Jon F. Holt
Number of Cruises: one
Cruise Line: Glacier Bay
Ship: Wilderness Adventurer
Sailing Date: May 21st, 2005
Itinerary: Juneau-to-Juneau (8 days, 7 nights)
This Alaskan cruise was
part of our 25th anniversary trip, which we had looked forward to with
much anticipation for several years. Alaska is absolutely beautiful and as
far as we are concerned the best way to see it is from a small-boat cruise
ship. We had very high expectations that Glacier Bay Cruise line surpassed
by a wide margin. The Wilderness Adventurer was exactly as advertised,
small but intimate with a very friendly and willing crew.
The eight-day cruise was a leisurely loop circling Admiralty Island, which initiated and terminated in Juneau. Our first major destination was Glacier Bay National Park, which we expected to be the highlight of our trip. We were mistaken. There were no highlights on this trip, just a steady stream of unbelievably breathtaking panoramas, which were only interrupted by distractions such as humpback whales, brown, and black bears, Dall’s porpoise and Steller sealions. The leisurely pace of the cruise was exemplified by the motto ‘Rigid Flexibility’. Whenever passengers or crew sighted animal life, the boat simply slowed or came to a complete stop and stayed put until everyone had tired of viewing that portion of Alaska’s wildlife.
The humpbacked whales were magnificent and a day didn’t go by without multiple sightings. Almost daily we would encounter areas of water where whales could be seen spouting at several points of the compass. We viewed humpbacked whales from as far as several miles to as close as fifty yards off the back of the ship. The whales spouted and dove. They breached repetitively in pods of three or four with most of their body flying out of the water and crashing back down sending up huge showers. We saw humpback whales with their tails projecting out of the water slapping back and forth seven or eight times each time sending up huge showers. It is amazing that we could become so desensitized to their presence that the phrase “Oh, there’s another whale spouting.” would barely stir up interest.
As I mentioned earlier, we traveled inside Glacier Bay National Park. Along the way to massive Grand Pacific and Margerie Glaciers, we encountered a female brown bear and her two yearling cubs ambling along the shoreline. We coasted to a stop and then drifted parallel to them for a half-hour. They were not disturbed by our presence in the slightest. Eventually, they meandered up and down an adjacent rocky slide area for the better part of an hour. During this time three more brown bears individually wandered into the area and upon sighting the female and her cubs, immediately turned tail and scampered up the ridgeline and disappeared.
We passed Chicagof and Baranof Islands and made an unplanned stop in Tebenkof Bay on Kuiu Island. The ship had acquired a special permit for kayaking and hiking, which allowed us to enjoy this remote area from both the land and sea. We ultimately kayaked and hiked in Excursion and Sitgo Inlets and Tebenkof and Thomas Inlets.
The Naturalist-led kayaking and off-ship walks were a wonderful addition to the never-ending display of wildlife and panoramic scenery. Erik and Allie were personal favorites each providing a steady stream of information and insights into the myriad of wildlife that we encountered. We kayaked and hiked in small groups, which meant a Naturalist was always close by to answer questions and point out interesting plants and creatures.
Captain Marcee and her crew were always available to answer our questions regarding the ship, our location, where we were headed and all the other trivial things we felt were important. The ship’s bridge was on the same upper deck where we spent most of our time. The windows to the bridge were often open and during leisurely cruises the Captain or Mates, Erik and Rob, would speak with you and make you feel like part of the crew.
Joe, the Executive Chef, provided a steady selection of diverse offerings that were much more intriguing than we expected on a vessel with only 49 passengers. The menu always offered a meat, fish or vegetarian entrée with fresh-baked breads and desserts daily. The wonderful aromas of baking pastries would find their way into our cabin through an open cabin window each night. The wait staff doubled as room attendants and soon became familiar on a first-name basis. They were always ready with a smile and offered every amenity.
We chose an A cabin on the Main Deck. This meant we were near the engine room and its steady hum that only served to lull us to sleep that much faster. The big advantage of this smaller cabin was the large sliding picture window that actually opened. The window was through the exterior hull, which provided us with more privacy than the larger cabins on the upper deck, which had a walkway directly outside the window. The cabin was exactly as described in the brochure, a compact 7-foot by 11-foot, but totally functional. We were more than happy to use our own small shower/toilet combination, rather than share a facility as is common on some boats smaller than the Wilderness Adventurer.
Our overall experience was exceptional. Glacier Bay Cruiseline and the Wilderness Adventurer were the highpoint of our three-week trip to Alaska. I cannot imagine a return trip to Alaska which did not include a repeat of the same Juneau-to-Juneau cruise, with the possible exception of the new Prince William Sound cruise being offered by Glacier Bay this summer.