Browse our handpicked selection of options to cruise Alaska with kids. If done right, an Alaska family cruise can be a transformative adventure where families share wondrous experiences together. Imagine kayaking in front of a tidewater glacier 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. Small ships offer the best Alaskan cruise for families with comfortable accommodations, professional guides, a variety of activities, kid-friendly dining options and educational programs. Don’t just visit Alaska, explore it.
Alaska Family Cruise Experts
AdventureSmith Explorations specializes in Alaska family small ship cruises, family charter cruises and custom vacations that offer an intimate way to experience Alaska’s fantastic history, wildlife and culture up close, away from tourist crowds. Our experts have lived, worked and planned Alaska cruise family packages for decades. We are parents ourselves and we are here to help you find the best kid-friendly Alaskan cruise. Below are tips and advice from our family to yours along with our five best Alaska cruises for families.
When to Plan & Book an Alaska Family Cruise
The Alaska cruising season is short, beginning in April and ending in September. Most Alaska family cruises operate when kids are out of school in June, July and August. Because of a short season, small ships and a small number of dedicated family cruises each summer we encourage families to plan and book early. For the best selection of itinerary, date, ship and cabin we advise families to book 9-12 months in advance. Not sure when to go? Consult our month-by-month guide for the best time to visit Alaska.
Logistics for Alaska Family Cruises
To maximize your time cruising, plan to fly to Alaska in advance. Cruises embark in Juneau, Sitka, Gustavus, Petersburg, Ketchikan or Anchorage. Plan to arrive at least one day prior to your cruise embarkation. Arriving two days early will give you more time to relax, acclimatize and enjoy the port prior to the cruise. Many flights to Alaska are routed through Seattle and an overnight may be required for return flights to the East Coast. Our experts will help you plan flights and pre-cruise or post-cruise overnights.
5 Best Alaska Cruises for Families
What is the best Alaska cruise for families? We have compiled our five favorite family friendly Alaska small ship cruises. We know that each family is unique and thus travel is very personal, so review the trips below then contact our Alaska travel experts to be matched with the best Alaska cruise for your family. Ultimately, the best Alaska cruise for kids depends on each family’s personal needs & preferences.
1) Active Adventure for the Entire Family
Alaska Fjords & Glaciers is an active, exciting and educational cruise aboard 74-guest Wilderness Explorer. Every day offers a new opportunity for adventure with hiking, kayaking, skiff rides or even stand-up paddleboarding 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. This cruise travels between Juneau and Ketchikan over 8 days, featuring glaciers, fjord cliffs, deep valleys, whales, Tlingit culture and Alaska’s backcountry. Activities for all levels enable up-close exploration of “The Yosemite of the North,” Misty Fjords National Monument. Plus, children ages 8-17 save $500 per child on all departures except holidays.
2) Kids Can Live an Issue of National Geographic
Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness aboard one of the 100-guest National Geographic sister ships—Quest or Venture—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. Travelers aged 17 years old and under save $500, at double occupancy.
3) A Compact & Action-Packed Alaska Family Cruise Adventure
The compact 6-day Wild Alaska Escape: Sitka to Juneau aboard 62-guest Nat Geo Sea Bird or Sea Lion will keep active kids (& adults) engaged. Hike temperate rainforest, kayak and stand-up paddle among glaciers, raft the Chilkat River with local guides, visit an ancient Alaska native village, flightsee Glacier Bay National Park or cycle along a glacial lake and visit the Sitka Raptor Rehabilitation Center for an up-close look at Alaska’s birds of prey. This Alaska family cruise is ideal for families with busy schedules, as the itinerary packs all the action into the span of one week. Kids under the age of 18 at the time of their Alaska family cruise save $500, at double occupancy.
4) Authentic Alaska with Kids
The Glacier Bay and Island Adventure Cruise offers an authentic Alaska experience through the lens of local Alaskans. The 8-day itinerary sailing aboard the 40-guest Alaskan Dream moves at a slower pace with more time to explore the nature and culture of Alaska. Highlights include visits to Sitka, Petersburg, Juneau and Kake with a special focus on Alaskan culture and Native American history.
We recommend this cruise for families of all ages, but especially those with younger children interested in a mix of wilderness, native culture, port visits and soft adventure activities. Children ages 15 and under receive 15% off the double occupancy rate.
5) A Hands-On Alaska Family Cruise
The 7-day Sea Wolf Glacier Bay Adventure spends most of its itinerary in Glacier Bay National Park, maximizing time among famous glaciers and magnificent shoreline. Families explore Alaska’s outdoor classroom from the platform of the Alaskan-owned-and-operated, historic 12-guest M/V Sea Wolf. The small size of the ship plus her knowledgeable Alaskan crew create a flexible cruise that optimizes wildlife viewing and adventure opportunities. With the Sea Wolf donating time to local school groups every season, her crew of expert naturalists knows how to engage kids of all ages, helping spread the wonder and awe of the best Alaska cruise for families.
Small Ships Focus on Family Adventures
The primary purpose of small ship Alaska cruises for families is to experience authentic Alaska together. This means exploring away from the ship with professional expedition leaders on off-vessel activities. Some cruises offer daily excursions such as hiking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and skiff rides. Other cruises visit remote Alaskan towns on guided walks.
All will include outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities. View bears, whales, eagles and glaciers while creating memories to last a lifetime. On board, expert naturalist guides educate and enlighten with programs designed to entertain and inform.
Aboard an Alaska small ship cruise with kids, screens and videos take a backseat to once-in-a-lifetime encounters and experiences, like whale watching and viewing the northern lights (aurora borealis). If you are an adventurous family interested in spending quality time together experiencing Alaska up close, then we highly recommend an Alaska family small ship cruise.
How Old Should Kids be for an Alaska Family Small Ship Cruise?
When considering an Alaska small ship cruise, we suggest age six and older. Some ships will allow children as young as two years old or even babies. Most small ship cruise lines do not provide babysitting services, video games or kids clubs that separate families. Instead, they provide off-vessel activities and onboard programs designed to bring families together. If your child chooses not to participate in an activity, then 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.
Multigenerational Family Cruises in Alaska
We are often asked if it is appropriate to cruise with three generations: kids, parents and grandparents. We emphatically answer yes! Small ships offer a lot of flexibility with activities suitable for travelers of all ages, mobility and ability levels. Imagine spending the morning on an easy walk together. The group splits up so avid hikers can enjoy a more challenging trail while others are picked up in the Zodiac for a wildlife excursion. In the afternoon, active kayakers paddle among icebergs while a Zodiac cruises nearby with grandparents taking photos of family members while they paddle. Choose as much or as little activity as your multigenerational family wishes.
Best Family Cabins
Another planning tip for researching Alaska cruises with kids comes in your choice among the many available small cruise ships and cabins. Depending on the size of your family and the ages of everyone, you might want to look for a family suite, triple cabin availability or even quad availability in select cases. Some ships offer interconnecting cabins. For a look at some of our favorite family cabins aboard cruise ships worldwide, see our Best Cruise Cabins for Families blog post.
Alaska Family Cruise Deals
You can often find a bargain for the family in Alaska. While small ship cruise prices may not look as initially low as you’ll find aboard the big ships, you’ll find that the additional inclusions (no high-added-cost shore excursions) and authentic, intimate experience more than makes up for any difference. Think more intimate encounters with nature and wildlife and less casinos, waterslides and midnight buffets. Learn more about small ship vs big ship cruises.
To find Alaska family cruise deals and added value for kids, browse our Alaska small ship cruise deals. You can also look to the Families & Children section of each AdventureSmith trip itinerary’s Inclusions, Terms & Notes details for family deals that never expire. This section also explains if any special kid-friendly programming is offered aboard. Ultimately, contact us to speak with our crew who can personalize recommendations for you so that you can have the best kid friendly Alaskan cruise at the lowest price.
Alaska Family Charter Cruises
Any of our Alaska small ships and yachts are available for charter. Family 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 accommodate between 8 and 22 guests. For more information, read our comprehensive guide to Alaska yacht charters. 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 an Alaska family charter cruise, plan at least 9-12 months or more in advance.
Alaska Cruise Extensions & Custom Arrangements
Pair your cruise with an Alaska land tour for the ultimate Alaska family vacation package. Or extend your Alaska family small ship cruise with a private tour to Denali National Park, Katmai National Park or Kenai Fjords National Park, or create your own custom Alaska adventure. We offer a number of family oriented land tours with special youth and child rates.
Alaska family land tours add unique activities such as a wildlife safari through Denali National Park, riding the Alaska Railroad, canoeing, wild berry picking, fishing, mountain biking, river rafting, gold panning and flightseeing. The opportunities for adventure are endless. Our experts will work with you to plan a seamless family vacation.
So, What is the Best Alaska Cruise for Families?
The best Alaskan cruise for families is aboard a small ship or yacht. Experience authentic Alaska with your family this summer. Let AdventureSmith Explorations show you more about Alaska travel with 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. Learn more in our How to Choose Your Alaska Cruise guide, and keep reading about family cruises to destinations worldwide.
Now that you’ve read about the many ways to plan your Alaska family cruise, start your trip search below. Our top five small ship Alaska cruises for families are detailed above, but your ideal Alaska family cruise may revolve around interests offered in another of our below options. Use the filters to narrow down your search, or contact us for a personalized recommendation on the best Alaska family cruise centered around your needs.