alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October

How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October

Venturing on an Alaska cruise in October might seem like uncharted territory to many eager travelers.

In fact, when I was researching to embark on my own Alaska adventure in October, I could hardly find anything accurate or definitive. This led to several days of me metaphorically hitting my head on a wall, only to take the leap of faith and book it anyway. 

Well, I don’t want you to go through the same frustration as me. Hence, this article was born!

Having experienced the wonders and challenges of an October Alaska cruise firsthand, I understand the yearning for adventure that drives us. I embarked on this unforgettable journey with my grandpa in a wheelchair, which was an adventure in itself.

I also tasted the wild, natural beauty of Alaska on a cruise in September when I was younger.

These experiences have not only deepened my appreciation for Alaska’s rugged beauty but have also equipped me with invaluable insights. 

Whether you’re a deal finder with an adventurous spirit or a nature lover eager to marvel at Alaska’s untamed beauty without breaking the bank, this post is your guide through the essentials of making the most out of your Alaska cruise in October.

So, here’s the tea:

Speaking Honestly…

I am going to be brutally honest in this article simply because no one was brutally honest with me.

This article is not sponsored or endorsed by any company. I paid in full for all of my excursions and the cruise itself. 

If you have read anything else of mine…you may notice that I am very enthusiastic and tend to hype things up (I’m an excitable person, sue me). 

However, I will try to be as honest as I can to help you decide if taking an Alaska cruise in October is a good addition to your bucket list. 

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Exploring Alaska at the end of the cruising season in October.

Why Alaska?

Out of all the cruise options you might think to yourself, “Why go on an Alaska cruise when I could lay on a beach instead?”

First off, I have gone on a wide variety of cruises. Cruising was my childhood vacation of choice. 

I have had the privilege of going on cruises in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Mediteranean. 

I noticed that there was more of an emphasis on outdoor, culture, and adventure than other cruises I’ve been on. 

Personally, I loved it! But I’m a Colorado mountain girlie at heart. 

If you want to do nothing but relax in a bikini with a martini, then an Alaska cruise is not going to be for you. 

If I had to list it out, Alaska cruises are for the…

  • Outdoor adventurers
  • Photographers
  • Avid hikers
  • Mountain lovers
  • Adventure travelers
  • Nature fans
  • Culture buffs
  • Wildlife fanatics
alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Showing off the mermaid tail in front of our cruise ship in Alaska!

Pros of an Alaskan Cruise in October

The Shoulder Season of Alaska Cruise Season

October offers a distinctive charm for voyagers to the wild north, marking the beginning of the fall shoulder season. 

With fewer tourists, encounters within the expansive Alaskan landscapes feel more exclusive and personal

There was only one cruise after us in October. And let me tell you: it was a ghost town, especially compared to the summer.

When in Skagway, I quickly fell in love with this tiny mining town. While taking advantage of the end-of-the-season deals, the clerk lamented that during the summer, this place was filled to the brim with tourists. 

With this being a VERY small town and nothing but wilderness surrounding the area, I instantly put on my “disgusted” face. 

This is most definitely a perk for going right at the end of the Alaska cruise season!

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
All bundled up on an Alaska cruise doing some nature viewing from the cruise ship in Glacier Bay.

A Tapestry of Autumn Colors

Those who set sail for Alaska in October have the rare privilege of experiencing the landscape’s autumnal transformation. 

The mountainous islands and imposing peaks are now adorned with a dazzling array of gold, green, and fiery red!

The colors of leaves varied from port to port, but Skagway and Juneau were especially impressive.

Read More Autumn Inspiration – 120+ Fall Bucket List Ideas to do Around the World (with free printable)

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
An iconic scene of fall leaves and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway in Skagway. It’s one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken!

End-of-Season Deals That Are too Good to Be true

As the Alaskan cruise season winds down in October, travelers can find some of the most compelling deals of the year

This period is known for offering significant discounts on cruises, making it an ideal time for budget-conscious adventurers to experience the rugged beauty of Alaska without the high season price tag. 

The end-of-season deals often include not just reduced fares but also special offers on onboard amenities and excursions, making luxury experiences more accessible to everyone.

And the souvenirs! Oh, the souvenirs! No joke…I bought a $50 sweatshirt for $7. Alaska is about to close (literally) and they want everything GONE. 

Pro Tip: Stay out of the jewelry store unless you want to get sucked into the vortex. The deals on jewelry are mind-boggling and I spent wayyyy too much. 

However, you can try to find Glacier or Northern Lights quartz or topaz! It is super cheap and makes for the best gifts for your loved ones back home.

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Spotting a bald eagle in Alaska. Fun fact: I took this while in a kayak!

Cons of an Alaska Cruise in October

Unpredictable Weather 

October stands on the cusp of Alaskan winter, bringing with it a significant drop in temperature and increased unpredictability in weather patterns

Travelers may find themselves facing rain, snow, or even unexpectedly warm days. This variability can impact outdoor activities and excursions, potentially leading to cancellations or adjustments in plans.

There were a few days where we covered ourselves in rain ponchos and got back to the ship drenched.

I did not particularly mind since it presented itself as an adventure, but some cruisegoers might be annoyed. 

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
My grandpa happy as a clam wrapped in a glorified trash bag ready to see Skagway by wheelchair.

Limited Daylight 

As autumn progresses into winter, the days in Alaska notably shorten, with daylight hours decreasing

This reduced sunlight can cut into the time available for exploring and sightseeing. Visitors on an October cruise need to plan their activities carefully to make the most of the daylight hours.

For example, my family went on an Alaska cruise in July and enjoyed up to 18 hours of sunlight! 

In October, this was about 9-11 hours. I am going to be completely honest…I really didn’t notice and it wasn’t a huge deal to me.

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Watching the sun set early from the deck of the cruise ship.

End-of-Season Closures 

By October, many seasonal attractions and services begin to wind down for the year

This can limit the available options for dining, adventure, and exploration, affecting the overall experience.

The only time that this hugely affected me was when I really wanted to go dog-sledding via helicopter.

Unfortunately, all of the companies in the ports were closed for the season. I still had a great time with the excursions I did, but there were definitely some tears

As with all travel, it is important to be flexible. This could mean disappointment, but it could also lead to unexpected delights.

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Getting surprised with amazing weather while kayaking.

Survival Tips for an Alaska Cruise in October

An October Alaskan cruise requires a specialized approach to preparation. Here are the details that will smooth your path.

Pack for Pioneering

Alaska’s weather in October is as changeable as the tides, so pack with versatility in mind

Layering is key; from a brisk morning at the port to a toasty afternoon onboard, you’ll want to peel or pile on clothing accordingly. 

Trusty raingear and water-resistant footwear are also a must, especially if you plan on venturing ashore for hikes or kayaking.

I cannot stress this enough: bring good rain gear. I was under the impression that it would be cold, not rainy. 

So, I brought coats, not raincoats. Although it was chilly, I was not knee deep in snow as I had anticipated.

This means that for the majority of my trip, I was in my coat with a plastic raincoat or trash bag on top. Not ideal but it did the trick. 

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
At the top of the Goldbelt Tram in Juneau, Alaska.

Health and Safety First

The colder temperatures and potential for precipitation demand good health precautions. 

In the lead-up to your adventure, be sure to boost your immune system and pack any necessary medications

Remember, events like the Norovirus can occur, so maintaining good onboard hygiene is key.

Rocking the Boat

I read some horror stories before embarking on this adventure about the rough seas during October. 

After having the pleasure of speaking to some of the staff, I can confirm that this is a thing…

Fortunately, we ran into rough seas on the first night but experienced smooth sailing for the rest of the cruise. 

With that being said, I would plan for rough seas just in case

  • Avoid wearing tall heels during stormy nights. 
  • Bring LOTS of seasickness pills or patches. 
  • Always hang onto handrails when possible, especially when on stairs. 
  • If you are feeling sick and all else fails, try to get to the middle of the ship, but not too high.
  • Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Making some new friends in Alaska.

Booking the Best Alaska Cruise

When it comes to an Alaska cruise in October, your choice of cruise line and itinerary is crucial

Opt for a vessel with a well-respected safety record and a crew experienced with Alaskan waters. 

Additionally, search for cruises that feature naturalist guides, which can often access more remote and wildlife-rich areas unavailable to larger vessels.

Due to the best deals and availability in October, we chose to cruise with Norwegian. It was probably some of the best food I’ve had on a cruise and Glacier Bay with its wildlife commentary was my favorite part!

I did wish that they offered more diverse excursions, but that could have been due to October and the end of the season. 

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Showing off my tail in the interior of the Norwegian Encore in Alaska.

A Day-by-Day Guide to an October Alaskan Cruise

An in-depth itinerary breakdown will give you an idea of what to expect each day of your cruise.

Please note that itineraries may differ depending on the cruise. But this was generally what they looked like on an average October Alaska cruise.

The itineraries also differed depending on the embarkation port. There seemed to be 2 options: from Anchorage to Vancouver, or round trip from Seattle. We chose round trip from Seattle.

Day 1 – Embarkation in Seattle

Your adventure begins in earnest as you set sail from the port city of Seattle. Take in views of the iconic Space Needle and Puget Sound as you depart. 

Spend the evening acquainting yourself with your stateroom, engaging in shipboard activities, and admiring the coastal scenery.

We actually have a running joke about Seattle now because everything that went wrong did. Needless to say, we were very excited to board the ship. 

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
The Bucket List Mermaid on top of the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington.

Day 2 – Cruising the Inside Passage

Today, you’ll be traveling the legendary Inside Passage, renowned for its intricate waterways, abundant wildlife, and spectacular natural beauty. 

In October, unfortunately it is right past the whale season (May to September). Fortunately, we still saw whales directly from the cruise ship throughout our entire trip. 

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
One of the many jaw-dropping sites seen from the cruise ship itself!

Day 3 – Juneau

Arrive in Alaska’s remote capital, Juneau, where wilderness and history intertwine. 

Wander through the town’s rustic streets or take a tram to the summit of Mt. Roberts for panoramic views. 

We ended up doing the Goldbelt Tram to the top. I then went spontaneously hiking around their trail network. This was AMAZING. They were short, easy, and provided jawdropping views in every direction. I would highly recommend this to anyone visiting Juneau and looking for an easy hike.

If you are going to go this route, I would start early. The line to depart on tram was very long and the sun sets early since it is October.

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Foggy vibes in Juneau at the Goldbelt Tram – one of the only excursions still open at this port. Try to spot the epic waterfall in the back!

Day 4 – Skagway

Skagway’s gold-rush roots are evident in its well-preserved downtown, a living museum of the Klondike era. 

Today, you might follow in the footsteps of prospectors on the Chilkoot Trail, take a scenic railway trip across White Pass, or simply soak up the atmosphere of this frontier town.

I ended up shopping in Skagway and then taking an epic hiking day along the upper and lower Dewey Lake Trails. Some of the trail was more challenging (and flooded) and it was longer than my leisure hike in Juneau. 

Nevertheless, this is a perfect trail system for cruisers since it is within walking distance of the cruise ship port. There are also multiple ways to go with various lengths depending on how intense you want your hike to be. 

My favorite part was looking over the isolated mountain lake with a soft layer of fog and rain hovering over it! 

When going in October, I rarely saw another soul. Maybe three in a matter of hours. Therefore, if you want a peaceful hike through the Alaska wilderness, October was the perfect time to go! 

It is also worth mentioning that I initially wanted to attempt Chilkoot Trail, but it was too far away for my timing with the departure of the cruise. Next time!

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Spooky fall vibes in Skagway on an Alaskan cruise in October.

Day 5 – Glacier Bay National Park

Behold the radiant blue ice of Glacier Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site and an ecosystem in flux. 

You might even get lucky and get to hear the ‘white thunder’ of calving glaciers and learn from park rangers who provide commentary as you cruise through this natural wonder.

I may not have left the ship, but this was without a doubt my favorite day! It is something that can only be experienced with your own eyes. 

My family, who went in July, missed Glacier Bay completely and went to Sitka instead. I have heard amazing things about Sitka, but I would choose a cruise specifically for the tour of Glacier Bay! 

We also got the privilege of going to John Hopkins Glacier and this was only made possible by going in October. 

I can’t quite describe the feeling of running around the ship like a mad woman with incredible glaciers surrounding me…but you get the idea. 

Pro Tip: on our ship there was a sitting area at the front of the ship. I would HIGHLY recommend scouting your ship beforehand for the perfect viewing spot. Then claim it early. And when I say early, I mean early! 

My mother claimed a spot right at the front for my grandpa (again, he is disabled so we wanted to find a special spot for him that would work with a wheelchair) around 4am! And she wasn’t the only one…

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Incredible views of the many glaciers seen at Glacier Bay.

Day 6 – Ketchikan

Coined the “salmon capital of the world,” Ketchikan invites you to witness the grandeur of the Alaskan wilderness.

If you’re feeling adventurous, get an adrenaline-rush on a zipline or experience traditional Tlingit culture in the totem village of Saxman.

On this day, we were treated to wonderful weather and sunshine (finally!). And it was just in time because we went kayaking.

This was an excursion provided by the ship and it was incredible! We saw sea lions, a wide variety of birds, and even a bald eagle! 

If you do decide to go on this adventure, be prepared for some choppy water in October. Even though we were blessed with glass-like water, the guide assured us that we were, in fact, blessed. 

After we were done, we ate homemade cookies and drank hot chocolate on an inhabited island and enjoyed the beauty of Ketchikan. 

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
I snapped this picture of our kayak guide while on our excursion. The weather was amazing!

Day 7 – The Pacific Voyage

The final leg of your cruise takes you back to Seattle. 

Take this time to reflect on your Alaskan odyssey, share stories with fellow passengers, and savor the last moments of tranquility before returning to the bustle of the city.

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
The Seattle skyline with our cruise ship after we disembarked.

Would I Recommend an Alaska Cruise in October?

This is a tricky one that is filled with equal pros and cons. 

As you can see, there are plenty of benefits of cruising Alaska in October. I personally enjoyed the cheaper prices, lack of crowds, and fall foliage. 

However, I would caution you. It’s wet. And sometimes the fog ruins your view. There are also limited things to do versus summer.

I also chose October for an increased chance to see the Northern Lights…and that is a sob story in itself that I will have to right an entire post about. 

Therefore, I would recommend this to people who have either already been to Alaska during the summer or true adventures who don’t mind being a little flexible for some sweet rewards! 

Overall, I had an incredible time! I think that the crowds (and if I’m being brutally honest, the children) that come with summer would have been a damper on my trip. Plus, I’m a sucker for outdoor anything and fall leaves.

It was nice, quiet, and peaceful – the perfect atmosphere for those stunning mountain views. And I didn’t mind getting a little wet to experience it that way. 

However, I don’t think that it is for everyone. So, be sure that you are realistic before you hit that “book” button.

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
Taking once-in-a-lifetime pictures from an Alaska cruise in October. As you can see, I’m just wearing a jacket and was totally comfortable.

Alaska Cruise in October FAQ

All of your October Alaska cruise questions answered.

Yes, there are Alaska cruises in October, though they are less common than during the peak summer months. 

October is the end of the Cruising Season in Alaska

October marks the tail end of the cruising season, offering unique experiences like the stunning fall foliage and opportunities to witness the northern lights. 

These cruises might be limited in availability and routes, but they provide a distinctive and serene way to explore Alaska’s breathtaking landscapes and wildlife.

October can be an excellent time to cruise Alaska for those seeking a quieter, more introspective travel experience. 

Pros and Cons of Cruising Alaska in October

The landscape transforms with the arrival of fall, wrapping the terrain in vibrant hues of gold, red, and brown. 

While the weather can be unpredictable, with colder temperatures and a higher chance of precipitation, the potential rewards are significant. 

While there are pros of cruising during this time, it’s important for travelers to come prepared with appropriate attire and an adventurous spirit, as some excursions might be limited due to weather conditions.

Big. Massive. Sigh. I don’t want to talk about it. 

Seeing the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is indeed a possibility on an Alaska cruise in October. But DO NOT count on it or get your hopes up.

It is true – the nights begin to get longer, offering darker skies that are conducive to viewing these ethereal lights. But it is also rainy and therefore harder to spot.

While sightings can never be guaranteed due to the unpredictable nature of this phenomenon and varying weather conditions, October does present a higher chance compared to the summer months. 

Some cruises are better than others…

I have heard of cruise ships, specifically Princess, that sometimes call you in the middle of the night when this spectacle is occurring. Norwegian, unfortunately, does not do this and it was my biggest complaint. 

Also note that I took an Alaskan cruise in September when I was a kid and my family and I saw the lights during that time.

An Alaska cruise in October will experience cooler temperatures, typically ranging from 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (around -1 to 10 degrees Celsius).

These conditions signal the transition from Alaska’s brief fall season into early winter, meaning travelers should prepare for a colder environment. 

It’s more wet than you think

Also, prepare for rain and fog. This was a surprise to me when I went on my cruise and was constantly in a rain poncho. 

The crisp air, however, complements the stunning fall scenery, making it a unique time to experience the rugged beauty of Alaska.

Packing for an Alaska cruise in October requires thoughtful preparation to ensure comfort and enjoyment during your voyage. 

Alaska Cruise in October Packing List

Essentials include layered clothing to accommodate fluctuating temperatures, with items such as thermal underwear, fleece jackets, and waterproof outerwear for potential rain showers. 

Don’t forget warm accessories like gloves, hats, and scarves to protect against the chill. Footwear should be waterproof and suitable for walking on uneven terrain during shore excursions. 

Additionally, consider bringing binoculars for wildlife viewing, a high-quality camera to capture the autumnal landscapes, and a reusable water bottle. 

Sunglasses and sunscreen are also necessary, as sunny days can still be bright and reflective, especially near bodies of water and snow. 

Lastly, pack any needed medications and personal items, as these might be challenging to find or more expensive to purchase on board or in remote Alaskan locations.

The best month to cruise Alaska largely depends on what you wish to see and do. 

Summer – Peak Season

June, July, and August are considered peak season, offering warmer temperatures, longer days, and the full bloom of Alaska’s natural beauty. 

This period is ideal for wildlife sightings, with opportunities to see bears, moose, and whales. 

For those interested in fishing, late June through August is prime time for salmon. 

Fall – Shoulder Season

However, if your main goal is to avoid crowds and save money, September and October is your time to shine.

Each season offers a different facet of Alaska’s splendor, making the “best” month a matter of personal preference and travel goals.

During these times, you can often find lower prices due to the cooler temperatures and the fact that they fall either at the beginning or the end of the cruise season. 

While the weather may be less predictable, and some attractions might be less accessible, these months offer the advantage of fewer crowds. 

Additionally, the natural scenery during these times is still breathtaking, with the possibility of witnessing the late spring bloom in May or the vibrant fall colors in September and October. 

Budget-conscious travelers can benefit from substantial savings during these periods, making an Alaskan cruise more accessible.

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
The small mining town of Skagway showing off its best spooky October vibes.


In sum, an October cruise through Alaska isn’t your average getaway; it’s a deep dive into nature’s raw majesty as the season shifts. 

While you might face adverse weather and the tail end of tourist season, the trade-offs—like fewer crowds and cheaper prices—make it appealing for those seeking a quieter, more authentic experience. 

Yes, October’s Alaska demands a bit of adventure spirit; it’s not all smooth sailing. But if you’re the type who finds beauty in the serene silence of nature preparing for winter, these minor inconveniences are hardly a deterrent. 

Embarking on this off-peak journey offers unique rewards and unfiltered encounters with the wild, making it a compelling option for the adventurous soul.

alaska cruise in October, How to Survive an Alaska Cruise in October
BONUS PHOTO: Can you spot my new friend?

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