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The wilds are calling. Cruise lines are once again carrying passengers to see the wonders of coastal Alaska: breaching whales and ambling bears, towering glaciers and ancient forests.

The Alaskan cruise season runs from mid-May to September. Many visitors prefer the end of the season — while the weather can be cool and rainy, September sailings offer lower prices and smaller crowds. You may even glimpse the northern lights, if you’re lucky.

We’ll take a look at some of the region’s highlights: the prettiest towns, wildest excursions and best ways to get there.

3 Reasons to Buy Travel Insurance for Alaska

“Do I need travel insurance for Alaska?” travelers often wonder. It’s a domestic destination, which means your standard health insurance plan, including Medicare, should cover you. However, Alaskan travel includes certain risks that make travel insurance essential. For instance:

  1. Alaskan travel is expensive. The average cost of a 7-day Alaskan cruise is $2,000 to $4,200 per person, according to Alaska.org’s trip cost calculator. Cruise lines typically have strict cancellation policies, with little or no refund if you cancel close to the sailing date. Trip cancellation and trip interruption benefits can reimburse your unused, prepaid, non-refundable trip expenses if you have to cancel your vacation (or cut it short) for a covered reason.
  2. You want to make sure emergency medical evacuations can be covered. Alaska is big. Really big: It’s twice the size of Texas. If you have a medical crisis when you’re in a remote area and you need emergency transportation to the hospital, followed by medical repatriation to your home, your regular health insurance plan may not fully cover the cost. Travel insurance with emergency transportation benefits can pay for both.
  3. Travel insurance is your best friend in case of travel delays. If a covered delay makes you miss the departure of your Alaskan cruise or tour, don’t panic! Travel delay benefits can reimburse you for reasonable transportation expenses to help you rejoin your cruise or tour. And if a delay strands you in the airport, or somewhere in Alaska, your plan can reimburse your extra lodging, food and transportation expenses.

What’s the best travel insurance plan for Alaska? Our most popular plan is OneTrip Prime. OneTrip Prime includes key benefits and is a good choice for families, because it covers kids 17 and under for free when traveling with a parent or grandparent (not available on policies issued to Pennsylvania residents). OneTrip Prime and other plans now include the Epidemic Coverage Endorsement, which adds covered reasons to select benefits for certain losses related to COVID-19 and any future epidemic. (Benefits vary by plan and are not available in all jurisdictions.)

Before you go, sure to download the free TravelSmart app from Allianz Global Assistance. TravelSmart is a powerful travel app that lets you track flights, get travel alerts, access your policy and reach Assistance from your phone, anytime.

3 Ways to See the Alaskan Coast

  1. Take a round-trip cruise. Taking the popular Inside Passage Alaskan cruise route, you embark in Seattle or Vancouver, B.C., sail up the Puget Sound and then through the Gulf of Alaska. This cruise typically lasts seven days and visits ports like Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.
  2. Sail one-way across the Gulf of Alaska. Instead of turning around, a one-way Alaskan cruise continues northwest to Whittier or Seward. Not only will you get to see the awe-inspiring glaciers of College Fjord, but you have the option of continuing on by land to visit Denali National Park. Get tips on planning an Alaska cruise and land tour.
  3. Try a small-ship Alaskan cruise. Smaller ships, like those operated by Uncruise, offer a more intimate experience. You’ll get closer to wildlife, enjoy educational programs on board, and be able to explore ports without the crowds.

3 of the Best Alaskan Coastal Towns

  1. Explore First Nations culture in Ketchikan. Situated at the southern end of the Inside Passage, this small town is known for brightly painted houses perched over the water. Walk down Creek Street to browse arts and crafts shops and watch salmon swimming in the creek below. Visit Totem Bight Historical Park to see traditionally carved totem poles and a recreated community house.
  2. Stroll through Sitka’s long history. On land that was home to the Tlingit, Sitka was founded as a Russian fur trading outpost in the early 1800s (it was then called New Archangel).1 Today, all three cultures — Tlingit, Russian and American — are celebrated in this picturesque town’s museums and shops. Wildlife lovers should visit Sitka’s two rescue facilities: the Alaska Raptor Center and Fortress of the Bear.
  3. Relive the Klondike Gold Rush in Skagway. Prospectors flocked to Skagway in the late 1800s, creating a rowdy, lawless boomtown. The rush ended almost as soon as it began (few folks struck riches) but the town’s historic saloons, storefronts and homesteads remain in the Skagway Historic District. Ride the White Pass and Yukon Route Narrow Gauge Railway to experience a dizzying mountain ascent and take in views of glaciers and waterfalls.

3 Memorable Alaskan Cruise Excursions

    1. Say hello to a humpback. From April to November, hundreds of humpback whales feed in the northern Inside Passage.2 Book a whale-watching tour and you’re virtually guaranteed to see some majestic humpbacks, as well as orcas and possibly gray whales (in the spring).
    2. Cast a line. Fishing — whether from a boat or the banks of a mountain stream — is one of the most popular Alaskan cruise excursions. Depending on the season, you can catch halibut or salmon offshore, or salmon and trout in streams. Some excursions are catch-and-release only, while others offer to pack up your catch and mail it to you for a fee.
    3. Get up close to a glacier. Excursions offer many ways to experience these massive sheets of ice: on a raft, on a jet ski, paddling a kayak, riding an ATV or even touring from above in a helicopter. With poles and crampons, adventurous travelers can hike atop a glacier.

Ready for your Alaskan adventure? See affordable travel insurance plan options.

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