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Cruise Vancouver to Alaska: Family Holiday at Sea

Updated on June 23, 2012

An Inside Passage Alaska cruise could host your reunion, meeting, wedding party or family event

Cruises offer variety and value, especially if you book a group for a reunion, meeting, wedding party, honeymoon or family event. Carnival Cruise, Princess Cruise, Disney Cruise, and Celebrity Cruise give affordable family holidays with a range of activity and fine dining for every age and interest.

Every three years my family has a reunion in a different location. The relatives from my father’s side--grandfather’s cousins and the descendants in that part of the clan--meet in a different city for four days and spend time together. We have met in Chicago,Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; Scottsdale Arizona; Sault St. Marie, Ontario; and Bracebridge, Ontario. Every time I meet different cousins from far away, I learn a little of the family history and get a view of business and life from communities I usually have nothing to do with.

It’s a custom that was started forty years or so age by my grandfather Nels and his cousin Alex, who pioneered a small lake in the now-popular Muskoka resort region of Ontario and built log cabins from the trees they cleared beside the quiet water. I don’t go to every reunion, but when we can my brothers and sisters do, so our children get to experience a huge extended family and have a big party. They love it.

If you are planning an event like this in your family, dance club, or special interest group, or need an excuse to bring multi-generations of distant relatives together from around the globe, consider booking a group on a cruise. A wedding at sea? a graduation? a 70th birthday party? If you book a year or six months ahead of time, a week’s holiday including meals, accommodation, taxes and fees may cost less than $1000 CA/person, and there are usually special discounts for booking a group of more than 16 people.

Cruises to Alaska from Vancouver are a fun way to see the Alaska Inside Passage.
Cruises to Alaska from Vancouver are a fun way to see the Alaska Inside Passage. | Source
In the Alaska Inside Passage in late August, the Celebrity Mercury wake foams white on the gray sea.
In the Alaska Inside Passage in late August, the Celebrity Mercury wake foams white on the gray sea. | Source

Best Time for Alaska Cruise

I booked a group of yoga students on a roundtrip Alaska cruise from Vancouver-Vancouver for 7 nights in mid- August. Once the excitement of sailing under the Lion’s Gate Bridge and waving to the friends and relations left ashore was past, we headed out of Burrard Inlet on the Celebrity Mercury and settled in to explore our ship. For the next seven days we saw grey water, green forest, fog-veiled peaks and glaciers, while eagles soared above us and occasional crescent leaps of orcas sliced the shining path of sunset in the ship’s wake.

It is best to take the Alaska Inside Passage Cruise in mid-June, when the weather is warmest and the days are long and likely to be sunny. On our cruise after mid-August, the weather was cool and rainy so I didn't get to practice yoga outside--the first morning I went up to the 14th deck at sunrise, but it was so cold I moved inside. My picture of relaxing at the top of the ship up close to the wind and the stars in the warm dawn didn't materialize that trip, but usually on sunny days passengers can enjoy the open-air facilities on the Skydeck, including swimming pool, hot tubs, basketball and shuffleboard courts.

Sea days were relaxing. Some of our group took a lot of naps and watched movies like Casino Royale and The Queen . Parents with children could take them to the activity centre where they enjoyed age-appropriate activities with new friends under qualified supervision. Teens had their own lounge with board games, basketball tournaments, ship-board scavenger hunts, dances, movies, and minimally structured relaxation time. We could take dance classes, salsa and waltz in the afternoon, gamble at slot machines in the casino, have a cappuccino or read the newspaper in the library, check email at the Internet café, hang out in the hot tub, have timeless conversations with no hurry to end and race off to some other agenda. That was the best part--to have time to share the spiritual journeys and life histories of people I have been teaching and practicing with for years without ever knowing very much about each other.

The Alaskan Inside Passage

The scenery was spectacular, with snowy mountains, old volcanoes, and wooded islands in the mist as we sailed past Haida Gwaii, the storied Queen Charlotte Islands. We made a few stops along the way and got off the boat to look around. There were opportunities for shore excursions like walking on the Mendenhall Glacier in Ketchikan, watching carvers at work in Juneau and visiting the Russian museum, the totem park or the eagle rehabilitation centre in Sitka. We cruised into Hubbard Glacier Bay one afternoon and saw the huge wall of ice which is rapidly shrinking as the earth's climate warms. On one of the previous afternoons, a biologist and naturalist had given a lecture about Alaska wildlife and the impact human planetary activities were having on the species in this apparently remote region, and narrated the tour of the Bay, pointing out seals, birds and evidence of the life cycle of the glacier.

Hubbard Glacier August 2008 from Celebrity Mercury

Close to the Hubbard Glacier passengers feel the cold from the river of ice and see small icebergs that have broken off.
Close to the Hubbard Glacier passengers feel the cold from the river of ice and see small icebergs that have broken off. | Source

Ketchikan Alaska Garden Wall

This wall in rainy Ketchikan in fall
Retains in moisture memories of glacial till
And gives a hold in lengthening arctic night
To ferns and mosses, lichens, worts and forms
Older than angiosperms, faithful more than frost,
That thrive on privance and embody light
To forge defiant roots in rock. Oh tasters
Of light! Who so love life they press and rise,
And pay obeisance to some inner pulse
That beats unbidden bent by elements
That pour and parch, that flail and freeze and flatten.

Once solstice passes, chill days darken, herding
Humans home. Huge ships vaunt visitors, fair-weather
Fools of spring who linger in low towns
And rush for gold, for yellow diamonds' glister,
Yet never climb the heights to stoop and seek
Their evolution's spectrum stacked in old stone walls.

Stone Wall with Ferns

Ketchikan, Alaska August 2008
Ketchikan, Alaska August 2008 | Source

Stone Wall with Moss

Ketchikan, Alaska August 2008
Ketchikan, Alaska August 2008 | Source

Alaska Ship Cruises

Celebrity Mercury cruises to Alaska from Vancouver. The meals in the Manhattan Restaurant are beautifully presented and served.
Celebrity Mercury cruises to Alaska from Vancouver. The meals in the Manhattan Restaurant are beautifully presented and served. | Source
Alaskan cruise ships compete to offer service and value.  Beyond this ice sculpture at our last brunch is the window where, the night before, orcas had been playing in the ship's wake.
Alaskan cruise ships compete to offer service and value. Beyond this ice sculpture at our last brunch is the window where, the night before, orcas had been playing in the ship's wake. | Source

The Manhattan Restaurant on Celebrity Mercury

Each evening we met for dinner and ate food that was art on the plate and on the palate. In the Manhattan Restaurant, white linen tablecloths arrayed with silver utensils gleam in the candlelight every evening. For those who prefer less formal dining, the buffet is open all day with many international choices. After dinner most nights there was a Broadway-style musical revue with colourful costumes and fabulous singing and dancing. Those who love dancing could dance to small bands in one of the lounges or go to the discotheque. So in the late evening people who like to stay up could watch a show, dance in the nightclub, hang out in a lounge with their friends, gamble in the casino, watch a late night movie or run laps on the 12th deck track for exercise before sleeping.

With such a selection of activities, people of all ages can have fun and entertainment. The great thing about travelling with a large group of friends or affiliates on a cruise is that there is always someone to join you if you want to do something but don’t want to do it alone. What I loved best about cruising with a large group though, was the opportunity to run into people I knew and have time without a schedule pressing to sit down and have a conversation--an ongoing tea party, where at any time I could go to the library or to my cabin for alone time or a nap.

The ship was nearly full, as they always are. Cruise lines raise the rates the closer the sailing date comes, but nevertheless, the last few berths always manage to get filled. Sailing with us on our cruise was a family group of about 30 people from Ohio, who had combined a family vacation and reunion with a wedding. The couple did not actually get married on board, although you could do that if you wanted to. After all, ship's captains have full authority over the ship in open waters, and have authority to marry the loving and bury the dead. Would you like that? This family was having a really good time at Nick and Tracy's wedding party. They had booked it six months ahead, and had reserved a block of cabins all in one corridor, most of them next to each other. They were in and out of each others' rooms, visiting in the corridors, finding friends and cousins and drifting off in small groups for meals, dancing, classes, movies, and shore trips.

"It's a fantastic way to do a wedding," Tracey told me. "Planning it was so easy. The ship takes care of everything, there is lots to do, and even my grandmother is having fun. We are spending a few days on our own in Vancouver after we land, so we'll have a private honeymoon too, but this is fun to see all my sisters and cousins, and to really have a chance to get to know some of Nick's relatives who live far away."

How to Prepare for a Cruise Vancouver to Alaska

If you go:

  • Before you book, make sure guests from out of town can get American visas. Once the final booking is made, it is non-refundable.
  • The rate includes room and all your food, so don't need extra money on board unless you plan to book massages or spa treatments, buy photographs, book on-shore excursions, or shop.
  • Book early--the rates go up as the sailing date approaches. The ships always sail full.
  • Take clothes for Alaska--good walking shoes, warm pants, sweater, umbrella and rain coat. There is always a wind at sea, and you will enjoy shore excursions more if you can dress warmly. Expect daytime temperatures between 16 and 24 degrees.

Cruising with a group is the way to go. If you think you might want to do this in the summer of 2012, move on it now and book a group block of cabins. Now is the time people should be booking for Alaska. In fact the popular sailings and cheaper cabins are selling out already. There are still Vancouver to Alaska sailings. Celebrity has one ship, the Century , and Holland America Line has 2 ships, the ms Volendam and ms Zuiderdam doing the 7 day roundtrip Vancouver - Alaska-Vancouver sailings. Also, for the first time, Disney will have a ship, Disney Wonder , going to Alaska and doing the 7 day roundtrip Vancouver - Vancouver run.

An Alaska cruise is a chance to show your visitors from out of town a glimpse of some of British Columbia's most breathtaking scenery. It allows families and groups to spend time together every day while still offering lots of options for people to go off independently for activities of their own interest. It is a wonderful to relax, enjoy each other's company, and bond. There are always deals coming up from the cruise lines. Visit our website to search for the best opportunity.


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    • prasetio30 profile image


      6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      It sound interesting. It's really a wonderful holiday for the family. I hope I can be there one day and try the traveling package from Vancouver to Alaska by cruise. Thanks for share with us. Voted up!


    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      We once took a cruise to the caribbean as a mini family reunion, and now some members want an Alaska cruise. My own choice is somewhere warm where I can snorkel, but we'll see - Alaska does indeed have it's points.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      I really like the idea of a cruise to meet up with far-flung cousins. It's given me an idea! Beautiful photos of the scenery too.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      How exciting it all sounds. And such a variety of things to feel, see, do, absorb, enjoy! It would be a wonderful location/trip for a family get together. I can see it now. (I did love your story about family get togethers in different locations. Sounds wonderful for everyone).

      Voting and sharing!

    • profile image

      Helpful Hanna 

      8 years ago

      Sounds great. Thanks!


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