Alaska: Cruising for Wildlife

This year, there appears to be greater demand than ever for family oriented trips to Alaska. The state's wild beauty, abundant wildlife, and vast opportunities for hiking and exploration are luring family travelers. Large cruise ships, such as those operated by Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland America, Carnival and Norwegian, make calls on major Alaskan cities and towns each week. All of these ships offer kids programs, teen activities, and a wide variety of shore excursions suited to every interest. In addition to these mega-liners, however, there are several more intimate, personalized ways to enjoy a family vacation in Alaska this summer.

American Safari Cruises takes families on intimate tours of Alaska aboard elegant yachts. These small yachts, the Safari Escape and the Safari Quest, carry a maximum of only 12 or 22 guests. The beauty of seeing Alaska in this fashion is that the yachts' small size allows for unparalleled access to Alaska's wonders. The kids will get so close to waterfalls that they can feel the spray, and the glaciers appear to be just within reach. The itinerary is flexible enough that the captain can change course for whale sightings, or linger in a tidal inlet if bears appear to forage on the beach. If guests decide they want to spend more time kayaking or hiking, so be it. Even though the course is set, no two cruises are exactly the same. After all, it's your trip.

Last year, American Safari launched special Kid in Nature (KIN) Family Programs in Alaska, and expanded them this year to their yacht cruises in Mexico's Sea of Cortes as well. Having recently experienced American Safari's KIN Program in the Sea of Cortes, I can attest to the personalized, family oriented nature of the trip. The onboard Expedition Leader is a combination of naturalist, teacher, and activities leader -- delighting adults and children alike with a host of facts and planned events. The yacht is both elegant and intimate in a homey way, and families feel uniquely comfortable in this setting. Kids set out on adventures aboard the yacht's inflatable launch, hike into the wilds, and delight in coming so close to nature.

On the Alaska yacht cruises, activities abound for all ages. Family members will enjoy kayaking in wilderness coves and bays, exploring untouched spots - such as Misty Fjords National Monument or the Tracy Arm Wilderness Area, coming face to face with glaciers and icebergs, hiking on a remote trails in the rain forest, and hopping shore-to-shore by zodiac. In addition, there are plenty of opportunities for up-close viewing of humpback whales directly off the bow or dolphins right below, watching for bears and seals, riding mountain bikes, and more. With a high ratio of crewmembers to guests, kids and adults alike are accompanied on a variety of personal-choice excursions while the yacht is at anchor.

Families will also have a chance to meet the people of Alaska. In the charming, Norwegian-style fishing village of Petersburg, guests will meet local residents and hear more about what it's like to live year-round in the 49th state. Some trips will visit Meyers Chuck, a tiny village of fewer than fifty people, where guests can interact with local fishermen and artists. Visits to Juneau and Sitka bring opportunities for shopping and sport fishing.

At the end of the week of up-close adventure in Alaska, the American Safari crew presents each family with a photo disc of several hundred images to share and reminisce about for years to come. In addition, each child also receives a Kids in Nature backpack filled with mementos of their various explorations: a graduation certificate from the University of Whales, a marine chart signed by the Captain and Expedition Leader, a CREW tee shirt and cap, a pair of binoculars, photo disc and a typed list of all of the flora and fauna observed during the cruise. Far from the typical summer vacation getaway, an American Safari yacht cruise to Alaska provides children with an intimate, fun way to learn about nature and another way of life.

For more information, visit the American Safari Cruises website: American Safari Cruises or contact them at (888) 862-8881.

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Alaska: Cruising for Wildlife

Alaska: Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge

Australia: Fraser Island

Bahamas: Swim with Dolphins

Belize: Diving with Whale Sharks

Barbados: Swim With The Turtles

Florida: Dolphin Encounters in the Keys

Galapagos Islands: Voyage of Discovery

Georgia: Little St. Simons Island

Grand Cayman: Stingray City

Hawaii: Hulopoe Beach

Mexico: Baja Whale Watching

Montana: National Bison Range

New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

North Carolina: Carova Beach

South Carolina: Dolphins of Calibogue Sound

Virginia: Assateague Island

Washington: Whale Watching

Wisconsin: See Cranes

Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park