This Alaska Cruise Is the Stuff of Dreams
Any cruise that transports you through the glacier-carved fjords, colossal snowcapped mountain ranges and densely-forested shores of Alaska already has one advantage: It’s giving you a sweeping, up-close view of one of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes.
But there’s a difference between seeing Alaska by cruise and seeing Alaska via the only cruise line owned and operated by Alaska Natives.
Alaskan Dream Cruises is exactly that: a family-run Alaskan cruise line that's been showing folks the 49th state through its uniquely Alaskan viewpoint for more than half a century.
So what does that mean, exactly? It means visits to historic fishing villages where just a handful of year-round residents constitute the entire population — and larger cruise ships just don't fit. It means flexible itineraries, so you can follow the spontaneity of your living, breathing surroundings and never miss a natural wonder. A familiar onboard ambiance that will make you feel like your living room has been set adrift in the Alaskan wilds (and stocked with fresh and artful Alaskan cuisine, Alaskan-brewed craft beers and cocktails to order).
And finally, it means active exploration of remote wilderness areas, shallow waters and glacial fjords that are only possible via small and agile, purpose-built watercraft — and with the expert guidance of exceptionally knowledgeable naturalists.
Read on for more of what sets Alaskan Dream Cruises apart. But be warned — the accompanying photos may be wanderlust-inducing.
Though officially launched in 1970 when co-founders Bob and Betty Allen salvaged an old boat, turning it into the line's first tour vessel, you might say Alaskan Dream Cruises' roots harken back much further. Betty’s ancestors were Tlingit canoe carvers, in fact, working on the same shores Alaskan Dream Cruises vessels now sail.
Meanwhile, Bob spent his early childhood toddling around a Nenana shipyard where his father oversaw maintenance of cargo ships transporting goods from the Alaskan Railroad in the 1930s. Both Bob's lifelong immersion in Alaska's nautical vessels and Betty’s familial connection to Alaska’s indigenous cultures are evident in all aspects of the cruise line today, even as Bob and Betty's children and grandchildren have stepped up to carry on the tradition.
Small Ships. Really.
Many cruise lines boast small ships, but few deliver on this front like Alaskan Dream Cruises. With capacities ranging from 10 (yes, 10!) to 76 passengers, the line does personalized Alaskan hospitality like no other. The 60-foot, 5-stateroom Misty Fjord expedition ship is the line's smallest, with a design inspired by supremely functional and stable Alaskan fishing boats — but with auspicious refinements like teak interiors and a walk-around deck purpose-built for wildlife spotting in comfort.
The fleet’s largest ship — Chichagof Dream — accommodates just 76 passengers and measures a mere 207 feet, about 1/19th the length of mainstream cruise ships. These lithe little ships can zig-zag through icebergs; sidle up closer to glaciers; and anchor along raw wild shores (because moorings are so overrated) for impromptu skiff, kayak or hiking explorations.
Over the course of a lifetime in Alaska, the Allen family has developed close bonds with communities across the Frontier State. These relationships have led to exclusive partnerships between Alaskan Dream Cruises and quiet Alaska fishing villages and towns that don’t allow larger cruise ships.
There’s Pelican on the northwest portion of Chichagof Island, where the village’s 67 residents invite guests to stroll the maze-like harbor. Take a wilderness hike, during which sightings of Sitka blacktail deer and brown bears are common. Be on the lookout also for another wild thing: berry bushes. Salmonberry and huckleberry are some favorites. If you’re lucky, you might convince one of the locals to let you sample a homemade berry wine.
Kake, on the northwest coast of Kupreanof Island, is a Tlingit (or indigenous Alaskan) community that boasts a few more residents — 543 as of the last census — plus the world’s third-largest totem pole. Alaskan Dream Cruises is one of the few cruise lines that’s able to bring you to this authentically Alaskan village, where opportunities to experience tribal customs — like a community dance show, traditional storytelling and a totem pole carving demonstration — abound. Chances to spot eagles, moose, black bear and whales are also in rich supply.
And one more enormous privilege of being an an Alaskan Dream Cruises passenger: experiencing a beach bonfire and seafood feast at Orca Point Lodge. Owned by parent company Allen Marine, this rustic-yet-modern outpost isn't open to the public, so you'll be joining an exclusive group of people when you share a toast here. Savor good company, strong drinks and views of Stephens Passage and the Admiralty Island National Monument while you grace these secluded shores.
Climb aboard a Zodiac or custom-built sea kayak for an in-depth exploration of narrow sea-green pools etched into bedrock over untold millenia, plus up-close sightings of giant kelp forests, sea cucumbers, sealions and humpback whales.
Land on untouched beaches, hike through rugged and remote forests and explore jagged cliffs topped with brilliant evergreen trees. If you're looking to experience Alaska at its wildest, rawest and most beautiful, this is the way to go — and all of these experiences, plus shore excursions, are included in your cruise fare.
At any given moment in Alaska, you may spy bald eagles soaring overhead. Or pods of orcas engaging in cooperative hunts. Or the aurora borealis igniting the sky in psychedelic splendor. Life in The Frontier State is the opposite of scripted, which is why Alaskan Dream Cruises’ itineraries are made to bend and flex as nature’s spontaneous plans unfurl.
Alaskan Dream Cruises captains have been known to whip the nimble ships around to maximize passengers' views of once-in-a-lifetime wildlife sightings; or to arrange impromptu kayaking excursions due to spontaneous popular demand. Because with this truly personalized cruise line (except when it comes to catching your flight home), the only place you have to be is where you want to be.
You won't find any evening gowns or tuxedos on the decks of Alaskan Dream Cruises. Passengers on this line tend to come as they are, to dress for comfort and active exploration and to leave pretense at the door. They can leave their wallets there, too, since everything from excursions, to meals, to a glass of house wine or beer from Sitka's own Harbor Mountain Brewing Company with dinner are included with their cruise fare (additional alcohol costs extra — though it's included if you book a suite).
And speaking of dinner, expect to find king salmon, scallops, halibut, prawns and crab on the menu, all freshly caught by local fishing vessels at various ports of call.
If you're hungry for knowledge along with your expertly prepared Alaskan seafood, here's good news: Alaskan Dream Cruises staffs each ship with knowledgeable naturalists who are always ready to explain ecological phenomena of the Inside Passage. You'll also find True Alaskan Guides on board — experts brimming over with information on the histories, lifestyles and legends of Southeast Alaska's indigenous cultures. You can consult these guides whenever a question comes to mind — during evening educational programs, a rousing kayak expedition or even over a glass of wine.