Alaska Cruise in a Small Ship

For the third leg of our Alaska vacation, we cruised the Inside Passage in a small ship that could sail up narrow fjords where the big ships can’t go. Shown above, our ship, the Wilderness Explorer, accommodates 74 passengers. Kayaks are stored and launched from the stern. We sailed with Un-Cruise Adventures, which New York Times recently described.

For a week we had the vast wilderness that is Alaska to ourselves, seldom seeing towns or other ships. We sailed up fjords, hiked up to a glacier, saw a glacier calve into a saltwater fjord, saw a humpback whale breach dozens of times, saw a pod of orcas, went kayaking, did yoga, and took a polar bear plunge.

Our cruise on the Inside Passage is shown by the red balloons. We sailed from Juneau to Ketchikan. The Inside Passage has many islands and coastal mountains with glaciers.

our Alaskan cruise
our Alaskan cruise

As our ship sailed from Juneau, steep mountains and large cruise ships are on the right. Red and yellow kayaks are in the center, with stand-up paddle boards to the right. Teenagers on the cruise tried the stand-up paddle boards, but I passed on this. With no experience, I was sure to fall into the glacier-fed, Alaskan waters. And then I’d climb back up on the board, dripping wet in the cold air? When you’re no longer a teenager, it’s tough to be wet and cold and still have fun. 😉

kayaks and cruise ships
kayaks and cruise ships

This photo from Ketchikan shows a large cruise ship on the left and the Wilderness Explorer, the white ship tied up at the far dock on the right. One has thousands of passengers, and the other has less than a hundred. We had a much better view of animals in the water because our ship could maneuver and our deck was much closer to the water.

big cruise ship with Wilderness Explorer on the right
big cruise ship with Wilderness Explorer on the right

Unlike our land trips where every place we stay has internet, on this one-week cruise we had no internet and little cell service. Without outside communication, it was easier to live in the moment of what we could see and experience in front of us. Of course, in case of an emergency at home, family could reach us through the cruise company.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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