Technically, on a Northbound cruise the starboard side faces the shoreline. On a southbound it is the port side.
Realistically, it does not matter. We were on Mercury, northbound on 5/11 and had a starboard side cabin. In the inside passage there is just as much to see on either side of the ship. Wildlife and whales can be seen on either side.
The best views are on deck and you will find yourself going from one side of the ship to the other to try and catch all the sights.
When the ship is in Glacier Bay it turns so that both sides of the ship have good views of the glacier. But don't just look at the glacier check out the shoreline. We saw bear, eagles and mountain goats on shore near the glacier.
A balcony is a nice thing to have but not a requirement. Whichever side of the ship you are on you will see some of the most beautiful sights. Have a great time and a wonderful cruise.
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I have also just returned from Alaska on the Ocean Princess, and it really didn't matter what side of the ship you were on. We upgraded to a balcony cabin (and got a free upgrade to an AC suite) and it proved to be the most valuable expense we made. The public decks were really crowded in the highlight destinations, and we had our own private balcony - it was great!!
By the way, we had a starbord (right side) cabin on a southbound cruise. We had a couple of opportunities for some whale watching (they swam up to our ship) and the captain did a full 360 so everyone could see the whales.
If choosing a north or southbound cruise - I recommend the southbound cruise. The last day was inside passage cruising - but was more about getting everyone off of the ship the next morning. I would hate for the final visit the College Fjord to be interrupted by all of the procedures you have to complete. College Fjord was truly one of the many highlights of the trip. Also, if you choose a starboard cabin, you will have a great view of the NP rangers in Glacier Bay entering and exiting the ship - this is quite a feat since they pull their boat up next to the ship and jump on to a rope ladder to transfer vessels! This was quite a show!!!!
If you have other questions, please ask! I learned a lot from this site that proved incredibly valuable on the trip!
We were on HAL Veendam on port side Southbound. On our ship the Park Rangers exited the ship on the port side in Glacier Bay. When we docked in Ketchikan we were able to sit on our verandah and see the town. In Juneau starboard side faced the dock, but we had a great view of all the float planes taking off. Sitka has no dock so everyone tenders in, and both sides of the ship face the surrounding land.