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Alaska Cruise For Multigenerational Family: Creating A Memorable Adventure

Very few cruise experiences compare to the fun and excitement of an Alaskan cruise.  Just ask the thousands of cruisers who make the trip every year.  More than half of the visitors to Alaska arrive by cruise ship. And an Alaska cruise has consistently ranked as one of the top domestic vacations.  Not surprisingly, it is also a top destination choice for multigenerational cruisers.  

Embarking on an Alaska cruise offers a remarkable experience for travelers of all ages. With awe-inspiring glaciers, abundant wildlife, and cultural richness, this destination presents a unique opportunity for multigenerational families to create lasting memories.

Top Reasons to Choose Alaska for Multigenerational Travel

If you’re planning a multigenerational cruise, selecting Alaska is a safe and popular option.

Because It’s Alaska!

Let’s start with the obvious: Alaska is one of the most exotic places you can visit for family travel in the USA. Alaska, often referred to as the last great frontier, is a very large territory dominated by thousands of acres of untamed wilderness and a smattering of cities/towns.

By sheer geographic mass, Alaska is the largest state in America. And you could easily spend several weeks touring around the nooks and crannies.  

Alaska Cruise for Multigenerational Family | photo of Alaska coastline during summer  cruise
Alaska is filled with millions of acres of striking forests. (Credit: E. Warren-Family Cruise Companion)

The massive glaciers and stunning marine wildlife provide a unique backdrop for a family cruise. The natural wildlife, both at sea and on land, is its own attraction.  Think humpback whales, sea otters, moose, grizzly bears, and the largest population of bald eagles in the country.  Where else can you see a moose strolling through town?  

And Alaska offers many outdoor adventures: stunning mountain hikes, dog sledding, fishing, kayaking, looking for bears while hiking through a rainforest, and various helicopter excursions only scratch the surface of what’s available.  As part of a land-tour extension, you could also visit Denali National Park and see Mt. McKinley, the tallest peak in America.  

Many one-of-a-kind experiences in Alaska can truly be the foundation for the family trip of a lifetime.

Experience the Land of the Midnight Sun Firsthand

Have you ever wanted to see the midnight sun?  If that doesn’t excite you personally, your kids and/or grandkids will probably get a huge kick out of it.

Generally, the “midnight sun” phenomenon, where the sun remains visible even at or after midnight, occurs during the summer in places north of the Arctic Circle (or south of the Antarctic Circle).  Almost one-third of Alaska lies above the Arctic Circle and thus falls within the midnight sun zone.  But even those parts of the State that fall outside the zone still experience exceptionally long summer days, some with daylight hours of 17 or more.  

And there is plenty to pack into all of those extra daylight hours.  Many outdoor activities run past 8 p.m., and some Alaskans manage to start a golf game at 10 p.m. in the summer. 

Alaska Offers Something for Every Member of Your Multigenerational Family

Alaska provides many iconic excursions and experiences to appeal to all ages and activity levels.

Alaska Cruise Excursions | sled dog puppy
Many fun, family-oriented shore excursions involve cute puppies. (Credit: E. Warren – Family Cruise Companion)

Common shore excursions often include:

  • River Rafting
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Dogsledding
  • Zipline Canopy Tour
  • Whale watching
  • Helicopter ride to a glacier
  • Hiking on a glacier
  • Flightseeing tour across glaciers
  • Observing a lumberjack show (actually more fun than it first sounds)
  • Cooking classes featuring local cuisine
  • Panning for gold
  • Bird-watching for Bald Eagles
  • Wildlife tours spotting for moose, grizzly bears, polar bears, seals, caribou, eagles, humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, otters, and more.
  • Watching (and listening) to calving icebergs
  • Crab harvesting
  • Salmon Bake
  • Visiting authentic totem poles
  • Bus tours to historical sites

Family travel takes on a whole new meaning when multiple generations cruise together to experience the ever-changing landscape of Alaska.  No matter how many times your family cruises to Alaska, you’ll always find new sights, new fun, and new adventures.  

And don’t forget that once you are ready to relax on board after a full day of activities, the ship itself will offer a broad menu of diversions for different age groups. Plus, with built-in childcare (which can be provided by the cruise line rather than the grandparents), there is an opportunity for everyone to have age-appropriate fun.

Check out this great first-hand account of one woman’s multigenerational Alaska cruise on Celebrity with family members that included her kids, siblings, in-laws, parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. And, here’s another colorful example with grandparents hosting an Alaska cruise for the entire family.   

You’re Always Surrounded By Stunning Natural Beauty

Alaska offers many adventurous outdoor activities that will get your heart pumping. Still, you don’t even have to leave the ship to observe many of Alaska’s wonders firsthand – whether from the private balcony of your cabin or one of the ship’s public decks.  

Whales, eagles, bears, glaciers. You can see all of these natural wonders while sipping your morning coffee.  

Best Time to Cruise to Alaska

When planning a multigenerational family vacation on a cruise to Alaska, timing is crucial. Your experience can vary widely depending on your chosen month, impacting weather, wildlife sightings, and onboard activities suitable for kids and adults alike.

Weather and Wildlife Considerations

Alaska’s weather from May to September is typically most conducive to cruising, with May generally being the driest month. You’ll find average highs in the mid-50s°F, creating a comfortable environment for family excursions.

Importantly, this is also a prime time for wildlife enthusiasts; you may witness whales in the Alaskan waters and other native species at the height of their activity.

Peak Season vs. Shoulder Season

Peak season, running from June through August offers the warmest weather and longest days, which is beneficial for family outings and sightseeing. However, this is also when Alaska cruises are most in demand, leading to higher prices and larger crowds.

In contrast, the shoulder season, September, provides a quieter experience with potential discounts, though you should be prepared for cooler temperatures and fewer daylight hours.

Excursion Options for Family Adventure

Alaska cruises offer many excursion options tailored for family adventures, providing unforgettable experiences in some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.

From observing majestic wildlife to engaging in exhilarating activities, there is something for every age and interest.

Wildlife and Glacier Viewing

Glacier Viewing: A visit to Alaska’s iconic glaciers is a must-do. On your cruise, you have the opportunity to witness these icy wonders up close.

The Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, accessible by boat or seaplane, is a popular choice where you can marvel at the blue hues and listen to the sounds of ice calving.

Whale Watching: Encounter the ocean’s gentle giants through whale watching tours that often depart from Skagway, Juneau, or Ketchikan.

These excursions often come with guides who provide valuable insights into the behaviors of whales, making it an educational experience as well.

Active Adventures and Sports

Hiking: For families who love to hike, Alaska’s trails offer varying degrees of difficulty and scenic beauty.

Trails like those found in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park near Skagway allow you to step back in time while enjoying nature.

Kayaking: Take the adventure onto the water with a family kayaking tour.

Paddle amidst icebergs or along forested coastlines, offering a serene experience and the potential for wildlife encounters.

Cultural and Historical Tours

Ketchikan’s Cultural Treasures: In Ketchikan, delve into the rich local culture. Explore the vibrant totem poles dotting the landscape, representing the area’s Native heritage and providing a visual storytelling experience.

Klondike Gold Rush History: In Skagway, your family can immerse in the history of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Interactive tours transport you back to the 1890s, offering insights into the lives of adventurers who came in search of fortune.

Ports of Call and Scenic Highlights

Embarking on an Alaskan cruise allows you to explore some of the most majestic ports and natural wonders this region offers. Your journey will have opportunities to witness breathtaking glaciers and immerse yourself in the unique towns that make Alaska famous.

Iconic Alaskan Ports to Visit

Ketchikan is a must-see, often listed as a top Alaskan cruise port. Known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” you’ll discover a rich Native American heritage and inspiring totem poles.

Moving north, Juneau provides access to the stunning Mendenhall Glacier and the chance for wildlife encounters.

Skagway, harkening back to the Gold Rush era, offers historical train rides through scenic landscapes.

Sitka, a city blending Russian and Tlingit cultures, is surrounded by island-studded seas, forests, and volcanic mountain vistas.

Don’t miss Icy Strait Point for a glimpse into authentic Tlingit culture, where you can often spot coastal brown bears and humpback whales along the shoreline.

Natural Wonders and Scenic Cruising

Your cruise will allow you to marvel at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, undoubtedly a scenic treasure. Here, you’ll come face-to-face with the grandeur of towering glaciers and likely spot a variety of marine wildlife.

Cruising through the Inside Passage presents a network of waterways that offer serene views of multiple glaciers, including Hubbard Glacier and Dawes Glacier.

A journey into Endicott Arm, a lesser-known fjord, will reveal the Dawes Glacier up close and personal.

Additionally, voyages from Vancouver or Seattle round-trip often weave through these panoramic coastal routes, offering views of verdant forests and precipitous cliffs.

For an inland detour, the rail trip from Seward to Anchorage unfolds the dramatic vastness of Alaska, while an expedition to Denali reveals North America’s highest peak.

From the frontier spirit of Fairbanks to the remote, unspoiled charm of Wilderness Legacy, your cruise along Alaskan coastlines will showcase a kaleidoscope of nature’s splendor.

Selecting the Best Cruise Itinerary

When planning your Alaska cruise, the length of the trip can be as important as the destination itself. Your decision can greatly affect your family’s experience, from what you’ll see to how relaxed you’ll feel.

Short Cruises vs. Extended Voyages

Short Cruises: Ideal for families testing cruising waters, these are typically 4 to 6 days long.

You’ll taste the pristine Alaskan wilderness and experience a sample of onboard activities without a lengthy commitment. However, shorter cruises may not dock at as many ports or traverse the full glory of Alaska’s coastline.

Extended Voyages: 7 to 14-day cruises allow a deep dive into Alaska’s landscapes and cultures.

You’ll have more time for onshore excursions and to spot wildlife. An extended voyage ensures that you can discover the varied ports of Alaska at a leisurely pace, enriching your family’s cruising adventure.

Benefits of Round-trip Itineraries

Convenience: Booking a round-trip cruise simplifies travel arrangements, as you’ll depart from and return to the same city.

This particularly benefits multigenerational families, reducing the stress of coordinating flights from various locations.

Scenic Views: Round-trip cruises often follow scenic routes that showcase Alaska’s grandeur from multiple perspectives.

You’ll likely cruise the Inside Passage both ways, doubling your chances of spotting marine life and enjoying the breathtaking vistas.

Choosing Embarkation and Debarkation Cities

Selecting the right embarkation and debarkation points can significantly enhance your Alaska cruise experience. These ports not only mark the beginning and end of your journey, but they can play host to their own unique adventures.

Your main options for embarkation are Seattle, Vancouver, and occasionally Anchorage.

  • Seattle: A vibrant city with plenty to explore, including the iconic Space Needle and Pike Place Market.
  • Vancouver: Known for its beautiful parks and bustling waterfront, this city in British Columbia sets the stage for an unforgettable trip.
  • Anchorage: Although less common, starting from Anchorage (typically involves embarking from the port town of Seward) gets you closer to the heart of Alaska.

At the end of your cruise, you will typically disembark at one of the aforementioned cities. However, some cruises may offer alternative end ports, such as Victoria or Seward, providing further exploration opportunities or convenient travel arrangements.

  • Victoria: This charming city is rich in history and culture, making it a perfect end to your journey if your cruise route includes it as a final stop.
  • Seward: Located closer to Anchorage, debarkation here means you can continue your Alaskan adventure on land.

Closing Thoughts

So, Alaska cruises offer unbeatable value, stress-free planning, age-appropriate fun, and one-of-a-kind Alaskan excursions.  You can get all three (or four) generations of your family cruising, create a lifetime of memories, and see one of the most exotic states in the USA. Family travel can’t get much better than that.

Elaine Warren

Founder & Crew Chief

Elaine founded this website after publishing the book The Family Cruise Companion’s Guide to Cruising With Kids. She has sailed on 40 cruises (and counting). She loves helping families navigate their way to an adventure-filled, fun, and memorable vacation.

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