Alaskan Dream Cruise itineraries offer a wonderful opportunity for families to experience southeast Alaska in an intimate small-ship format. Guests trade a long list of onsite amenities for convenience onboard, a highly personalized service experience, and excursions to places that the larger ships can’t access. This last point is really the crux of the difference in Alaska, as smaller ships can navigate the narrow passageways that give guests a true sense of the depth of the 49th state’s remote wilderness.
Pairing cultural activities with landscape and wildlife viewing, Alaskan Dream Cruise itineraries provide a well-rounded introduction to Alaska for families. We sailed on the Chichagof Dream, which has the capacity to host 74 guests across 37 staterooms. This ship cruises at 8 knots and sails a bit slower than other vessels, but the leisurely pace is an asset, as guests get to digest what they’re passing. And there is flexibility in the size, which enables the captain to be spontaneous. On more than one occasion we changed course to observe passing orca and humpback whales more closely.
We experienced Alaska’s Glacier By & Island Adventure itinerary from Juneau to Sitka. At 7 nights and 8 days, this trip is a good length for families. Here’s our review of highlights.
We kicked off our itinerary in Juneau, but the exact same itinerary runs from Sitka with the stops in the reverse order. Juneau’s highlight is the Mendenhall Glacier, a 13-mile long glacier at the end of Mendenhall Lake. A short stroll down the lake is the perfect introduction to Alaska’s many magnificent glaciers.
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Dinner this first night is at one of the Alaskan Dream jewels: the Orca Point Lodge, a private lodge in the wilderness owned by the Allen family, who also own the cruise line. This isolated wooden lodge sits in a stunning mountain setting on a private beach that’s ripe for beachcombing. The property also includes a wonderful tidepool area where families can get an interactive introduction to the wondrous sea life in this part of the Pacific Ocean. Dinner at Orca Point Lodge showcases Alaskan Dream Cruises’ focus on sustainability, as they serve local seafood from smaller family businesses with an eye on the longevity of the wild stock. King crab legs, fresher-than-fresh salmon and s’mores on the beach were a huge hit with all ages.
From this point we sailed right for Glacier Bay National Park, one of America’s National Park highlights. It extends 65 miles with incredible tidewater glaciers and is home to bears, wolves, goats, sea lions and humpback whales. Alaskan Dream Cruises brings a ranger on board to give full history and context for this spectacular wilderness area. Our ranger was wonderful with the children and all of them had the opportunity to join the Junior Ranger Program.
Highlights of our journey through Glacier Bay included checking out South Marble Island, covered with sea lions and puffin birds. It was pretty foggy, but we also passed by a herd of large mountain goats. Alaskan Dream Cruises tries to incorporate at least one active adventure in the daily schedule, and the afternoon was spent at Reid Glacier, where guests could kayak and walk the beach. It was really an amazing opportunity to engage with Glacier Bay.
And finally, a true favorite stop of the entire trip was when we sailed by Lamplugh Glacier, famous for its bright blue hue. We had a bit more time in Glacier Bay the next day and used it to get close to the Margerie Glacier, famous for calving. We were treated to all kinds of action as well as prime sea otter photo moments.
Before we left Glacier Bay, the ranger had a Junior Ranger ceremony for the kids. Fun for all!
This forested beach provides a stark contrast to Glacier Bay. Guests can disembark at Kuiu Island to look for rocks, fossils and invertebrates. It’s a pristine place to poke around. We were lucky to have an opportunity to kayak here with some large and playful sea otters.
Petersburg is one of the special cultural stops for which Alaskan Dream Cruises is famous. Founded by Norwegian fishermen in the 1800s, this village is a great stop to get a feel for a typical remote Alaskan town. The stop includes a dance show by the local children and when guests were invited to join the fun, contagious laughter and smiles filled the room. We always appreciate these opportunities to see how locals really live in a destination; interacting with children is a fantastic way for kids to relate to and engage with a place.
Our journey down the Tracy Arm Fjord, a narrow ice-filled corridor leading to a massive glacier, was a trip highlight. It’s only accessible via small ship and we saw just one other ship the entire day. Weather was on our side and we had the most amazing bluebird day, but even in foul weather, the Tracy Arm Fjord is a sight to behold with steep mountain terrain and ethereal blue ice. The ice in these fjords is constantly moving and captains never know ahead of time if they will be accessible — but we were able to get through (for perspective, the last six attempts were impassable, so luck really was on our side).
The excursion on this day takes place on DIBs so guests can get up close to the glacier (relatively speaking, as safety is always top of mind given the unpredictability of glaciers). The finale was lunch in a spectacular waterfall-filled valley. A day for the beautiful sightseeing record books!
This itinerary includes a stop at Kake, an indigenous Alaskan village where guests have the opportunity to meet a totem pole carver and to see the tallest totem pole in Alaska. The grand finale was the chance to witness and participate in a traditional dance with Kake’s families. As happens with many such engagements, it starts awkwardly, and then the ice is broken and a very special human connection is made across all ages.
En route to Kake, the ship sails through Frederick Sound, waters known for rich marine life and popular with Alaska’s glorious humpback whales. We enjoyed watching several of these magnificent animals swimming right next to the boat.
A polar plunge precedes the final night of the itinerary. On the long journey back to Sitka, guests share photos, watch a slideshow of shots taken through the trip, and have a warm and wonderful final dinner with the staff. It’s no wonder that everyone is hugging each other as they disembark. Irrespective of the itinerary, the joy of Alaskan Dream Cruises is the friendships that blossom in addition to experiencing the wonders of southeast Alaska.
Editor’s Note: Amie received a media package to experience Alaskan Dream Cruises. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy.
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