Cruising Alaska with kids
The thought of taking a cruise to Alaska conjures up a vision of silver-haired vacationers enjoying their well-deserved retirement. But never to be deterred by the status quo, our family seized an opportunity to cruise from Vancouver to Alaska just before the end of the season.
Our cruise on the ms Noordam departed Vancouver and sailed up The Inside Passage and through Tracey Arm, Alaska. We had port stops in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, Alaska plus an hour in Glacier Bay just watching the ice float across the water. Our last day we spent sailing back to Vancouver. It was a journey delving into the heart of glacier territory, slicing through narrow waterways lined with rugged, untouched coasts.
If you’re a parent, don’t be dismayed. There’s no need to wait until your nest is empty to embark on your own Alaskan adventure. Here are 5 kid-friendly activities to enjoy on your epic cruise to Alaska.
1. Take a gondola ride
Juneau, the state capital, is a popular port of call on most Alaskan cruises. And it is the perfect opportunity to pry the kids out of kids club. In the heart of the city is the unmissable Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway which climbs 548 metres (1800 feet) through the temperate rainforest to the Mountain House. The view over Juneau and Gastineau Channel is the best in town without a plane ticket. This the only aerial tramway in Southeast Alaska and sure to cause audible oohs and ahs. At the summit meet an American Bald Eagle, try the hands-on educational Nature Centre, and measure your arm span against an eagle’s wingspan.
2. Walk on a glacier
This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Get your family into a 7-seat helicopter for a flight from Skagway to Meade Glacier. After drifting over mesmerising mountains, the tour allows 40 minutes to walk around on the 1500-year-old 800-foot thick frozen river. Jump over crevices that seem to go down forever, and admire the purity in the landscape. You can even kneel down to drink the snowmelt straight off the ground! It’s the purest water you’ve ever tasted.
For safety reasons this tour only takes guest 12-years and older, so if you have younger ones they will most likely prefer the warmth of kids club on the cruise ship.
3. Watch for bears
Alaska is home to three different types of bears and chances are you are likely to spot one. Whether it’s a quick glimpse through the trees or stopping your car for one crossing the road, the whole family will be delighted…or terrified. We spotted one near Mendenhall Glacier visitors centre.
4. Polar Bear plunge on the cruise ship
If you think the port days are the only fun you’ll have on an Alaskan cruise, you are wrong. For the young and young at heart, try the “Polar Bear plunge” – a dip in the outdoor pool followed by standing a full minute at the back of the ship in the frigid Alaskan air. It’s refreshing!
5. Catch the moment a glacier breaks off into the water (ice calving)
Another unique drawcard of cruising through Alaska with your family is hanging out in the hot tub while watching mountains of ice pass by. And if you are watching closely enough you may even catch the moment a chunk of the slowly moving glacier falls off into the sea. Then you’ve seen it all.
Have I convinced you? If you are looking for a trip of a lifetime you can’t go past a cruise in Alaska. Not just for the moments you’ll share as a couple, but for those that will live with your kids for a lifetime.
Alaska Tourism – for all things touristy in Alaska, this is a great place to start.
Holland America – Erin and her family travelled with Holland America.
Helicopter tours – visit Meade Glacier by helicopter from Skagway.
Be beary safe – tips for staying safe when bears are around, from Alaska’s Dept of Natural Resources.
Please note that if you are walking on glaciers you will need to take the Snow Sports option on your TID travel insurance policy.