Any firsthand recommendations for small ship excursions in Alaska?
March 4, 2010 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning on visiting Alaska in June of 2011 with my boyfriend and was wondering if anyone has recommendations for small ship excursions. I hate, hate cruises and have no interest in a big cruise ship package. Looking for something smaller and more adventurous, with a younger crowd. Not exactly sure what I want to do specifically, but glacier hiking and fishing/catching seafood would be definite pluses. I don't know much about Alaska but I'd like to see some of the cooler towns along the way as well. Has anyone had any great small ship experiences in Alaska? By small, I mean anything from 10 people to 100, but just none of those big ship casino-and-canned-entertainment experiences. Thanks!
posted by emily37 to Travel & Transportation around Alaska (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in Alaska right now [for a conference]. You might enjoy something that's not really a cruise at all: the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry. It's basically the way a a lot of Alaskans [and tourists] move up and down coastal Alaska. It's a car ferry, and otherwise pretty barebones. You can get a room or you can bring a tent and camp out on the deck [warning: hippies]. Or you can do something in between and get a room with beds, but not much else and hang out on deck the rest of the time. There's a cafeteria on board for food or you can bring your own. No real kitchen facilities, but I was surprised how much you can do with hot water. You stop in a few towns where you have limited time to hang out [sometimes enough to hop on land for a meal, sometimes, just a leg stretch]. You can also go up, stay for a few days in one of the towns and catch the ferry back down. Ferry departs from Bellingham WA and it's sort of neat to take the boat up to Alaska. Keep in mind this is a make your own fun sort of situation. There may be movies showing but likely not much else. You may wan tot take a ferry trip in conjunction with something that's a little more... planned, but I've gone three times up from Bellingham and back down and loved it each time.
posted by jessamyn at 2:48 PM on March 4, 2010 [5 favorites]

You can also charter small fishing boats out of just about every harbor town. I did a salmon trip out of Seward that was a lot of fun.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:55 PM on March 4, 2010

The Snow Goose may fit your criteria if you're up for a naturalist's experience. The crew is young and consists of mostly teachers and grad students from the Bellingham, WA area.
posted by surfgator at 2:59 PM on March 4, 2010

Response by poster: I've looked at the ferry and it seems cool, but something a little more planned would be ideal. Activities like kayaking, fishing, etc...
posted by emily37 at 3:03 PM on March 4, 2010

You don't say which part of Alaska you are interested in seeing. Alaska is BIG. Do you want this boat to be your transportation to Alaska from Lower 48? Or are you OK with flying into the Anchorage or Juneau area and boarding a boat once here? Offhand I don't know of any sea transportation other than the ferry or a large cruise. But once you're in Southcentral Alaska (flying into Anchorage) you're just a car rental and few-hour drive away from several ports where you can find all of your mentioned activities, including day-long fishing charters or whale-watching/glacier cruises. Lots of tour groups in the area do kayaking or hiking excursions. Memail me if you like and I can be more specific, but you might do well to spend the money on an Alaska travel guide and plan your own trip.
posted by keribear at 3:16 PM on March 4, 2010

Out of Seward we went fishing for rockfish on a small boat. There were 5 of us plus the captain. I'm pretty sure we used these guys. We also took a small boat out to the glaciers. There were no more than 15 of us on that. I don't recall who we used, it might have been these guys, but we got on one of the bigger boats the next day to take us out to where we were kayaking from and it was a shitfest. I also can't remember who we went Kayaking with, but there are loads of places in Seward that will rent you a kayak. The one we did was a guided half day excursion.
posted by IanMorr at 3:50 PM on March 4, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the info! I'm now thinking flying into Alaska and then doing day trips from there could be a good alternative than sleeping on a boat (and more cost-efficient). Would Seward perhaps be the best place to do this as a "base camp"?
posted by emily37 at 3:56 PM on March 4, 2010

I went on a small cruise ship up into the fjords. Which can't be done via large cruise ships. Unfortunately this was 10+ years ago, so I don't remember the name of the company. But there are options out there.
posted by dfriedman at 4:07 PM on March 4, 2010

Alaska is indeed vast. I think you should first decide which Alaska biome you want to experience. Are you looking for ocean or interior adventures? They are both awesome. If you are interested in the rainforest coast of Southeast, memail me and I can offer up some ideas.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:43 PM on March 4, 2010

I can recommend this boat , a classic 87 foot motor yacht built in 1931, they usually have ten passengers on board for a seven day cruise. They do several different trips often in some of the less explored sections of the Inside Passage. The focus is often whale watching but activities vary by season. They have kayaks, fishing gear, and crab pots on board. Up close seals, otters, eagles, and other wildlife is virtually a guarantee along with bears at safe viewing areas. There will be glaciers but probably no glacier hike. The crowd may or may not be young but they will probably be adventurous and perhaps experienced return customers. You would have to check the site and perhaps contact them for specific itineraries because they often vary. Captain John is cool guy, ex-fisherman, vietnam vet, and has a sixth sense for finding whales and other wildlife. His son may be the captain instead, depending on which trip you are on.
posted by Procloeon at 5:22 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Lindblad/National Geographic cruises are really excellent. Small ships (62 passengers), very strong staff of naturalists, & flexible hiking/kayaking/touring itineraries. Not cheap, but really memorable experiences.
posted by judith at 5:59 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding seeing the fjords. I saw glaciers and whales. It was awesome.
posted by sninctown at 6:31 PM on March 4, 2010

Seward is an awesome little town. Try to get up to Denali national park. Whittier is weird.
posted by Savannah at 7:47 PM on March 4, 2010

I didn't see a small boat tour for Alaska here, but Gap Adventures does awesome small-group tours. Some friends did a Latin American sailboat trip a few years ago and raved about how awesome it was.
posted by id girl at 9:10 PM on March 4, 2010

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