Is a Cruise to Alaska a Good Trip for Teens?

We love traveling with our family. It's so important for us to be able to show our kids as much of the world as we can and have shared family experiences together. Some of our best family memories surround adventures that have taken place when we are traveling. Recently, on a cruise to Alaska, with Holland America, where my 16-year-old son was my plus one, a grandma came up to us excitedly, grabbing Owen's arm and said "Oh! So my teenage grandkids would love a cruise to Alaska don't you think?" This sweet grandma wanted to create a multi-generational travel experience and while she didn't really wait for our response, here's what I would tell someone if they were interested in planning a cruise to Alaska with their teens.

alaska cruise with teens

Is a Cruise to Alaska a Good Trip for Teens?


There are {normally} a lot of options {as of the writing of this, cruising has just slowly started resuming thanks to a global pandemic} for cruising to Alaska. Currently, it is a bit more limited. However, I will say, that if you want to visit Alaska, a cruise is one of the very best ways to get the best taste of all Alaska has to offer.

Here are some factors to consider before you book a cruise with your teenagers:


Are You Considering a Cruise to Alaska for Your Family? Read this!

Smaller Ships

Large cruise ships often have much more to offer onboard {skating rinks, zip lines, climbing walls}, however, they often struggle to get into the smaller ports of Alaska because they are so large. Mid-size cruise ships are more of the standard option for Alaska sailings, just know that they also have fewer onboard activities that might entice the teenage crowd.


It's cold, even in the height of the summer. The ship is moving, the breeze is blowing, and outdoor activities become less desirable when you are fighting off the wind, rain, and cold. There was an upper deck basketball court on the Nieuw Amsterdam with a pickleball court and an indoor and an outdoor pool, both with hot tubs. In port before our cruise left, we saw people using the basketball court area, but we didn't observe anyone using it the rest of the cruise. We used the indoor hot tub but only when we were in port. Outdoor activities on a moving boat are often affected by the weather. 

pool on cruise alaska


The internet on our Holland America ship sucked. We had the premium package and there just wasn't anything to say about it other than that it was awful. I get it, we are on a floating vessel in the middle of nowhere. However, there are other ships that sail to Alaska that seem to have this figured out. Having access to the outside world is so important to teens, so to tell teens to "just disconnect" is a bit harsh. It's worth asking what others' experience was and planning accordingly. There are plenty of cruise groups on Facebook and people are always happy to share their experiences. 

Shore Excursions 

The very best thing you can do to help get teens excited about a trip is to have them get involved in the planning of the trip. Excursions are a huge part of cruising and you should budget around $750-$1500 per person for your cruise. My son and I took a helicopter to the Mendenhall Glacier, we kayaked around uninhabited islands at low tide, ziplined and repelled in a rainforest, and took a floatplane to the Misty Fjords. 



Every cruise to Alaska has a slightly different itinerary and different times in various ports. It's important to pay attention to how long the ship is docked in each port and what activities and shore excursions you and your teenagers might be interested in. Some cruise ships spend time viewing glaciers. Others spend time in busy ports that really don't have much draw other than souvenir shopping, so pay attention to the itinerary and hone in on the ship that has the best fit for your family.

Wildlife in Alaska

There is a lot of wildlife in Alaska. With patience, you can spot whales breaching quite frequently as you cruise. I saw seals and otters in port and bald eagles on land. Book a balcony if possible so you have a private space for your family to enjoy spotting wildlife. 

Cruise Reputation

While Holland America is often rated as the top cruise line for sailings to Alaska, they are also known for having an older demographic. This is very much evidenced in their entertainment options on board. While they did have a few options for teens {shuffleboard and movie night were a few I remember}, the overall entertainment on board was directed at a much more, shall we say, experienced crowd. The music selections were often the oldies that I remember as a kid and the jazz club dance evenings were hopping with couples doing the jitterbug and the foxtrot. 

We met a mom traveling with her two teen sons on our trip. They were first-time cruisers and so I asked them what they thought. The boys mentioned that they loved it, but were sometimes bored. A sentiment my teen son would echo too.

It's All About Space

One of our family travel tips, when I'm asked about making travel with teens enjoyable for everyone, is to create space. We usually do this by renting large houses or booking multiple hotel room suites. Cruise staterooms aren't known for an abundance of space. Thankfully, ships are safe enough to let you teens wander on their own with appropriate guidelines of course, and this can give all of you a break.

Boredom Happens

There are people who love port days and there are people who love sea days. Excursions will keep you busy on port days, and depending on activities on board while you are at sea, there may be some boredom on board. Heck, even I found myself bored on one of the sea days and I'm rarely bored. 

When is the Best Month to Book a Cruise to Alaska?

This varies. Most cruises to Alaska run from May-late September. They are, of course, weather dependent. When traveling with teenagers, you are often bound by school schedules and generally, students have summers off! I found that the area we cruised in Alaska was very much like the PNW. When I tell people when to visit the greater Seattle area, I always say that our best months are August or September. I'd say the same thing about cruising to Alaska. You'll find the best weather to enjoy outdoor activities during those times. 



My Thoughts

Want to know how I answered the grandma I first introduced at the beginning? I told her, yes, take your teenage grandson on a cruise to Alaska, just make sure you buy the upgraded internet package!

Traveling to Alaska with my son left us with a lot of shared memories. We had some pretty awesome experiences and he got to see a lot of nature. We got to see a part of the world together that neither of us has seen before and regardless of how all those factors above play into your decision, my advice is to always take the trip. 

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