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One of the most popular ways to explore Alaska’s Inside Passage is by cruise ship. UnCruise Alaska encourages families to enjoy their small ship cruise in the best way possible – by unplugging. But does it work for kids?
Is UnCruise Alaska Right for Kids?
A family friendly UnCruise adventure is a unique way to experience Alaska. The cruise line’s small ships provide a much more intimate experience of Alaskan wilderness than the big ships operated by larger cruise lines.
UnCruise Alaska offers sail adventure cruises from April through September that last one to two weeks. Some go round trip from the starting location, which makes the travel planning extra easy.
UnCruise ships typically take families into Glacier Bay National Park and offer a variety of unusual activities to try. These include a bushwhacking walk, a marine walk, and evening skiff rides. The boutique yachts and expedition ships only carry 22 to 90 guests (the average being about 60). That means your family can enjoy up-close and personal adventures in wild, remote areas that larger cruise ships can’t access.
Unplugging on the Boutique UnCruise Ships
Our recent UnCruise Alaska adventure was spectacular. We saw bald eagles, humpback whales and orca whales almost daily, as well as sea lions and a few reclusive bears.
But what’s really amazing about UnCruise Alaska is that we were in places in the Inside Passage near Juneau where it was impossible to access the Internet, which was great for everyone to really unplug.
From hands-on exploring in Glacier National Bay Park and Dawes Glacier to searching for humpback whales in Chatham Strait and Frederick Sound, our family truly enjoyed the unplugged immersion in nature and wildlife.
Here are some reasons why I highly recommend an unplugged UnCruise Alaska family vacation for an Alaskan Cruise with kids ages 8 and up.
Read More: The Complete Guide to Family Cruising
What Works for Kids Aboard the S.S. Legacy
For our family’s first UnCruise experience, we decided to book the 7-night adventure through Alaska’s Glacier Country round trip from Juneau, Alaska.
One of the main things that works about UnCruise Alaska for families is that all the activities are included. So it doesn’t matter if your kids fall in love with one activity and just want to do that all the time.
One price covers everything from the excursions to food and beverages (even the adult beverages). All of the UnCruise Alaska vessels come equipped with kayaks, paddle boards, skiffs, hot tubs, a launch platform, and other adventure amenities. With such a nice range of inclusive activities, it’s far less likely that your kids will be bummed out being unplugged during this family journey.
Kids Can Feel Independent Aboard the Ship
You might be concerned that your active kids will go stir crazy on a small boat for a week. That certainly wasn’t the case for our 12-year old son.
Since the S.S. Legacy is such a small ship, my son could explore on his own without getting lost. He went to the gym area by himself. And he went to get a snack by himself. He could just walk around the ship and explore everything on his own, which made him feel very independent. He even went on one of the daily adventure excursions without us, and he was just fine.
Within two days of being on board, everyone knew his name. UnCruise Alaska was an excellent environment for him to cultivate his overall sense of adventure and freedom.
Read More: Family Cruise Packing List (and Printable)
A Family Feeling On Board
Founder Dan Blanchard wants to make sure everyone feels welcome aboard an UnCruise vacation, and I think everyone on our Alaska cruise did. There were people of all ages, a few singles, couples, anniversary celebrations and families with kids. Everyone mixed in to one big traveling clan quite quickly.
The S.S. Legacy only had approximately 40 other guests, so we got to know all the other families and the crew members quickly.
We knew all their names by the third day, and life on board the ship was very hands-on and interactive. You can just walk onto the bridge and visit with the captain or enjoy wildlife sightings from the bow.
Exploring Nature and Flavors
All the nature guides were incredibly patient with the kids on board and shared a wealth of knowledge about all things Alaska—from marine biology to geology to environmental science. It was really impactful for our son to see examples of hardworking, young, intelligent types of people caring for our planet.
Another thing that works for families is the amazing food on board. Our family explored a whole bunch of different new flavors including banana nut pecan pancakes, Alaskan halibut, and roasted pork medallions. Our sit-down dining time together was truly magnificent, and we enjoyed choosing our meals together from the daily menu that offered a smorgasbord of really stunning dishes. There were kid-friendly options like chicken tenders and mac-n-cheese in addition to more exotic tastes.
Our Unplugged Family Time
Unplugging on the ship really is one of the best parts of UnCruise Alaska. I actually tried to cheat because I needed to access the internet for work. So I kept looking for one of those portable Wi-Fi units that would work in the inside passage area. I couldn’t find anything (although there were lots of internet devices that promised to work in Denali, Kenai, Southeast Alaska and a bit more in the Northern Passages). In the end, we all were truly unplugged. And it was glorious.
Our time unplugged meant we had the unique opportunity to explore some new board games together. We did wind up hanging out and just talking to some other families, which was tons of fun.
One of the highlights was when another family introduced us to a card game called Left, Right, Center that we played for dollar bills. Our son was the only kid in this group, but he ended up having a fantastic time. There’s nothing like unplugging and teaching your kid some of the finer points of gambling and card playing!
Our ship also had ample movies available, so we did end up watching some movies in our room. We enjoyed those cozy family nights after some of our daily adventure activities like kayaking and hiking.
Ports of Call
Most Alaska cruises have set port stops in well-known spots such as Ketchikan, Wrangell and Sitka. UnCruise Alaska has few or no port calls. I loved how the emphasis was in no way shopping or port purchases. We did explore Juneau a bit before we got on our ship, so I felt like we had a great combination of a little city time and then some as wilderness explorers.
Every UnCruise Alaska itinerary features daily adventure activities in remote wilderness, including hiking, bushwacking, paddle boarding, skiff excursions, whale watching, and kayaking. One day we were surrounded by Humpback whales, endless blue waters, and blue skies in Chatham Strait. We also went beachcombing and hiking in the Tongass National Forest. A birding expert was on our boat the week we were there, and he taught us a lot about birds and eagles.
Without that hypnotically familiar glow of our smartphone screens, we were really able to come together for hands-on family time. There was one moment that we went onshore to a tide pool, and I was momentarily getting Twitter alerts. After being blissfully unplugged for a few days, I was surprisingly agitated to find that I was back online!
What Parents Should Know Before They Book
Here are a couple of things to be aware of for families:
- The cabin doors lock from the inside only for privacy, but they don’t lock from the outside when you leave your room. This is a common feature on smaller expedition ships that I found somewhat strange at first, but I didn’t mind in the end. You never have to worry about losing a key and being locked out of your room.
- I also found it odd that there aren’t connecting rooms on the S.S. Legacy. If sleeping arrangements without connecting rooms will be an issue, this may not be right for your family. All three of us couldn’t be in one room, so my husband and I took turns sleeping back and forth with our kid.
- Uncruise doesn’t offer childcare services, so don’t expect to drop your kids off in a kid lounge and go have some adult cocktail time.
- Alaska can be rainy and muddy, so you should also consider packing some comfortable rubber boots for hiking and walking on the rugged terrain.
- UnCruise Alaska might not work if you have younger kids. It’s mainly geared towards kids 8 years and older. If you want to Uncruise with children 7 years and younger, you must call UnCruise Adventures first for approval.
Put the Planning in Expert Hands
All in all, I really don’t feel like there’s any way I could have done this trip on my own as a mom planner. There were way too many amazing details (especially the educational ones that you get to “sneak” into your kids vacation). UnCruise offers an afternoon with a park ranger (we all earned our ranger badges, classes on bird behavoir from an ornithologist and kayak excursions into caves with exceptionally experienced adventurers. And the extensive time in nature unplugged was glorious. For this reason, it’s hats off to UnCruise Alaska!
Other Uncruise Destinations
In addition to Alaska, Uncruise runs cruises to Columbia and Snake rivers, the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, Latin America, Mexico’s Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Northwest.