Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Alaska: This Cruise Gives Whole New Meaning to Family Vacation

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Alaska: This Cruise Gives Whole New Meaning to Family Vacation

Article excerpt

WHEN I TOLD friends and co-workers that my husband and I were going on a vacation with my mother to Alaska and the Canadian Rockies, nearly all oohed and aahed - the appropriate reaction.

I explained that the Canadian Rockies excursion wasn't my idea - that was my mother's contribution. Many years before, one of her childhood friends had vacationed at Lake Louise, marveling at the lake's greenish-blue shimmering waters. Mother said then that she wanted to go there some day.

So when my husband and I decided to take a cruise up Alaska's Inside Passage (we already had been on a Caribbean cruise and wanted to try something different), we naturally thought of combining mother's Canadian trip with our plans.

And forget those outdated mother-in-law jokes; my husband likes my mother - really - and he said he had no hesitation about including her in our travel plans. We already had gone on three short trips (of 3-4 days) with her to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego before planning our 13-day Alaska/Canada excursion.

And we weren't alone in planning a this sort of family vacation. The U.S. Travel Data Center reports that 99.4 million Americans are expected to travel as a family this year, an increase of 5.6 percent of last year's 94.1 million.

Since our return from our trip in mid-June, several people have mentioned that they enjoy traveling with their mother and/or father or both, providing their parents are healthy. My 70-ish mother has a touch of arthritis and didn't want to climb any of those Canadian Rockies we visited, but neither did I. She's a pleasure to be with - the eternal optimist, even when we were faced with two single beds for the three of us at the Banff Springs Hotel.

Our six-day motorcoach - that's a bus - tour was much more rigorous than the seven-day Inside Passage cruise, if only because we had to pack and repack our bags each morning for pick up between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. On the cruise, you unpack once and don't have to repack for a week.

Many cruise lines - a dozen or more - sail the Inside Passage, but we chose Holland America because of its Westours land division (for the bus portion of the trip) and because of the cruise line's no-tipping policy and excellent reputation.

We opted for an escorted excursion; 32 people were on our tour, including: two sisters from South County; a family of four from Houston, celebrating one son's graduation from high school and the other's from college; six from the United Kingdom; and a couple from Germany. The average age of tour members (and cruise passengers) was about 55, we guessed.

The three-month Alaska cruising season is over now, but many people on our CruiseTour booked their trip a year in advance, so now might be the time to begin considering a trip to Alaska and Canada next year.

We flew to Seattle to catch the bus, which left at 7:30 the next morning on our ride to the Cascade Mountains, then through Eastern Washington's apple-growing areas and into British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. We spent the first night at Kelowna, which is still in the heart of the orchard country.

We started seeing the Canadian Rockies the second day, and spent the evening on Emerald Lake, near Lake Louise.

Our tour moved from Lake Louise to Banff, passing the white-water displays of Bow Falls. A few of our group opted for a river-rafting trip into Banff and others took a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain with a view of the Banff Springs Hotel.

We spent much of the next day traveling along the Columbia Icefield Parkway, which connects the Banff and Jasper National parks, stopping at Athabasca Glacier (a part of the Columbia Icefield) for a snowcoach ride on the river of ice, where we drank from a glacial stream. Our tour guide told us that one sip of glacier water made us 10 years younger, so we took several gulps. …

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