When looking for great family vacation ideas, it is not always easy to come up with something that will make everyone happy. Some of the things your family members like might be: action/adventure, hiking and viewing nature, cultural experiences, close encounters with wildlife, gourmet dining, a little time at a casino, shows and entertainment at night,visits to a relaxing spa, or lectures on the environment and history of the area. A cruise to Alaska will check all of those boxes and more! Plus it is spectacularly beautiful! This is an incredibly popular destination, and with good reason.
The season runs from May through September. You can expect cool to very warm temps, so pack lots of layers. There are a LOT of cruise lines which operate in Alaska. They range from smaller, very elegant ships, to Mid-sized ships, to sailing vessels, to Large mass-market ships of various levels of elegance. You can cruise round-trip out of cities such as Seattle and Vancouver, or you can take a one- way voyage north or south bound and add on land excursions in Canada, the Pacific Northwest, or Alaska. There are a TON of options, each one more amazing than the last! Because the options are so many, a travel consultant can be very helpful in sorting through all the available information.
Alaska is not known for its wonderful road system, and there are some vast distances to be crossed to visit the biggest attractions. For that reason, a cruise is the most popular means of transportation, often with a “land tour” added on at the beginning and/or the end to see some things not easily accessed from shore. Because almost all cruises take the “inside passage” along the coast, the waters are very calm, and seasickness is not an issue for most people.
Another thing to be aware of is that summer days are very long this far north, particularly on or near the summer solstice . Because of this, some people prefer interior cabins so that they can have total darkness at night.
Here are some of the most popular things to see and do in Alaska (in no particular order):
- Helicopter Tours over the glaciers. These are HUGELY popular and can be booked through the cruise lines, or through a private Tour company. This is a FANTASTIC way to view the area!
Some will let you walk around on the glacier, and drink some glacial water.
- Whale watching expeditions by boat are also very, very popular. I can see why! Even though you have been on a ship, this will get you much closer to the whales, and will also give you a chance to see much more wild life.
3. Cruising through Glacier National Park is a beautiful part of most Alaska cruises. Most cruises will have a park ranger on board giving great narratives while you travel through, so that you don’t miss a thing! Most folks suggest that you get at least one balcony for your group so that you can relax and enjoy the sights from there as well as from the common areas.
4 .Hiking Juneau trails. You can go as far or as short of a hike as you like, and the trails are beautiful and interesting.
5. Many cruises will give you a view of the Tracy Arm Fjord. It looks spectacular!
6. Ketchikan is a very popular port of call. Excursion opportunities here are many and varied. Some of the more popular include sky plane tours, kayaking, zip-lining, hiking, boat tours, and cultural exhibitions.
7. Sit on your balcony or near any window or on deck of your ship and enjoy this fabulous scenery!
8. Wildlife is everywhere, and beautiful!
9. Kayaking is an incredibly popular excursion on these cruises as well.
10. Enjoy fun times and great food on board your cruise ship! Depending upon your cruise line and your itinerary, you can visit the casino, see Broadway caliber shows, Climb a rock climbing wall, play miniature golf, visit the spa, and so much more! You also will be sure to have a wide variety of delicious dining options.
And the fun can continue once you get off the ship! A Land tour add on from Anchorage up to Denali is extremely popular. Most itineraries will have you take a train or bus from the port up to Anchorage, spend a night there, then head up to Denali on a glass domed train. The mountain itself is magnificent, and it is very likely you will see some interesting wild life!
A fun tip if you decide to take this amazing voyage: Bring Binoculars! You won’t want to miss a thing!!
I can see how this destination is on almost everyone’s bucket list!
Special thanks to my contributing photographer friends. These photos are amazing, and make me so eager to get up to Alaska!!! Thanks, Marie Rielly, Joanne Dowd, Carol Coons Naquin, and Traci Parker. You take beautiful photos!