Meaningful & Fun: Cause-Related Family Small Ship Cruising in Alaska

Seattle-based environmental crusader ExploringCircle (http://www.exploringcircle.com/) is a new company that combines a long adventure travel legacy with a strong sense of purpose.  For meaningful family travel this summer they are recommending two small-ship cruise itineraries into the Alaskan wilderness.

But before they travel, families are invited to examine ExploringCircle’s six related environmental causes, choosing one to which to pledge their support. This conversation is vital to the company’s mission.  By talking about, for example, plastic detritus in oceans, young and old alike while on a cruise can wrap their minds around threats to ocean waters and to marine and wildlife. ExploringCircle in turn Pays-it-Forward by donating up to five percent of client fee to the environmental cause chosen.

“Then the fun begins,” says Lori Goodwin, ExploringCircle’s Alaska expert. “On the cruise, naturalist guides spark the curiosity and sense of wonder of kids young and old, with scheduled daily adventures that any age can explore at their own pace and interest.”

“The small ship expedition cruise philosophy of truly immersing people in Alaska’s remote bays and forests is especially meaningful for youngsters, many of whom have never experienced such wild places before,” adds Erin Kirkland, Youth Specialist for the cruise company.

There are two itineraries recommended for families with children ages eight (exceptions may allow for as young as age four) and up. The season is May through August. On each, children and adults will kayak, hike, examine starfish in tidal pools, paddle board, and beachcomb.  Opportunities abound to sight whales, bears, dolphins, sea otters, eagles and all kinds of wildlife close-up from the decks of the vessel or by inflatable launch. Kids enjoy the hot tubs, games, kid-friendly DVDs, and books available onboard. Other children’s activities may include: a Polar bear plunge, field research with on-board equipment, crafts involving nature, wildlife and native culture, cooking opportunities, bridge visits featuring 20 Questions with the Captain and beach bonfires with s’mores.

The two recommended family cruise itineraries are:

Inner Reaches (Eastern or Western Coves) on the 84-passenger M/V Safari Endeavour. This cruise transports guests for eight days exploring Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness and Misty Fjords National Monument taking in the region’s glacial ice, fjords, alpine-to-sea creeks, rainforests and the Tlingit culture. The ocean voyage goes from Juneau to Ketchikan (or reverse). The per person double rate is from $4,295. Cruise dates for 2016 are: May 8-15 and Sept. 18-25. See: http://www.exploringcircle.com/inner-reaches-eastern-coves-5.

Discoverer’s Glaciers Country on the 60-passenger M/V Wilderness Adventurer is an eight day cruise that features an exclusive two-day visit to Glacier Bay National Park accompanied by a Park Ranger. Here families will discover scenic coves and fjords by kayak, paddle board and skiff. Later they hike in Tongass National Forest, watch for whales and wildlife in Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage, and experience Fords Terror Wilderness Area by kayak or skiff. There are also added perks of the Captain’s Choice exploration of remote “not in the guidebook” places. The per person double rate starts at $2,995. Cruise departure dates for 2016 are: Apr 30; May 7, 14, 21, 28; June 4, 11, 18, 25; July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; Aug. 6, 13, 20, 27; and Sept 3, 10, 17. See: http://www.exploringcircle.com/discoverers-glacier-country-3

On both itineraries children save $500 off regular fares per paying adult. When families select triple occupancy cabins, a special lower rate is applied and this can be combined for further savings with the $500 per child discount.

About the Small Ships
The interior of the 60-passenger M/V Wilderness Adventurer complements the wild places it sails through.  The main lounge evokes the feel of a wilderness lodge or neighborhood pub, with a long bar made from reclaimed Alaskan yellow cedar. The sun deck features roomy space for lounging and the observation deck offers for over-the-top viewing from the bow. The vessel is outfitted with adventure gear including a kayak launching platform, kayaks, paddle boards, skiffs, hiking poles, wet suits and snorkel equipment and yoga mats. The EZ Dock launch platform on the main deck makes getting into the water a cinch. A hydrophone and a bow-mounted underwater camera share the sounds and sights below the surface. The onboard wellness program includes a hot tub, sauna, and fitness equipment.

M/V Safari Endeavour, an 84-passenger expedition vessel with three decks, offers a variety of cabin categories (including connecting cabins) for a range of prices, square footage and bedding arrangements. This is a well-designed ship with excellent public spaces including an observation lounge, library, intimate lounge, cash wine bar, library and outdoor viewing decks and two hot tubs, a sauna, fitness equipment and massage suite. The ship is appointed with adventure equipment: kayaks, paddle boards, inflatable skiffs, hiking poles, yoga mats, snorkel gear and wetsuits, a hydrophone for listening to below-surface sounds and a bow-mounted underwater camera.

“We listen to our guests and use decades of experience to help them realize their travel dreams. In doing so, we fund hope,” Goodwin adds. “Leave No Trace Behind is no longer enough.”

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