We got lucky and found Un-Cruise Adventures online. We wanted, and got, a wonderful small-ship adventure, totally unlike the corporate behemoths of the seas that hold no appeal for us. The descriptions in the company brochure, in print and online, are reliable.
We're very experienced, non-wealthy travelers, but our only previous cruise was another small ship, 30 years ago on the Nile. (That was great too.) We splurged for this one, but the up-front cost was cushioned a bit by the all-inclusive policy (including adult beverages).
The daily, up-close encounters with glaciers and all the magnificent southeast Alaska scenery, and with a great variety of wildlife, were just what we hoped for. The sea was calm, the weather better than expected, the crew absolutely terrific. Guides accompanied small groups for each excursion, offering troves of information, helpful encouragement for inexperienced kayakers and hikers, and assurances of safety.
We're 60-plus, reasonably fit but not athletic, and we found the daily choices of activities perfectly suited to our abilities and interests. Kayaking up a salmon stream; hiking along a deserted beach, through back country, or up the side of a glacier; cruising on a pontoon boat accompanied by orcas.... We brought back memories to last a lifetime and hundreds of gorgeous photos.
The food was of a very high standard, usually with two choices of main course at each meal (and an option to try both), impeccably served in a casual atmosphere. The chef and pastry chef came up with delicious alternatives to accommodate a friend with a restricted diet. Our fellow passengers were mostly of similar age to us, a few younger and one in his 80s, with several Australians, New Zealanders, Brits, other Europeans, and Chinese in the mix. Despite the open bar and generous pouring of wine and beer at meals, I saw no sign of bad behavior.
We're eager to sail with this company again on a different itinerary.
The compact port area is picturesque, though dominated by the big cruise lines and tourist-oriented shops, restaurants, etc., some quite good. The surrounding mountains come down to within yards of the main drag. It was fun to stroll.
The nearby Alaska State Museum is a highlight, well worth a couple of hours at least. It capably features regional native American artifacts and culture, exhibits on natural history, and a few interesting quirks. There are other interesting attractions we didn't have time to visit.
A short bus ride out of town, Mendenhall Glacier is a great introduction to the natural forces that formed the region, with an excellent visitors' center and easy walking paths to spectacular views. We saw spawning salmon running upstream, a napping porcupine in a tree, and a perching bald eagle, virtually in the suburbs of Juneau.