Alaska -- An American Frontier
By Patricia Cotti
You have decided that you wish to visit Alaska. The next most important decision is how you would like to experience Alaska. I propose that you should consider a small ship experience.
I just returned from my Alaska Adventure on Alaskan Dream Cruises’ ship, Chichag of Dream, maximum capacity 74 passengers. It is a native Alaskan owned company. There were two very knowledgeable and enthusiastic naturalists onboard and a native Tlingit interpretive guide who proudly shared his ancestral home. The journey from Sitka to Juneau was designed for those travelers who wish to experience native cultures, explore glaciers, the wilderness and see wildlife—Up Close and Personal!!
I arrived in Sitka one day early and had the opportunity to explore Sitka and learn about the Russian influences. On the following day, prior to embarkation, all guests were taken to a raptor center and the Fortress of the Bears, a safe haven for orphaned bears. Once onboard, the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. All staterooms have ensuite bathrooms with a shower and toilet. The staff is friendly and helpful. The food was plentiful and good. Each meal was served. There were no buffets. Dinner included a four course menu with choices. Wine was complimentary at dinner. Coffee, fresh baked pastry and fruit was available in the early morning before breakfast. Fresh baked cookies were provided in the afternoon. All daily activities were included in the cruise fare.
The first stop on our journey was Saginaw Bay where we had the first opportunity to kayak in the secluded bay while always watching for the wildlife. The remainder of the day was spent touring the native village of Kake, home to the world’s tallest totem pole. Guests not only watched but were invited to participate in a native dance demonstration followed by a wood carving demonstration. The next day was spent in the fishing town of Petersburg, known as “Little Norway.” It was an opportunity to experience Scandinavian culture. Young people dressed in native costumes performed folk dances at the Sons of Norway Hall. The remaining days were filled with pristine waterfalls, glaciers and wildlife both while cruising and on land. First we visited the Sawyer Glacier in the Tracy Arm Fjord and then for 2 days explored Glacier Bay. The small ship has the advantage of being able to get to remote areas unavailable to larger cruise ships. Once in Glacier Bay, our ship was joined by a National Park Ranger and an additional native Tlingit heritage interpretive guide. Guests could kayak and/or explore the shore around Reid Glacier or take a motorized launch up to and around the base of the glacier to get a close encounter with the amazing blue ice of the glacier, icebergs, waterfalls and the scoured glacial rocks. While sailing the 65 mile extent of the fjord and beyond, everyone scanned the horizon for bears, mountain goats, humpback whales and birds. Binoculars were provided along with waterproof jackets, pants and boots. Close to the end of the journey, we were treated to a feast of salmon, prime ribs and the largest King Crab legs that I have ever seen—scissors were provided to cut the shells!! This event was held at Alaskan Dream Cruises’ Orca Lodge. The journey ended in Juneau. I extended my stay in Juneau in order to explore and visit the fine native artifacts and history at the Alaska State Museum.
This was definitely an adventure to one of America’s last frontiers. It provided an authentic Alaska Experience as seen through the eyes of Alaska’s native cultures. There were nightly lectures and discussions about the events of the day or the day to follow. Guests became acquainted with their travel mates that hailed from all parts of the US, Canada and even a couple from Western Australia.
I believe that the ability to commune with nature and have personal encounters in the wilderness more than exceeded my expectations. Many of the Alaskan glaciers are receding. The landscape is in constant flux. Visit Alaska now and be sure to consider the many advantages of small ship cruising. It is a life-altering experience.