The 8 Best Alaska Cruises for Families

A cruise to Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime family or multigenerational vacation. With unique opportunities for wildlife viewing and outdoor adventures that you won’t find anywhere else in the world — not to mention scenic cruising days on the ship to spend time together — this special experience will stay with you forever.

For an extended vacation in the 49th state, consider booking a cruisetour. This combined cruise and pre- or post-cruise land tour option is offered by many of the larger cruise lines. The tours visit some of the top attractions in the state, such as Denali National Park and Preserve, and often include picturesque rides into Alaska’s remote wilderness aboard the Alaska Railroad. Some tours also head north to Fairbanks and visit Kenai Fjords National Park or Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (or both, in some cases). You can choose between fully escorted adventures or laid-back options to explore on your own, depending on what works best for your family.

Ready to book your Alaska adventure? These eight cruise lines offer excellent family-friendly excursions ashore, plus plenty of onboard activities to keep both kids and parents entertained during days at sea.

Princess Cruises: 7-Day Voyage of the Glaciers with Glacier Bay

Departure city: Vancouver, British Columbia

The 2024 cruise season brings Princess’ 55th-anniversary sailing to The Great Land, and the line is offering more than 150 Alaska voyages between April and September. The popular Voyage of the Glaciers with Glacier Bay itinerary northbound from Vancouver to Anchorage (Whittier), Alaska, is available on dozens of dates this season on Grand Princess, Royal Princess or Sapphire Princess. The sailing includes stops in the ports of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, as well as scenic cruising in beautiful Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve and College Fjord in Alaska. If you prefer a smaller ship, choose Grand Princess or Sapphire Princess, which hold 2,610 and 2,680 passengers (double occupancy), respectively. Meanwhile, Royal Princess accommodates 3,560 guests at double occupancy.

The Princess Cruises North to Alaska program features immersive, family-friendly opportunities to learn about the history and traditions of the 49th state. Guests can sample fresh local seafood and meet famous Alaskans such as Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the 1,100-mile Iditarod dog race. In Skagway, families can meet some of the newest sled dogs and their handlers during Puppies in the Piazza on the ship. Younger cruisers and teens can participate in the Alaska Explorers Youth Program in partnership with Glacier Bay National Park and the Discovery Channel, which includes activities like the “Deadliest Catch” Crab Sort Challenge.

The North to Alaska program also partners with Discovery and Animal Planet to feature onboard exhibits about Alaska, as well as curated excursions like the White Pass Rail Bennett Lake & Yukon Adventure in Skagway, which was created by a train historian. Back on the ship, kids and teens can hang out with other young cruisers their age at Camp Discovery’s Treehouse (ages 3 to 7), Lodge (8 to 12) or Beach House (13 to 17). In addition, be sure to keep an eye out for Princess Cruises’ Alaska mascot: Stanley the Bear. You might even find him during story time at the kids clubs wearing a captain’s uniform or destination-themed costumes, such as lumberjack gear in Ketchikan.

Norwegian Cruise Line: Alaska — Dawes Glacier, Juneau & Ketchikan

Departure city: Seattle, Washington

This seven-day round-trip voyage from Seattle is available on Norwegian Bliss from April to September during the line’s 2024 Alaska season. The sailing includes the ports of Sitka, Juneau, Icy Strait Point and Ketchikan (Ward Cove), plus scenic cruising in Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier in Alaska. There’s also an evening stop in Victoria, British Columbia, before disembarking in Seattle. Norwegian Bliss can carry 4,004 passengers at double occupancy and 4,266 passengers at maximum capacity.

The entire family will enjoy excursions like the Whale Watching & Bear Search tour in Icy Strait Point, while thrill-seekers of all ages will want to book an adrenaline-pumping ride down the mountain on the massive ZipRider zip line. In Ketchikan, take a hike through Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the U.S., where you might catch glimpses of wildlife like black bears or bald eagles. You can also head offshore from Ketchikan aboard the Aleutian Ballad, the famed ship from Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” to pick up the day’s bounty of king crab and search for marine wildlife along Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Plenty of family activities and entertainment options are offered on this Norwegian Cruise Line ship, including the Bliss Speedway, a two-level racetrack at sea; laser tag; mini-golf; an interactive aqua park with waterslides that zip above the side of the ship; a video arcade; and live entertainment. You’ll also find kids clubs designed for younger children and teens, as well as adults-only escapes like Vibe Beach Club and Spice H2O. When it comes to dining, there’s no shortage of casual fare for hungry kids at venues like the Garden Café buffet, American Diner and The Local Bar & Grill.

Disney Cruise Line: 7-Night Alaskan Cruise from Vancouver

Departure city: Vancouver, British Columbia

This seven-night itinerary aboard Disney Wonder departs round-trip from Vancouver on several voyages throughout the 2024 Alaska season, which runs from May to September. The weeklong Disney Cruise Line sailing includes glacier viewing along the Stikine Icecap and stops in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. Plus, you’ll enjoy plenty of Disney fun on board, with character meet-and-greets, Broadway-quality shows, and entertaining activities and venues for kids and adults alike.

Many of the ship’s nautical-themed staterooms are designed with families in mind and feature a “split bath” concept and extra under-bed storage for suitcases. Disney Wonder can hold 1,750 passengers at double occupancy and 2,700 passengers at maximum capacity. The ship’s unique rotational dining venues include an “under the sea” adventure at Triton’s, a dinner show with Disney characters at Animator’s Palate and Southern specialties with jazz music at Tiana’s Place. For a night out sans kids, adults can savor a quiet evening with northern Italian cuisine at Palo or nosh on casual pub fare at Crown & Fin Pub. Younger sailors will find age-appropriate spaces at Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab, tween venue Edge, and teen club Vibe.

Disney’s excursions also offer family fun ashore — especially in Skagway. Try panning for gold with Disney characters like Donald Duck, then feast on baked Alaska salmon at Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp. You can also take an extended six-hour tour by boat into Alaska’s deepest fjord, Lynn Canal, then hike through the rainforest to reach your canoe for a wilderness safari at Glacier Point. For a bucket list splurge, reserve a spot on the helicopter flightseeing tour that includes dog mushing on the Denver Glacier with a team of Alaska sled dogs.

Holland America Line: 7-Day Alaska Inside Passage

Departure city: Vancouver, British Columbia

Holland America’s Koningsdam will sail the line’s seven-day Inside Passage itinerary more than 20 times between April and September in 2024. This round-trip voyage embarks in Vancouver and includes multiple days of scenic cruising. You’ll sail through the Inside Passage for two days; through Tracy Arm Inlet, where you can disembark for a shore excursion; and through Glacier Bay, where the Junior Ranger Program is a highlight for kids. The ports of call on this itinerary are Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan in Alaska.

Koningsdam features dedicated family staterooms with beds for up to five guests, two bathrooms and extra closet space. The ship carries 2,650 guests at double occupancy and 3,194 passengers at maximum capacity. A wildlife expert on the ship helps guests spot Alaska’s incredible marine and land animals through announcements and during daily programs. Keep an eye out for humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, moose, brown bears and other wildlife. While in the Tracy Arm Wilderness Area, you’ll want to take the Tracy Arm Fjord & Glacier Explorer excursion to explore glacier-covered mountains, jagged cliffs and the largest temperate rainforest in the U.S. surrounding the fjord. On a high-speed catamaran, you’ll get up-close views of the Sawyer Glaciers and have potential sightings of harbor seals, bears, mountain goats and more.

Back on board, Holland America Line‘s kids club offers supervised, age-appropriate activities for young cruisers ages 3 to 17 — including children who may need certain accommodations. You’ll also find plenty of family-friendly options for dining on Koningsdam, including Lido Market, New York Pizza and the poolside Dive In grill. During the cruise, look for themed evenings in the Lido Market like salmon bakes or seafood boil pop-up dinners, which are in line with Holland America’s commitment to serving certified sustainable and traceable Alaska seafood. An Alaska brunch is also offered once during the voyage in the main dining room; you’ll enjoy dishes highlighting ingredients from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Royal Caribbean International: 7 Night Alaska Adventure Cruise

Departure city: Seattle, Washington

Hop aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas for the seven-night Alaska Adventure Cruise, sailing round-trip from Seattle. This itinerary is available on several dates between May and August 2024 and features stops in the towns of Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau, plus scenic cruising in Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier in Alaska. There’s also an afternoon call in the Canadian city of Victoria. While there, book an off-roading excursion through the coastal rainforest that includes a zip line adventure. Or, take a self-guided tour through Victoria’s famed Butchart Gardens and the tropical Butterfly Gardens filled with wildlife.

Quantum of the Seas — which holds 4,180 passengers at double occupancy and 4,905 passengers at maximum capacity — is one of the two larger Royal Caribbean ships sailing in Alaska in 2024 (Ovation of the Seas is the other). As such, it offers abundant activities and entertainment for families at sea. On board, guests can experience Ripcord by iFly (the only skydiving simulator at sea) and take in snow-capped mountain views from the FlowRider surf simulator or atop the ship’s rock climbing wall. Other onboard activities include bumper cars, an escape room, an arcade, pickleball and The Silent Party (a dance party where everyone wears headphones).

At mealtime, kids will have plenty of choices for casual and quick bites, from carefully crafted hot dogs at the Dog House and specialty pies at Sorrento’s Pizza to around-the-clock snacks at Café Promenade and grab-and-go fare at The Café@Two70. When the little ones want to play or chill out with kids their age, Adventure Ocean offers activities for children 3 to 12 years old. Meanwhile, teens can meet other 13- to 17-year-olds at the Hideout Hangout.

Carnival Cruise Line: 7-Day Alaska from Seattle, WA

Departure city: Juneau, Alaska

Carnival’s 2024 Alaska season runs from May to September, with the 7-Day Alaska from Seattle itinerary available every month during that time. The round-trip sailing aboard Carnival Luminosa stops in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, Alaska, as well as Victoria, British Columbia. You’ll enjoy scenic cruising in Victoria and through Tracy Arm Fjord. You’ll also have one “fun day at sea” to check out the activities and entertainment on the ship, which offers a double occupancy capacity of 2,260 passengers and a maximum capacity of 2,826 passengers.

Younger sailors ages 2 to 11 can join in on ocean-themed games, songs and programming at Camp Ocean, while tweens and teens (ages 12 to 17) can participate in destination-focused activities at See the World. Club 02 is a designated space for guests ages 15 to 17 to watch movies, play sports and video games, and more. Families can enjoy Dive-In Movies together at Carnival Seaside Theater and watch live musical productions at Playlist Productions. When it comes to dining on Carnival, families will have a choice of several casual restaurants to satisfy finicky eaters, including Pizzeria del Capitano, The Carnival Deli, Lido Marketplace and Swirls for soft serve ice cream. For a special night out, make reservations at the Steakhouse, which costs extra but offers reduced prices for children 11 and younger.

When going ashore, Juneau offers many family-friendly excursions — some of which you may not have the chance to experience anywhere else in the world. The Taku Lodge Feast & 5-Glacier Seaplane Discovery takes guests airborne by bush plane over the five glaciers in the Juneau Icefield. After the ride, you’ll land in the Taku River at the historic Taku Lodge, which sits across from Juneau’s largest glacier, the Taku Glacier. At the lodge, you’ll feast on a bountiful meal featuring homemade side dishes and one of the best-known local seafood specialties, Alaska king salmon.

Celebrity Cruises: 7 Nights Alaska Hubbard Glacier

Departure city: Vancouver, British Columbia

Celebrity’s seven-night Alaska Hubbard Glacier itinerary is available on nine voyages between May and September 2024. The Celebrity Solstice (which holds 2,852 guests at double occupancy) sails round-trip from Vancouver and stops in the ports of Icy Strait Point, Juneau and Ketchikan in Alaska. You’ll have two days of scenic cruising in the Inside Passage and around Hubbard Glacier. While in Icy Strait Point, book a guided nature walk excursion along the “Trail of the Bears” in the bush country of the Spasski River Valley. During your search for Alaska’s coastal brown bears, you’ll also learn about the Tlingit culture and community in Hoonah, and perhaps even see Sitka black-tailed deer and bald eagles.

Back on the ship, Celebrity’s Camp at Sea program entertains children, tweens and teens ages 3 to 17 with four different age-appropriate programs: Shipmates (ages 3 to 5), Cadets (ages 6 to 9), Captains (ages 10 to 12) and Teens (ages 13 to 17). The customizable activities change every cruise and are based on the interests of the participants. Celebrity also offers autism-friendly activities and services for families on board.

When it comes to dining options on the ship, families will find kid-friendly selections on the in-room dining menu and at the main restaurant. For quick casual fare, head to the buffet-style Oceanview Café or to the Mast Grill for burgers and other grab-and-go bites. If you want healthier dishes, the Spa Café offers homemade energy bars, acai bowls, turkey wraps and other light choices.

UnCruise Adventures: Glacier Bay Adventure Cruise

Departure city: Juneau, Alaska

If you prefer a small-ship cruise experience without the bells and whistles of some larger vessels, UnCruise offers adventure-style cruises to Alaska on its fleet of safari- and expedition-style ships. With these intimate cruises, you and the kids (ages 8 and older) can get up close to glaciers, wildlife and Alaska’s vast wilderness directly from the ship via Zodiacs and kayaks. You may even see wildlife from a short distance away along the shoreline, as UnCruise vessels are able to sail into smaller waterways that are inaccessible to larger ships.

The line’s Glacier Bay Adventure Cruise features two full days in pristine Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve aboard the Wilderness Discoverer, which holds a maximum of 76 passengers. Here, guests can hike along remote coastlines amid old-growth forests, view sea life up close and go birding at South Marble Island. You’ll also have the opportunity to see several tidewater glaciers, go kayaking in the Keku Islands and explore Neka Bay on Chichagof Island. Another highlight is a visit to Glacier Bay Lodge at Bartlett Cove, the only hotel accommodations in the 3.3 million-acre national park. The seven-night itinerary departs round-trip from Juneau and is offered between April and September 2024.

The full itinerary includes stops in Icy Strait and Neka Bay; Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve; Chichagof Island (which boasts the world’s largest population of brown bears per square mile); Frederick Sound; and Tracy Arm and the Sawyer Glaciers. During the weeklong cruise, you’ll have narration by expert onboard guides and embark on some of the most memorable adventures your kids will ever have in Alaska’s remote wilderness.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Gwen Pratesi has been an avid cruiser since her early 20s. She has sailed on nearly every type of cruise ship, including the newest megaships, traditional masted sailing ships, river ships in Europe and a small luxury expedition vessel in Antarctica. She has cruised to Alaska and visited The Great Land in the summer, fall and winter, and journeyed to remote areas by bush plane above the Arctic Circle. She used her knowledge of Alaska cruises and extensive research to write this article. Pratesi covers the travel and culinary industries for major publications, including U.S. News & World Report.

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