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IT TAKES A LOT TO WOW MY TEENAGE SON

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Glaciers, killer whales, grizzly bears and the ghosts of the gold rush – an action-packed voyage along Alaska’s west coast turns out to be packed with thrills and bonding experiences for travel writer Jane Knight and her teenage son.

Published on 05/12/2024

WHY ALASKA MAKES THE PERFECT MULTIGEN CRUISE

Sheer granite cliffs plunge into icy blue water. We stand at the windswept bow of the ship, my son and I, feeling like intrepid explorers as we follow the trail of icebergs. Electric blue, they increase in size and frequency as we venture deeper and deeper into the 30-mile glacial fjord known as Endicott Arm.

Finally, we spy the icebergs’ origin as we reach an abrupt dead end in the form of the enormous Dawes glacier: 600 feet high and half a mile wide, shot through with the colour of a Bombay Sapphire bottle. As the glacier calves it lets out a thunderous roar.

“That’s so cool,” whispers Christian, my son, with a look of awe on his face.

It takes a lot to wow my teenage son these days. But this voyage – a roundtrip from Vancouver sailing up the wild west coast of Canada and Alaska – is full of wow moments, and the ideal cruise for teenagers who have long outgrown kids’ clubs.

From Vancouver we sail north, weaving through the islands and waterways that make up the Inside Passage, to Alaska. My son is beside himself when he spies an orca from the deck on our first day.

The raw wilderness of Alaska’s glaciers, fjords and forests forms the backdrop for a unique adventure, and Crystal’s program of innovative shore experiences offer a great variety of ways to explore this massive outdoor playground, which works brilliantly for multigenerational families of all ages: dog sledding across icefields, helicopter rides to the top of glaciers, kayaking expeditions and ziplining. There are more easy-going excursions, too, but no less exciting – seafood feasts cooked over fire on an island shore, and wildlife-spotting boat rides to get up close to bears and whales.

On one of these, as we putter up the Icy Strait off Chichagof Island in a small boat, the whales announce their arrival by spurting water high in the air. Suddenly, half a dozen are swimming around us, curving up and back into the water with a slow-mo flip of the tail.

Sea otters and sea lions play at the boat’s bow. At the shore, a brown coastal bear (the same species as inland grizzlies) stands silhouetted on a rock, then, with a flick of his paw, scoops up a fish. When our guide tells us the stellar sea lion and grizzly bear have almost identical skulls, my son and I look at each other incredulously.

“I’d rather chance it with a sea lion,” says Christian, voicing my thoughts.

Back on board, there are activities for the young and young at heart, from ping pong to pickle ball, although my son swerves the interesting lectures on Alaska’s history. He prefers to learn about it first-hand, on shore, eagerly following in the footsteps of gold-rush pioneers, who flocked there after America’s purchase of Alaska from Russia for two cents an acre in 1867. We learn, too, about Russian fur traders and Tlingit warriors in the scenic town of Sitka, home to a Russian orthodox cathedral and many ornate totem poles.

It is here we happen upon a river dark with salmon. Suddenly, a bird’s shadow hits the water and the fish panic, stirring up the water with their fear so it looks almost as if it’s boiling.

We can’t stop talking about it back on deck as we sail along Sitka Sound’s conifer-clad islands, where a bald eagle soars overhead and sea lions plop into the water. And then we spy something else – the blow hole of one last whale.

“Go on, go on,” my son urges it to appear.

Then slowly, gracefully, it arcs out of the water, the curve of its body echoed in the smiles on our faces. We don’t have a photo of that shared moment of joy, but we have something far better – the memory of a day bursting with animal magic.

best-alaska-cruise-with-teens

Crystal Serenity sails between Vancouver and Alaska on various voyages throughout July and August. See all our Alaska cruises

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