Planning an Alaska cruise 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 ship cruises are inherently family friendly with comfortable accommodations, professional guides, a variety of activities, kid-friendly dining options and educational programs.

a happy family of four pause in their orange life jackets for a photo opportunity while aboard an Alaska small ship cruise.

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 Top 5 Alaska Family Small Ship Cruises

What’s the best Alaska cruise for families? We have compiled here five of our 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 right Alaska family cruise for you. Ultimately, the best cruises for kids come down to each family’s personal needs & preferences.

1) Active Adventure for the Entire Family

During an Alaska small ship cruise activity, two guests paddle in a lime green kayak in front of a massive white and teal glacier.

Alaska Fjords & Glaciers is an active, exciting and educational cruise aboard 60-guest Wilderness Adventurer or 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 8-13 save $500 per child on all departures except holidays.

2) Kids Can Live an Issue of National Geographic

Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness aboard the 62-guest National Geographic Sea Bird or 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) Retracing History on an Alaska Family Adventure Cruise

Three children talk amongs themselves as they sit on top of rocks on a shore excursion during their family friendly Alaska small ship cruise,

The 13-day Inside Passage & Glacier Bay Wilderness Cruise travels between Seattle, Washington, and Juneau, Alaska. This epic Alaska family cruise explores Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska’s Inside Passage and Canada’s Inside Passage, with unique visits to the San Juan Islands. With every departure featuring a special Alaska Insider aboard, retrace some of the sailings of famed naturalist John Muir—though you’re sure to have a much more comfortable vessel than he did in the late 1800s, as your accommodation can be aboard the 36-guest Safari Explorer, 74-guest Wilderness Explorer, 76-guest Wilderness Discoverer or 84-guest Safari Endeavour. With their shallow drafts, these spacious expedition vessels access narrow fjords and secluded inlets. Hike, kayak and whale-watch from your small ship with expert naturalist guides. Kids ages 8 to 13 save $500 each, with the exception of holiday departures.

4) Authentic Alaska for 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 or 49-guest Baranof 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.

Family-specific departures tailor the route and programming for kids aged 7 and up, allowing them to spend an extra day within Glacier Bay National Park and sailing at a more kid-friendly pace through the park. Other added bonuses on the family departures are dog sled demonstrations and visits to the Sitka Sound Science Center, Alaska Raptor Center and the Fortress of the Bear rescue center. 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. For these family departures children ages 15 and under receive 20% off the double occupancy rate.

5) A Hands-On Alaska Family Cruise

A family of 4 smile and pose as they sit on top of icebergs during their family Alaska small ship cruise.

The 6-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 that is an Alaska family vacation.

Alaska Family Cruise Advice for Travel Aboard Small Ships

Keep in mind that it’s common for small ship cruise lines to 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.

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.

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. 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. 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.

Another planning tip for researching 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. For a look at some of our favorite family cabins aboard cruise ships worldwide, see our Best Cruise Cabins for Families blog post.

A cloudy day, in a body of water surrounded by forested hillsides, children and their parents enjoy kayaking in red double kayaks during their active family friendly Alaska small ship cruise,

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 man-made zip lines, waterslides and endless 24/7 buffet dining options. 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 team who can personalize recommendations for you so that you can have the best Alaska cruise for your kids at the best price.

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 accommodate between 8 and 22 guests. For more information, read our comprehensive guide to chartering a small ship in Alaska. 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 at least 9-12 months or more in advance.

Alaska for Kids by Land

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.

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. Learn more about family cruises to destinations worldwide. Not sure when to go? Consult our month by month guide for the best time to visit Alaska.

This blog post on the best Alaska family cruises is among AdventureSmith Explorations’ extensive Small Ship Cruise Guides. Visit our collection of Alaska Cruise Guides for even more resources to plan your Alaska cruise. Note that this post was originally published in August 2016 and is updated periodically by our experts; our most recent update occurred June 2020.