Alaskan Dream Cruises
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Alaskan Dream Cruises Ketchikan Reviews
A dream come true... Jun 30, 2012
I’m unable to wrap up this wonderful expedition without adding a review highlighting Alaskan Dream Cruises. Full disclaimer up front --> I was blessed with the opportunity to take this cruise to write a review, so I suppose disappointment would have been hard to come by. However, I truly felt this provider exceeded expectations and urge you to consider these folks if you are dreaming of Alaska. What follows is an abridged excerpt from my review:
My wife and I enjoyed a brilliant expedition with Alaskan Dream Cruises, though I admit remaining clueless about a “traditional” big ship cruise. Alaskan Dream Cruises is quite different from the big lines because their ships are diminutive by cruise standards with a capacity of only 40-60 passengers. There is no pool, no playground, no formal dining. However, we found this proved the adage that “less is more” and we didn’t miss anything on the luxury front. These nimble boats penetrate deeply into breathtakingly beautiful passages along the Alaskan panhandle, which are off limits to the big guys. We were often the sole tourist boat docking at little known ports of call.
The two ladies serving as our official tour guides for the excursion, Emily and Larissa, were terrific. They offered great insight into Alaska, the depth rivaled only by their obvious love for the land. Larissa is an Alaskan native who has worked as a deckhand on a commercial halibut boat and displayed her knowledge of local flora during our first hike in Glacier Bay National Park. We got to sample fiddleheads and nibble on spruce tips, a surprising, limey-tasting treat that was a natural preventative of scurvy for native populations. Just one of many interesting facts I would learn over the next week.
Although the crew heightened our experience, the incredible display by Mother Nature really needs no assistance. The highlight of the entire adventure, for me, was witnessing icebergs being calved in Glacier Bay. Parked in front of a massive glacier, we would brace at the telltale cracking noises every five or six minutes, followed by an enormous hunk of ice (on average the size of a house, but once the size of an eight story building!) tumbling into the waters beneath the glacier’s face. The crash was thunderous and sent up a magnificent plume of water, followed by a small tsunami raising the litter of ice floes in front of the glacier. I was concerned the wave would rock our boat the first time, but watching the surge dissolve into ripples I realized we were parked at a safe distance. These were still front row seats, confirmed by looking over my shoulder to see the massive cruise ship a mile behind us; too big to snug up for the excellent view we enjoyed.
A small village beyond the reach of behemoth ships was Kasaan (population 49), where we dropped in upon a native craftsman who was hewing a canoe from a tree trunk by hand. Beyond enjoying his completed masterpieces, everyone was delighted to take a few whacks with an adze at his current project (still requiring a lot of bark removal so no skill required yet). From here we hiked through the cool of a moss-covered forest and visited the only Haida tribal house remaining in the US. The Haida are one of eight Native American cultures living in Alaska. While the tribal house was Haida, totem poles from various other tribes had been relocated and preserved on this site, making it an impressive stop well off the beaten track.
Each day would hold one or two lectures presented while sailing, some given by tribal members joining our boat for the day. These brief educational opportunities were just one component of a well-paced agenda, and every day was chock full of activities. Several times we jumped aboard jet boats to explore places too ice-filled or shallow for even our small ship. Once we scooted up and down Sitka Sound, reveling in humpback whales and sea otters on the open seas, then squeezed into the mouth of a salmon stream to watch a momma bear graze with two cubs for a half hour. There was such a bounty of sights that we got back to the ship two hours late, demonstrating how Alaskan Dream Cruises stays flexible to capitalize on unforeseen opportunities, rather than adhering to a strict timetable.
All of these activities were included in the package price, so there were no surcharges for the planned in-depth explorations. The best of these activities was a morning at Hobart Bay, an abandoned logging camp where Alaskan Dream Cruises has exclusive privileges. We had docked here the previous evening (in fact, the Captain led some of us on a quick hike around the camp after tying off) and the adventures began at 7AM when we launched kayaks for a paddle in the bay. I was impressed with a nifty chute attached to the dock, which allowed you to climb into the kayak and be launched into the water without having to get your feet wet. We appreciated this comfort as Larissa informed us the water temps were forty-five degrees!
The kayaking was followed by a fun jaunt through the hills of the logging camp on ATV’s. This journey illustrated several key attributes of our cruise provider, foremost being safety. Our line of ATV’s was led by one crew member and secured by a second crew member strategically bringing up the rear. Another aspect was the crew’s team spirit and infectious love of Alaska: the woman at the tail end of our convoy was the ship’s pastry chef! Have I mentioned the wonderful desserts served nightly or how 3PM each afternoon was ‘cookie time’?
We capped our adventurous morning by zooming about the bay on two-seater sport boats. This was great fun and despite all of the activity, we didn’t do anything requiring phenomenal physical ability. I was happy to observe that even the more sedentary members of our gang usually tagged along. Probably half of the passenger list hailed from Australia, and we really enjoyed them all, including Bill and Margerie, a couple from Adelaide. Bill was 71 and no poster boy for Nike, but thoroughly enjoyed his first ever kayak paddle and inspired us all with his enthusiasm.
Although there were plenty of planned activities, guests still had room to improvise. Several folks expressed a desire to go fishing and the crew coordinated the expedition. Making contact with the upcoming port of call, start times, duration and the costs were relayed back and forth. Ultimately the terms were so attractive that two boats wound up being chartered for the next morning. Instead of fishing, Kim and I joined Emily’s guided hike up ‘Heartbreak Hill’ after breakfast, enjoying some splendid views. However, an even better sight greeted us upon returning to the dock.
Standing proudly on the dock was Jim, another passenger we had befriended, hoisting up a 30-pound trophy halibut for photographs, smiling ear-to-ear. Our impromptu fishing crew had reeled in eight halibut plus a salmon, and I was amazed to discover our captain filleting the catch in the cutting shed on the dock. Have I mentioned how the crew embodies Alaskan spirit? That afternoon our chef (Brianna, a graduate of Johnson & Wales) transformed the fruits of the fishing expedition into a tasty array of treats, including halibut poke and ceviche – YUM!
Our cabin was tight, but I was surprised by the expansive windows and the views they afforded. As a cruise rookie expecting portholes, these views were a plus, especially because we were so near to sea level. Down so low and skirting lightly traveled passages, we could curl up under the comfy throws provided in each room and watch for waterfalls and bears on the shore.
The dining room was similarly poised at water level with wide windows. It was not unusual to be piercing your next mouthful and casually glance outside to catch sight of a humpback whale or two. The ultimate was looking up one lunch time to catch an enormous Golden Eagle in a gliding descent, which suddenly ended as he touched the water and flexed talons to snatch his own lunch. I almost forgot to chew as the eagle began powerfully flapping his wings to fly away with a wriggling fish.
The trip concluded in Ketchikan, where the captain granted shore leave until 11:30PM. But we had just returned from a walking tour and learned of a 5K run called “Only Fools Run After Midnight” starting at the stroke of twelve. Not only did they run in the dark but many of the competitors were decked out in whacky costumes. After several passengers expressed an interest in running the event, the captain quickly relented on the curfew and ten of us (three crew, seven passengers) joined the fun. The captain even paid our registration fees and we grabbed life preservers to serve as costumes. A wonderful conclusion, revealing the range of opportunities presented by touring Alaska and how Alaskan Dream Cruises endeavors to help you enjoy them all.
Apologies for the length (and partial repetition if you’ve read through the rest of this blog), but it seemed to ruin the flow if I chopped too much out. A recommended way to experience Alaska!
Part of the Alaska At Last travel blog
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