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Cruising Alaska with little ones

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I know cruising with kids is an often debated topic.  I get it - you save all your money to go on vacation to see other peoples kids running around.  But grown-ups are just other peoples kids who look older.  There is no saying that someone's 43 year old son will act any better than my 3 year old grandson.  So can we just agree to disagree on this topic for this trip?  I like to vacation both ways.  But for this very special trip, 3 of our (soon to be 4) grandkids will be with us.  (At the time of sailing they will be just about 4, 23 months and 21 months).   It's my husband's 50th birthday and after a year spent with over 9 hospital stays (equalling roughly 40 nights in 12 months) and  4 surgeries (including a new pacemaker), we decided life was too short and we are living in the moment. (Or living for next May when we will Blissfully sail Alaska for the first time!).

 

I'm asking for anyone who has cruised Alaska with little ones for any tips to make this the best family trip for the 14 of us going!  Recommendations for excursions (that can be done with toddlers/preschool age) would be most appreciated!   I do plan on surprising hubby in one of the ports with something special for the two of us (he loved doing a helicopter in Hawaii, so maybe a helicopter excursion)!  

 

 

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Not sure if this helps but in 2015 my children were 5 and 7 yrs, then in 2019 they were 9 & 11 yrs.

 

Both my children enjoyed swimming in the indoor pool on the ship on both trips - happy kids, happy family. They also enjoyed the kids club on-board both times too. But I think under-3's can't swim or use kids club, might vary from cruise line to cruise line.

 

Ketchikan - first time we just wandered round, Creek St, rode the funicular up to the hotel above Creek St. There was a book store where we let them choose a book each, one was a storybook about the 3 bears (polar, black and brown) and another about an otter, those books were read and reread for years and we talked about the trip heaps after as well. Second trip we did a kayaking trip, my children really enjoyed this but they don't take children under 8. This would work if one adult looks after the children while everyone else kayaks.

 

Juneau - we took the bus to Mendenhall Glacier and walked to Nugget Falls. An active 4 yo could do it, the younger two should be in baby carriers on a parents' back. Second time we hired a car for the day, did Mendenhall again, but also out to Eagle Beach and St Therese Shrine. Having a the flexibility of a car (or cars in the case of your group of 14) might be helpful, especially with children who needs naps.

 

Skagway - Chilkoot Charters bus/train half day trip - the 4yo would be ok with this if they liked trains, however I'm not sure about the younger two. The bus part is 90 mins with about 3 photo stops and no toilet stops. Toilets are on the train. Is it possible for one adult to look after the younger two (or three) while everyone else does a tour? Or again hire cars for the day, the scenery from the road is very similar to the train, or some adults could come back by train as long as enough adults to drive the cars back, with the young children in the cars for the their naps?

 

Icy Strait point - I think this has been developed more since I was there but we just explored on foot - my children were happy running through the forest with the very tall trees and then playing on the rocky beach. I think this is a good port for whale watching - again could one adult look after the 3 children for the day while everyone else takes a whale watching trip? (not the same adult who misses out on the activity in other ports, rotate the parenting duties!)

 

Looking for animals - sea mammals from the ship - 4 yo might be interested, if so try to get them to watch some documentaries before they leave home so they know what they are looking for (Sea otters, seals, sea lions, whales, porpoise). Younger 2 won't be interested, their parents will have to carefully plan how they keep them entertained both on board and off the ship, so everyone else can enjoy the scenery. There will be very few other children, especially that young, on board. The vast majority of cruise ship passengers to Alaska are much older.

 

Hope some of that helps.

 

If you do a search on my user name, I did a detailed trip review of both trips (or look on the sticky thread 2015 trip reports and 2019 trips reports for my user name).

 

Lou

 

 

 

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I'm sorry to hear about your husbands rough road and all the hospital time. It sounds scary and stressful and I'm glad for your family that it seems to be behind you now. I think it's fantastic that you will travel as a family group and bring the grandkids! We went last August with my mom and our three kids. At the time of our trip, our kids were 6, 10 and 10 (twins). We had an amazing vacation. Seriously, once in a lifetime.

 

In Ketchikan, we did the Bearing Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour. It was educational and fun and our kids got to see spot prawns, an octopus, a sea urchin, a couple types of crab, and lots and lots of eagles and other birds. Since they show how crabbers haul pots (different types of pots), there is always something happening for the kids to watch, so that might work well for your grandkids too.

 

In Icy Strait, we went whale watching, but that won't work as the kids have to be a certain age (6 years old, maybe?). The port itself is quite pretty and there are some nice shops, an old cannery museum to explore, lots of photos and information about salmon, the cannery, and the fire that once destroyed Hoonah. The shore line is beautiful and there is a nice boardwalk/pathway to walk form the ships to the cannery. Add some rock skipping and watch for animals and I think the kids would be happy.

 

In Juneau, we rented a vehicle and drove to Mendenhall Glacier and explored. That would easily be doable with the grandkids. If you want to get to Nugget Falls, it would be easier to backpack/wear the kids if you can. There is a path, but it's not paved the whole way. It turns to gravel if I remember correctly. Our daughter uses a wheelchair, and we didn't go all the way to Nugget Falls, but we still had an amazing time exploring. After Mendenhall, we drove to Eagle Point Beach and explored. It was beautiful and my kids loved running around and climbing on the downed trees. On the way back into town, we stopped at the DIPAC Salmon Hatchery. My kids thought that was really neat too. You wouldn't need to do the tour (but it's not expensive). The salmon ladder is outside and you can see thousands of salmon in the outdoor holding tanks swimming and jumping. There is also Mount Roberts Tramway which would be great for kids IMO, but it was overcast, drizzly and foggy on the day we were in Juneau, so we didn't do it.

 

In Skagway, we did a private tour to Emerald Lake, Caribou Crossing, and the Caribou Dog Musher's Camp where we rode the cart pulled by sled dogs. Our kids still talk about the sled dogs and how fast they were (and cute), but that's a loooong excursion especially for your very young grandkids. I think wandering around in the port, eating, finding penny pressing machines, etc. would be easier on all of you.

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On 9/17/2019 at 11:33 PM, ~*Lou*~ said:

Not sure if this helps but in 2015 my children were 5 and 7 yrs, then in 2019 they were 9 & 11 yrs.


 

Hope some of that helps.

 

If you do a search on my user name, I did a detailed trip review of both trips (or look on the sticky thread 2015 trip reports and 2019 trips reports for my user name).

 

Lou

 

 

 

Thank you Lou!  Very helpful and I'm heading to your trip reports now!  

 

Then it's off to the bookstore for some Alaska guide books! 🙂

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On 9/18/2019 at 9:11 AM, TwinMamainMN said:

I'm sorry to hear about your husbands rough road and all the hospital time. It sounds scary and stressful and I'm glad for your family that it seems to be behind you now. I think it's fantastic that you will travel as a family group and bring the grandkids! We went last August with my mom and our three kids. At the time of our trip, our kids were 6, 10 and 10 (twins). We had an amazing vacation. Seriously, once in a lifetime.

 

In Skagway, we did a private tour to Emerald Lake, Caribou Crossing, and the Caribou Dog Musher's Camp where we rode the cart pulled by sled dogs. Our kids still talk about the sled dogs and how fast they were (and cute), but that's a loooong excursion especially for your very young grandkids. I think wandering around in the port, eating, finding penny pressing machines, etc. would be easier on all of you.

Thank you!  It's been an adventure, so now we are looking forward to a more positive adventure soon in Alaska!

 

I love the idea of a tour in Skagway.  I think the grands would love the sled dogs!  

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There were small children on our whale watching tour in icy strait point Icy Strait Whale Watching Tours.  We didn't have any with us but you could bring them on this boat. 

 

In Skagway we did the hiking service train and hiked to Laughton Glacier. This hike would be too much for the little ones but the train to Denver might be nice. You would take a 20 minute train ride then get off to hike and take the train back. This would allow the kids to ride the train (which they may like) and also have a nice hike. Ive heard the Denver hike is easy to do. You can book here: https://wpyr.com/excursions/

 

 

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11 hours ago, xlxo said:

When I hear about families...

Although we love Disney (we go at least twice a year), DH won't do a Disney cruise because there is no casino.  Otherwise we'd happily board a Disney cruise!  

 

We are on the Bliss at the end of May.  And getting more excited to check off a bucket list!

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I think the kids will have more in Alaska to be engaged in then the Caribbean. So much to look at there no matter how old you are . So glad to hear your husband recovered. My husband was gravely ill  a year ago. We are doing a spurge Trip next May ourselves. 

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Carnival treats kids great at an affordable price - in fact with my son the hard part is prying him away from the camp!

 

As for a good multi-age activity, in Juneau I recommend the tram, it's within walking distance of the port, you don't have to pre-book, it gives you lovely views, some historical context, and a ride.

 

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We went to Alaska this summer on Princess and my kids are 6 and 8 (youngest had her 6th birthday on board). Here is what we did and my thoughts for younger kids.

 

In Juneau we did the tram (it was a clear day). Kids loved it. We did something similar when they were younger (around 2 years old) and they liked it but enjoyed it more later. If you do it- go early, as lines/crowds are less. It is pretty expensive but an all day ticket. After we finished that, my kids wanted to get back to kids club on the ship.

 

In Skagway we did the White Pass and Yukon 3 hour ride. They were bored. They liked going outside but both fell asleep on there. Brought snacks and things to keep them entertained but it was more a waste than a good family activity. In town there is a really cute playground a block off the main street. It had rubber instead of bark. Kids loved it and could have spent hours there. Maybe some adults can split up and some take the kids to the playground while others explore? There is also a Junior Ranger building in town, with limited hours. The 4 year old could easily earn the badge but not so much the two younger ones. Instead of the normal book, it was very hands on. Some ipads with info but a lot of interactive stuff (dress up, a "boat" to sit in, etc). Then the discussed the activity with the ranger (6 year old had to do one. Don't remember the exact one, but talk about courage or something). Didn't take up too long (kids didn't get bored) and was free.

 

In Ketchikan we did the lumberjack show. Both kids loved it. 4 year old probably would and the younger two, not sure. There was a lot of crowd participation and saw a lot of younger kids there. Doesn't take too long. Across the street is another place to earn a badge but it was more in depth and would not recommend for the ages of the kids. My kids found creek street boring.

 

On board, my kids were both old enough for kids club and they were there every second it was open. So we planed our days around that. They also had the kids club open on port days. I'm not one to want to ditch my kids every chance I get but when the kids are so excited from the activities they did in there, or what the next ones will be, it was hard to say no to them, as they wanted to be in there so bad. We still had lots of family time together.

 

If you haven't already thought about it, have some activities for the kids to entertain them, especially if doing sit down dining. This summer my kids did great with just the coloring/activity sheet that had the kids menu on it but the year before they couldn't sit still for meals at all.

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On 9/17/2019 at 8:33 PM, ~*Lou*~ said:

Not sure if this helps but in 2015 my children were 5 and 7 yrs, then in 2019 they were 9 & 11 yrs.

 

Both my children enjoyed swimming in the indoor pool on the ship on both trips - happy kids, happy family. They also enjoyed the kids club on-board both times too. But I think under-3's can't swim or use kids club, might vary from cruise line to cruise line.

 

Ketchikan - first time we just wandered round, Creek St, rode the funicular up to the hotel above Creek St. There was a book store where we let them choose a book each, one was a storybook about the 3 bears (polar, black and brown) and another about an otter, those books were read and reread for years and we talked about the trip heaps after as well. Second trip we did a kayaking trip, my children really enjoyed this but they don't take children under 8. This would work if one adult looks after the children while everyone else kayaks.

 

Juneau - we took the bus to Mendenhall Glacier and walked to Nugget Falls. An active 4 yo could do it, the younger two should be in baby carriers on a parents' back. Second time we hired a car for the day, did Mendenhall again, but also out to Eagle Beach and St Therese Shrine. Having a the flexibility of a car (or cars in the case of your group of 14) might be helpful, especially with children who needs naps.

 

Skagway - Chilkoot Charters bus/train half day trip - the 4yo would be ok with this if they liked trains, however I'm not sure about the younger two. The bus part is 90 mins with about 3 photo stops and no toilet stops. Toilets are on the train. Is it possible for one adult to look after the younger two (or three) while everyone else does a tour? Or again hire cars for the day, the scenery from the road is very similar to the train, or some adults could come back by train as long as enough adults to drive the cars back, with the young children in the cars for the their naps?

 

Icy Strait point - I think this has been developed more since I was there but we just explored on foot - my children were happy running through the forest with the very tall trees and then playing on the rocky beach. I think this is a good port for whale watching - again could one adult look after the 3 children for the day while everyone else takes a whale watching trip? (not the same adult who misses out on the activity in other ports, rotate the parenting duties!)

 

Looking for animals - sea mammals from the ship - 4 yo might be interested, if so try to get them to watch some documentaries before they leave home so they know what they are looking for (Sea otters, seals, sea lions, whales, porpoise). Younger 2 won't be interested, their parents will have to carefully plan how they keep them entertained both on board and off the ship, so everyone else can enjoy the scenery. There will be very few other children, especially that young, on board. The vast majority of cruise ship passengers to Alaska are much older.

 

Hope some of that helps.

 

If you do a search on my user name, I did a detailed trip review of both trips (or look on the sticky thread 2015 trip reports and 2019 trips reports for my user name).

 

Lou

 

 

 

Hello!  Our child is 7 and we are going next summer.  Kids Club--- did you find there were kids their age to play with or did they end up combining bc there wasn't enough kids.  My fear ( no offense) is he'll be stuck with toddlers if there are not as many kids on board.... He had a ball on the last cruise and I am praying for the same.  I know this will be a totally new experience for all....

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RCLcruiser2012 -  there weren't many kids in kids club but enough for them to run the usual age groupings, although I did find when I collected them in the evening they were all together, usually watching a movie. They didn't mind.

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15 hours ago, RCLcruiser2012 said:

Hello!  Our child is 7 and we are going next summer.  Kids Club--- did you find there were kids their age to play with or did they end up combining bc there wasn't enough kids.  My fear ( no offense) is he'll be stuck with toddlers if there are not as many kids on board.... He had a ball on the last cruise and I am praying for the same.  I know this will be a totally new experience for all....

 

I did the SB Royal in Aug and we had 76 kids in the 3-7 category (with 14-6 year olds and 13-7 year olds) and there were 147 in the 8-12 group (29 8 year olds). They did movies together in the evenings. I had kids in both groups (6 and 8 )and they had an amazing time.

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We will be traveling with our grandchildren (ages 5 and 21 months at time of sailing) this June on Celebrity.  This has been very helpful.  We are looking at whale watching & sled dog excursions, for sure.  Not quite sure of what else.  I'm not too worried about the ship itself. There are 6 adults going, so between us, I think we can handle the 21 month old, who is too young for kids club, although I did find out that she can come play there along with an adult. That will be helpful. And Grandpa is always willing to nap, so he may volunteer for that shift. 😆   The 5 year old is a veteran. This will be his 3rd cruise. He is a HUGE fan of kids club and the nightly shows. 

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No insight because we are nervously doing first time  cruise and land tour to alaska with (at time) 4 & 7yo kids. We are doing norwegian jewel. 

Following this post for ideas.

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Thank you to everyone who has shared their experience and ideas.  So many things to think about and this has been extremely helpful!

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