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We fly from UK to Canada, then after a few days we travel to Alaska for a cruise. When the cruise finishes in Alaska, we travel back to Canada and then home. In applying for our ESTAs, I said we will be in transit. Did I do the right thing? If not, can I amend for free?

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While the phrase "transit" is not clarified in the ESTA Online help it is amply clarified on the transit visa page:

A passenger embarking from a foreign port on a cruise ship or other vessel which is proceeding to another country, other than the United States, but during the course of the journey, the vessel makes port in the United States with no intention of landing in the United States.

So: you are not in transit for sure. However, updating this kind of info in ESTA is easy and painless and for free. Look at ree-nyc's answer in this thread.

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