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small ship cruise to alaska


chanster

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i am setting up a cruise for a group of 14. we would like a small ship or a large yacht to take us up the inside passage. we would like to fish, kayak, and go places where the big ships can't go. it would be great if we could find a boat small enough to rent the whole thing! but we are open to all small-ship ideas. can anyone lead me to some good providers?

 

thanks

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There are a number of possibilities. One charter-type company is American Safari - very expensive but all inclusive. Other small ship lines (less than 100 passengers) are Lindblad and Cruise West. Glacier Bay used to do Alaska but I am not sure they still are. Bookings for 2006 may be difficult at this late date.

Good luck

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  • 3 months later...

My husband and I just returned from the trip of a lifetime. We booked this a year in advance and researched every option. We contacted almost every travel agent in our small town and no one had experience in this area. You need to ask if your agent has been on the ship for the small ships are so totally different experience. We saw whales, even was able to touch one off the side of our zodiac. Kayaked between ice bergs, watched the undersea camera follow a pod of whales, ate good food, had facinating lectures and experiences. The prices are high, but the experience is amazing. I am new here and don't know if I am able to post names. So maybe e-mail me and I will give you the travel agent we found in California that does only small ships and knows them all.

 

zzzany@aol.com

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  • 2 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Look at Cruise West, Lindblad, and American West Steamboat. Those three companies seem to be dominating the small-ship Alaska cruise scene right now. Cruise West in particular offers a lot of different cruise options.

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  • 3 months later...
The one I would suggest is Cruise West. I had friends that used them last year and were very pleased.

 

We chose Cruise West (Spirit of Endeavour) for our inside passage trip. We had the opposite reaction. This line promises an "up close and personal experience" with nature, but my husband figured out that the time actually spent engaged in this amounted to 10-12 hours in the aggregate, less than 7.5% of the time between our departure from Ketchikan and our arrival in Juneau. Cruise West also appealed to us because they promised knowledgeable personnel, but here again we were disappointed. For example, during one of our "up close and personal" experiences, a guest asked the "trained" guide to identify a bear that we saw up on a hillside. The guide responded, "gee, I don't know, all bears look the same to me!" After this experience, the guide offered to drive us to her friend's fudge shop. My husband and I did not take advantage of this opportunity. Bearing in mind that we paid more for this, our dream cruise, than we have paid for anything besides our house and cars, I was disappointed!

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  • 2 weeks later...
We chose Cruise West (Spirit of Endeavour) for our inside passage trip. We had the opposite reaction. This line promises an "up close and personal experience" with nature, but my husband figured out that the time actually spent engaged in this amounted to 10-12 hours in the aggregate, less than 7.5% of the time between our departure from Ketchikan and our arrival in Juneau. Cruise West also appealed to us because they promised knowledgeable personnel, but here again we were disappointed. For example, during one of our "up close and personal" experiences, a guest asked the "trained" guide to identify a bear that we saw up on a hillside. The guide responded, "gee, I don't know, all bears look the same to me!" After this experience, the guide offered to drive us to her friend's fudge shop. My husband and I did not take advantage of this opportunity. Bearing in mind that we paid more for this, our dream cruise, than we have paid for anything besides our house and cars, I was disappointed!

 

Would you please contact me. I am in the process of planning a family trip; 6 adults and 1 baby, and we're very seriously considering Cruise West...the cost is insane, but we'll do it if it's worth it...your's is one of the posts that has been most concerning to me...I would love to talk with you about your experience...thanks!

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Would you please contact me. I am in the process of planning a family trip; 6 adults and 1 baby, and we're very seriously considering Cruise West...the cost is insane, but we'll do it if it's worth it...your's is one of the posts that has been most concerning to me...I would love to talk with you about your experience...thanks!

 

Hi, Mojua. There is more Cruise West info that you might be interested in over on the "Other Cruise Line" thread under a topic about seasickness on small ships. I am sorry I do not know how to link to things, so I am cutting and pasting below a post from that thread that further describes my impressions. I know that other discussion boards of this type (like the DisBoards) have Private Messaging capabilities, but I can't seem to find that feature here. I would be happy to share my thoughts with you about our experiences with Cruise West. Ask away!

 

In answer to your request for experiences about Cruise West, here are my impressions. When we booked our (very expensive) trip on the Spirit of Endeavour, we knew we were making trade-offs. We knew that the stateroom would be smaller than on a big ship--110 square feet—because the measurements were given on the website. (We did not know, however, that the sheets would be too small for the bed and would pop off in the middle of the night, leaving us to wake up on a bare mattress.) We figured the food would be good but not awesome. (We did not know it would be horrid at worst and mediocre at best, as I have described in an earlier posting, nor that the service would be so slow that typically the guests toward the back of the dining hall were often just receiving their meals as those at the front were finishing.) We booked with CW because they promised, for a premium price, to provide us with a “different experience” from that offered by the large cruise lines. Well, we received a “different experience” for sure, but not the one promised in the glossy brochure! In retrospect, I think that Cruise West tries to make people feel special (and justify the premium price) by promising their guests that they will go “where the big ships can’t go.” However, there actually are big ships just about everywhere! In fact, in Glacier Bay, a big ship got closer to one of the glaciers than we did. Big ships also go to Haines, Skagway, Tracy Arm (Sawyer Glacier), Sitka, and, of course, Ketchikan and Juneau. In Haines, we were “parked” right next to a big ship! The two places on our itinerary where big ships didn’t go were Hyder and Petersburg, neither of which, in my opinion, is worth visiting. Hyder is a mind-numbingly boring town with a RV wash and a pizza joint that even the Captain of the ship disparaged for its total lack of interest. He told us that Hyder was being removed from the itinerary this year but I have not checked on that. The glossy brochure makes a big deal of delivering an experience of history and culture (again to justify the premium price), and in Petersburg this consisted of being subjected to a few Norwegian folk dances, in a musty old hall, by eight enthusiastic but unskilled pre-adolescent girls. Cruising the Portland Canal on the way to Hyder might have been interesting if the on-board “trained exploration leaders” (another of CW’s marketing enticements) had told us what we were seeing or had given us some history of the area, but they did not. The leaders, two young ladies who I believe had just graduated from college with specialties in marine mammals, were vivacious but unschooled in the type and depth of content that Cruise West promises you will receive. We were surprised to find out that we knew more about Alaska from our research than our “leaders.” We even know more about minerals. For example, when one of the leaders called granite “metamorphic,” my husband took her aside and pointed out that it was really “igneous.” There are many other examples, but I am sure you get the drift. I realize this is getting too long, but before I close I do want to acknowledge that the Captain of our ship was wonderful. He often pointed out interesting things, and slowed the engines twice—once so that we could observe a pod of orcas and another time to circle around a pod of humpbacks. Those were a magical 90 minutes, and if the entirety of the cruise had offered more experiences of this richness, we probably would not feel like sheep who were led to slaughter, paying a premium price for a third-class voyage.

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wow, thanks for getting back to me. I’ve been trying to read up on the smaller ships as much as possible, but there’s just not that much info out there. My family is really looking for that once in a lifetime, intimate experience, but we can’t afford to charter a boat or go for any of the other ‘really’ high end options…I’m shocked that there are the <$2k pp big boats and then there are the >$4k pp small boats…but there’s nothing in between.

If you don’t mind me asking; if you were to do it again, what would you do, keeping in mind that it sounds like we’re looking for almost exactly what you were looking for when you booked with Cruise West?

Thanks in advance!

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wow, thanks for getting back to me. I’ve been trying to read up on the smaller ships as much as possible, but there’s just not that much info out there. My family is really looking for that once in a lifetime, intimate experience, but we can’t afford to charter a boat or go for any of the other ‘really’ high end options…I’m shocked that there are the <$2k pp big boats and then there are the >$4k pp small boats…but there’s nothing in between.

 

If you don’t mind me asking; if you were to do it again, what would you do, keeping in mind that it sounds like we’re looking for almost exactly what you were looking for when you booked with Cruise West?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Mojua, I understand your frustration about the lack of information. It causes an undue reliance on promotional materials and, to some degree, a suspension of critical faculties. Cruise West's publications (web, DVD, print) are among the best sales vehicles that my husband and I have ever seen. An interesting side effect of the glossy materials and the premium price is the development of a sort of "Emperor's New Clothes" mentality. We found that there was a tendency to want to overlook the obvious in pursuit of that "once in a lifetime" experience that you have just paid through the nose for. It wasn't just us--we chatted about this concept with others on board! The reality is hard to process, but once it hits, it sticks. We are running to Florida on Jet-black'n-Blue. I will try to answer your question when we get settled in the Sunshine State!

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Please read to the end:

 

The first cruise we took with Cruise West was about 10 years ago -- it was to Alaska in May. We took our son and his wife and they still say that was the best vacation they've ever had. Our cabins were very small and it was on one of their older ships, but the staff was great and the scenery was unbelievable. We did get "up close" and one day the captain circled the ship for about an hour so we could watch whales breeching. Passengers and crew were up on deck while our dinner waited. It was a memorable trip.

 

Since that first time, we took Cruise West to Mexico (twice); California Wine Country; Columbia and Snake River; and finally Pacific Northwest. We were good customers and spent a lot of money taking these cruises. However, each time it was obvious that Cruise West was starting to cut corners on what they were offering for the money. For instance, first Mexico cruise, Margaritas were served before dinner and were free; second Mexico cruise, no free Margaritas before dinner. First cruise, piano entertainment during cocktail hour; second cruise no entertainment. We met the piano player in LaPaz and he told us he was cut from the staff. The rest of the staff seemed overworked and cranky. The bartender overcharged our friends for their drinks. Just so you know, the same people who clean your cabin are also the wait staff. Talk about being overworked.

 

The final straw was on the Pacific Northwest cruise, the captain took us right into a terrible storm when he could have avoided it (the locals told us it had been predicted for a couple of days). It was so bad, we were told to go to bed after dinner and stay there. The shipped rocked so badly, I fell out of bed; a TV set in one of the cabins came loose; dishes and glasses and a glass showcase in the lounge shattered. It was a nightmare. No apologies from Cruise West. Yes, you will say that they can't control the weather. True, but the captain knew there was a bad storm and COULD HAVE AVOIDED IT by waiting just a few hours. This was on the "Spirit of Columbia" which my husband called a "tub" and they're still sailing it.

 

That was our last time on Cruise West -- I think Chuck West's son is not carrying out his father's philosophy.

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However, each time it was obvious that Cruise West was starting to cut corners on what they were offering for the money. For instance, first Mexico cruise, Margaritas were served before dinner and were free; second Mexico cruise, no free Margaritas before dinner. First cruise, piano entertainment during cocktail hour; second cruise no entertainment. The rest of the staff seemed overworked and cranky. Just so you know, the same people who clean your cabin are also the wait staff. Talk about being overworked.

 

The final straw was on the Pacific Northwest cruise, the captain took us right into a terrible storm when he could have avoided it (the locals told us it had been predicted for a couple of days). It was so bad, we were told to go to bed after dinner and stay there. The shipped rocked so badly, I fell out of bed; a TV set in one of the cabins came loose; dishes and glasses and a glass showcase in the lounge shattered. It was a nightmare. No apologies from Cruise West. Yes, you will say that they can't control the weather. True, but the captain knew there was a bad storm and COULD HAVE AVOIDED IT by waiting just a few hours. This was on the "Spirit of Columbia" which my husband called a "tub" and they're still sailing it.

 

That was our last time on Cruise West -- I think Chuck West's son is not carrying out his father's philosophy.

 

Yours is a very interesting post, and your comments sent me back to the scrapbook that I created for our '06 Cruise West trip through Alaska's Inside Passage.

 

Here is a direct quote from a young man who was our cabin cleaner/waiter (yes, they do both): "I'm just about exhausted. We usually work 6 weeks on and 2 weeks off, but I'm working 7 weeks and then I get 1 week off, then I'm back on for 8 weeks."

 

On Day 3 of the Cruise, I wrote this entry "At happy hour tonight, three nights into the trip, we finally have real food instead of goldfish and Creole mix. There are eggrolls! Chunks of chees! Crackers! The food really has been iffy at best and there are no snacks offered in between meals. I have stopped feeling bad about pilfering muffins at breakfast time for sustenance during the day."

 

The cost-cutting probably does wonders for Cruise West's bottom line, but it certainly doesn't do much for the passengers.

 

Thank you for sharing your "no apology" experience. We experienced the same arrogance. Bizarre things occurred during our trip, which we discussed with the Captain on board; when we returned home, my husband wrote a letter about these things to Mr. Richard West. In response to this letter, we were told by Mr. West that we "were not suited to the Cruise West experience," as though there was something wrong with us! This came as news to us, since after reviewing the promotional materials carefully, we thought we were the epitome of the target audience! We are not luxurious folks by nature. My husband has stayed– quite happily – in a rustic cabin, with only wood stoves to provide heat and outdoor plumbing. He and I have stayed at a retreat center where the accommodations were austere, to say the least, and the food, while nourishing and plentiful, was not that of a gourmet restaurant. My husband and I both have wide-ranging interests and we both brought the curiosity and diversity of interests that Cruise West purports to speak to. We both were enchanted by what Cruise West promised. We also possess the resources and disposable income sufficient to have paid for a cruise on Cruise West. To this day we have not figured out why we are not precisely the people whom Cruise West would like to have on board.

 

It is Cruise West's arrogance that that leaves the bad taste in the mouth. To offer a contrast, last Thursday, while we were vacationing in Florida, my husband ordered an $80 bottle of wine at an upscale restaurant. It was a sound wine but so tannic that it made our mouths pucker. The server and manager could not have been more solicitous. They offered to replace the wine with something more palatable, but since the wine was sound, my husband suggested that the wine simply be decanted and allowed to develop. We all had a good time waiting to see what would happen, and the wine turned out to be quite pleasant in the end. The reason I tell this story is because we appreciated the restaurant's commitment to our happiness. We will return to this restaurant because management obviously cared. We will never sail with Cruise West again because their management obviously doesn't.

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Yours is a very interesting post, and your comments sent me back to the scrapbook that I created for our '06 Cruise West trip through Alaska's Inside Passage.

 

Here is a direct quote from a young man who was our cabin cleaner/waiter (yes, they do both): "I'm just about exhausted. We usually work 6 weeks on and 2 weeks off, but I'm working 7 weeks and then I get 1 week off, then I'm back on for 8 weeks."

 

On Day 3 of the Cruise, I wrote this entry "At happy hour tonight, three nights into the trip, we finally have real food instead of goldfish and Creole mix. There are eggrolls! Chunks of chees! Crackers! The food really has been iffy at best and there are no snacks offered in between meals. I have stopped feeling bad about pilfering muffins at breakfast time for sustenance during the day."

 

The cost-cutting probably does wonders for Cruise West's bottom line, but it certainly doesn't do much for the passengers.

 

Thank you for sharing your "no apology" experience. We experienced the same arrogance. Bizarre things occurred during our trip, which we discussed with the Captain on board; when we returned home, my husband wrote a letter about these things to Mr. Richard West. In response to this letter, we were told by Mr. West that we "were not suited to the Cruise West experience," as though there was something wrong with us! This came as news to us, since after reviewing the promotional materials carefully, we thought we were the epitome of the target audience! We are not luxurious folks by nature. My husband has stayed– quite happily – in a rustic cabin, with only wood stoves to provide heat and outdoor plumbing. He and I have stayed at a retreat center where the accommodations were austere, to say the least, and the food, while nourishing and plentiful, was not that of a gourmet restaurant. My husband and I both have wide-ranging interests and we both brought the curiosity and diversity of interests that Cruise West purports to speak to. We both were enchanted by what Cruise West promised. We also possess the resources and disposable income sufficient to have paid for a cruise on Cruise West. To this day we have not figured out why we are not precisely the people whom Cruise West would like to have on board.

 

It is Cruise West's arrogance that that leaves the bad taste in the mouth. To offer a contrast, last Thursday, while we were vacationing in Florida, my husband ordered an $80 bottle of wine at an upscale restaurant. It was a sound wine but so tannic that it made our mouths pucker. The server and manager could not have been more solicitous. They offered to replace the wine with something more palatable, but since the wine was sound, my husband suggested that the wine simply be decanted and allowed to develop. We all had a good time waiting to see what would happen, and the wine turned out to be quite pleasant in the end. The reason I tell this story is because we appreciated the restaurant's commitment to our happiness. We will return to this restaurant because management obviously cared. We will never sail with Cruise West again because their management obviously doesn't.

 

 

Thank you BOTH very much for your honest and candid remarks. All that’s left to say at this point is we’ve decided to pursue other options, and good luck to Cruise West...

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Thank you BOTH very much for your honest and candid remarks. All that’s left to say at this point is we’ve decided to pursue other options, and good luck to Cruise West...

 

Safe and enjoyable travels to you and your family!

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  • 7 months later...

I realize this is an old thread, but I just ran across American Safari Cruise Line with yachts with no more than 37 passengers. Since I can't post the web address here, just google American Safari Cruises. They offer a cruise in Alaska, but may not be an eco line.

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  • 2 years later...

Wow, reading all these reviews. We did Cruise West many years ago, my post is here somehwere and was thrilled with our experience. We then went on to Columbia Snake River with Cruise West two years ago and again thrilled. I don't know what all these old negative posts are about. We use Linda at Sunstone Tours, she is the top in the nation for all the small ships. Just came back from Galapagos on Lindblad Expeditions and once again she was right on the mark.

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