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Enjoy all the tips, news, insight, and advice on luxury family travel that highlights fun, active, and healthy vacations. Explore how to make the most out of your family vacation without sacrificing luxury.

FreshCruiser.com opens readers’ eyes to new adventures and calms any fears of traveling with children. With a special focus on family cruising, the website includes tips to staying active, eating well, and taking advantage of all the opportunities while on a family vacation.

Entries in excursion (4)

Friday
Jul272018

Alaska Cruise Excursion with Kids: Review of Gold Panning and Salmon Bake in Juneau

Review of Gold Panning & Salmon Bake Excursion in Juneau with kids

Our cruise ship arrived in Juneau on a perfect Alaskan summer day. We were excited to embark on a Gold Panning and Salmon Bake excursion through Alaska Travel Adventures. Our first stop was to learn about the Gold Rush and pan for gold. My son is obsessed with looking for treasure. He loves finding unique rocks, shells, and pieces of wood especially when we travel. I was excited about this tour since we booked our Alaskan cruise as I knew he would love it.

Gold Panning

We hopped on our tour bus and our guide welcomed everyone and then told us stories about the Gold Rush. As he spoke, he drove up a secluded road until we reached “Last Chance Basin” on the Gold Creek. It wasn’t what I expected. It was quiet and secluded. With four cruise ships in town, I expected to see a bunch of buses. Our guide told us that Alaskan Travel Adventures are the only ones with permission to come to this spot. Our surroundings were beautiful.  

My son was captivated by the Guide showing us how to pan for gold. As he demonstrated the process for us, I wasn’t sure if he was going to find any as I only saw dirt. I was wrong! Since gold is heavier than gravel, it appeared in the rim of the pan. 

Now it was our turn to try. We were each given a pan with dirt from upstream and had about an hour to work on panning. It was relaxing and a fun activity for all of us. My son could have spent all day there.

When we were finished panning, we each got our own bottle to store our gold and received a cute “Gold Claim Deed” certificate. The Salmon Bake was next and we were hungry after working so hard to find gold.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake

It had been 16 years since my first time falling in love with salmon at the Gold Creek Salmon Bake in Juneau, Alaska.

My husband and I couldn’t wait to go back and take our two kids. The freshly grilled salmon with a sweet brown sugar glaze that was as delicious as I remembered. While eating, we found ourselves singing along with the live music playing some of our favorite songs.  

There are a lot of other activities to do at the site in addition to the buffet. It is so much more than the excursion title suggests. We took a nice stroll to a waterfall. At the base of the waterfall there was another opportunity to pan for gold. My kids loved panning for gold and getting wet in the cold mist of the waterfall. We ended our day by the campfire. My kids roasted marshmallows and talked about all the gold they had found earlier in the day.

Often times I shy away from cruise ship excursions since it can be difficult to be on a specific schedule when traveling with kids. The Salmon Bake worked out perfectly as shuttles left every ten minutes to go back to the cruise ships so we could stay as long as we wanted.

What to Know

Other important notes for taking kids to the Gold Creek Salmon Bake:

  • Beverage options are included: hot chocolate, hot apple cider, lemonade, etc.
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Many spots to explore throughout the location, it felt like two excursions in one
  • There is chicken, rice, beans, chowder, rolls, & salads in addition to the grilled salmon if your children aren’t salmon-lovers like mine
  • It’s good activity for all ages, grandparents, parents, and children
  • Live music while you eat, which always keeps my children at the table longer

FreshCruiser Tip: The Gold Panning & Salmon Bake excursion is a great option if you are looking for an activity to do with multiple generations.

Tuesday
Dec182012

Cruise Port Review: Cartagena, Colombia

Walled City

Throughout my Panama Canal cruise, I was really looking forward to the stop in Cartagena, Colombia.  I’ve always wanted to visit Colombia and thought stopping in Cartagena would give me an idea if I should plan to spend more time there in the future.

Old Fortness seen on entrance to the harbor

The trip into the port was beautiful, passing old fortresses while enjoying great views of the newer part of the city. I would definitely recommend taking the time to enjoy breakfast on your veranda or to find a spot outside for viewing.

Tour Overview

We decided not to book an excursion through the ship as none of them offered exactly what we wanted to see.  When we got off the ship, there was a free shuttle bus that took you to the port exit.  Upon exiting through the gift shop, there were many local guides standing there waiting offering tours.  The guides were charging per person for a tour of the city, and depending on the guide, 10 to 20 person tours were being offered.  We talked to a few and learned that most were going to all the sites on our list.  We decided to find a guide that was doing a smaller group.  We were given a sticker with the guide’s name on it and within a few minutes we had enough people to head out.  The van was an air-conditioned, 10-person van plus the driver and guide.  

Walking through the Walled City

I really enjoyed the tour and was extremely impressed by the city.  The tour highlights included the Fort of San Felipe de Barajas, Plaza Bolivar, Plaza Santo Domingo, La Popa Convent, the newer part of the city and many additional sites.

View from La Popa Convent

The first stop was at La Popa Convent , which was perfect as it offered amazing views of the city. 

Walled City

My favorite part was walking through the Walled City, the colors of the buildings were very vibrant and lively.  In each location, we were dropped off in the perfect places with the guide and then always picked back up in ideal spots.  

Simon Bolivar’s statue

We also visited Plaza de Bolivar which is surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings.  The small but extremely lush park has a statue of Simón Bolívar in the center.

Shopping & Souvenirs

As part of the tour, we had to stop in an emerald shop; thankfully, no one in our tour was interested and we all left with bottled water from the shop making it worth the tour delay.  At the end, we had about 30 minutes on our own in a shopping plaza for souvenir shopping.

I told the guide we wanted to find a convenience store to buy packaged coffee.  He helped us find one and I asked him to come in with me so I could ask him about the different brands and which ones were considered the best by the locals.  I wanted the coffee that the locals drink, not what’s packaged and priced for tourists. I got my 6 bags of coffee and my souvenir shopping was complete.  In order to pay with a credit card, you needed an ID, not your ship card, make sure you bring this with you if you don’t want to use the local currency.

To get back on the ship, you have to go through a store, which is pricey.  I was impressed by the quality of the souvenirs but if you want them at a better price, do your shopping in the city.  

Fort of San Felipe de Barajas

Overall, I really enjoyed my day in Cartagena and was even stalling getting back on the cruise ship, I didn’t want the day to end.

FreshCruiser Tip:  When taking a tour, don’t be afraid to tell the tour guide where you would like to visit  to make sure all your spots are covered on the tour.  If not, ask the guide to give you directions on how to get there after the tour. 

Tuesday
Sep112012

Celebrity Millennium cruise preparation continues! 

Excursion Update
My excursions are about 75% booked on the Celebrity Millennium.  There is one port that I can’t decide which one is right for me so I’m going to wait until I get on the ship to talk to the excursions staff for more insight.  I’m taking a slight gamble as it means the ones I want might be full. 

To prevent this, I may book the one I like best and I always switch when I get on board.  I can’t wait for kayaking, touring the cloud forest of Monteverde, snorkeling, a city tour of Cartagena, Colombia, and much more.

Logistics & Crucial information to bring

I’ve started printing out important information that I want to bring with me.  Check out my previous blog post on which printed information I recommend you bring with you.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

In addition, since the cruise includes two stops in Mexico, I’m going to call my wireless carrier to see about possible coverage. I always call the credit and debit card companies to tell them when and where I will be traveling.  This prevents the credit card company from accidently putting a hold on my account when a charge comes up from another country.  

This whole process sounds like a lot to do but should only take about 30 minutes and you’ll have peace of mind knowing everything is in order.

FreshCruiser Tip: Get the planning out of the way before you get on board.  That way you can relax rather than trying to figure out what to do in port the next day.

Monday
Aug272012

1 month til cruising: Picking the right shore excursion

One month to go to two glorious weeks of cruising!

The countdown is starting to get very close!  In about one month, I’ll be boarding the Celebrity Millennium for 15 nights of cruising through the Panama Canal.  This will be my first time doing this itinerary.  I’ve always been fascinated by the Panama Canal and can’t wait to see how the process works in person.  What am I doing to get prepared? My main goal for this week is to get to know the ports and excursions that are offered.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Excursions & Ports
The trip seemed far away for so long and now it’s almost here.  We’ll be making stops in Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.  I’ve been using Celebrity Cruises' online advanced search for shore and land excursions.  You can search by duration, activity type, and activity level.  I use the duration search filter a lot as depending on the port. Depending on the location, I’ll typically pick the more strenuous option as that typically goes well with my love of adventure.  

Adventure in Puerto Vallarta

In a city port, sometimes I’ll want the longest possible excursion to soak in every minute of the tour or other times, prefer more of the highlights and then time to walk around and explore the city on my own.  There are a lot of excursions to go through and I wish the options could be filtered even more, including one by restrictions (weight, health, age). What type of excursions do you normally do?

Too many to pick from?  Ask the experts.
On a previous cruise, when I was trying to figure out which excursion to do for St. Petersburg, Russia, it was a daunting task and I probably changed it three times as I wanted to make the most out of our one day in Russia. I also wanted to make sure it was right for me.  And in this case, I wanted to see the Hermitage museum but not spend all day there.  We ended up changing it once again when we got on the ship and talked to a specialist at the cruise excursion desk.  It ended up being the perfect day, seeing a lot of highlights of the city.

Aerial Tram in Costa Rica

I would definitely recommend attending the information sessions once you get onboard as the first hand experience was exactly what we needed to find the perfect fit.  What I think is missing is if Celebrity would show past guests’ ratings of particular excursions to find the right tour for me as everyone is looking for something different.  

Join a Roll Call

I also like to join the Roll Call for my sailing date on different websites.  A “Roll Call” is a place where you can find other people sailing on your same voyage.  This is a great way to get insight from other travelers and what they think about a certain excursion as well as meet new people, gather information, and ask questions.  Check out these websites that have sailing Roll Calls. Many cruise lines have their own as well.

Ok, I’m off to start my research and planning!  

FreshCruiser Tip: Never too early to start researching ports and excursions.