Mixed: Limited Shopping Options In Small Towns
The flip side of getting off the beaten path is you wont find the same shopping options in small ports that you would in the major cruise ports of Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. This could be a plus or minus depending on your point of view.
Most cities on major cruise line routes are known for their endless rows of jewelry, souvenir and specialty shops many of which are not locally owned. If you love to spend hours looking for deals and gifts to bring home, youll find the most variety in the big-ship ports.
The smaller ports take a different approach to souvenirs. In Wrangell, there were only about a half dozen stores, including a grocery store, drug store and a few stores that offered essentials, like swimsuits, flip-flops, T-shirts and sweatshirts. One was more of a traditional store than souvenir shop, and the other, the Compass Line Gift Shop, offered high-quality T-shirts, hats hand-designed by the owner, candles and handmade soaps.
We purposely dont carry items that other shops may carry on the island, the shops website says. We like our neighbor shops, so why compete with them.
In Kake, population 500, I didnt come across any souvenir stores at all. Instead, a few locals sold handmade jewelry, postcards and other odds and ends in the community center before the towns children performed local dances for the cruise passengers.
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What Is The Inside Passage Alaska
The Alaska Inside Passage is technically a coastal route for ships and boats. Virtually all Southeast Alaska small ship cruises sail in the Inside Passage, so the terms Southeast Alaska and Inside Passage are pretty much synonymous when it comes to cruising.
The greater Inside Passage extends as far south as Olympia, Washington, but the northernmost section of the route is in Alaska. The Alaska Inside Passage portion extends 500 miles from north to south and 100 miles from east to west. The area encompasses 1,000 islands, 15,000 miles of shoreline and thousands of coves and bays, many protected from the Pacific Ocean by the Alexander Archipelago.
During the Klondike Gold Rush, the Inside Passage was popular for American prospectors seeking gold, but today its popularity remains for tourism and commercial fishing. Its now by far the most popular destination to take a small ship Alaska cruise thanks to its protected waters, interesting geological features and abundant wildlife. Approximately 36,000 recreational cruising boats utilize portions of the Inside Passage route, with more than 2 million people taking Alaska Inside Passage cruise tours each year.
More Authentic Shore Excursions
In contrast to chaotic, large group excursions, Alaska cruises on small ships ensure that shore excursions are intimate and memorable. With fewer passengers to divide attention between, tour guides are able to devote more effort towards creating a high-quality, more personal experience for guests.
Fewer passengers also means that shore excursions will be more time-efficient, enabling you to see and do more during each excursion.
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Us / Panama City / Coln / Embark
Upon arrival in Panama City this afternoon, transfer by land to Colón and embark the National Geographic Quest in the evening. Later, as the tropical night falls, our ship enters the Panama Canal at Gatun Locks. Our crossing to the Pacific through this colossal engineering feat, a tribute to sheer human determination, has begun and we make our way towards vast Gatun Lake.
Alaska Inside Passage Cruises
Taking an Alaska Inside Passage cruise is the iconic way to cruise Alaska. Cruises along this coastal route sail amid steep, irregular coastlines, bright-white glaciers, dense evergreen forests and hundreds of islands. Many towns here have no major in-roads, so visiting by ship is not only the best way to see themits also the only way. Read on to learn more about the Inside Passage Alaska, or start browsing our Alaska small ship Inside Passage cruise itineraries to get aboard.
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Treasures Of The Inside Passage: Alaska And British Columbia
On this 14-day Treasures of the Inside Passage cruise, linger in the temperate rain forests and wildlife-rich channels of British Columbia, and enjoy ample time to explore the breathtaking fjords and towering glaciers of Southeast Alaska.
Pro: Casual Ambiance On Board
As with many small cruise ships in Alaska, Ocean Victorys onboard experience was relaxed and casual. As one travel advisor noted, it was not for people who want to get dressed up and bring out the jewels.
While some cruisers love to get glammed up for formal nights on their big-ship sailings, Id bet the majority of travelers would rather leave the cocktail dresses and suits at home and stick to comfortable clothing for their vacation.
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The Smallest Boat Of The Inside Passage
Since our team at AdventureSmith Explorations specializes in small ships, we often get asked about the smallest boat in the Inside Passage. Cruise ships in the Alaska Inside Passage are a wide range of sizes, with big ships reaching the thousands of passengers. But the most common small ship Inside Passage size is under 20 guests, with ships in the 50-100 range also being common.
The smallest boat in the Inside Passage offering cruises is the 8-guest Westward, followed closely by the 10-guest Misty Fjord. These ships are great for Alaska yacht charters, or a more intimate experience with fellow travelers. The largest ship on our curated Inside Passage cruise itineraries are the 100-guest identical sister ships National Geographic Venture and Quest.
Whether you choose the smallest boat or a larger expedition ship is up to you and your groups travel needs. Were here to help you decide and select your Inside Passage cruise small ship route and boat.
Alaska Inside Passage Cruise
On this 15-day Alaska Inside Passage Cruise, discover the majestic splendor of a summer in Alaska. Cruise the protected waters of the Inside Passage aboard the American Constellation, the newest and only fully stabilized small cruise ship in the region.
Enjoy a smooth and comfortable travel experience, as you witness breathtaking vistas and abundant wildlife from your private balcony. From Seattle to Juneau, explore the stunning natural scenery, historic treasures, and enchanting communities, led by our expert guides who are knowledgeable and passionate about the region.
As you cruise, enjoy our award-winning onboard enrichment programs which bring each destination to life with the very best historians, naturalists, and entertainers.
Ask about our Current Savings and our popular Seattle Pre-Cruise Packages which include a premium hotel stay, city tour, and transportation to the ship. Click the Day By Day tab for details.
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Should I Plan My Small Ship Alaska Cruise Myself
Whether this is your first or fifth Alaskan cruise, having a convenient, professional platform to book through can eliminate stress and ensure that you get the vacation experience that you want.
As a busy individual, you deserve to have a seasoned travel expert take care of the logistics for you so that you can sit back and fully enjoy your time off.
Small Ship Cruises Are Not For Everyone
Small ship cruises are for travelers who understand the difference between Mass Market and Expedition-Style cruising. On a small ship cruise, Alaska is the focal point, not the ship. These ships are small, intimate and able to take guests up close to find Alaska’s hidden treasures, where the big ships don’t – and can’t – reach.
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Reach Places Big Ships Cant
These nimble vessels carry fewer passengers than large ships, offer more frequent and more up-close glacier viewing, and make unplanned stops whenever wildlife appears. Itineraries call on less-visited ports where large ships can’t go. Youll likely explore wild, secluded coves where you can go ashore for nature hikes, custom excursions and intimate wildlife viewing. Ships carry 12-150 passengers.
Best Rated Alaska Small Ship Cruises
Alaskan adventures come in all shapes and sizes, so if youre planning a cruise to Alaska, there are countless options to select between. From massive ships nearly 1000 long to Alaska small ship cruises, the Last Frontier offers something for every type of traveler.
That said, there are distinct advantages to selecting small ship cruises to Alaska over larger boats. Smaller cruise boats are more intimate, helping you make friends and also connecting you with the water below on large ships, its easy to forget that youre even on the ocean not so with small ship Alaska cruises.
Another huge benefit of Alaska small ship cruises is that these boats are able to navigate tight waters that prevent large ships from entering. This gives you access to a more wild and untouched Alaskan experience.
Here, pristine waters reverberate with life, endemic animals migrate across the shores, and distant peaks are clad in dazzling glaciers the welcoming spirit of Alaska is palpable.
Ready to begin your journey? Continue reading to learn more about the best small ship Alaska cruises offered by AAA.
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Inside Inner Or Inland Passage Alaska
Take note that many travelers mistake the name to be the Inland Passage Alaska, or even Inner Passage Alaska or Alaska Passage. So next time you hear about an Alaska Inland Passage cruise, just know the person is referring to an Alaska Inside Passage cruise. A good way to remember the regions name is to think of it as cruising inside the Alexander Archipelago , not inland. Theres not much inland about Alaska Inside Passage cruises as they mostly hug the shoreline due to impassable terrain as you head farther east from the shore.
Some travelers may also confuse the area with the Alaska Marine Highway used by the ferry systems, but our overnight cruises are much more immersive than these to/from transportation services. No matter whether you call it Inland Passage, Inner Passage or simply the Alaska Passage, most travelers will catch your drift!
More Flexible Itineraries And Close
Big boats tend to stick to large, popular ports and are extremely rigid in their itinerary. Small ship cruises in Alaska, on the other hand, are able to adjust schedules for unexpected sightseeing opportunities. Even better, while large boats are forced to sail far out from land in the deep ocean, small cruise boats are able to hug the shore during their trip.
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Pro: No Lines Or Long Waits
I knew my first big ship experience, a 2,000-passenger cruise to Alaska, would likely be my last when I arrived at the docks in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the same time as thousands of others eager to board the multiple giant ships in port. Once on board, I waited in another nightmare queue for dinner, as most passengers had not yet figured out the reservation system for dining venues.
On small cruise ships like Ocean Victory, the dining room opens at a set time and passengers can generally file in and out at their leisure, with no wait for a table.
Although we embarked in Vancouver, our smaller ship left late in the day, after the crowds for the big ships had cleared the terminal. Getting on and off during a port day was a breeze because tour groups were small and left at staggered times. The only time I had to wait to get on or off the ship was when the crew had to change the gangplank to a different level due to the rising tide.
Discover Must Do Experiences And Highlights Cruising The Inside Passage
Dog Sledding in Juneau
Take to the glaciers near Juneau for an exhilarating dog sled ride where gorgeous Alaskan huskies showcase the equally beautiful scenery vying for your attention.
Ranger Guided Glacier Bay
Listen to informative commentary from a local ranger as you cruise Glacier Bay, watching huge chunks of ice calve and plummet into the waters below.
Cruise Tracy Arm Fjord
Sheer facades and tumbling waterfalls will leave you in awe, particularly when you sight the Sawyer Glaciers and the floating ice sculptures calved from them.
Wildlife and marine life are abundant during cruise season and depending on when you travel you may share the waterways with orcas, humpbacks and dolphins, while ashore the salmon season draws bears to the river mouths.
All Aboard for the Inside Passage
Breathe in the crisp air on the viewing deck as enormous glaciers creak and groan and humpbacks breach off the bow or cosy up in your cabin watching the natural wonders glide by your window.
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Spend Less Time In Line
Waiting in line is undoubtedly one of the most tedious aspects of going on a cruise.
Embarkation, debarkation, tendering , and waiting for your turn at the buffet all require standing in line sometimes for extended periods.
Small cruises mean that far less time is wasted in line, giving passengers more time to mingle with others and enjoy land-based excursions.
Frequently Asked Questions About A Small Ship Alaska Cruise:
How many people will be onboard?
Small ships carry less than 100 guests. The average Princess cruise ship carries over 2,400 guests in Alaska.
What is the dress code?
The atmosphere on a small ship is casual for all meals. Other cruise lines have two formal nights, two coat and tie nights, and three casual dress nights. Small ship cruises are casual every night.
Are there open meal seatings? Can I choose my dining companions?
All meals on small ships are open dining. You can eat when you want and with whom you want. There are no “early” and “late” seating and set dinner arrangements and tables like you have on the big ships.
Are there casinos and shows onboard?
A small ship cruise emphasizes Alaska, not the onboard amenities. It’s nothing fancy. Just an up close and personal vacation where Alaska and it’s natural treasures provide the entertainment.
How close will the ship get to glaciers, whales and shoreline?
Very, very close. Your captain may follow a pod of whales, pull up so close to a glacier you could touch it, drift next to a waterfall or even anchor off a remote cove close enough for you to take the gangway ashore.
Will the ship vary its schedule to maximize whale watching or wildlife sightings?
Absolutely. Unlike the massive 100,000 ton cruise ships, a small ship can follow its own schedule to maximize wildlife sightings.
Will I experience narrow waterways such as Wrangell Narrows and Peril Straight?
How big are the “Small Ships” compared to the Big Ships?
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I Want To Be Sure I Get The Right Cruise
The number of Alaska small ship cruise lines and the different itineraries they offer are overwhelming, its a lot of research and very time consuming to wade through all the detail and make comparisons. Because Alaska Cruises & Vacations specializes in Alaska small ship cruises, we are more intrinsically familiar with these cruise lines and itineraries including the style of each. Were confident that once we learn more about your Alaska small ship dream vacation, we can match the right cruise to meet your needs.
Alaska Small Ship Cruises
If you’ve traveled with big ship cruise lines in the past, it’s time to forget everything you thought you knew about cruising. And if you’ve avoided cruising because you thought it would be like traveling in a floating mall, it’s time to think again. This is something else altogether.Small ship cruises let you experience Alaska – up close and personally.
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What Sets Us Apart From Other Alaska Inside Passage Cruises
It is our experience that there are few small cruisers like ours available in Alaskas Inside Passage which can take small groups of 6 to 12 guests. We specialize in giving our guests personalized service while offering authentic and intimate experiences with the glaciers, wildlife, and more, which is something you wont find on a larger cruise ship.
Our team at Alaska Boat Cruises has led excursions throughout the Inside Passage of Alaska since 1990 and has the knowledge, experience, and accommodations to provide you with the finest in service and quality trips. We are committed to offering you the best travel and adventure opportunities, with luxurious, spacious accommodations and very personalized service aboard the M/V Alaskan Harvest. We have worked hard for many years to provide our guests with a rewarding and fulfilling, fully catered experience that gives insight into Alaskas many natural treasures as well as entertaining you, no matter what part of the world you are from or how many times you have been to Alaska. We are confident that an adventure with us will provide you with fond memories that will last a lifetime.
Why Alaska Small Ship Cruises Are Worth Experiencing
Alaska cruises have grown significantly in popularity over the last decade. Being the largest US state by area, at 665,384 square miles, Alaska boasts 6,640 miles of coastline, making it an ideal destination for cruising and land expeditions. This vibrant corner of the USA is packed with vast frontiers, rivers, and natural harbors all ripe for exploration.
But why should you browse small ship cruises in Alaska instead of the big boats? Small ships enable you to enjoy the same beautiful panoramic views that big boats offer, but with the added ability to get up close and personal with the rugged Alaskan landscape. Also, by nature, small ship cruises are less crowded than big boats, providing a more relaxing and rejuvenating cruise environment.
Still on the fence? Here are some of the top reasons why you should select one of AAAs best-rated small ship Alaska cruises for your next adventure:
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