Alaska cruises used to conjure up images of sedate itineraries aboard stuffy ships, favored by seniors and retirees. Today, that is the furthest thing from the truth! Alaska cruises are one of the fastest growing markets for families, my own included, looking to explore and photograph the spectacular scenery, and embark on adventurous activities that go beyond that of a typical tourist. The cruise lines have responded by deploying their newer ships to the area, and with shore excursions that provide active, safe adventure for the whole family.
My Alaska vacation was a 7 night Hubbard Glacier cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Sea. Coined by cruising aficionados as a “glass class” ship, she was built with Alaska in mind. With such large expanses of glass, including outside elevators, you are never sequestered from the resplendent beauty of the landscape. Family pleasing amenities include a rock climbing wall, pools and waterslide, mini golf, and the wonderful Adventure Ocean children’s program. Our balcony cabin was a private retreat where we could watch dolphins frolic, seemingly, for us alone.
The long and varied list of shore excursions offered by Royal Caribbean satisfied our requisite for soft adventure. In Juneau, Alaska’s state capital, we took a whale watching tour. The sight of a breaching orca is not one we will forget anytime soon. In the afternoon we signed up for a helicopter tour of the Juneau Ice Fields. Touching down on a glacier was a scary, but exhilarating experience. Then on to Skagway, gateway to the Klondike. In the morning we traveled the White Pass & Yukon Route narrow gauge railroad. The precipitous climb is not for the faint of heart, although the magnificent views are enough of a reward for such a daring feat. That same afternoon we participated in the quintessence of Alaskan adventure…dogsledding! Try doing that in the Caribbean! In our last port of call, Ketchikan, we had plans to take a flight to the Anan Creek Bear Observatory. I was told that the observation platform provides a great photo op of black bears catching salmon. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, and the tour was cancelled. Instead, we grabbed umbrellas and walked around the Saxman Native Village for totem pole viewing and took in the local Lumberjack Show. It was a pleasant way to wind down our Alaskan adventure.