Shore Excursions All shore excursions on Kruzof Explorer are included in the fare. What you'll do depends on your itinerary. Some cruises visit small towns along the Inside Passage, such as Kake. In general, though, you're mostly going to places off the beaten track; this is not your typical Ketchikan-Juneau-Skagway route.
The ship tries to have at least one shore excursion per day, sometimes more. On our April five-day trip, we took a Zodiac tour around St. Lazaria Wildlife Refuge; a tidal walk in Appleton Cove off Rodman Bay; an outstanding visit to the seasonal community of Baranof Warm Springs, where we hiked to Lake Baranof and bathed in natural hot pools; and kayaking trips around Takatz Bay and Katlian Bay. The cruise bonfire was held in the latter locale.
Make sure you leave some time to explore Sitka, the homeport for Alaskan Dream Cruises. It's a quirkier town than many on the Inside Passage, with cute bakeries and bookstores, artist co-ops and funky dive bars and restaurants.
Wildlife Viewing On an Alaska small ship cruise, the wildlife is the star. You'll want to bring your best camera to get the most of the experience.
What exactly you'll see will depend on the month and the weather. On our April cruise, we saw sea otters, humpback whales, seals, sea lions, mink, Sitka black-tailed deer, bald eagles and countless water birds. During other seasons, you are likely to see puffins, bears and orcas. Alaska is a nature show in its own right and not always pretty; if there's a group of 25 eagles gathering on the shoreline, for example, they are likely chowing down on a smelly carcass. Don't miss the chance to get in a kayak so you can see starfish and sea anemones on the coastal rocks.
The ship provides binoculars but you might want to bring your own. A waterproof case for your camera or smart phone is recommended, in case you want to bring it in the Zodiac or kayak.
Enrichment The ship has a naturalist onboard and the day provides a running commentary on what you're seeing in front of you outside. You might also get a special presentation or two; on our sailing, we learned about Sitka's Russian history. Our guide Erin was a dynamo on our shore excursions too. Our trip was during the herring season, and we learned all about how this time of year benefits humans and wildlife alike (and we were even given the opportunity to taste raw herring eggs on a beach walk).
When the ship visits a native town like Kake, a Tlingit interpreter will come onboard and be the guide for the day. On Glacier Bay trips, a National Park ranger comes onboard for commentary.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment Most passengers on Kruzof Explorer do not need a lot of organized entertainment. After a day playing outside, people often go below to their cabins after dinner, or enjoy the long summer evenings to take in another hike or kayak.
The ship tries to have an outdoor bonfire at least once per cruise -- not in lieu of dinner onboard, but for fun -- and with s'mores. Sometimes the ship visits Orca Point Lodge, on a private island owned by the Allen family, for a salmon and king crab feast.
Top Lounge (Deck #3): The bar is in the same room as the dining room; one row of the space has larger tables that are set up for meals while the other side has smaller cocktail tables. The space is sparse in Scandinavian-style wood, with lots of windows to give you maximum views of the mountains and sea around you.
Alcohol is included in the fare, and the ship also carries a selection of beers and wines. If you have special likes or dislikes -- a favorite Alaskan IPA, for example -- the ship will stock it for you.
Books -- mostly of the coffee table variety, as well as field guides for various birds, fish and wildlife -- are available for perusing. There's a neat map of the Inside Passage near the staircase where the naturalist keeps track of different birds and wildlife seen.
Pit/TV Lounge (Deck 1): This space in the ship's former crab hold is one of a kind, but without windows, it's a bit underused; most passengers on our sailing preferred to be upstairs where they could look for wildlife. It's meant for presentations or for photographers to view their work in a quiet dark space. Movies are also available.
The Kruzof Explorer has plenty of outdoor areas for wildlife viewing. The back deck has chairs to enjoy the long Alaska summer days (just remember that in the Inside Passage, weather can change on a dime).
There is no pool or hot tub onboard, although in the summer, passengers can swim off the boat (lifejackets required). Extra towels are available so no need to bring your own.
Paddleboards and kayaks are available and the crew tries to put them out at least once a voyage. On some cruises, people can go out fishing in a small boat that's carried onboard. Hiking excursions are common.
Passengers start their Kruzof Explorer adventure at a hospitality suite in Sitka; that's where any forms or testing is done. Passengers are brought to the ship in the company's vans after a short pre-tour.
Kruzof Explorer does not have internet or Wi-Fi, so plan to be out of range for hours or days. There is no laundry or photo services, although the ship's naturalist takes plenty of photos and makes them available for guests to download.
Kruzof Explorer has no spa or fitness facilities.
While Alaskan Dream Cruises does not have a minimum age, it's not recommended for children younger than 5.
The line runs some family-specific sailings during the season. On these cruises, the line sets up special programming, often bringing on a second expedition leader who has experience teaching kids (often an elementary school teacher from Sitka).
Besides the wildlife spotting, activities that appeal to children include education with the deckhands, such as tying knots. Junior Ranger books and coloring are available onboard. Older teens will enjoy the kayaks, paddleboarding and fishing, as well as the Zodiac tours.
While most cabins on Kruzof Explorer have an upper berth for a third passenger, there are no ladders and it's a pretty steep climb up; the space is better for an adult or agile teenager than a small child.