So you’ve decided to sail an Alaskan itinerary, but what cruise line and cruise ship would be best for your family? To help you decide, we have compiled a list of the best Alaskan cruises for families. Our focus is on the best family-friendly cruise lines that have ships that are particularly good for families sailing with kids.
We reviewed the 18 different cruise lines that offer Alaskan sailings with an array of dozens of different ships from which to choose. We have narrowed the field down to nine different ships that we think offer the best Alaskan cruises for families. This list includes megaships, large ships, luxury ships, and one recommendation from the small ship category. Read on to figure out which one will be just right for you. (And, once you’ve settled on a ship, be sure to check out our post on Alaska cruise excursions!)
Best Alaskan Cruises For Families: Our Top 3 Choices
These three ships make the top of the list because their on-board activities make them the best Alaska cruises for kids.
The Norwegian Bliss debuted in 2018. It has 20 decks, 2,220 cabins and can carry 4,000 passengers. Its combination of amenities and activities make it one of the best Alaskan cruises for families.
We recently posted our Norwegian Bliss review based on a recent Caribbean sailing. But this ship was actually tailored for Alaska. And, it has elements designed to maximize guests’ exposure to the majestic landscape that makes Alaska so special.
For instance, the Observation Lounge on deck 15 presents the most striking example of that. Specifically designed to enhance Alaska cruising. It’s an oversized 20,000 square foot lounge with 180-degree panoramic views through its floor-to-ceiling windows. It has an abundance of seating in a wide variety of configurations for guests to relax with enjoy the view with coffee or other preferred beverage. Stepping back from the main forward-facing viewing windows, you’ll find seating areas that wrap down both sides of the ship, as well as several food stations serving breakfast and lunch. And you’ll find a full bar as well.
The Norwegian Bliss offers a wide range of family activities including a family circus workshop, a variety of game shows, dance parties and challenges, as well as a circus themed escape room.
Signature attractions include the extremely popular Go-karts and outdoor laser tag (make reservations before boarding!). And, top notch water facilities include several water slides and a kids’ aqua park.
The ship also features a large contemporary arcade, a small miniature golf course, two bowling lanes, and a range of live entertainment and stage productions.
The Bliss also offers a full range of supervised youth programming for kids ages 3 through 17. Splash Academy provides a drop-off program for children ages 3-12 that is structured across three age groups. Activities include sports, interactive games, creative play, theme parties and circus school.
Entourage provides a teen space for kids 13-17 that combines a hangout zone, dance zone, game zone, and party zone. Program counselors host teen activities and challenges around the ship.
For more details on this beautiful ship, check out our full Norwegian Bliss review.
Although the Disney Wonder first debuted 20 years ago (in 1999), it received an intensive makeover in 2016. So, it has lots of up-to-date bells and whistles. The Disney Wonder also features attractions not found on its sister ships such as the live musical Frozen and the Marvel Superhero Academy! These one-of-a-kind attractions make it one of the best Alaskan cruises for families.
Disney ships are always filled with families and children of all ages. But the Alaska sailings tend to attract more multigenerational groups and also adults sailing without kids. Disney offers high-quality stage shows, but no casinos. Stateroom configurations are notably family-friendly with 1 ½ split bathrooms and extra berth options. Prices tend to be substantially higher than the competition.
As for character experiences, Disney Wonder offers a wide range of character experiences throughout the ship. These are opportunities to meet and interact with a variety of your favorite characters from numerous Disney films. Some of the structured experiences include photo ops with favorite characters, designated meet and greet locations for specific characters, a royal tea party with Disney princesses, a meet-and-greet with the Disney princesses, character breakfasts, and special character greeting with the stars of Frozen.
Youth Club Programming
The Disney Wonder will be particularly attractive for families cruising with a baby. This ship offers drop-off nursery care for children ages 6 months to 3 years for a fee. And, it also offers a wide range of complimentary baby gear including diaper disposal units, bottle warmers, bottle sterilizers, cribs and playpens, and strollers.
Disney provides youth club programming on its cruise ships through its Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab from 9 a.m to midnight. Both are open to children ages 3 to 12. Disney does not otherwise separate children based on age. In Oceaneer Club, children interact with Disney characters in various themed magical lands that vary based on the ship. On Disney Wonder, the Oceaneer Club features the Marvel Super Hero Academy, where kids can interact with Captain America, Spiderman, and the Black Widow to solve various missions. And, among the various themed rooms, kids will find the Frozen Adventures theme room with games and props based on the movie Frozen, as well as guest character appearances from Elsa and Anna.
The ship also provides two activity areas for tweens and teens. The Edge (for kids 11 to 14) features a large array of hi-tech entertainment, including an illuminated dance floor and tables with notebook computers. Vibe (for teens ages 14 to 17) is a chaperoned lounge with music, movies, video games, big-screen plasma TVs, dance floor, Internet café, and teen-only activities.
Other Family Activities
The Disney Wonder has a wide range of fun family-oriented water attractions including the Twist n Spout water slide. It’s a double looping water slide for guests who are at least 38 inches tall. And, an 1,800 square foot recreation space themed around Donald Duck’s nephews that includes a series of pop jets, geysers and bubblers, pouring paint cans, raining shower heads, and other fun surprises. You’ll also find the Dory’s Reef splash zone for kids 3 and under which is designed based on the moving Finding Dory. It includes fountains, pop jets, bubblers and a water curtain. Plus, the array of water attractions include Goofy’s family pool and Mickey’s children’s pool. All of the water attractions are centrally located on Deck 9.
The Disney Wonder also features dedicated adult spaces for evening entertainment featuring three lounges that offer a variety of musical entertainment, comedians, dancing, mixology classes and more (but no casino).
ROYAL CARIBBEAN OVATION OF THE SEAS
Ovation of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean’s newer ships and a member of it Quantum class. While not as large as some of the Oasis class ships, this vessel can still hold up to 4900+ passengers. And, as of now, it is the largest cruise ship sailing Alaska.
We were very saddened to learn the news that Royal Caribbean discontinued the Dreamworks Experience. So, after April 2019, there won’t be any more character experiences on any of its ships. Nevertheless, Ovation of the Seas still has many family-friendly options that earns it a spot on the list of best Alaskan cruises for families.
Ovation of the Seas features an extremely large indoor activity space known as the Sea-Plex. Activities include a trapeze school, roller rink, full-size basketball court, and real bumper cars. Note that for roller skating, kids under 6 must be accompanied by a grown up at all times. And, for bumper cars, kids must be at least 42 inches tall to drive alone. The Sea-Plex fun also includes a pool table and a wall of large screen Xbox One stations.
Other featured attractions include rock climbing, the FlowRider surfing simulator, a skydiving simulator (iFly), and the North Star observation pod that ascends 300 feet above sea level and out over the ocean (weather permitting).
As for water play, Ovation of the Seas features, in addition to its regular pools, Splashaway Bay. This features a more tricked out splash park that includes a large tipping bucket, and small and medium water slides.
Youth Club Programming
Royal Caribbean offers the Adventure Ocean Youth Program for children ages 3 to 11. Children are grouped as follows: Aquanauts (ages 3-5); Explorers (ages 6-8); Voyagers (ages 9 to 11). Ovation of the Seas also offers a dedicated Royal Babies & Tots Nursery, which provides drop-off care for infants and toddlers ages 6 to 36 months, for a fee. And, there’s also a dedicated open play area for toddlers that’s stocked with a range of age appropriate toys where families can visit at their leisure. Group sitting is available in Adventure Ocean center for a fee from 10 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. The Nursery also has evening hours.
Older kids can participate in the ship’s teen programs for kids ages 12 to 17. Sample activities for younger teens may include rock climbing competitions, dodgeball, dance activities, movie nights, and talent shows. Older teens may enjoy activities such as pool parties, teen dinners, karaoke competitions, and sports competitions (both virtual and real). The ship’s “teen-only” hang out spaces include a low-key lounge area and an evening dance club.
Best Alaskan Cruises For Families: Other Outstanding Choices
Celebrity Cruises is the upscale sister-line to Royal Caribbean. And, this year Celebrity Eclipse will be sailing Alaska itineraries. The Eclipse debuted in 2008 and has been refurbished in 2015. It can hold approximately 2800 passengers. has extensive spa offerings and numerous specialty gourmet restaurants. Innovative features include a hot glass show and the Lawn Club featuring real grass.
At the Lawn Club, guest can indulge in outdoor games, or relax in the lounging spaces to order drinks and snacks while soaking in the impressive views. Or, you could wander over to the Corning Museum of Glass to observe the glass-blowing demonstrations.
Families can also lounge in a spacious pool area containing two relaxing pools and a jacuzzi. Or, grownups seeking some alone time can venture over to the Solarium, an adults-only area with its own pool, tranquil waterfall and plush lounge seating.
The Fun Factory provides programming for children ages 3-11 across three groups: Shipmates (3-5); Cadets (6-8); Ensigns (9-11). After 10 p.m., Celebrity offers group sitting in the kids’ club facilities from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. for a fee.
Celebrity also offers the X-Club for teens and young adults. X-Club provides supervised activities hosted by youth counselors, including social activities, gaming consoles, sports activities, and late-night teens-only dances.
HOLLAND AMERICA NIEUW AMSTERDAM
No list of best cruise lines in Alaska would be complete without Holland America, a cruise line with one of the most extensive and established presences in Alaska. So, not surprisingly, we have included Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam on our list of best Alaskan cruises for families.
Holland America, has a well deserved reputation for appealing to older cruisers, and it offers a rich schedule activities that are largely geared toward adults. One of the most notable features of the Nieuw Amsterdam is its $3 million art collection that features works from the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
The menu of activities includes many enrichment classes in cooking and technology, including cooking classes and workshops in America’s Test Kitchen, a digital workshop with photography classes, and video editing opportunities. You’ll also find more old-school traditional cruise experiences like afternoon tea and ballroom dancing.
Holland America offers three programs for youth ages 3 to 17. Club HAL Kids is offered for ages 3 to 6. Club HAL Tweens covers children ages 7 to 12. The Loft is available for Teens ages 13 to 17. The clubs generally close for extended lunch and dinner periods on sea days, and also close for a dinner period on port days. For children ages 3-12, HAL offers Club HAL After Hours from 10:00 p.m. until 12:00 a.m. for a fee.
HAL also sponsors a youth-oriented Culinary Arts Center that provides hands-on cooking classes for kids and teens. Kids learn basic cooking techniques, kitchen safety, new ingredients, and how to follow recipe instructions. Youth activities also include an array of arts and crafts programs, gaming tournaments, contests and themed parties.
Like Holland America, Princess Cruises should make any list assessing the best cruise lines in Alaska. It has an extensive history in Alaska with a very large presence. It currently has nine different ships scheduled to sail Alaska itineraries.
Princess generally tends to attract and older crowd, but it also has an established kid’s program, and one that has recently benefited from some added bells and whistles.
Families considering an Alaskan cruise should take a look at Royal Princess. Royal Princess is the largest of the Princess ships sailing Alaska with room for more than 3,500 guests.
Princess has some signature programs for its Alaska sailings that includes the “Cook My Catch” culinary program where guests can bring back their bounty from certain Princess-sponsored fishing excursions have it cooked on-board by a chef. And, there’s also “Puppies in the Piazza,” where guests can interact with real Alaska sled dog puppies on the ship.
On Royal Princess, you’ll find youth programs for kids ages 3 through 17. For the aged 3 to 7 crowd, the ship offers the forest-themed Treehouse where they can enjoy pajama movie nights, puppet projects and Lego contests. Kids ages 8 to 12 can hang out in the Lodge, an area inspired by the great outdoors. Activities include games, dancing, contests, theme nights and science oriented programs. And teens can visit the Beach House where they can socialize with peers in dance classes, movies, sport competitions and teens-only parties.
Princess is one of the few programs that will allow adults to stay with kids during the youth club activities. And, children under 3 are welcome to participate provided they have a grown up in tow.
Best Alaskan Cruises For Families: Something Different
If you’re looking for the best luxury Alaskan cruises for families, then take a look at Cunard and Crystal Symphony. And, if you’re looking for a smaller, more intimate experience, then check out the National Geographic cruise below.
CUNARD QUEEN ELIZABETH
For the first time in 20 years, Cunard will have its Queen Elizabeth ship sail Alaska itineraries. These will be 10 night round trip sailings from Vancouver starting in May 2019. The Queen Elizabeth first set sail in 2010, and was most recently refurbished in November 2018.
The Cunard youth program provides supervised activities for children ages 2 to 17. The age group categories include The Play Zone for ages 2 to 7 (includes an outdoor play area, arts and craft station, carpeted indoor play area with blocks and toys, and tables for puzzles and games); The Kids’ Zone for ages 8 to 12 (gaming consoles, sports competitions, arts and crafts, karaoke); and the Teen Zone for ages 13 to 17 (table tennis tournaments, sport deck, dancing/discos). Notably, the kids’ areas also have access to outside deck space for activities and play.
Cunard’s youth program includes complimentary group supervision in the evening. Cunard also has a Night Nursery available for children ages 6 months to 23 months from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. at no charge, on a first-come, first–served basis.
This is traditional cruising the way you’ve seen in movies like Titanic (without the iceberg and the steerage quarters). And, its not centered on high adrenaline activities that many family orientated ships now include. No water slides. No skating, surfing, race cars or sky diving. (Movie buffs should check out Trip Savvy’s list of checking out some other great cruise ship movies.)
It’s particularly noteworthy that Cunard takes formal night to a whole new level with its Gala Balls. Guests don their finest dinner jackets and most glamorous ball gowns to go dancing in a real ballroom accompanied by a live 8-piece orchestra. Cunard also has gentlemen hosts on standby dance partners for any ladies without dance partners.
The Queen Elizabeth has a fun Games Deck featuring paddle tennis, boules and croquet. You will also find traditional shuffleboard and a card room with a library of board games. And the ship offers lots of educational and enrichment activities such as watercolor classes, different styles of dancing lessons, and fencing classes.
Overall, this ship may be a bit more restrained and adult than some of the other ships on our list. And, it may be better suited for families traveling with older kids or in multigenerational groups. Although the free night time babysitting for infants and toddlers could make it a uniquely good fit for families sailing with kids under 3.
Crystal Cruises is known for its upscale luxury cruises, but it typically has relatively limited programming for kids. During holiday and summer sailings, however, the ships become more family-friendly. And fortunately, summer sailings coincide with the Alaska cruise season. So, we’re including the Crystal Symphony on our list of best Alaskan cruises for families.
During the summer, Crystal Symphony offers supervised dedicated play areas for kids and teens. Sample activities include scavenger hunts, cookie baking, karaoke, stories and dancing. The teen space also has a video arcade. And, Crystal Symphony offers in-stateroom baby-sitting (ages 1 year and up) for an additional fee, on a first-come first served basis.
Although not completely all-inclusive, standard fares include cocktails, beer, wine, soda, and specialty coffee. Each guest also receives one complimentary dinner at each of two specialty restaurants. And all gratuities, except for spa services, are also included.
All staterooms have a small refrigerator stocked with complimentary soft drinks and bottled water. Suite class cabins also have complimentary liquor.
Notably, Crystal is one of the few cruise lines offering complementary launderettes. And, all guests now have free wifi for up to two devices. Crystal also offers complimentary volunteerism shore excursions.
Crystal Symphony features a beautiful pool deck with plenty of comfortable lounging space and an oversized jacuzzi. Guests can also enjoy the driving range and putting green, movie theater, and a full-size paddle tennis court (not to be confused with ping pong – which it also has).
And, guests have access to a robust menu of enrichment and educational activities. You can explore your artistic interests in painting, sculpture or crafts workshops led by art specialists, learn to make movies on an iPad, or take lessons in bridge or golf, as well as ballroom dancing (a partner will be provided if you don’t have your own).
For entertainment, Crystal Symphony offers magic shows, comedians, production shows, a variety of live music and a DJ oriented venue.
Note that Crystal Symphony receives particularly high marks for dining and service. But, its standard staterooms tend to run smaller than competitor luxury lines.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC VENTURE
Our final entry on the list of best Alaskan cruises for families features a representative from the “small ship” category of cruises. If you have older kids and a (ahem) robust travel budget, the National Geographic Venture could be a fantastic option for your family!
This 100-passenger ship is geared toward folks seeking exploration and adventure. Everything is 100% casual. No formal nights and no dress codes. Your cruise fare includes all meals, all non-alcoholic beverages and all excursions.
This expedition-style ship combines wilderness cruising with occasional off-vessel activities such as kayaking, skiff rides and shore walks. And, it’s equipped with its own fleet of landing craft and kayaks, allowing for in-depth exploration of icebergs, calving glaciers, and hidden coves.
This ship does not offer a dedicated kids’ club, but it does offer special activities for kids through its National Geographic Global Explorers program. This interactive educational program teaches kids about glaciers, and using glacial ice to make ice cream or watercolor paint. And, certified field educators will help kids and teens cultivate their Alaska observation skills and learn to document their experiences through photographs, videos, maps, drawings, and more. Kids have a range of activities to choose from, and the opportunity to explore interests such as marine biology and photography. Other activities include journaling, scavenger hunts, Zodiac-driving lessons, and other hands-on nature and science programming.
The ship will generally offer shore excursions twice a day with several options to choose from. However, if your child chooses not to participate in an activity, then an adult will need to stay on board with them.
An Alaska cruise offers something for everyone. And this list of the best Alaskan cruises for families does as well. No matter your size preferences or your price point, you should find something that will be a fantastic cruise vacation for your family.
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