Seward Cruise Port and Transportation

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 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 Jewel 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, Talkeetna 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 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.

Comments

  1. Virginia L LUNN
    December 3rd, 2017 | 1:14 pm

    We are 2 adukts arriving on Holland America Line 9th September 2018 and atre wanting a coach to collect us at the ship terminal and travel through to Denali Park. We have booked the Rainbow Hotel in Denali. Would you please be so kind as to email be back to let me know if you can do this and how much as we would like to book

  2. December 4th, 2017 | 9:14 am

    The Park Connection Motorcoach provides scheduled service from Seward to Denali National Park every day of the summer. The coach leaves at 10:30am from the Seward Small Boat Harbor, makes a stop in downtown Anchorage at the Anchorage Museum. In Anchorage passengers can enjoy lunch on own or explore the Anchorage Museum before departing Anchorage at 3:00pm. The coach arrives in Denali at 8:30pm. The closest place we can stop at in Denali is the Denali Princess Lodge which is right across the street from the Rainbow Hotel.

  3. January 6th, 2018 | 6:11 pm

    We are planning to take a NB cruise from Vancouver to Seward in June 2018 with Norwegian. Our current plan was to go to Anchorage the same day, pick a rental car and drive to Denali. We have a hotel booked for 2 nights in Denali. Our plan is to return to Anchorage in 2 days and fly home. Would the drive from Seward to Denali be too much for one day? Our family is used to long travels, we have driven 10-12 hours atleast once every year.

  4. January 8th, 2018 | 12:23 pm

    Hi Rakshi, no its not too long of day from Seward to Anchorage, then onward to Denali. The Park Connection Motorcoach departs from the cruise dock at 9:45am and arrives in Anchorage at Noon and drops either at the airport or downtown Anchorage. You could then rent a car for the trip north. We could help book both and give you some suggestions fro your time in Denlai if you’d like, just call us at 800-208-0200.

  5. Kathy
    January 19th, 2018 | 11:47 pm

    Hello. Our NB Celebrity Millenium arrives in Seward on 24th August 2018. My husband and I have booked the Coastal Classic train trip (6pm) to Anchorage, independently of the ship tours. We will most likely carry our own luggage off the ship. We want to spend the day in Seward prior to the train trip. I understand that the train’s check-in time (incl. luggage) opens at 10am that day. Do you happen to know where exactly is the check-in located, please? Also, is it an easy (even if it’s a bit long) walk to downtown Seward; or is there a free or paid shuttle to and from downtown? If there is a shuttle, do we have to go back to the cruise terminal to get it? I’ve tried to search for this information, without success. Thanks so much, in advance.

  6. March 7th, 2018 | 9:24 am

    Kathy, the City of Seward operates a free shuttle from the dock to the small boat harbor and further to downtown Seward. Its also walkable in good weather. The ARR depot is about a 10 minute walk from the cruise terminal as well.

  7. May 1st, 2018 | 1:35 pm

    Greetings, I’m getting mixed messages on whether luggage is automatically transferred from the Seward depot to NCL Jewel. Your blog indicates that if we put our NCL luggage tags on our bags that someone will get them from train to ship without needing to handle them in Seward. A CS Rep for Alaska Railroad told me today that NCL will handle the luggage even though AR’s own info pages says they won’t. I’ve had two NCL CS Rep’s tell me that NCL used to handle the luggage but that they have not done so for a couple of years. I’m going to continue to check with NCL but I’m wondering if you have an update to: …
    “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.” Thanks for your input as I really don’t want to spend the afternoon handling luggage when there’s so much of Seward to see!

  8. May 1st, 2018 | 2:49 pm

    Yes, we reconfirmed with the Alaska Railroad management today that the arrangement stands between themselves and NCL’s ground local ground operator to transport the luggage from the ARR Depot in Anchorage directly to the port where it will clear security, loaded onto the ship for delivery to your cabin. Same is true for the Radiance of the Seas, Celebrity Millennium and the Norwegian Jewel.

  9. KenJ
    May 25th, 2018 | 10:38 am

    We are sailing on RC Radiance southbound from Seward on Friday 6/22. We booked the train through RC and were told that we need to be at Egan Center at 11:30 AM for a 1:00 PM departure. I’ve not been able to find out what time it normally arrives in Seward since its a “chartered” train for the cruise lines (?). We are thinking about taking the earlier train at 6:45 AM in order board the ship earlier and spend some time in Seward. Any idea what time the later train usually arrives at the ship? Suggestions for picking one train over the other? Thanks!!

  10. Carla
    May 27th, 2018 | 4:07 am

    I’m interested in taking the Coastal Classic train to Seward the day before Celebrity Millennium departure to have an extra day to explore Kenai (Anc>Sew 6/28, cruise departs Sew 6/29). If we put the cruise tag on before departing Anc, will they transport and hold luggage a day before departure, so we only need to take a day pack for the overnight? Also, is it difficult to get transportation to Exit Glacier hike from Seward if not going on guided tour?

  11. May 27th, 2018 | 9:27 am

    Hi Carla, no they won’t hold your luggage for the night and then check it to the ship. In fact, we wouldn’t advise even trying to do so as it would likely be the case that your luggage gets misplaced. Bring your luggage to Seward with you and assure yourself that you’ll have all your luggage checked on the day of appropriately. A few of the hotels in Seward will handle the luggage for you from the hotel to the ship. Exit Glacier Guides has a shuttle to Exit Glacier from the small boat harbor area.

  12. May 27th, 2018 | 9:56 am

    Hi Ken,

    The chartered train is scheduled to arrive at 5:30pm into Seward. Seward is a lovely town and is well worth exploring…a trip up to Exit Glacier to walk or hike is a nice way to spend a leisurely afternoon or you could take a kayak or boat trip into Resurrection Bay.

  13. Patti
    June 3rd, 2018 | 3:16 pm

    We are arriving in Anchorage on Sept 1, about 2 pm and will be leaving from Seward on Sept 2 on a Southbound cruise on Holland America. I’m trying to decide if we should stay in Anchorage overnight or in Seward overnight and take a tour out of Seward before the cruise. Not sure what to do with luggage for either situation. Any suggestions on things to see and do before the cruise? After reading your blog, I am leaning toward staying in Seward and taking a half day Kenai Fjord tour before the cruise. But what to do with luggage? Any suggestions on Seward hotels? One that shuttles to cruise port or is in walking distance? Thank you

  14. June 4th, 2018 | 5:48 am

    We like spending the night in Seward the night before the cruise. If you stay at the Seward Windsong Lodge they will handle your luggage getting to the ship for you while you take a day cruise. If you stay at the Harbor360, they will hold your luggage for you while you take a day cruise with the their company which leaves conveniently from their hotel dock. Either options are very convenient. The only challenge is that if you arrive at 2pm there are not a lot of options for getting to Seward much later than that. You could rent a car with Hertz one way, or if you arrive in time the Park Connection Motorcoach departs from downtown Anchorage to Seward at 3:00pm.

  15. Claudia Klein
    June 6th, 2018 | 9:48 am

    My parents are arriving in Seward on a NB cruise with Celebrity on June 29, 2018. Is there enough time to disembark (around 10am), do a tour around Kenai Fjords National Park (1030am – 430pm) and then ride the train to Anchorage at 6pm? Logistically is this possible? It seems so, but I’ve never been to Alaska myself. Thank you!

  16. June 6th, 2018 | 10:14 am

    Yes, absolutely there is enough time. Both day cruise companies have a 11:30am National Park Cruise that gets back in time to take the Alaska Railroad or the Park Connection Motorcoach back to Anchorage. If you take the Park Connection it will also drop off at the Anchorage Airport if they are flying out that night.

    https://www.alaskatravel.com/freetrip2seward/

  17. cheryl
    June 12th, 2018 | 12:31 pm

    HI, we are arriving in Seward on July 27th on Celebrity from Vancouver. We want to get on a boat excursion of the Fjords but the timing is not matching up real well. We are supposed to be at the train for Anchorage at 5pm for the 6 o’clock. How late can we really arrive? Our luggage will already be onboard.

  18. June 12th, 2018 | 1:46 pm

    Both companies that offer Kenai Fjord National Park Cruises operate a 11:30am departure that returns at 5:30pm. These cruises are scheduled specifically to accommodate passengers traveling back to Anchorage on the Alaska Railroad – https://www.alaskatravel.com/seward/kenai-fjords-cruise-n.html

  19. Sarah
    June 16th, 2018 | 7:49 pm

    Hi, we’ll be arriving in Seward on a NB cruise from Vancouver on Celebrity. We’ve heard there is a dedicated celebrity train that will take you from Seward to Anchorage but i can’t seem to find any information on what time it leaves and what time it arrives? We’ll be picking up an RV and just need to get the times right.

  20. June 19th, 2018 | 3:10 pm

    Hi Sarah, you are correct, Celebrity Cruises charters a train from the Alaska Railroad that departs Seward at 7:00am and arrives at the Anchorage Airport at 11:30am. That time we checked the cost was $125 per person and you have to book the train directly with Celebrity. There are several other options as well. The Park Connection Motorcoach departs the Seward Dock at 9:45am the morning of disembarking and arrives at the Anchorage Airport at approximately 12:30pm. That motorcoach (bus) is $65 per adult. If you have the day at leisure, you could stay in Seward and take part in a day cruise, kayaking, or hiking and then take the Alaska Railroad back to Anchorage that evening departing at 6:00pm and arriving at 10:15pm for $108 per adult, or you could ride in the luxury dome Gold Star for $212 per adult. There is also an evening Park Connection Motorcoach departure from the Small Boat Harbor to Anchorage that leaves at 6:30pm and arrives at 9:30pm with a drop off at the Anchorage Airport and downtown Anchorage, the cost for that motorcoach is also $65 per adult. So you have lots of options! For more information, give us a call at 800-208-0200…we’d love to help you!

  21. Nancy
    July 1st, 2018 | 7:56 am

    I believe you have already answered this, but if we book the train from Anchorage to Seward on our own, what happens to our luggage? We are on Holland America, leaving Seward on 8/5 and thinking of taking the train the same day

  22. July 2nd, 2018 | 8:31 am

    The ARR has an arrangement with Holland America – Princess “HAP” that they will pick up the luggage at the depot in Anchorage after it is checked in and take it to the ship directly so you don’t have to handle it in Seward.

  23. David
    August 5th, 2018 | 4:02 pm

    If we are arriving into Seward on NCL and want to take the evening train to Anchorage; what are our best options for getting to the train depot to check in our luggage for the day so we can explore? This is an option, correct?

  24. August 8th, 2018 | 7:50 am

    Hi David, The Alaska Railroad depot is staffed from 10:am onward on cruise ship days so they can collect bags for passengers booked on the Seward – Anchorage trip later on in the day.

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