Disneyland…or something more adventurous? That was our dilemma. It’s been years since we traveled far and ultimately we chose adventure. An Alaskan Cruise. With a two year old. This brought up a lot of parental questions and concerns.
We have realistic expectations about the amount of relaxing to be had anywhere when you travel with young kids, but we wanted a cruise that:
- Offers kid-friendly options
- Satisfies our craving for adventure
- Provided enough scenery opportunities for us to capture some amazing video
- Good room amenities at a reasonable price
Disney seems to have set the bar for Alaskan kid-friendly cruises, so if you’re ready to drop the big bucks, I’m sure it’s great. However, if you’re on a budget or aren’t really sure if the cruising life is your life, cruise lines like Norwegian and Royal Caribbean seem to have some great ships, itineraries, kid-friendly offerings and good deals.
Things you’ll need to do and decide
Are room features important to you?
We plan to shoot video off of our balcony, so that was a must have. We also imagine that we’ll probably want to spend more time in our room vs. other amenities geared for older kids / adults traveling without kids. For us, a room upgrade was more important than a nightclub, dog sledding or helicopter rides.
Round trip or One-way
A one-way trip to Alaska could turn an adventurous cruise into a real wilderness adventure. Railroads, small Alaskan villages all await on the Alaska side, but it comes with longer and more complex travel, so we decided to wait a few years and do what seems like a simpler round trip with more opportunity to relax along the way.
Tip: Most round trips leave from Seattle, but be advised, you’ll still need your passports for the whole family for ports-of-call in Canada.
Review the ships
Not all ships are the same. Their age, amenities and decor vary widely. Cruise Critic is the Trip Advisor of cruises and you can find detailed information on kid-friendly activities on each ship.
When to go
The information we found indicated mid-June as the best weather in Alaska. However, if you’re able to travel on a shoulder (May / September) month when it’s less busy, you may find better value. We imagine most of the port towns are tired of the shoobies by September, but maybe that’s just the Jersey Shore…
Is the ship pool important to you?
We opted for shoulder season (better for the video we intend to shoot) over the potential for more pool time. It may be too cold off the coast of Alaskan anyway, but if swimming is important to you and your kids, you’ll want to investigate if the summer months provide good pool weather onboard.
Preparing for a Cruise with your Toddler
Is a bathtub important to you and your child?
Our child is not ready for the showers, so if this is also important to you, be prepared to upgrade to a better room. Not all lines offer bathtubs – Norwegian did at the mini-suite level.
Is your child over or under 3?
If over, there are typically more activities available. Kids under 3 seem to have plenty to do, but there may not be baby sitting options, etc.
Is your child potty trained?
Baby sitting and access to the pools may not be an option if you kid isn’t fully potty trained.
Planning and Booking Your Cruise
Most websites and books highly recommend a travel agent. That was our intention, but ultimately, we chose Norwegian and booked direct taking advantage of a great deal. We looked at Costco Travel and various other sites, in all, most places had similar prices, but the add-on bonuses varied. Allow yourself time for deal hunting and when it gets overwhelming, just pull the trigger – you probably already found a good deal and it’s going to be an adventure no matter what.
A good travel book is a must-have in your bag ‐ we’ve been happy with:
Frommer’s EasyGuide to Alaskan Cruises and Ports of Call
This is just our experience so far – we’re booked, but haven’t left port.
Stay tuned, a budget spreadsheet is coming up in the next post on Alaska and we’ll be sharing photos and video we capture after our return.