Our family just returned from our first Alaskan cruise. And it was one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken. On board were myself, my wife, our three kids (aged 11, 12, and 13), and my mother-in-law. Our cruise was a 7-day adventure from Seattle, Washington to three ports of call in Alaska, one in Canada, and the spectacular Tracy Arm Fjord. This was, coincidentally, not our first cruise, but was our first family cruise with everyone on board.

Let’s just start this discussion by saying we had a fantastic experience sailing on Viking Orion from Vancouver to Los Angeles. However, after being home for a few days and looking back I realized that many of the things I usually enjoy doing and sharing on a cruise were absent from this voyage. This was a very different experience and while many things felt similar to the time we spent on Viking Mani river cruise a few years ago, there were as many things that were completely different too. 

While drinking fine wines and visiting wineries to do tastings is a goal for many oenophiles, there's a whole other world out there once you begin actually creating your own wines. While many cruise ships offer art lessons and some even feature cooking classes, a very small number allow you to move from "wine drinker" to "wine maker" ... or blender anyhow. In fact, if you were to visit some of the more presitgeous California wine regions such as Napa, Sonoma, or Paso Robles you would expect to pay hundreds of dollars per person for a similar experience. This might just be one of the few experiences that is actually less expensive on a cruise ship!

Most mass-market cruise ships are designed for the North American market, and specifically the Caribbean, even when the sail in other parts of the world. Over the past few years though we’ve been privileged to sail on two vessels that were custom designed for the Chinese market but then transferred to the West Coast instead. Norwegian Joy was the first and in that conversion, most of the “Chinese features” were eliminated but on Majestic Princess many of them were retained to potentially create a fantastic experience for folks sailing from Los Angeles.

When you think of "wine cruises", typically you think of riverboats floating through European destinations like those along the Rhine, Rhone, and Garonne (Bordeaux) or maybe even Portugal's Doro river. However, one of the absolute best ways to experience North America's best wine regions is on a Coastal California cruise.  What we liked about sailing on Holland America Line's Koningsdam was that it created an immersive experience - on the ship, as well as in port as well.