If you are looking for a way to experience the natural beauty of Alaska up close and personal, a small ship cruise might be the way to go. Fortunately, there are several Alaska small ship cruises to choose from.
Although they might not offer as many dining options and activities as larger ships, Alaska small ship cruises are more intimate and friendly. You will get a chance to meet new people and form lasting connections with other passengers. Small ship cruises tend to focus more on visiting destinations, rather than spending time on the vessel, and they offer more opportunities to learn about the culture and history of the region. Because of their smaller size, these ships enjoy greater access to places that larger ships can’t get to.
One of the most beautiful cruise areas in the world, Alaska has something for everyone. Nature-lovers are sure to enjoy the rainforests, glaciers, fjords, waterfalls, hot springs, hidden coves, rock walls, and many other natural wonders of this large state. If wildlife is your passion, you will not be disappointed. Bears, whales, seals, sea lions, porpoises, bald eagles, mountain goats, and salmon are just some of the animals you might encounter. If you enjoy history and culture, you can learn about the Gold Rush of 1897, visit local tribes of the Inside Passage, and explore Ketchikan’s museums and libraries. A visit to Sitka, the site where the Russian flag was lowered and the US flag raised at the time of the purchase of Alaska in 1867, is a must for the history buffs in your family.
While all small ships provide incredible adventures in southeast Alaska, different types of cruises cater to every taste. Safari Endeavor operates from May through September and offers exciting itineraries to choose from. It accommodates up to eighty-four guests in forty-two cabins, each equipped with a flat-screen TV, a desk and chair, AC, storage space, and bathroom. Common areas include a lounge, hot-tubs, a massage suite, and a dining area. Kayaking, hiking, yoga, a hydrophone, and an underwater camera are also available.
If you are looking for something just a bit smaller, check out Chicagof Dream, which accommodates a maximum of seventy-four guests. Built-in 1984 and renovated in 2015, the ship features outdoor viewing areas, a spacious dining room, kayaks, and an onboard salt cave. For families with young children, a youth leader is on hand to lead supervised activities for kids.
Another small cruise ship is Southeast Alaska Cruise West, which accommodates less than one hundred guests. Its small size and maneuverability allows it to visit small bays and inlets and to explore the wilderness. Small boats are available to get away from the ship and to go ashore to see waterfalls, forests, wildlife, icebergs, fjords, and rainforests up close. A variety of educational programs and lectures provide enrichment and insight into the region’s ecosystem, wildlife, and history.
If you are looking for something even smaller, Island Spirit might be a good choice. More like a bed & breakfast than a cruise ship, it has room for just thirty-two passengers. It will take you to remote inlets of Alaska’s Inside Passage, which are out of reach to larger ships. You will get the chance to see small bays and more wildlife, to immerse yourself in the environment, and to experience the serenity of nature in an informal, casual, comfortable setting.
While there are many different choices available, most cruises will include the panhandle, the southeast tip of Alaska, the Inside Passage shaped by glaciers millions of years ago, and Glacier Bay National Park, the largest UNESCO protected biosphere in the world. Cruises typically last from seven to ten days and depart from Ketchikan, Juneau, Petersburg, Sitka, or Seattle. The best time for an Alaskan cruise is between April and September. Mid-April through August is the best time to see whales, while the Northern Lights can be seen in April and September. Regardless of when you go or which type of cruise you pick, seeing Alaska by small ship will be an amazing and unforgettable experience for the entire family.