Who: my early 70's retired teacher husband and I. Other passengers were in the 50-70's age range, well educated and well travelled. There were lots of engineers, teachers/professors, and healthcare workers. Fifteen were from Australia and four were from New Zealand. If you want to laugh a lot, go on a trip with Australians. None of us liked big ships. We were all about getting up close and seeing places the big boats couldn't go.
Where: 11 days from Sitka to Ketchikan including Tracy Arm, Haines, Skagway, Juneau, Orca Point, Glacier Bay, Hobart Bay, Petersburg, Wrangell, Thorne Bay, Kasaan, and Ketchikan.
We started out with a walking tour of Sitka including the Russian Bishop's House, the Sheldon Jackson Museum and St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral and then cruised Sitka Sound on a dayboat (otters, brown bear) before meeting up with the Alaskan Dream. After dinner the captain spotted some Orca's and we whale watched for a while.
We awoke the next day at the mouth of Tracy Arm. Despite the ice, our small ship was able to go as close as is allowable. We all had a chance to go out on a DIB (zodiac) to really experience North Sawyer Glacier. We also saw South Sawyer Glacier.
On Day 3 we awoke cruising the Lynn Canal to Haines. After breakfast, we toured Fort Seward with a local guide. In the museum we learned how Totems were created. We continued up the Lynn Canal to Skagway which we toured in a vintage bus and then drove up the road, stopping along the way at various sights to Canada. After stamping our own passports we boarded the train for a return trip to Skagway. Our trip back was the last trip of the day so we made extra stops to pick up hikers. We finished up the day at Orca Point Lodge for a dinner of King Crab legs, salmon and prime rib along with salad, stir fried veggies as well as appetizers. The evening finished with a campfire and s'mores. It was my first s'more made with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. (Won't be my last.)
On Day 4 we cruised Glacier Bay. Wildlife spotted included more otters, lots of mountain goats, marmots, puffins, kittywakes, seals, another brown bear and some kayakers. We had a national park naturalist as well as a native Tlingit guide on board for the day. On our way out, we stopped at Bartlett Cove to return our naturalists and to stretch our legs on land. We checked out a native canoe and a complete humpback whale skeleton who had a run-in with a large cruise ship and lost.
We spent July 3rd in Hobart Bay riding RTV (ATV's with big tires). My group saw only fauna, but another group spotted some baby bears. We also kayaked, hiked and went out in the DIB looking for wildlife (two different bears, eagles, a seal and a variety of other birds).
July 4th was spent in Petersburg starting with the Sons of Norway Hall for some history and Norwegian cookies and then a tour of the town and a bog hike. Some of the group checked out the laundramat. There was a parade with floats. That night we floated outside of Wrangell watching the fireworks. We had to wait until 11 PM when it was dark enough.
On July 5th we landed in Wrangell. Most of the passengers went to see the petroglyphs while others toured the museum of Wrangell. It was a wonderful little museum. Take money since the gift shop is nicely done with a lot of interesting books and t-shirts.
July 6th included stops at Thorne Bay which was a former logging town until they were put out of business by the US gov't (Tongass National Forest) and Kasaan, a tiny native town with a wonderful long house and a variety of Totem Poles.
July 7th had us cruising Misty Fjords and visiting Metlakatla on Annette Island. Metlakatla is different from most native towns as they came to Alaska from Canada with Father Duncan who encouraged them to keep their native culture and language as well as embrace Christianity. They danced for us and showed us around town as well as sharing Father's Duncan's cottage with us. Our last night was on shore at the Cape Fox Lodge while they prepared the ship for the next cruise.
The boat: we had the most basic cabin, #208. It had twin beds with a nightstand between them. At the foot of one bed was a club chair and a closet with four drawers. At the foot of the other bed, was a sink and the combined shower/toilet. The mattresses, sheets, towels and shower curtain were luxurious. As small as the shower was, nothing got wet that wasn't supposed to. There were two sets of binoculars in our room and two sets of raingear including boots hanging on hooks outside our room. There was a lounge with a bar at the front of the boat. There were binoculars at every window plus a library, some games and a mini natural history museum. With two naturalists onboard at all times, any time we had a question, we had an immediate answer. The dining room, near the rear of the ship, seated us all and we enjoyed meals with all the passengers at one time or another. There was on group of eight from Virginia aboard but it took a while to figure out who they were since they mingled with the entire group as if they didn't know anyone else aboard.
The Food: in a word, fabulous. Each meal was ordered from the menu and breakfast included 'the special' as well as the usual suspects (pancakes, french toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, cold cereal, yogurt, pastries, scones, fresh fruit and a variety of juices). Coffee, tea, and hot cocoa were always available as was hot cider. Lunch and dinner always featured a soup and several entrees. Dinner had a choice of salads as well. Lunch and dinner always had freshly made rolls and the desserts were fantastic. All meals were beautifully plated and tasted even better. Chef "B" always had vegetarian choices as well as meat and fish. She never repeated a recipe although in some cases we hoped she would. I ate fish every day and hope to keep up the practice now that I am home. The portions were moderate but that was because there was always fruit, granola bars and ginger candy in the lounge and at 3 PM there were cookies (nice big ones from a fantastic pastry chef (Maria)) and hors d'oeuvres at 5:30 PM. I would love to see how four people turned out such wonderful food in such a small kitchen but there just wasn't room for me to watch.
The crew was wonderful too (no, I do not work for Alaska Dream Cruises) with a great work ethic and ability to multi-task. The bridge was always open to us and we availed ourselves of the opportunity frequently. With only 41 people, we bonded quickly and more than a few tears were shed by both crew and passengers as the trip came to an end.
This wasn't a luxury cruise. There were no casinos, no shows except for the ones right outside our windows, no dressing up. There were no extra charges except for drinks beyond the complimentary beer or wine at lunch or dinner. The only bill we came home to was for tips and a few small souveniers.