Holland America, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line all use the Port of Seward as the northern end of their 7-day Alaska Glacier Cruises sailing to and from Vancouver B.C. Seward is a fantastic location to launch further explorations in Alaska to such locations as the nearby Kenai Fjords National Park and beyond to Denali National Park. Seward is located 127 road miles from Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. Important because Anchorage is also the location of the South-central Alaska’s only airport that has daily domestic and international flights. Seward and Anchorage are linked both by highway and the Alaska Railroad so cruise passengers can choose to either travel by motor coach via the scenic Seward Highway or by the Alaska Railroad. A great option that Alaska Tour & Travel operates is the Park Connection Motorcoach, our scheduled, twice daily, motor coach service between Seward and Anchorage with same day connections to Denali as well.
Northbound cruises arrive in Seward early in the morning. RCCL and Celebrity arrive by 3:00am, Norwegian at 5:00am while Holland America arrives later at 6:00am. There’s no need to get up in the middle of the night as disembarkation won’t start until about 6:15am. The good news is that the cruise ships clear U.S. customs days before so there is no due to customs and immigration in Seward. You will typically wake to the Captain’s first call welcoming you to Seward and announcing that disembarkation will begin shortly. For cruisers with independent transfers from the cruise dock, you’ll claim your luggage in the terminal. Almost all other disembarking cruisers will receive their luggage at their final destination in Anchorage. If you are on a cruise-tour, you’ll receive your luggage at your final destination that day. Disembarkation is normally completed by about 9:30am. The Park Connection has a 9:45am departure from the Seward cruise dock to Anchorage on Fridays when Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises as well as on Mondays when the Norwegian Sun is in Port.
Southbound cruises start embarking at 11:30am, Noon at the latest. Typically there is an initial backup at check-in but the lines quickly clear until about 2:30pm when the bulk of the cruise line transferred passengers begin to arrive from Anchorage. The City of Seward operates a complimentary shuttle into town from the Cruise Ship Dock that once you’ve checked in you can use to explore during the afternoon.
If you are staying in an Anchorage hotel the night prior to embarkation you can take the Alaska Railroad’s Coastal Classic daily service to Seward. The Coastal Classic sells out regularly so book your rail transfer early! The only challenge with the rail service is that the depot is located just far enough away from the Seward dock that it’s too far to walk for most folks. So you’ll have to arrange for one of Seward’s few taxis to take you over to the dock. The good news is that the cruise lines will pick up your luggage from the Anchorage Rail Depot and deliver it to your cabin on board your ship in Seward so you don’t have to carry it yourself.
A huge tip, with the Coastal Classic arriving at 11:05am you have plenty of time to take an afternoon tour in Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park, a hike to Exit Glacier where you can physically walk on and touch a glacier, or take a dog sled ride before embarking. The tour operators will pick you up at the depot, take you on their tour then deliver you to the cruise dock in time to embark and have dinner on board your cruise ship before your cruise sails from Seward. If you’re not interested in taking the train to Seward the Park Connection Motorcoach provides service from Anchorage and Denali, both of which will get you in Seward in time for dinner on board your cruise ship. Be sure to put your cruise ship luggage tags on your bags before you leave Anchorage because regardless of if you take the train or the Park Connection to Seward, once you board in Anchorage you won’t see your luggage again until it arrives in your cruise ship cabin on board.
Many visitor’s to Alaska combine a cruise to Alaska with an Alaska land tour that includes Denali, but if you aren’t able to spend that much time in Alaska, one option would be to add one or two days and spend it in Seward. Seward’s lodging is excellent and many visitors’ say a day trip to Kenai Fjords is a highlight of their Alaska vacation. Seward also has excellent fishing, hiking, and kayaking opportunities and is home to the Alaska Sealife Center.