National Parks

Best Alaskan Cruises for Kids

glaciers in Alaska
If your cruise sails through the Glacier Bay National Park then park ranger will climb on broad to facilitate Junior Ranger programming. Photo Credit: Pixaby

Best Alaskan Cruises with Kids

Cruises are back and a cruise to Alaska is a bucket list item for many families. Departing  as early as May and as late as September, Alaska cruises usually depart from Seattle, Vancouver and Steward. Here’s the best cruises for Alaska with kids.

An Alaskan cruise is the easiest way  to explore the rugged wilderness of the national parks in Canada and the U.S.  Add a bucket list excursions like dogsledding, flight seeing and helicopter glacier tours, then you have a trip to remember. The scenic train ride in Skagway is a must.

Most cruise lines offer the popular one-way format with departures from either Vancouver, British Columbia, or Seward, Alaska (near Anchorage). For a overland adventure, add a  pre-cruise or post-cruise tours to your trip to explore Denali National Park.

The typical ports of call include cruising the Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Juneau, cruising the Hubbard Glacier. Additional ports-of-call include Icy Strait Point and Tracy Arm Fjord or the Endicott Arm.

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Regent Cruises. Best alakan cruise for kids
A small ship offers space and luxury. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Small Ship Luxury Cruises 

With less than 1,000 passengers per ship, small ships offer more space and staff per cruise passenger. The cruise ship interiors feel more luxurious and find more options for dining and lounging. 

Many small ships feature all-inclusive options like signature dining at fine dining restaurants with wine included. Then find your favorite vintages and liquors in the lounges abroad as well as wine and beer in your suite.

With a smaller ships gain access into smaller ports. So its Alaskan itineraries include ports-of-call like Wrangell, Prince Rupert and College Fjord. Some ports-of-call might require tendering—using a smaller boat from your ship get to the actual port. Luxury cruises are great for multi-generational trips and might be the best Alaskan cruise with kids for your group.

Luxury cruises, like Regent Cruises, offer indulgences for everyone. credit: Catherine Parker

Regent Seven Seas 

With departures from Vancouver and Seward, Regent Seven Seas offers a 7-night one way cruise for the Alaskan summer season. Regent also offers longer cruises sprinked through the season for those who want a longer cruise and addtional ports-of-call.

Regent offers an all-inclusive cruise and includes free coach round trip airfare, airport transfers, signature dining, unlimited beverages including wine and premium spirits, unlimited excursions (and you can schedule more than one a day) and WiFi along with gratuities. 

What about the kids? Regent loves kids on its Alaskan cruises. It’s a popular option for multi-generational cruise. Get discount pricing for kids under 17. Onboard find a kids club for the kiddos 5 to 12 along with teens. 

The Club Mariner Youth Program is staffed with counselors that meet for a few hours a day on port days and twice on sea days. Regent doesn’t feature a kids club and they meet in a card room onboard. Kids play sports and board games, watch movies, decorate cupcakes and even have dinner together during the cruise. 

After taking my three kids, 15, 14 and 11 to Alaska on the Mariner in 2018, I was amazed how a luxury brand can be family-friendly, especially for older kids. I liked the fact I could let them explore on their own on a small ship.

The Regent Seven Seas sails the Mariner for northbound and southbound Alaskan cruises with stops at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point or Sitka, and Hubbard Glacier. Find five dining venues, five lounges, coffee shop, outdoor pool, and spa along with a theater, nightclub and casino. The majority of suites offer balconies. 

Oceania Cruises 

Oceania is also owned by the same parent company as Regent Seven Seas—NCL, or Norwegian Cruise Lines. The overall feel of the ships are similar with gourmet dining at sea and a high level of service onboard.

The main difference between Regent and  Oceania Cruises is Oceania is a la carte cruise. For your cruise you’ll pay for roundtrip airfare, shore excursions and purchase an alcohol package. Get unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, ground transfers, free WiFi onboard.

Oceania Cruises sails the Regatta for most Alaska cruises. Find inside staterooms, ocean view staterooms, staterooms with balconies along with suites. Find a selection of itineraries including 7-night one way cruises from departing from Vancouver or Seward or a 13-night round trip cruise out of Seattle.

For families, Oceania Cruises offers an Alaska Explorer Youth Program for kids 5 to 12. Where Regents Club Mariner Youth Program is a generic kids program. Both programs include counselors though don’t meet in dedicated space, opting for the card room instead. 

The Regatta features four dining venues, five lounges, coffee shop, an outdoor pool and spa along with casino and nightclub. 

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Head to the South Discovery Center to get an overview of the Tongass National Forest. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Silversea Cruises

With departures from Vancouver and Seward, Silversea Cruises offers a 7-night, one way cruises on a luxurious small ship. Enjoy all-inclusive ship with complimentary premium wines and spirits, signature dining and butler service in every suite. Complimentary airfare and ground transfers are available as well. Silversea Cruises also offer a 14-day Alaskan cruise too.

Silversea Cruises sails the Silver Muse, Silver Whisper and the Silver Shadow, all-suite small ships. These ship caters to adults and doesn’t offer a kids club or special activities. Find numerous dining venues and lounges, and outdoor pool and spa on each.  A pre and post cruise  land program is also available. 

Seabourn Cruise Line

With departures from Vancouver or Juneau, Seabourn Cruise Line offers 7-night one-way cruises with different ports-of-calls in each direction. So you can sail two back-to-back cruises for an extended Alaskan round trip cruise.

Seabourn also offers other itineraries besides the popular 7-day Alaskan cruise, like the 10 and 11-day cruises. With an extensive list of ports-of-call, stop at Inian Islands, Haines, Alert Bay and Rudyerd Bay. Seabourn is one of the few concessionaires authorized to sail into Glacier Bay National Park.

Seabourne Cruise Line is also an a la carte cruise. So airfare has to be arranged and excursions are not included. Finally a data package must be purchased for your cruise.

For families, the Alaskan cruises offers similar kids club options as Regent and Oceania. Find counselors in a re-purposed card room with kids activities, though check in with your travel agent or cruise representative if this will be available for your sailing.

Seabourn Cruise Line sails the Odyssey, an all-suite cruise though not all suites have balconies. Find four restaurants, three lounges, outdoor pools and spa along with a theater and casino.

Hubbard glacier
Seeing a glacier is on the top of many cruiser’s list. credit: Catherine Parker

Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking Ocean Cruises sails the Orion in Alaska. This ship caters to adults and no one under 18 allowed. So it’s not one of the best cruises for Alaska with kids. With departures from Vancouver and Seward, Viking Ocean Cruises offers 10-night, one way cruises. Viking Ocean Cruises are all-inclusive though notable is the availability of included excursions. Where Regents Seven Seas offers several for each port-of-call, Viking only offers one. 

In addition, Viking Ocean Cruises offers many pre and post cruise options like the Rocky Mountaineer scenic train, Denali National Park, Vancouver and Anchorage. This is luxury all-veranda ship with a selection of staterooms.  

Find several dining venues on board along with lounges and bars. With the design clues coming from Scandinavia, there’s a planetarium, thermal suite in the spa with a snow grotto boasting falling snow. Also find a pool with a retractable roof along with an infinity pool. 

Larger Cruise Ships 

With cruise ships that carry 2,000+ passengers, the activities and amenities are nearly endless, like water slides and dedicated kids areas. Though finding a quiet corner to read might be harder on a large cruise ship.

Most larger ships are a la carte cruises so airfare, specialty restaurants, beverage packages, including soft drinks and bottled water, excursions are not included. Though shows, kids club and in-room dining are typically included. 

White Pass Yukon RR
The White Pass Yukon Railroad is a top excursion in Skagway. credit: Catherine Parker

Disney Cruise Lines—Disney Wonder

If the kids were in charge of the cruise planning, they’d choose a Disney Cruise. The Disney Cruise Line caters to families, especially Disney-loving families.

Find interior staterooms, ocean view staterooms, staterooms with balconies along with concierge suites. The 7-night round trip cruises depart from Vancouver. Ports of call include Dawes Glacier, Skagway and Ketchikan and Icy Point.

Disney Cruise Line sails the Wonder to Alaska. Find Disney characters, Disney stage shows, kids clubs, tweens club and teens club. Three pool areas including a splash area for babies and toddlers, double-looping water slide and an adults only area. Find three main dining areas, three casual dining areas along with character meals.

Port excursions and extras are not included like Signature dining experiences (adult only), bottle water, alcohol and specialty drinks and gratuities. 

Easy-to-use website, especially for those who’ve planned a Disney parks vacation before. 

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Take an excursion to learn about the wildlife of Alaska. credit: Catherine Parker

Celebrity Cruises—Celebrity Solstice

With three separate ships dedicated to Alaskan cruises, Celebrity Cruises offers departures from Seattle, Seward or Vancouver. It features 7-night or 8-night cruises in one-way and round trip itineraries.

Celebrity Cruises uses the Solstice, Millennium and the Eclipse. Find kids and teen activities on board. Stateroom options include inside stateroom, ocean view stateroom, veranda stateroom and suites. Celebrity Cruises is an a la carte cruise line so be prepared to pay for a beverage package including soda and barista coffee, photo package and WiFi along with excursions.  

Most itineraries include cruising the Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Skagway and a glacier viewing. 

The overall feel is a bit more upscale than other large cruise ships. Celebrity Cruises is owned by parent company, Royal Caribbean International. 

Save 50% Off Your Second Guest When Booking a Travelocity Celebrity Cruise! Book by Oct 31. 

Royal Caribbean International 

With departures from Vancouver, Seattle and Seward, Royal Caribbean offers a 5-night, 7-night and 8-night one-way cruises, along with round trip cruises. Also there’s an option of adding a selection of post cruise excursions to Denali, Fairbanks and Anchorage. 

Royal Caribbean sails the Radiance of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas and the Serenade of the Seas. Find interior staterooms, ocean view staterooms, staterooms with balconies along with suites. Find 10 dining venues plus room service, seven bars or lounges, spa, fitness center and specialty classes. 

Royal Caribbean International ships offer a kids club with age-appropriate activities from 6-month-old babies until 12-year-olds. Find a teen disco and hangout too. The ships include three pools (one for the kids with a beach and slide), rock wall and mini-golf. 

Most itineraries includes Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier and Seward. Though lots of intineraries  visit ports like Victoria along with land excursions like Denali National Park.

Mendehall Glacier
An excursion to the Mendenahll Glacier is a must for Juneau. credit: Catherine Parker

Holland America Line

Holland America offers lots of options for cruisers. It sails from Seattle, Seward, Whittier and Vancouver. Holland America offers 7-day, 10-day, 11-day one-way cruises as well as 12-day and 14-day round trip cruises. Also there’s an option of adding a selection of post cruise excursions to Denali, Fairbanks and the Yukon. 

Holland America Line is one of the few concessionaires authorized to sail into Glacier Bay National Park. So look for special itineraries that include Glacier Bay, including park rangers that board the cruise ships.

Holland America offers several similar ships to cruise Alaska, like the Eurodam, Koningsdam, Niew Amsterdam, Noordam, Volendam, Zuiderdam and Westerdam. All ships include inside staterooms, ocean view staterooms, staterooms with balconies along with suites. 

Find similar amenities like a main dining room, casual dining room, specialty restaurants like a grill and Italian venue along with burgers. Find two lounges along with the Lincoln Center Stage, Billboard Onboard, World Stage along with movies and casino.  Also find two pools, spa, fitness center, adult enrichment classes along with a kids club. 

Most itineraries include Ketchikan, Juneau, Glacier Bay National Park and Skagway. Though some itineraries include Victoria, Icy Strait Point and Sitka. Find overland excursions on scenic railroads and on motorcoaches.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises, owned by Carnival Corporation, offers the popular 7-day one way cruises from Anchorage’s Whittier and Vancouver. Or the 4-day, 5-day sampler cruises with limited ports-of-call might work best. The 7-night round trip cruises from Seattle and Vancouver are popular. Also available are 10-night round trip cruises from San Francisco and 14-night round trip cruises from Vancouver. Also Princess Cruises offers a post cruise excursions to Denali, Fairbanks and Anchorage.

Princess Cruises is also one of the few concessionaires authorized to sail into Glacier Bay National Park. So look for special itineraries that include Glacier Bay.

For its Alaskan cruises, Princess uses a fleet of ships. Discovery Princess will debut in Spring 2022 and cruise AlaskaIt carries 3,660 guests.

The Royal Princess and the Majestic Princess each carries 3,500 passengers. Both feature the same features as the rest of the Alaska ships. Though experience the Skywalk, an over the ocean glass walkway to see the ocean below. If you dare! From a smaller ship experience,  the Golden Princess, Sapphire Princess and the Grand Princess carry about 2,600 passengers.

With consistent amenities find a host of dining options international cafe, chocolate journeys and afternoon tea. Also find your favorite regional culinary delights in a host of speciality restaurants. Also find spa, fitness center, casino, nightly entertainment, movies under the stars along with pools and spas. Each ship also includes a kids club.

Princess cruise ships feature inside staterooms, ocean view staterooms, staterooms with balconies along with suites.

Most itineraries include Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway along with a glacier viewing.

Alaska totem
Learn about the totems in Alaska, made by the Tlingit people. credit: Catherine Parker

Norwegian Cruise Line 

Norwegian offers lots of departures from Seattle, as a 7-night round trip cruise and a 11-night round trip. Though find 7-night one way departures from Vancouver and Seward. Norwegian Cruise Line offers the option of adding a selection of post cruise excursions to Denali, Fairbanks and Anchorage. 

Norwegian Cruise Line is one of the few concessionaires authorized to sail into Glacier Bay National Park. Look for special itineraries that include Glacier Bay within its list of itineraries.

The Norwegian Jewel, Sprint  and the Sun sail to Alaska  with a passenger capacity of about 2,000. Highlights include sports courts, fitness center, casino and spa along with specialty restaurants like sushi. Both the Jewel and Sun include, inside staterooms, ocean view staterooms, staterooms with balconies along with suites.

For its Alaskan cruises, sail the Norwegian Bliss or Encore with a passenger capacity of about 4,000 people. Highlights included a racetrack, dual water slides, laser tag, along with specialty restaurants like Texas BBQ and numerous evening shows. The Bliss includes studios (just for solo travelers). All ships include, inside staterooms, ocean view staterooms, staterooms with balconies along with suites.

Most itineraries include Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Strait Point and Victoria. Though some itineraries include Sitka and Skagway. Holland America is owned by Carnival Corporation.  

Carnival Cruise Lines

With the red, white and blue whale’s tail funnels, Carnival offers a bargain at sea. Offering 10-day round trip cruises from San Francisco along with 6-day, 7-day and 8-day round trip cruises from Seattle. 

For its Alaskan cruises, Carnival sails the Splendor and the Spirit, with capacities between 2,000 and 3,000 passengers. Find similar amenities on both, like lots of dining options from burgers to Asian to pizza. Along with speciality restaurants like a steakhouse and sushi. Find a waterpark with slides, mini golf, an adults-only retreat and kids, tween and teens clubs. 

The Miracle sails with about 2,000 passengers and offers more limited options. Find buffet dining and pizza on board. Also find a pool, an adults only retreat and kids, tween and teens clubs.

The Carnival cruise ships feature inside staterooms, ocean view staterooms, staterooms with balconies along with suites.

Most itineraries include Juneau, Skagway, Sitka and Tracy Arm along with Victoria, B.C. 

Specialty Cruises to Alaska

Looking for a different cruise experience, then a specialty cruise might be for you. 

Cunard Line 

The famed Cunard Line sails to Alaska with a bit of British style so get a more refined experience, like afternoon tea. With the majority of cruises originating out of Vancouver, find the popular 7-night to 10-night Alaskan cruises. Though cruisers can choose a 13-night round trip cruise from San Francisco and 15-night round trip cruise from Los Angeles.

Cunard is also one of the few concessionaires authorized to sail into Glacier Bay National Park. So look for special itineraries that include Glacier Bay.

The Queen Elizabeth features inside staterooms, ocean view staterooms, staterooms with balconies along with suites.

For Cunard’s Alaskan cruises it sails the Queen Elizabeth with about 2,000 passengers. It offers three restaurants along with the specialty restaurants like Mexican and Asian. Also Alaskan cruises include a formal night so pack sometime dressy. And don’t forget to indulge at afternoon tea. The Queen Elizabeth offers a pool, spa along with lectures and nightly entertainment. Cunard is owned by owned by Carnival Corporation.  

Most itineraries include Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Glacier Bay National Park, Hubbard Glacier, Prince Rupert and Victoria. Though longer cruises include Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, Astoria in Oregon, Anchorage, Kodiak and San Francisco. 

UnCruise Adventures 

Adventure calls so pack the rubber boots and be prepared to explore. This small ships pull into ports that others sail by. Since the itineraries require hiking and paddling, families with kids 8 and older are welcome. Though younger kids are discouraged.  

With a fleet of ships from the 22-passenger Safari Quest to the 84-passenger Safari Endeavour to the 86-passenger Wilderness Legacy, each ship ready is outfitted  with kayaks, paddle boards and skiffs. The Wilderness Discoverer is a 76-passenger ship and the Wilderness  Explorer is a 74-passenger ship. The Wilderness Adventurer offers space for 60 passengers. The Safari Explorer is a 36-passenger ship with just 18 cabins.

Dining on board is chef-created with fresh with local ingredients. So for Alaska, find a lot of seafood. The staterooms are basic and don’t feature balconies though have ocean views. A few ships offer suites and staterooms are outfitted with a collection of queen beds and some with twins.

Most ships include at least one hot tub but no pool. Though UnCruise celebrates with a Polar Plunge.

UnCruise offers lots of itineraries in 7-day or 14-day formats. The main ports-of-call include Sitka, Juneau and Glacier Bay National Park. It’s an authorized concessionaire to sail into Glacier Bay National Park. So look for special itineraries that include Glacier Bay.

Windstar Cruises 

With just 312 passengers, Windstar Cruises offer an intimate way to explore the 49th state. In Alaska, Windstar sails the Star Breeze, an all-suite ship with two dining room, a pool area, a spa, theater. On Windstar Cruises all meals are included along with non-alcoholic beverages, including coffee drinks. 

Itineraries include the 11-night Vancouver to Seward cruise, including stops at Ketchikan, Misty Fjords, Wrangell, Juneau, Haines, Tracy Arm fjord, Sitka and Kenai Fjords National Park. The 23-day round trip Vancouver cruise includes Petersburg as a port-of-call.  Or consider the 15-night Vancouver to Fairbanks cruise that includes a land tour of Tulkeetha and Denali. 

Popular Ports of Call on an Alaskan Cruise

Seward, Alaska 

As a frequent point of disembarkation, Seward offers a scenic location to explore before or after your cruise. Located in the shadow of Mount Marathon and on Resurrection Bay, get a dose of rugged Alaskan landscape. 

The historic downtown offers a gateway into Alaska’s past. And Steward is a gateway to the Kenai Fjords National Park. So find the visitor center in the center of town or arrange a visit to Exit Glacier.

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska 

As the largest tidewater glacier in North America, it boasts a 400-foot face, it’s 76 miles long and 1200 feet deep. As your cruise ship sails Disenchantment Bay, use binoculars to view the marine life and birds. 

Juneau, Alaska 

As the capitol of Alaska, it’s a small city. A trip to Mendenhall Glacier is worth the effort (a tour will be required as it isn’t within walking distance). Since it’s not on the water, it’s considered a mountain glacier. It’s a National Forest site and offers hiking trails and a National Forest Junior Ranger Badge.

Sitka, Alaska 

Most first time cruisers don’t know about Sitka’s Russian heritage. So stop by the Sitka National Historical Park visitor center to watch a short interpretive film or walk among their collection of totems. Or visit the separate building, Russian Bishop’s House.

Skagway, Alaska 

This restored mining town is home to the White Pass and Yukon Route Rail Road. The narrow gauge scenic train trip is a stand-out for cruisers, not just families. As a bonus, the train depot is a short walk from the cruise ship port.  

The Gold Rush swaggered into Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory during the 19th century. Then a tiny town busted with lawlessness as it turned into a boomtown. Head to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park along the main street. Watch the interpretive film to learn about the gold rush and how would-be miners climbed the treacherous White Pass Trail. 

Icy Strait Point, Alaska 

Learn about the rich heritage of native Alaskan culture at a tribal dance. Or visit nearby Hoonah, the largest Tlingit village. And Icy Straight Point boasts the ZipRider, the longest zip line in the world. 

Ketchikan, Alaska 

Ketchikan offers the official visitor center for the Tongrass National Forest, the largest national forest in the U.S. It runs along the Alaskan panhandle and includes two ice fields, Stikine and Juneau. So visit Tongrass National Forest’s Southeast Alaska Discovery Center on Ketchikan’s Main Street.  

Or arrange a flight seeing tour to witness the majesty of the Misty Fjords National Monument. As you walk the streets of Ketchikan, learn about the symbolism used on the totems like the plants and animals of the temperate rainforest. Or better, arrange for a hike in the rainforest to see its animals, like the black bear. 

Ketchikan is the canned salmon capital of the world.

Cruising the Inside Passage 

All Alaskan cruise itineraries include at least one sea day. Spend the day on a deck using binoculars to catch glimpses of light houses, bald eagles or fishing boats at work. 

Sailing in the Inside Passage is unique since glaciation made deep channel between the mountains. The deep waters allow for deep-draft vessels to sail close to the mountains. 

And a bonus for first time cruisers, the waters of the Inside Passage are relatively calm compared to open ocean cruising. 

Victoria, British Columbia

Stroll the charming streets with English-inspired architecture. Or enjoy an afternoon tea at the celebrated Empress Hotel. 

Vancouver, British Columbia

As a large port for western Canada, offers cultural influences from around the Pacific Ocean. So sample the rich and diverse food scene with tastes of Asia, like Chinese dim sum or Japanese ramen. 

Walk though the Museum of Anthropology to learn more about the region. Or head to the Capilano Suspension Bridge to walk over an old-growth fir forest.

What Cruise Ships Sail into Glacier Bay National Park 

A highlight of Alaskan Itineraries, sailing into Glacier Bay National Park offers views of the Fairweather Mountains along with up-close views of tidewater glaciers. 

Since the National Park Service regulates the number of large cruise ships, this is a factor for would-be Alaska cruisers. Most itineraries start at Icy Strait and the NPS park rangers board the ships for interpretive programming for adults and kids. Cruising Glacier Bay for at least 8 hours, cruisers see marine life, like bald eagles and seals. 

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What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise

Be prepared for cold and rainy during even during the height of the summer cruising season. Though high season (late June and July) will bring sun and short-sleeve weather. 

  • A winter coat with a waterproof shell for glacier exploring or viewing
  • Quick dry hiking pants for rainforest hiking
  • A fleece layer for most days
  • Hiking boots preferably waterproof
  • Waterproof packable rain jacket
  • Fleece hat and gloves

Cruise to the 49th state aboard an Alaskan cruise. Get the details from small luxury ships to the mega ships that sail to Alaska. There's even specialty cruises focused on adventure and exploring the outdoors. Learn about the popular Alaskan ports-of-call along with what to pack for your Alaskan cruise. Best Alaskan cruises for families | Best small ship Alaskan Cruises | Best value cruises to Alaska | Best Alaskan cruise for multi-generational groups #Alaska #Cruising

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Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a 95-year-old house. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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