Hiking Fun For Kids Hiking Carrier For 3 Year Old Alaska Cruising – Now It’s a Family Thing

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Alaska Cruising – Now It’s a Family Thing

If you’re thinking about a family vacation to Alaska, and you’re wondering if your

kids would enjoy a cruise to “The Last Frontier,” wonder no more. Young family

members from tykes and toddlers through teens have a blast on big ships and small

as their vessels sail through the protected waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Aboard

ship or ashore, there are lots of kid-friendly, parent-friendly, and grandparent-

friendly places to see and fun things to do.

It’s true, only a short decade or two ago families with kids aboard Alaska

cruiseships were as scarce as Alaskan Dall sheep lambs in a grizzly bear’s lair. But

the times have changed — big time. Today you will find, in addition to the

traditional hefty contingent of seniors and near-seniors aboard each ship, a growing

number of families. Sometimes these groups are multi-generational, with gramps

and grandmas, moms and dads, and kids that range from gangly teens to babes

literally in arms.

The reason? Word is out that Alaska’s attractions are sure-fire hits for travelers of

any age: attractions like humongous whales breaching full length out of the water,

grizzly bears chasing salmon along forest creeks and rivers, icebergs (sometimes as

big as a tour bus) crashing, splashing, and thundering off the faces of miles-long


Too, there are opportunities to mush in a dog sled behind a team of charging

huskies – after helicoptering to a lofty mountain-top glacier no less! Kids and

parents can ride bikes through towering forests or down mountain paths and trails.

They can also kayak among whales and sea lions. Whole families can fish for lunker

king salmon. Or try their luck at gold-panning in creeks and streams.

Newest craze for the young and the young-at-heart is riding a zip-line

through the upper canopies of towering spruce and hemlock forests in Ketchikan

and Juneau — hanging safe and secure in a harness as they “zip” along a steel cable

some 130 feet or more above the forest floor.

Or, less daunting, while visiting museums up and down the coast families can

absorb the totemic culture and the history of Alaska’s Native peoples. They can

learn about the period when Alaska was “Russian America.” And they can view

mementos of the tumultuous gold stampede to the Klondike during the late 1800s,

No question about it, Alaska has something exciting to offer every family

member, regardless of age.

But what about life aboard the cruiseships? Will young people find the

experience dullsville?

Hardly. The mid- to mega-sized ships in particular are literally resorts afloat

with swimming pools, spas, snack shops, ice cream parlors, outdoor game courts,

video arcades, and movie theaters. Special staff members aboard these vessels —

with one exception — include trained youth counselors. These crew members

arrange age-appropriate social activities, organize games and sports events,

supervise arts and crafts, take youngsters on shipwide treasure hunts, and generally

see to it that cruisers from tykes through teens enjoy their cruise as much as their

parents and grandparents.

Although smallship cruiselines in Alaska do not staff their vessels with special

counselors for young cruisers, the ships are no less family-welcoming. These

vessels can enter small bays and inlets where guests can view wildlife on close-by

forest shores, explore waterways by kayak or in spiffy powered Zodiacs, hike

remote island beaches, perhaps even stop for a natural hot springs dip in forested


One smallship cruiseline even schedules three Alaska cruises each year

especially geared for family travel.

Regardless of vessel size, and with only a couple of exceptions, cruiselines in

the Alaska trade actively court family cruisers. Few such travelers, young or old, find

the experience anything other than “cool.” And they’re not referring to the weather.

Following is a cruiseline by cruiseline summary of family programs and kids’

things-to-do on an Alaska cruise. The information was supplied by the cruiselines

or taken from company websites.

Large and Mega Size Cruiseships

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE’s 2006 Alaska voyages aboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival

Spirit offer youngsters age 2 through 17 a variety of continuous supervised activities

as part of the line’s “Camp Carnival” program.

Included in the line’s Alaska sailings are a number of “just for Alaska” projects

where kids can make their own dream catchers and totem poles and learn about the

region’s fascinating Native Alaskan cultures.

The Carnival Spirit offers other kid- and family-friendly amenities as well,

including a spacious indoor play room featuring an arts and crafts center, a 16-

monitor video wall, climbing mazes, an outdoor play area, and a computer lab.

When it comes to dining, says Carnival, “Youngsters get the full ‘Fun Ship’

treatment with expanded children’s menus offering a variety of kids’ favorites as

well as a daily junior special.” The menus are included on the back of a coloring and

activity book featuring word finds, mazes, tic-tac-toe, crossword puzzles, connect-

the-dots, and other games.

Young cruiser age groups include 2- through 5-year-olds, 6 through 8, 9

through 11, and for teens 15 through 17 a program called “Club 02.” (http://


CELEBRITY CRUISES’ “Family Cruising Program” offers young peoples’ activities in

four age groups:

On any given day Ship Mates (for 3- through 6-year-olds) may enjoy a clown

party, treasure hunt, T-shirt painting, Legos, talent time, finger painting, dancing

games, summer stock theater, cartoon time, computers, play stations, musical

games, movies, ship tours, and ice cream sundae making.

Many of these same activities are on the agenda for older children as well, but are

undertaken on an older-age level.

Celebrity Cadets (for youngsters 7-9) might also include pool olympics,

scavenger hunts, charades, a fitness program, board games, relays, and team trivia.

Ensigns (for pre-teens 10-12) additionally enjoy karaoke, relay races, ship tours,

and pizza parties.

Admiral T’s takes in two classes of teenagers, 13-15 and 16-17. Members can

frequent the Teen Club, engage in basketball tournaments, enjoy pool parties, and

help put on talent shows.

Celebrity vessels also offer a “Parents Night Out” program. On the two formal

nights of a seven-night voyage, Celebrity treats parents to free babysitting when

counselors take the children to a pizza party for dinner. (http://www.celebrity.com)

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE’s “Club HAL” provides a variety of kid-friendly facilities and

age-appropriate activities. Programs for children ages 3-12 may be found aboard

2006 Alaska-bound ships Ryndam, Statendam, Zaandam, Zuiderdam, Oosterdam,

and Westerdam and for ages 5-12 aboard Volendam and Veendam. All eight ships

have a teen program for ages 13-17. (http://www.hollandamerica.com)

Club HAL activities are designed to be age appropriate. For example, daily

activities planned for children ages 3 to 7 may include arts and crafts, face-

painting, camp-out night, candy bar Bingo, outdoor fun, and a pajama party.

“Tweens,” the in-between travelers 8 through 12, may learn golf putting, attend

dance parties and theme nights, compete in on-deck sports events and scavenger

hunts, play arcade games, tie-dye t-shirts, or simply play ping-pong with a friend.

Teens 13-17 enjoy The Loft designed to resemble a New York artist’s loft; there’s

also The Oasis, a private deck where teens can soak up the rays then cool off in a

one-of-a-kind waterfall. The Loft and Oasis are currently available on 2006 Alaska-

bound vessels Ryndam, Statendam, Veendam, Volendam, and Zaandam. Teens will

especially enjoy the teen disco, dance lessons, arcade games, teen sports

tournaments, karaoke, trivia contests, bingo, play stations, movies and hot tub


On most itineraries, Holland America provides at least one full-time Youth

Program Director and one or more youth staff members. The ratio of Club HAL staff

to children on board is 1:30.

Additionally there’s a wide variety of kid-pleasing food, including special

sandwiches, tacos, burgers, hot dogs and pizza. For the very young baby food, high

chairs and booster seats may be requested in advance of boarding. Baby-sitting

services are available for a small surcharge and special birthday parties can also be


NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE notes on its web pages that the line’s Kid’s Crew and

Teen’s Crew programs are filled with age-appropriate activities for youngsters 2

through 17. For Kid’s Crew members aged 2-12, NCL offers everything from arts

and crafts to pajama parties. Teens Crew, for cruisers 13-17 provides options like

pool parties, a teen disco, a video arcade, and more.

But don’t, says NCL, think of these programs as “babysitting.” There’s very little

“sitting” involved, notes the cruiseline. The programs are active, energetic,

educational and, most importantly, fun. (http://www.ncl.com)

PRINCESS CRUISES’ junior cruisers (ages 3 to 17) can enjoy a boatload of exciting

onboard activities. All of the line’s Alaska-bound ships have special kids and youth

centers staffed by counselors who put on a program of age-specific activities each

day. Group babysitting is available in the late evenings.

Among a number of programs for youngsters is one specific to Alaska. Produced

with the National Park Service, Princess’ sub-teen “Junior Ranger” program is

designed to bring Glacier Bay and the Alaska wilderness to life for thousands of

children each summer. The program features interactive games, activity books, and

presentation by rangers. The corresponding “Teen Explorer” program features

similar learning activities geared for older youngsters.

In a cruise industry exclusive, the Los Angeles-based California Science Center

provides entertaining interactive activities. Princess youth staff have undergone

extensive training at the center, designed to enthrall young passengers with award-

winning science projects. Whale watching, building and racing sailboats, marine

biology studies and squid dissection are a few of the activities available.

The line’s website notes that preteens are divided into two groups: Princess

Pelicans ages 3-7 and Princess Pirateers, 8-12. Both groups are entertained with

age-rated arts and crafts, discos, movies and cartoons, exclusive kids-only dining,

hunts, karaoke and lip-sync shows, afternoon ice cream parties, pizza parties,

backstage and galley tours, pajama parties, and T-shirt coloring.

Says Princess’ website: “Our astounding teen centers are packed with Nintendo,

movies, karaoke, giant screen TVs, card and board games, ping-pong and juke

boxes.” The site also notes that the Alaska-bound Sun, Dawn, Coral, Island, and

Diamond Princess ships also offer a toddler’s play area. (http://www.princess.com)

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL provides a young peoples’ program called

“Adventure Ocean” serving and entertaining travelers 3 to 17 in five different


Youngest group (ages 3 through 5) are called Aquanauts and do finger painting,

building blocks, play dough, music activities, dot dancing, and “shape Bingo.”

Explorers (6-8) have a Pirate Night, go on a backstage tour, enjoy nutty nicknames,

and engage in autograph hunts. Nine to 11-year-old Voyagers do karaoke singing,

have a Ga-Ga Ball, enjoy H20 Thunder Races, and do an art walk.

Navigators (12-14) play in sports tournaments, have pool parties, enjoy a college

night, engage in video games, and attend disco dancing sessions as well as a formal

night. Older teens,15-17 and called Guests, also enjoy dancing, pool parties, DJ

training, Battle of the Sexes, plus a formal night and a Survivor Series.

RCI’s Edu-tainment programming offers:

Adventure Science, a blend of hands-on experiments and wacky entertainment

(example: Staggering Through the Stars, and a Wacky Water Workshop);

Adventure Art, the opportunity to exercise creativity with crafts;

Sail Into Story Time and Adventure Family. The latter is a free, onboard program

that allows children 3-11 and their parents to spend quality time together doing

projects that range from shipbuilding regattas to talent shows and scavenger hunts.


Mid-Size Vessels

RADISSON SEVEN SEAS CRUISES’ youth program, “Club Mariner,” provides adults who

want to share Alaska’s wonders with their children or grandchildren a

complimentary children’s program. “The program,” says the company, “offers the

opportunity for every member of the family to experience Alaska in a meaningful,

enriching way.”

The cruiseline’s youth program is designed for three age groups: 5-9, 10-13 and

14-17. Throughout each voyage, trained counselors offer young cruisers the

opportunity to participate in a variety of interactive adventures focusing on Alaska.

Children will exercise their creativity with crafts while gaining knowledge about

Alaska’s diverse wildlife, its unique geography, its indigenous crafts, and its rich

artistic heritage.

Kids will learn about whales, salmon, glaciers and totem poles. They might draw

and write about their adventures in their special Club Mariner scrapbook, bake

chocolate “moose” cookies, go whale watching out on deck or learn all about eagles,

dolphins, bears and sea lions.

Notes RSSC: “Club Mariner not only makes it easier for families to travel together,

it helps kids broaden their cultural and educational horizons. And they’ll return

home knowing more about Alaska than all the other 49 states combined!” (http://


SILVERSEA CRUISES advises that, due to the sophisticated nature of its cruises and

programs, the company does not encourage travel with young children. (http://


Smaller Ships

AMERICAN SAFARI CRUISES’ Kids in Nature (KIN) cruises, include a luxury yacht as

the schoolhouse, an Expedition Leader/Naturalist as the teacher, and the wildlife-

rich waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage as the laboratory. KIN convenes in Alaska

aboard the upscale 22-passenger yacht Safari Quest with the first of two seven-

night cruises from Sitka June 17. The voyage takes in various wilderness sites and

communities throughout Southeast Alaska. and ends in Juneau June 17. Another

seven-night Safari Quest sailing commences July 29 while an eight-night voyage

from Prince Rupert, B.C. to Juneau embarks June 26 aboard the equally luxurious

12-guest Safari Escape.

Activities abound for all ages: kayaking, hiking on a remote island followed by a

full-scale picnic, hopping shore-to-shore by Zodiac, viewing whales directly off the

bow or dolphins right below, collecting shells to study, and more. Kids and adults

alike are accompanied on a variety of personal-choice excursions while their yacht

is at anchor.

At the end of a cruise each child receives a Kids in Nature backpack filled with

mementos of their various explorations: a certificate of achievement signed by the

Captain and Expedition Leader, a tee shirt and cap, a pair of binoculars, disposable

camera and a typed list of all of the flora and fauna observed during the cruise. The

program offers kid-size pricing — two kids under 12 for one adult fare.

Aboard other sailings during the season American Safaris Cruises’ three yachts

offer very upscale amenities and cuisine best appreciated by sophisticated adults.

For these cruises the line normally discourages guests from bringing young children

and does not offer specifically child-oriented services. (http://


AMERICAN WEST STEAMBOAT COMPANY advises, “We tend to cater to mature adults

and therefore offer no special programs to kids and teens.” (http://


THE BOAT COMPANY offers special rates for young cruisers traveling with parents:

50 percent off the usual fare if occupying a stateroom with a parent, 20 percent off

if occupying a separate cabin.

The company’s two vessels do not have separate personnel specifically assigned

to youngsters on board, but the line does try to accommodate the desires of each

passenger including kayaking, fishing, beach hikes, and other kid-friendly activities.


CLIPPER CRUISELINE has no specific children’s programs or staff for younger

travelers, but the nature of the company’s routes and cruising areas

(including whale sightings, bears other wildlife, and shore excursions)

make it appropriate for family groups. Cabins can accommodate as many as three

guests; for larger groups two cabins would be necessary. (http://


CRUISE WEST offers a children’s travel special aboard the Sheltered Seas Daylight

Yacht Tours. Travelers 12 and under sharing a cabin with an adult save 50 percent

on Family Adventure cruise fares. Youths 13 through 21 save 25 percent.

While many of the company’s other cruises are of considerable interest for

families with children, activities aboard ship are not specifically geared for young

travelers. Cruise West is the largest of the smallship cruiselines serving Alaska and

offers cruising options of family interest from Southeast Alaska with its totems,

glaciers, national park lands and goldrush historical points of interest to

Southcentral’s Prince William Sound and beyond to Arctic waters and even Russia.


DISCOVERY VOYAGES advises that cruises aboard the 12-passenger vessel Discovery

are “definitely family friendly” and, in fact, the company offers a 25 percent discount

for children 12 and under.

Notes a company spokeswoman: “Due to the intimate size of our vessel we do not

have specific youth directors but our staff (including Captain Dean Rand’s daughters

Hannah and Heather, who grew up on board the Discovery) is diverse in working

with both adults and children as well as being naturalists and kayaking guides.” The

company often works with agencies and outfitters who specialize in family trips.


LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS welcomes voyagers young and old. And come September,

Archie Comics illustrator Stan Goldberg will join a shipload of other Lindblad

Expeditions travelers through the Inside Passage from Southeast Alaska to British

Columbia. His mission: to create the second in his “Little Lin” cartoon book series of

educational adventures for young people. (In his first book, Fun and Games With

Little Lin, released in 2005, child explorer Little Lin discovers Peru’s Galapagos


ßIn his second work Goldberg’s young adventurer will sail to Alaska and will

encounter glaciers, humpback whales, bald eagles, and all manner of other

creatures and their habitats along Alaska’s and British Columbia’s Inside Passage. In

future years, the Alaska-inspired Little Lin books will be distributed to all families

traveling aboard Lindblad Inside Passage cruises. (http://www.expeditions.com)

MAPLE LEAF ADVENTURES offers families the opportunity to view Alaska’s glaciers,

whales, islands, bear hot spots, beaches, hot springs and towns aboard the classic

tall-ship sailing vessel Maple Leaf, a beautifully restored 92-foot sailing schooner

built in 1904.

The ship takes 9 or 10 guests. The vessel’s on-board naturalist, chef and

experienced crew can customize the trip’s itinerary, menu and activities to suit

family interests. Typical highlights include unparalleled proximity to ice bergs,

glaciers and wildlife, sailing a tall ship, and great camaraderie between guests and


Special activities for kids include sail training, fishing (with purchase of a fishing

license), hikes, and a customizable itinerary.

Accommodations are comfortable but not luxurious. Because berths are limited

to nine or ten passengers, it is possible for one or more families (two families of

five, for instance) to jointly reserve all the berths for one of the company’s 11-night

Alaska voyages. Parents with teen-age children may reserve berths that are not

otherwise reserved with the concurrence of prior-booked adult passengers. (http://


State and Provincial Ferries

ALASKA MARINE HIGHWAY SYSTEM (Alaska ferries) is made-to-order for family

travel along Alaska’s coast. Depending on vessel youngsters will find onboard play

areas for the very young, casual meals and snack bars for any age, movies, and

nature talks plus expansive glass-enclosed solariums. These are ideal for spotting

orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, playful porpoises and sea lions in the water

plus mountain goats on towering cliffsides, and (for the fortunate observer) the

sight of black and brown (grizzly) bears on passing beaches. Families with or

without vehicles may embark as far south as Bellingham, Washington or Prince

Rupert, British Columbia.

Larger stateroom-equipped vessels of the fleet are the Columbia (931

passengers), Matanuska (745), Malaspina (701), Taku (370), and Kennicott (748).

Depending on the season, one or two ships sail on weekly schedules all the way to/

from Bellingham while others turn around at Prince Rupert. (http://


BC FERRIES demonstrates its kid-friendliness even before a family boards ship.

Computer-savvy children or their parents have only to surf the web to http://

http://www.bcferries.bc.ca/kidzone/establishing_shot.html and they will meet cartoon

characters Samantha (“Call me Sam”) and Cal, two seagoing doggy characters who

introduce young viewers to three online activities – an electronic coloring book, a

“Match the Ferries” memory game, and a virtual bridge tour.

The 700-passenger provincial ferry vessel Queen of the North connects with

Alaska state ferries at Prince Rupert for frequent access to Southeast Alaska ports.


Copyright (c) 2006 By Mike Miller — All Rights Reserved

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