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How to Choose an Alaska Cruise

How to Choose an Alaska Cruise

Last week I spoke to somebody who was trying to figure out the best way to have his family see Alaska. He was trying to decide between a Disney Cruise and a cruise on the Wilderness Discoverer. Made me think about the difference between large ship vs. small ship cruising.

In many travel circles cruising in general has a bad rap. “It’s all about the boat, not where you’re going!” and with the larger ships for the most part that’s true. But it’s not true on a small ship. Here are some differences between our Alaska cruises and a conventional cruise:

  • Hiking in Glacier Bay with a National Park rangerOur Alaska cruise itineraries do not call on ports, but rather spend time in wilderness areas. Other than the starting and ending point, you will see no recognizable town names on one of our itineraries.
  • There are no “days at sea”. That means that on an 8 day voyage you spend time on each of those 8 days on land in Alaska. With some of the larger ships you have 2 sea days or even 1 sea day and two “scenic cruising” days – which ultimately means only 3-4 days where you actually step off the boat.
  • Our ships accommodate between 60 – 76 guests at full occupancy. With conventional ships being in the neighborhood of 2400-3000 passengers that’s about 97% less.
  • Shore Excursions are varied and included – you may go whale watching or look for seals and sea otters in a zodiac, kayak in a secluded bay, go tide pooling, take out a stand up paddleboard, learn about totem carving, take a hike (or bushwack!) in the Alaskan wilderness, watch a glacier calve from land or a zodiac or even a kayak. There are multiple options of what to do each day and activities are guided by trained naturalists. 
  • If you want to go for a short evening kayak or take out a stand up paddle board without a guide, you can do that.
  • Our ships have an open-bridge policy. Want to learn about navigation or look at some maps to see where you are? The captain would be happy to have you up on the bridge. On a large cruise ship if they offer bridge tours you have to pay for them.
  • We have a hydrophone and an underwater camera on the bow to see what’s going on underwater and to hear humpback whales communicating with each other.
  • Non-alcoholic drinks are included, and there are no assigned seats at meals.
  • Transfers to and from the airport are included on scheduled arrival/departure dates.

Getting up close and personal with a glacier on our small ship Alaska cruiseOn paper a Disney Cruise seems like a less expensive option, though once you add up all the shore excursions, activities and specialist guiding included in our trips the difference in price is minimal. And in reality, these two trips are not the same thing at all! At the end of an Alaska cruise with Wildland Adventures you’ll have an understanding of the geology, ecology, and the history of Southeast Alaska. You will have seen whales, otters, calving glaciers, and a variety of other mammals and beautiful scenery all from close range. You will return feeling that you’ve really experienced Alaska, not just seen it. I’m not so sure that you can say that if you visit Alaska on a conventional large ship cruise.

If you’re keen to experience the real Alaska, the Wildland way, check out our Alaska Inside Passage Adventure Voyages: Western Coves and Eastern Coves, as well as our Alaska Northern Passages & Glacier Bay.

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