Expert Review: Alaska’s Islands, Whales & Glaciers Cruise

March 5, 2020 • Jennifer Morse

AdventureSmith’s Jennifer Morse writes about her time aboard the 10-guest Misty Fjord on an Alaska small ship cruise.

two happy guests paddle a red tandem kayak behind them is a jagged teal and white glacier, an activity done on Islands whales and glacier small ship cruise

My Review of the Misty Fjord Ship

Cozy, compact and tons of fun, is how I would describe sailing aboard the Misty Fjord. When you first step aboard, you enter through the one door that gets you access to inside or out, and step into the saloon. From the saloon you can see the galley, down the hallway to the large dinner table and the staterooms.

The benefits of traveling aboard a small ship in Alaska include access, accommodation and forging new friendships. The Misty was able to get us up close to so many glaciers and navigate easily through the ice.

Each room has its own name, and Neva was our room for the next 7 days; all 85 square feet of it. Fortunate for us, we have a Catalina 22 that we sail and camp on in the summer, so 85 square feet felt like luxury. The storage in the room was just about perfect for us as we only brought one carry-on and a backpack each. There were a few hooks (which became prime real estate!) for hanging clothes and hats. I thought the cabin’s two USB charging ports were a great, simple upgrade since most people travel with multiple electronics.  

Misty Fjord floats in front of Marjerie Glacier on the islands whales and glaciers cruise.

The benefits of traveling aboard a small ship in Alaska include access, accommodation and forging new friendships. The Misty was able to get us up close to so many glaciers, navigate easily through the ice and dock at quite a few of our destinations along the way. The Misty carries five tandem kayaks, one single kayak and a stand-up paddleboard so everyone was able to go out onto the water at once. The close quarters made it possible to get to know your fellow passengers quickly. And, bonus for us, we all got along splendidly and had the best time. So much laughter and storytelling made for great memories all around!

A single kayaker wearing a yellow life jacket paddles a blue kayak in front of a glacier on a blue sky day in Alaska on the islands whales and glaciers cruise.

Paddling Icy Strait Among Otters, Seals & Whales

As we made our way out of Glacier Bay National Park, we entered the Icy Strait and cruised for a bit before the Captain asked if any of us wanted to go for a paddle. Of course, we did! I LOVE to stand-up paddleboard. I prefer it over kayaking, especially tandem kayaking. I changed into some warm layers and hopped on the board, while the rest of my fellow ship mates loaded into the kayaks.

A minke whale popped up to the left of me. I sat down on the paddle board and watched as the whale slowly headed off. It felt surreal to be out there within such close reach of so much incredible sea life!

The Icy Strait is exactly what it sounds like: a long channel of very cold, choppy sea water. I didn’t wear shoes or socks on the board because that makes it more challenging to balance. I knew the paddle wasn’t going to be a smooth ride and I wanted to limit all chances of potentially falling in.

As we began our paddle out, there were sea otters and sea lions in the distance on all sides of me. The sea otters were less than enthused we had joined them in their territory, and slowly started to disappear. The sea lions were quite curious about us so they stuck around, popping up on one side or another. As we made our way east towards the Lynn Canal entrance, a minke whale popped up to the left of me. It was close so I quickly dropped to my knees to make sure I could steady myself in case it got any closer. I sat down on the board and watched as the whale slowly headed off in the opposite direction. It felt kind of surreal to be out there within such close reach of so much incredible sea life!

Baranof Warm Springs

Baranof Warm Springs is a small, seasonally occupied town on the eastern side of Baranof Island. The only way in and out is by boat or floatplane. The dock is small and connected to a small boardwalk that is lined with cabins and dead ends at a large waterfall that is fed by Lake Baranof. There is also a public bath house that has three private rooms each with its own tub fed by water pumped down from the hot springs.

The small ship Misty Fjord floats at a dock, behind her is a forested mountain side and clear blue sky.

Once we docked, we got ready to set out on a hike up to Lake Baranof and the hot springs. It had been raining for most of the day, but as soon as we came into the bay, it stopped, and the clouds opened up for some afternoon sunshine. The hike was a pretty easy single-track trail that is well traveled. It was luscious and green all around. We got up to the lake in about 15 minutes. It was so quiet, and the lake was glass. It felt nice to sit in silence for a few minutes.

After the lake, we made our way back down the trail and over to the hot springs. Here there were three different natural pools that had 105-ish degree spring water. The natural pools were set right next to the raging waterfall coming out of Lake Baranof. It was too hot for me to get all the way in the tubs, but that didn’t stop me from soaking my feet in the pool nearest the waterfall. It was relaxing to kick back, soak and listen to the waterfall rage on by us.

Sunset & Bonfire in Hobart Bay

One of our stops during our 8-day cruise was an overnight stay in Hobart Bay. We docked here after an amazing day in Tracy Arm Fjord. I was so impressed with Tracy Arm that I really wasn’t sure what could compete with paddling among the fjord’s icebergs and cascades, but this just topped it off to be my absolute favorite day of the trip.

After sunset, the captain and crew had started a bonfire. We sat around roasting marshmallows for s’mores, laughing and enjoying stories – a great end to the perfect day.

We got in just before sunset and geared up for a hike up to the caretaker’s cabin. It was still early season during my trip in mid-May, so the bugs were not bad. I still doused myself in insect repellent just to be sure. The hike up took about 20 minutes and was thoroughly enjoyed after a day of paddling. Once we got to the cabin, we sat outside on the deck, overlooking the bay. We all enjoyed some drinks while watching the sun slowly set, the sky turning into twilight colors.

After sunset, we made our way back down to the boat dock, where the captain and crew had started a bonfire. We sat around roasting marshmallows for s’mores, laughing and enjoying stories all around. It was a great end to the perfect day.

A purple sunset tints the sky above hobart bay in Alaska, a short hike to the top to overlook the green forest that surrounds the bay.

My Trip Takeaways: Alaska’s Islands, Whales & Glaciers Delivered

The Misty Fjord offers an intimate, up-close look at Southeast Alaska. With only 10 guests and 4 crew aboard the ship, you quickly become friends and can feel the personalized experience the ship is able to offer. Early season (March – May) travel was great because we experienced little to no bugs and we saw a lot of wildlife: both on land and in the sea. The 8-day itinerary gives you plenty of time to spend at each destination as we were able to anchor or tie up at each stop and sleep for the night. We embarked in Juneau, getting there two nights prior, and it was the perfect amount of time to explore the area. We really enjoyed Mendenhall Glacier and walking the trails at the top of Roberts Tram. We ended our cruise in Sitka, and we stayed one night before flying home. I really enjoyed this little town full of local artisan shops and delicious food.

This Alaska’s Islands, Whales & Glaciers Glacier Bay cruise review was written by an AdventureSmith Explorations crew member whale watching in Alaska. Read all of our Alaska cruise reviews for more insights from our team, or contact one of our Adventure Specialists to learn more about our Alaska Trips or small ship Alaska cruises: 1-877-620-2875.

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