Embarking on a scenic Alaskan cruise is an experience unlike any other. While an Alaskan cruise is certainly on most people’s bucket list adventures, how about experiencing it with both your parents by your side? Depending on who you ask, that’s either an incredible opportunity for bonding or a hard pass.
That said, as a millennial who’s very close to both her boomer parents, I embraced the chance to see the breathtaking wilderness of America’s last frontier with both mom and dad.
Sailing through the pristine, yet desolate, waters of Alaska is like watching a painting come to life. From scenic cruising along the Endicott Arm, a narrow fjord carved by age-old glacial movements, to the unexpected joy of spotting a pod of whales in the distance, each day reveals a new set of chance encounters with the untamed beauty of Alaska.
It’s an unforgettable journey that promises not only awe-inspiring natural beauty, but also 24/7 quality time with your parents, which of course comes with special memories and a few challenges along the way. That’s all to say that if you’re looking to forge deeper connections with your parents, there’s nothing like sharing a cruise cabin with them both for a week. Here’s a look at how our family trip went.
For reference, we started our cruise in Seattle and made Alaskan port stops in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, ending up in Victoria, Canada, before returning to Seattle.
Cruising is a unique way to spend a vacation, one that’s filled with constant stimulation, no matter the time of day. Each day brings new scenery, whether it be snow-capped mountains, glaciers or lush forests. Though sailing days seem daunting, these were exceptionally fun, entertainment-packed days.
The cruise provides an itinerary the night before each day, listing every possible thing to do on a ship, from live shows and events to dining schedules and attire for the evenings.
As you set sail, simply heading to the deck offers a front-row seat to whale and otter sightings and one of the best scenic tours of Alaska possible. With each deep breath of crisp Alaskan air comes a sense of tranquility and a subtle, yet thrilling, anticipation of what’s next.
A few of our favorite active things to do on the ship were pickleball — a shockingly easy sport almost anyone can pick up; ping pong, though the wind made it difficult at times; and of course, hot tub hopping, aka trying to find the hottest, most empty hot tub to relax in without freezing in the process.
Though much of the inside of the ship can be crowded, particularly during meal times, there were plenty of areas to escape people. The Enclave, a reservable space of the spa that is home to Princess’ largest-ever thermal suite, a hydro-therapy pool, a steam bath, a light steam chamber infused with herbal aromas, and a heated, dry chamber, was a great place to unwind and pamper ourselves with spa amenities.
Moreover, despite many rainy days in Alaska, The Sanctuary, a private, adults-only retreat on the ship, provided a nice respite from the crowds on one of the sunny days at the end of the cruise. With an afternoon tea service complete with tiny sandwiches and sweets, “Serenity Stewards” to attend to your every need, and floor-to-ceiling windows offering an outstanding view of our surroundings, it was an ideal way to end the trip as we neared our final port in Victoria.
In the evenings, we indulged in fine dining with panoramic views and live performances ranging from an impressive rock opera to a magic show. The evenings were always an exciting opportunity to experience a new, multi-course dining experience, some of which were quite interactive, and an entertaining show which never failed to impress us.
Eating is a big part of cruising and we thoroughly savored every meal. On board is a variety of dining options, ranging from complimentary to casual to fine dining.
Complimentary dining included two main dining halls which offered a la carte and set menus — there was even a steak and lobster formal night; hand-tossed Neapolitan-style pizza, soft serve ice cream, grilled burgers and hot dogs on the pool deck; a 24-hour cafe offering salads, paninis, soups and cafe beverages; and a pastry shop.
Our favorite place for anytime dining was the World Fresh Marketplace, which offered almost anything you could crave. From Indian and Malaysian cuisine to rotisserie chicken and pork roasts to pastas and desserts, this buffet had it all.
When it came to specialty dining, we were particularly impressed. Our favorite and most immersive experience was the 360: An Extraordinary Experience, which took us on a culinary journey through the Mediterranean via the memories and diary of a traveler (played by Brooke Shields) with a seven-course dinner that toured us through various countries, including Spain, Italy and France.
Each course was connected to a place of origin tied to the dish we were about to eat. Each course came with its own story displayed visually and audibly throughout the special dining room. This one-of-a-kind, virtual reality dining experience was super memorable for us — they even had the wait staff double as photographers, ready to capture the special moments of the dinner for us.
My parents are wine connoisseurs and also loved the Caymus Vineyards Winemaker Dinner, in which we experienced a five-course tasting menu paired with Caymus wines, including the iconic Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the Emmolo Sparking with dessert.
The third unique dinner experience was the Chef’s Table Lumiere (Royal Class), which gave us a special opportunity to meet with the Executive Chef as he and the Princess team walked us through each course and wine pairing. The experience even started with a unique, behind-the-scenes tour of the ship’s largest kitchen and Q and A with the Executive Chef and Director of Restaurant Operations. It was fascinating and eye-opening.
Other specialty restaurants we loved included Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria, which makes its pasta daily and offers Italian comfort food; Bistro Sur La Mer for French cuisine; and Crown Grill, an upscale steakhouse featuring beef, chops and seafood.
With each dinner came the opportunity to dress to impress and sit down for an upscale, multi-course dining experience that brought the day to a close.
Our time getting off the ship and exploring was just as memorable as our time on board. Throughout our seven-day adventure, we stopped at three Alaskan towns—Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway—which each offer a unique Alaskan experience.
From Ketchikan’s vibrant Native American culture and totem poles to Juneau’s stunning glaciers, abundant wildlife and state capital charm, and Skagway’s rich Gold Rush history and picturesque mountain scenery, it gave us the chance to really see Alaskan life.
In Ketchikan, I did the Alaska Bear Encounter by Land and Sea excursion, which allowed me to see the hungry black bears up close and personal as they devoured salmon at the Neets Bay Hatchery. The cruise from the port to the hatchery offered incredible scenery throughout the Tongass National Forest where our group spotted bald eagles and sea lions.
My parents opted for a kayaking adventure in Tongass National Park to the Eagle Islands, which they reported back was quite strenuous, with the most rewarding part seeing a bald eagle up close.
Though our helicopter glacier landing excursion got canceled due to foggy weather, we opted for Dog Sled Summer Camp in Juneau, where we enjoyed an authentic Alaskan experience: dog sledding through the Sheep Creep Valley. The huskies had such incredible energy and it was fascinating learning about the Iditarod and mushing. The best part was playing with the puppies at the end of the ride. Despite the rainy weather, our hearts were full after our afternoon with these dogs.
Our last adventure was the most relaxing. Riding the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad is quintessential Alaska, giving passengers unbelievable, mountainous views that can only be experienced via train. As we climbed nearly 3,000 feet over 20 miles of steep grades, the scenery only got better as we rode over hairpin curves, plunging gorges, gushing waterfalls, and sky-high trestles, while spotting the occasional bald eagle.
I haven’t spent this much consistent time with both my parents since before I left for college. In my final days at home, I felt sad thinking I’d never share quality time with my parents like I did in childhood.
What this experience proved to me was that that feeling was simply untrue. Book a cruise with your parents — and dare to share a cabin room — and you quickly find out that if you want to spend quality time with them — just as if you were living under the same roof — you can do it.
During the seven-day cruise, we pretty much did everything together. We shared a cabin room, with me on the pull-out sofa, and to be honest, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, one of my cruise highlights was when we were all cozied up in our tiny beds to watch Frasier reruns before bedtime.
Of course, when one of us felt an emotion, chances are we all did. The wide range of emotions, from irritation and frustration to happiness and gratitude, experienced during our extended time together in close quarters is considerable. Particularly when navigating around the boat, debating whether to take the elevators or stairs or getting annoyed when things were moving just a little too slow during busy times on the ship.
Sure, there were fleeting moments of intense annoyance, especially during the early mornings before coffee and sunrise. However, the genuine excitement in my parents’ voices as we uncorked a bottle of champagne to kick off our voyage, the sheer delight on their faces when they gazed out from our deck, and their profound gratitude for our collective health and togetherness on this incredible journey far outweighed those brief agitations.
For the latest travel news, updates and deals, subscribe to the daily TravelPulse newsletter.2023-09-24T14:07:44Z dg43tfdfdgfd