Cruising Alaska With Kids (Part II)
So, here we are … Cruising Alaska With Kids. In three parts. With photos. If I tried to cover everything in one blog post, I am pretty sure your eyes would roll to the back of your head so I am hoping that three parts makes all this information more manageable.
Part II – Cruise Ship Details – Rooms, Meals, and Activities For Kids (This post!)
Cruising Alaska With Kids – The Details
We departed Boston before the sun rose on a Tuesday morning, spent the day in Portland, took an evening flight to Anchorage, ate a midnight pizza dinner, and awoke to explore Anchorage and then board a bus for a leisurely, scenic trip along the scenic Alaskan highway to Whittier. We were two full days into our vacation before we even saw our beautiful Princess cruise ship on late Wednesday afternoon!
We Made It! Getting On The Cruise Ship
When we finally arrived in Whittier, we were all excited to see our cruise ship in port. We had cruised once before with the four older children, but that was years ago and their memories were a little faint. This cruise was our first time cruising with Princess Cruises and we all loved our time so much, I guarantee we will be cruising with them again.
Embarking was very, very easy. There was a little bit of a line but because I was clearly struggling at my child wrangling duties, a kind gentleman quickly waved me down a side aisle to be checked in without much delay.
My two middle children immediately wanted to check out the kids’ spaces. I really appreciated that I could allow my kids to sign themselves in and out of the kids’ rooms! If you don’t think your kids can handle that kind of freedom, you don’t need to give permission, but my kids were over the moon with their newfound power and independence.
My two older kids checked out the space designated for teens but, as the week began, we quickly realized that there would be no teens using this space and, honestly, that was fine. There was so much for the older kids to do around the boat that they really didn’t need a teen space. Ping pong, swimming pool, card room, nighttime movies under a blanket on the deck – so many choices for older kids!
Food and Drink
When our family booked this cruise, my cousins wanted us to see as much or as little of our families as we wanted when we were all on the ship. Dinner every night? Sure! Dinner by yourself? Also OK. To make this easy on everyone, our family group of 37 had a standing reservation for dinner every night at 5pm. The deal was that anyone could come – or not come – depending on their mood or other planned activities.
There was a set area of tables designated for us and if you didn’t show up by 5:30, your table was reassigned. I wasn’t sure if we would participate every night or not, but we ended up not missing a single dinner with our family. Princess Cruises had a choice of a 5pm or an 8pm seating. I am very glad that we went with the 5pm seating. I loved having an early dinner – especially with my little people.
As part of our cruise package, our package included gratuities, an onboard credit, and a drink package. My husband and I had no intention of sitting on the deck drinking cocktail after cocktail, but I will say that the drink package was perfect even if you are only a wine -with-dinner kind of person. My husband loved to have a glass of wine with dinner and I was happy to have a cocktail. On a few days, we met up with family members and had a cocktail or a beer or a spiked hot chocolate so I think the drink package was a really nice feature.
Food allergies are no problem!
Because I have celiac and my two older children have food allergies as well, it was so nice to meet our server the first night at dinner and know that he would make sure our meals were always safe. Such a relief! In fact, this was a little weird at first, but at the end of dinner, our server would bring us the menu for the next night and ask us to choose our meals for the next night so that he could guarantee that the chef would be able to make them gluten-free. What a treat! We had zero food issues the entire week.
When we were at sea, my girls also made a point to go to tea with their grandmother and, if the server knew they would be coming ahead of time, the chef would have gluten-free pastry options available. We really felt like the dining staff was looking out for us! I was surprised by how easy it was to get what we needed. However, in order to get that kind of service, you really do need to be consistent with where you are eating. If you want to visit a different dining room every night, I can’t guarantee that your experience will be as smooth.
Rooms Are For Relaxing and Reading (And Nature Watching!)
After our first dinner and cruise ship exploration, we got back to our rooms to find that we had a packet of information about what we would be seeing and doing the next day – our first day at sea. The information was presented in a really approachable way so we learned a lot and felt really prepared to fully enjoy our day at sea. For our rooms, traveling with 5 kids, we decided to get side by side junior suites with balconies. We had plenty of space! Our room had two twins pushed together for the adult bed and one bunk bed that pulled down above a couch that also could be pulled out into a bed. For our room, we never converted that bottom couch, we only used the top bunk and it worked great. In the other room, we let the three oldest kids enjoy that space to themselves. They loved it!
I highly recommend a room with a balcony! I was worried about safety and kids, but a balcony is super safe and absolutely essential for a trip where you really don’t want to miss a minute of the outdoor views.
When comparing different cruises, all the itineraries are going to overlap a lot! However, not all itineraries are created equal. What my cousins loved about this itinerary was that we spent two fulls days enjoying the glaciers – specifically Glacier Bay National Park. Not all cruise ships get to go there! We also loved how much time we had in each port. A long day in port gives you a lot of flexibility to really explore these beautiful cities.