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Sailing Alaska -- Now It's A Baby Detail

Cruising Alaska - Now It's a Family Fact

By Mike Miller

If you're brooding about kids vacation to Alaska, and you're wondering if your kids would enjoy a cruise to "One more Frontier," wonder no more. Young folks from toddlers through teens have got a blast on big ships and small as their vessels sail in the protected waters of Alaska's Inside Passage. Aboard ship or ashore, there are plenty of kid-friendly, parent-friendly, and grandparent-friendly websites to see and fun actions you need to take.

It's gospel, a short decade or two ago families with kids aboard best alaska cruises were as scarce as Alaskan Dall sheep lambs inside of a grizzly bear's lair. Nonetheless the times have changed -- in a major way. Today you will notice, beyond just the traditional hefty contingent of seniors and near-seniors aboard each ship, many families. Sometimes these groups are multi-generational, with gramps and grandmas, mums and dads, and little ones that range from gangly teens to babes literally in arms.

The explanation? Word is out that Alaska's attractions are sure-fire hits for travelers of any age: attractions like humongous whales breaching long mirror out from the water, grizzly bears chasing salmon along forest creeks and rivers, icebergs (sometimes as big as a tour bus) crashing, splashing, and thundering off faces of miles-long glaciers.

Too, you will find opportunities to mush within a dog sled behind a team of charging huskies - after helicoptering into a lofty mountain-top glacier no less! Kids and oldsters can ride bikes through towering forests or down mountain paths and trails. They might 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 your young as well as the young-at-heart is riding a zip-line from the upper canopies of towering spruce and hemlock forests in Ketchikan and Juneau -- hanging secure and safe inside of a harness as they "zip" along a steel cable some 130 feet or even 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 could learn about the period when Alaska was "Russian America." And they can view mementos of those tumultuous gold stampede into the Klondike during the late 1800s,

No question about this, Alaska has something exciting to supply every loved one, despite age.

But what about life aboard the cruiseships? Will young people get the experience dullsville?

Hardly. The mid- to mega-sized ships in particular are completely resorts afloat with swimming pools, spas, snack shops, chips 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 confirm that cruisers from tykes through teens enjoy their cruise to the extent that their parents and grandparents.

Although smallship cruiselines in Alaska tend not to staff their vessels with special counselors for young cruisers, the ships are without any 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 along with spiffy powered Zodiacs, hike remote island beaches, even perhaps stop for a natural hot springs dip in forested surroundings.

One smallship cruiseline even schedules three best alaska cruise each year especially geared for family travel.

Regardless of vessel size, keeping simply a variety of exceptions, cruiselines in the Alaska trade actively court family cruisers. Few such travelers, young or old, get the experience anything except "cool." And they're also not referring to the weather.

Cruiseline by cruiseline here's a rundown of little one care and family fun on that best alaska cruise. The information was supplied because of the cruiselines or gleaned 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 numerous continuous supervised activities in the course of the line's "Camp Carnival" program.

Included in the line's Alaska sailings really are a volume of "simply for Alaska" projects where kids will make their very own dream catchers and totem poles and discover concerning 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 outdoors 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 in addition to just about every junior special." The menus are included on the back of your coloring and activity book featuring word finds, mazes, tic-tac-toe, crossword puzzles, connect-the-dots, as well as other games.

Young cruiser age groups include 2- through 5-year-olds, 6 through 8, 9 through 11, as well as for teens 15 through 17 a plan called "Club 02." (

CELEBRITY CRUISES' "Family Cruising Program" offers young peoples' activities in four age brackets:

On any given day Ship Mates (for 3- through 6-year-olds) may take part in 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 cookies sundae making.

A large number of same activities are at the agenda for older children also, but are undertaken traveling on an older-age level.

Celebrity Cadets (for youngsters 7-9) may also include pool olympics, scavenger hunts, charades, a workout 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 types of teenagers, 13-15 and 16-17. Members can frequent the teenager Club, go about basketball tournaments, enjoy pool parties, and help switch on talent shows.

Celebrity vessels incorporate a "Parents Night Out" program. On your two formal nights of the seven-night voyage, Celebrity treats parents to free babysitting when counselors consider the children to some pizza party for supper. (

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE's "Club HAL" presents a type of kid-friendly facilities and age-appropriate activities. Programs for kids ages 3-12 can be found aboard 2006 Alaska-bound ships Ryndam, Statendam, Zaandam, Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, and Westerdam and with ages 5-12 aboard Volendam and Veendam. All eight ships possess a teen program forever 13-17. (

Club HAL activities are applied to be age appropriate. For instance, every day activities planned for children ages 3 to 7 may include arts and crafts, face-painting, camp-out night, candy bar Bingo, outdoor fun, as well as 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 perhaps just 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 personal deck where teens can assimilate the rays then cool off within a one-of-a-kind waterfall. The Loft and Oasis are currently transferrable to 2006 Alaska-bound vessels Ryndam, Statendam, Veendam, Volendam, and Zaandam. Teens will especially relish teen disco, dance lessons, arcade games, teen sports tournaments, karaoke, trivia contests, bingo, play stations, movies and health and fitness parties.

On most itineraries, Holland America provides one full-time Youth Program Director and 1 or higher youth staff members. How many Club HAL staff to children as part of the team is 1:30.

Additionally there are a large choice of kid-pleasing food, including special sandwiches, tacos, burgers, hot dogs and pizza. For very young baby food, high chairs and booster seats may be requested beforehand of boarding. Baby-sitting services can be obtained for a small surcharge and special birthday parties may also be arranged.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE notes on its web page the fact that line's Kid's Crew and Teen's Crew programs are choked with age-appropriate activities for youngsters 2 through 17. For Kid's Crew members aged 2-12, NCL offers many arts and crafts to pajama parties. Teens Crew, for cruisers 13-17 provides options like pool parties, a young adult disco, a video arcade, etc.

But don't, says NCL, give thought to these programs as "babysitting." There's earn money "sitting" involved, notes the cruiseline. The programs are active, energetic, educational and, most specifically, fun. (

PRINCESS CRUISES' junior cruisers (ages 3 to 17) can savour a boatload of exciting onboard activities. Then entire listing of line's Alaska-bound ships have special kids and youth centers staffed by counselors who place on a program of age-specific activities daily. Group babysitting is supplied in the late evenings.

Among various programs for youths is definitely specific to Alaska. Produced with the National Park Service, Princess' sub-teen "Junior Ranger" program is created to bring Glacier Bay as well as the Alaska wilderness to life for a very large number 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.

Inside a cruise industry exclusive, the Los Angeles-based California Science Center provides entertaining interactive activities. Princess youth staff have undergone extensive training for the center, designed to enthrall young passengers with award-winning science projects. Whale watching, building and racing sailboats, marine biology studies and squid dissection certainly 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 chips parties, pizza parties, backstage and galley tours, pajama parties, and T-shirt coloring. Says Princess' website: "Our astounding teen centers are set with Nintendo, movies, karaoke, giant screen TVs, card and board games, ping-pong and juke boxes." The positioning also notes that the Alaska-bound Sun, Dawn, Coral, Island, and Diamond Princess ships also offer a toddler's play area. (

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL provides a young peoples' program called "Adventure Ocean" serving and entertaining travelers 3 to 17 in five different categories.

Youngest group (ages 3 through 5) are Aquanauts and do finger painting, building blocks, play dough, music activities, dot dancing, and "shape Bingo." Explorers (6-8) possess a Pirate Night, embark on a backstage tour, enjoy nutty nicknames, and interact with in autograph hunts. Nine to 11-year-old Voyagers do karaoke singing, have got a Ga-Ga Ball, enjoy H20 Thunder Races, and do a talent walk.

Navigators (12-14) play in sports tournaments, have pool parties, is content with college night, undertake game titles, and attend disco dancing sessions in addition to a proper night. Older teens,15-17 and called Guests, also enjoy dancing, pool parties, DJ training, Battle of the Sexes, plus a formal night as well as a Survivor Series.

RCI's Edu-tainment programming offers:

Adventure Science, a combination of hands-on experiments and wacky entertainment (example: Staggering From the Stars, along with a Wacky Water Workshop);

Adventure Art, the opportunity to workout creativity with crafts;

Sail Into Story Some time and Adventure Family. French is known as a free, onboard program that allows children 3-11 so their parents to shell out quality time together doing projects that can start from shipbuilding regattas to talent shows and scavenger hunts. (

Mid-Size Airline

RADISSON SEVEN SEAS CRUISES' youth program, "Club Mariner," provides adults who want to share Alaska's wonders along with their children or grandchildren a complimentary children's program. "The plan," says the organization, "offers the opportunity for every member of the family to experience Alaska within a meaningful, enriching way." The cruiseline's youth program designed for three age brackets: 5-9, 10-13 and 14-17. Throughout each voyage, trained counselors offer young cruisers the opportunity to take part in many different interactive adventures that focuses 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 could draw and write about their adventures in the special Club Mariner scrapbook, bake chocolate "moose" cookies, go whale watching into deck or learn all about eagles, dolphins, bears and sea lions. Notes RSSC: "Club Mariner not only helps it be easier for families to travel together, it will help kids broaden their cultural and beneficial horizons. And they'll return home knowing more about Alaska than the remainder of the 49 states combined!" ( SILVERSEA CRUISES advises that, due to the sophisticated nature of its cruises and programs, the corporation does not encourage travel with little ones. (

Smaller Ships

AMERICAN SAFARI CRUISES' Kids easily (KIN) cruises, include a luxury yacht because the schoolhouse, an Expedition Leader/Naturalist as the teacher, along with the wildlife-rich waters of Alaska's Inside Passage when 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 anyone: kayaking, hiking at the remote island developing to a full-scale picnic, hopping shore-to-shore by Zodiac, viewing whales directly off of the bow or dolphins right below, collecting shells to learn, etc. Kids and adults alike are accompanied on an number of personal-choice excursions while their yacht is at anchor.

Right at the end of your cruise each child receives a Kids in Nature backpack jam-packed with mementos of their various explorations: a certificate of achievement signed by the Captain and Expedition Leader, a tee shirt and cap, a few binoculars, disposable camera and a typed number of all of the wildlife observed during the cruise. This program offers kid-size pricing -- two kids under 12 for just one adult fare.

Aboard other sailings throughout the season American Safaris Cruises' three yachts offer very upscale amenities and cuisine best appreciated by sophisticated adults. These cruises the road normally discourages guests from bringing small and does not offer specifically child-oriented services. (

AMERICAN WEST STEAMBOAT COMPANY advises, "We tend to satisfy mature adults and for that reason offer no special programs to kids and teenagers." (

THE BOAT COMPANY offers special rates for young cruisers traveling with parents: 50 percent off the usual fare if occupying a stateroom which has a parent, 20 % off if occupying an independent cabin.

The company's two vessels do not have separate personnel specifically assigned to youngsters as part of the team, still the line does make an effort to accommodate the desires of each one passenger including kayaking, fishing, beach hikes, and other kid-friendly activities. (

CLIPPER CRUISELINE has no specific children's programs or staff for younger travelers, however the nature of the company's routes and cruising areas (including whale sightings, bears other wildlife, and shore excursions) cause it to be good for family groups. Cabins can accommodate countless as three guests; for larger groups two cabins could be necessary. (

CRUISE WEST offers a children's travel special aboard the Sheltered Seas Daylight Yacht Tours. Travelers 12 and under sharing a cabin who has an adult save 50 percent on Family Adventure cruise fares. Youths 13 through 21 save 25 percent.

While many of many company's other cruises are of considerable interest for families with children, activities aboard ship will not be specifically geared for young travelers. Cruise West is your largest of those smallship cruiselines serving Alaska discounts cruising choices about family interest from Southeast Alaska having its totems, glaciers, national park lands and goldrush historical destinations to Southcentral's Prince William Sound and beyond to Arctic waters or even Russia. (

DISCOVERY VOYAGES advises that cruises aboard the 12-passenger vessel Discovery are "definitely family friendly" and, the truth is, the corporation comes with a 25 % discount for infants 12 and under. Notes a business spokeswoman: "As a result of intimate size of our vessel and we don t have specific youth directors but our staff (including Captain Dean Rand's daughters Hannah and Heather, who were raised as part of the team the invention) is diverse in focusing on both children and adults in addition to being naturalists and kayaking guides." The organization often works with agencies and outfitters who specialize in family trips. (

LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS welcomes voyagers young and old. And are available September, Archie Comics illustrator Stan Goldberg will go into shipload of other Lindblad Expeditions travelers through the Inside Passage from Southeast Alaska to British Columbia. His mission: to design the next in his "Little Lin" cartoon book series of educational adventures for youngsters. (In his first book, Fun and Games With Little Lin, released in 2005, child explorer Little Lin discovers Peru's Galapagos Islands.)

├čIn his second work Goldberg's young adventurer will sail to Alaska and can 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 shall be distributed to everyone families traveling aboard Lindblad Inside Passage cruises. ( 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 in-built 1904. The ship takes eight to ten 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 crew. Special activities for teens include sail training, fishing (with purchase of an angling license), hikes, along with a customizable itinerary. Accommodations are comfortable but not luxurious. Because berths are limited to nine or ten passengers, its possible for example or over families (two families of 5, to illustrate) to jointly reserve all the berths for just one of many company's 11-night Alaska voyages. Parents with teen-age children may reserve berths that aren't otherwise reserved with all the concurrence of prior-booked adult passengers. (

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 likely see onboard play areas for your very young, casual meals and snack bars for any age, movies, and nature talks plus expansive glass-enclosed solariums. Those are ideal for spotting orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, playful porpoises and sea lions in the water plus mountain goats on towering cliffsides, and (of 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 many fleet are classified as 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 up to/from Bellingham while some turn at Prince Rupert. (

BC FERRIES demonstrates its kid-friendliness even before a family boards ship. Computer-savvy children or their parents have only to surf usually the internet server to and they ll meet cartoon characters Samantha ("Call me Sam") and Cal, two seagoing doggy characters who introduce young viewers to 3 online activities - a digital coloring book, a "Compare to the Ferries" memory game, and a virtual bridge tour.

The 700-passenger provincial ferry vessel Queen of the North embodies Alaska state ferries at Prince Rupert for frequent having access to Southeast Alaska ports. (

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Alaskan travel writer Mike Miller lives in Juneau where his current passion is publishing an informational website about Alaska cruising: Miller has authored or considered to be a number of books (Fodors, Sierra Club Books, Globe Pequot, The Milepost among others). He also writes for TravelAge West (a publication for travel agents) and for major newspapers and magazines.

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

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February 8th, 2012 at 1:44 am