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Our Family’s Experience on a Multigenerational Alaska Cruise

When I was a newbie travel blogger, I quickly learned there is a welcoming community of baby boomer travel bloggers. One of these bloggers was Donna Hull who offered me the opportunity to write for her popular blog, My Itchy Travel Feet, aimed at baby boomers looking for active travel advice. Donna published my post about my family’s multigenerational Alaska cruise experience. She has kindly given me permission to republish my post here on Midlife Boulevard.

Our Multigenerational Alaska Cruise

It was formal night on the Celebrity Mercury, a cruise ship bound from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver, Canada. I looked around our dining room table for ten occupied by spiffed up family members, including my husband, Steve (a/k/a Mr. Excitement), our two teenage sons, Ben and Jeremy (ages 16 and 13); my 70-something parents; an 84 year old family friend; and my sister-in-law and her partner, fellow baby boomers. Someone’s missing.

Where’s Nona!?!

Nona was Steve’s 90 year old Bulgaria born grandmother. Steve set off to find her. He knew where to look and soon reappeared with an only slightly repentant nonagenarian — all four feet, eight inches of her. Sure enough, he had to roust her from a black jack table in the ship’s casino.

Given the vagaries of air travel and the real possibility of missing the boat (literally) if a flight to a cruise departure port is cancelled or delayed, I arranged for us to fly into Anchorage two days early. My parents and the over 80 set visited with the best man from my parents’ 1950 wedding who had moved to Alaska in 1955. We chose more active travel experiences with our sons starting with a bus tour of the city and environs, during which we actually saw a grazing moose! Remembering that I had been mesmerized by a 1964 National Geographic magazine reporting on the great Alaska earthquake of that year, I insisted on a visit to the evocative Earthquake Museum. Having then exhausted our teenagers’ tolerance for sustained parental interaction, Steve and I deposited them in front of a television, rented bikes, and enjoyed a ride along the paved Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

We were told that Celebrity was busing passengers from Anchorage to the port of Seward, but on departure day we were transported in a panoramic train because another cruise line had rented all the available buses. (Thank you other cruise line!) The over four–hour train ride took us through some of Alaska’s most spectacular coastal, mountain and glacial scenery.

Panoramic Train on our multigenerational Alaska cruise

The Panoramic Train we took from Anchorage to Seward, Alaska (Photo credit: Luis Sanchez, )

As we walked from the train to the waiting ship with our sons, a smiling young woman with a clipboard approached us. She was signing up those under age 18 for the ship’s youth program. One look at Ben and Jeremy’s stricken faces told me they would not be participating in “ship camp.” They made friends with their teenage peers anyway and keeping them entertained was never an issue.

A Multigenerational Alaska Cruise Provides a Range of Age Appropriate Activities

The ship provided a range of excursions at each port, so there was always a suitable option for everyone in our group. The beauty of a multigenerational Alaska cruise vacation is that everyone can convene each night at dinner to share the day’s adventures and then disperse to age-appropriate entertainment, ranging from the teen disco, to a song and dance review or to watch Nona charm everyone at her blackjack table.

Ports of Call on our Multigenerational Alaska Cruise

Our first port of call was Sitka, the former Russian capital of Alaska. Everyone over 70 in our group went on a bus tour, while the rest of us boarded a boat for a wildlife cruise. I enjoyed translating for some Spanish speaking fellow passengers as we watched breaching humpback whales, sea lions, and very cute sea otters floating on their backs, enjoying a shellfish repast.

Sitka was followed by a day at sea during which our ship entered an ice strewn bay and did a 360 in front of Hubbard Glacier. Our visit was spectacular and uneventful even as my maternal instincts were conjuring up visions of the Titanic.

Hubbard Glacier, Multigenerational Alaska Cruise

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska

My favorite stop was in Juneau, the somewhat inconvenient capital of Alaska, accessible only by ship or plane, making for a complicated ballet of boat and float plane traffic in the harbor. At this stop, the grandparents and great grandparent went on another bus tour. The boys and their aunts went white water rafting, while I went on a heart pounding guided hike next to the Mendenhall Glacier. Steve went all out (price-wise) for a helicopter ride to the Juneau Ice Field for dog sled mushing.

At our next port, we all enjoyed the vintage train ride from the old Yukon Gold Rush town of Skagway up to Whitehorse, British Columbia. Despite a history of marital discord involving tandem canoeing, Steve and I tacked on an exhilarating kayaking excursion on a pristine, turquoise mountain lake.

Kayaking Whitehorse, BC on our Multigenerational Alaska cruise

Kayaking on a lake near Whitehorse, British Columbia

When our cruise ship arrived in Ketchican, a southeastern Alaskan town largely built on wooden stilts and walkways, Steve and I opted for a tour to visit a native totem pole carver complete with bald eagle sightings, while Ben and Jeremy’s aunts took them deep sea salmon fishing. They donated their catch to another happy fisherman.

We all enjoyed each other’s company on the restful last day as we sailed down the river–like Inside Passage (complete with cavorting orcas—who knew that killer whales cavort?). Our final destination, Vancouver, Canada, is a visit worthy city in its own right.

We had been on cruises before, but never with an entourage whose ages spanned 77 years. Despite sometimes feeling like I was herding cats, my verdict on this seven day multigenerational Alaska cruise experience is that it was a great way to spend quality travel time with family members of diverse ages and interests.

Have you done any multigenerational cruises? If so, how did it go? If not, do you think a multigenerational cruise would work for your family?

Suzanne Fluhr, Travel Editor

Suzanne Fluhr, Midlife Boulevard's travel editor, is a recovering Philadelphia lawyer, empty nester, wanderer, dog person and Zentangle® enthusiast. She also writes about Baby Boomer travels for the body and mind on her personal blog, Boomeresque. Instagram: Boomeresque2

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