.

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship, glacial ice, and a cruise ship solo cabin

Is there a big difference between an outside and an inside cabin? Not really; only the price! If you sail in an interior cabin and prefer to see daylight, leave your television on and set it to the outside cam. That way, you can see if the sun is up in the morning.

Starboard Or Port Side?

Some Alaska cruises sail round-trip from Vancouver and Seattle while others cruise one way. If you selected a round-trip Alaskan cruise, it doesn’t matter which side of the ship your cabin is. However, if you are sailing a one-way Alaska cruise, which side of the ship is best? 

How do you pick a cabin for an Alaskan cruise? You want to look at which way you are sailing. 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. If you book late and don’t receive the cabin of your choice, do not worry. Part of your journey sails the inside passage, and there is plenty to see on both sides.

Pool Deck Or Higher

I once sailed back to back to Alaska and took a guaranteed stateroom. The cabin given to me was at the front of the cruise ship on the pool deck. While this was great when the sun was shining, it was not a good location during lousy weather.

When leaving my cabin, I had to exit the inside hallway and walk across the open deck to get to the buffet. During bad weather, I’d get soaking wet. Alternatively, I’d have to walk downstairs, through the hallway, and back up again.

Having a door to the outside, also made the short hallway cold, due to the number of times the door was opened. This was a good lesson for me that a higher cabin isn’t always the best cabin for an Alaska cruise, even though they come at a higher price.

Forward Vs Aft Stateroom

A wrap-around balcony with an aft stateroom
A wrap-around balcony with an aft stateroom

There are a large number of long-time cruisers who love the aft cruise ship staterooms. Why? Because the aft cruise ship cabins have the largest balconies, some that wrap around the side of the ship. There is something to be said for the calming feeling of watching the wake from the back of a cruise ship.

However, if you’re sensitive to motion or vibrations, consider choosing something mid-ship instead. It should also be noted that sometimes, passengers can sometimes smell the exhaust from the ship’s funnels on their aft balconies.

While this is not true of all cruise ships, some ships have a sloping aft. As a result, people on the higher decks can see down into the lower deck balconies. If privacy is of concern to you, you might want to reconsider an aft stateroom.

Some aft cabins offer no privacy as passengers can see onto your balcony
Some aft cabins offer no privacy as passengers can see onto your balcony

A forward cabin for an Alaska cruise gives the first views of where you are sailing. This is especially nice when leaving or arriving at a port. While both the forward and aft cabins can feel a higher degree of motion in rough seas, the forward provides a little less movement.

Cruise Ship Suites

For the elite or passengers with non-existing budgets, there are the mini-suites and of course, the suites. Some of the best cruise ship suites are comparable to condominiums with their own hot tubs.

One word of caution; if you’re sensitive to noise, the cruise ship cabins to avoid are the ones next to the elevators, over or under a nightclub, or anywhere that is noisy.

In the end, each person has different criteria when choosing a cabin for an Alaska cruise. Sometimes, it simply comes down to budget, and whatever cruise ship stateroom you choose, it will be a memorable Alaskan adventure.

Happy sailing ~ Karen


Wednesday 1st of March 2023

Karen we are planning on booking Holland America to Alaska on your recommendation for our first ever cruise. While booking a room would you recommend the top deck 10 for the best views and some peace and quiet or lower? and would you select May or mid June 2023 ? and what side of the ship should we pick if we are round trip Any other tips is appreciated

Forever Karen

Wednesday 1st of March 2023

If you could to prone to motion sickness, choose a cabin mid-ship and lower down. Make sure there are staterooms above and below for peace and quiet. The side of the ship doesn't matter when sailing roundtrip. May to mid-June is a great time to sail. May will be cheaper and see fewer crowds in port, but it will be cooler.


Sunday 5th of February 2023

Sailing in Alaska late April - May in 2023. I'm hoping to see the Northern Lights. I know the better chance is during the winter, but can't sail there that time of year. I was there on a cruise way back in 1991 in August. Rainy and dreary every day. Fingers crossed for drier weather in the spring. Great article. Thank you!

Forever Karen

Monday 6th of February 2023

There's always a chance to see the northern light no matter when you sail. But, it's a matter of luck. In six sailings, I haven't seen them yet.

sangeeta Aggarwal

Friday 27th of January 2023

we are trying to choose between Seaborn and Regent seven seas. Which one would be better. It is our fisrt time to Alaska and We'll do land portion by ourselves. we are 4 adults

Forever Karen

Friday 27th of January 2023

Sangeeta, When looking for an Alaska cruise, I tend to look at the itineraries, not the cruise line. Since you mentioned you plan to do the land portion yourself, Seabourn 7-day cruises end in Juneau, and Juneau is landlocked (you can only get in and out by boat and plane). Regent ends or starts in Seward (Anchorage), so you'll have access to Denali National Park.

Janis Baucom

Tuesday 17th of January 2023

Our first cruise is this May and our room is right across from the laundry room. Iā€™m very light sleeper, should we consider another room?

Forever Karen

Sunday 22nd of January 2023

Janis, being across the hallway from the laundry room should be fine because you're not sharing a wall. Most people are considerate and will do laundry during the daytime, usually on sea days.


Thursday 29th of December 2022

Hi Karen, we are planning a first-time cruise to Alaska. This will be our 7th cruise and are considering NCL in October 2023. I'm concerned about Glacier Bay - will the cruise ship go into the bay in October? Thanks for info!

Forever Karen

Friday 30th of December 2022

Kim, Glacier Bay is wide, so it's unlikely a cruise ship wouldn't enter. However, weather and ice will determine how close you get to a glacier.