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Cruising to Alaska: Family Travel Guide

Glaciers, fjords and whales await on this family friendly adventure to Alaska
Northern Lights in Alaska
/ Source: TODAY

Why go on a cruise to Alaska

There's no better way to teach kids to take care of the environment than by letting them experience the raw, wild wonders of Alaska, with its glaciers, fjords and snow-capped mountains. They'll never forget watching breaching humpback whales from the ship's deck, not to mention orca whales, bald eagles, bears, puffins and sea otters.

Seeing Alaskan glaciers up close is a once in a lifetime opportunity. AL GRILLO / AP

How to plan a cruise to Alaska

When mapping out an itinerary, first consider whether you want to fly round-trip from an airport like Seattle or Vancouver, or are willing to break up your journey by flying into or out of an Alaskan airport like Anchorage. (The latter will add time and money, but also allow you to see more of Alaska.) Royal Caribbean offers a mix of different itineraries on two different ships. The upscale, mid-sized Radiance makes one-way journeys between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seward, Alaska, a port city that's a gateway to the glaciers of Kenai Fjords National Park. Ovation, one of the fleet's newer, flashier ships, will come to Alaska in 2019 (replacing the current Explorer, who does round-trip cruises from Seattle). Ovation's sailings will go between Seattle and Vancouver, giving travelers more sightseeing options at either end of a cruise.

Royal Caribbean cruises are incredibly family-friendly. While the kids are off enjoying the on-board movie theater, mini golf course, science lab, art studio, nursery and teen-only nightclub, parents can spend some time at the spa, dine at one of the dozens or restaurants and bars or take in a Broadway-caliber show.Sergio Reboredo / AP Images

What to do on the cruise ship

Royal Caribbean is known for its highly regarded Adventure Ocean kids' program, which features a drop-off nursery for babies as young as six months old, as well as an arcade, movie theater, science lab, art studio and teen-only nightclub. You could spend a month on one of these ships and not see every nook and cranny; other perks include sports courts, mini golf courses, theaters showing Broadway-style shows, spas, dozens of restaurants and bars and, on the Ovation, surfing and skydiving simulators.

Extend your cruise with a trip to Denali National Park, the home of the United States' tallest mountain.Becky Bohrer / AP

What to do in Alaska

Typical Alaskan shore excursions might include kayaking, dog sledding, whale watching, scenic rail rides in vintage coaches and visits to cultural sites like the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. Some operators may have age, height or weight restrictions for children. To avoid disappointment, it's best to confirm directly with the tour company. (And if a little one needs to hang back, she'll have plenty to do at the kids' club!) From the Radiance, you can opt to extend your trip with a land tour to Denali National Park. At six million acres, it's roughly the size of Massachusetts and home to the country's highest mountain, not to mention wolves, moose, caribou and many other intriguing species.

Looking for more of the best vacations with kids? Check out TODAY's Family Travel Guide.