|In Kake, a viewing platform enabled us to observe bears catching salmon.|
Alaskan Dream Cruises prides itself on its locally focused philosophy, a legacy it inherits from its founders, Bob and Betty Allen, a local Alaska couple.
“We’re the only Alaska-based, Alaska family-owned cruise line,” Mike Wien, vice president of sales and marketing for Alaskan Dream Cruises and the Windham Bay Lodge, told Travel Agent. “We will work very hard to hire local guides, local providers, local suppliers of food…We want to be very upfront about our education about Southeastern Alaska. We want our guests to have a better understanding of what life is like in Alaska year-round, not just the few months that other companies come up and visit—most of our crews and educators live here year-round.”
|Travel Agent sailed onboard the Admiralty Dream.|
The Allen family founded Allen Marine in 1970, providing day boat tours out of Sitka for whale watching and wildlife viewing. In the summer of 2010, the company purchased ships from the former Cruise West company and launched its first overnight cruises under the Alaskan Dream Cruises brand.
Alaskan Dream Cruises prides itself on its local focus, using local employees and suppliers whenever possible. On our cruise, one of our guides was a Tlingit native who shared a wealth of local knowledge with the guests. The line is also able to arrange custom experiences for guests—for example, for a college professor studying Native American tribes, the line was able to arrange a personal meeting with a local Native American leader.
We sailed in August on the “Six-Day Tracy Arm Adventure” onboard the Admiralty Dream. The itinerary sails roundtrip from Sitka, although we had to depart a few days early in Juneau to catch our flight home.
In Sitka, representatives of the cruise line met with us at our hotels and took us on a tour of the town before we departed on one of Allen Marine’s day boats for a wildlife viewing tour. Our itinerary also called at the small Tlingit village of Kake (the only line that does so, we were told), the fishing village of Petersburg, the line’s adventure base camp in Hobart Bay, the Tracy Arm, Juneau and Glacier Bay.
|Our trip down the Tracy Arm offered an up-close view of some Alaskan wildlife.|
All shore excursions and meals were included in the cost of the cruise. Guests also receive a complimentary glass of house wine or beer with dinner, and can purchase additional alcoholic beverages separately. Each night during “social hour,” which took place in the lounge immediately before dinner, the line offered a specialty cocktail themed around the activities of the day—the night we visited the Tracy Arm, the cocktail even included glacial ice. The staff was also happy to cap and store unfinished bottles of wine for guests to enjoy through several sittings.
Dress onboard was casual due to the variety of soft adventure activities included in the itinerary. Southeastern Alaska is one of the world’s last temperate rainforests, so guests traveling there should dress for rain. Average temperatures during the cruise season (May through September) are between 55 and 65 F, and because the weather can change rapidly travelers should dress in layers. During our day in Hobart Bay, which had the most soft adventure activities, the line offered guests raincoats, rain pants and boots for those who had not brought their own. Still, it’s not all rain—during our cruise, we experienced cloudy, drizzly weather about half the time, and perfect sunshine the other half.
|Built in 1842, the Russian Bishop’s House is the oldest intact Russian building in Sitka.|
Most activities on our cruise were appropriate for guests of a moderate fitness level. Most tours were by bus, and where there was walking, such as on our bog walk in Petersburg, it was generally over level ground of not more than a mile. The most strenuous day was our stop in Hobart Bay, where we had the chance to go kayaking in the bay and ride small outboard-driven Zego runabouts and all-terrain vehicles. For passengers who require special accommodations, including the use of a wheelchair, the line asks for a written notification at the time of reservation. According to the line’s website, “Alaskan Dream Cruises will make reasonable efforts to accommodate passengers with medical or physical limitations, but reserves the right to deny boarding to a passenger whose condition may affect their safety or enjoyment of the cruise or that of other passengers, or that may affect the safety or operation of the cruise.”
With a maximum capacity of only 66 passengers, our time aboard the Admiralty Dream was relaxed and intimate. There was generally a lecture by one of the guides in the forward lounge every night during cocktail hour before dinner. The lounge also had a monitor that displayed constant updates of the ship’s position, which many of the guests enjoyed tracking. Dinner was a single seating with no assigned seats, so guests were free to mingle. The ship’s itinerary also had a lot of built-in flexibility, which became important to take advantage of the unpredictable wildlife in Alaska. For example, during our passage from Kake to Petersburg, we unexpectedly encountered a pod of whales. Since we weren’t rushing to our next destination, the ship was able to take a few hours off to cruise after the pod for some impromptu whale-watching. Guests were even welcome aboard the ship’s bridge, except during tricky passages or staff meetings, where the captain and crew were happy to give a brief tour.
Next season Alaskan Dream Cruises plans to expand its offerings with stays at the Windham Bay Lodge, which is 65 miles from Juneau near the company’s adventure camp we visited in Hobart Bay and the Admiralty Island National Monument.
“The standalone program allows guests to use the Windham Bay Lodge as kind of a base camp and explore Hobart Bay, Admiralty Island, Frederick Sound and also explore the Tracy Arm and the Cod Glacier fjord area,” Wien says.
Guests will also be able to stay at the lodge for three nights and then join up with an Alaska Dream Cruises vessel for the rest of the itinerary.
Alaskan Dream Cruises begin in Sitka, Ketchikan or Juneau. All three cities have daily flights from Seattle and Anchorage via Alaska Airlines and are also accessible via the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system.