This cruise to Alaska with Windstar Cruises was my third cruise to Alaska, my 29th cruise all over the world and my third time on this ship, the Star Breeze! While each cruise I have taken to Alaska has served a different purpose, this was my favorite, by far.
I promise to share everything below about my trip so that if you are looking to take a Windstar Cruise to Alaska, you will be readily prepared. Keep reading!
This itinerary I chose was 12 days and started in Vancouver, B.C. and ended in Seward, AK. This was a one way itinerary. Both of the other cruises I have taken in Alaska were round-trip out of Seattle, which meant less ports because it needed to get to Alaska and back to Seattle.
I honestly was not sure how easy (or hard) it would be to start in another country and end elsewhere, but honestly, it was perfect.
Planning for a cruise to Alaska
One of the things I love MOST about cruising with Windstar Cruises is that their rooms are big and beautiful, room service is included 24/7, the excursions are the best, and since the ships are more like big yachts, so they hold less than 350 guests and can get into a lot of places bigger cruise lines cannot. AKA all the best spots.
The last two cruises I took to Alaska were on big cruise ships through the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay – and while I did love those cruises, this smaller, more intimate cruise just fit the bill for me.
Plus – I got to experience so much more of Alaska because the cruise was longer and I was able to get into places bigger cruise lines cannot.
One of the very first things to consider before cruising to Alaska is time of year. Cruises typically run May – September for Alaska. From my personal experience, May was far too cold, rainy, snowy, and foggy. There were days I could not see anything. I would not cruise to Alaska in May again, most likely.
I have cruised in July in 2019 and now in June and the weather has been mostly spectacular. Most days of adventure have been extremely warm, sunny and bright and required no jacket. In my humble opinion, this is the best way to experience Alaska on a cruise.
When the conditions are nice like this (and it is never a guarantee), the waters are sparkling blue, the sky is clear and everything just feels so refreshing. The experience is completely different from fighting cold or rain/fog elements.
The second thing to consider is itinerary. There is a wide variety of itineraries for Alaska and I will tell you why I picked this one: the stops and it being one-way. Knowing the cruise was one-way, I knew I would get to see so many more places I had never been to and would not be stuck with a bunch of sea days trying to get to and from the originating port. Not that this is a bad thing – but this is why I chose this specific itinerary.
Yes, it can be easier going in and out of Seattle. However, I had no issues going through Vancouver OR Anchorage.
I will say this, because I started in Vancouver, I ended up staying in the city for a couple days because I had never been and there was a few things I wanted to do. You do not have to do this, but if you do – I stayed at the Fairmont Pacific Rim (right across the street from the cruise terminal) and my two favorite activities were the seaplane (right across the street) and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
When the boat docked in Seward, AK at the end of the trip, it was a 2.5 hour drive to Anchorage. Because I could not find a flight I wanted that day, I ended up staying the night in Anchorage. Well, part of the night. My flight left at 2:55AM.
My Alaska Itinerary with Windstar Cruises
Here is my exact itinerary:
Day 1: Embark Vancouver
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: Ketchikan – in port
Day 4: Misty Fjords
Day 5: Wrangell – in port
Day 6: Sitka – in port
Day 7: Tracy Arm
Day 8: Haines – in port
Day 9: Juneau – in port
Day 10: At Sea
Day 11: Kenai Fjords:
Day 12: Seward depart – Anchorage
From the 12 days, 5 of the days were in actual ports where the boat docked and you could book excursions or do whatever you wanted on your own.
3 days were spent in Fjords and two types of excursions were offered off of the boat: zodiac tours and kayaking.
2 days were sea days and then you had the start and end days.
I have been very vocal on Instagram the last couple years in professing my love for Tracy Arm, and surprise, it’s still just as beautiful, if not more so, than when I came in 2019! Don’t let these three days in the Fjords fool you – they were some of the best experiences out here in Alaska.
What to do in each port in Alaska
I have been to this city twice before and there are a lot of things to do in Ketchikan.
Our ship docked in the port, so there was easy on and off access to the city. Right across the street and down a couple blocks is the famous “Creek Street.” If you do nothing else in this port, make sure to walk over and see it. It used to be a brothel back in the day and now is lined with shops.
The tour I booked for this port was a Wilderness Exploration and Crab Feast. It was an easy/moderate tour and lasted about four hours. We drove for about 30 minutes to the George Inlet Lodge where everything would start. We took a boat out for a 7 miles cruise through the Tongass National Forest and George Inlet.
During our boat exploration we saw a ton of eagles, the beautiful landscapes, crabs, and much more. The boat was heated and offered inside and outside viewing.
Back at the lodge, we had an unlimited crab feast! All you can eat Dungeness crab (which is insanely delicious and fresh), a salad and this incredible blueberry cheesecake. The lodge area is really beautiful and they have a gift shop if you want anything. This tour was $259 per person.
When my tour was over, I spent time in Ketchikan walking around. I love buying souvenirs in Alaska and on this trip, I got a new Ulu Knife! These knives are so sharp, but I love them. I also went down to Creek Street again because I love seeing everything built up on wood.
Some of the other excursions Windstar offered in Ketchikan:
- Lumberjack Show (this is very popular)
- City walk
- Canopy ZipLine Expedition
One of the best parts about cruising on a smaller ship with Windstar is being able to anchor in these smaller spaces. There was not a town here, but we anchored in the Fjords and it was stunning!
Only two excursions are offered during anchor:
- Kayaking Expedition $219 per person
- Zodiac Expedition $229 per person
Either tour is great, it just depends on what you want to do. With kayaking, you are doing all the work and with the zodiac boats, you are in groups of six or less and you get to just be a passenger on an open air boat.
This was a new port for me that I had never been to and I was excited to get out and explore. We docked here, so getting on and off the boat was easy.
I booked the Stikine River and Glacier by Jet Boat Tour and it was insane!! First, the jet boat was going against the rushing stream up the river and it was really fun. Second, when you start getting around glacier ice, the boat whips and turns fast and its a big thrill. If you are not into that, I would not recommend it – but it was pretty calm most of the trip.
On our way up to the glacier, we stopped in a little cove area known as Andrew’s Creek (fresh water) and the water was crystal clear. You could see the sand ridges deep below us – that clear! You could also see where the water was not mixing with the river. Absolutely beautiful.
Once we got closer to the glacier, I noticed there were some homes randomly placed in the water with only a boat to get to them. Pretty remote living for the right person.
Unfortunately the glacier was still about 10 miles ahead before sheets of ice completely stopped us, but I did love this tour so much. Seeing the glacier would have been a bonus, but I saw many others on this trip and it didn’t take away from how fun this tour was.
This tour was $399 per person and it was a 4 hour tour.
Some of the other excursions Windstar offered in Wrangell included:
- Boating tours
- City Highlights
- Island Heritage
This was my second visit to Sitka, and on my first visit I felt like I did so much that I already knew where I wanted to return. When I went the first time a couple years ago, I saw whales, sea otters, eagles, bears, etc. I was on land and sea and it was amazing!
Sitka is unique in that the port doesn’t have much in terms of things to do but there is a free shuttle to town every 10-15 minutes. We did not dock here, but tendered in. If you do not take a tour like I did, you will want to keep that in mind because you will need to catch the last tender back to the boat and be mindful of lines at the shuttle buses in town.
I knew the only place I wanted to go this time was to see the bears again and to show my guest. It is the easiest and safest way to see a bear in Alaska. We took the shuttle into town and called the taxi driver listed where the tours were.
He took us up to Fortress of the Bears and we stayed for about two hours. The taxi ride with tip was about $60 round trip and the entrance fee to see the bears was $15 each.
You could easily spend hours here watching the bears. There was black and brown bears and they were all so playful. Highly recommend visiting either on your own or on a tour.
Some of the other excursions Windstar offered in Sitka included:
- Sea Otter Quest
- Bike and Hike
- Artist Walk
- Wildlife Quest and Fin Island
Tracy Arm Fjord
I have been very upfront about thinking this is the most beautiful place in the USA and I stand by this decision three years later after revisiting. I woke UP TO THIS VIEW! A big piece of glacial ice floating on by!
What I loved about visiting this time is that the Windstar ship is so much smaller than most cruise liners and we were able to anchor around the corner from both North and South Sawyer Glaciers!!
I do want to note that weather conditions dictate the outcome of this stop and what you will be able to see. There was not a lot of glacial ice in the water later in the day, so we were able to see both glaciers.
While I would recommend doing the zodiac boat tour if you want to get super close to the glacier as it is not guaranteed to see either if the ship cannot make it down the path.
The captain did surprise it though! He ended up taking us to view BOTH glaciers. And for an even bigger surprise, he turned the ship in a very tight area where North Sawyer Glacier was and it was just so impressive.
First time visiting Haines and I struggled with what to do here. Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because there was a lot I wanted to do and not enough time.
We docked here in Haines, making the boat access extremely easy. The town was pretty easy to walk to but there was also a shuttle right outside the cruise ship that ran on a loop about every 10 minutes and made three stops in town, all day. If you just want to go to town or if you need to purchase something – this is an easy way to do it.
I ultimately did a tour – I picked the Wilderness Odyssey by Jet Boat! This jet boat was much different than the one I did in Wrangell because it was a flat bottom boat and completely open to the earths elements. Luckily, the weather was fantastic.
On this tour we boated through about 25 miles of the Chilkat River system. We saw a lot of bald eagles and no other wildlife. Our guide thought we would see moose or even bears, but no luck.
I really enjoyed this experience because it was a bit slower than some of the other tours and we really took our time, breathing in that fresh air of the last frontier. I think you can easily walk away really appreciating Alaska’s beauty.
This tour was $175 per person and included lunch.
Some of the other excursions Windstar offered in Haines included:
- White Pass Railroad
- Photography Tour
- ATV Adventure
- Chilkoot Lake
- Bald Eagle Preserve
- Wildlife Refuge (this was a big hit among guests on board)
This was my third time visiting Juneau and I knew I wanted to do something new! There are so many great things to do in Juneau that deciding on something will be hard, but know that whatever you pick, it will be amazing!
First things first, even if you choose not to do an activity or want to do an activity and then explore downtown, that is an option. While cruising with Windstar on this trip, we were not docked, we had to tender into the port. There was a relatively steep ramp to walk up to get onto the road and shops are everywhere.
Fun fact about Juneau – it is the only capital in the USA that has no roads connecting it to the rest of the state. The only way in and out is boat or plane.
The first time I came here, the weather was terrible and I took the tram up right in the port and the fog was so thick I could not see anything. I also went out to Mendenhall Glacier on that visit.
On my second visit to Juneau, I took a day trip out to Tracy Arm Fjord (a stop that was on my itinerary already on this ship) and arguably the prettiest place in the USA!
So for this trip, I knew I wanted to do something unforgettable and something I had never done anywhere in the state. I went with the Seaplane Glacier Discovery and Taku Lodge Feast. This was one of my top 5 favorite things I have ever done and highly recommend.
For this excursion, I got off the boat and took a quick ride over to the seaplane port. Everyone got a window seat on the seaplane and we took a 25 minute flight, flying over 5 glaciers!!
The seaplane landed on the Taku River and we spent awhile at the Taku Lodge having a delicious lunch and enjoying the views. The Taku Glacier, which is five miles across and Juneau’s biggest, is right across the river and massive.
The lodge served wild Alaskan salmon, slow cooked baked beans, fruit compote, Alaskan sourdough bread, Taku Lodge ginger cookies, and more. They even served drinks with glacier ice!
For this incredible experience, the price was $529 per person. It is on the higher end of pricing but seeing those glaciers from the seaplane was priceless.
Some of the other excursions Windstar offered in Juneau included:
- Dog sledding
- Trails and ales
- Whale watching
- Helicopter tours
- Glacier trek via helicopter
- Culinary walking tour
- ..and more!
Kenai Fjords National Park
This was the last stop on the cruise and technically we did not dock. Because we were in the National Park, parked between fjords AND facing Aialik Glacier, there was only two, but epic, excursions to choose from. You could do the zodiac boat ride or kayaking.
This was my personal favorite experience of the entire trip. Yes, you could see the glacier the entire day from the ship, and it was over a mile away, but felt so close. However, getting on the zodiac boat and getting up close AND seeing sea otters everywhere – priceless!
Another thing I want to note is that a lot of cruise ships do not come here. This is an excellent way to experience this National Park since it is rather remote.
- Zodiac Boat Tour – $229 per person
- Kayaking – $219 per person
Life on board the Star Breeze
If you have never cruised with Windstar Cruises before, I promise you it is not like the big cruise liners, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you are into.
Because the Star Breeze is more like a large yacht, you won’t find endless activities and dining options on board, but for the things that are, they are superb.
This cruise was mostly all-inclusive. The only time I paid for food was a specialty 30 ounce T-bone steak in Candles (which was optional).
The ship has six restaurants:
- Amphora – the main dinner dining room
- Candles – steak house by reservation
- CUADRO 44 – tapas style dinner restaurant by reservation
- Yacht Club Café – light bites and coffee open daily
- Star Grill – usually open for lunch
- Veranda – daily breakfast and lunch buffet and menu
- Room service is also included 24/7
Bars: you can get a drink anywhere, including your room, but if you want to go to a bar..
- Star Bar
- Compass Rose
Alcohol is not included on the ship. You can purchase per drink OR get a drink package. If you already know you plan to drink daily, you might as well get a drink package and just not worry about it.
There are two different types of drink packages on board:
- Beer and wine package $49 per person/per day – this package will cover the beer and wine that is covered on board. This does not include bottles of wine or specialties. There are 33 wines to choose from and domestic and imported beers.
- Captains Exclusive Beverage Package $59 per person/per day – I think if you are going to get a package, this one is elite. It includes everything above PLUS: all the drinks in the minibar (liquors, wines, and drinks), cordials, liqueurs, aperitifs, etc. If you want to be able to have cocktails, beers, wines etc. at any time, this is your best bet.
Alternatively, you could get the “All-In Package” which includes drinks, Wi-Fi and gratuities for $89 per person/per day.
Activities on board:
- Spa – hair, nails and body
- Nightly entertainment
- Live music
- Expedition lectures
- Coffee chats in the morning
- Morning mile walk
- Work out classes like yoga, boot camp, etc.
- Specialty meals like BBQ’s on deck
- Hot tubs
- Game room
- ..and more!
Dining on board the Star Breeze
One area that I think Windstar outshines many other cruise lines is in their food department. They have menus with James Beard chefs’ dishes on them in the main dining room, Amphora, and everything is incredible. I have never walked away from a meal on board and thought “I didn’t like that.” Quite the opposite actually!
Let’s talk about the food ..
Amphora – main dining room for dinner
This is my second favorite dining spot on board and the menu is different each night with inventive dishes that are delicious. The food is amazing and the service is incredible. I am telling you right now, no one works harder than the Windstar staff and no request is too big. Have an allergy? Let them know and they will take care of you.
I ate a LOT of seafood because it was readily available but the choice is yours! I also LOVE desserts. My fave.
Candles – the steak house
This is my favorite restaurant on board! I love steak and the menu does not change. You do need a reservation and I highly recommend booking in advance. I would suggest booking on days you are in the fjords because it is outside and you will have a magnificent view!
Cuadro 44 – Spanish
This is a newer restaurant concept for Windstar and if you love Spanish food or tapas – definitely make sure to dine here. You do need a reservation, but it is included!
Available pretty much around the clock but the menu does not change. You can get breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Whatever you like.
I love room service breakfast for days my tours start very early or come back right as breakfast ends because room service breakfast runs until 11!
Star Grill + Verandah Lunch
both lunch restaurants are wonderful. They have a buffet style dining and a small menu you can order from. The menu does not change but it is meant to supplement the already large selections available.
Can I just say – the desserts every single day were fantastic!!
What I packed for my trip to Alaska
Alaska is very unique and unlike most cruises. When you go to the Caribbean, you will most likely have tropical weather and pack for warmer climates. Alaska is .. wild. It could be 85 degrees and sunny and then a heavy fog cold front moves in with rain and its 45 degrees. Bottom line – it can be unpredictable, but I have you covered.
As a side note – I could have done carry-on only for this cruise. The unlimited laundry package was $178 for two people for the entire trip. You can send out laundry or pressing as often as you want and it comes back by 5pm the next day!
After three cruises through Alaska, these are my ride or die items I would not travel without.
- Light raincoat – a lot of the tours I took were on boats and certain times throughout cruise season it does rain a lot. In fact, many of the cities will tell you it rains well over 200+ days per year. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Layers – long sleeves, sweaters of varying thickness, jackets, etc. You can always remove a layer.
- Bathing suit – the ship I am on, Star Breeze, has a pool and two hot tubs!
- Hat and gloves – I really only found use for these out on kayaks and zodiac boats getting to the glaciers. It was very windy and chilly.
- Variety of shoes – tennis shoes, nice shoes for dinner, walking shoes, etc. I would absolutely make sure you have comfortable walking shoes as you will be getting in and out of boats, walking steep ramps, possibly getting in and out of boats, planes, trains, etc.
- Film camera – I LOVE my camera and take it everywhere. The reason I love this cheap film camera is because it’s nostalgic and I never worry about a “perfect shot.” I take the photo and move on. PLUS – getting them developed is so fun – I never remember what is on the roll.
- Camera Bag – this is my ride or die because it is waterproof! You never know when the rain will pour down and you can at least protect your camera(s).
- Sunscreen – clouds or full sun, do not forget sunscreen. You will not be swimming in the waters in Alaska but you will be exposed to the elements. You can easily get sun burned.
- Bug spray – I only needed this a few times, but the mosquitos can be relentless.
- Face masks – the crazy weather patterns will dry out your skin. I swear by these.
- After sun face and body sheets – I never travel anywhere without these masks. They saved me in the Maldives and now I know their power.
- Chapstick – the wind both on the cruise and excursions can be strong, leaving you with dry, chapped lips. Come prepared.
- Spare battery charger for your phone – I always have this back up battery pack for my phone. I can get two charges off of it and for long days, I need it.
- Chair clips – you wouldn’t think you would enjoy the chairs on deck or even sunbathe in Alaska, but you can! It gets windy from time to time, so these clips are great at holding down your towel.
- Lotion – your hands and other body parts will get dry. Trust me on this.
- Face moisturizer – if I didn’t put face moisturizer on every day, I would be flaking skin.
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