Alaska is a grand destination that is not to be missed. Larger than Texas, California and Montana combined, Alaska’s environs span a coastal temperate rainforest to a dry alpine alluvial plane and a freezing arctic realm. This land of deserved superlatives will wow the intrepid traveler with adventure, spectacular scenery and wildlife. Choosing the best Alaskan journey for you depends on the time you have and your preferred mode of travel because the region is both large and varied.
We have enjoyed and whole heartedly recommend Alaska small ship cruises with vessels from as few as 12 passengers, upwards to several hundred. Small ship cruising emphasizes unhurried exploration and an in-depth level of access to the pristine Alaskan marine environment and temperate coastal rainforests. The majority of Alaska small ship cruises offer all-inclusive programs and unique itineraries, with more amenities and activities, on land or by sea via smaller craft such as Zodiacs, DIBs or skiffs.
Small ship programs can reach the more uninhabited regions that larger ships cannot access, the heart of Alaska. Excursions are designed and led by onboard expedition leaders and naturalists and they provide travelers with an in-depth, highly educative and unique journey. They are available to answer questions on board and occasionally provide presentations and lectures on topics relevant to the voyage.
Small ships operate under a different type of permitting structure for ports visits and landings and have the flexibility to deviate somewhat from their planned itinerary should a wildlife opportunity present itself, such huge pods of whales feeding, an exceptional midnight ‘sunset’, or a sighting of a mother bear and cub digging for mollusks on the shore. Getting up close with their ship to the shore and to calving glaciers and icebergs is also another advantage of small ships.Life aboard the small ships is friendly, intimate and casual. The small ships lack the formal nights, casinos and floor shows of large cruise ship trips yet few miss these features. Days begin early, when wildlife is at its most active, and guests are absorbed in daily adventures. Staff mingle with guests during mealtimes, and are often available on deck in the daylight hours to answer questions and help spot wildlife.
If you are considering an Alaska cruise, small ship cruising is in our opinion the best way to experience this remarkable land. And while at a glance costs and fares may seem higher than a large ship cruise, when you factor in the services and excursions not included in these mass market trips, you find that the price differential can be far smaller than expected. To learn about the regions and the small ship expeditions and cruises specific to them, please visit our page How We Explore Alaska. Then, discover all the exciting Alaska small ship cruises expeditions planned for the summer of 2016.