INTRODUCING OURSELVES TO fellow passengers aboard the Wilderness Discoverer last week, we received a few looks of disbelief. As Alaska residents, our family of three certainly bucked tradition by climbing aboard a 100-foot ship to explore the nooks and crannies of southeast Alaska with the good folks of InnerSea Discoveries.
Alaskans don’t, as a general rule, take cruises, preferring to avoid the perceived crush of out-of-towners, jewelry stores and too-short shore excursions to places they think they’ve already been. We were members of that club, too, pooh-poohing the hordes and laughing at the “cattle call” style of large ship cruising. Until we took this trip.
Clear your minds of any pre-conceived notions about cruising. Take away the formal wear, motorcoach tours, and disco nights. Welcome, instead, images of kayaks, trekking poles, and science experiments. Parents, imagine opportunities for daily experiential learning and solid friendships built upon interactions with like-minded families. Alaska residents, meet the un-cruise.
Like camping... with cruise ships
It seemed to us that InnerSea Discoveries works hard to build their tours around an intimacy between people and nature for all their trips (the company also operates in Mexico, Hawaii, and the Columbia/Snake River areas of Washington and Oregon). Based in Seattle, InnerSea Discoveries sails a variety of itineraries around the Inside Passage from May to September, offering endless opportunities for family recreation and education in a most Alaskan sort of way.
Operating small boats that can nose into secluded coves and along rocky shorelines, InnerSea Discoveries sells not just cruising, but Alaska, and we were able to engage our senses on a daily basis. Blessed with a captain who also spends winters in Hawaii researching humpback whales, our family saw groups of bubblenet feeding giants, observed fluke and flippers, and listened on a hydrophone to the magnificent trumpeting of these marine mammals. You can’t find that stuff in Anchorage.
Having a whale of a time...
Recreation was encouraged on a daily basis. Kids ranged in age from 6-16, and every single one of them took advantage of kayaking, paddle-boarding, skiff tours and some pretty fascinating intertidal hikes. Clad in rain gear, boots and hats, kids climbed, paddled, and dug their way toward a deeper understanding of Alaska’s environment and how people play a critical role in preservation for kids of the future.
One foggy, drippy afternoon, I stood on shore waiting for my bushwhacking hike to commence through a stand of Sitka spruce and devil’s club. Off in the distance, I could hear my son laughing with his dad as they paddled around in a bright, red kayak. Far off in the deep water of the channel was a ghostly white, enormous cruise ship sailing toward Juneau. My cohorts and I stood silently for a minute, looking first at our little green and white boat anchored nearby, then at the bigger ship in the distance. We smiled at each other and entered the cool, dark forest, where no one had been before.
For more about cruising Alaska-style, visit Erin's travel website - AKontheGO.com.