Alaska By Sea – Traveling the Coral Princess to the Glaciers and Ports

Many have asked me about how to do Alaska, and what cruise line to use – a fantastic question!  Honestly a hard one to answer as well!  We have always done Princess when cruising Alaska.  We used them before we had kids and it was an ideal cruise line for our lifestyle – good food, great crew, simple but gorgeous ship, and amazing itineraries and service.  We still feel this way after kids – Princess knows Alaska. With their on land lodging, many other lines contract with them for cruise packages that go beyond the sea. It was our first visit on Coral Princess, and the smaller ship really fit well with us – quiet, smooth as glass, amazing crew, and the kids loved it too!  Now, that being said, there were other families we met that were annoyed there wasn’t more to do onboard – no waterslides, rock walls, bumper cars, or things you might find on Royal Caribbean. Obviously Disney takes the cake when it comes to kid cruising, and I know if given the choice my kids would cruise nothing else. However, when it comes to Alaska, I think Princess knows what they’re doing, and I would definitely stay loyal to them and save Disney or RCL for some of the more tropical destinations. I hear Holland America is great in Alaska as well!

IMG_0120.jpgExploring the ship after boarding in Whittier

Boarding was a very smooth process in Whittier, we were fortunate to have Elite Status from previous cruising and my training as a travel agent, and wow was the priority boarding nice! The extra perks onboard were great too. We also had a package that included a free “Sip and Sail” drink package for the week – unlimited cocktails for the adults, mocktails for the kids, beer, wine, etc.  While we don’t think we’d consume tnough to make it worth paying for this package, trying it out on a promo was fun and it was a good value. The kids enjoyed their smoothies and ice cream at whim as well!  The ship is beautiful, with several pools, sports activities, and a (small) kids center. The crew and staff were fantastic. We bonded with the waiters, room steward, and entertainment staff and were sad to leave.

Back to Alaska!  The sea portion was as spectacular as the land – we were blessed again with great weather, and able to get close to both Hubbard Glacier and the glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park.  The calving of the glaciers is an incredible sound and so memorable to experience firsthand.  The kids really enjoyed the presentation from park rangers about the different wildlife in Glacier Bay, and came home with Junior Ranger badges and a wealth of knowledge. We were able to see sea lions, seals, whales, plenty of otters, and even a mama cub with bears from the ship as well. 6Z4A0137.jpg

The incredible Hubbard Glacier

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Hubbard Glacier Calving 

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Glacier Bay is spectacular 

When not viewing the glaciers, our kids had a blast dancing to jazz music in the Wheelhouse Bar with each other and their grandparents, and swimming in the pools. It was actually “warm” enough to swim and enjoy the spas right next to the glacier, which was pretty fantastic!  The kids were known as “the swimmer” and “the dancers” by many onboard by the end of the cruise, which they were quite proud of and took very seriously.  They definitely made the most of our time at sea with the pool, food, and even the magnetic walls in our stateroom!  We had a Mini-Suite that connected balconies with my parents’ standard Balcony room, and this was a fantastic arrangement! When our daughter napped, our son could play with his grandparents, and easily go between the rooms across the balconies – it actually worked out better than connecting hotel rooms onland!  Plus the extra space in a Mini Suite was fantastic and well worth it!

When we hit the ports, our first and only day of “bad” weather was in Skagway, where it was raining.  It didn’t bother us a bit on our train ride up to the Yukon and Canadian border, a new excursion for us that was great for the kids and a chance to see some scenery. In the past we have rented a car and driven up further to Emerald Lake, which I definitely recommend when you have the chance – with the kids, this simpler and shorter version worked well, and they loved the train ride! We made most of the time in town shopping and enjoying the 4th of July festivities that they put on for locals much like any other American small town would. It was a hoot watching water balloons in the rainy weather! Skagway is a lot of fun!

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Shot of the train outside of Skagway

Juneau brought our best excursion at sea, the Photo Safari & Whale watching Tour. We’d done this tour 10 year prior and it didn’t disappoint this time, though the company had grown immensely in popularity.  In the morning, we saw not only humpback whales feeding and diving (our son even got to use a book to identify one of the many local whales by her tale fluke) but also orca “killer whales” on the move, a rarity in Alaska. We loved the picture of a panicked salmon in front of them, but were were okay with the fact we missed them taking down a sea lion later that day!  The tour also included a great drive out to Mendenhall Glacier and the rainforest atmosphere out there. The guide was spectacular, and this is a highly recommended experience to anyone that visits Juneau!

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Meet Sasha aka “Alaska (humpback) whale” – based on the AK on her fluke! 

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So much better seeing these guys in the wild than at Sea World! We call this one salmon says “oh $h*!”

Ketchikan was our final port stop, and my parents enjoyed a Misty Fjords cruise excursion there immensely.  We stayed close in town and the kids got a kick out of the totem poles and creek street. It’s a really charming place and one that’s a lot of fun to explore. We definitely recommend the Lumberjack show or more time to explore beyond the city limits if you’re able!

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Gotta love Creek Street!

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Dolphins from the boat! 

We ended the cruise in Vancouver, a beautiful port to sail in or out of and a city full of very nice people.  Our trip was memorable and only inspired us to go back again – something that Alaska seems to do!  6Z4A2129.jpg

Beautiful Vancouver

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