You've all read about the scenery, the people, and the wildlife. You've probably seen tons of pictures that depict the beauty of Alaska. You've might have even begun reading all about the various ports, and you're wondering if this might be a great place for a family vacation. I can tell you it is! And I had a lot of convincing to do!!
If you had asked my upper teens (20,19,15) if they had even wanted to go on a cruise, or go to Alaska - they would have told you this was the last place they wanted to visit. They did not want to take a cruise and definitely did not want to go to Alaska; after all, they had been told that only "Old" people go to Alaska.
Suffice it to say that when we returned back home, each one of them told me that they were sorry they thought it was going to be a boring, and actually, it in their estimation, this was the best vacation that we had ever taken! They started talking about when we go back someday! I can't think of a better testimony than that!
I am a widow - planning vacations is almost overwhelming for me. So, when I'm looking for something that's easy for me - I look to a cruise. I don't have to worry about all the minutia - it's taken care of for me and I can relax! We can have family bonding time, the kids can do what they want to do and I can read a book, play in the casino or get a massage! If I can plan this - you can too!
The 2nd week of July, we boarded the NCL Pearl in Seattle. I wasn't what to expect. There was people from all age groups. Children, Teens, Honeymooners, Young Married, Families, Grandparents. The Pearl was a great ship for my younger teen and college-aged kids. There was not a significant group from any age bracket - it was a great mix! After leaving Seattle, we headed for Juneau, then Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria.
Aboard the ship, it was too cold to swim, but they enjoyed other activities. They climbed the rock wall, played basketball, played shuffleboard and ping pong, soaked in the hot tub and spent time in the arcade (beware, it's $1.50/game). There was a teen hang-out area, but my teen did not participate - although lots of teens did. My kids enjoyed the game room, shopping, eating, and the shows. They had some great magic and comedy shows that were appropriate for all. One of the things they did enjoy was the bowling alley (extra fee). They enjoyed the freestyle dining (although they actually did miss the structured dining of Royal Caribbean.
Once we reached Juneau, I took them Whale Watching with Alaska Galore. This was probably the one excursion they were dreading, and they ended up really enjoying it. We saw Humpback Whales, and as a bonus, saw some Orcas. After that, I took them on a Glacier Walk-about with Coastal Helicopters. This was probably my most expensive day, and worth it.
In Skagway, we planned 2 excursions: Zip lining with Grizzly Falls and Rock Climbing and Rappelling with Alaska Mountain Guides (booked through Cruise line). These 2 high-activity adventures were fabulous. Skagway was our favorite stop.
In Ketchikan, we planned a zodiac excursion with Ketchikan Outdoors. This may have been our all-around favorite excursion.
I planned a high-activity itinerary for the teens - I am so glad we did everything on this itinerary - each of them had their own favorite excursion.
If they had a complaint about the cruise ship, it would be the Food. They felt their dorm food was better than what the ship had to offer. I've never had their dorm food, but I agree, the food did not meet my expectations. That's okay though - we didn't gain the 7 pounds in 7 days...
I think planning a successful cruise with teens has a lot to do with picking the right ship, picking a good itinerary, and picking good excursions. I do not think you have to spend a lot of money on excursions though - you could plan great hikes (free).
Alaska is not cheap, but oh so worth it! It's been interesting talking to them after they've returned - they haven't really wanted to share their vacation experiences with anyone - it's just so difficult to describe how awesome it really is. We ALL want to return to Alaska and do some of the things we did not do. I hope you'll let your teens get to experience it! It was an amazing experience!!!