Alaska and cruising are a perfect match for families looking for activity, convenience and comfort. An Alaska family vacation is filled with soft adventure, wildlife, glaciers and whales, and a cruise is the easiest way to see it all. Celebrity Cruises has been on my list to experience for families; this past summer, I got the chance to cruise Alaska with my daughter on the Celebrity Solstice.
The Solstice is an elegant ship with contemporary style that exudes a feeling of comfort throughout. It has capacity for 2,850 passengers within a well-thought-out design that seamlessly mixes spaces for entertainment, relaxation and quiet time. The refreshingly easy layout avoids the maze-like trek to staterooms that can happen on larger ships. This is a key point when families think about how much freedom tweens and teens are allowed during the cruise — my 11-year-old daughter navigated the ship on her own with ease.
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There are many choices for cruises in Alaska, and Celebrity Cruises is a great fit for families seeking a more sophisticated experience with a high level of service that is family-friendly but not kid-centric. While ships don’t have flashy amenities like water slides, they offer vibrant family programming. For multigenerational groups, this is an excellent fit. Alaska cruises are popular with families and there were 450 kids on our cruise — i.e. you’ll see them around, but they aren’t taking up the entire pool playing Marco Polo.
The itinerary on the 7-night Tracy Arm Fjord Cruise, round-trip from Seattle, includes stops in the ports of Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria. Highlights on days at sea include the Tracy Arm Fjords and the Inside Passage. As with all cruises, weather conditions can affect the itinerary, and as our ship cruised the fjords toward the glacier we encountered so much ice that we had to turn around. It was astounding to wake up to a waterway filled with icebergs and ice floes surrounding the ship. This is very unusual for July (one reason was that an earthquake five days earlier had dislodged the ice).
Behind the beautiful decor lies a well-trained staff that begins and ends the day with a can-do and how-can-I-help-you attitude. The room attendants are adept at making guests feel special and noticed, including those like us in regular cabins and not suites or higher categories. Each attendant takes care of 15 cabins, which can accommodate up to 60 people total. Our attendant knew our names, recognized our faces outside of the room area, and was kind and thoughtful. We enjoyed seeing and interacting with him.
This level of service extends to the dining room attendants and even the managing staff. I received a bottle of wine as a gift, and it was the same wine that I had ordered the night before in the restaurant.
Guests on an Alaska cruise are surrounded by the wild side of nature. I always recommend booking a stateroom with a balcony if possible, to get a front-row seat for the beauty that sails by. Family staterooms accommodate up to four people, with two twin beds that can be pushed together plus a sofa/trundle bed. The setup is compact yet comfortable for a family of four. As Alaska attracts so many families, these cabins sell out quickly.
The Solstice offers a full kids’ club for ages 3 to 11 as well as a teen center. There were about 50 regular attendees the week of our cruise; my 11-year-old bonded with kids her own age and participated in daily activities. While the experiences and activities vary by age, kids 9 to 11 engage in cooking classes, scavenger hunts around the ship and movie nights, and they try their hand at flying drones and robotics. The teens have their own space — a more casual hangout area versus organized and supervised activities.
Beyond the kids’ club, there are organized family events around the ship. One morning it was a table tennis tournament and another day it was a movie on the Lawn Club, a real grass lawn that was mowed with a lawnmower before the showing. The cruise ended with an all-ages kids’ talent show, which ended up being a highlight.
The Solstice has interesting bar and club areas that are for adults only, as well as a spa and gym with ocean views. The Solarium, a dedicated adult indoor pool area, is a welcome change on a chilly Alaska day. When the weather is poor, this area is opened to families for a few specific hours in the evening so everyone can use the pool — it was too chilly to use the outdoor one during most of our cruise.
Celebrity Cruises is known for their food and dining options. Service is exceptional, and our waiter encouraged us to try everything and to enjoy ourselves in the process. We opted for an early seating at dinner; our window table rewarded us with breaching humpback whales and orcas on some days.
For variety, the ship includes various specialty restaurants for lunch and dinner that require an additional fee. If you haven’t planned ahead, a great option is to try out one at lunch when it’s easier to get in. We also met friends hanging out for coffee or a drink in the oceanview Caffe al Bacio, which also provided a glimpse at the many activities going on in the atrium.
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Alaska cruises are in high demand and often book up 12 to 15 months before the departure date. They are the perfect choice for adventure-loving and multigenerational families looking for a vacation with no cooking or planning. Cruises on the Celebrity Solstice begin at $1,049 per person for an inside cabin in low season.
Editor’s Note: Kristi received a media package from Celebrity Cruises in order to review the Solstice for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Kristi Marcelle.
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