We are considering a cruise next summer to AK-a first for everyone in the family. Our children are 10 and 12. We are nature lovers, and try to explore some new area every summer. Typically, this means packing the car, driving, camping, hiking, and sight-seeing. Every 5th year, we splurge on a really big vacation. 2010 is our splurge year. Woohoo! We are torn about doing a cruise, because we aren't really into many of the amenities of the cruise ship industry. Night clubs, fancy dining, exercise rooms, play areas, spas... these are things we know we will be paying for, but won't likely use. We are also considering splurging for a balcony... or perhaps even a suite, but are wondering if this is needed. The children won't likely utilize the children's programs. On our family vacations, we all prefer to be together. We live north of Seattle, and would consider embarking either in Seattle or Vancouver. While the former is more convenient, it seems like Vancouver would be the better place to embark. At ports of call, we are likely to try to find our own trail to blaze and get away from the crowds, rather than do the touristy things with the rest of the crowds. Exceptions might be the air-tours, which already limit the number of the group anyway. With that as a back-drop, we have several questions: 1) Inside passage RT? Or NB/SB? It seems like the latter would spend more time out at sea, which we would not be as interested in. 2) Should we do a balcony or suite? Or should we save the money with an inside cabin for more/better shore excursions? 3) Cruise rates online seem to be based on double-occupancy. Does this equate to 2X for a family of four? Or are the suites priced based on number of beds. 4) Based on our profile above, does a cruise even make sense for our family? Or should we fly to Anchorage, rent a car, and do day drives to Denali, Seward, Whittier, etc. We've also considered doing the state ferries (marine highway), but this doesn't seem to be very cost-effective compared to cruising anyway. I know... it's a lot of questions to ask, but we are feeling overwhelmed at considering our first-ever cruise. Thanks!