Australia loves North America’s far north. Roderick Eime explores the 10 best ways to cruise Canada and Alaska.

The Big Ones

Holland America Line
In terms of coverage and variety of itineraries in this region, Holland America Line (HAL) is hard to beat. One of the standout options is the ability for passengers on Amsterdam, Nieuw Amsterdam or Westerdam to couple their holiday to the wagons of the famous Rocky Mountaineer as well as enjoy HAL’s well-known superior shipboard service.

Carnival Cruises
Sailing out of either Seattle or Vancouver, the 2,100-berth Carnival Legend cruises the key locations along the Inside Passage on seven- or eight-night itineraries between May and September. Carnival Legend is a familiar sight in Sydney during the southern wave season and then heads north to spend our winter sailing from Vancouver and Seattle.

Princess Cruises
Another cruise line close to the hearts of Australians, Princess Cruises offers round-trip and one-way options from excellent ships, as well as enriching add-on enhancements to see Alaska’s glaciers, wildlife and national parks from their exclusive rail service and Princess-owned wilderness lodges. Vessels include Island Princess, Coral Princess and Star Princess.

Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean is taking its massive Voyager-class Explorer of the Seas to join the smaller Radiance of the Seas in Alaska. The cruise line invites guests to travel in comfort on their deluxe coaches and Wilderness Express, luxurious glass-domed train carriages offering panoramic views, along with add-on land tours that include Alaska’s Denali National Park.

Celebrity Cruises
This respected brand sails Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Millennium from Seattle and Vancouver on predominantly seven-night itineraries to Alaska that offer some alternative to the offerings of other big ships with visits to Hubbard Glacier, Sitka and Seward. Celebrity Summit operates Canada and New England itineraries on the Atlantic coast.

Oceania Cruises
If mid-size cruise ships with their higher service levels are more your style, then look at the recently overhauled, 684-berth Oceania Regatta with options for seven-, 10- or 12-night itineraries sailing from Seattle or Vancouver. Oceania strives to offer a distinct alternative to the larger ships’ itineraries with dog-sledding, native culture and wildlife tour options.

Crystal Cruises
One of the highest-rating cruise lines afloat, Crystal extends the Alaskan experience with visits to Anchorage as part of its seven- and 10-night itineraries aboard Crystal Serenity. After sailing the west coast, the ship will navigate the Northwest Passage on a 32-night itinerary before completing the season on Canada’s Atlantic coast visiting Quebec, Nova Scotia and the St Lawrence waterway.

Go Small

For an enriching and intimate cruise, nothing beats an expedition-style voyage.

National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions
Many, including this writer, would consider Lindblad as the benchmark operator of tiny ship itineraries in the Alaskan waters. With more than 30 years’ experience, Lindblad excels in enrichment and nature encounters on small ships carrying as few as 62 guests. With Zodiac excursions, hikes and onboard lectures plus opportunities to kayak, Lindblad gets you up-close like nothing else.

Un-Cruise Adventures
Hot on the heels of Lindblad is the oddly named Un-Cruise (formerly American Safari Cruises) which has cleverly devised intricate Alaskan itineraries of seven to 21 nights well away from any big-ship routes. Expect kayaking and nature hikes a-plenty as well as enriching lectures and indigenous encounters on any of the six vessels (all under 100 guests) employed in the region.

One Ocean Expeditions
Canada’s very own small-ship expedition cruise company specialises in Arctic itineraries way up north around Baffin Island and the Beaufort Sea, revisiting routes forged by some of the (fool)hardy explorers of the 19th Century, such as Sir John Franklin. Using ex-Soviet ice-class vessels, these are true expeditions for those looking for genuine adventure.