Looking for a truly unique vessel to explore the most remote corners of Alaska's Inside Passage? Your search ends with the Kruzof Explorer, a renovated crab fishing boat that Alaskan Dream Cruises has converted into a small cruise ship. It's the new flagship for the Alaska-owned and operated-line, which has the backing of Allen Marine, a hugely successful marine tour and shipbuilding company, behind it.
Days on Kruzof Explorer have no real set itinerary. You go where the captain and naturalists feel you'll see the most wildlife or have the best outdoor experience. The ship is strong enough to traverse the open water of Sitka Sound easily, yet can also get into the smaller inlets and bays where you have opportunities to kayak, paddleboard and hike.
The ship's former life also translates into more spacious areas than you'll find on a traditional expedition small ship. The cabins are 121 square feet, with queen beds and upper bunks (although these bunks are high up, and without ladders, not suitable for children). The bathrooms require special mention, as they are large enough for a separate toilet and tile-lined shower -- not always a given in Alaska. The shower even has windows for a view.
Another holdover from the ship's fishing days is a large downstairs lounge, with full seating and a large screen. This used to be the hold of the ship, where tons of crab were stored; now it's a place for presentations or for passengers to view their photos after a day of wildlife spotting. The ship also employs its davit -- that long mechanical arm that used to lift crab pots -- to off and onload its Zodiacs, water toys and a small fishing boat; watching it at work is a spectator sport.
Alaskan Dream Cruises leans into its Alaska heritage, on all levels. From the Alaskan bath products in the cabins to the seafood-heavy menus to the Sitka-based crew, you'll be immersed in what makes the Inside Passage so special, on a level that's impossible to replicate on a mainstream cruise ship.
With only 12 passengers, Kruzof Explorer is an intimate experience. Guests range in age, but all are drawn to the small ship vibe; you won't find many partiers here. Multi-generational families are often onboard and the cruise line uses the ship often for private charters. Alaskan Dream Cruises is also noteworthy in that Alaskans often come on trips to explore their own backyard; the company has a positive reputation as a community leader in Sitka and special rates for locals are often given. The ship is best for those who like to be active, as there are some uneven spaces outside and some steep stairs between floors (and no elevator). Shore landings are usually done by Zodiac.
Daytime: Outdoor casual, pack layers and outdoor gear -- hats, neck gaiters and gloves -- that will keep you warm. You'll be running in and out of the lounge frequently to take wildlife shots. Waterproof jackets and sturdy hiking boots are recommended, as well as a small waterproof backpack. Bring a bathing suit in case the ship stops at a hot spring or offers a polar plunge.
Evening: No need to bring anything specific; people usually wear the same casual and outerwear that they wear during the day.