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Vickie Bennett

Age: 52

Occupation:Semi-retired

Number of Cruises: 25

Cruise Line: Alaskan Dream Cruises

Ship: Admiralty Dream

Sailing Date: 2012-07-16

Itinerary: Round trip Sitka Inside Passage

I joined Alaskan Dream Cruises on the July 16, 2012 sailing of the Admiralty Dream. This was my 5th trip to Alaska and 4th via cruise ship. I'm not a fan or large cruise ships and can't imagine seeing our 50th state in a vessel much larger than 200 people. The ship had the feel of a large private yacht. Since I lived on a yacht for 4 years I can tell you the staterooms are obviously smaller than the average-size cruise ship and there are more noises and vibrations. This is an added bonus to me as they lull me to sleep and give me the best rest I ever have. The secret is the water line. When you are on a smaller ship you can literally hear each air intake of the whales and wink back at the otters that are surrounding your vessel. When you are on deck 10 of the typical cruise ship and the whale is seen as a dot in the water, you will know what I am talking about. I compare the small ship experience in Alaska to going back to summer camp. You get to play in the dirt and bond with strangers. By the end of the first day you know everyone on board and are comfortable mingling even if you are on the shy side. The crew does a very good job of including everyone in everything. I key to a successful trip.

The one recommendation I always give to friends planning a trip to Alaska is read James Michener's Alaska. A majority of the book is focused on the Inside Passage so everyone can relate at some point on their trip.

Small ships are a world apart from their mass market, sensory overload cousins. If you want the midnight buffet with ice carvings, campy dated entertainment, etc. this is not for you. What you will get are authentic ice carvings made by nature and a sensory overload of the vast wilderness that is Alaska.

Nothing prepared any of us for the quality of food onboard the Admiralty Dream. It was beyond delicious. Two of the guests had recently returned from a Crystal cruise and complimented the chef on the cuisine far surpassing Crystal which says quite a lot. The pastry chef, Sunshine, was dubbed the goddess of pastries. Each and every roll served onboard with the exception of luncheon hamburger buns is made fresh daily by her and her desserts are out of this world. My new favorite is pots of creme, a chocolate fantasy that makes me weep just thinking about it. Everything is made using the freshest ingredients and nothing fell short the entire week which speaks volumes. Food was a favorite topic each night. Many of us opted for half-portions so we could enjoy two entrees without having to order two full meals. Knowing dessert would be served shortly I had to pace myself.

As with all small ships expect a smaller cabin. I was in a Category AAA which suited our needs perfectly. It had two very comfortable twin beds with very high quality linens which I didn't expect and certainly appreciated. There is a large and deep drawer under each bed. You don't spend too much time in your cabin so it was never even a thought.

The forward lounge, where we met for the daily happy hour / recap of the day and lectures, is on the same deck as the dining room. I have a short attention span and I was never bored by the guest speakers or our native interpreter, Lee, who told incredible stories. Happy Hour was the time to share what you saw / enjoyed during the day and also solidified new friendships.

Orca Point Lodge, a short hop from Auke Bay: This is where the fun for the evening began. They do not mince words when they describe the crab bake. All-you-can-eat fresh Alaskan king crab. Heaven!!! The outdoor campfire, where we congregated after dinner to cook our own Smores, provided just the right amount of evening entertainment.

Hobart Bay: I believe this is an exclusive for Alaska Dream Cruises. We had the option to kayak, go overland on ATVs, sea-bound on Segos, or all three. Almost everyone did all three. This is the place for bear sightings. We saw three separate moms with babies; one on each of our three means of transport. By the last sighting we were joking that they would simply queue the bears for us. It was a spectacular day and everyone had a great time. When I say that the small ship experience is like going to summer camp this is the kind of day that it really comes in to play.

Juneau: I arranged a private excursion for us for the same dogsledding trip that I did last year with Coastal Helicopters. It was that Ab-Fab It's a DO NOT MISS. Well worth the money and Coastal runs a flawless operation and limits their head count insuring you have the glacier to yourself.

My motto is "No one should leave this earth without experiencing Alaska". Trip of a lifetime and nothing short of magnificent. I'm already planning 2013.

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