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Cruising Alaska Now Its a Family Thing

Cruising Alaska - Now It's a Family Thing By Mike Miller If you're thinking about a family vacation to Alaska, and you're wondering if your kids would enjoy a cruise to "The Last Frontier," wonder no more. Young family members from toddlers through teens have a blast on big ships and small as their vessels sail through the protected waters of Alaska's Inside Passage. Aboard ship or ashore, there are lots of kid-friendly, parent-friendly, and grandparent-friendly places to see and fun things to do. It's true, only a short decade or two ago families with kids aboard Alaska cruiseships were as scarce as Alaskan Dall sheep lambs in a grizzly bear's lair. But the times have changed -- big time. Today you will find, in addition to the traditional hefty contingent of seniors and near-seniors aboard each ship, a growing number of families.

Sometimes these groups are multi-generational, with gramps and grandmas, moms and dads, and kids that range from gangly teens to babes literally in arms. The reason? Word is out that Alaska's attractions are sure-fire hits for travelers of any age: attractions like humongous whales breaching full length out of the water, grizzly bears chasing salmon along forest creeks and rivers, icebergs (sometimes as big as a tour bus) crashing, splashing, and thundering off the faces of miles-long glaciers. Too, there are opportunities to mush in a dog sled behind a team of charging huskies - after helicoptering to a lofty mountain-top glacier no less! Kids and parents can ride bikes through towering forests or down mountain paths and trails.

They can also kayak among whales and sea lions. Whole families can fish for lunker king salmon. Or try their luck at gold-panning in creeks and streams. Newest craze for the young and the young-at-heart is riding a zip-line through the upper canopies of towering spruce and hemlock forests in Ketchikan and Juneau -- hanging safe and secure in a harness as they "zip" along a steel cable some 130 feet or more above the forest floor. Or, less daunting, while visiting museums up and down the coast families can absorb the totemic culture and the history of Alaska's Native peoples.

They can learn about the period when Alaska was "Russian America." And they can view mementos of the tumultuous gold stampede to the Klondike during the late 1800s, No question about it, Alaska has something exciting to offer every family member, regardless of age. But what about life aboard the cruiseships? Will young people find the experience dullsville? Hardly. The mid- to mega-sized ships in particular are literally resorts afloat with swimming pools, spas, snack shops, ice cream parlors, outdoor game courts, video arcades, and movie theaters. Special staff members aboard these vessels -- with one exception -- include trained youth counselors.

These crew members arrange age-appropriate social activities, organize games and sports events, supervise arts and crafts, take youngsters on shipwide treasure hunts, and generally see to it that cruisers from tykes through teens enjoy their cruise as much as their parents and grandparents. Although smallship cruiselines in Alaska do not staff their vessels with special counselors for young cruisers, the ships are no less family-welcoming. These vessels can enter small bays and inlets where guests can view wildlife on close-by forest shores, explore waterways by kayak or in spiffy powered Zodiacs, hike remote island beaches, perhaps even stop for a natural hot springs dip in forested surroundings. One smallship cruiseline even schedules three Alaska cruises each year especially geared for family travel. Regardless of vessel size, and with only a couple of exceptions, cruiselines in the Alaska trade actively court family cruisers. Few such travelers, young or old, find the experience anything other than "cool.

" And they're not referring to the weather. To view a report about each of the 14 cruiselines and the 44 ships that encourage family travel (and the two companies and their vessels that do not), visit http//

Click the tab called Ak Cruising With Kids. Copyright (c) 2006 By Mike Miller -- All Rights Reserved - .

By: Mike Miller

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