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Launched during the 2010 season in Alaska, Princess Cruises’ special cruise-tours for families were so successful that the line is enriching its offerings for 2011. The tours incorporate a variety of features not usually included in a cruisetour package, such as opportunities to learn about dog mushing at the Iditarod Trail Headquarters, pan for gold, take an interactive tour of Denali National Park or partake in a fun campfire experience.
“Alaska is the perfect place for a family vacation,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “There are amazing wildlife viewing opportunities, awesome scenery and lots of active adventures. With this in mind, we wanted to make it easier for family groups to plan the perfect Alaska experience with activities that will appeal to many ages and interests.”
Princess’ 12-night family cruise-tours include a seven-night Voyage of the Glaciers cruise plus a five-night land tour. At sea, families can also take advantage of Princess’ onboard programs designed especially for children, including a special Junior Ranger program in Glacier Bay National Park.
Families can choose to sail onboard Diamond Princess or Coral Princess, and the cruisetour land portion includes stays at three of Princess’ own wilderness lodges: one night at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, two nights at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and two nights at Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge. The tours are offered on 34 departures with both northbound and southbound itinerary options.
The 2011 land-based experience includes extras for all generations, such as a visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where families will be able to see a variety of animals (bears, elk, bison, moose, caribou, musk ox, coyotes and eagles). The nonprofit organization takes in injured and orphaned animals and gives a permanent home to those that can’t be returned to the wild.
On the way to the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, there is a stop at the Iditarod Trail Headquarters in Wasilla, where families can learn about mushing and its importance in Alaskan culture. The center offers the opportunity to meet sled dogs and see them at work with wheeled cart rides. Near the lodge at Mount McKinley, an evening campfire with traditional snacks and Alaskan stories and songs entertains the family.
In Denali, a musical comedy tells the legend of the first expedition to the summit of Mount McKinley, accompanied by a hearty, family-style meal of smokehouse ribs and Alaskan salmon. A special excursion, the Alaska Geographic Tour, provides a more intimate tour of Denali National Park; this special excursion includes a variety of interactive experiences, including an enhanced view of the Denali ecosystem and current research taking place. The narrated bus tour takes guests 15 miles into the park to a river valley where they embark on a short walk to the historic Savage River Camp. At the camp, clients can participate in a number of hands-on activities.
Families also can enjoy traveling on an authentic sternwheeler for a fully narrated cruise along the Chena River and try their hands at gold panning at the El Dorado Gold Mine.
Fares for Princess’ Alaska family cruise-tours start at $1,648 per person for the first and second berths, and $1,246 per person for the third and fourth berth passengers.