Expert Review: M/V Discovery & Discovery Voyages

June 25, 2022 • Andrew Browning

Read M/V Discovery ship reviews and reviews of Discover Voyages from our expert staff and client travelers. Find a detailed account of M/V Discovery cabins, food and off vessel activities in Prince William Sound from Adventure Specialist Andrew Browning, who who was aboard the Prince William Sound Discovery itinerary, followed by testimonials from passengers who have been aboard.

People getting into kayaks off a small ship in Alaska.

Getting to Prince William Sound – Boarding M/V Discovery

From my airplane window seat I could already see the dramatic change in landscape as we flew north from Seattle. Upon arrival in Anchorage, I proceeded by an easy taxi ride downtown to the charming Copper Whale Inn bed and breakfast overlooking Cook Inlet. After checking in I set out to see the town knowing that I had plenty of daylight left during the long summer days. The people in Anchorage were very friendly and the casual dinner at Humpy’s, a local favorite, was delicious. Afterwards I headed back for a walk along the picturesque coast trail to the Copper Whale Inn. 

The next day I departed early for Whittier on the included 10:00am group transfer. The road to Whittier parallels the Alaska Railroad’s Coast Classic route and is one of the most scenic that I have traveled. You wind your way between roadside mountains that are home to Mountain Goats and Turnagain Arm; a shallow fjord which is a haven for Beluga whale watching in Alaska. My driver was knowledgeable and I learned a lot about Alaska’s nature, the earthquake of 1964, the unique Whittier tunnel, and the World War II base that was built in secluded Whittier. 

Review of the M/V Discovery

Upon arrival at the M/V Discovery I realized I was not embarking on your typical small ship cruise. She is a 65 foot classic working yacht that carries only 12 people. The smaller size and 12 passenger capacity of the Discovery working yacht provides a more active exploration experience than any small ship. She is not luxurious but quaint and utilitarian. This is a small boat for travelers interested in exploring off the boat, into the Alaskan wilderness.

A group of people on a zodiac in Alaska.

M/V Discovery Crew Review

The Discovery has a small crew of three including the captain, a chef and a guide. Upon arrival I was immediately greeted by Captain Dean Rand, Gourmet Chef Matt and guide Heather. With 30 years of experience exploring Alaska by small ship, Captain Dean knows all of the secluded bays and inlets. This enables the Captain and crew to take advantage of weather, wildlife, and unplanned discoveries.

A group of people standing at the bow of the small ship Discovery.

M/V Discovery Cabins Review

All of the cabins aboard Discovery are located below deck and feature porthole windows. My cabin had two bunks and no bathroom. The 6 cabins aboard the Discovery share two bathrooms each with a hot shower, toilet and sink. There are drawers and cubbies to store clothing and gear and hooks to dry wet rain jackets.

M/V Discovery Itineraries Review

Discovery Voyages focuses solely on Prince William Sound. As such they are experts in the region. From the famous Captain Cook and Harriman expeditions to present day travelers; Prince William Sound is an explorer’s dreamscape. The Chugach Mountains, countless tidewater glaciers, and Alaskan wildlife make Prince William Sound a vast marine wilderness perfect for exploration by small yacht. 

A variety of itineraries from 5-12 days are available. Many include pre-cruise overnights in Anchorage and transportation to the vessel. Contact our experts to find the perfect trip for your Alaska adventure.

Activities Aboard M/V Discovery

Activities aboard M/V Discovery include fully guided wilderness hiking, daily sea kayaking, photography, explorations by zodiac and watching wildlife from the ship. At Point Doran we hiked up a small ridge to an overlook where we could see 3 tidewater glaciers and the discovery anchored below. The guides provided insights into Alaska’s flora and fauna along the way. Along running creeks, through temperate rainforest, and above waterfalls we ventured. The final hike brought us to a beautiful mountain lake where I took one of my best photos of the trip.

People hiking down a ridge in Alaska.

A personal highlight for me was the daily sea kayaking. The calm water in protected bays was perfect for exploring by sea kayak along cliffs, under waterfalls, and in the shadows of fishing bald eagles. We took breaks on secluded beaches where our guide Samantha enlightened us on the native and American history of the area. In addition to sea kayaking the guides were eager to lead daily hikes throughout the cruise.

While we viewed many impressive tidewater glaciers throughout Prince William Sound I loved our time spent at massive Chenega Glacier. The icy blue color and the mile wide size of this glacier are just beautiful to behold. It was thrilling to wait for the next huge piece of ice to break off and splash into the sea. It is also strange to think that no one will ever see the glacier the same way because the ice is constantly moving and breaking.

Including myself there were several photography enthusiasts on the cruise. The photographic opportunities were amazing. We got some great shots of calving tidewater glaciers, humpback whales, Dall’s Porpoises, Harbor Seals, black bears, sea otters, river otters, bald eagles, tufted puffins, and plenty of scenic photos. It’s amazing what you can capture with even a simple digital camera. 

A landscape and up close view of a glacier in Alaska.

Each evening after an active day of exploration we would return to the comfort of the Discovery. After a hot shower we would all retire to the intimate salon and dining area or perch our chairs on the deck for an evening drink.

M/V Discovery Wildlife Watching

We had been cruising for about 10 minutes when Captain Dean pointed out a nesting colony of thousands of Kittiwake sea birds. As we approached the Kittiwakes began flying franticly near the side of their cliffside colony. We thought that the vessel had startled them but then we noticed a larger bird was the source of the commotion. A Peregrine Falcon was hunting them. We watched in awe as thousands of kittiwakes flew above us as the Peregrine Falcon soared and dove to capture his prey. The falcon caught a straggler in his talons and landed on the cliff to eat. This experience of nature was quickly followed by sightings of mountain goats with young and a lone bull Sea Lion lounging on the shore. Captain Dean navigated through Passage Canal and out into Prince William Sound setting a course for our first hike and glacier viewing. Along the way the crew served the first of many batches of afternoon cookies.

On day two, after our morning kayaking excursion we were cruising toward Knight Island when we heard the spouts of humpback whales. The whales were feeding and we observed them surfacing and diving as Captain Dean carefully maneuvered the boat to get a good look without disturbing these incredible animals.

While we were watching the humpback whales feed, a pod of Dall’s porpoises approached and began swimming playfully around the front of the Discovery. Dall’s porpoises are beautiful creatures colored dark grey with a long white spot on their sides making them look like small Orcas. In this scenic waterway we witnessed the rare site of humpback whales and Dall’s porpoises feeding on the same food source at the same time. We were awed as we viewed the porpoises surfacing frequently while the humpbacks spouted and dove with their large tails in the air.

Two Orcas swimming beneath the ocean surface in Alaska.

Meals & Dining Aboard M/V Discovery

Dinners were varied and delicious highlighting Alaska’s incredible seafood. One night in particular the chef prepared a delicious halibut dinner made fresh from the halibut we caught off the stern while fishing earlier that day. Breakfast was hearty and healthy, lunches were light and warm and desert was always something special. The Discovery has a very casual atmosphere and the chef invited us to help ourselves in the modern galley. This informal, family style atmosphere aboard the Discovery is a major difference with small ship cruising.

M/V Discovery Style

It turns out that my Prince William Sound Discovery Cruise was not your typical Alaska small ship cruise. On this style of cruise the flexible itinerary and Alaskan crew makes each trip unique. Choosing my favorite parts is difficult. It is likely the simple, unexpected experiences like being in the wheel house looking for wildlife through binoculars and talking with Captain Dean as he steered us through this magnificent area.

A traveler seeking an Alaska experience with a local Alaskan crew and plenty of time to actively explore will enjoy our Prince William Sound Active Discovery Cruise. If you have dreamed of exploring coastal Alaska give me a call, I am happy to share my expertise and to discuss the many exciting opportunities that exist there.

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This Alaska small ship cruise review of the M/V Discovery was written by an AdventureSmith Explorations crew member. The Discovery is on our curated list of Alaska yacht charters and is perfect for a full boat charter. Read all Cruise Reviews for more trip reports, or contact one of our Adventure Specialists to learn more: 1-800-728-2875.

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