MEET THE MAIN CHARACTERS Let me introduce you to the "Kuki Family", as we're called in Calgary and on the internet. In future articles you'll know the characters a little better.
As I like to remind her each birthday, Mrs. Kuki is the older woman in my life. I insist that she's a year older than me, and that bugs her to no end. She was born in Dec.1949, while I entered the world Jan.1950 -- as usual, I'm right. As you may imagine, as a prerequisite for being married to me, she is very laid back, with a "take it as it comes" kind of personality.
Our two sons, "Kuki the Barbarian" (13 years old) and "Kuki the Chick Magnet" (18 years old) enjoy the cruising experience as much as their parents. And, fortunately their father is a warm, compassionate human being who allows them to come along about half the time. As a family, we sailed in the Mexican Riviera, the eastern and western Caribbean, and now, Alaska.
"Kuki the Barbarian" is our family's official videographer. He claimed the job from me after we had consecutive cruises with 15 minute clips of my walking feet. At some point during each trip he always does a walk about video tour of the entire ship. Upon viewing later I find that he's visited many spots on the ship that I didn't even know existed. He's interviewed officers, video taped rehearsals in the showroom, and even spent time "assisting" a professional video crew that was onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas filming a new Royal Caribbean promotional video.
"Kuki the Chick Magnet" is our reporter on where the action is. After 24hrs onboard he has the scoop on where we should be "hanging out" if we want to be part of the "in scene". Of course the last time I was part of the "in scene" was in college and I had a peace symbol on my tie dyed T-shirt. Both "Kuki the Barbarian" and "Kuki the Chick Magnet" agree that Alaska was their favorite trip. The fact that they agree on anything must mean it's a terrific place for teens.
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS: Before our August, 1997 voyage aboard Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas we spent a night in Vancouver at the gorgeous Pan Pacific Hotel right at the pier. Upon check in we found we had received a complimentary upgrade to one of the hotel's top penthouse suits. The Kuki Jrs. were in awe of this luxurious accommodation. As they explored the suite, they came across a bidet in the bathroom. This was their first visual encounter with such a device, and they curiously asked what it's purpose was.
Rather than try to explain with words, I took the boys into the bathroom to show them how the water stream pointed upwards when the correct lever was depressed. We all leaned over the bowl as I pressed the lever, only I had pressed too hard and the simple device was transformed into a huge water fountain. We all came out of that experience soaking wet, rolling on the floor with laughter. Dad's veneer of class and worldly knowledge was washed away with toilet water.
CRUISING IN ALASKA The next day we left Vancouver harbor aboard Rhapsody of the seas, one of Royal Caribbean's "ships of glass". Even if they don't plan on participating in the organized kids programs aboard ship, our boys have learned that attending the first night's program is a key to meeting others their age, a starting point to making their friends for the balance of the week. During the past few years, Alaska cruises are attracting many more families, so there were a good number of other kids for the Kuki Jrs. to meet. It didn't take long before the kids were on the go with their new friends.
During sea days, and after dinners on the ship, the kids were rarely with us. They were either enjoying the kids programs or hanging with others in the teen disco. The boys have cruised enough now that they understand, and obey, the family shipboard rule for behavior - Dad is the only one who's entitled to behavior that may embarrass the family.
As a family, we enjoy spending days in port together sightseeing and taking excursions. While Holland America now offers "kids excursions" on Alaska cruises which allow the parents and kids to go off separately. I'm unsure if this would appeal to me personally. The looks of amazement and excitement that we shared on some of our adventures as a family are more important to me.
For our stop in Skagway, we had prearranged a rental vehicle from Sourdough Car Rentals. We set out to drive the White Pass Highway, which runs pretty much parallel to the popular White Pass Railroad excursion. In fact the train was within view most of our way up the pass. With the kids along, we preferred to drive and take advantage of the ability to pull over when we chose and explore on our own, like stopping the bottom of a waterfall to experience the beauty of nature up-close.
From Sitka we chose to book the morning excursion for the Jet Boat Wildlife Cruise, and it turned out to be another wonderful choice. It was a great family morning standing together pointing out whales, eagles and sea otters to each other.
For our day in Kechikcan, my son "the Magnet" wanted to try a mountain bike tour with friends he'd made aboard ship, and as we had nothing else really planned, we allowed it. "The Barbarian", Mrs. Kuki and I just wandered the town.
In Juneau the four of us took a helicopter tour that climaxed with a landing on Herbert Glacier. The entire family was speechless (an unheard of state in this family). We were the only people walking on this mass of water and ice. All of us walked, explored and smiled at each other. This was an expensive excursion (in the neighborhood of $150/person) but the awe that we shared as family that day made it worth every cent!
Afterwards I was surprised to learn the boys preferred the Alaska voyage over our warm weather cruises. They say they love those as well, but they felt in Alaska they got a more close up, personal adventure with nature.
Of course, where ever our next cruise is, they don't want to be left at home.
B Y A R E A L 1 0 Y R . O L D : Why Kids Love Alaska I wanted to go on this Alaska cruise right from the start, for I had never been to such a faraway place. My mom picked Celebrity Cruise Lines because me, my mom and dad, and my two grandparents had been on the Horizon when I was only two, and they had enjoyed it. more