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Alaskan Princess Cruises for families

I’m aboard the Discovery Princess Cruise Ship, gliding through the icy waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage, and I’m trying to decide between oatmeal raisin pancakes, vanilla waffles, an Asian congee, or a hot breakfast with the works including “biscuits” (like a savoury scone) and gravy. 

These are just a few of the vast array of breakfast options at the World Fresh Marketplace buffet, which is my first port of call on this leisurely sea day itinerary. After perusing the buffet for some time, I opt for scrambled eggs with freshly baked bread, washed down with a tropical fruit smoothie. Checking my watch, it’s time for my pre-booked yoga class, held in the gymnasium, which features floor to ceiling windows, so you can keep watch at sea while you work out.

Feeling Zen after the gentle yoga session, I return to my suite on deck 8 for a quick shower, grabbing a barista-made coffee along the way at the International Café in the lively piazza area (open 24 hours). There’s time to savour the coffee on my suite’s balcony, soaking up the Alaskan summer sunshine, before taking myself up to the Lotus Spa. Located within The Enclave, this day spa is so much more than a cluster of treatment rooms. There’s a hydro-therapy pool with a cascading rain shower and therapeutic air jets. There’s heated stone beds and soothing water beds. And if that’s not enough, there’s also The Hammam – a Turkish-style steam bath, and from Roman times, the Caldarium –a light steam chamber infused with herbal aromas. To round off the experience is the Laconium room– a heated, dry chamber to help with purification and detoxification of the body. But today, I’m there for a simple pedicure, and before long I find myself nestled in a plush chair, gazing out at the calming waters of the sea while receiving a very welcome foot massage. 

I’m enjoying the down time of travelling without my kids immensely, and yet, I can’t help imagining the fun of bringing my family on this very cruise. Isn’t that always the way? We yearn for a break from the eternal demands of motherhood, and then when we get it, we miss the kiddos.

So, would I have begun my morning any differently if my kidlet crew were with me? Possibly not, if that’s what I wanted, thanks to the warm and welcoming atmosphere directed towards children onboard Princess Cruises, and the myriad of activities on offer to keep them busy. Yes, chilling out at a yoga session, enjoying a hot coffee in peace on your suite’s balcony and indulging in a pedicure are all possible on a Princess Cruise, even when you have your children in tow! 

Cruising with the family on the Discovery Princess

When bringing the family on a cruise, creating a happy holiday for everyone is all about the planning. Holding a family meeting well in advance of the cruise and asking your partner and children about what they’d like to do as part of their holiday, is a great way to ensure a harmonious vacation. This is the perfect time to plan out your shore excursions and allow everyone to tick off an activity they’d love to do. If you’re cruising Alaskan waters, there are so many options to choose, from taking a boat past floating icebergs and frolicking sea lions to see a towering and ancient glacier, (you may even be lucky enough to spot bears!); to flying along ziplines through the Alaskan wilderness against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, gushing waterfalls and verdant forests. You can even try your hand at catching an Alaskan salmon. Getting these shore excursions booked in as soon as possible is important to make sure you don’t miss out on your preferred activities. Don’t wait until you’re onboard the ship!

However, just as essential as planning your days off the ship, is planning your family’s time on the ship! All Princess Cruise Ships feature an excellent kids club, which is split into different categories based on age, to ensure your child is offered engaging activities that are perfect for their stage of life. And they take safety seriously – when I was traveling on the cruise solo, I wasn’t permitted entry to view the facilities, as I didn’t have a child enrolled in the program. Again, booking kids club in early to avoid disappointment is vital. Once those sessions are booked in, you can then begin to plan your own onboard activities. Whether you’re bidding at an art auction, finding your lucky numbers at bingo, or spending a few hours in the aforementioned Enclave Day Spa, it’s nice to have some time to yourself knowing your children are being well taken care of.

But it’s not all about going it alone. Sea days are also brilliant for family bonding time. Again, we recommend you schedule some family fun into every sea day, including a meal to be enjoyed together. Maybe you could enter as a team in the Disney trivia session, try a dance class together, or challenge each other to a game of mini-golf on the top deck. Even a round of mocktails by the swimming pool while watching a family flick on the big screen will create those warm and fuzzy memories that you can take home with you as a souvenir.

How to make the most of your Discovery Princess family cruise

If your children are older and you’re comfortable with them being independent on the ship, Princess’ new MedallionClass makes it easy for them to find their way around and locate you when needed. Once you’ve received your MedallionClass device (I kept mine strapped around my wrist like a watch), you then use it for everything from boarding, GPS, and keyless entry to your room. There’s an associated app you download to your phone, and on this the kids will find games including an onboard scavenger hunt. This is also where you can check the timing of events/activities and check in anytime to see where your family is. For example, you may be enjoying an adults-only meal at one of the fine-dining restaurants onboard, such as the Crown Grill on deck 7. A quick glance at the app will tell you your children are gorging themselves on gelati on deck 5. You may decide to join them! 

Once the cruise is paid for, there are so many things you can enjoy with no additional cost, including:

  • Almost all of the shows in the Princess Theatre are family-friendly, feature exceptional talent and are free.
  • If you book a suite on the Discovery Princess (as opposed to a regular cabin) you will be invited to dine at the 360 Restaurant for no extra charge. It’s difficult to describe the incredible degustation that awaits but let’s just say it’s a multi-sensory experience like no other that will keep kids happily seated at the table.
  • A number of the restaurants onboard the Discovery Princess, including Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway are all inclusive. This means you can enjoy three courses of food and wine every night, for no extra cost. Impressively, room service is also included in the cost of your cruise fare. 
  • It would be remiss of me to leave out the most impressive freebie of all – the majestic Alaskan scenery! The best vantage point is probably from the hot tubs on deck 16, where you can stay warm while feasting your eyes on nature at her finest. The Discovery Princess may be one hefty ship, but she’s dwarfed by the age-old, snow-capped mountains that stand calmly and stoically around her. I’m so glad I travelled to the other side of the world to soak up this moment.

The writer travelled courtesy of Princess Cruises.

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