My family and I have cruised a handful of times, but we live within driving distance of several ports in Central Florida, and we have always chosen the warm waters of the Caribbean. A cruise in Alaska had been a bucket list item for us, and recently we decided to head out to the west coast to try sailing right into the “last limit.”
For four nights we were immersed in stunning views, cool temperatures and Alaskan culture. Our “Alaska Sampler” Cruise – an abbreviated Alaska cruise experience that departed from Vancouver, British Columbia, traveled to Ketchikan, Alaska and returned to Seattle, Wash. – seemed to be the perfect test drive when booking, but it was not long after sitting on the cottage’s porch by the sea and admiring the beautiful view that I wish we had booked a longer cruise.
Cruise ports along the coast of Alaska, from Ketchikan in the south, called the “salmon capital of the world”, to more northern cities such as Juneau, where glaciers and whale watching abound. Our sailing trip, aboard Princess Cruise’s newest ship, the Discovery Princess, was designed to give us a taste of Alaska cruising, and it made us absolutely hungry to explore more of this amazing destination.
How does a cruise in Alaska go to the Caribbean?
How is a cruise in Alaska different from a cruise through the Caribbean? Aside from all the sunshine and hot water, the basics of a Caribbean cruise ship and an Alaska cruise ship are the same. In both, families will find pools and hot tubs (although it is often too cold on cruises in Alaska to use them), bars and restaurants, youth clubs and an activity calendar to keep the kids busy, excursions, shops and spa treatments. In short: Relaxation and family fun can be found wherever you sail to.
What sets a cruise in Alaska apart, however, is the experience. Lisa Syme is vice president of Alaska’s project management for Princess Cruises – which has six ships sailing to Alaska – and describes the Alaska region as “convincing.”
“The expansion of it is difficult to communicate,” says Syme. “It’s a peace and a comfort you get from seeing layers and layers of nature,” she adds. “Most people do not live in a place where they have that kind of scale and scope of an ability to see and be in nature.”
What do you do on a cruise in Alaska?
On our voyage to Ketchikan, we chose to shop in the adorable port city, check out historic totems and wave to seals that swam in the cool waters around the harbor. And then there was our excursion: A trip to George Inlet Lodge where we went on a boat trip in the area, fed fish to flying eagles and learned about how Dungeness crabs are caught. And then, of course, we enjoyed the sweet crab meat while the waiters told us more about the unique little town.
At each port they visit, Princess has a long list of excursions that Syme calls, “specific to Alaska,” from Puppies in the Piazza, where guests can meet sled dog puppies for walks in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
“If you look at how many things there are to do as excursions in these ports?” says Syme. “There are literally people who go every year because they just want to do it again and experience something different in the harbors. People can go up on the ice and ride their dogs on a glacier, and it’s something special where a family can never match. that memory. “
On days at sea, the ship remains uniquely Alaskan, from the banners in the piazza to Alaska’s seafood served in the dining rooms. “We’re trying to make the whole cruise feel Alaskan,” Syme says, “not like you got on a Caribbean ship and went to Alaska.”
When should you go on a cruise in Alaska?
The Alaska cruise season usually runs from May to September. While my family sailed in early May, Syme says that most families with school-age children book in the months of July and August – when school is out in the summer – so they can embark on a longer cruise and see as much of the area as possible.
“What families go into that is really great is that these are it summer cruise and most of them are seven days long, “she explains.” It’s a perfect “fit in” trip, and … it’s super common for families to go together for generations, or for siblings to go with their families as adults. . Alaska seems to be an extended family home. “
Is a cruise in Alaska good for kids?
My daughter and teenage son are hard to impress. Alaska blew them both away with their beauty: It was like nothing they’ve seen in their lives (same for my husband and me, truthfully) and they’re still talking about seeing whales in the ocean under our room, trying to get into the hot tubs. on board in 40-degree temperatures and how it felt to wake up in Ketchikan, surrounded by mountains and stunning views.
Were they cold? Yes. Did they ever wish the weather was more favorable for using the Discovery Princess’ pools? Absolutely. Did any of them try fresh Alaskan salmon? Not even close. But the trip got them out of their comfort zone, showed them incredible new things and changed their worldview, literally.
And even though my kids have never been to the youth activities on a cruise ship, there are plenty of Alaska-themed programs for families who enjoy them. “You can put your kids in these kids’ programs that are free and educational,” Symes points out. “We have a Glacier Bay junior ranger program where someone comes in and the kids learn all about Glacier Bay and the wildlife there. In Ketchikan, we bring in the guys who do lumberjack shows and they tell stories.”
“If you meet people from Alaska,” Symes explains, “they are so passionate about Alaska, being from Alaska and living in Alaska. No complaints about the weather or the traffic: In Alaska, awe and wonder never seem to go away.”
Having experienced their condition first hand, I can honestly say that I understand why. And when the Alaska cruise converts, we’re already looking at taking a seven-day trip next summer to see even more of the state.
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