We were a little last-minute signing up for this trip but our expedition specialist facilitated everything so smoothly, we just packed and took off.
So many passengers opted to take an earlier flight than the recommended flight to Sitka that Nat Geo scrambled and the expedition director met us at the airport with a special bus and tours - that was an impressive start! My husband and I had made plans to go to The Fortress of the Bear (GO!! A must see!) so we met up with them later for a private tour of the Raptor Center, another must-do in Sitka. That flexibility marked the rest of our trip, which you can only do with a small group like we had for this cruise.
We loved the size of the ship - and what a beautiful ship it is. The lounge at the bow and the dining room at the stern were both surrounded by windows. The bow outside had a unique configuration allowing everyone a front row view of wildlife and scenery - a well thought-out design. And of course, breath taking photos by Nat Geo Photographers adorned the walls. Our room was lovely with plenty of storage space.
With a ship this size we were able to go to areas that the big cruise ships could not. As a matter of fact the only time we even saw one of the bigger cruise ships was in the port at Juneau.
The single most impactful aspect of the trip? The people - the naturalists, photographers and staff. They were such a pleasure to be around because they exuded enthusiasm about what they were doing and where they were, and they wanted to share it with you.
I am an early riser and that was accommodated by coffee and light fare at around 6:30, and a yoga/stretch class at 7:00. I made one class but kept getting distracted by happenings on the bow - and no matter how early I was up, there was already a Naturalist out on the bow looking for wildlife! Our excursions were varied and always entertaining, active and educational. There were hikes geared to various levels from exploring tide pools at low tide to bushwhacking (well, we didn’t really whack any bush) through the rainforest, and climbing to a WW II military gun emplacement. Some people wanted a quicker pace, so they organized aerobic hikes as well. There were kayak opportunities and zodiac explorations to find wildlife and get up close to impressive icebergs and to the base of an immense glacier.
The smaller ship size and the open seating at meals allowed us to meet and get to know a lot of our fellow passengers. They were all like minded travelers that included several individuals who traveled by themselves. Everyone took those singles under their wings and made sure they felt a part of everything. It was that kind of group. There were various sizes of tables and if you sat at one of the larger tables, you might have the pleasure of having one of the naturalists or photographers join you, and they always had great stories to tell.
On two occasions, a Nat Geo photographer and a Naturalist donned scuba gear and dove the frigid waters with underwater camera equipment. Then that evening we would see their video production of what was going on underneath our boat. That was a real treat and quite a surprise to see all the marine life and beauty below.
Cocktail hour in the lounge was at 6:00 and at 6:30 there would be a recap of the day and presentations by naturalists and photographers. These were often interrupted by the appearance of Humpback Whales breaching off the bow or an Orca mama bringing her calf to see the people. I always had my camera with me.
And the food! I expected it to be good but was impressed with the gourmet fare and the presentation. There would always be an option for meat, fish or vegan fare. And no matter if it was a table for 4 or 10, they managed to have all courses delivered at the same time.
I looked at the types of cruises listed below to check as applicable (Luxury, Gourmet, Entertainment, Family, Singles, etc.) but did not see one for “Adventure!” So this cruise was all those things plus the adventure!!
Our cabin and a little balcony which I loved. The room was comfortable, attractive and clean with plenty of storage and a nice bathroom supplied with soaps, shampoo, conditioner and hairdryer. And of course incredible photographs on the walls.