2018 ALASKA'S SOUTHEAST EXPLORER
Alaska Nightmare Cruises
The 10-night, 11-day Alaska's Southeast Explorer adds two additional days and three compelling ports to everything included in our Inside Passage Sojourn. This all-encompassing expedition includes the rollicking gold-rush town of Skagway, the beautiful community of Haines at the head of Chilkat Inlet, and the charming fishing community of Petersburg. Actually it comes out 12-nights, and 13-days. This is almost exactly the same as the Alaskan Nightmare cruise I took a couple of years ago – but this time I’ll make sure to get a decent prison cell. Reverse route Ketchikan to Sitka requires only one extra night - in Ketchikan. Preferred route.
Day 1, Friday, Aug 10 – Fly to Ketchikan
Necessary extra pre-cruise day to get to and explore Ketchikan – and to be “in time” to begin the regular cruise/tour tomorrow. This requires an arrival at the Houston airport by 4:30AM so a Shuttle pickup about 3:15AM. The flight is all Alaska Airlines but they have a good schedule and it avoids Un-Friendly AwfulLines". It is the usual long flight to Seattle, and but only a fairly short layover there - no time for lunch. Air booked Sep 27, 2017. I chose to fly all Alaska Air to simplify connections and luggage handling.
|Alaska Air AS 347||IAH – SEA||6:20AM – 8:50AM||4:30||1:30|
|Alaska Air AS 179||SEA – KTN||10:20AM – 11:19AM||1:59||7:59|
A transfer may or may not be provided on arrival and the extra hotel night IS pre-booked. It is a good arrival time, but no meals are included (D / B? / L? ).
Day 2, Saturday, Aug 11 – Ketchikan & Misty Fjords
Breakfast (and lunch) if necessary at “Subway.” Explore Ketchikan, otherwise known as Alaska's "First City" and "Salmon Capital of the World." Some city exploration is included before we embark on the Alaskan Dream catamaran (not the "Nightmare") and head out to visit Misty Fjords.
Glide beneath the 3,000-foot glacier-sculpted cliffs of Misty Fjords. It is my favorite fjord/glacier arm. Later, discover the fjord's natural history, listen to the calls of a myriad of seabirds, feel the mist from glistening waterfalls. See famous New Eddystone Rock, a stunning volcanic core. Hopefully the weather is clear this time.
Day 3, Sunday, Aug 12 – Metlakatla
HIGHLIGHT: Immerse yourself in the extraordinary history, art, and cultural traditions of the Metlakatla Indian Community on Annette Island. We make several stops of real interest during our tour here. Visit a traditional Tsmishian longhouse, enjoy a ceremonial dance performance, and meet Native artists. Maybe shop for some traditional art. This was a really great (HIGHLIGHT) visit back in 2016. Weather permitting, it will be a very nice visit.
Day 4, Monday, Aug 13 – Kasaan & Thorne Bay
In Kasaan, walk a very long not-so-enchanted (in fact it’s somewhat boring) forest path laden with a few intricately carved totem poles, to the Chief Son-i-Hat Whale House, the only remaining traditional Haida longhouse in the United States. Inside stand four original house posts, or "Gáats," that were most likely carved at Old Kasaan in about 1880 and then installed at Naay I'waans Whale House. The tallest interior post, the "Head House Totem,' dates to an even earlier time and was brought here from its original location in Old Kasaan, about 7 miles away. Nice but not all that special. The little town is nice so maybe I will just spend the time there rather than do that long walk again. It might well be more interesting than a repeat.
Experience the frontier spirit of Alaska's timber years on a tour of Thorne Bay, once the largest logging camp in the world. This tight-knit community is located on the eastern side of Prince of Wales, an island renowned for its high concentration of black bears. Here, you'll meet resident artisans and enjoy a walking tour of the town while keeping an eye out for the island's fauna. The little town is very small but is very nice. Thorne Bay is much more “modern” than is Kasaan. On the other trip, there were some souvenir gifts available but somehow I missed out.
Day 5, Tuesday, Aug 14 – Wrangell
HIGHLIGHT: Home to a little over 2,000 permanent residents, Wrangell is the only town in Alaska to have been under the jurisdiction of three flags, and ruled by four nations- Tlingit, Russia, England, and the United States. Enjoy options to explore this colorful history, including a guided walking tour and a trip to the Wrangell Museum. Don’t bother to visit the State Historic Park, Petroglyph Beach (not again!), containing the highest concentration of petroglyphs in Southeast Alaska. I’ve been there several times and climbing on the stones can be tricky for my bad leg. Their excellent Museum is definitely worth a visit. Maybe I will even purchase some more garnets.
Day 6, Wednesday, Aug 15 – Petersburg
HIGHLIGHT: Discover the charming Mitkof Island fishing town of Petersburg. Founded by Norwegian fishermen in the late 1800s (1910?), Petersburg is nicknamed Alaska's "Little Norway." Experience this Scandinavian culture with a very delightful folk dance show by local youth at the iconic Sons of Norway Hall. The show is one of my very favorite activites on the trip.
The people here are really nice, and the town hasn't been turned into a "fleece the tourist" mecca by any monster cruise ships. Later, enjoy a narrated bus tour and take time to explore the vibrant community at your own leisure. Be sure to check out the “Rose-mailing”, and do some shopping for Petersburg souvenirs - maybe an Alaska one also if I can find something local (First Peoples / Tlingit) made. This is my favorite city in Alaska. I may even have a chance to see friends from previous trips.
Day 7, Thursday, Aug 16 – Frederick Sound & Tracy Arm
Journey through Tracy Arm Fjord (hopefully not another alternate Endicott Arm as ice forced us to do two years ago - not nearly as interesting), an area referred to as, "A wild, unfinished Yosemite." This glacial fjord is renowned for its pristine waterfalls, towering icebergs, abundant harbor seals, and granite cliffs that rise from sea level to 4,000 feet. At 32-miles long and averaging just a mile wide, the unique features of Tracy Arm are contained in a relatively small geographical space, adding to the dramatic beauty of the area. As ice conditions permit, we'll navigate the entire length of the fjord, stopping in view of both the Sawyer and South Sawyer Glaciers. Experience the inspiring feeling of kayaking amongst towering icebergs in the fjord – no thanks!
Not only will we experience the tranquility and dramatic views of Alaska. Also if we would like to see humpback whales and other marine mammals in the world-renowned waters of Frederick Sound your chances are pretty good through the Frederick Sound passage. Known as being the best whale waters of southeast Alaska, we may see at least a few humpback whales and if our timing is right we will be able to see groups come up to the surface to feed within a couple of hundred feet of our ship.
This is of course very weather dependent. I’ve been here in good weather and seen lots of whales, including orcas, but also in windy, drizzly weather when we couldn’t even see the whales breathing/blow spouts.
Day 8, Friday, Aug 17 – Probably Boring Juneau & Orca Point Lodge
Spend the day visiting highlights of the scenic capital city of Juneau, including the world infamous Mendenhall Glacier. No, I don't want to go and waste time going there again - but the ship doesn't dock in Juneau, it docks at a suburban port so I'm stuck with going since it is on the included sightseeing route with no alternative - or just stay on the ship which is probably worse. I've been here 6 times before.
Juneau is “just a city” so there really isn’t all that much special to see and do except Mount Roberts and the Soboleff Center. I’ve seen the Mendenhall Glacier from land and air many times so that will be a major boring stop. There will probably be 3 or 4 2000-cattle barges docked or anchored here at one time. In 2016, there were 6 big cruise ships in the harbor: Princess (2), HAL, Celebrity, NCL, and one other. The town was massively jammed.
In downtown Juneau, maybe visit the recently-renovated Alaska State Museum (doubtful - it wasn't all that great before). There will also be time to explore on our own. We may choose to visit the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, or take the Mount Roberts Tram and take in the spectacular panoramic views of the area from the top of Mount Roberts. We can also delve deeper into local Native culture and history by exploring the exhibits, art displays, and a clan house at the nice Walter Soboleff Center.
End the day's adventure with a boring (at least it was on the first trip) evening at Orca Point Lodge, their own exclusive day-lodge on Colt Island. Don’t enjoy the beautiful grounds, beach, and marine life touch-tank. Dine on Alaskan salmon, Alaskan king crab, or very over-rated prime rib (but it will probably be fatty with lots of gristle again as it was 2 years ago) and lemonade (the best part of the meal). Maybe just stay onboard (but no meal service) or go back to the ship early and I wouldn’t miss much if the food is as poor as it was in 2016.
Day 9, Saturday, Aug 18 – Skagway and Haines
Stroll (only a short time, if any, is allocated) the boardwalks of the rollicking Klondike gold rush town of Skagway, then we are supposed (forced) to board the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad for about the 5th or 6th time for another very dull journey retracing the steps of gold-seekers into Canada. Built in 1898, the railroad climbs nearly 3,000 feet in 20 miles and offers stunning wilderness views. This excursion crosses the border into Canada, so passports are required. Maybe I can escape that and just stay in Skagway if I can figure out how to get back to the ship. There is NO guided tour through Skagway.
Then after a short cruise south, we also get a guided walking tour through scenic Haines but it is usually restricted almost totally to a visit to pre-WWI Fort Seward National Historic Site, with parade grounds overlooking the Lynn Canal. We have gotten to see almost nothing of the town. Haines, Alaska, was recently chosen by Outside Magazine as one of America’s top 10 locations to live and play which would make it very interesting to see. I’ll try to skip this re-re-re-repeat seeing the fort (4th or 5th visit) and just explore the town.
Day 10, Sunday, Aug 19 – Glacier-less Bay National Park – mostly Ho-Hum
This national park fjord extends 65-miles, contains eight tidewater glaciers (most not-so-great due to ice melt), and provides pristine habitat for a wide-array of wildlife, including both brown and black bears, wolves, mountain goats, Steller sea lions, and humpback whales. The highlight for many is the Margerie Glacier, known for its dramatic calving displays. The glaciers have receded so much that there is much less to see now than the first time I was here back in 2006. Visits here were not included on the first 2 Cruise West “Daylight Yacht Tour” trips.
A Glacier-less Bay National Park Service Ranger narrates the day's program and at least we have a presentation from a Native Huna Tlingit interpretive naturalist who joins us to reveal traditional cultural ties to this ancient treasure and that is, for me, the best part of the day.
Day 11, Monday, Aug 20 – True Alaskan Exploration
Savor the serenity of raw wilderness on an unscripted day of Southeast Alaska discovery. The options are countless, dictated by the day's unique circumstances. Opportunities may include a coastline skiff ride, up-close whale encounters, or a hike through an alluring old-growth forest. We may do a beach landing on an unspoiled shoreline to explore a tidal flat (I think that I would skip this) or track along with a foraging bear from the safety of our DIB, a shallow water expedition craft, which might be very nice.
I hope that we skip Hoonah for another visit to the “canning factory museum” and/or forest walk. That was a “one time is enough” visit on the first AD cruise. Regardless of the activity here, as we continue our cruise, you'll experience the magic of the archipelago's many remote coves, bays, and inlets.
Day 12, Tuesday, Aug 21 – Sitka / Depart
Arrive in Sitka and since I’ve been here several times before including a full-day tour, I’ll just head to the airport to escape and fly home. A 2PM flight would be no problem, but it is going to be a LONG flight sequence and VERY long layover in Seattle.
|Alaska Air AS 58||SIT – SEA||1:55PM - 4:58PM||2:03||5:47|
|Alaska Air AS 776||SEA – IAH||10:45PM – 4:56AM||4:11||12:01|
This is an overnight misery flight - I won't get home until "tomorrow."
Day 13, Wednesday, Aug 22 – Finally Arrive Houston
Finally arrive Houston about 5AM. Considering that I had to schedule a VERY early Shuttle pickup on Day 1, and won’t get home until at least 6:30, I think that this does indeed count as a 13 day trip.
Populations (official 2010):
|Juneau: 32,468||Sitka: 8830||Ketchikan: 8208||Petersburg: 3024|
|Wrangell: 2411||Haines: 1955||Metlakatla: 1661||Skagway: 957|
|Hoonah: 745||Thorne Bay: 485||Kasaan: 50||--|
Alaskan Dream Cruises' first ship, Alaskan Dream, is an innovative, streamlined catamaran design which, at only 104 feet in length, allows the vessel to easily navigate narrow channels and passages. Refurbished and relaunched in 2011, the vessel is perfectly positioned for optimal wildlife viewing, with extra-large windows in its cabins and public areas, plus an observation area that encompasses the entire top deck. Complimentary Alaskan gear including jackets, pants and boots are available for use aboard the Alaskan Dream. There is NO Wi-Fi.
The four classes of rooms range in size from 104 to 120 (AA-mine) to 416 square feet (the Owners Suite), but feel roomier due to the bed-to-ceiling windows. All rooms open to inside hallways offering more privacy than the typical cabins that look out onto an exterior passageway. The toilet and shower are in the same small bathroom, separated by a plastic curtain, while a sink and medicine cabinet stand-alone inside the main cabin. The AA category cabin has twin beds or a double bed, and is 120 square feet. Mine is #103 and has twin beds. I wish that it were on the 2nd deck rather than the main deck for a better angle of view, but ....
The Vista View Lounge on the Main Deck faces forward with the same view as the Captain, affording spectacular views through panoramic windows of the scenery, ports and wildlife along the way. A small bar and window seating make this a popular gathering place. Also on the Main Deck is the Sitka Rose Dining Room. The top Observation Deck is prime for glacier and wildlife viewing, and a covered open deck on the Bridge Deck provides shade and weather protection. As with all of the line's ships, Alaskan Dream has an open bridge policy.
Aboard ship, a social hour and re-cap an hour prior to dinner featuring freshly prepared hors d‘eouvres and cocktails presented in our forward lounges. Here we will re-cap activities and preview the next day.
The main dining room features made-to-order meals, with open seating at six-seat tables. Menus change daily offering several selections from a menu usually including a seafood or meat entrée. Meal times vary depending on the day’s activity schedule.
Early risers or light eaters can enjoy a continental breakfast buffet in dining rooms from 6 to 9, with pastries and fruit. Breakfast is from 7 to 8. The morning menu has cold and hot choices, as well as a daily special like blueberry pancakes. Lunches are about noon, last about 60 minutes and usually feature a soup or salad, a sandwich and a hot entree, and include unlimited tea and soft drinks and a dessert. Hamburgers and cheeseburgers are always available. Dinner, from 6:30 to 8, consists of soup or salad, choice of entree and a dessert. At dinner, chicken, and steak with a baked micro-potato are always available.
Hot chocolate is available at all times in both the Dining Room and forward viewing lounges. Cookies are set out around 3 p.m. daily. Cocktail hour features cheese and fruit platters.
Cruising Speed: 13 knots
Length: 104 feet