I came across Alaskan Dream Cruises' web site last fall when my wife and I were researching our Alaska vacation. Without exception, online reviews were glowing, and so we decided to book ADC's Eight Day Glacier Bay and Island Adventure on the Baranof Dream, sailing mid-May. The experience exceeded our already high expectations.
The cruise began and ended in Sitka, a small town in SE Alaska. We flew there one day early on Alaska Airlines from Seattle, with a stop in Ketchikan. (Delta is now offering service from Seattle as well.) We were met at the airport by ADC staff and transported to our hotel for an overnight stay, which was arranged and paid by us separately.
Formal activities started the next morning with an optional walking tour of Sitka sites - we elected to spend most of this time on our own. This was followed by an excursion on a sightseeing boat, which ended with our transfer to the Baranof Dream in the afternoon.
For vacationers like us who've only been on large ship cruises, the Baranof Dream was a refreshing change. It accommodates up to 49 passengers (we had about 40), along with approximately 20 crew. It was small enough to let us easily reach anywhere on the boat in minutes, but sufficiently large so that we felt safe and never cramped. The lounge and dining room were comfortable and spacious. Visits to the bridge were welcomed, and I enjoyed my time there chatting with the captain and his staff, who were all very personable and eager to please.
Most of our fellow passengers were older than fifty, although a few younger people were along too. Dress was thankfully informal. (There were no laundry facilities on board, so we had to pack for the duration.)
Our AAA-class cabin was utilitarian, with a combination toilet/shower separated by a curtain, a small closet, two chairs and tables that we used for storage, and a very comfortable queen bed with an adjacent large window. The sliding metal door didn't lock and there was no safe, but we had no reservations about leaving valuables in our cabin, as all the other passengers were in the same boat, as it were. (Although it wasn’t luxurious by any means, our cabin served its purpose very well - we spent very little time there apart from sleeping – hence my high rating.)
Food was excellent: three meals a day with plenty of choices at tables shared with other passengers, served by friendly staff, most of whom performed other duties as well. A late afternoon snack was offered every day, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages were always available at the bar.
Our Cultural Expedition Leader gave a summary of the following day’s events each evening, peppering his presentations with fascinating stories and facts rooted in his heritage as a native Alaskan. We also had a naturalist on board, who provided insights into Alaska’s abundant animal and plant life that we saw. Thanks to their efforts, we felt a powerful connection to all that we encountered, as opposed to simply observing it passively.
Activities during the cruise included visits to glaciers, which allowed us to view them from a safe distance from the Baranof Dream and from a small skiff (large chunks of ice that periodically calve from the glacier pose a hazard to nearby watercraft), and visits to a lodge and two small communities. We spent several hours in Juneau, where we took an optional tram ride to the summit of Mount Roberts, which we found well worth the additional cost (approximately $30 per person). We particularly loved our sunset hike through the forest at Glacier Bay National Park. Kayaking in Windham Bay was enjoyable, though we would have liked to have spent more time there.
If I can call attention to one highlight of the trip, it would be the many opportunities we had to watch humpback whales, orcas, and other wildlife, with spectacular scenery as a backdrop. Sightings prompted the captain to slow down and stop to give us ample time to photograph and observe without feeling rushed. Disembarkation was organized, and we were taken to a hospitality room before transfer to the airport.
If you’re looking for an Alaska cruise experience that follows the waters less travelled, I recommend Alaskan Dream Cruises highly.
Our AAA-class cabin was utilitarian, with a combination toilet/shower, separated by a curtain, a small closet, two chairs and tables that we used for storage, and a very comfortable queen bed with an adjacent large window. The sliding metal door didn't lock and there was no safe, but we had no reservations about leaving valuables in our cabin, as all the other passengers were in the same boat, as it were. (Although it wasn’t luxurious by any means, our cabin served its purpose very well - we spent very little time there apart from sleeping.)