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Alaska for Kids: 6 Family-Friendly Small Ship Cruises

by Todd Smith

An Alaska family vacation can be a transformative adventure where families share wondrous experiences together. Imagine kayaking in front of a tidewater glacier, walking among ancient temperate rainforest or watching whales at water level from a small skiff. Introduce your kids and yourself to the incredible nature and culture of Alaska aboard a family small ship cruise.

Alaska Family Glacier Iceberg

Alaska is a spectacular and easy destination for family vacations. Small ship cruises are inherently family friendly with comfortable accommodations, professional guides, a variety of activities and educational programs. AdventureSmith Explorations specializes in Alaska family small ship cruises, family charter cruises and custom vacations that offer families a intimate way to experience Alaska’s fantastic history, wildlife and culture up close, away from tourist crowds.

Alaska Family Small Ship Cruise Advice

While families traveling with children are welcome aboard most Alaska small ship cruises, we suggest families consider a designated family departure. These cruises are designed with families in mind and include expedition leaders with experience working with younger travelers, family-friendly meals and flexible activities with options for all generations from kids to grandparents. The greatest benefit of selecting a family-oriented cruise is traveling with likeminded families and kids of similar ages.

Keep in mind that small ships do not provide babysitting services, video games or kids clubs that separate families. Instead they offer off-vessel activities and onboard programs designed to bring families together. Some cruises offer daily excursions such as hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding and skiff rides. Other cruises visit remote Alaskan towns on guided walks. All will include outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities. If your child chooses not to participate in an activity, an adult will need to stay on board with them, so it is important to choose a cruise that is suitable to your interests and ability levels and appropriate to the age level of your children. If you are an adventurous family interested in spending quality time together experiencing Alaska up close, then we highly recommend you consider an Alaska family small ship cruise.

Alaska Family Iceberg Small Ship

Top Alaska Family Small Ship Cruises

We have compiled our 6 favorite famliy-friendly small ship cruises for the 2014 and 2105 seasons. We know that each family is unique and family travel is very personal, so review the trips below then contact our Alaska travel experts to be matched with the Alaska trip of a lifetime. 

Active Adventure for the Entire Family

The Eastern Coves Family Adventure Cruise & Western Coves Family Adventure Cruise are active, exciting and educational cruises aboard small expedition ships carrying 60-76 guests. Every day offers a new opportunity for adventure with hiking, kayaking, skiff rides or even paddle boarding and snorkeling as a means to explore Alaska’s nature and wildlife up close. A variety of activity levels from easy to challenging appeal to all generations of travelers from kids to grandparents. The 8-day Eastern Coves cruise travels from Juneau to Ketchikan while the 8-day Western Coves travels on a distinct route from Ketchikan to Juneau so the two cruises could be combined. The following Kids in Nature departures are further geared toward entertaining and educating kids of all ages and offer children 12 years and younger 25% off the adult fare: Eastern Coves aboard the Wilderness Adventurer July 19, 2014 and aboard the Wilderness Discoverer June 27, 2015. Western Coves aboard the Wilderness Adventurer July 26, 2014 and August 9, 2014 and aboard the Wilderness Discoverer July 4, 2015 and August 1, 2015.

Alaska Family Kayak Glacier

Live an Issue of National Geographic

Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness aboard the 62-guest National Geographic Sea Bird or Sea Lion is one of the finest small ship expedition cruises in Alaska. Naturalists and expedition leaders from National Geographic are professional experts in their field offering an unparalleled educational and intellectual Alaska program. This comfortable 8-day cruise combines wilderness cruising with occasional off-vessel activities such as kayaking, skiff rides and shore walks. Families are welcome on any departure, all summer long, with kids programs always available. Special programming for kids on all departures includes photo workshops, journaling, scavenger hunts, zodiac-driving lessons, hands-on nature and science programming, and child-friendly menu options with a special pizza and movie night. Travelers aged 17 years old and under save $500, at double occupancy.

Upscale Alaska Adventure Cruise

The 8-day Discoverers’ Glacier Country cruises are active, upscale family cruises exploring Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska's Inside Passage and Admiralty Island. Cruise in style aboard the 22-guest Safari Quest or the 86-guest Safari Endeavour. Hike, kayak and whale-watch right from small, luxurious yacht cruises with expert naturalist guides. Select Kids in Nature departures are geared toward entertaining and educating kids of all ages and offer a savings of 25% in select cabin categories for children 12 years and younger: aboard the 86-guest Safari Endeavour July 20, 2014, June 21, 2015 and July 19, 2015; and aboard the more intimate 22-guest Safari Quest June 20, 2014 and July 18, 2014.

Alaska Family Un-Cruise Waterfall Kids

Authentic Alaska

The True Alaska Family Cruise aboard the 49-guest Baranof Dream offers an authentic Alaska experienced through the lens of local Alaskans. The custom itinerary moves at a slower pace with more time to explore the nature and culture of Alaska. This 9-day cruise has a special focus on Alaskan culture and Native American history with visits to Sitka, Petersburg, Juneau and Hoonah. Enjoy two full days of easy activity including kayaking, Zego personal skiff rides and rough terrain vehicle explorations in scenic Hobart Bay. Other family-friendly activities include native crafts, scrapbooking, geology, scavenger hunts, game night, geo caching, a quick dip in the water affectionately referred to as the “Killer Whale Dip,” baking, knot tying, plant and animal identification and other special programs. Triple and quad accommodations are available with prices starting at $1999 for children. We recommend the True Alaska Family Cruise for families of all ages, but especially those with younger children under 12 years old interested in a mix of wilderness, native culture, port visits and soft adventure activities. The True Alaska Family Cruise is offered on July 19-27, 2014.

Alaska Family AdventureSmith Totem

Alaskan Ports & Solitude

The Alaska Island Spirit Family Cruise offers up-close explorations of Alaska’s towns and wilderness aboard intimate 32-guest Island Spirit.  Spend 9 days cruising for wildlife, sightseeing and shopping throughout Southeast Alaska's most popular destinations. This is a relaxed family vacation with delicious cuisine, excellent service and personalized hospitality.  Anchor in a quiet cove to enjoy the Alaskan solitude or enjoy opportunities for kayaking and shore walks. A unique battery system allows for a complete shutdown of engines and generators at night, which creates an atmosphere of near-total peace and quiet. Kids travel 2 for 1 on the dedicated family cruise on July 20, 2014.

Alaska Family Charter Cruises

Any of our Alaska small ships are available for charter. Charter cruises can be a great option for family vacations, family reunions and multigenerational family groups. A private ship charter offers your family exclusivity, flexibility and savings. Smaller charter yachts in Alaska include the Glacier Bay Adventure Cruise aboard the 12-guest Sea Wolf, Active Inside Passage aboard the 12-guest Pacific Catalyst II and Active Prince William Sound Discovery aboard the 12-guest Discovery. A family charter cruise will offer a more intimate experience and additional flexibility to craft the meals, itinerary and activities to suit your family’s interest and abilities. When considering a charter, plan ahead at least 9-12 months or more in advance.

Alask Family Kid Kayaking

Alaska for Kids by Land

Extend your Alaska family small ship cruise with a private tour to Denali National Park, Katmai National Park or create your own custom Alaska adventure. We offer a number of family-oriented land tours such as the 9-day Alaska Explorer Safari.

Alaska Family Boulder

Let AdventureSmith Explorations show you more about Alaska for kids and families. Our Alaska travel experts have extensive experience in this region and can match your family with the perfect vacation for your interests, abilities and budget. Contact an AdventureSmith expert today at 1-877-620-2875.

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