We joined this cruise very much under protest as we had been due to sail with Un=Cruise on one of their "tiny" ships (36 passengers) but it had engine trouble and so we were offered the alternative (cost met by Un-Cruise) of 5 nights aboard L'Austral. None of us wanted a large cruise ship -anything above 500 passengers is not our scene and even the 250 passenger L'Austral seemed huge in comparison to what we had planned.
However we were made very welcome on board and quickly settled into a life of luxury. Obviously with only 250 passengers the choice of activity and food is more limited than on a larger ship but we had absolutely no reason to complain. The crew were all attentive and friendly form the tender boat crew right up to the Captain and the officers were very much in evidence at all meals.
The cabin so far as we were concerned was very suitable and indeed we praised its design with separate WC room and showeroom with washhand basin. Yes these 2 rooms were small but how long do you intend to spend in them! The kingsize bed was extremely comfortable,
The range of shore trips was excellent in our opinion. Some had to be pre-booked days before embarkation but as the ship was not full we were able to get on all the trips we wanted to do and thoroughly enjoyed them all. The highlight of these for us was a zodiac trip close up to the Dawes glacier which calved off a huge chunk of ice just as we were about 300 metres from it with a resultant large wave.
My only adverse comment would be that the swimming pool seemed quite small but frankly in Alaskan waters there was little call for it though is was exceptionally warm weather when we were there - hence the salmon run had not started and we saw no bears. However one night just as we sat down to dinner the Captain announced that we were in the the middle of a large pod of Humpback whales. He stopped the ship for about 45 minutes whilst most passengers deserted the restaurant for what was a great opportunity to view a pod of whales bubble feeding. This disruption of dinner did not faze the restaurant staff who took it in their stride. Perhaps one advantage of having only one sitting.
The food and wine was fabulous as perhaps one would expect on a French ship. The restaurant was fine dining waiter service but there was a buffet facility on an upper deck which we tended to use for breakfast and lunch. No complaints there either. We were not allocated any specific table or dining companions which I find preferable.
I would recommend the L'Austral to anyone who enjoys small ship cruising. The stage entertainment was perhaps a little lacking but the standard of the musicians on board and who played mostly in the bar but also on occasion in the theatre could not be faulted.
Kayacking on Lake Chilkoot. Well organised and guided by experienced local kayackers
Minibus tour of town and environs. Very average bot reasonable value for money
This was a hike combined with rafting so hiking up through woodland close to a river and then rafting back to the minibus. The guide was very knowledgeable about local flora.
See Hiking aboveView All 33 Rafting Reviews
As we had not seen any bears yet we arranged a float plane trip out to a very remote river and forested area not much frequented by tourists. The pilot left us there with a highly experienced guide but had to take a photo on his camera to be sure of finding the right place to collect us 3 hour or so later. Excellent intro to the wilds of Alaska but no bears.
As to Juneau it itself we were there for the 4th July parade which was an experience in itself for we Brits