In mid-July, my family and I will set sail aboard the 49 passenger Baranof Dream from Sitka to Ketchikan Alaska with Alaskan Dream cruise line. For ten days, we’ll experience their family cruise itinerary through SE Alaska, which promises to keep us busy from sun-up to sun-down (though I hear you have to be quite the night owl to see the sun set during an Alaskan summer). Because small ship cruising is inherently different than the traditional ‘mega’ cruise ship experience most are familiar with, I sat down with Alaskan Dream VP of Sales and Marketing Mike Wien to find out why small ship cruising makes sense for eco-conscious families.
5 reasons for families to book a small-ship cruise:
1. Eco-conservation begins with education. As outdoor enthusiasts who have done all, we can to pass on our love of the wilderness to our kids, we know that nothing makes children respect and value the planet more than a personal relationship with the natural world. On small ship cruises, the emphasis is outward (on the world outside the ship), instead of inward (deck parties and swimming pools). When kids see, hear, and touch the wildlife around them (whether that be in Alaska or the Galapagos), they are changed. “I can’t imagine a better opportunity for young adults to learn how to be stewards of the environment,” Wien says, explaining that the eco-conscious attitude that prevails aboard an Alaskan Dream ship teaches basic ecological lessons that carry over. For example, on wild beaches, cruise leaders pick up trash when they see it, regardless of who left it, a practice kids notice.
2. The kids will sleep well every night. A common concern of parents considering a small ship cruise is that there won’t be ‘enough to do’ onboard. According to Wien, Alaskan Dream daily itineraries start at 7 am with breakfast and go strong until bedtime, with the goal of making each vessel ‘a moving summer camp.’ The small ship may lack a game room and a climbing wall, but kids are always active, both on and off the ship. Because small ship cruise pricing is inclusive, parents can say ‘yes’ to kids all day long: yes, you can join that kayak tour, yes, explore the marine conservation center, and yes, have another cookie.
3. Small ship cruises have a smaller environmental impact. Due to their significantly smaller size, impacts of on-board consumption and off-vessel discharge for small ships can be limited to population areas which can handle this additional infrastructure (think 30 passengers instead of 3000). Limited on-board space forces small ship crews to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible, a practice Alaskan Dream and other small ship companies have mastered by necessity.
4. Small ship cruising allows for a local experience aiding a local economy.
In addition to gaining access to smaller, less populated ports of call, small cruise ships such as Alaskan Dream nurture positive working relationships with local tourism departments, attractions, and groups. In the case of Alaskan Dream, owners Bob and Betty Allen are members of the Tlingit Alaska tribe, a relationship that is fostered in their hiring practices, their cultural presentations, and their ports of call. “Native culture is strong in Alaska,” explains Wien. The Allens are highly involved in local communities, helping local causes and assisting to provide tourism dollars.
5. Small ships foster multigenerational bonding.
While many cruise experiences will prompt families to leave their cell phones and electronic devices at home (or at least stowed in their bags), small ships take inclusiveness a step further. General gathering areas for all passengers encourage multi-generational mingling, and activities that may be out of the comfort zone of both father and son, mother and grandmother encourage familial bonding. Kids and parents absorb new information together, and then experience nature together in an unforgettable way.
Other great eco-cruise providers around the world:
Have you taken a small ship cruise? What eco and vacation benefits did you experience?
Photo credit: Alaskan Dream Cruises.