Alaska Dreams Part One

I figured I’d get to Alaska when I well past 70. People used to say the Alaska cruises are filled with the “overfed and nearly dead.” I pictured a geriatric crowd, just one click away from being set out on an ice floe with only a hunting knife, no longer viable members of the tribe.

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So when the opportunity arose to try an 8 day “Glacier Bay and Island Adventure” Alaskan Dream Cruise in the summer of 2012, I was hopeful that this small boutique cruise line might provide a different kind of Alaskan experience.

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It was the most wonderful cruise you can possibly imagine, if  like me you grew up  a Girl Scout who loved camping and the great outdoors and maybe wanted to be a Park Ranger when you grew up.  That little girl who came home from  summer camp so dirty that my mother had to scrub me with AJAX three times in the bathtub to remove all the grime–that’s the little girl who apparently still lives in me. We found each other again in Alaska, on the Admiralty Dream. 

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The ships are small and  the cabins are small.    It’s the only way to get into the smaller ports and little byways the large cruise ships can’t navigate. Allen Marine has been in Alaska for over 40 years and in the last few years they’ve branched out from day trips into these longer cruises.  As for the accommodations: the beds are supremely comfortable and the food is to die for. More about the food in a minute.

We flew from Seattle to Sitka and spent the night at the Totem Square Hotel. The following morning we met our guides for a walking tour: first  to the Sheldon Jackson Museum, Russian Bishop’s House and St. Michael’s Cathedral. Sitka has a distinctly Russian flavor, being  Russian for over 60 years in the 19th century before the Russians sold it to the united States just after the Civil War. We paid roughly 2 cents per acre for the entire state.

(Shop here for the adorable Russian nesting dolls: “matryoshka.” )

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After the tour we boarded a day boat for a buffet  lunch and a tour of the Sitka sound and rode out to meet our ship. Here’s where we saw the first otters and the first whales. (I have a great video of a whale doing the tail flip but the file is too big for this post.)

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We boarded our ship and discovered to our great delight that our cabin was one step from the communal dining room and only a few steps from the “lounge,” which serves as gathering place and bar. (Our bartender was Andrew–he knew to keep that Jameson’s flowing!)  The food on this cruise was so amazingly good! Our chef, Chet, and his team created more fabulous meals in 8 days than you can imagine. You have a choice of  entrees–plenty of fish and seafood, of course, but other options as well–including vegetarian. There is one meal service for everyone, and the fun is meeting new people as the week goes on.  (Hint: this cruise is not for the anti-social. It is a small ship.)

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Desserts are wonderful

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Juneau & Orca Point Lodge

A day in the scenic state capital included a trip to the massive Mendenhall Glacier. This was our first glacier–you can hike up into the caves, if you’re adventurous. 

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Mt. Roberts Tram ride, overlooking the Gastineau Channel

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After touring Juneau, we sailed off for Orca Point Lodge for a feast that included grilled wild Alaska salmon, lobster, crab, scallops, shrimp,  chicken, …and all the other good stuff you want with dinner.  

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After dinner, bonfire and s’mores. (Told you it’s like camp!)

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I’ll tell you some more in my next post.

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