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Taking the Kids: On a different kind of cruise (when it’s safe)

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

We’re surrounded. The king penguins waddled right up. There were fur seals and tiny fur seal pups, nothing more than tiny balls of dark brown fur. These seals were hunted to near extinction in the 19th century, but they have made a remarkable recovery and now number in the millions.

It’s Christmas morning on Salisbury Plain, located on the north coast of South Georgia and the penguins were in front of us on the beach, behind us and all the way up a grassy hill.

“This is one of the all-time great sites of nature,” says Carol Walton, one of the Abercrombie & Kent naturalists guiding us on this cruise.

It’s one of those I-can’t-believe-I’m-here moments. That it was Christmas, made it all the more memorable on this special family (there were more than 30 kids aboard) Abercrombie & Kent family trip that had taken us from Argentina to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and then on to Antarctica.

Obviously, a trip like this is for very well-heeled families (it cost more than $50,000 for a family of four when we did the trip four years ago). But these families say they would rather have experiences than “stuff.” Others are celebrating a recovery from cancer, a graduation, a retirement.

Especially after this year, I think we all are desperate for the chance to share experiences with those we love most and have a chance to create those happy memories that can be such solace when times are difficult.

 

And while big-ship cruises are a lot of fun, there is also growing interest for small-ship adventures that in some cases don’t cost much more than a big ship.

For example, the French river cruise company Croisi-Europe is touting private barge trips (maximum 22 people) on France’s canals next year ideal for extended families. And at roughly $3,200 per person all-inclusive, less than many cruises in Europe. With bikes on board, you can cycle alongside and enjoy traditional meals on board, and with just your extended family, it will be easy to accommodate dietary requirements and tastes.

When my kids were young, we drove a barge ourselves in France, a trip I’d welcome the chance to do again. We shopped at local markets, bought honey and wine from the lock-keepers and encouraged the kids to try different foods in small villages where we’d stopped for the night. (Frog legs, anyone?)

We toured Alaska’s Glacier Bay on a 12-passenger restored World War II Minesweeper, the Sea Wolf, with owner Kimber Owen and five crew, who led kayaking and excursions on inflatables to see glaciers calve.

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