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Mike

Age: 72

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Alaskan Dream Cruises

Ship: Admiralty Dream

Sailing Date: 2011-06-11

Itinerary: Alaska Inside Passage - Sitka loop to Sitka

This was our first cruise. It turned out to be exactly what we were looking for. We did not need the "big ship" amenities like a large stateroom, pool, and onboard shopping mall. We wanted a ship where we would be close to nature and where the captain would follow the wildlife when it appeared. That was what we got. My wife is very subject to seasickness, and she did not have a problem because the seas were very calm.

The food was excellent. If the ship's kitchen and service staff had a restaurant where we live, we would be regulars there.

The stateroom was small but quite functional. It was kept very clean. There was plenty of hot water for the shower. The beds were quite comfortable. It was quiet for sleeping. Note that I rated the Cabins four stars not because they are luxurious but because they were just as described by the cruise line and were well set up for what they were meant to be on a small ship.

Activities were focused on the wildlife. There were announcements whenever whales and other creatures were spotted by the crew, and we would go out on the deck to watch them. Very good binoculars were provided for everyone. There were evening programs about the local Alaskan Native culture that were interesting. These were done by outside presenters who came onboard.

All excursions were included in the cruise price. We almost passed on the excursion involving kayaking and an ATV ride on logging roads, but we glad that we decided to do them. For these activities, very good safety equipment was provided.

Our Alaskan Dream cruise started in Sitka, not on a cruise ship but at a hall used for meetings by the local Alaskan Native Tlingit (pronounced cling get) people. They have lived in southeastern Alaska for thousands of years and did not have a written language. Missionaries did their best to suppress the culture and language, and diseases carried by Europeans killed off great numbers of people. But by the mid 20th century there were still members of the society who spoke the language, and a written form of it was created. Now the elders are teaching the language, customs, and dances to the young, and one of the goals of Alaskan Dream Cruises is to introduce its passengers to the Tlingit culture. Our welcome meeting for the cruise ended with dances by a group ranging in age from about three to 70.

We went from the meeting hall to one of Allen Marine's day boats. Allen Marine is a boat building company that has long provided day-trip excursions, such as whale watching, for the large cruise ships. When the highly regarded Cruise West company that offered small (45-75 passenger) voyages failed last year because of financial problems, Allen Marine acquired several of Cruise West's ships and entered the overnight cruise business under the name Alaskan Dream Cruises. This is the first year that they are offering their cruises, and we had booked on one of their early voyages on the Admiralty Dream. (Oops! As I write this while sitting in the lounge on Day 5 of our cruise, our Expedition Leader just announced that there is a whale on the port side and that fresh baked cookies just arrived at the bar. I grab the very good binoculars that are provided for each passenger and spot first the 'blow' then the impressive body of the humpback whale. The ship slows down, and for the next 10 or 15 minutes the captain keeps us in position a respectful 50 to 100 yards from the magnificent creature. Finally, there is time for the cookies which are delicious.) Sorry for the digression. When we booked with a company with no history in overnight cruising, we were betting that their gold standard status in day trips would stand us in good stead. That first day boat trip in Sitka Strait (which ended with our transferring to the cruise ship) solidified our faith in our choice. The knowledgeable captain of the very comfortable boat led us to humpback whales, gray whales, sea otters, bald eagles, cormorants, and other critters all against a background of snow streaked mountains. In short, it was spectacular.

So much for the wildlife. What about the good life aboard ship? On boarding, we were met with friendly greetings and shown to our stateroom. It was attractive, comfortable, and compact. There followed a safety briefing, an introduction to the crew, welcoming champagne cocktails, then the eagerly awaited announcement that dinner was being served.

This was a crucial test. We had never cruised before and always choose our restaurants with great attention to food quality. If we were to eat three meals a day for seven days in this restaurant, it had better be good. It was even better than that. It was excellent, and the service was attentive while being friendly and relaxed. As noted above, it is now Day 5. The chefs cuisine and pastry chef continue to impress, their creations eliciting Pavlovian responses with every dinner announcement. My wife and I have some special dietary requirements that we described in our pre-trip questionnaire, and these are graciously accommodated.

The superb wildlife experiences of our first day have frequently been equaled. One day our captain held the ship close by a sea of tiny icebergs on which harbor seals and their pups relaxed while a dazzling glacier calved in the background. Another time, as we were watching a Tlingit totem pole carver demonstrate his skill in the town of Kake, we suddenly realized that the half dozen or so birds who were swooping in the background were bald eagles. Alaska had made the spectacular seem routine.

The stop at Kake, a town not visited by many tourists, was just one of our shore excursions. Another was a play day at a wooded island with kayaking and Zego-ing in the water and Kawasaki Mule excursions on old logging roads. We at first thought of playing lazy and sitting this day out but in the end tried the kayaking, found that to be very pleasant, then opted for the Mules and, much to our delight, were led by the ships multi-talented bartender to an overlook from which we viewed a beautiful meadow where three bears were doing their bear-y things. Excursions drew heavily from Allen Marine's strong ties to the Tlingit community. All were interesting but some need tweaking to minimize overlap and improve consistency of quality. The Cruise Director seemed eager to hear our comments about these aspects of the trips programming, so as good as our cruise was, those in the future may be even better. One excellent evening program featured two women from the National Park Service. One was an Alaskan Native whose multi-media presentation provided great insight into the Tlingit experience, and the other an enthusiastic young Ranger who prepared us for our visit to Glacier Bay and left us with a haunting violin solo.

Our research for the trip indicated that a small ship cruise would be best for us. We ended up with one whose captain took us to see amazing sights, on which we eagerly looked forward to every visit to the dining room, and where a friendly and helpful crew did whatever it took to make our stay enjoyable. We were delighted with our choice. Our fellow passengers, ranging in age from a 13 year old girl to a 93 year old man, all seemed to agree: This Alaskan Dream cruise was a sweet one indeed.

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