Small Ship Cruise of Alaska’s Inside Passage


    This was our favourite highlight of our six week Canada & Alaska trip.

    Our small ship (just 8 guests) was based within the Inside Passage and essentially every day we had 2 activities – usually a hike, a kayak or fishing.  The hikes were absolutely beautiful and remote and the kayaking was incredibly easy as the water was beautifully flat the entire time.  We saw seals, otters, bear, whales, bald headed eagles and mink from the kayaks.

    The itinerary changes depending on what is happening … this was ours.

    Day 1, on board at midday. Off out of Petersburg, stopped off after a few hours and dropped our shrimp (prawn) pots. Then did our first hike of Cascade Creek – beautiful waterfalls and we hiked through the bush. It was a very rough trail and we climbed quite high.  Stunning area.

    Day 2. Motored to near Fox Farm and we kayaked around Cape Fanshawe.  Then back to recover the shrimp pots – success with heaps of big prawns which Gabe (the chef) cooked for dinner.  We then prepared and dropped the Crab Pots.  Then had fantastic Humpback whale watching around Five Finger Lighthouse area.

    Day 3 We motored up the beautiful Tracey Arm, gorgeous fjord and went up to the Sawyer Glacier and sat on deck with rugs and hot chocolate watching and listening to the glacier calve. Then motored back to the South Sawyer Glacier – Gabe gave us hot choc chip cookies and more hot chocolates.  Then we got in our kayaks and kayaked down Tracey Arm.  We kayaked beside Growlers, Bergie Bits, and Icebergs – beautiful blues of the ice, and past impressive waterfalls. We watched a big bergie tip over.  A glorious kayak.   Then back on the boat.

    Day 4 – We retrieved the Crab Pots and got our quota of crabs – over to Gabe for dinner.  The guests had to kill and prepare the crabs… more fun stuff for the guys.  We then did a skiff ride to see some Sea lions but ended up with a mother and calve humpback surfacing right beside us in the skiff – Amazing!  The sea lion rookery was busy and the sea lions very curious as they kept popping up around us. Then back to the boat and we jumped into the kayaks and we kayaked around the island – great birdlife with the lovely Black Oyster Catchers very close.  Also saw bald eagle with a large salmon.

    Then headed off to the Brothers Islands and on the way heaps more whale activity including lots of breaching and slapping – quite entrancing.   Then I did a jump in the sea (all 9 degrees of it)!! Most bracing (entirely optional!)

    That evening after dinner we went ashore at Eliza Harbour and had a big bonfire and cooked marshmallows and chocolates and lollies over the fire – was very pretty and we saw a mink running around.

    Day 5 – we went off to Admiralty Island (biggest numbers of brown bears) and did a morning kayak around the island with loads of caves, anemones and endless kelp beds. Saw deer down by the water and bald eagles. Sea lions played near us and kept popping up to watch us.   Then we found a couple of Otters just lying in the water so watched them play for a while.

    Then we motored off to Baranoff Island to the Warm Springs.  We did a beautiful hike up a very very rough trail to Sadie Lake – very pretty setting and some of the group had a swim. We then hiked back – normally 3-4 hour hike, but we were pretty quick at 2 hours.  Then back down and we sat in the natural hot pools which were around 40 degrees.  There is a beautiful waterfall right beside the springs.  Then the boys fished for and caught their quota of Silver Salmon – right from the dock!  Was great fun – more fish for Gabe to cook.  We overnighted at Baranof.  You can get a massage here too! A local lady lives there all year round and is a massage therapist.

    Day 6 – we left Baranoff island and headed to Red Bluff Bay and saw brown bears on the meadow – we left the skiff and kayaks and quietly walked closer to the bears – was fab.  We crossed over Chatham Straight and the fishermen fished for Sea Bass off Cornwallis Point – they caught heaps of fish.

    Then we saw some Sea Otters playing around and more whales.  We moored at the north end of Kupreanof Island for our last dinner.

    Day 7 – an early start as we motored back to Petersburg for our 10am flight out.

    The trip goes to and from Petersburg so you need to fly there or perhaps get a ferry. The town itself is a very traditional and not touristy fishing town.   We stayed at a great little hotel that was very friendly and only a 5 min walk down to where our boat moors up.

    Recommendation:

    You are not going to see lots of the sights of the Inside Passage on this cruise as it only travels a relatively small distance in more remote areas.  However, if you want to really experience Alaska – this is a magical way to do it.  A great trip for guys who like to do stuff and be involved, especially if they like boats.  The captain is actually a Crab fisherman who works in the Bering Sea and is on the Deadliest Catch program sometimes.  He was fantastic!  Very inclusive and happy to chat about the boat and fishing etc.   I thought the itinerary was outstanding – we seemed to do so much and had a great variety.  I reviewed many of the testimonials and everyone was just loving the whole experience.  I think it is a fantastic trip for families of teenage or adult children – the activities suit everyone and  you can do as much or as little as you want.  They have had a lot of 3 generation families on it and that was hugely popular.   I think it is great for Kiwis who like a more personal experience that they can get involved in.  Would be awesome to get 4 couples together and do it as a group of friends – you would have a magic time.

    The Details:  This is a true small ship and is therefore pricing around $900 per person per day. The cruise departs from within the Inside Passage (as do most small ships) so you need to fly into Juneau/Petersburg/Sitka and out again.

    Everything was included – all excursions (and our days were full), and of course all meals (absolutely gorgeous meals and snacks and goodies all day) are included as is wine and beer and soft drinks.  There are no spirits available, but no problem to take your own on board.

    There are 5 crew – Captain, Deckhand/Activities Coordinator, Chef, Activities Girl, Stewardess.

    There are 4 cabins – each has a double bed and a fold down bunk – so they could take as many as 12 if there was a whole boat charter.  (It is often booked as a whole group charter by families).

    On the main level there is the saloon, and the galley – all open so you can chat and watch the chef all day and you take your meals beside the galley.  There is a small seated area by the dining table.  After meals you can sit around the table and play cards etc.

    Up on the top deck is the main wheelhouse and you can sit up here with the captain any time you fancy – we all spent loads of time up here watching whales etc.  At the back was an open deck where you could fish from and we had some outdoor meals out here.  Also where you get ready for kayaking.

    Kayaks and a small runabout are kept on the roof and they use a winch to put these up and down.  It was all very efficient and they had an aquaglide (like a big waterproof mattress) that we used to get in and out of the kayaks from.  Easy as.  No experience required for the kayaking and if you didn’t want to kayak Kurt (the captain) would take you out in the skiff.

    A truly fantastic experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

    Discover Travel have a number of similar small ship options for the Inside Passage of Alaska at a range of budgets.