Alaska cruise review: a voyage through the Inside Passage

This seven-day trip on the Koningsdam cruises through Alaska’s scenic coastal waters

The Koninsdam in Skagway
The Koningsdam in port at Skagway, Alaska – and a group of passengers outbound on a helicopter tour
(Image credit: Holden Frith)

If there’s one place in the world to coax a confirmed cruise-sceptic onto the water, it’s Alaska, where the spectacular wildlife and landscapes are all but unreachable by other means. Even the capital, Juneau, is severed from the rest of the state – and the rest of North America – by the high peaks of the Coast Mountains, which remain unconquered by rail or road.

In fact, an Alaskan cruise involves whole days seeing no sign of human settlement along the shore, just an endless scroll of ocean, forest, mountains and mist. The ship, by contrast, is the embodiment of our impulse to get out into the world, and take with us all the comforts and luxuries we have created. At times, I would forget I was at sea, only to look up from a table in a restaurant and see a wall of ice slipping serenely past the window – or, on one occasion, the tall dorsal fins of two orcas.

Geese flying alongside the Koningsdam

A flock of geese flying alongside the ship as it sailed towards Juneau
(Image credit: Holden Frith)

Alaska’s Inside Passage

My week-long trip, aboard Holland America Line’s Koningsdam ship, followed a circular route through the Inside Passage, a network of straits and fjords which snake their way along the coast, protected from the heavier seas of the Gulf of Alaska by a long string of islands. We spent one day each in the towns of Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, one day circumnavigating Glacier Bay, and the rest of the days at sea. We sailed through the nights too, although that’s a relative term in June: on the summer solstice, we had just two hours of true darkness.

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The high street in Skagway, one of three Alaskan towns visited during on the Inside Passage circuit
(Image credit: Holden Frith)

Tours and activities

Such is the range of excursions on offer that any two Koningsdam passengers could enjoy entirely different cruises. One hypothetical couple might proceed from stateroom to spa to pool, signing up for an art class or two and disembarking only for private, chauffeur-driven tours of the Alaskan interior. On their return, they might while away the evening with a whisky or wine tasting, or retire to the theatre to see a live orchestra play along to BBC wildlife documentaries. Another, more restless, traveller, might be in a sea kayak soon after sunrise, on quad bikes or dog sleds one day and up in a helicopter the next, or sailing out in a small boat to fish for salmon. Evenings might be spent roving between the gym, the casino and the live music venues.

The White Pass Railroad

The White Pass Railroad runs scenic trips into the interior from the port of Skagway
(Image credit: Holden Frith)

I plotted a middle course, keeping some shore time free to explore the frontier towns of Skagway and Ketchikan on foot, but joining tours where they would take me places I couldn’t reach under my own steam (including into Canada’s Yukon territory – even emptier than Alaska – for a landscape photography workshop). The highlight was a small boat tour of the whale-rich waters around Juneau, where we watched a humpback mother and calf making their way through the channel. The hours melted away as we learned and predicted their movements – the water spout, followed by three or four shallow arcs through the waves and a big flourish of the tail before they dived back into the deep.

A humpback whale surfacing and diving

A humpback whale surfacing and diving in the waters near Juneau
(Image credit: Holden Frith)


Koningsdam accommodates 2,650 guests, making it a medium-sized ship by today’s expansive standards (and the best in that class, according to USA Today’s readers’ choice awards). The cheapest rooms are the inside cabins in the belly of the vessel, but it’s worth paying the relatively modest premium (from about £450 per person) for a suite with floor-to-ceiling patio doors leading onto a private verandah. This is not the place to deprive yourself of a view, and the chance to leap out of bed and straight into the chilly dawn air, as I did when jetlag got me up early enough one morning to watch the sunrise.

Sunrise at Glacier Bay National Park

High mountains line the entire route through the Inside Passage
(Image credit: Holden Frith)

Restaurants and bars

In four of the ship’s nine restaurants, food is included in the price of the cruise (with the exception of a few special dishes such as lobster and caviar). These range from a food court-style buffet and poolside burger bar to the main dining room, which serves three à la carte courses at most meal times. The speciality restaurants, which require advance booking and a supplement of about £30 per person, offer a more intimate setting. The Pinnacle Grill steakhouse is worth booking early given its tendency to sell out, but Nami Sushi, with its fresh Alaskan seafood and panoramic views, is the pick of the bunch.

A waterfall in the Yukon, Canada

Some shore excursions cross into the Canadian territory of Yukon, over the Alaskan border
(Image credit: Holden Frith)

Holden Frith travelled as a guest of Holland America Line. A seven-day Alaskan Inside Passage cruise aboard the Koningsdam, departing Vancouver on 16 September 2023, has inside staterooms starting at £1,121 per person based on two people sharing, including one shore excursion per guest, one speciality dining reservation and a signature drinks package. Other dates are available between May and September.

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Holden Frith is The Week’s digital director. He also makes regular appearances on “The Week Unwrapped”, speaking about subjects as diverse as vaccine development and bionic bomb-sniffing locusts. He joined The Week in 2013, spending five years editing the magazine’s website. Before that, he was deputy digital editor at The Sunday Times. He has also been’s technology editor and the launch editor of Wired magazine’s UK website. Holden has worked in journalism for nearly two decades, having started his professional career while completing an English literature degree at Cambridge University. He followed that with a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago. A keen photographer, he also writes travel features whenever he gets the chance.