By Tori Keating, Travel Consultant
Silence, they say, is golden. But in Alaska’s iconic Inside Passage silence is giant white glaciers and floating icebergs, piercing blue skies, everlasting sunsets of pinks and purples, green forests hugging the coastline and rippling water, sometimes blue, sometimes clear and at other times silver with the shimmering scales of Pacific salmon. Alaska, so remote and isolated, is sometimes known as the last frontier- a place so distant and lonely that wildlife has been largely left to its own devices, resulting in nothing short of a delight for those who seek to discover this far off place.
There are a variety of ways to explore this wondrous region, but none offer such an opportunity to experience the real Alaska by getting into the smaller, more remote bays and inlets as small ship cruising, and one of our favourite small ship companies is Alaskan Dream Cruises– a family run company who have been cruising these waters for nearly 40 years and who have an intimate knowledge of the region, the diverse personalities who call this secluded place home and wildlife who come to feed in its nutrient rich waters.
Despite being on a small ship there are almost always too many activities to choose from. Whether you’re kayaking through still waters (at times right next to humpback whales), discovering villages and towns not used to seeing tourists, or exploring amazing wilderness areas in custom built expedition craft capable of navigating shallow waters and glacial fjords, you are sure to enjoy experiences that will linger in your memory long after you disembark your ship. And of course being small allows the chance for spontaneity. Bigger ships often have rather strict itineraries to follow and as such cannot deviate from their planned journey whereas smaller ships can linger to marvel at the azure blue in a passing iceberg or get closer to the shore to watch a young family of bears trying to catch a salmon or two for dinner.
Onboard Alaskan Dream ships staff are knowledgeable, experienced and just as passionate about your journey as you are. They may have seen pods of orcas swim beneath kayaking guests before, humpback whales breach right beside the ship or bears roar as you cruise by, but for them each time is like the first, and their joy at spotting such wildlife is genuine and pure. Because a small ship only has a limited capacity for guests expedition leaders act as personal guides on every voyage. Naturalists delve into the Inside Passage’s ecology, biology and geography while cultural heritage guides share the legends, histories and way of living of Alaska’s captivating indigenous cultures.
At night after dining on carefully prepared local and regional delectable cuisine you can relax in the lounges and learn in greater detail about the geography of the ever changing landscape- about glaciers still calving their way towards the sea- and about the abundant wildlife who, like us travelling from New Zealand, travel as much as 11,000kms to visit these waters and shores. At the end of each spectacular day it’s easy to forget you’ve been cruising along the Inside Passage because you’ll have enjoyed days which seem to stretch for weeks and experiences far beyond any expectations you had for this remarkable area.