ALASKA CRUISING ADVICE: THINK SMALL
Alaska Cruising Advice: Think Small
By Barb Hansen
Here’s the television commercial I’d like to make.
The camera is looking down on the Southeast Alaskan shoreline from 50 miles in the sky. On the screen and we see the words, “Alaska Cruising Advice.”
The camera zooms in and now we recognize snow-capped mountains and glaciers curving down to the sea. More slowly now, the camera moves in closer and reveals a quiet cove with a gleaming yacht and five kayaks paddling from the mother ship toward the shore. You hear majestic music, and the high, clear call of a whale.
Abruptly the music stops. We get a view of a massive cruise ship out in the open sea. It slowly moves out of sight. Then the camera and the music return to the tranquil, happy scene in the cove.
Then, one by one, words roll up on the screen and park themselves into one sentence--“Friends-don’t-let-friends-see-Alaska-on-a-cruise-ship.”
Vic and I are convinced. In 2004, to mark our 20th anniversary, we did a little personal research. From Seattle we flew to Sitka, about 90 minutes southeast of Anchorage. We boarded Ursa Major, a 65-foot, Malahide wooden hull trawler. It’s the perfect boat to see Alaska.
The Ursa Major took us graciously along this spectacular American coastline. She turned into quaint harbors with fishing villages and nosed into fjords with calving glaciers and waterfalls. We watched sea lions, otters, eagles and even a mother bear with three cubs moving along the shoreline.
You need to cruise Alaska at least once in your lifetime. And, when you do, here’s a word of advice. Don’t book passage on a cruise ship. Big cruise ships don’t fit in and don’t dare enter the best coves. Big cruise ships don’t let you slide a kayak into the water to explore a waterfall or walk the shoreline to some hot springs. Big cruise ships don’t let you put a fishing line in the water to catch a fresh fish for dinner.
Big cruise ships move at night past scenery passengers never get to see. Ursa Major overnights quietly in isolated coves. While big ship sheep shuffle down the buffet line, guests on Ursa Major applaud the chef’s cold smoked salmon, salmon caviar, and stuffed grape leaves. They fall asleep to the unique sound of a remote wilderness. In the morning, their alarm clock is fresh-baked bread. At lunch, between spoonfuls of hearty homemade soup, they share experiences with new friends.
Those who know how much I love cruising Southwest Florida must be thinking, “Is this the same Barb Hansen who writes about the glories of cruising the beautiful Sanibel-Captiva-Useppa-Cayo Costa?”
No worries, Mate. I’m still Southwest Florida’s number one cruising fan. But once or twice in our short lives I think we owe it to ourselves to cruise the second most wonderful place on the water planet – Alaska.
Vic and I are hosting another cruise through Southeast Alaska this summer. If you would like to join us aboard the Ursa Major, just give me a call. We have cabins reserved.
Think of it as a gourmet cruise, with friends, on a kind vessel that is just the right size to experience America’s last piece of real shoreline wilderness.