By Matt Hannafin
March 8, 2006
Small ships are great, especially in Alaska and other regions known for their natural beauty. You get to see everything without being distracted by big-ship glitz, and the ships' small size means it can creep into waterways the big ships can't. Most small ships carry between 60 and 120 passengers, but if you want something really small, you have two choices: American Safari Cruises and AdventureSmith Explorations (tel. 800/728-2875; www.adventuresmithexplorations.com), a new tour and travel company that operates according to ecotourism principles set forth by the International Ecotourism Society. For summer 2006, AdventureSmith has chartered the 12-passenger M/V Catalyst (a beautiful former research vessel launched in 1932) and the 12-passenger M/V Discovery for Alaska cruises that emphasize guided nature hikes, kayak excursions, and exploration by inflatable Zodiac boat.
The company's 6-day "Prince William Sound Discovery Cruise" aboard Discovery explores the vast marine wilderness of Alaska's Prince William Sound, departing round-trip from Anchorage and visiting Chenaga Glacier, College Fjord, Blackstone Bay, and other natural areas. Cruises depart late May through early September, with rates starting at $3,450 per person.
Seven-day "Active Inside Passage" cruises aboard Catalyst features the wilderness areas of Alaska's Inside Passage, sailing between Petersburg and Juneau and visiting Frederick Sound, Admiralty Island, Endicott Arm, Sitka, Wood Spit, Sumdum Glacier, Holkolm Bay, Stephens Passage, and other natural areas. Cruises run June to September, with rates starting at $3,125 per person.
In addition to the ultra-smalls, AdventureSmith has also chartered Lindblad Expeditions' 68-passenger Sea Lion and Sea Bird for 7-night Inside Passage cruises sailing between Juneau and Sitka, May-September (from $4,390 per person) and Cruise West's 84-passenger Spirit of Discovery for 3- and 4-night Glacier Bay Highlights cruises (May-Aug, from $1,399) and 8-night Wilderness Inside Passage cruises round-trip from Juneau (May-Sept, from $3,849 per person).