We recently completed the “Alaska’s Inside Passage Sojourn“ cruise aboard the Alaskan Dream and would highly recommend this tour. This was our first trip to Alaska and only our second cruise (first being a Crystal River Cruise) and it definitely did not disappoint.
A good measure of a company is how they handle the situation when something goes sideways and in our case Allen Marine (the mother company of Alaska Dream Cruises) really excelled. There was a minor incident that delayed the start of our tour, we were supposed to board at 4:00pm in the evening and boarding was delayed until 10:00am the next morning. We were kept well informed by the Allen Marine Tours staff and briefed by upper management. They went above expectations to ensure that we would have a great trip. They handled the lodging and meals for the day we were delayed, and also arranged a wonderful 3-hour wildlife boat tour on which we got to see otters, sea lions, puffins and humpback whales, including one breeching. In addition we received on-board credits and all alcohol was handled by the company.
There were 37 people (the boat has 20 staterooms) on our cruise along with about a dozen staff. The boat was well designed for handling this many people, and we spent much of our time in the forward lounge or on the top deck enjoying the scenery and wildlife. The rooms could use a little refurbishment and in general do not expect the over the top luxury of a big boat. The “showlet” (combination toilet/shower) took a little getting used to but was very manageable. The queen bed was very comfortable and we were in the Vista State room which stretched half of the bow end on the second floor. We had a fantastic view and often felt conflicted on if we should lower the shades due to the only 3 hours of “night” or leave them open to enjoy the view.
There were a number of notable crew members onboard. Amy was the bartender and she is one of the best, a true mixologist not just the bartender. She had a different drink special each day often made with house-made syrups and mixers, she remembered each person’s preferences, and always had great suggestions. Captain Eric was very personable and maintained an open bridge policy. He was very adept at finding wildlife for us to see, and making sure that we had plenty of time to watch. Alex and Kari were our Expedition leaders; Kari was a native Alaskan (Tlingit), and Alex was the naturalist with extensive experience researching whales in the local waters for her MS degree. During an evening presentation on Humpbacks that include some incredible underwater “whale cam” video of bubble feeding, the captain interrupted as there were orcas just off the boat. As we were all watching the whales, Kari began to sing the Tlingit orca song in her native language - it really brought Alaskan cultures and wildlife together for us. The food on board was excellent and included fresh local fish (salmon, halibut, black cod, clams and several types of crab).
Wildlife encounters during the cruise included orcas, humpback whales, seals, sea lions, otters, puffins, bald eagles, bears (brown and black), mountain goats, deer and porpoise. The highlight was the first evening about sunset when we ran into humpbacks “bubble net feeding”. Capt. Eric idled the boat as the waters around us exploded with the group of eight whales feeding, one time they surfaced so close off the bow we had to reverse the engine to give them room. What an incredible thing to be able to see! There was also exceptional scenery – waterfalls, forests, mountains and glaciers. We were able take to the DIBS (smaller 15 person inflatables) several times during the trip including the opportunity to explore Sawyer Glacier and Misty Fjord.
We stopped in several very small towns (the smallest being about 50 people) to learn about the Alaskan way of life and more specifically the family structure and moiety of the native Alaskan people. At several of these locations there were optional hikes to view the wilderness or a trail through totem parks. We also visited several Long houses to watch and in some cases participate in native celebrations of song and dance.
Overall, we had a great time on the tour and loved being able to see Alaska and learn about it from local Alaskans. If you like the glam and glitz or the casinos and stage shows of the big boats this is not the cruise for you. If you are more adventurous and don’t mind the Glamping approach of the smaller boats then this is an outstanding way to go. We would highly recommend this tour as well as Allen Marine Tours in general.