Alaska Family Cruise: The Rough Journey to Smooth Sailing
When I decided to take the opportunity to cruise to Alaska with my family, I expected it would be a lot of things: inspiring, unique, and sometimes really challenging. For starters, our particular Alaska cruise departed from Vancouver, Canada. And after traveling to our embarkation port with a 3 and 6 year-old in tow, I am convinced of two things:
1. Herding cats is only slightly less challenging than the obstacles we encountered along the way, and
2. Crystal Cruises was the light at the end of a very long tunnel for this family of four.
Here are a few of the challenges we faced while traveling to the cruise port, how we managed them and what I’ve learned about Crystal Cruises when it comes to accommodating guests.
The Challenges of Traveling to our Departure Cruise Port
Challenge #1: The time difference.
Because there are no direct flights available to Vancouver from Fort Lauderdale, we had to book a connecting flight. We chose to fly to Dallas on Friday night, then from Dallas to Vancouver Saturday morning. We arrived in Dallas at 9:00pm (10:00pm Miami time). My kids go to bed at 8:00pm, so the 1-hour time difference proved to be a disadvantage. Coupled with the fact that neither child slept on the flight, we were faced with plenty of tears and “I don’t want to sleep!” declarations come bed time.
Challenge #2: We faced a last-minute suitcase malfunction.
After we finally got the kids to bed, my husband discovered that the zipper on our (very large) suitcase was completely destroyed. This meant that we now had 50 pounds of clothing and travel gear that was going to spill out of our bag. And it was midnight. And we needed to get up at 5:45am to get to the airport for our next flight to Vancouver. Luckily, we were staying with family while in Dallas, so we were able to repack into another bag quickly.
Challenge #3: Sleeplessly navigating through the airport in Dallas.
After checking our now intact luggage, it was time to board. Easy, right? Not quite. Any parent could attest to the fact that two kids running on little sleep is a tough recipe for travel, so there was more than one temper tantrum in the airport before it came time to board.
Challenge #4: The carry-on debacle.
It took us a bit longer than usual to check our passports at the gate, so we were met with the dreaded “sorry, we will not be accepting any more carry on rollerboards” notice come boarding time. This meant that we now had to check our carry on, which had our DSLR camera (that we removed) and a handful of other things. This also meant that we were now carrying two kids, a backpack, their travel bags and a camera. Bonus: we boarded to find that there were at least a dozen vacant spots for our (now checked) carry-on.
The Turning Point
After safely arriving in Vancouver and making it past the busy Canadian immigration line, something miraculous happened that transformed our first 24 hours of travel for the better.
We came across the Crystal Cruises representative, who brought a porter to get our luggage (or our LUGGAGE, I should say. We had a lot). He took care of our bags and showed us to the bus where we were quickly whisked away to the ship. We got to the ship with no problem and check-in took a matter of minutes. Our staterooms were ready 2 hours early. My husband had a glass of champagne in his hand within minutes of boarding and we were dining on tasty food.
What I Learned About Traveling to Alaska with Kids (in Just 24 Hours)
For anyone planning a family cruise to Alaska—or any cruise requiring long distance travel—with small kids, here are some quick recommendations:
1. If you MUST connect flights, choose a flight with an early arrival time. Be conscious of the time difference so your kids don’t tire out as easily. Also, give yourself some wiggle room on the connecting flight. If you can spare a day, great, and if not, make it as easy on yourself as possible.
2. If your kids say they are going to carry their own travel bag, you will most likely end up carrying it for them at some point. Pack the smallest bag they will carry that you can easily stick into your bag once the fun wears off for them.
3. While packing, keep in mind that you’ll only need about half of the stuff you think you do. Crystal Serenity has great laundry facilities (which I used a LOT), so that should lessen your travel load considerably.
4. Sail with Crystal Cruises—seriously. Traveling with small kids is stressful, and they know how to take the stress out of everything. More on that soon.