You’re a packer, hiker, camper, flier or photo freak so “Alaska” you’re good with, “Adventure you’re fine with too but the word “Cruise” sends your brain into unpleasant places. Travel to you might be getting to interesting places you have never been or returning to awesome memories once again. On your own. With good gear. You choose Independent over guided when you can. Adventure activities turn you on.
About the last place in the world that you want to be is on a cruise ship. The idea of herds of people bellying up to the buffet, playing bingo or climibing a simulated rock wall make you laugh outloud. You’ll catch dinner, look to the stars at night for entertainment and do a real mountain if given half a chance.
Still, cruise vacations have become more popular than ever and major cruise lines are looking for ways to make their line unique. You could care less.
Others focus on their existing fleet, refining what they do with a keen eye on what their target passenger is looking for, molding what they do to match. Again, give you a home where the buffalo roam and you’re in heaven.
Now there is new InnerSea Discoveries, an up-close personal adventure experience that just happens to travel on water.
A tiny, 2-ship cruise line, InnerSea Discoveries does what they call “un-cruises”. In their inaugural season which starts in May, the line will do Alaska Adventure cruises for up to 49 passengers (that’s forty-nine, not 4,900) that are about as far away from the big cruise ship experience as you can get and still be floating.
“The great success of the Ultimate Adventure proves there is a real demand for this type of active adventure in Southeast Alaska,” said Tim Jacox, of InnnerSea Discoveries. “People are choosing to spend two weeks exploring the remote wilderness-places they’ve never heard of-and that’s the beauty of it. It’s unrushed, uncrowded and truly unbelievable.”
First difference: No Internet. This will knock out about half the regular cruising public. You? Mr.Ms Adventure Traveler person? No big deal.
These handy-sized ships visit ports that big ships can’t get to, stop along the way were big ships can’t go and see wilderness big ships and the hordes of people on them scare away. In fact, the line’s Green Guardians program requires their small groups of passengers to “leave only footprints behind” while drinking in nature and it’s wild inhabitants.
“We believe it is a privilege to explore the world’s natural wonders, step ashore in remote destinations and meet the people living in these breathtaking wilderness environments. While employing sustainable travel principles and management practices to ensure we are responsible stewards of the environment is a core part of our business, we also strive to leave a positive impact on the people and communities we visit around the world. InnerSea Discoveries’ office and vessel personnel support the following organizations with donations or volunteer time.” says the line’s Green Guardian pledge.
Unlike massive cruise liner sailings, most of what would be called “shore excursions” and carry an extra fee on big ships is included in the price.
Whale-Watching? You are in a small ship that can get up close. No charge.
Kayak Adventure? They have plenty for everyone. Free.
Want to talk gear?
The ship’s kayaking fleet includes Looksha T and Manitou II kayaks, Surftech Softop and Stand-up Paddle Boards, Black Diamond trail compact trekking poles, REI EcoSensitive, lightweight and kids daypacks. If overnight-camping they provide the tent or forest service cabin, sleeping bags, food/drink, binoculars, cooking supplies, walking sticks, backpacks and a radio to stay in contact with the ship.
There are optional expedition activities available varying from “LeConte Glacier Floatplane Tour” ($200) to “Whale Island Overnight Camping” ($150). All are rated from 1 to 3 on an activity level scale with 1 being excursions that require basic physical fitness and 3 being excursions that require exertion, agility, sure-footedness on hikes and/or stamina for the most challenging workout.
No, the normal cruise ship passenger would not be along for this ride.
On board there are things to do, but not like the big ships. That’s not what this is all about.
No big pool:You were just in the ocean in a kayak or snorkeling or doing a polar bear swim.
No tight schedule: They pride themselves on flexibility and stop for a pod of orcas or some bubble-feeding humpbacks.
No formal night: It’s casual all the way here with more of a explorers-come-back-to-basecamp feel aboard ship.
No rock-climbing wall: You just climbed up the side of a mountain if you wanted to.
Retuning from the wilderness, passengers will find adequately appointed cabins feature Queen or twin beds, private bath with shower and a view window. Most are double occupancy but each ship has solo cabins as well. Meals include a healthy menu featuring locally-caught seafood . You may have had a hand in dinner earlier in the day. A hot Espresso, coffee, tea bar is open 24-hours a day too.
But here, the ship is a place to come back to, like a base camp from which the few along for the adventure return to at night. In this application, a floating camp makes sense to even the most hard-core travelers. Small ships sail up close to glaciers, whales, signts and sounds that people can not get to on foot or big cruise ships would scare off if they could even get close enough to see.
Images courtesy of InnerSea Discoveries