It never gets old.
Before I go any further in describing our family’s recent trip aboard the dreamiest of the Alaskan Dream Cruises vessels, I felt it important to make the above statement ^^.
Sailing Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage is, perhaps, one of the best places to become acquainted with and maintain a relationship with the Last Frontier, especially when taking advantage of a small ship company like Alaskan Dream Cruises. Even the most experienced of travelers find superlatives tumbling from their lips as glaciers cling to the waterline, whales twirl in a 40-ton ballet, and bears dip paws into salmon streams, all within view from the ship’s deck.
Our family flew to Sitka last Sunday to meet our vessel, the 104-foot Alaskan Dream, a catamaran of four decks and smooth, quiet engines that allowed us unbelievable access to the aforementioned animals and natural features of the Inside Passage. Over the course of an eight-day itinerary, the crew and Mother Nature presented us with one opportunity after another to learn more about one of the richest places in Alaska; culturally, historically, and within the scope of wildlife.
Under the leadership of Captain Eric Morrow, the Dream’s first and so far only captain, the 40 or so passengers sailing last week were able to immerse themselves in an Alaska most had only read about. An advantage of small ship cruising is the ability to stick within generalities of the ship’s itinerary, leaving plenty of time to watch whales, calving ice, or a particularly hungry bear. Morrow knows Southeast Alaska and its habits, and he takes time to get to know his guests, too, leaving each feels as if his or her “must see” place or animals is ticked off the list.
Four children, including my son, were aboard the Alaskan Dream, three from Australia and one from the big city of Anchorage. Ranging in age from five to 10, each had an opportunity to spend time upon on the bridge, binoculars in hand, listening to Captain Eric as he pointed out whale habits or bergy bits, depending upon the day. With such a small manifest, Alaskan Dream Cruises crew can take the time to become friends with kids on board, which makes a huge difference from merely tolerating their presence, and we found it allowed us to relax and enjoy the cruise, ourselves.
The itinerary was a nice blend of activity and sightseeing, and while it wasn’t as adventurous as other small ship cruises we’ve experienced, the trip provided a delightful “bridge” between the larger boats and boutique-style, go-hard-all-day companies. Beginning in Sitka with a walking tour, then cruising out on a day boat to the Alaskan Dream, our itinerary took us to the village of Kake, Tracy Arm and Ford’s Terror Wilderness, the cities of Petersburg and Juneau, and Glacier Bay National Park. Here, we experienced small town life as the Kake Dancers, made up of villagers ranging in age from two to 80, reminded us that tradition is alive and well in Southeast; we stood, awestruck, on the outdoor decks as whales breached for hours, twisting and turning 40 tons of flesh above the sparkling waters of Frederick Sound; and the entire boat took a hike to Petersburg Creek among muskeg, wildflowers, and sweet-smelling forest understory, our fingers becoming blue with berry juice as we picked our way along the one-mile trail.
An important aspect of Alaskan Dream Cruises is also the cultural connections to Southeast; from Tlingit Alaska Native village activities in Kake to the Norwegian heritage of Petersburg, kids played an important role in reminding us all that stewards of Alaska’s future were, and are, right in front of us. Children danced in regalia of their moiety, or clan, in Kake. In Petersburg, kids my son’s age poured coffee and served cookies their grandmothers had baked before grouping up to dance traditional circle jigs from Norway. Onboard, two different cultural guides sailed with us, providing valuable snippets about valuable cultural and historical aspects of the route.
The kids fell asleep every night to the soft hum of boat engines and anticipation for the next morning, when pancakes and hot chocolate fueled them up for another day of exploring. The grownups stayed awake as long as we could, cameras at the ready, because we knew Alaska rarely disappoints, even at 11 p.m.